Last weekend we played a series of games at War Horse Farm, Sam Fuson’s house and gaming clubhouse. I ran a Combat Patrol™: WWII game that was a play test of some elements of the games I will run in two weeks at the Cold Wars gaming convention. This scenario involved a Japanese attack in the Philippines in 1941. The Japanese had four squads of infantry a machine-gun team, and two light tanks. The Americans had three squads, two water-cooled machine guns, an antiquated anti-tank gun, and a Stuart M-3.
In this picture you can see the battlefield. The Japanese started at the stream, which was impassible to vehicles, but could be crossed at half speed by infantry. The Americans were deployed in some depth along the “trail.” In this game, perhaps counterintuitively to long-time games, the felt patches represented clearings or open ground. The rest of the terrain was jungle with just four inches of visibility. The Japanese objective was to get as many of their figures and vehicles as possible into the last three feet of the American side of the table. The Americans were supposed to stop them. The Japanese players decided that they would place their main effort on their left, because that represented the shortest distance from their starting line to the back three feet of the table.
Without first pushing infantry across the stream to make sure there was no Americans to stop them, the Japanese players advanced their tanks over the old stone bridge.
A hidden anti-tank gun opened fire, knocking out the Japanese tank with a single, well-placed shot. It is hard to find 28mm figures for early WWII. Most of my Americans are Pulp Figures. The gun and gun crew are old Pass of the North from my Moro collection. That’s why the gun crew is not wearing helmets.
While this was happening, the Japanese infantry splashed across the stream. The Americans had placed a single water-cooled machine-gun on the small hill overlooking the stream. It surprised the Japanese with a burst of fire, that killed the assistant gunner of the Japanese machine-gun team and forced the gunner to run for cover.
The Japanese infantry recovered quickly and swarmed over the gun team. In this picture you can see that both the gunner and assistant gunner were stunned (black rubber bands), the machine-gun had jammed (white rubber band), and the Japanese were about ready for a bayonet charge to finish them off.
I gave a young kid on the American left an easy-to-understand mission: “hold until the last man.” This was the American left flank, not facing the Japanese main effort, but we needed to hold the Japanese in this area to enable the Americans to redeploy a squad to help stop the main Japanese advance. In true kid fashion, he interpreted “hold to the last man” as “fix bayonets and charge.” I give the Japanese a melee number that is slightly better than that of the Americans, so typically, you wouldn’t do this. But with significant kid luck, it worked. By the end of the game his two teams of four men each had defeated three Japanese teams of six men each, and he still had a few figures left. He was planning to circle in behind the advancing Japanese!
The second Japanese tank decided to try his luck getting across the bridge. The Japanese had done nothing to try to engage the anti-tank gun with fire to suppress it. As the tank came off the bridge, it came into view of the alert gun crew. In Combat Patrol™, there is no opportunity fore mechanic, per se. Instead, all figures have a Reaction attribute. To interrupt enemy movement, the player draws a card from the Action Deck and consults the hit randomizer section of the card to see if the number on the card is less than its Reaction number. In this case, the gun crew did react. Despite firing on a moving target, the gunners hit the lower hull with a penetrating hit that brewed up the last Japanese tank.
In the meantime, the American Stuart never fired a shot. It was parked to fire on anyone who might try to advance down the trail, but the Japanese avoided it.
Aided by Banzai yank on the left, the middle US squad repositioned.
The climactic fight occurred on American right, where the Japanese main effort ran into four teams of Americans. Two had been in that area since the beginning. The other squad (two teams) had begun in the center. So in the final couple of turns it was a big infantry fight, with lots of hand-to-hand combat, that determined the outcome of the game. The Japanese had a slight numerical advantage, but the Americans held their ground.
The vat of excellent fried chicken from a local store had arrived, so we called the game an American victory and dashed for the kitchen before the chicken was all gone.
Other than Chris, none of the player had ever played Combat Patrol™ before. In fact, few had played a miniatures game before. The first couple of turns were a bit slow, but after that, the game pretty well ran itself.
After lunch, Chris ran a play test of the game he will run in a few weeks for my Tabletop Wargaming class at a local community college. This is the Battle of Barnett, during the War of the Roses. One player had to leave early, so I jumped in and took over his command. It was a fun game!
I had had three late nights in a row and was rapidly running out of steam, but as usual, a day at War Horse Farm was great fun.