Friday, November 23, 2012

Real-Life Concepts: The Beaten Zone

Firing Line, Shimmering-Sword
So I'm reading through a bunch of army field manuals, looking for realistic ideas, when I run across something interesting in FM 21-75 G. Which is the concept of the 'Beaten Zone'. Or, the area over which your squad's fire falls, and how it changes based on how the squad fires at an enemy.

First though, I need to reinforce the idea that Enfilades, the subject of my last post, are a current military tactic. Since Farmpunk (and I'm sure others) thought Enfilades a relic of Napoleonic era combat that only applied to large troop blocks. 

Nope. Here's a US Army diagram of a machine gun with it's target in Enfilade. He barely has to move the weapon laterally to mow everyone down.

To the army though, Enfilades are when you have your enemy in a perfect line. Else it's simple 'Frontal Fire'. Which is still a really bad day for the squad being fired at.


As opposed to 'Oblique Fire', which is the least damaging type of orientation to have. Because it requires more lateral movement of the firer.

On To The Beaten Zone

The 'Beaten Zone' is simply where the majority of your weapons' shots fall. Either for an entire squad, or a single high-RoF weapon like a machine gun. It can either be spread out wide, or contracted to a single point, depending on how the squad's leader orders them to fire.

Area Fire

Squads generally fire in 2 ways. In the first, the squad leader designates a target squad and everyone shoots. Your position to the left or right of your squad leader determines which part of the enemy line that you fire at. The squad leader may even fire off a tracer or two to help mark the center of the enemy line. The Beaten Zone then covers the entire enemy line, and anyone can be hit.

Here's a tabletop illustration:

This could be the standard fire mode, since it's much like how 40K has traditionally worked.

Point Fire

In point fire, the squad leader shoots some tracers at the target and then his squad aims all of their weapons at it. This contracts the Beaten Zone down to just a few square yards and ensures that only those within the BZ, or the cone of fire leading to it, can be hit.

This is similar to some rules we had written earlier in the year, but the how-it's-done aspect suggests some things to me.
  1. Point-firing (with some sort of to-hit bonus, like re-rolls) solves the "Why shouldn't I just bunch everyone up?" problem.
  2. A unit should only be able to point-fire if it didn't move (unless it's special, like Knights).
  3. A unit should only be able to point-fire at one target at a time.
  4. A unit shouldn't be able to split it's fire unless it's to add a new target to the one they shot last turn.  Meaning that you can fire at whatever unit you shot last turn with area fire. But then your leader can tell some portion of your squad to fire at where his tracers go.
  5. Some weapons (high-RoF assault rifles and machine guns) might get additional bonuses in point fire. Such as adding one shot die per enemy model in the Beaten Zone and/or Cone of Fire. This might provide a degree of natural enfilade ability without needing to measure axis lines or arcs through a unit.
Let's illustrate that last idea.

A unit or, in this case, a single model, fires at their normal RoF when in Area Fire mode. For the squad, it's their number of models times their RoF. While for this minigun armed Paladin, it's 6. That's the RoF for a minigun that has to swing around and attempt to hit a wide line.

But if that Paladin can point-fire to the unit's side, it could do a lot more damage. If we center the large blast template on the last model, and add +1 to the Paladin's RoF for every model under the template or in the cone of fire, then that would give the Paladin 8 additional shots. Taking him from 6 shots to 14. An extreme example, but if you let a minigun get on your flank, you're going to have a bad day.


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