28 January 2011

Combat Zone, rules introduction [Blog special]

I have really pushed this one a few times due to lack of time and opportunity. But I finally got time today to write down a little introduction to the Battlezone rules along with a demo battle report as well.

I am a person who don’t really see the point of collecting 2 games with identical rule mechanics, there has to be something unique about the rules that make them stand out as a game to really catch my interest. Like Malifaux which caught my interest due to the fact players use cards instead of dice to resolve gameplay, This Very Ground which uses D10 instead of D6 and has a very good simulation of blackpowder combat and the impact on morale from such weapons. Secrets of the Third Reich is a very good streamlined tactical platoon level game that mixes orders and tactics with weapon and terrain modifiers.

So really what makes Combat Zone stand out to me? Well, the first and really major thing that stands out is the fact that this game is based around action points. The second being the use of D4, D6 and D8 dice depending on weapon type and strength. But really, the action point part is what really made me paint up a small force to give the game a try.
I also think that you could apply these rules to any kind of WW2, Modern combat, Post Apoc or Sci Fi setting and make it work. There are a few special rules regarding robots that I didn’t try out, but in general the rules are rather generic which is great.

Basics : the game revolves around a couple of phases each turn

Compulsory actions = Keep routing.

Reaction tests  = Try to regroup your models and shake off negative penalties inflicted by enemy fire.

Turn Initiative=  Each side rolls 1D6, then add the leader, and any subleaders to the result. The player that rolls the highest total score wins the initiative and goes first. Should the result end up a draw, then the player who rolled the highest result goes first.

Action Phase = Movement, shooting, assault and close combat

You will spend most time in the action phase. The player who wins the initiative can choose to go first or second. After that the players take turns to activate and perform actions with 1 unit at a time. When all units from both sides have been activated the turn ends.

Action Points system and the action phase:
There are 4 types of troop quality. Green, Average, Veteran and Elite. As you might figure out, Green troops are the worst. They get a “to hit” penalty and have only 5 Action points / turn and model. Elite are the best and get a bonus “to hit” and 8 action points / turn and model.

Everything you can do in this game has a set cost of action points. To move 0-5cm you have to spend 1 Action point. To fire 1 shot with your weapon you have to spend 1 action point. You activate a unit, but you perform the actions individually for each member of that unit.  Units have a “unit coherency” which is 15cm from the leader.

You can still activate a unit that has been scattered and move all members during that unit activation even if they are out of coherency. However, all unit members out of coherency suffer -1 to their action points. So in general it can be a good idea to keep them close and in coherency. The cool thing about this type of gameplay is that you can spend action points on actions in any order you want. You can spend 2 AP to move around a corner, 3AP to open fire and your final AP to dodge into cover again. This makes the combat flow a bit differently from games where you have to perform the actions in a set order.


There are a few things that stand out in this game when it comes to combat. Beside the action point system there are few things that make an impact on combat in this game. Terrain, Body Armor, Quality,  Weapon type and modifiers.

This may look a bit complex from the beginning but it flows really well. There are no saves in this game, the attacking player always roll to hit his opponent, and if a hit is scored he rolls to wound.
All weapons also have a “rate of fire”, meaning you can only fire as many shots with that weapon per turn as the rate of fire allows you to. A Shotgun may only be fired once per turn, a Assault Rifle may be fired three time. Weapons always hit on D6 results of 6 in this game, and you use modifiers to reach this score. Weapons also have 3 ranges, Long range (no modifiers), short range (+1 to hit) and Point blank (+2 to hit).

Models have a basic Toughness of 7, leaders have 8 and Heroes 9. To inflict a casualty you must hit a model, then roll according to the weapon chart – for instance a “Light Pistol” rolls 2D4 when trying to inflict damage.  If you score equal to or higher than the model toughness the model is killed. If you score 1-2 points below toughness the target “Routs”, if you score 3-4 below the toughness the target “Panics”.

So you use your quality to improve the probability to inflict hits, you may also spend action points on “aimed shots” to increase the likelihood to score a hit.

You use the weapon profile to roll a wound result equal to or above the targets toughness to inflict kills.

Terrain and Body Armor provide penalties to the Wound Roll.  Soft cover (-1) and Primitive Armor (-1) would give a Wound Penalty of 2.

Short example of a firing sequence:
A veteran quality soldier (+1 to hit) armed with a Assault Rifle (rate of fire 3x D6) opens fire on a enemy model dressed in Primitive armor (-1 to wound) standing in hard cover (-3 to wound).

Firing at Long Range the veteran does not receive any further bonus to hit beyond his quality bonus. He spends 3 Action Points to fire 3 shots (the maximum RoF for 1 turn with Assault Rifles). He rolls 1, 5, 6.
The 5 and 6 are hits. The damage roll for each hit with an Assault Rifle is 3D6.

First roll is 3, 5, 6 = 14
Second roll is = 1, 4, 3 = 8

The target Toughness is 7 (+1 for the Primitive Armor + 3 for Hard Cover). The Veteran must thus roll 11 or more on his damage roll to inflict a kill. Since he rolled 14 on one of the damage rolls the target model is killed.

The remaining rules:

If no enemy models are within line of sight you can go into Opportunity Fire, meaning you will get to fire at a enemy moving into your LoS  - with you choosing the exact moment to open fire.

Tests are taken by individual models, you never rout an entire unit only single models. Same goes for Panic. Panic and Rout are resolved in the “Reaction tests” phase. You have to roll 2D6 and score 8+ to remove the reaction marker. You can also spend 3 Action Points to immediately remove the Reaction marker.

Close combat, not tried it yet, is described as a melee action where basic models attack with 2D6 , leaders with 2D8 dice. Receiving additional dice for being attackers and outnumbering. Close combat works just like shooting, but you use close combat weapons instead, each close combat weapon gives you one additional dice (+1D4 or +1D6). Quality modifiers are also applied. And you still have to roll equal to or above the enemy toughness to inflict kills taking body armor into account.
Final thoughts:
This is a nice little set of rules, for a very fast paced and brutally action oriented gameplay.  The system of activating units but performing model actions actually flows well – and is probably logical due to the mix of weapons your units will have most of the time. You will need to calculate individual modifiers from each model, this moves fast but would be confusing if you fired with the entire unit in one big roll of dice.

I really like the impact of Quality, the range of weapon damage modifiers – ranging from puny pistols to machineguns which cut down opponents with ease. I also like the mix of  D4, D6 and D8 dice. It’s liberating in a sense that you are not locked to 1D6 all the time, making some weapons significantly better or worse, and makes modifiers even more important.

Below follows a small battle report in which I try out the rules, since I will use these rules for a Fallout oriented game the bad guys are Wasteland Raiders and the good guys are Gun Runners (weapon merchants of the wastes).

In this demo scenario a small unit of Gun Runners are guarding a small depot inside a ruin, waiting for their buddies to return with pack animals, while a group of Raiders try to storm the depot, kill the guards and steal the weapons.

Wasteland Raiders (Average Quality) all dressed in Primitive Armor
1 Gang leader w Assault Rifle
1 Raider w Assault Rifle
2 Raiders w Medium Pistols and knifes
1 Raider w Medium Pistol
1 Raider w Shotgun

Gun Runners (Veteran Quality) all dressed in Combat Suits
1 Gang Leader w Heavy Pistol (gets 1 reroll per game)
1 Subleader with communication unit (allowing full action points for all members even if out of coherency) and Assault Rifle
1 Gun Runner w Assault Rifle
1 Gun Runner with Shotgun

Turn 1
Initiative, Gun Runners win the initiative. Since no enemy is within LoS they dig in and go into “Opportunity Fire”.

The Raiders use most of their Action Points to move into the small grove, coming into LoS they receive fire from the Gun Runners except the Gun Runner armed with a Shotgun who is out of range.  1 hit is scored on a Raider armed with knife and medium pistol. Damage roll is 5,1,3 = 9. Penalty applied is -1 for Soft cover and -1 for Primitive armor, the damage result is 7 and is enough to kill the raider.

Gangers fire back with 2 assault rifles but fail to score any hits.

Turn 2
Opportunity fire is removed at the start of the turn, the Gun Runners win initiative and waste no time, opening fire once again on the Raiders. Mixing aimed shots with regular fire both the Leader armed with Heavy Pistol and his 2 Gun Runner buddies armed with Assault Rifle fire 2 shots each. The pistol fails to hit anything. The Assault rifles score two hits on two separate targets. Both remaining Pistol armed raiders are killed.

Having lost the cannon fodder the remaining Raiders make a run for the craters to receive better cover. Once in place the assault rifle armed Raiders open fire at different targets.  Both Raiders score 1 hit each, Raider leader score a hit on the Gun runner leader but fail to kill him as the damage roll is 1,4,6 = 11 and the penalty being -3 for Combat Suit and -3 for hard cover.  But the result of 5 is enough to make the enemy leader “Panic”. The female raider manage to kill the Shotgun armed Gun Runner by rolling 6,6,3 = 15, -6 penalty = 9 (dead!.

Turn 3
Reaction test, the Gun Runner leader recovers from his Panic by a successful  roll of 9. The initiative roll for the Raiders is D6 result of 2 (+2 for the Raider leader). Gun Runners roll D6 result of 1 (+2 for the leader, +1 for subleader). Equal result of 4. But since the Raiders rolled higher on their dice they go first. Shotgun Raider runs up to the window to get into Point Blank range (3cm or below) and receives +2 to hit but fails to hit his target!
The Raiders out in the crater, now within 25cm of the enemy receive +1 to hit due to short range modifiers for Assault Rifles. Both open fire on the enemy leader standing on the second floor. Each raider scores 2 hits. 2 out of 4 Damage Rolls become deadly results and the Gun Runner leader is killed.

The Gun Runner on the balcony now out of any targets spends 3 action points to move 15cm and takes up position near the area of the fallen Gun Runner leader. He then spends his remaining 3 action points to fire his Assault Rifle at the Raider Leader below, scoring 1 single hit but successfully rolling a deadly result. The Sub leader on the first floor quickly makes short work of his Shotgun armed opponent on the other side of the window by placing 2 Assault Rifle hits in the chest and dropping him dead.

Turn 4
Gun Runners win the initiative
Both Gun Runners open fire at the last Raider in the crater (medium cover -2 to wound penalty) scoring 2 hits. Sub Leader rolls the wound result of 4,6,4 = 14, penalty for Primitive armor and Medium cover totals to 3 successfully killing the female raider.

The Gun Runners prevailed. And that’s how the Combat Zone rules play.


I can tell that I will expand my Fallout project and keep using the Combat Zone rules, maybe paint up the remaining plastics I still have unassembled in the box. These rules are quite fun and offer a different type of battlefield experience from my other skirmish games.

If this caught your interest you can order the rulebook alone (65 SEK markers and templates included! ), the boxed set with the plastics dirt cheap or metal Post Apocalyptic models directly from EM4 or from kulturkommissariatet.se in Sweden.


  1. Vary cool, are you thinking of expanding the existing forces or making more?

  2. I have a few things going on at the same time at this moment, and early war Polish stuff for FoW on the horizon.
    But I think I'll squeeze in a few more of the plastics before I seriously start thinking about more "Fallout'esque" additions to my collection (such as Ghouls and Super Mutants).

  3. Sounds iteresting. I avoided CZ because it was action point based, but your writeup makes it sounds fun. I will pickup a copy and give it a try.

  4. Very nice write-up, with great pics, terrain and nicely painted minis. My son and I played a game of CZ a little while ago and had a good time. I'm thinking with modification that the CZ rules will work well for tabletop X-Com games.

  5. Glad to hear you had fun with it.
    It's good to try out some of these different and less well known systems, as you never know when you may find a game you like :-)

  6. Love Combat Zone. A great game worthy of succeeding Grenadier's Future Warriors:Kill Zone.


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