What's new in TCS 3.1?

With Hunters from the Sky, the TCS (Tactical Combat Series) rules have reached their final 3.1 version. In this article, I will give an overview of the important changes from version 3.0 and some of my observations on how these changes affect play. As this is not an exhaustive list, players used to playing version 3.0 should read through the 3.1 rules thoroughly, as there are numerous changes throughout.

Command

The Command Rules, the core of the TCS, remain essentially the same, but with a few modifications that make careful writing of opsheets even more critical:

Movement

The Movement Rules have undergone a number of minor changes:

Fire Combat

Fire Combat has changed significantly, and it is here that version 3.0 players will need to learn a number of new habits:

Morale

Morale has undergone a complete transformation. Company Morale is gone, replaced by Battalion Morale. The cornerstone to the new system is the new Morale Table, in which there are separate columns for each morale value from 1 to 13 (so 13 different columns). A unit's morale is the sum of its own morale + any step losses + any Bn morale. Bn morale in inflicted when any hex suffers a loss of 4-5 steps in one fire (-1 morale) or 6+ steps (-2 morale). Each turn during the cleanup phase, your roll a D6 for each Bn with Bn morale. If this roll is equal to or lower than the Bn morale, reduce it by one. This means that it will take you a while to reduce a high Bn morale (a high Bn morale is 3+).

SYRs use a different table based on its overall morale, not just Co. or Bn. morale. Retreating units must end the retreat farther from an enemy unit than when they start or they are destroyed. Units retreating adjacent to an enemy unit are destroyed (except at night). The SYR result is much more frequent on the morale table now, so SYRs play a more active roll than in version 3.0.

While some players may miss the feel of the old Company Morale, I think the change to Bn morale and the new table are great additions to the game. The system now plays much faster, since you do not need to constantly readjust the Co. morale levels after each fire and morale check. It is no longer a viable tactic to fire a large number of small attacks at a company to jack their Co. morale into the twenties. Larger games are much less messy, since there are usually only a few Bns with Bn morale. The important thing is now the unit's basic morale level + any losses they have, which makes a unit's morale rating critical. The new Morale Table has many more SYR and surrender results, so you will want to consider withdrawing a battalion that starts with poor morale (say 4-6 per unit) and also has acquired Bn morale; otherwise you can watch your battalion evaporate under fire.

Buttoning-Up

Buttoning Up is a new feature to the game. Tanks and tank-like vehicles are buttoned up whenever a) a point fire attack results in a kill in their hex; b) whenever an area fire is directed into their hex that calls for at least -1 step; c) when attacked by an artillery fire zone; d) when attacked by an air sortie, regardless of the result. When buttoned up, tanks have 1/2 area firepower, -2 on the point-fire table, +1 to AT rolls made against them, they cannot spot for mortars or artillery, can only fire overwatch out to their nominal range, and all movement MP costs are doubled (costs for overrun and consolidated assaults remain +3). This makes overrunning much more difficult if the target is in terrain that costs 3 or more MPs for tanks. Soft targets can save themselves by firing overwatch and buttoning up the approaching tanks so that they do not have enough MPs left to conduct their attack.

Artillery

And now for artillery. Take a deep breath, folks, the artillery system has been completely reworked. Gone are the artillery phase, effective sheaves, choosing firing patterns, pre-plotting, and rolling for an adjustment point. Calling for and executing artillery missions is now incorporated directly into your action phase. Simply designate target and spotter and roll on the adjustment table to see what kind of shoot you achieve. If you get a Good or Bad Shoot, place an appropriate barrage marker on the target hex and attack all units in or adjacent to the attack zone. The changes to the artillery system speed the game up considerably. There is no more plotting 2 missions for each of your many batteries per turn, then rolling twice to see if each mission is actually fired (which rarely happens), then rolling for EFS placement, then rolling for any actual attacks, then placing huge stacks of smoke markers. This is all handled by one barrage marker (much like rocket fires were handled before). Calling missions during your turn adds a great deal of flexibility, but the adjustment table makes it difficult to count on artillery for sure, as the possibility of no shoot or scatter always exists. National differences in fire control are now represented, which makes the artillery rules less generic.

Assault

Assault-Style Combats have received a number of tweaks: There are many other changes not covered here, but this should give you an overview of the major ones. Overall the TCS games play much faster now (mainly due to the simplified Battalion Morale and artillery rules), the map is cleaner and players are free to focus more on opsheets and on conducting operations. The version 3.1 rules are rich enough to allow for a multitude of tactical problems and innovations, yet now better streamlined to allow games to be completed in a shorter period of time.


This page comes to you courtesy of Lee Forester, forester@cs.hop.edu.

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Last modified: 8 Sept 1995, graham@eskimo.com