Combat Patrol (TM) Review

Combat Patrol (TM): WW2 is a set of WW2 skirmish rules released by Buck Surdu featuring some innovative features designed to speed up play and maintain friction and player interaction in a multiplayer environment. I bought the “bundle” from Sally 4th here in the UK, which priced at £25 (+£2.80 P&P) got me the rules in hardcopy, an activation deck and 2 action decks of cards (enough for 2-4 players – Extra action decks are available priced at 4 for £22.50) . I bought them Thursday, they arrived Monday well packaged in a padded envelope.

On unwrapping the package and getting the contents out, the first thing I saw was that the rulebook was on decent quality shiny paper, and although not hard backed had a decent card cover. The card decks were decent enough quality, a bit thicker card might have been nicer, and the “tabs” where they’ve been held in a frame having been die stamped (presumably?) are a little prominent on the sides. More concerning is that they appear to be losing their back colour at the edges already, but that might be something that doesn’t get any worse.

Reading through the rules I’m struck by a couple of things, the first is that the font used is something similar to a Remington Typewriter font. I can see why there’s been a few complaints about it, it’s not that easy to read and doesn’t look sharp and clear. More importantly however is that the illustrated examples of the rules in action are not very clear, you cannot read the cards that are being displayed because they are so low res. I don’t know if this is a function of my copy being produced in the UK from a different file to the original US versions, or whether they all look like this. The rules themselves are laid out in an odd fashion IMO, almost like they were meant to be two documents. The intro talks about “quick start rules” and these I think are the 6-8 pages of basic infantry rules with few frills and chrome. There’s then a whole series of advanced and/or optional rules to add detail and chrome, which refer back to the basics. Personally I would have preferred to have had everything in one place to do with a topic. I noticed a couple of seeming inconsistencies within the rules and examples also which suggest maybe previous iterations of the rules have crept in or not been changed out – easy to do when you’ve been involved with something for 2+ years but suggests that proof reading wasn’t done by a fresh pair of eyes. The worst issue though is that despite using graphics (not particularly clear or high res I might add) throughout the cards to indicate various things, there’s no pictorial glossary, just lists of them referencing the unclear image of a card on a previous page in the rules. Problem is that at least for one of these lists (Cover) these are almost certainly in the wrong order despite being explicitly stated left to right. It would have been a simple thing to do, and much more obvious than the list buried in the middle of relevant mechanics. All in all, my reaction to the components of the rules are a little muted compared to my expectations.

Onto the very limited playtest I ran. The basic rules themselves are fairly clear to understand, excepting the issues above. Additionally there are a series of video’s on youtube featuring walkthroughs by Buck of various mechanics which is how I got interested in the rules in the first place. Having an idea of what is going on can be pretty dangerous when trying a new ruleset as it’s easy to let prejudice and expectation get in the way of actually how mechanics work. It can of course be helpful in filling in blanks where needed also.

I happened to have some troops on table from an abortive Force on Force game we (tried to) play last week, so I quickly rolled some dice to get a few squads their activation numbers, and shuffled the decks (not quite as well as I could have done as it turned out!). I had to make a few quick judgements on how to rate the Vietnam weaponry, opting to simply make M16’s and AK47’s the same as rifles, M60’s and RPD’s the same as Light Machine guns, and RPG’s the same as rifle grenades. I rated the US as regular and VC as green to see both in action. Jungle halved movement as per the woods rules, and off we went. The The “Double Random Activation” sequence works well, and is quick to use. Troops who activate get one action, Move, fire, throw grenade, reload etc. Movement was quick and ran from the cards easily although the rules make reference to an optional D10 there was no mention of how that worked or why it would be necessary in the basic rules. Shooting initially was a bit of a joke, I managed to pull 7 out of ammo cards in succession. Clearly the Force on Force game had used it all up!  After a couple of activations for some of the fireteams, one for others and none for one, the “reroll and shuffle” card came up. This is basically like the Tea Break card in IABSM, however unlike that card, there is no obvious “end of turn” activation for troops who haven’t activated and are in range or what have you. Thus it seems entirely possible that some troops may do nothing all game given the right combinations of dice and cards (Unlikely but not impossible). After the next couple of activations, troops had managed to reload, and I started shooting again. The VC were in bunkers and the US in the jungle, so I expected it to be relatively casualty light and it indeed was, one US trooper was hit (twice in the same activation), the first time a wound and the next in the head so he was out of it, and another was hit but cover saved him. I was somewhat unclear as to whether this stunned figure accrued a morale marker, the rules seemed to be inconsistent on this point – “When a figure should have been wounded or incapacitated but cover protected it, ….still accrues a morale marker” yet in the illustrated example this is not the case and the text for the morale tests says “whenever a figure is wounded or incapacitated, it’s leader figure accrues a morale marker” – no mention of near misses. Still, one of the figures had been hit, so a morale marker was placed and on that unit’s next activation a card was turned for the mandatory morale test which was fine.

All in all, from a limited reading and very quick partial play test, the rules seem promising and above all seem quick and focussed, which is what we desperately want. Yes there appear to be a few issues here and there, but there is a Yahoo group for players to ask questions on, and I have experienced lightening fast responses from Buck when posting some initial questions. Yes the (TM) and the acronym for the GAMER system are a bit odd and a bit OTT as an Englishman but Buck is American (they do stuff differently over there!). I do tend to the overly critical side of the spectrum but I do not think these rules warrant a rant, there’s simply a few disappointing factors from what I have seen thus far. What I need to do now is work out exactly what amendments I need to make for Vietnam if any, and play a full game incorporating all the rules in the advanced section that are relevant. Frankly if they work, or can be made to work then they are a damn sight more useful than Force on Force to us!

6mm Spanish/Peninsular Buildings

I bought some buildings from Baccus Miniatures whilst at Hammerhead in Newark earlier this month. Amazingly given how little I’ve done recently (18mths) I have painted them over the bank holiday weekend.

The models themselves are nicely cast, with few blemishes and visible bubbles. The pack consisted of 2 large and 2 small buildings, the larger ones have a footprint of 60x60mm and the smaller ones 60x30mm. They also come with sabot bases, which are quite chunky and I’m not sure if I will use them or not.

6mm Spanish Buildings

A second look a Blucher and Brigade level games in general

This week Matt and I played Blucher again, my second time and the first for him. This time around I’d read the rules a bit more having printed the PDF (I had real [Read more…]

First thoughts on Blucher

A year or so ago when Blucher was released, Richard bought a copy and we said we would try it out aince it seemed basing agnostic and generally at the level we wanted to play Napoleonic games, namely with a Brigade as the movement element. Last night we finally got round to trying it out. When i knew we were playing i decided to buy the pdf which is my first issue. £20 for a PDF? Ouch. That is quite frankly gouging IMO. Mind you looking at the rest of the offerings, with card sets being around £28 and the hard copy rules at £40 then I got off lightly.

Anyway, on to the game. With Peninsular armies i put together a very small force with 2 Infantry corps and a cavalry corps for the French, and similar Divisions for the Anglo Portuguese. This seemed extremely small for the rules and indeed the Momentum (MO) rules only came into play once preventing Richard from moving his entire force. This system however seems pretty neat and i think we will like it. Maybe we should only have been using 2 dice instead of 3? I couldnt find it in the setup rules unfortunately, nor could i see anything for establishing how many turns there were. The game track has 30 turns on it but id imagine that for pickup/ meeting engagement type games you would not play a full day?

Overall we found the system to be enjoyable and quick. There were a few quirks which didn’t feel particularly right, melee seems riskless for attackers as the most damage you will recieve will be 2 fatigue while defenders can be swept away. My biggest concern is with the Corps Activation for the British. The scenario in the book (Fuentes) stipulates there are no corps but the army list for building forces says that in effect Divisions are corps. Queries on the Honour forum seem to have elicited a “are you stupid?” Type response from the author so I will play a few more games without questioning anything. As it was we didn’t use Commanders (feels a bit wierd not having commanders on table ) or artillery (most of the Peninsular artillery counts as attached batteries).

28mm Livery Stables

Bought this at Salute last year to add to Matt’s wild west town. Can’t remember the manufacturer, it’s not a 4ground one or Warbases. The kit itself went together relatively well, apart from having the wrong holes drilled for the lengths of fencing I had, and no instruction sheet. It wasn’t rocket science however. Used some Warbases shingle sheets to massively improve the roof however.

Quite pleased with the way it turned out, suitably old and weathered.

Livery Stable

Livery Stable

Livery Stable

Tally Ho! – Why it’s all gone quiet on the blog front

Two weeks ago I went to the Hammerhead show at Newark, the first time I’ve been to that particular venue and as usual at any show, I bumped into lots of old acquaintances. One of these (no names – no pack drill) suggested that I had been less than diligent on updates here and that even popping round every other month was not showing anything new. This guilt trip made me realise that I did need to post a few things here and there that I’ve done over the past few months (Last update in June 1014?!)

The main reason that I’ve not been posting much is that I’ve not really been doing much painting recently. I think I’ve managed about 15-20 hrs of painting in the 9 months since the last update and the reason for this is not lack of enthusiasm but lack of time. I’ve been spending inordinate amounts of time on and in a flight simulator game on the PC – IL2 Cliffs of Dover. I’ve played this online/multiplayer for over a year now, and am part of an online “virtual” squadron – more geekery I’m afraid. However, the dearth of updates here has coincided with my involvement with a server which in October last year I bought along with another chap. We are now running the Storm of War server, with associated website www.stormofwar.org which provides one of, if not the, best multiplayer environment available for this game (if I do say so myself). We have a vision of a cross between a strategic meta game and the flight sim portion, covering the Battle of Britain. Much of this has meant learning two new programming languages and the ongoing development of the server code means I’m spending about 20-30hrs a week working on the website, server code or general forum admin.

To give you an idea of what Cliffs of Dover is capable of, this video filmed by another group, shows just how immersive and graphically beautiful the game can be. It truly is worth watching the full thing and although it’s scripted it’s all the better for it.

I will be posting some pictures of more recent wargaming endeavours soon, as I am still gaming pretty much weekly. I just need to get my arse into gear and put some more effort into updating the blog.

20mm Jump of Points for Chain of Command

We’ve been playing quite a bit of Chain of Command by Too Fat Lardies recently using my 20mm figures. One of the key aspects to these rules is the use of Jump Off Points from where your troops deploy onto the table. Up till now we’ve been using some laminated markers as the sets of resin ones sold by TFL are for 28mm rather than 20mm. Today however I finished the first half of the replacement markers. Made from 40mm steel bases from Precision Wargames Supplies (and a couple of cardboard ersatz bases as I ran out) and using resin pieces sold by Value Gear and a couple of silfor tufts. I’m pretty pleased with these ones, which are for the Allies to use, and I have 4 more for the Germans on the workbench.

Allied Jump Off Points

Allied Jump Off Points

Allied Jump Off Points

Haarlem Heights – 10mm AWI using British Grenadier

Way back at the start of March, I was joined by Matt and a couple of forum friends Goat Major and Timmo to celebrate my birthday by way of a 10mm AWI game. We chose at random based on the forces we had available Haarlem Heights, a scenario written by another forum friend Brendan. I duly got the terrain laid out using my best interpretation of the terrain against the restrictions of the Geo Hex system I bought last year. This gave a pretty pleasing look to the table though, and with a few additions from Matt mainly the fencing and streams and Goat Major’s lovely buildings we had a 5×6 foot table looking not totally dissimilar to the layout in the book. What I’d not realised at this point was that we’d end up using only about 1/3rd of the entire table!

The game went well, with a few hiccups due to rules misunderstandings etc as is normal when you play something for the first or second time. We all had a good time I hope and everyone felt that British Grenadier is a good system, but that things do tend to take a while to resolve. Once things start to go wrong though it looks like it goes downhill fast, but we never actually got that far.

Here’s a few pictures from the action. As always click on the picture to make it bigger

Starting positions and terrain

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New Hex Terrain

I’ve been wanting to get a more dynamic and modular hill system for some time. A while ago Matt and I commissioned some hills from S & A Scenics which gave us a variable length ridge, up to 7 foot of it in fact, but the truth was once I got it I realised that it wasn’t going to do it for me. Sure, I could do a whopping long hill, or two opposing ridges, but there was something wrong about them, they were too straight, too clinical. I started searching for alternatives, and shortly after posting on WD3, had an offer of some hex terrain. Not just any hex terrain either, Geo Hex and in such quantity (and two colour schemes), it really sold itself to me. I agreed to purchase it and in the meantime I managed to get an absolute bargain on Evilbay of a single part set. This confirmed to me that it was what I wanted, and I picked it up at a secret Service station meet on Saturday.

Unfortunately with the Kitchen still being in the process of being done, I’ve lost my games room but tonight when I got home to an empty house for an hour or so I took the opportunity to get a bit out on the living room floor. As you can see from the pictures, I still haven’t found the right edge pieces, or the clips which hold the tiles together, but bearing in mind it was hastily thrown together on a laminate floor, I’m pretty pleased even so. All I have to do now is catalogue all the pieces and work out where I’m going to store it. As you can see, there’s rather a lot of it! Just for the record, that area’s 4ft by about 5.5ft and there’s easily enough hexes to double it, and probably triple it in each colour.

Hex Terrain

Just how much is there?

Battle of Palencia

On Wednesday I finally got to fight the game thrown up out of the latest version of the campaign system that occurred a couple of weeks ago now. Unfortunately starting a new job that week and the unavailability of gaming opponents meant we had to wait although the week before we tried out Fast Play Grande Armee with this scenario. It was not a success, although it was over quite quickly, the ruleset is not designed for playing such “small” forces rather its meant to fight Leipzig etc sized engagements.

Anyway, Mike came over to play the French of Victor’s Corps (played in the campaign by someone else) and I played my campaign role of Wellington, although Richard who should have been there to help me run the forces was unable to make it at short notice.

Mike’s already give a battle report here covering the first 10 odd turns. This afternoon I finished the battle off to the agreed turn limit, but the last turn and a half didn’t really change anything except killing a few more men on both sides. The British left attacked the French right but were repulsed almost all along the line, the only unit who got into melee ended the turn shaken along with it’s French opponent.

Here are a few pictures from the two sessions.

French left threatens and Picton forms Square

British Reinforcements march on

Overall shot midway

British view of the village and Spencer's Division

Last ditch attacks on the French Right

End of game on French Right

End result is the French lost 34 SP’s worth of troops, and the British lost 80. (Not including artillery losses from ammunition rolls).

The British and Portuguese have suffered badly from:

  • poor command dice (In retrospect, the decision to get the game underway quickly and rate all the generals the same (normal 1d6) was a bad one) meaning that few units got into contact
  • Wellington having to have 8 odd units under his direct control due to lack of their parent generals being present. This meant he couldn’t roam the field using his inherent points to help out subordinates
  • The inability to bombard the French lines prior to attacking due to the need to get on with things turn wise
  • The agreement that the game would be 12 turns long. I did this because I wanted the game done in a night, but PoW suggests that a normal day is 18 turns. The campaign is currently in late March, but to reduce the turns to 12 was IMO too extreme

The British are just getting to grips with the French line, and I think had the game been set for 14 or 16 turns instead of 12, the imbalance of losses so far would have been levelled out and a British victory might have been possible. What it feels like at the moment is we’ve done all the approach marching under fire and suddenly the day’s over.

What this and last weeks games have yet again raised is how difficult it is to port a campaign game to the table, play it and get a satisfactory resolution in a single evening. Either the rules are overly simple and bloody, and the game feels too arbitrary, or the rules play too long for the available time. This size battle was almost exactly what I’d hoped the campaign system was going to throw up, and yet it was too big for PoW and too small for Grande Armee (Or FPGA).