Holding the line.

I wanted to do a solo scenario for Hell in Microcosm. I also wanted to ‘cheat’ to make it easier for me, and one way of doing that is to have a relentless attacker who just keeps coming at you. I confess that at this point I thought orcs and SF. But the more I thought about it, the more options occurred to me. Yet the more I thought about it, provided the attackers are suitably ‘driven’ by either their innate aggression, or a strict timetable imposed on them from above, it should still work.

The Map

With regard to the terrain I picked this area in what is now West Cumbria. Over the years we’ve fought a couple of campaigns across it, but then most of us in this club know the area pretty well. It’s interesting terrain because with the mountains and the sea the defender has secure flanks, but not too secure.  There is always the possibility of a force working its way though and getting behind your flank. But still there’s not a bad position at Ravenglass to fall back to.

The map has the advantage that you can just go onto google maps and explore the area in detail. You can even get the view on the ground. Obviously you may well have somewhere local which will provide the same or even more opportunities, so don’t be afraid to use that.


Oh look, we have a nuclear power station in the middle of our battlefield. Have to be careful people

Gorman: “Apone! Look… we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh… I want you to collect magazines from everybody.”

Hudson: “Is he f***in’ crazy?”

Frost: “What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?”

I decided to cheat a little. One of the sets of protagonists I had in mind gave me the idea. During WW2 the Soviets made a major effort to withdraw their industries east to the Urals, and re-established them in an area they hoped was out of reach of the German advance. So Sellafield became an important factory.

The task of the player is to hold up the enemy advance until the site has been stripped of what makes it useful. Obviously if you hold them longer nobody is going to complain. I suggest that you take a pack of cards, and eight times a day you draw a card and keep it. Each suit represents one of the four systems that the factory needs to make it work. You’re stripping these systems out and are transporting them to safety. When you get a complete suit, you get 13 victory points. If you get all four suits complete you get a bonus of 20 victory points on top of the 52 you already have.

If you’re feeling particularly unkind, you could leave the jokes in and they represent a problem which causes delays, roll a d6 to see how many cards you can draw in the next day.


Now then, Hell in Microcosm uses a 15 minute move. One has to ask how many moves make a day. For ease assume a 12 hour day but there will be a lot of wasted time. There will be time when the bad guys (the side not controlled by the player) are moving forces around prior to the next attack. This will take a number of hours. Also there will rarely be attacks at night. The time will be used both of you for moving troops about and also for sleeping.

Each day toss a coin at dawn (arbitrarily fixed at 6am.) On a heads, there’s an attack. If there isn’t an attack, toss a coin each hour until there is one.

If an attack is beaten off and the enemy falls back, roll a d6. That is how many hours it takes for the enemy to regroup and launch their next attack. If as part of defending you throw the enemy back and follow up, roll a d6+1 instead, but obviously you as defender may be able to take ground and hold a more advantageous position (or at least have more ground to trade for time.)

If fighting continues past the arbitrary 6pm nightfall, then that’s just what happens.

Defender’s forces (Yes, that’s you.)

You initially start with a brigade of three battalions. One is dug in in the area around Silloth, perhaps as far forward as Broughton if you want. The other is dug in around Boot at the top of Eskdale, and the third holds the hills in between. From Eskdale the front runs east, with more troops (probably from the same division but not under your command) holding Buttermere and further east. Scarfell Pike and the associated hills are not your problem, but if you fall back north of Eskdale you’ll probably have to start worrying about putting somebody up there to cover your flank.

There will be more detail when I look at specific options.

You will have reserves. There will be a dedicated reserve, which is stuff allocated to you which you can use without asking anybody else nicely for them. There is also a general reserve which consists of troops held back for various reasons, units are being rebuilt or rested, but they’re available to support all fronts in the area not merely you.

The Options

The idea of dismantling the tank factory sort of came with the German assault on the Soviet Union as part of its baggage. Why not run with it?

The Defenders, Soviet Union 1941.

Because of the importance of the assignment, your brigade, brought up to strength after the earlier battles, is deployed to defend the factory site. You have three normal battalions, all strength 15, and with a full complement of heavy weapons.

Your dedicated reserve.

Attached to your brigade is an anti-tank gun company, an infantry gun company, a light AA company, an engineer company, a company of 120mm mortars, and a light tank company.

You also have been given a cavalry regiment. This has been through a lot. It counts as normal but it is only d10 points strong. When it’s out of combat it can be rebuilt in the same manner as the infantry battalions in reserve below.

You also have three artillery companies, two are horse drawn with 76mm guns (which can be fielded as heavy anti-tank guns, and one motorised with152mm guns/howitzers.


You have been assigned 6 strength points of aircraft, these are optimised for air defence. If you lose any, next day your numbers will be made back up to 6.

Held back as reserves are

Three infantry battalions, which are being rebuilt. At the start of the game, roll a d10 for each battalion, that is its current strength. Each day toss a coin for each battalion. On a heads 1 point of strength is added until the battalion is up to full strength. Once a battalion is at full strength it gains no more points, but its coin toss can be given to another battalion which now gets to toss 2 coins and could get 2 points per day.

When the three battalions are at full strength, they’ll be shipped out and replaced by another three being rebuilt.

A cavalry regiment (effectively a battalion) which is being rebuilt on the same basis as the infantry.

A Medium Tank Battalion.
This starts off d10 strong and gains strength just like the infantry do, as more tank crews and more T34/76s arrive. Like the infantry, once it’s full strength it’ll be sent elsewhere and replaced with another.

Miscellaneous companies being rebuilt so that they can be assigned to larger formations.

All these have a nominal strength of 3 points

A KV1 company

An Engineer company

A Heavy anti-aircraft company

Two light anti-aircraft companies.

Two heavy weapons companies.

You can call upon units held in reserves, but effectively you ‘hire’ them by the day, using the victory points you haven’t earned yet. After all if you weren’t hogging them, they could go to somebody who needed them more. You pay their value in strength points. So if you ‘hire’ an infantry battalion and arrange for it to be supported by a tank company and an engineer company the price will be 15 pts for the infantry and 6 for the supports.

But remember even if you get the maximum victory points from the factory, it’s only 72 you’ll have to be careful how many reserves you ask for.

When you ask for reinforcements they arrive at Ravenglass at dawn on the day after you asked for them.

Resting your units

Technically you have four battalion sized units and your front only really needs three. One can be held back and can be fed reserves. If you pull one of your battalions out of combat, at the end of the first entire day of rest it can regain d6 points as men are returned to the unit. (It cannot exceed 15points in strength)

If you’re looking for figures, GHQ is an obviously place to look.

The Attackers

The attackers will roll for three battalions. Roll a d6, three times.

  1. Normal mechanised infantry battalion. D6+4.
  2. Veteran Armoured battalion, strength d6+4. 
  3. Normal Armoured battalion. Strength d6+6
  4. Veteran Infantry battalion. Strength d6+2
  5. Normal Infantry battalion. Strength d6+4
  6. Green Infantry battalion. Strength d6+6

Each will be stiffened by something from below. Each battalion rolls a d10, twice.

  1. A light tank company
  2. A medium tank company
  3. An infantry gun company
  4. A panzerjager company
  5. The infantry battalion counts as mechanised
  6. An engineer company
  7. An infantry company
  8. A light AA company
  9. An infantry company
  10. A towed anti-tank gun company.

Then roll for deployment.

There are three ‘sectors’ of the front. Initially I’ll call the Silcroft, the hills, Boot. The hill sector isn’t fit for vehicles. Both the Boot sector and the Hill sector count as close country.

So when you’ve got the attacking force, roll a d6 for the ‘cunning plan’.

  1. Attack Silcroft and Boot and mask the hills.
  2. Attack on the left, Silcroft sector, and mask the other two.
  3. Attack on all three sectors
  4. Mask Silcroft and Boot and attack the hills between
  5. Mask Silcroft and hills and attack at Boot
  6. Attack Silcroft and Boot and mask the hills between.

Note that if a Battalion is ordered to mask, and hour after the main attack has started roll a d6

  1. Masking Battalion launches hasty attack
  2. Masking Battalion manoeuvres to launch a prepared attack next move.
  3. Masking Battalion continues to remain quiet
  4. Masking Battalion continues to remain quiet but roll in another hour.
  5. Masking Battalion continues to remain quiet but roll in another hour with -1 to the dice.
  6. Masking Battalion continues to remain quiet but roll in another hour with -2 to the dice.

Air and artillery support.

The attackers get d10 aircraft which will be assigned to support attacks.

Each attacking sector will get up to three artillery companies supporting the attack.

A 75mm company

A 105mm company

A 105mm company.

Toss a coin for each, on heads you get it.

If a masking battalion switches to attack, it has to get artillery support from the batteries which were supporting the other battalions.

Beach landing.

If the front hasn’t moved for three days, there’s a chance of a beach landing. On the 4th and subsequent days, toss a coin. On a tails, you have reports of enemy shipping off shore. The attacking force will come ashore with the high tide. (Dawn plus d6 hours)

It will be a 15 point strong veteran infantry battalion with an engineer company and a towed anti-tank gun company. It will have the support of three 105mm artillery companies (naval gunfire) and if it creates a bridge head, it’ll be joined by a medium tank company.

It will land on a beach between Ravenglass and Whitehaven, just mark them out and roll a dice to choose.

You will know, two hours before dawn, that they’re there. You’ll know which beach they’re going for at dawn.

If you’re short of figures, Baccus have some nice Germans


‘Modern Option’

Really it depends what modern troops you’ve got. Just evolve the units a bit so they are their modern equivalents. Iran v Iraq would be a nice pairing, or Warsaw Pact against NATO.


One tricky area for modern and for SF is ‘Dealing with the electronics’. What level ECM should you have, and should both sides have the same level?

On one hand, the party with the superior ECM should be able to use it as a force multiplier. Their artillery works better, and they should be able to handicap the other side by downgrading their artillery, making it less effective. Also if their technological superiority extends to counter battery radar, they have the ability to respond and hit the enemy battery, forcing it to shoot and scoot. Indeed for the inferior party, would they be better to just downgrade to ‘dumb’ weapons?

Go on, jam this with your superior technology!

For this scenario, I would either give both sides the same ECM capability, or give the defenders the edge.

Science Fiction

This is another interesting option. Whilst I would recommend you ‘evolve’ your units from those given in the 1941 scenario, you can also bring in so much other stuff. You could make the attackers Orcs or other aliens.

Given this is where I first came in with the idea of the scenario, I dug around a bit on the web and even asked people for advice and suggestions. After all I wanted to find suitable figures. You might have a heap of old Epic orcs, in which case, fine. But if not, what is out there?

Onslaught Miniatures have Avians who look suitably aggressive.


Vangard have their Skinners

If you’re looking for some figures for the other side, there’s a plethora of figures.

Irregular Miniatures have ‘not’ Storm Troopers


Brigade have a heap of suitable ranges, their Neo-Soviet Bizon MBT has a nice T34 vibe


They have some Neo-Soviet infantry as well

But with SF as opposed to 20/21st century upgraded there are other differences, not just the figures. Depending on just what you’ve got depends on the kinds of troops you can deploy.

If you look at Onslaught’s avians, they have Raptors who can fly.


Now between ourselves, there’s a damned good reason why troops on the battlefield tend to hug the ground. A soldier flying over a battlefield looks like the start of an impromptu clay pigeon shoot. You cannot fly and wear enough armour to survive. (At least not on the sort of budget the military have for infantry.)

But look at it from the other angle, obviously the Avians did it, so how?

Let’s look at their advantages. They’ll be comparatively quiet (but have you heard a swan fly over) and with feathers, their radar signature is probably distinctly blurred. My suggestion is that you allow them to use the infiltration rules, but at night, where “If infiltrators are particularly skilled at infiltration” get a 20% bonus, flying avians get a 40% bonus to pass through (or above) an enemy unit. They probably gain height behind their own lines and then glide.

Similarly, with a beach landing, I have the GZG gunboat and barges, so I’d be tempted. But you could try coming in from above. Inserting troops by air would be easy enough. As the solo player, you’d dice for their landing zone behind you, pretty much at random. They might aim for somewhere like Whitehaven where there’s a small harbour and they could bring in support by boat. Alternatively they might try and close a position where they could dig in and block you from your supports.

Another option, rather than transports, would have the enemy come in in ‘drop pods’. When you stop and think about it, a drop pod assault does seem very similar to a glider assault. Following up from the glider analogy, the advantage of the drop pods is that you could send in heavy weapons and even light vehicles.

Giant War Beasts

I confess that I didn’t specifically allow for these in Hell in Microcosm. When the rules were written I was probably far too serious and poo faced about it all. Not only that, science fiction is supposed to be driven by advancing technology.

But frankly, not only am I older and wiser, but there are so many nice pieces of kit out there. Vanguard produce this for their skinners.

Personally I think you have a choice with this sort of beast mounted unit. For a lot of them, I’d be tempted to treat these as mechanised infantry. They’re not mounting serious artillery, they’ve not got the heavy armour, so I don’t think they fit too well in with tanks and the giant war machines. But I think that without blushing, they’ve probably got as much armour as a lot of the APCs and similar who already strut and fret their hour upon the stage as mechanised infantry. Also, let us be honest. A set of rules which cannot find an honourable place for them is in sad need of revision.  


If you’ve never come across Hell in Microcosm, they’re available in pdf from Wargame Vault for £4


They’re available from Amazon in paperback for £9.50, or on kindle for £4

4 thoughts on “Holding the line.

  1. Your mention of a nuclear power station reminded me of the current conflict in Ukraine. Apparently Russian troops dug trenches in the radioactive zone of red trees. They were there for weeks and now busloads of them have been bussed out for treatment for radiation poisoning. Of course, that is a power station which failed and leaked all over the place. The animals had the area to themselves and prospered as they have short life spans anyway and no time to get cancer but these soldiers set themselves up in one of the most toxic zones.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember reading that a lot of Russian and other reenactors used to LARP in the area before the war
      The wise ones carried Geiger counters and wore the exposure film just to check on these things


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