JTS RatFight – Core Rules
RatFight is a skirmish game designed for combat between a dozen or so 28 mm models per side and maybe a couple of vehicles.
It will not work for (i) mass infantry assaults, (ii) tank combat, (iii) open battlefields such as a plain or desert. Vehicles are not especially useful in RatFight because the game takes place in bad-going with limited lines of sight. Mostly vehicles are big fat targets that will have to be protected by friendly infantry.
The design philosophy is to design games that are highly targeted on a specific situation allowing with a minimum of special rules so that the game can be learnt quickly and played in one to two hours. The idea is to let the players concentrate on strategy and tactics rather than the interplay of rules.
The basic rules consist of a diceless central engine with generic opponents and weapons. Bolt on modules will be added that are specific to story lines and scenarios.
The central engine incorporates a high degree of variability to simulate the chaos of conflict at the individual level. A side wins when its opponent’s morale breaks or an event specific to the scenario occurs. The game rotates around morale.
In particular the mechanisms are cinematic, in that they recreate the type of small-team heroic combat found in books and films.
A four feet by four feet playing area is recommended. It should be cluttered by terrain that gives cover and blocks line of sight, such as a wood, village, ruins, urban area or industrial complex.
RatFight employs a diceless system based around Action Cards and Resolution Cards.
Players turn over Action Cards from a single deck that allow them to move one or more models, fire one or more weapons or do something specific to the scenario.
Resolution Cards are ordinary playing cards, one deck of 52 cards per player, that are used as randomisers to determine shooting etc. Normally, card draws are opposed with each player turning over one or more cards – the highest card winning. Aces are low, Jacks are worth eleven points, Queens twelve, and Kings thirteen. In the event of a tie, i.e. each player draws a seven, the suites have the rank value of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds and Clubs. So a Seven of Spades beats a Seven of Diamonds. In the unlikely event that both players draw the same card (i.e. each draws the seven of spades), then the Turn immediately ends.
In general, probability of success is modified by drawing more or fewer Resolution Cards. The main exception involves armour piercing weapons.
Each player works his way through a deck of playing cards, drawing one off the top to reveal its value, and discarding it after use. When all cards have been used the owning player immediately shuffles the deck and places it face down for reuse.
- Shuffle Action Cards and place the deck face down.
- Each player turns over an Action Card to check for Initiative. The player with the highest card goes first.
- The player with the Initiative turns over an Action Card and may act upon it or pass. The Action Card is then discarded.
- The second player turns over an Action Card and may act upon it or pass. The Action Card is then discarded.
- Repeat alternating between players until The Turn End Action Card is revealed.
- Both players check morale simultaneously. A player loses if he fails the morale check and the game ends. Both players lose if they both fail the morale check and the game ends.
- Check each infantry model downed to see if it is permanently out of the fight.
- Start a new turn.
Note that the length of each turn is variable and unknown.
The generic game uses seventeen Action Cards that assume ten to twenty infantry and one to two vehicles per side. There may only be one tank or similar heavy vehicle on the table.
Three Action Cards marked ‘Move a Single Infantry Model’: The player may move one infantry stand.
Two Action Cards marked ‘Move Two Different Infantry Models’: The player may move two different infantry stands.
One Action Card marked ‘Move Five Different Infantry Models’: The player may move five different infantry stands.
One Action Card marked ‘Move All Infantry Models’: The player may move ANY of his infantry stands.
Two Action Cards marked ‘Move Vehicle’: The player may move one of his vehicles
Notes: The player can choose to keep moving the same model twice as he turns over movement Action Cards.
Three Action Cards marked ‘Fire a Single Weapon’: The player may fire one infantry weapon.
Two Action Cards marked ‘Fire Two Weapons’: The player may fire two weapons on two different models.
One Action Card marked ‘Fire Three Weapons’: The player may fire three weapons on three different models.
One Action Card marked ‘Fire All Weapons’: The player may one weapon on all his models.
Notes: Models can only fire one weapon even if they are equipped with more, such as a tank having an MG in the hull and turret.
A turret can be turned to face a new direction as part of the firing action.
Vehicles can only fire weapons like machine guns or automatic cannons, not cannon or anything similar. Similarly, heavy mortars and artillery are not used by infantry. The distance between combatants is way to close.
One Action Card marked Turn End. The game turn ends.
Infantry: 6 inches. Infantry are mostly unaffected by terrain except for linear obstacles such as a wall or barbed wire fence that a model has to climb over, or a crevice/stream that he has to jump over or wade through. This takes a full move. Some linear obstacles such as deep water, high wall, or thick bramble are impassable to infantry. Climbing up to 4 inches upwards, takes infantry a full move.
Bicycles: 6 inches off road, 9 inches on a road. Bicycles are infantry for everything except movement.
Wheeled vehicle such as motor bikes, lorries or cars can move up to 24 inches on roads and 12 inches off road. They may not move across any sort of obstacle, deep snow or marshy ground.
Tracked vehicles move 18 inches on a road or nine inches off road. Some terrain will be impassable to even tracked vehicles. Examples might include, ruins, walls, deep water, large trees and so on.
Hovercraft can move 12 inches over any flat terrain, including water of any depth. They are blocked by all vertically projecting obstacles.
Flying vehicles ignore terrain.
It is important that players agree what is passable, clime-able or impassable to infantry, and vehicles before playing the game. It does not really matter what you decide provided you both agree.
Vehicles must end up facing the direction in which they have predominantly moving unless they can reverse, which is at half speed. A vehicle car turn on the spot to face any direction as a move.
Close combat occurs when a model moves so as to touch an enemy model. The attacker draws two Resolution Cards and the defender one. The loser is an instant casualty, not Downed. An already Downed model has no defence and becomes an instant casualty without recourse to Resolution Cards.
In special scenarios an enemy model can be captured rather than killed.
Vehicles are highly vulnerable to close assault in RatFight as a deliberate game mechanic. Any player who lets enemy infantry within touching distance deserves everything he gets. Any infantryman can close assault a vehicle, including armoured vehicles, at Armour Piercing Zero
Weapons have two basic properties, effective range and number of shots. For example a pistol can fire one shot up to six inches range, whereas a semi-automatic rifle can fire two shots at a target any distance away. The effective range of the weapon is greater than the size of the playing area. In addition, some weapons have an armour piercing ability so can be used against armoured vehicles.
Pistol: Range 6 inches, one shot.
Manual Rifle: Range 48 inches, one shot.
Semi-Automatic Rifle: Range 48 inches, one shot OR Range 24 inches, two shots.
Sniper Rifle: Range 60 inches, one shot (but turn over two Resolution Cards).
Anti-Tank Rifle: As Manual Rifle or Range 18 inches, one shot, Armour Piercing 1.
Assault Rifle: Range 36 inches, one shot OR Range 18 inches, two shots.
Sub-Machine Gun/ Machine Pistol: Range twelve inches, two shots.
Military Hand-Held Light Machine Gun: Range 36 inches, two shots.
Heavy Tripod or Vehicle Mounted Heavy Machine Gun: Range 48 inches, three shots per barrel. Tripod mounted guns cannot be moved during the course of a game but may be turned to fire in any direction.
Bazooka/RPG: Range thirty inches, one shot, Armour Piercing Four.
Automatic cannon: Range 48 inches two shots per barrel, Armour Piercing Two.
Grenade: Range 9 inches. Use a three-inch blast template that must be centred on a model within range. All models with bases under or partly under the template are attacked by a single 'shot'. Terrain modifiers apply. Grenades must be clearly shown in the model's hand. This does not preclude the model firing with another weapon with which it is equipped as an alternative.
Anti-Tank Grenade: Range 9 inches, one shot, Armour Piercing Two.
The firing procedure is as follows.
- The shooting player checks that he has a line of sight between the firing model and the target and that the target is within the range of the weapon.
- The shooting and the defending players turns over one Resolution Card each from their decks and compare results.
- If the shooter wins, the target model is Down, place it on its side. Otherwise, it is unhurt. A Downed model may not move or fire.
- If the shooting weapon has two shots and misses on the first then the shooting player may draw another card and compare it with the originally drawn defender’s card, and so on.
- If the player has shots left over from a weapon after Downing the target they may be retargeted onto any model with three inches, whether or not he has a line of sight.
- The defender turns over two Resolution Cards (discarding the lower) if the target model is in soft terrain and three Resolution Cards (discarding the lower two) if in hard terrain.
Line of sight and Terrain
Terrain half the height of a model blocks line of site for firing. Two models positioned each side of a terrain piece but not in it cannot see or shoot at each other. It is recommended that terrain be based so the base governs the exact extent of the terrain to prevent arguments.
A model positioned so it is partly in view to the shooting model behind terrain that normally blocks line of sight can be targeted but counts as being ‘in terrain’ when shot at.
Models positioned in terrain, i.e. on the terrain base, can see out and can be seen by models outside the terrain with line of sight. However, they are considered to be ‘in terrain’ when shot at.
Hard Terrain is defined as material that would stop a bullet, such as a solid stone wall, concrete rubble, boulders, fortifications such as trenches and so on. Soft terrain is defined as material that would not stop a bullet but would offer a degree of concealment such as vegetation, light wooden buildings, smoke, car doors etc.
Shooting at Vehicles.
A vehicle is only destroyed when it is abandoned by its crew. Crew’s morale is tested for every time the vehicle accumulates damage. Some crews will abandon their vehicle at the slightest damage while others will fight on until it is shot to pieces.
A vehicle performs normally until it is abandoned. An abandoned vehicle is considered ‘dead’ but is left on the battlefield as a line of sight and movement obstacle. The crew from an abandoned vehicle are considered to be casualties for purposes of morale. They take no further part in the battle. A generic tank or self-propelled gun has five crew while generic lorries, cars, armoured carriers and armoured cars have two crew.
The situation is slightly different for infantry inside a lorry or armoured carrier that is abandoned by its crew. They are placed in the Down position around the abandoned vehicle and tested in phase seven of the game turn as normal.
Weapons without an armour piercing capability cannot damage armoured vehicles but they can damage unarmoured vehicles. They have an amour piercing value of zero.
Weapons with an armour piercing number can damage armoured vehicles.
Damage to a vehicle is accumulative over the course of a game.
The procedure for firing a weapon at a vehicle is as follows:
- Check range and line of sight, and if the target is armoured whether the weapon is armour piercing. Both players turn over a Resolution Card off their decks. The vehicle is hit if the attacker wins.
- Both players turn over a second Resolution Card. The attacker adds the armour piercing value of the weapon to the numeric value of his card. The defender adds the armour value of his vehicle to the numeric value of his card.
- Compare the totals. If the attacker’s total is more than the defenders then the difference is the number of damage points inflicted on the vehicle.
- Test immediately for crew morale. The vehicle’s owner turns over a Resolution Card and compares its numeric value against the current accumulated damage that has been sustained by the vehicle. The crew bail out if the numeric value of the resolution card is less than or equal to the accumulated damage.
Generic vehicle armour Points – Front/Side/Rear
Unarmoured Vehicle – 0/0/0
Heavy Tank – 6/3/2
Medium Tank/SPG – 4/2/1
Light Tank – 2/1/1
Armoured Carrier/Car – 1/1/1
The morale of both sides are checked simultaneously in phase six of the game turn. Add up the number of casualties a side has suffered (do not include Downed models) and draw a Resolution Card. This card must beat the number of casualties or the player loses. His army is removed from the field of battle. Remember to count crewmen that have abandoned their vehicle.
Leaders present on the battlefield and are not Down modify this process by allowing the player to draw more than one resolution card, discarding whichever he likes (usually the lower but he may wish his army to withdraw if the scenario is part of a larger campaign game).
A player or 'side' may have two distinct forces that test separately for morale.
Testing for Casualties
In phase seven each player checks every one of his downed infantry models for recovery. Draw a Resolution Card for each Downed model. A black card signifies that the model is still in the fight. Stand the model upright.
A red card indicates that the model is a casualty and that it takes no further part in the game. Remove the model. It counts as a casualty for purposes of morale checks. Note that the model is not necessarily dead or even wounded. It may have just had a scare and 'gone to ground'. Models are available for further games in a campaign on the draw of any card but a heart.
Leaders and Heroes
Leaders modify morale checks by allowing a player to draw more than one Resolution Card. A generic force with a dozen models or less has a two-card leader model, and forces with more models a two-card and a three-card leader. The leader models must be clearly defined so that both players can recognise them.
Heroes have special abilities. A hero may well be a leader but it is not mandatory.
Examples of Hero Capabilities
- Dead Shot: Model may always draw an extra Resolution Card when shooting.
- Bruiser: The model draws an extra card in close combat.
- Inspiring (heroic leader only): One per turn the player may discard a drawn Action Card and draw another.
Copyright John Lambshead, 2011, is reserved but permission is granted for any person to make copies for their personal use.