Thursday, 12 January 2023

"Delta X" - Simple Modern Skirmish Rules (Two Hour Challenge)

 I went to buy a copy of Spectre:Operations to play with my kids but discovered it was $100AUD - and $50 of that was postage. Living in Australia makes wargaming a hobby of the rich. Annoyed, I decided to see if I could make my own modern rules set in two hours.

I admittedly recycled a few concepts from Middlehiem (my homebrew not-Mordhiem rules for a dinosaur-riding War of the Roses), but this was typed up as I went. Totally unplaytested, but I'm confident it is a reasonable alpha. May tweak some stats/% but with two hours I didn't have time to crunch the math.

I also thought I'd see what rules layout I naturally deferred to (curious due to a question from Ashley in the google group). 

Also, I often discuss homebrew rules but rarely post them. This will be a typical example - a quick set, made for myself, to fulfil a specific need I can't get from my (whole cupboard) collection of rules.

And... go!

#1. Aim: initiative is interesting while being simple enough to quickly learn.

I want some to-and-fro interaction without devolving into complex reaction mechanics.

Mechanics should be consistent to teach my kids and include basic math.

The aim is a game that works for gun-centric modern combat while allowing expansion to aliens/monsters/supernatural. Intended for 4-12 models or so per side (fire team->squad level), individually-moved skirmish game.

Ok here is my rationale - it keeps me focussed on what I want the game to be - how it should play, what I should keep/remove/focus on...

#2. Dice Rolling & Stats “Housekeeping”

 This is "housekeeping - what you need - and need to know - about playing.

How to roll: “Warmachine but d10”
Normal: Add stat + d10. If it equals the target number TN” (usually 10) it succeeds. It is a ‘critical’ if it passes by 5 or more.

Contested: Both sides roll stat + d10; highest successful roll wins. Active player wins ties. It is a ‘critical’ if it beats the opponent by 5 or more.

Never tell me the odds” – a natural 1 always fails and a natural 0 always succeeds, regardless of modifiers.
We use stats based on a decimal system.

Here is how the stat aligns with % chance to succeed, with stat+d10 vs TN10.

7 (80%) = heroic

6 (70%) = elite/very good

5 (60%) = regular/sound/trained

4 (50%) = rookie/meh/green

3 (40%) = untrained/bad

Most units will have stats of 4 or 5.

Modifiers tend to be +2 or -2 (noticeably more difficult) but can vary. The target number is modified, so a negative modifier is good. Think of it as “adding difficulty” or “removing difficulty”

Miniature Stats:

There are quite a few. But this is to allow weird aliens etc later. And more universal stats means LESS unique special rules.
Combat Skill (experience, cool-headedness, initiative, reactions)

Willpower (bravery)

Shooting (duh)

CQC (stabby fighty skills)

Physique (size, toughness, strength)

Agility (dodge/leap/climb)

Defence (combination of natural physique and armour)

Counters & Playing Pieces

I use an imperial measure for convenience. 4-5 10-sided dice.

Downed models are tipped on their side. Dead models are removed.

Suppressed models get a token: In my case, white

Fleeing models get a different token: I’m using yellow.

“Overwatch” models also get a token: I’m using green.

*You might also need a token to show which models have activated if you forget easily.

I am usually very interested in activation and initiative. Here I've picked a simple system as I don't want to confuse my kids. While reactions do well to simulate the quick exchanges of gunfire, often games with reactions can bog down.


Start of Game:
Leaders roll off with d10. The highest roll that succeeds has the initiative and chooses a model to go 1st.

Activation: Each model must roll a dice (activation roll) to activate. If model succeeds it activates and may move and shoot. The controlling player may then choose another model to make an activation roll. (Option: may adjust/move and go on overwatch)

If the model fails it activates but may only move or shoot. It loses the initiative. After the mini takes its action, play switches to the opponent who then may make an activation roll for a model of its choice.

Option: If a model is within 6” of a leader it may add -1 bonus to its activation roll TN. This allows natural squads to occur (counter: see 6” area fire). A model out of LoS to all friendlies is -1.

Option: “Sprint” – a model can move a second time, instead of shooting

Option: “Aimed fire” – if move 2” or less/pivoted, can fire a single shot at -1 TN bonus to hit (or re-roll a miss) or add -2 bonus to the damage roll TN.

Option:Man down!” If the active model is ‘downed’ or killed; initiative switches as if he had failed his activation roll.

Option: “The Flow of Battle” if you nominated a leader, instead of activating, your activation roll allows you to nominate any enemy model in the leader’s LoS (or the LoS of any within 6” of the leader). A failure means the enemy can choose the unit and initiative swaps like usual.


Horde of Rabble Rule: This rule is to prevent cheap horde armies outmanuevering elite troops with lots of unopposed movement or firing at the end of a turn.

If any models on one side are left AFTER all the opponent has activated, they may only make a single move or shoot like models if they pass their activation roll (kinda like if they failed it in normal circumstances).

If any of the remaining models fail their activation roll, all remaining minis yet to be activated may only adjust their position/facing 2” and may not take any action.



A model may reserve its fire for later. It may interrupt an active opponent. It is +1 penalty to shooting though as it is reacting to sudden action of the player with initiative.

Models on overwatch who did not shoot may attempt to remain on overwatch into next turn. In the clean up stage, pass a Combat Skill roll to retain the token.

Option: instead of shooting, overwatch can be movement (charging to CQC or fleeing) or shooting; just not both.

I'm sure I've forgotten stuff here - it makes sense in my head.... Lots of "Options" aka random ideas I am not sure will make the final cut.

TL:DR = Sequence of a turn: (just to be clear)

1) Leaders dice off, winner selects a model to activate

2) Winner has initiative and rolls activation roll. Can continue to choose minis to activate until a roll is failed; then opponent activates troops until he fails.

3) Once only one side has minis yet to be activated, “Horde Rule” applies

4) Clean up phase (test morale, remove suppression, test to remain on overwatch etc)

#4. Movement and Spotting

 This will not be tournament-proof but is more a set of guidelines as this stage - I'm also a little behind in my timeline having spent a lot of time on (overthinking?) the last section.


Models move = to their Move stat, usually 4-6”.

Tough going/climbing uses 2” of their move to travel 1”

Climb & Jump

Models can climb ladders and climb/jump down from obstacles of head height; just treat as “tough going.”

Models can jump 1”/base length gaps, but must test for each 1” beyond that (up to half move or half agility. Each 1” beyond the first triggers another agility test.

Test Agility = pass = can continue move after getting to the top or bottom; fail = move ends at top/bottom of obstacle


A model will not fall off a rope or ladder unless he is attacked; then test agility to see if he falls.

Models climbing a slippery surface with few handholds must test a second time if they fail an agility test; a second failure means they fall.

Falling Damage: while models can fall or jump their own height without risk, use agility to make a saving throw each 1”/model height beyond the first; i.e. falling 3x the models height would mean 2 saving rolls must be made or the model is downed - or killed if a critical.

Spotting, Facing & Flanking:
Miniatures only see in their front 180d arc, for purposes of triggering overwatch etc. They cannot attack enemies outside this arc. Any attack from their rear receives a bonus for flanking.

The combat/shooty mechanics were quick to do. I'm always pretty casual about this - it's just a means to generate a result and I often swap mechanics halfway through. Toyed with a "d10 Infinity" system but I kinda want my kids to do "10 combo" math with a TN of 10 and I like how this method can be used for pretty much every mechanic in the game. 

The "- is good,+ is bad" is a bit weird though.

#5. Combat – Shooting & Damage


Adjust your target number (10) up or down using modifiers. Roll d10+stat, compare to modifiers. A ‘critical’ (exceeds TN by 5+) rolls twice for damage.


Long range +2 TN penalty

“Suppressive fire” +2TN penalty

In hard cover +2TN penalty

“Aiming” = single aimed shot -1TN bonus (if did not move and only pivoted)

Enemy unaware/flanked -1TN bonus

(So most long-range suppressive fire against targets in cover will likely only hit on 10-20% chance)

Rapid/Area/Full-auto/Suppressive fire:

Full auto weapons with RoF3+ can spray bullets into a 6” diameter area. Any within the target area can be hit (up to RoF of weapon, allocate hits as you wish); the remainder cannot be harmed but all can still be suppressed.

Any within the 6” suppression zone must pass a Will check or are suppressed...

 Long range: All weapons must be stationary to fire suppressive at long range

Suppressive fire is an extra -2 penalty, so most long-range suppressive fire against targets in cover only hits on a lucky ‘0’; it is just keeping their heads down with Will checks etc

 #5A - Doing Damage

To wound:
For each hit, roll d10 + add the weapon’s Damage stat. Compare it to the target “Defence” (which is ‘10’ for a normal unarmoured human). If it equals or exceeds, the target is “downed”. If it exceeds TN by 5+, the target is obviously and instantly dead and is removed.

Downed vs Dead:

When an attack succeeds; models are downed and place on their side. They are ‘downed’.

In the clean up phase, roll to see their actual state.

123 = carry on, twas just a flesh wound

4567 = still downed, may crawl 2”; recheck status next clean up phase or if first aid etc

890 = “you’re dead” - remove mini

A second hit on a downed model (or two ‘downed’ results) kills the model outright with no further rolls. A critical wound roll always outright kills/removes the mini.

Coupe de grace: Any enemy in base contact with a downed mini automatically kills it.


#5B. Close Quarters Combat

If a model moves into contact, it is in melee. If a side loses melee (but hasn’t activated yet) it forfeits its activation.

Models make a contested roll; the highest success wins (active player wins ties). A critical success automatically kills the loser if using a melee weapon.


-2 TN bonus if attack from rear arc

+1 TN penalty if up stairs or slope

Weapons have TN modifiers based on their unwieldness in CQC.

-1 bonus if using katana, axe or specialist melee weapon

0 if using a 1H firearm/pistol or knife/bayonet/improvised melee weapon

+1 penalty if using a SMG or or short assault weapon

+2 penalty if using a full-size rifle or LMG

Multiple melee combat: Allies add an extra +1 dice (an extra d10, not a modifier to the roll) to resolve hits but do not strike themselves; the main fighter just chooses the best roll.

Pushback & Damage

Winner can choose to ‘push back’ the loser or remain ‘locked in combat’; and rolls to wound – using melee weapon bonus + physique or calibre of pistol/SMG for the Damage.

(I.e. a knife could by Physique 4 + 1 knife bonus = 5 damage; then add d10 and compare to TN like usual).

Pushback = loser is pushed back a base length/1”; winner can opt to fire weapon at full RoF BUT allows either fighter to flee if they are yet to activate.

Locked in combat” = winner follows up the pushback; both sides remained tied up in combat awaiting the next activation of either.

Ok that was fast. But the next section wasn't, as I struggled to work out weapon ranges that would give the right feel. It's not as important as the other bits, but probably ended up more complicated that I'd like...

#6. Weapons

The aim is to make a list of simple generic weapons and traits. Ranges and scale are not very ‘precise’ but I’m thinking 12” = ~100 yards or so? As long as weapons feel proportionate to each other, and to movement.


9mm pistol or SMG = 4

10mm, .45ACP, 5.56mm = 5

7.62mm = 6

.300, .308, .338 = 7

.50 cal = 8

Target number can be increased (penalty) or decreased (bonus)

Unarmoured human is 10TN

Light armour +1TN penalty (police vest)

Medium armour +2TN penalty (SWAT vest, neck protection etc)

Heavy armour +3TN penalty (specialist, encumbering, bomb disposal/riot squad type)

Aimed single shot -2TN bonus (careful aiming for head/weak point)






Pistol (9mm)





SMG/PDW (P90, MP5)


2/1 (3Auto)



Shotgun (Pump, semi)




7/3 damage depends on range

+2TN bonus due to spray




2/1 (3Auto)


DMR/Battle rifle















Sniper rifle .308





AM .50 Rifle





Size Traits

Bulky = +1TN penalty if move and fire, penalty in CQC

Heavy = may not move and fire, penalty in CQC, -1” move speed

Assault short, agile weapon with grips or tights red dot, means it is +1 to hit at close range (6”or less)

CQC – can be used without penalty in CQC

RoF Traits

Bolt action – can fire one shot maximum at any range, but +1TN penalty if moved

Pump – one shot maximum, but no movement penalty

Semiauto – can fire 2x rapid shots at effective range at targets within 6” of each other, or 1x shot at long range (2/1).
Auto (x) – can usually be used as (2/1) semi auto mode, as well as suppressive mode, ‘x’ is the number of to-hit rolls that can be allocated. There is a ‘to hit’ penalty due to spraying bursts of fire.

Attachment Traits
Sniper Scope – if fire a single shot, without moving, can reroll a miss at any range beyond 6”; makes weapon Bulky

4x/ACOG Scope – if fire single shot, without moving, can re-roll a miss beyond 6” to effective range – can use normally with no penalty

Bipod - if does not move, +1TN penalty at long range instead of usual +2TN penalty. Gives weapons Bulky if they do not have it elaready.

Oops I forgot something! Probably should be back in #5!

#5-ish! Suppression & Morale

If a model takes even a non-damaging hit; or is sprayed with suppressive full-auto fire, it must make a Will check; if it fails it is suppressed.


Suppression means a +2TN penalty to activation rolls and combat (shooting, CQC) rolls.

Suppressed models may not leave cover or (if in open) make any move that advances towards enemies unless it ends with them in cover.

Suppression removes ‘overwatch’ status.

To remove suppression,

Must pass a Will test in the ‘clean up’ stage of the turn or remains suppressed next turn. This retains the +2TN penalty.

Simple Morale

Each mini is worth 1pt. Leaders and special vehicles are worth 2pt.

Once half the force points is downed or dead, morale (Will) test each model at the clean up phase and each subsequent clean up phase when further injuries/deaths are sustained. If a model fails the test, retreat at maximum speed towards the end of the tabletop.

I often upbraid other rules authors for doing a belated job with morale... but I just ran out of time (and if I use this for STALKER/Alien rules, I'll tack on a much more robust system.)

Phew, done. Saved $100. Now to test it out...


  1. Nicely done, I expect a battle report with rules analysis!

  2. @Sequence of play:
    The activation rules combined with the Horde Rule might – in an extreme and admittedly unlikely case – lead to one player getting the initiative and then successfully moving *and* shooting with *all* of his models and the other player then only getting to move *or* shoot with *one* of his models and make minor adjustments to the position/facing of all of his other models. And not only is there nothing to prevent this from happening at all, but nothing to prevent it from happening in every turn of the (probably short) game.

    The difference between pistol cartridges and intermediate cartridges is probably much more significant than the differences among pistol cartridges. I’d suggest “classes” such as:

    * pistol caliber
    * intermediate caliber
    * rifle/shotgun caliber
    * magnum rifle caliber (for “real” sniper rifles)
    * heavy machine gun or anti-materiel rifle caliber

    That is, I wouldn’t group 10mm or .45 ACP with 5.56 NATO. Also, what is .308 as opposed to 7.62 NATO? .308 Win is almost identical to 7.62 NATO (and also purely civilian).

    1. @Horde rule. Yes, it does sound a bit punishing, stopping any from activating once one fails. Maybe each mini must roll once to make a single action, on their own merits.


      What do you mean by 'intermediate cartridges'? A carbine cartridge? Or are you talking 5.56/5.45?

      Thanks for the ideas. I'd like a solid 'baseline' - as I'll be using sci-fi weapons. Technically, I probably should -1 damage at long range too, but it may be adding in excessive detail....

    2. @Weapons:
      By intermediate cartridges I mean cartridges between pistol and full-power rifle cartridges. They are a defining characteristic of assault rifles (cf. So yes, like 5.56 and 5.45.

      @Horde rule:
      That would indeed be less punishing, but the fundamental problem remains, because the Horde rule doesn’t target hordes, but the last army which has models that haven’t been activated that turn. That might in fact be the army with *fewer* models. A Horde rule like this really presupposes alternate activation. It might work better if initiative automatically switched to the other player after some activations in a row, say three or so, or if the rule only applied to actual excess models that one army has over another. That would require yet another rule, though. But the activation system would benefit from a hard cap on activations in a row, since such as it is, it could randomly turn into IGOUGO.

    3. Oh, by the way: Don’t fret too much about the damage reduction at long range. Hit probability drops way faster with range than terminal effectiveness. Rounds will injure or even kill at ranges at which the shooter can’t even see the target, much less identify it. And all of this is probably out of the scope/range envelope of a miniature wargame anyway. :)

    4. Forgot to identify myself in that last comment – sorry!

  3. It is amazing to me how "simple" wargames rules can be. So much of what you see out there, is just chrome.