World at War Primer: An Introduction to HQs

As part of my ongoing tutorial on World at War basics, I thought I would talk about how different units function as part of the World at War universe.

Let’s start with the HQs!

Every formation has an HQ and these are used to issue commands to all other units in the formation so they can move, fire, etc.  HQ counters are clearly marked as such at the top of the counter.  HQ counters have two sides:  full strength and reduced.  Full strength markers can be identified by the darker color band around the picture of the unit in the center of the counter.  Reduced HQs can be identified by the white band surrounding the unit picture in the center of the counter.

Full strength HQ.
Reduced strength HQ.
HQ units need to be stacked with friendly units of the same formation.  An HQ unit is not technically an independent unit per se but rather should be thought of as a characteristic of the unit with which it is stacked.  For this reason, HQs ignore the general stacking rule of only 2 units per hex.  So it’s always okay to have an HQ stacked along with two other units from the same formation in a single hex.
At the start of the game, an HQ can be stacked with any type of units (infantry, tanks, APCs, etc.) from its own formation.  For example, Alpha HQ is represented as an Abrams.  At the start of the game, however, it can be stacked with a pair of Bradley platoons or even two infantry platoons or whatever.  
However, once an HQ is eliminated once and then replaced, it MUST be stacked with a unit of the same type as pictured on its counter.  For example, if Alpha HQ gets eliminated  and is returned to the battlefield again, it must be stacked with an Abrams tank platoon counter.  If there are no Abrams counters left in its formation (due to being destroyed earlier in the game, for example), then the HQ cannot be replaced and all the units in the formation must subsequently roll the formation’s morale rating in order to activate for the rest of the entire game.  Bottom line:  Protect your HQ or at least protect the unit types associated with your HQ.
HQ reduction and elimination:
HQs cannot be directly attacked (as I mentioned before, they are more like characteristics of units rather than actual units themselves) by the enemy.  However, when units with which the HQ is stacked are attacked then the HQ can suffer damage and even be eliminated.  When a unit stacked with an HQ takes a hit (either a disruption, reduction, or destroyed) then the player with that HQ must roll a single six-sided die.  If the die roll comes up as a “1”, the HQ unit is reduced (the HQ counter is flipped over).  If the HQ unit is already reduced, it is eliminated.  If a unit which is stacked with the HQ is eliminated, subtract “2” from the die roll (so on a 1, 2, or 3, the HQ is reduced [or eliminated if it is already reduced]).
Eliminated HQs can return to the battlefield at the end of the turn (in the marker removal phase) but must be stacked with units that are of the same type as depicted on their counter.  If none of these unit types are available, then the HQ is not replaced.
Let’s have an example:
In the picture above, Alpha HQ is stacked with an M106 and a Bradley in K12.  A friendly Abrams platoon sits on the hill to the west in F10. Two T-72 platoons in hex O12 close in on Alpha HQ and fire away. 
The first T-72 platoon targets the Bradley stacked with the HQ and scores one hit!  The Bradley fails to negate the hit with its defensive die roll and is disrupted.  Alpha HQ’s owner places a “Disrupted” marker on the Bradley and now must make a roll to see if the HQ is reduced.  A “1” is rolled and the HQ is now reduced.  The American player flips the HQ Alpha counter to its reduced side. 
Alpha HQ is reduced and flipped over.
The second T-72 in the stack from O12 targets the disrupted Bradley in K12 and scores 2 hits!  The Bradley fails to negate any of the hits with its defensive die roll and is destroyed.  The Bradley counter is removed from the game and a Wreck marker is put in its place. Alpha HQ’s owner now rolls again to see if its already reduced HQ is eliminated.  The die roll comes up a “3”, which would normally not be a problem but since the Bradley was eliminated, we subtract 2 from the die roll, which gives us a “1”.  The HQ is eliminated.
Note that if all the units with which an HQ is stacked are eliminated then the HQ is automatically eliminated too.
At the very end of the turn (in the Marker Removal Phase), Alpha HQ comes back like a zombie and can be placed again on the battlefield, stacked with a unit from the same formation and of the same type.  Since the HQ has already been eliminated once, it must be placed with a unit of the same type as depicted on its counter.  As a result, the American player would need to stack the HQ with the Abrams in hex F10.
In the upper right hand corner of the HQ counter, you’ll see a number inside of a little bubble.  This is the morale rating of the entire formation and it is used mainly to check for command and to determine whether units in the formation can recover from disruption.  Morale is checked by rolling two six-sided dice and summing the total.  If the result is equal to or less than the morale rating, the morale check passes and good things happen.  If the result of the dice roll is greater than the morale rating, then the morale check fails and bad things happen (this usually means that formation units are out of command or do not recover from disruption).
Command Range
In the lower left hand corner of the HQ counter is a number within a lightning bolt.  This represents the HQ’s command range.  Any friendly unit of the same formation that is within this number of hexes at the start of a formation impulse is considered “in command”.  This means that the units within this range can move, shoot, assault, etc., without any problems.
Units of the same formation that are outside of this command range at the start of the formation impulse, however, need to make a morale check in order to be considered “in command”.  If they fail the check, these units just sit there like a lump and do nothing for that formation’s impulse.  It is important to understand that when rolling to see if a unit out of command range is still in command, the roll is made once for each hex rather than every unit within a hex.  
The American player pulls the formation chit for Team Yankee.  The first thing we need to do is check for command.  Since the command range of Yankee HQ is “5”, this means that all units of Team Yankee that are within 5 hexes are automatically in command and can move/fire/etc without any problem.  So let’s check:
  • The Abrams stacked with the HQ is automatically in command.  
  • The Abrams in H9 is only 3 hexes away from the HQ so it is in command.
  • The infantry stacked together with the M113 in E12 are 6 hexes away from the HQ.  We must roll to see if this hex is in command.
  • The ITV in P9 is 5 hexes away from the HQ and so it is in command.
So all units except the infantry stacked with an M113 in E11 are in command.  Let’s roll for the infantry and the M113 in E11.  We roll two six sided dice (2d6) and sum the total, hoping to get a 7 or lower.  We roll and get an “11”.  This is greater than the morale rating of the HQ so both the infantry and the M113 in the hex can do nothing this turn.  We place an “Out of Command” marker in E11.  Once Yankee’s formation has finished doing its thing, we remove the “Out of Command” marker. Note that the infantry and M113 can still conduct opportunity fire.  They aren’t completely defenseless or out of the fight!
HQ Bonuses:
In the upper left hand corner of the counter, you’ll see a picture of a six-sided die with a pip on it.  Usually, the full strength HQ side will have a die with two pips while the reduced side will only have one.  This is the HQ bonus (the number of extra dice that are rolled for firepower) that one unit stacked with the HQ receives when firing on enemy units and it is also the number that is subtracted from the die roll when recovering disrupted units that are stacked with the HQ in the same hex.  
To illustrate, a Bradley platoon is stacked with Alpha’s HQ platoon.  To fire on an enemy tank platoon, the Bradley would normally roll its AP firepower (upper left corner of the Bradley counter – 4 dice [firepower] with a “to hit” number of 4.  However, because the Bradley is stacked with an HQ, its firepower is increased by the number indicated on the HQ bonus (2).  As a result, the Bradley is throwing a whopping 6 dice [firepower] with a “to hit” number of 4.  The firepower bonus could alternately be applied to the Bradley’s HE firepower if so desired (lower left corner of the Bradley counter – 3 firepower dice with a “to hit” of 5 is changed to 5 firepower dice with a “to hit” of 5).  As you can imagine, this added bonus makes HQs quite powerful in World at War.  It also makes them highly desirable targets for enemies.
The HQ bonus can be added to either the AP or HE firepower of one unit stacked with the HQ.
HQ Movement

The number in the bottom center of the HQ counter is the HQ’s movement ability.  Note that the HQ can only move as fast as the slowest unit with which it is stacked.  So for example, if Team Yankee’s HQ (movement rating 6) is stacked with an ITV (movement rating 5) then the HQ stack can only travel 5.  No, the guys in the HQ will not get out and push.  
Understanding how HQs work is central to playing – and winning – World at War.  There are actually several other aspects of HQs which I haven’t discussed here but which are plainly addressed in the rulebook.  I hope the examples of play provided here have help any new World at War players with the rules system.  It’s not complicated stuff but it can take some time for all the unit capabilities to gel together in the new player’s mind.  If there’s anything you see which looks inaccurate or questionable, please feel free to post a comment.


  1. So, yes now I am playing! Re-reading this, I noticed something in one of your examples. When the HQ "retunred from the dead" and was placed with the same type of unit (an Abrams in this case) it looks like it is reduced with the white stripe.

    Do HQs come back reduced?

  2. Massive necro-post, but your blog is one of my faves and I often refer to it. If a HQ is eliminated and cannot be replaced obviously all remaining units are considered out of command, but does this mean disrupted units in that formation cannot rally?

  3. Looks like I was at least on the right track. As far as I can work out from the rules, units in this situation have to activate first (pass out-of-command morale check), then do a subsequent morale check to rally with a +1 modifier.

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