Principles of World War II - Core Concepts

The first article from Tom covers the reasons for developing the POW rule system into a set capable of handling 1939-45 actions and outlines the fundamental assumptions of the game together with the changes necessary for adaptation to the WWII period.

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We had spent much time (three years) playing with alternative sets of WWII rules and none of them giving us the type of game we were looking for. But Graham and Karl had been playing the Principles of War rules for the Napoleonic and 19th Century periods, liked the system and suggested that we look to see if the rule system could provide the answer.

The process began by taking the 19th Century Principles of war rules and stripping them down to the core rules structure.

Core Concepts in Principles of War


These are used to provide ‘hidden’ movement without having to resort to umpires.


Unit strength /morale combined into on base unit ‘strength’ to represent unit effectiveness.


Leaders rolling dice for initiative each bound (D4, D6, Av. D depending upon quality).


Orders and objectives to defined at the beginning of the game.

End game calculations.

Game Sequence -

Phase 1 - Charge reaction, spotting.

Phase 2 - Firing.

Phase 3 – Melee (looking to replace with close range fire).

Phase 4 - Leader initiative and unit activation.


Based on a D20 / D10 v unit strength.


Based upon unit strength multiplied by weapon factors and then column shifts for cover etc.


Decided that this would be removed and replaced by a close range fire fight.

Terrain and Table Set-up

Rebuild Rules

Once cut down to the core framework it was time to start adding in the period specifics. First was the ‘level’ at which we wanted to set the game.

  1. The top level of the game was going to be a battle group made up from multiple ‘battalions’ and support elements.

  2. The sub-leaders will be commanders leading battalions made up from multiple companies which will be the base unit in the game supported by ‘sub’ units represented by individual elements.

  3. A company will be made up of three elements each representing a platoon or troop. Individual platoons/batteries representing A/T Guns, infantry guns, HMG’s, mortars etc.

Principles of World War II

The game is designed to focus on the problems of commanding troops in battle. We are using the base Principles of War mechanism to capture the flavour of larger scale actions of battle groups rather than platoons and company sized actions. So the smallest element in the game is a base representing a platoon, battery or troop. The main unit of manoeuvre will be the company made up of three bases. The leaders are represented at battalion level.

The rules have a simple mechanism where the focus is on a unit’s effectiveness rather than complex extensive weapons tables and individual casualties. The rules cover the following topics: -

Army Organisation Troop & Unit Definitions

Generic Troop Classification Game Sequence (Phases 1,2,3 & 4)

Unit Strength & Formations Defences

Blinds Game Set-up

End of Game Game Orders

Terrain Tables Random Terrain Generation

Points Values Play Sheets

Game Moves

The game is fought as a series of moves. These are split into two bounds, one for each player. Each bound is split into the phases as listed below: -

Phase 1

a. Clear smoke and artillery templates

b. Roll for air superiority.

c. Make a communications check to see if any off table artillery support this turn.

d. Recon: -

i. Recon units may move.

ii. Recon and leader unit may attempt to spot enemy blinds.

e. Test morale for those contacted in enemy bound

f. Move retiring, evading or remove routing units, resulting from 1(a)

Phase 2

a. The phasing player’s units may fire: -

i. Units suffering casualties or hit by HE or aircraft must take a moral test

ii. Move units retiring or routing as a result of the morale test.

b. Any assaulting units still in contact may fire: -

i. Take any resulting moral tests, and move retiring or routing units.

ii. If both units still in contact the attackers will fall back 1”.

Phase 3

a. One Command Element at a time rolls for initiative; all actions must be completed before moving onto the next.

i. Allocate initiative to activate any new orders received in earlier bounds

ii. Move the units under the command Element’s command

iii. Test for hits and morale if moving through minefield or bombardment area.

b. Any Command Elements previously hit are replaced

c. Write down any order changes sent this phase.

Troop and Unit Definitions


This is the smallest ‘unit’ in the game and represents a platoon, battery or troop. On the table this is represented by the appropriate figures on a 50mm by 30mm base.

There are no rigid rules as to the number of models on a base so players should use what looks good. In our games a vehicle base has two models, an infantry unit has 6-10 figures and equipment bases have an equipment model (i.e. HMG, Mortar A/T gun etc. plus a transport base). Recon bases look best with a single model of half the number of individual figures.

Command Elements are attached at battalion and brigade/Battle Group, these should be on a 30mm by 30mm base with some form of command vehicle.

Unit: These represent ‘company’ level formations and are made up of 3 elements, A fourth element can be added from the support lists.

Battalion: A battalion is made up from a command element, up to four companies plus support elements.

Formation: This is a grouping of several battalions plus support elements with an optional command element

Battle group: This is the highest level of command and has the stats for the Army organisation, communication and controls the off table artillery and air support.

Command Elements







Exceptional Leaders with good command control

High quality officers supported by an effective command and control e.g. Germans

The bulk of leaders

Low initiative, poor training or poor command control

Initiative Die

Average Die +1

Average die



The Command Elements generate initiative each turn which is used to activate the units under their control. If a Command Element is hit (See fire effect table) it will cause a temporary loss of command as the element reorganises.

Troop Types

Unit Types

Unit Strength

This is the unit’s ability to fight and withstand the rigours of battle. It is a measure both of the unit’s class and the number of men it contains. The unit’s strength is used for all fighting and morale calculations.

Unit Type Starting Strength

Unit Individual Element

Elite High quality troops, usually guards. 14 7

Regular Troops 12 6

Conscript or Poorly trained Troops 10 5

Armoured infantry fighting from armoured carriers get +2 to starting strength.

Formations: Company sized units are made up of three elements or 4 if a support element is added. If a 4th element is added they add their strength to the unit strength for morale tests and conform to any moral result.