Let me try to explain in the following lines why little by little Victory Decision has become my favorite set of rules for platoon level actions for 20th century gaming as well as sci fi.
Victory Decision is a set of rules by Agis Neugebauer, A.D. Publishing, the rules can purchased through Wargamevault in both pdf and/or printed format.
The pdf version is great, it includes a printer friendly copy and the full copy has beautiful pictures of the fantastic armies painted by Agis that are really inspiring. Buying through Wargamevault also means that every time Agis corrects any typo or clears something on the language of the rules you will be able to download the updated version after getting the update notification. And Agis is really good at keeping everything up to date, so you can forget about dealing with errata !!
The rules are available in WWII version, Gear Krieg Weird World War II version and Sci Fi version. The core engine is the same but each set of rules has a few details that deal with specific elements of the period covered. Gear Krieg includes all the stats for the Dream Pod 9 mechs and also other units such as zombies and such, while the Sci Fi version includes three basic design lists that you use to design your own armies and vehicles matching the setting you may want to represent. For the World War II rules you get some basic platoon lists for the main belligerents but you can expand this by getting the technical manuals covering the vehicles of all the different nations as well as different booklets with specific platoon level lists, rifle platoons, paratrooper platoons etc.
Lets talk about the rules.
The rules as mentioned above aimed to support games in which each side will control about a platoon of infantry with a number of support elements. The standard maneuver element is the squad of infantry but most of them can be split into the corresponding fire teams meaning that you will usually find about 7 maneuver elements in the platoon ( counting the HQ ) plus any support elements like weapons teams or vehicles.
During the turn each player nominates a unit to activate and rolls a D6 adding the LD of the unit plus a few modifiers and the winner gets to activate the unit. Then the process is repeated, until one side has activated all the units, then the reminder of the opponent units activate. This means that the sequence of activation is fluid and not predetermined. Players have to constantly decide on activation priorities, sometimes you may want to go first, sometimes you may want to go second and react, it really depends on the tactical situations of the game and the luck factor means that players might have to adjust their action plan as the turn evolves making player decisions very critical.
When a unit gets activated the unit gets three actions. There are many actions available to a unit and it would take too long to cover them in detail but apart from the standard move and shoot actions that you might be familiar with there are a few other very critical ones such as hide and take cover. Let me tell you, if you activate a unit and the unit does not end with a hidden and/or take cover condition marker, you are probably doing something wrong and you can kiss that unit good bye. There is an overwatch action for those of you who are OW fanatics, it is not as powerful as in other games, it is mostly aimed at close range protection of friendly units or to conduct defensive fire if the unit is attacked.
The combat mechanics are pretty streamlined. Weapons have a number of attack dice that can be D6 or D10s, D6 usually for small arms and D10 usually for larger caliber weapons such as AT guns and similar, while units have two target score that they offer to an enemy attacker, a HIT value and a CRITICAL value. Any enemy attack dice that roll enough to score a HIT value result on one potential hit and any CRITICAL value result in two potential hits. These values can be modified by factors such as broken line of sight or cover.
The defender will then roll as many saving throws (D6), as potential hits, his save depending on the armor of the target, a 6+ for WWII infantry but could go up to a 4+ for 40K sci fi type of armor, or of course 2+ or 3+ for armored fighting vehicles. The cover can improve the saving throw and also in the case of infantry provides a cover save that that cannot be reduce by weapons save modifiers; so for example infantry in light cover will always be able to save on 5+ no matter what happens ( special weapons such as flame throwers aside).
When a unit gets attacked they will immediately accumulate between one or two suppression markers depending on the weapons attacking them and then they will gain an extra suppression for each casualty they take. Each suppression will prevent a model from shooting and If the total suppression matches or exceeds the number of remaining models in the unit it becomes shaken and has to relocate from their positions. This is usually bad as one of the most useful actions is “take cover”, which allows you to re-roll any saving throws and which remains in effect until you move from that position, hence if you get shaken you lose this and will have to regain this later !
Vehicles in the game find many hurdles, this is a close range infantry combat and vehicles that are not carefully supported by their infantry are easy prey. Why ?, well for starters vehicles don’t get three actions, they only get two, most of the heavy caliber weapons can only be fired once per turn, vehicles also have a tough time spotting infantry that have used a hidden action, and finally infantry with small arms can force the vehicle crew to button up preventing them from operating their pintle machineguns which tend to be their best anti infantry weapons. Additionally most WWII units tend to have one use anti tank explosive/sticky bombs to close assault vehicles, and vehicles don’t have overwatch as one of the actions they can execute, so without a close by infantry unit in overwatch the poor AFV is probably as good as dead. If you are doing sci fi, even worse due to the amount of AT support weapons. I personally like this very much because I like infantry games, and I still like to have vehicles that have to observe the golden rule of moving only with infantry support and this is the game that for me has achieved this like no other, better than bolt action and chain of command, and better than disposable heroes which already did a good job at this.
There are of course plenty of other elements, for example the special actions for HQ units, or the multiple traits that affect infantry vehicles and weapons which cover things as weapons that cause extra suppression, snipers, off table support, special scenario rules like minefields or reserves and hidden units, etc, but with this you get the basic idea.
Why do I like the rules so much ?
I like infantry level platoon actions. I’ve always been trying rules that fit this scale of actions. I spent a long time playing Disposable Heroes from Iron Ivan Games, also tried the Operation Squad version for platoon level, have tried Bolt Action, Chain of Command and a few others. All those rules have some elements that I like and some I don’t. Disposable Heroes has great concepts on how to hinder vehicles and nice details on weapons but the casualty ratio is high and the rules need some editing to make it more new player friendly. Chain of Command has excellent and innovative activation mechanics but firefights tend to take too long in game turns before a unit effectively “suppresses” the enemy unit and that means that there is a lot of opportunity to correct tactical mistakes resulting in less chance for game changing actions by one player. It has a brilliant deployment system and fantastic campaign modules but the army balancing elements is a bit weak for my taste and the vehicles can be overwhelming vs infantry. Bolt Action is very streamlined but to me LMGs and HMGs don’t have a prominent enough role, simply equating a few more riflemen, and again vehicles can rule the battlefield. It has of course great support and fun scenarios.
So lots of rules for platoon level actions and many of them are lots of fun but none of them were a perfect choice for what I was looking for.
What about Victory Decision.
The activation mechanics are not as creative as Chain of Command but they still manage to create a mechanic that requires both players to be constantly engaged providing some randomness in the activation sequence so that players have to adjust their thinking quick on their feet. So activation system is an ok for me.
Casualty ratio is low and you have to make progress by suppressing enemy units, pushing and gaining ground rather than just sitting in one spot and shooting at enemy troops. A word of caution though, when I initially tried the rules my first playtest game ended up very quickly with lots of dead models, I felt casualty ratio was too high, shelved the rules and didn’t pick them up again until recently. This goes back to something I mentioned before, if you are not using hide and/or take cover actions when activating a unit you are doing something wrong and your unit will perish ! Looking at the odds, when a unit fires at another unit, after the to hit and saving throws you should expect to get 2-3 dead models in the target unit.. which is quite high, but if the unit has taken cover that will probably cut this down to 1-2 casualties. Also if the enemy takes three shooting actions at you all this is times 3, but if your unit is hiding the enemy will have to spend one or two actions to spot you and as you can see this game is all about actions, you could even consider your tactical strength at a point in a turn as the number of units time the number of actions that you are still able to execute. For those familiar with game theory, there is no prisoners dilemma here, if one side is constantly using all their actions to do move and shoot and the other side is using take cover and hide, the side doing only move and shoot will be out of units in two or three turns, this is a fact.
All this means that in victory decision you win by applying pressure and gaining ground in specific points of the battlefield, since you never have enough actions to do it everywhere and since you cannot simply sit back and shoot and expect any effective results.
Leverage your fire teams effectively, support elements suppress, maneuver elements infiltrate, that is the path to victory.
The final element that is a deal closer for me is the limitations on vehicles, this is the first set of rule where the old maxim that vehicles not supported by infantry will get in trouble in close actions actually becomes totally true. Many rules come close but none of the ones I’ve tried match Victory Decision in this area, at least in my opinion. Vehicles have fewer actions, cannot do overwatch, have a hard time spotting enemy infantry hiding and don’t like being blindsided and close assaulted. Solution ?, have an infantry fire team close by in overwatch, that could save your vehicle!
Combine all this with excellent support from the author, who will answer any of your questions through his dedicated online forum (here), very well written and clear rules that incorporate errata as soon as identified, beautiful edition and a core mechanic that is used both for the WWII gaming as well as for the modern and sci fi rules.
After years of trying different systems I have finally found a set of platoon level rules that I enjoy playing out of the box, haven’t added any house rules at all, is flexible and ready to cover many periods and plays just the way I like it rewarding good decision making and careful planning as opposed of relying on good die rolling.