I could actually use both sets alongside Chain of Command, as each subtly handles different sized actions; CoC at the lower reinforced-platoon end, IABSM at the Company-plus level and TTM&TB sort of filling the space between them. As I did not want create too much work for myself, I opted just to go for IABSM for the time being.
Naturally being a WW2 rule set, there are a some things within the rules which are a bit ahead of Spanish Civil War actions, although not as many as you might think. The organisational structure of the units is in the main somewhat different to the typical WW2 structure though, which does create some anomalies, although nothing which creates too many difficulties.
In this post I will be going over the rules themselves and identifying things which do not fit the Spanish Civil War and where appropriate, suggesting any changes required; not that there are many of those. The biggest difference by and large, is adopting a different mindset as a commander. Calling up artillery support is difficult below battalion level, due to the lack of radios, as is commanding a tank unit for the same reason. In comparative terms however, a typical SCW force is little different to playing a Soviet Rifle Company in WW2.
Spanish Organisational Structure
This is perhaps the hardest and most problematic aspect for wargamers to get their heads round, witnessed by the numerous books and articles written which get it totally wrong, or at best half-right. On the positive side the structure was shared by both sides and with the exception of relatively short-lived formations in the first few months of the war, lasted throughout the conflict, with little variation. Italian and Italian-trained formations used a structure that is more familiar to WW2 gamers, but bizarrely changed this to a structure more representative of typical SCW formations just before WW2.
At higher levels the Spanish used the terms; Division, Brigade/Regiment, Battalion and Company, in the same ways as most armies. Granted that they might call a battalion a Tercio or a Bandera on occasion, or even call a company a Centuria sometimes, but by and large there is no real difference between these units and their counterparts elsewhere in the same time period.
Below company level things get a little more confusing and this is where people generally go wrong. The Spanish transposed Sección and Secciones for Platoon and Platoons, and their Section and Sections were termed Pelotón and Pelotones respectively. To add a final layer of complexity, Escuadra and Escuadras (Squad/Squads) were sub-section units, whereas we tend to use Section and Squad as meaning the same thing, often interchangeably.
In IABSM the smallest tactical unit is the Squad of 8 to 10 men. In the SCW this equates most closely to the 6 man Escuadra. Three Squads generally make up a WW2 Platoon, but in the SCW three Squads just make up a Section (essentially a half-platoon), with two Sections making a Platoon. The Platoon headquarters itself was ideally not much smaller than the individual Sections, as it was supposed to contain two light mortar or rifle-grenadier Squads.
The early 'non-militarised' militias are a little awkward too. The Falange had three Squads of 5 men per Section and Republican militias varied between 10 and 20 man Sections, with no sub-units. In all three cases there was no Platoon equivalent, the next step in the hierarchy being the Centuria (Company) of around 100 to 150 men (i.e. between 5 and 10 Sections, depending on the unit size).
The different and varied organisational structure impacts on leadership and the provision of Big Men in IABSM. In the militarised units, there would be a Platoon Commander, a Platoon Sergeant who commanded the two Mortar Squads and a Sergeant to command each Section. In relative terms the provision of a Big Man (II or III) as a Section Leader corresponds roughly to one per platoon for an almost equivalent sized WW2 infantry platoon, so no problem there. With the chance to add an additional Big Man (I) per platoon in WW2, or two of them for the larger SCW units, then we are roughly on the same level.
For the militias it is a little trickier, but command and control within these units was highly variable and more often based on political considerations, or in some cases charisma, rather than ability. Allowing one Big Man and the chance of a second, per 30 men overall, is equivalent to both the militarised units and the WW2 formations, which will give between 3 and 5 Big Men per Company as a base and potentially between 6 or 10 by the same ratio. As the Sections are of fixed sizes, dependant on type, the player can apportion groups of them to the control of individual commanders as desired.
As Big Men represent what are considered to be outstanding leaders by degrees, in comparison to others at least, this all works quite well. The run of the mill or inefficient leaders are represented by their units only being activated when their card turns up. The militias were notoriously difficult to lead, either by virtue of their reluctance to fight, or by virtue of their debating every order given to them, or other factors.
|A CNT/FAI 'Big Man' motivates his men with a speech, they are about to go into action against Army of Africa troops, so it had better be a good one!|
Other Points To Bear In Mind
Armour: While tasked to support infantry, they were almost invariably not very good at doing this, so the Armoured Bonus Move card is always included in the deck and must be acted upon by the player drawing it, when he draws it.
Armoured vehicles also did not carry radios, so individual armour platoons can only be given Platoon Orders and individual vehicles must remain in the Command Range of the unit's command vehicle.
Armoured vehicles are somewhat more vulnerable to infantry attack than was the case in WW2, something their opponent should bear in mind.
Forward Observers: Each battery had a number of observation teams, as did individual battalion mortar sections. Invariably communication was either by telephone, semaphore or heliograph, necessitating teams to find a good position, usually on high ground and then stay there. The rules for telephone equipped teams seem adequate enough to cover this.
Opportunity Fire Support: While individual company commanders could request artillery fire, this had to be passed up through battalion and then to regiment or brigade, before being passed to the Artillery HQ. Artillery Observers would obviously shorten the time taken, but as artillery was in short supply generally, there might still be a delay. The rules adequately cover this however and each army list will have its own Indirect Fire Support Table.
Forward Air Controllers: Besides random strafing, air support was generally restricted to pre-determined rear area targets, like bridges, supply dumps or other known fixed targets. Where battlefield support was planned, it was usually to timed support the main thrust of an attack, in support of a unit assaulting a primary target.
Despite the lack of aircraft radios, the Nationalists (and maybe the Republicans too) developed a system to direct that support where it was needed - coloured smoke. It was a somewhat haphazard method, so having selected a primary target, the player rolls for deviation in the same way as for artillery, moving the target point to the location indicated. The aircraft may select any potential target within 12" of the adjusted target point, conducting attacks as normal.
While the duration of air attacks is somewhat random, which the Duration rule covers, the target point cannot be adjusted and subsequent attacks will take place using the original target point until either; there are no more targets in the area, or the Support Card is removed as normal.
In reality attacks were made by multiple aircraft; en una cadena (in a chain, i.e. line astern), but as these generally carried only a pair of machine guns, as well as much lighter bomb loads than their WW2 equivalents, the rules as they stand are fine.