Hard Pounding

This was an introductory Hell in Microcosm game using 6mm figures which I ran at the club. Nobody there had played the game before, but it’s the sort of level that would appeal to them. It was ‘modern’ rather than WW2 or Sci Fi, but things fade into each other with the rules. I could have used counter battery radar and drones. But I decided to keep things comparatively simple.
Also whilst people will organise individual games, we tend to put on a game that ‘anybody’ can join in. It means nobody is standing about with nothing to do. Previous weeks we’ve had a brilliant 28mm North West frontier game which was actually the Battle of Little Big Horn, a 20mm Second World War bash, and various other stuff. But the advantage of Hell in Microcosm is that I could fit everything into one bag and one box (which included some of the scenery as well). Matt’s 28mm game took six of us carrying boxes down to the car when it was packed away. There again, his looked stunning.

There were two sides. The attackers who were arbitrarily labelled ‘orange’ because they have an orange corner to their base which allows me to number them.

Motorised in APCsBattalionnormal12
Heavy weaponsBattalionnormal12
Enough spare lorries to transport two battalions

Mortars are 120mm and have a range of 10km which is 100cm

Off table you have (mark point on table edge from which we measure range.)

3 105mm Artillery batteries 11km range (110 cm)

3 155mm Artillery batteries 30km range (300cm)

Airpower. You have 15 points. When a point has appeared on table, it returns to base and comes back after 8 moves.

The defenders were Yellow. (This being the colour on the corner of their base rather than hinting at their valour or lack of it.)

1st Heavy weaponsBattalionnormal12
2nd Heavy weaponsBattalionnormal12

Off table (mark point on table edge from which we measure range.)

3 105mm Artillery batteries 11km range (110 cm)

3 155mm Artillery batteries 30km range (300cm)

Airpower. You have ten points. When a point has appeared on table, it returns to base and comes back after 5 moves.

Players would choose their planes from

  • Fighter with subtypes Air superiority, Ground Attack/Escort*
  • Light Bomber
  • Medium Bomber
  • Heavy Bomber
  • Liaison which covers Recce and Artillery Ranging

The defending force set up on the table. Defending battalions have a perimeter, (up to 120cm) so I gave them a selection of boot or shoe laces, so that they had a choice. As player you don’t need to know where troops are within that perimeter, only that they’re in there.

The defence

When you look at the photo, the defenders drew up to defend the two fords across the river (the only places vehicles could advance, infantry could cross anywhere) and then they had battalions dug in to form a second line as well.

The sole mobile reserve was the tank battalion, stiffened with a flak company and an AT company.

On one wing one battalion had a lot of frontage to cover and was stiffened with engineers as well as heavy weapons. The engineers laid a minefield, within the battalion perimeter. (Which means the attackers aren’t entirely sure where it is and cannot lift the mines prior to an attack.)

There was the problem that the front line could not be supported by the 105mm artillery batteries. But to fall back under the artillery umbrella would have abandoned the river line.

The attackers

Most of the leg infantry were sent to attack on the far flank. That way they could take one of the fords. In the centre where the other crossing was defended by two villages the attackers produced two small brigades.

The first, the two mechanised infantry battalions, both stiffened by a tank company and an AA company. The second was two motorised infantry battalions, again both stiffened by a tank company and an AA company.

How the Game went.

There were several moves as the attackers advanced, then paused to ready a prepared attack. They had the advantage of more artillery, as their 105mm could reach the river line (but once they advanced past that they would outrun it.) Their air support was slightly more useful.

As an aside air support has to be booked five or more moves in advance. Once they’re over the table liaison will stay until they’re driven off (but will be back in d6 moves without you having to do anything), attacking aircraft appear on your turn and attack, then leave. Fighters and air superiority aircraft arrive on your turn, deal with any enemy present, then provide you with air support in the enemy’s turn, before leaving at the end of the enemy’s turn.

The defender’s artillery did some damage, first to the enemy mortar battalion, but came into its own when it hit the enemy infantry forming up to launch a prepared attack. A defenders ground attack plane came in at the same time and also did quite a lot of damage.  

The biggest success for airpower was when the attackers brought on five heavy bombers which hit one of the battalions defending the centre. Because of their numbers, the bombers swamped the single air superiority plane in the area, and the remaining four bombers overwhelmed the defending flak to do serious damage to the battalion.

On the far flank the massed infantry attack, battered as it was, went in. One battalion did refuse to advance due to casualties. The defenders, battered by artillery, were driven out by weight of numbers.

With these rules, a battalion has strength of up to 15. The defending battalion started at 12, had taken quite a lot of damage but was stiffened by engineers and heavy weapons. Companies that are doing the stiffening don’t take casualties. There are two reasons for this. One is that they’re better dug in and positioned, but the other is a game mechanic. It’s easier if you don’t have to record casualties separately, but also it means that it’s hard to eliminate a battalion just by pounding it with artillery. In this case the battalion was down to 3 or 4 strength points, but got a further two points from each stiffening company as well as bonuses for the abilities the stiffening companies gave.

As the battalion’s moral had held, it defended with eight points plus bonuses. If the battalion’s moral hadn’t held, it would have fallen back and the stiffening companies would have gone with it.

In the centre the veteran mechanised battalion plus the other mechanised battalion attacked and broke through the battered battalion trying to stop them. (The veteran mechanised battalion, stiffened with armour and AA, was the strongest unit on the battlefield.)
The two motorised battalions also attacked and the remnants of the battalion facing them (which had been hit by the big air strike) fled.

With the front broken, the defenders mounted a counter attack with their armoured battalion (a hasty attack because they didn’t have time to make a prepared attack) which hit one of the enemy mechanised battalions (who dropped into hasty defence). The armour was thrown back.

At this point the defender started pulling the remnants of his front line (plus his armour) back to reinforce the second line.
We left the game there, it was a natural pause and time was drawing on. The attackers would have to reorganise, and the problem they would have run into was that they were outrunning their artillery whereas more of the enemy artillery was now in range. Some of their leg artillery was battered, but was probably fit to garrison the places taken. Everything would depend on the ability of the mechanised and motorised to keep up the pressure.


By the end of the game one of the players had vague memories that he may have played it twenty years previously. But none of the others had, but they just had to do sensible military things and leave me to tell them what dice to throw.

It did provoke me into producing a Quick Reference sheet (now a free pdf download at https://jimssfnovelsandwargamerules.wordpress.com/hell-in-microcosm/  )
Next time I will give both sides  counter-battery radar to give them something else to worry about.


If you don’t know Hell in Microcosm rules. They’re available from Wargame Vault as a pdf for £4


Also from Amazon, on Kindle for £4 or in paperback from £9.50

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