Lightning War – Easy Play Rules for WWII Land Warfare

David Child-Dennis, over the period 1989 to 2003, has written a set of Easy Play World War II wargames rules. These rules are available for download from Thomo’s Hole. Check in the Downloads section of the Hole (see the link somewhere in this blog – er – I’m not sure where I have put it – if you can’t find it, drop me a note and I’ll get a copy of it out to you – you can use the contact form under the “About” link).

In the meantime, to give you a taste of the rules, I have reproduced here the Design Philosophy to the rules. They follow:

Thursday, July 17, 2003 – Design Notes


I have been gaming for over thirty years and nothing disappoints me more than impossibly complex rules! ‘Lightning War’ was designed to meet three objectives,

  1. To reduce to an absolute minimum the necessity to study the rules!
  2. Reflect, as far as the system design permits, realistic divisional level WW2 land warfare outcomes.
  3. Reduce the time it takes to play a game so that there is a clear result for the players.


The rules themselves are only 32 pages long, including data charts and organisational tables. This has been possible because of two factors. (1) Each game turn is calculated to last about one hour ‘real’ time. (2) All combat is between platoons, batteries or squadrons, not individual troops, weapons or single vehicles. This is a crucial design advantage because it removes a considerable amount of detail impedimenta, the cause of many rule disputes and the necessity to ‘swot’ rules.

The force construction system is the most variable players are likely to encounter. I have done this to ensure there is a greater possibility of both forces being unequal. Players are tasked with building a suitable force for the situation they face on the table. They may choose any platoons, batteries or squadrons they wish, provided they follow the organisation tables correctly. If a player selects an infantry Combat Command, they may only select the platoons (organised into companies etc) it contains. They may not take different parts of two Combat Commands in order to obtain more heavy weapons or infantry etc. If players desire to play a larger game, they should roll as many D6 as there are required Battle Groups or Combat Commands. These rules are designed to accommodate large multi-player games in a 3-4 hour playing time. As a personal observation, multi-player games, where commanders are faced with a scarcity of resources, are by far the best!

Players will quickly learn that unless they balance their forces, the chance of winning is reduced. This is also the purpose behind the victory points calculation system. As in actual war, slogging matches punish and maneuver rewards.

I believe there are essential structures rules must incorporate. There must be a credible, but workable, command and control systems. This is entirely separate from ‘morale’. I achieve this by requiring platoons to remain within 9 inches (23cm) of their Command HQ. It creates an ‘order of movement’ on the table, similar to that on a battlefield. This is also the purpose of the order counters and the ‘initiative’ rule. I once owned a No48 Army (platoon communication) radio set. It was impossible to transmit more than 500 meters, yet it would pick up any signal from any distance. This taught me much about battlefield communications.

The initiative rule expresses the command and control capabilities of each of the major WW2 combatants. You will notice the Germans have the greatest capability, while the French, Russians and Italians have the least. The British and Americans fit somewhere in the middle. The order counters have been introduced to ensure each command issues their troops a simple set of instructions – without the players having to write anything down. Play is simultaneous, although the player with the ‘initiative’ may choose to move any one command first, after both players reveal all hidden order counters. The purpose of this system is to prevent either player having certain knowledge of the other’s intended moves and it commits the player’s units to doing something. This prevents disputed unit movement while adding an element of uncertainty for the players. Because most games will be ‘meeting engagements’, restricting players to moving one command at a time alternately, ensures a more realistic deployment on the table. Because both forces arrive on the table together, both have ‘moved’. This reduces the possibility of either side managing to overwhelm the other during initial contact and realistically portrays the resulting uncertainty and confusion.

Constructing a force.

Both players roll 1D6. The number rolled indicates the number of commands (company HQ’s) each player has, within their Battle Group/ Brigade or Corps organisation they have chosen. If one player outnumbers the other by at least 2:1 – in platoons, they are deemed to be the attacker and the other the defender. All other results are deemed to be ‘meeting engagements’.

Once the number of commands (usually company HQ’s) are established, each player rolls 1D6 for each company HQ and this represents the number of platoons, batteries or troops contained in each command.

Players may choose any platoons they wish – BUT must do so from the organisation tables attached to the rules. If a player selects a Soviet Tank Brigade as the basis for his force structure, all commands must be selected from that organisation table.

Platoons must be organised into companies or squadrons, even if this results in some being under strength. The number of platoons/troops in a company/squadron may not exceed the numbers shown in the organisational tables. However, players may also select any independent supporting unit available to that command to their Brigade/Battalion or Battle Group from Division or Corps assets.


Players can allocate any dice roll to a suitable type of command; i.e. A roll of ‘2’ would suit an anti-tank gun company of two guns, including transport. A roll of ‘6’ would be better suited to an infantry or armoured company, including transport. Even though a Soviet infantry company has only three infantry platoons, the balance of the dice roll can be used for a mortar or machinegun platoon, usually attached in the direct support role, from the heavy weapons platoons of the battalion. Company HQ’s are always embedded in the platoon structure, they are never a separate base on their own unless specified in the organisation tables.


If an infantry Brigade from a Russian Mechanised Corps is selected as the base organisation, an infantry battalion of 2 full strength and one under-strength companies, (say 8 platoons total), may be teamed with an under strength company of two tank platoons from the tank brigade included as Corps assets. This allows players to use under strength units so that unallocated points can be used elsewhere.

If a player wishes to have a ‘higher headquarters unit’ present on the table, say Rommel or even Patton, they may do so without cost. However, should they be lost to infantry combat, their points cost contributes towards the opponent’s victory point level. Higher HQ’s may only contain three platoons. The base containing the commander and staff, an infantry HQ defense platoon, and an armoured HQ defense platoon. This group may only fire if attacked.

There are however, some limitations as to unit constructions.

British, Italian and French forces may not mix armour with infantry in the same command unless they are a Motor Battalion or armoured infantry attached to an armoured unit. Australian and New Zealand troops suffer no such penalty.

Elite platoons may not be mixed with other platoons, but must form a separate company or battalion

The game turn has been constructed so that a number of diverse events can occur, without disrupting the flow of the game. For example, platoons under ‘Halt’ orders are permitted to fire at enemy platoons that move within range during the movement segment of the game turn. This allows for an ‘ambush’ or ‘reactive fire’ against a target attempting to cross a platoon frontage within the normal movement phase structure of the game turn. However, there is no guarantee of action because undisclosed order counters prevent any foreknowledge of intended moves. By constructing the game turn in this sequence, there is a natural flow of events. Obviously, those platoons that did not move would almost always fire first. Clearly, those that did move would take a greater time to bring effective fire against a target. However, there is still the matter of ‘initiative’ and this brings another factor into play which can cause further variations in the outcome. Artillery, mortar and rocketry are usually the last fires to arrive on the battlefield. I have done this because most fire is against ‘speculative targets’, i.e. those targets that have only be acquired in the current game turn.

Players will notice that all armoured vehicles generally move at the same speed while in battle. What is being moved are ‘platoons’ in attack formation. A formation usually moves at a pace that all of its component parts can maintain. Infantry tanks usually moved at the speed of the infantry on foot. Tanks with troop carriers naturally moved at a faster pace. I do allow for the ‘mad dash to safety’ where it becomes necessary. But in allowing such a move I disallow any firing. Crews in such a situation are hanging on for dear life, hoping the driver does not put them into an unseen hole or ditch, before they reach safety. Troops on foot may do the same, only they are looking for the nearest ditch or hole! It’s a panic move, pure and simple.

The armoured combat system is somewhat unusual, although very simple to use. It involves establishing the weapon performance (at whatever range) dice number and reducing that number of dice to be rolled by the target’s armour value expressed in dice numbers. If the firing player rolls a ‘6’ on any of the dice, the target is disabled. Where a number of platoons in a command engage the enemy, they will use multiple dice rolls. Each ‘6’ rolled disables a target. It does not translate into multiple hits against one target in a group, unless the rest are out of range or outside the arc or line of fire. Platoons in a command may always split their fire. I have also taken the rather unusual step of preventing HQ platoons or units being targeted by artillery or ranged fire. This is because as long as there are survivors in a command, some of them will assume command.

Some observed outcomes.

Where there is a significant disparity between forces, yet one side does not outnumber the other by 2:1 thus a ‘meeting engagement’ takes place, it may appear that the smaller force is unlikely to ‘win’. This is not necessarily true. By making the point differential required to win dependent on the difference between the two sides, there is a necessity for the larger force to capture all objectives and destroy most of the opponents units. This may not be an easy task. If players chose to apply the ‘odds’ criteria I have suggested, the Germans will regularly face being outnumbered. However, given their tactical and technical superiority, neither the Russians nor Allies will find victory a simple matter.

Suggesting amendments.

I have received suggestions for minor adjustments to the basic rules. I encourage such suggestions, but there needs to be a careful process of testing before any further alterations are made. While designing these rules a number of different approaches were tried. What we invariably found was that unless each amendment was tested through at least 6 varied games, fault finding was extremely difficult. It is vital that as wide a variation of force types be used to test proposed alterations to rules. Sometimes a proposal will work very well with one force, yet fail with another. However, having written the above, I in no way wish to deter players contacting me with suggestions for improving the rules. It is not intended to be a ‘beer and skittles’ rule set, but a serious attempt to provide a first class set of Fast Play Rules.

Right click on your mouse to download a copy here WWII_easyplay_rules

David Child-Dennis

8 thoughts on “Lightning War – Easy Play Rules for WWII Land Warfare

  1. Chris brown 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am


    Could we have a shufti at your Lightning Wars rules? We (self and wife) are looking for a fast-play system for our Malaya 1941-42 and Burma 1942-45 games.


    • thomo the lost 30 November 1999 / 8:00 am

      Ah, I seem to have a problem with a download link and I am about to fly off on a business trip. Give me a couple of days and I'll get it sorted.


  2. Stokie Steve 21 November 2020 / 1:39 am

    I like the looks of these rules but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to roll up opposing forces using the charts!


  3. Battlescale 21 November 2020 / 1:41 am

    I like the look of these rules but for the life of me I can’t get my head around composing forces from the lists included!


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