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.
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:
- Units can only be given one mission per opsheet. This means that
you cannot order a given unit to attack an objective and also defend it
when taken. Units with different missions can co-exist on the same
opsheet as before, but each unit can have only one mission. This
limitation isn't as disastrous as it sounds, because of the next change:
- Rolling for implementation of an opsheet is optional. You can be
working on a defense opsheet while an attack is underway, and upon
securing the objective, you can begin rolling for that Hasty or Prep
Defense opsheet you started 15 turns ago. This will sometimes leave
your opponent a window where your forces are on their objective but
unassigned (particularly if you blow your implementation roll for a few
turns), leaving you vulnerable to counterattack.
- Unassigned units cannot fire SFAs. They can fire overwatch
normally. Motto: you don't want to be unassigned when in contact with
The Movement Rules have undergone a number of minor changes:
- Mode change costs are different. Entering Move Mode costs a unit
1/2 its MPs, while entering Fire Mode costs nothing. Note that a unit
enters Fire Mode after undergoing any Overwatch fire caused by its move.
- Units may interrupt movement and then continue later. This means
more flexibility in coordinating attacks. Units beginning in move mode
can enter fire mode, provide overwatch fire, then enter move mode again
and move 1/2 their movement! This rule opens numerous possibilities...
- Vehicles cannot enter hexes with 2 or more contours (except on
roads) and now pay +1 MP to change elevation.
Fire Combat has changed significantly, and it is here that version
3.0 players will need to learn a number of new habits:
- The Area Fire Table has been greatly expanded, containing twice
as many columns between 0-25. This makes individual differences in
firepower between units more important. In version 3.0, units with
fire-power factors of 4-8 firing alone all used the same 4-8 column.
The new table breaks this range down to 4, 5, 6-7 and 8-9, yielding 4
different columns! Because there are more columns, positive and
negative shifts do not affect combat as dramatically as before, where
being dug-in in protective terrain rendered you virtually immune to
large fire attacks. The addition of a 0 column makes the tactic of
numerous small attacks against dug-in targets ineffective.
- Crossfire has been changed. If fires from a single SFA cross
non-adjacent hexsides (i.e. you have fires coming in from widely
different angles), you get a +1 shift on the Area Fire Table and a +2
morale modifier for any morale checks resulting from that attack.
Developing crossfires is now a viable and important tactic.
- B-Class targets are now treated the same for area fire, whether
with a defense of 1 or 0. There are no longer special rolls for half-
track and truck losses. They can be taken as step losses just like
infantry. This makes half-tracks (and light tanks such as in GD '40)
much more vulnerable, and will require rethinking a number of
- Road moving units are treated as bottle-necks, i.e. each must
move individually. So don't move down a road in view of the enemy!
- LOS features has been modified: hilltops and valleys are
considered flat to simplify determining LOS; elevations are rounded to
1/4 intervals between contours; towns and woods are now 20m, not 10m.
- SFAs are handled differently. Now you declare a hex as the
target of an SFA and fire anyone at it in any number of attacks you
like. You may observe the results of each fire and then decide to fire
again if you wish; only when you are completely finished firing at a hex
does you opponent get a single overwatch trigger. This will make you
reconsider stacking 5 tanks in one hex, because they could all be
destroyed in an SFA without being able to return fire.
- Overwatch has been changed significantly. Units with Fired
Markers can never fire overwatch (not even fire-based), and you never
receive a Fired Marker from firing overwatch. A new observation table
restricts the range that you can fire overwatch (SFAs have no
observation requirements and can be fired at any target in LOS). There
is no range limit for fire-based triggers, moving vehicles, and units
moving in billiard table terrain or using roads, but overwatch fires at
moving infantry are limited to a 3-hex range in open and a 1-hex range
in partly protective or protective terrain. The center of the hexside
crossed is used both for LOS determination and observation. This is a
big change, and will require players to readjust their tactics. You can
no longer move one unit at a time, waiting until the defending units
roll fired markers and then rush them. They will never become fired
from conducting overwatch. However, you can close to 4 hexes through
open terrain with no overwatch. Naturally, if you are trying to
assault, you will get hit with overwatch at range 3, 2 and 1, so
suppressing your opponent becomes even more important. Because no units
with Fired Markers can fire overwatch, you will want to consider not
firing SFAs with all your units in your phase so that you will have some
- AT Rolls are restricted to a range of 1 hex, and can now be done
in addition to regular area fires. This makes life as a B-target even
more hazardous, since you can attack it in the same fire with both an AT
Roll and an area attack.
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 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.
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.
- Barrage Markers affect the map after the mission is conducted.
Bad Fires are removed at the end of your action phase, so they affect
movement for the rest of your turn. Good Fires stay until the beginning
of your next action phase, and thus can interdict enemy movement. Units
moving into or adjacent to an attack zone are attacked before they
continue their movement.
- Attack Zones are the target hex for battery missions and target
hex and adjacent hexes for a battalion mission (7 hexes total). Units in
the Attack Zone are attacked at full strength, while units adjacent to
the Attack Zone are attacked at half strength.
- Fast Fire missions allow you to double your fire factor and add
+1 on the Artillery Point Fire Table, but require 3x normal ammunition
expenditure. These missions are available only to guns 122mm and
smaller. A Fast Fire Battalion Fire costs 9 battery fires (36 sheaves
in 3.0!) but can have a tremendous impact. Just pray it doesn't
- On-Call and Unobserved Missions are gone.
- The Adjustment Table takes into account the range from the
spotter to the target hex (0-3, 4-6, 7+) and the nationality of the
firing artillery (US, Commonwealth+German, Other, Japanese+Soviets).
Possible results are Good Shoot, Bad Shoot, No Shoot, and Bad Shoot with
Scatter (D6 hexes).
- Smoke Missions are handled as regular missions, but if a Good or
Bad Shoot occurs, a Level 2 Smoke Marker is placed instead of a barrage
marker. This represents the presence of smoke out to a radius of 2
hexes. During the next Cleanup Phase, the marker is flipped to the
Level 1 side, which represents smoke out to 1 hex. Level one Smoke
Markers are removed during the next cleanup. Only batteries, never
battalions, can fire Smoke Missions.
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.
- The defender always fires first in assault-style combats, so no
roll is made for fire order.
- The attacker can leave an assault only by conducting an SYR.
- Paralyzed attackers conduct an SYR.
- Morale Checks are still made after each fire, but first double
the morale rating of the unit checking, then add step losses and Bn
morale as usual. This means that a fresh unit with a morale rating of 3
checks on the 6 column. Militia-type units with morale of 6 and a step
loss check on the 13 (i.e. maximum) column. Motto: Don't assault with
lousy units or they will evaporate without inflicting any damage. 2nd
Motto: Assault bad units with good units and watch the fun!
- Overruns are basically unchanged (though the Buttoning Up rule
adds a new dynamic.) Units being overrun have their morale doubled only
if they are in Billiard or Open terrain, so keep your units in cover
when enemy armor is mucking about.
This page comes to you courtesy of Lee Forester,
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Last modified: 8 Sept 1995, firstname.lastname@example.org