I am thinking about a quick "semi-mass-combat" system to complement my Quick and Dirty vehicle rules - some sort of "Striker Ultralight".
The intention is to simplify the bookkeeping load when dealing with many NPC combatants, such as a full Mercenary Cruiser's load of mercs show up under the PCs command or opposed to the PCs, when playing a "Rorke's Drift" type of defense by the PCs, and so on.
This does not come as a replacement for Book 1 combat but rather as an expansion of it concerned with somewhat larger forces. If there will be enough interest in the rules, I will consider building them into a simple, "self-contained" wargame-type system.
My current idea goes as follows:
Book 1 rules apply unless noted otherwise. This includes combat rounds, the fact that all actions simultaneous (but see the Optional Initiative rule below), stamina, attack rolls, cover, surprise, and so on.
Grunts and squads
Assume that 'grunt' or 'thug' NPCs have Skill-0 for any relevant weapon they carry or operate. Grunts are generally run-of-the-mill soldiers who went through boot camp and know how to operate as soldiers on the battlefield and use their weapons but lack significant combat experience and are ineffective when not part of a unit with a clear chain of command. Alternatively, they can also represent relatively well-organized criminals, pirates, or terrorists.
Grunts operate in squads - on average 8 members each. Consider all grunts in a Squad as "adjacent" for the sake of Book 1 and 4 rules (auto-fire, shotguns, etc.). The squad moves together and acts together.
Each squad has a leader - as noted in the Morale rules below. In most cases he will be a grunt by himself and there will be no need to list him as a character with full stats - simply note his Leader and Tactics skills in the squad description.
The short-hand squad description format is Number/Quality Armor Weapon Leader-skills. For example, a squad of 8 grunts with Cloth armor and Submachineguns with a leader of Leader-1 and Tactics-2 will be listed as:
8 grunts, Cloth, SMG, Leader-1, Tactics-2.
A Character (PC or significant NPC) may also lead a squad. In this case, he will shoot independently, move along with the squad, and use his own Tactics and Leader skills for squad purposes.
When using relatively small forces and a simple engagement, such as the PCs defending a stronghold against an enemy assault, you can use the Book 1 range band movement rules. However, in the case of more complex battlefields, you may use a map with markers (or pencil marks!) or even miniatures and a battle map (or terrain). In this case, a squad or character can move up to 25m and still act, or run 50m and forgo its action. A squad moves as one unit.
People don't like getting shot at.
At the beginning of a combat round, any squad in the open which was fired upon in the previous round must make a Morale roll (as per Book 1) to avoid using its movement to retreat to the nearest cover. This morale roll uses DMs as given in Book 1, with an additional DM -2 if fire upon by support-grade weapons. If there is no cover within 25m (or 1 range band) of its initial position, a retreating unit will forgo its action and run up to 50m (or 2 range bands) to the nearest cover.
Any unit behind cover which was fired upon in the previous round must succeed in a Morale roll to leave the cover. Add the leader's Leader skill to this roll. DM -2 if fired upon by Support weapons. This morale roll uses DMs as given in Book 1, with an additional DM -2 if fire upon by support-grade weapons.
When a squad loses its first member to enemy fire, and again when it has lost over half its members, it must make a Morale roll to avoid breaking and bailing out. Similarly, a squad which was under overwhelming fire (Referee's discretion) in the previous round must make a Morale roll to avoid breaking and bailing out.
A character with the Leader skill may attempt to rally a broken squad back into fighting shape. Throw 8+ to rally, DM +Leader skill. If the roll succeeds, the squad returns to normal function. If it fails, remove the squad from the battlefield. After the battle, the Referee will decide what happened to the troopers who bailed out.
Characters such as PCs and important NPCs, of course, do not have to make Morale rolls and may act as desired.
As noted above, Characters such as PCs and major NPCs shoot and are shot at by the Book 1 rules.
Shoot at grunt squads using the regular Book 1 rules including armor and range DMs. Note that all squad members are "adjacent" for the sake of group hits as in Book 1 and Book 4. When a shot hits a grunt, instead of rolling damage as usual, simply roll 1d6. The grunt is knocked out on 4-. A grunt is either active in combat or knocked out - light wounds don't matter. as far as the battle itself is concerned, the difference between a prolonged concussion, a serious injury, and death is irrelevant.
Each squad has one attack roll. Treat semi-automatic fire by a squad as an "automatic" attack as per Book 1 (multiple/group hits etc). Automatic fire by a whole Squad counts as Book 4 "10-round burst" fire (may hit up to 4 adjacent targets) and confers DM +2 to-hit. A squad with a light machine gun as a support weapon counts as shooting automatic fire even if the rest of the squad fires semi-automatic weapons. A squad below 4 members is ineffective and rolls for a single hit with no +DM unless firing automatic fire, in which case the whole Squad rolls with +1 DM and as a single automatic weapon.
Unseating a dug-in enemy with distant fire is difficult. Usually, getting rid of an enemy squad in cover requires an assault.
A squad my assault an enemy squad and/or PCs/major NPCs if they are within up to 50m (or 2 range bands) of its position.
Assaults are scary, and thus getting a squad to assault requires a Morale roll as per Book 1. If failed, the squad will not assault. This roll is subject to a further DM -2 if the squad is behind cover, as soldiers loathe getting out of cover and storming into incoming enemy fire.
The defender gets a free fire attack at the assaulters before being assaulted. This is regardless of the defender having fire before in this round or not. Morale rules for casualties apply here - an assault may be repelled by defender gunfire.
The assault itself requires both squads to roll 2d6. The higher roll wins. DM +1 to the defender; DM +1 if a squad carries weapons appropriate for CQB such as handguns, SMGs, bayonets, or assorted melee weapons; DM -2 for a squad at half strength or lower; DM +2 for a squad in Battledress; DM +the leader's Tactics skill; DM +any relevant weapon skill of a PC or major NPC leader.
All grunt members of the losing squads suffer a hit each, roll 1d6 each as usual. PCs on the losing side suffer a hit by the most common weapon carried by the winners (or the winners' leader if he is a major NPC) subject to the regular Book 1 or Book 4 rules. Surviving losers must make a Morale roll. If successful, they make an orderly retreat to the nearest cover outside the assaulted location. If failed, they either surrender or rout (Referee's choice). The winning squad suffers three hits to its grunts. A PC on the winning side will suffer an attack roll at a -4 penalty to-hit.
On a draw, each side suffers 3 hits to grunts and a regular attack roll on any PC or major NPC leader and will make another assault roll on the next round.
Optional advanced rules:
Traveller Book 1 assumes simultaneous action by all participants in the battle. When playing out a large engagement, however, such method might become unwieldy. Therefore, I propose the following rule:
Each battle has an Attacker and a Defender. The attacker starts with initiative - all of his units act first in the round, and the Defender's units act only after them. The action here is NOT simultaneous, so the side with initiative can kill or rout the enemy before its foe can react. For the purpose of Morale rules, if the attacker fired on a defender's unit in his phase of the battle, the defender is considered "under fire" in his phase of the same round.
Each round after the first, the defender may try to turn the tides of battle and seize the initiative. To do so, the overall commander of each side rolls 2D, DM +hisTactics skill. If the attacker rolls higher or on a draw, the attacker retains the initiative. If the defender rolls higher than the attacker, he may seize the initiative from him and act first from this round on. from the next round, the attacker may try to seize the initiative again.
The above rules assume generic soldiers or well-organized criminals as encountered on many battlefields. However, not all troops were created equal, and the Referee may decide to use varied troop qualities as an optional rule. There are three troop qualities: Rabble, Grunts (as above), and Hardened.
Rabble combatants are untrained, poorly organized combatants - usually a mob of civilians, inexperienced irregulars, or unorganized gang-members. Rabble combatants suffer DM -2 to hit0 and assault rolls and DM -2 to all Morale rolls. Also, when losing a Morale roll which would have caused a regular unit to retreat to cover, roll 1d6; on 3-, the unit routs and bails out.
Grunts are as given above.
Hardened troops are experienced, well-trained professional soldiers who retain their cool under fire under fire, such as veteran soldiers, intensively-trained combatants, and the better sorts of mercenaries. Hardened troops enjoy DM +2 to hit and assault rolls and DM +2 to all Morale rolls. Also, when losing a Morale roll which would have caused a lesser unit to break and rout, roll 1d6; on 5+, the unit makes an orderly retreat to the nearest cover and remains in battle.