Combat Patrol (TM) – A second look

Matt and I played through a goodly number of turns tonight of a test game, set in Vietnam pitching a regular rated American platoon against a number of Green rated VC Cells. Table was mainly jungle with paddies and a village in one corner but the action was firmly within the bounds of the jungle.

We started at around 8.30pm, and by around 10pm had played 5 turns, including explaining the rules, reading through to find specific answers and so on. Pretty good going and to be honest it felt like we were motoring compared to other sets. Resolving movement distances, activation sequences, shooting were all done in a very slick fashion so CP gets a firm thumb up for speed. Matt had picked up the sequence and mechanics easily within a turn.

We only had a few exchanges of fire, which being at short range in the woods were extremely bloody affairs, with only a few shots being saved by the terrain. I wonder if this is because the rules were developed for discrete “areas” of woods, rather than 5/6ths of the table being wood. I shall ask. It could also be down to the cards, we definitely need to play through a few more games to get a feel for the distributions of damage/cover etc.

I still think that there could be work done on the physical rule book to lay out concepts in both their basic and advanced forms in a more logical and flowing manner, and that some clearer pictures/graphics would be beneficial. However, one of my previous criticisms turned out to be wrong, there is a pictorial explanation of the cover icons, it’s just not where you’d expect it! (Kudos to Buck for not pointing out my mistake either!)

As ever when you play a new ruleset on your own, you end up with questions. However this time, we had only a few and I will post them on the Yahoo site in the next day or so in the full expectation that a swift response will be given, Buck’s support is extremely good from what I have seen. As you’d expect, some of our queries are more in line with using a WW2 set for Vietnam, “how should we treat RPG’s, M79’s”, “should we treat jungle like woods”, etc and not direct rules misunderstandings although one has just been asked and answered in the past couple of days!

All in all, we are very impressed with the rules and look forward to using them again. I suspect that the rules will not receive the praise and interest they deserve (there’s precious little out there on the blog-o-sphere and on TMP), and will be doing what I can to rectify this.

And now a few pictures of the table and figures.

US

US

VC

VC

Table

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!

FNG OPS Campaign – 11th Sept (pt1)

11th Sept

Heavy rain greeted the troops of Bravo Company. A mixed squad of 1st Squad and the platoon command went out on perimeter patrol.

Table set up

Table set up

The Americans have to clear 2 PEF (Potential Enemy Forces), randomly placed on the table in sector 1 and 5 (Top left and middle right).

American's patrolling

American's patrolling

American's patrolling

In the early few turns the Americans activate and move towards the nearest PEF. This PEF moves off towards the middle of the table and the Americans chase after it resolving that it is actually nothing.

Chasing to catch up to the PEF

Unfortunately the chase has taken the platoon commander close to the second PEF which is resolved to be a 3 man Local force VC cell. Even worse, two of the three men are REP 5’s and the LT goes down hit twice by the enemy.

LT goes down

The VC spring the ambush

The US troops manouvre into line to push forward triggering a firefight which they are on the losing side.

Firefight

Three more of their number go down while one of the VC is knocked down and another ducks back when his SKS jams.

American casualties pile up

Another round of firing knocks the VC leader down too, and the US advance to take two prisoners while the medic tries to save those wounded who haven’t already bled out. Unfortunately several of the wounds are too serious for him to do anything. 6 Casualties out of ten men, with 4 KIA, 1 Light wound, 1 Heavy wound. Not a good day! I’m beginning to think that more than 1 squad needs to be sent on patrols together.

Results of the patrol

FNG OPS Campaign – 10th Sept

10th Sept

2nd Platoon air assaulted into the LZ outside the village of Gi Lang (2864) in light rain, responding to intel that placed a Communist Rally taking place there. Maybe there was or maybe the rally leaders slipped away in the bad weather but by the time 2nd Platoon got there the only enemy who wanted to engage with them were content to pot shot a few long range rifle rounds and then skedaddle. The afternoon was spent cowering under ponchos the light rain building to monsoon levels, grounding all aircraft and changing the plans for the Platoon to be airlifted back to the FSB. The men were grateful for the extra supplies they’d carried in knowing they’d now be out for at least the night.

The platoon settled into ambush positions before dark. It wasn’t long before 1st Squad had movement to their front. The platoon command element had chosen those moments to check on their positions so were on hand to watch what unfolded (fortuitously as it turned out!)

Table set up

The squad were deployed in a patch of single canopy jungle overlooking paddy fields and the outskirts of the village. The NVA squad were picking their way along a paddy dike, the column stretching back into some triple canopy jungle the other side of the stream. Unfortunately the American claymore had been set up pointing directly away from the patrol towards the village and thus would be no help.

American ambush positions

The NVA approached carefully, watchful for any sign of Americans knowing they had been in the area earlier. They didn’t spot the ambush though, the first rounds sending one of their number scurrying for cover over the paddy dike, another tumbling to the ground hit by the Americans bullets but the others were untouched and able to return fire. The firefight was brief and ineffective, ending with several out of ammo combattants. Further attempts to fire at each other resulted in the NVA squad leader breaking and running while two of the Americans were hit and went down hard. The most significant problem for the ambushers was that half the NVA had yet to leave the jungle and were in fact moving round to flank the ambush positions. Realising the danger the platoon command moved in that direction sending the medic to aid one of the fallen men while the M60 cleared its jam and took down another enemy in the paddy. An attempt to call for help on the radio recieved nothing but static in reply.

NVA start flanking

As the Lt and radioman got to the flank, the vietnamese were streaming across the jungle. In a frantic burst of fire the radioman nailed one crossing the stream, while the Lt firing wildly came close but ultimately missed or the rounds hit equipment not flesh.

Plt command make a stand

With the NVA lmg temporarily out of ammo in the paddy, the M60 team pulled back blowing the claymore to prevent it being found and reused by the enemy. Things were desperate for the Americans and then salvation! Their call on the radio had been heard, and a barrage of medium artillery rounds was ready to fire, waiting only for the coordinates. In some inspired mapreading, the Lt gave the directions and fell back with the RTO to where the medic had dragged the badly wounded casualty. The other casualty was also being tended by the squad leader when the artillery rounds fell. The first was close to the American’s position showering them with debris but causing no casualties. The second disappeared into the night, exploding in the jungle across the stream. The final round landed amongst the charging NVA and all of them went down.

Danger Close!

Artillery takes effect

The remaining NVA in the paddy carefully picked up their fallen comrades and carried them off into the night leaving no trace of their existence except a handful of spent cartridge cases.

NVA in the paddy

Bodies in the paddy.

The Americans called in a Medevac chopper to exfil their wounded and the enemy casualties. 2 wounded NVA were captured and sent back to be patched up and interrogated, while 4 bodies were recovered and quickly buried. It had been a successful night.

FNG OPS Campaign – 9th Sept

9th Sept

Captain Warren Barnes sat back in his chair. Another evening of writing reports and letters back to families bereaved of their sons, fathers, brothers. What was there to show for it? All in all it was meant to be a quiet day, most of the company recouping from their efforts over the past week. Only the men of the battery toiled under the cloudy but dry sky, continuing to dig in their guns and create the basic artillery positions that would allow them to fire in support of the grunts in the field. Only two patrols went out, Barnes concerned that in the recent operations further afield, the perimeter had been neglected and close security was lacking.

The first patrol, the five men from 2nd Squad, 1st Plt called back into the firebase that all was well mid morning. But shortly after the firebase stirred as the sound of a flurry of shots rang out.

Table set up

The eight men of 3rd Squad, 1st Plt were on their way back to the firebase their morning patrol having been uneventful. Perhaps attention levels were slipping, perhaps fatigue was setting in, whatever the reason when the patrol entered into an area of paddy fields they failed to notice the three NVA sappers who lurked in the scrub some distance away. The Vietnamese however were fully aware of the approaching patrol and in a well timed ambush their fusilade of shots dropped three GI’s. A fourth attempted to react by firing back but all he succeeded in drawing more return fire which again hit home. The rest of the squad reacted by diving for cover.

Results of the ambush

View across the paddy to the ambush position

Another three sappers heard the firing, and began moving to take up their own ambush positions. It would take them some time to do, but once there they were in perfect position to enfilade any movement of the US troops towards their initial ambushers position.

An early activation allowed the US troops still capable of moving to check their casualties, turning over the chits revealed 2 wounded and two dead outright. The closest crawled over to perform some first aid while the M60 team crawled up the paddy dyke to try to get some payback. The movement drew fire from the Vietnamese but the shots sailed high, giving away the enemy positions. A sustained burst silenced the incoming fire but who knew if the shots had found their marks? The experience of the squad leader showed as he stabilised the man he was working on, stopping the bleeding and saving his life.

Results of the ambush (chits revealed)

A series of turns saw no American activation as the wounded dice ticked down while the vietnamese continued to move around and fire with no effect at the M60 team, drawing repeated bursts in return.

And then the squad leader remembered the radio. At the same time as he was trying to get through, the men of 2nd Squad appeared close by. Having heard the firing they had moved to support their comrades. Bringing their own radio they were able to call in a mortar strike on the area where the Vietnamese were lurking. The wounded GI is finally patched up, perilously close to bleeding out.

Reinforcements arrive

NVA move into a new ambush position

Standing up to see if they could assess the effectiveness of the mortar strike, the survivors of 3rd squad trigger the ambush from the second NVA team. Hit 3 times, the squad leader is miraculously merely knocked down while the blooper man ignores the hail of bullets sent in his direction and sends a 40mm into the trees, the NVA are untouched but unnerved by the heavier weapon and decide to break contact especially as they can see the reinforcements starting to move out. The arrival of mortar rounds close to the initial ambushers convinces them to move out too.

Mortar rounds land

After a cursory search for enemy bodies, the disconsolate Americans carry their dead and wounded home and wonder what they have to do to kill their opponents.

(Game fought with 28mm TAG figures, homemade terrain using plastic aquarium plants and Palm trees, Last Valley trees and a mix of FNG v1 , FNG:2nd Tour and my own house rules & amendments).

FNG 2 and Ambush Valley 2 Reviews

Bought FNG2 today to support THW and see what the final version looks like. As regular readers will know I’ve played a fair amount of FNG v1 although not much recently so I was looking forward to this finally being released. Have to say I’m a bit disappointed. Maybe I’m searching for the holy grail or something, but I am getting pretty sick of buying rules which are riddled with typo’s and errors. Do rules ever get proof read? I know that this has been a labour of love for Darby and I don’t want to detract from that, but its pretty demoralising reading a set of rules and seeing examples that don’t follow the rules, blatant typos and this is just from a skim read really.

As for Ambush Valley, I’m even more annoyed at this one. For a one/two man band to release something badly edited is one thing, but for AAG with their Osprey backing to release not only their error ridden main rules but to continue this tradition into the 3rd supplement, a second edition of both I might add, is a bit of a pisstake in my opinion. I seem to oscillate between thinking theres a good set of rules somewhere within Force on Force, to thinking that for a Blackhawk down kind of scenario its almost perfect but there’s only so many “skinnies” or insurgents I can duck shoot. For Vietnam I just don’t think it works. Putting aside the issues I have with the accuracy of the text for now, some of the rules are just bizarre.

I had a simple scenario set up for a platoon or so of US to escort some Villagers from the ville in the middle of the table off table. Opposing them were some Local Force VC. The US were D8/D8 and the VC D6/D8. The VC had 2 MG Bunker cards and 2 spike board traps (drawn randomly!). The first MG bunker card was played as an interruption of some US movement and placed in the treeline, unfortunately too far for the VC to claim “ambush” (? how there can be a maximum range to ambush the enemy I don’t know!) In the ensuing reaction tests, the US got the drop on the VC and managed to shoot first, causing both figures to become casualties. Purely because they’re rolling D8’s and the VC D6’s.

Every time the VC fired or attempted to fire in the game, they were just simply swatted down like flies. And then we have the “instant nuke” sorry artillery rules. Apparently artillery lands immediately, with no deviation. If the US can call it in, then it’s just devastating. By the end of the game, I had 2 MG bunkers and 3 squads of 5 figures all casualties. Of course I couldn’t actually find out what type of casualties they were because there was no one unhit within the requisite distance at the right point in the turn to check. It’s possible that with that figure close they could all have been fine (admittedly that would have needed a heck of a lot of 6’s to be rolled!). In return I’d managed to cause 4 Serious Wounds and 1 Light Wounded US figure. 2 of the Serious Wounds had come from the spike traps, which meant that for 3 figures hit, I’d lost 19. Now bear in mind that the VC were generally in cover (or fortified positions!), while the US were in the open. For a “outcome driven” ruleset, that just doesn’t sound right.

Back to FNG, I’m just trying out an ambush scenario since the table is still set up from the above game. As far as I can see from the rules, theres even more dice rolling than there was in the old version, something I’m not too keen on. I’ll have to see how they play, the one advantage of FoF:AV is that it’s quick (provided you can work out the rules of course), but that’s probably because one side is dead rather quickly!

Here’s a few pictures of the AV Action though.

FNG OPS Campaign – 5th Sept

5th Sept

The men of Bravo Company rose from their overnight positions before dawn, two flights of Hueys bringing in much needed ammo, water and chow. As the clatter of the rotors diminished the troops began to start moving into platoon ambush positions. Mist and light rain surrounded them as they split into 4 main ambush positions and waited for Charles to show himself. They didn’t have long to wait.

Contact was made when two squads of the VC Main Force ran into the 3rd platoon’s position. Unfortunately for the American’s, the first fusillade of shots was about the only bright point of the whole action. Spotting the enemy point man at long range, two members of 3rd Squad opened fire, the scout going down bleeding heavily in the middle of the trail. The rest of the VC scattered into the jungle either side of the trail and began working their way forward.

As they moved, further members of 3rd Squad spotted them and opened fire, but the return fire from one of the VC’s Kalashnikov was accurate and a rifleman went down, killed outright and another went down wounded. The platoon commander sent the medic to start treating the wounded man as the 3rd Squad tried to get their M60 into a position to start firing.

1st Squad in the meantime sat and watched tracer fire crisscross their front and waited in vain for the enemy to move into range of the claymore they’d so carefully positioned which was meant to trigger the ambush.

The VC continued filtering through the jungle, their second squad interpenetrating the first and an RPG is sent flying across the paddy fields, falling short of the 3rd Squad positions but close to the so far hidden platoon commander and his RTO. Continued small arms fire into the 3rd Squad position keeps their heads down and prevents them from laying any effective fire at all at the enemy and then suddenly the M60 gunner is shot through the head as he pokes above the paddy dike he’d crawled along to get into a better firing position. Now the US have three men down and the enemy are proving increasingly confident and elusive.

Finally, 2nd Squad start moving from their positions hidden from the trail and start to encircle the enemy. As they approach the tail of the VC patrol, they open up wounding one of the enemy and driving several more back into the trees. An optimistic grenade is thrown and bouncing around in the jungle lands almost at the throwers feet. The US take cover from the blast and they’ve lost the initiative.

Meanwhile the RTO is trying desperately to call in a medevac and a gunship to deal with the wounded and the enemy respectively. Unfortunately the atmospherics and rain aren’t helping and he’s rolling against a modified Rep of 2. It’s going to be some time until the men of 3rd Platoon get some relief, especially when the LT decides to try to take on an RPG gunner but only succeeds in getting himself and his RTO outgunned.

Still unable to take any direct part, the men of 1st Squad watch as the 3rd Squad leader picks up the M60 from his fallen gunner and is immediately shot by the same enemy obviously waiting for such an attempt. As his body slumps down the paddy dike it’s clear he’s dead but the medic has managed to patch up the previously wounded trooper and together they start trying to haul the dead back towards the rear of the platoon position where paddy fields provide a suitable LZ for a medevac bird should one arrive.

As the VC realise that 2nd Squad are in prime position to work down their flank and their casualties are mounting, they decide to start moving into a hidden tunnel entrance. The firing tapers off as the VC slip into the jungle, leaving their wounded behind. Several of 2nd Squad are bloodied in hand to hand combat, while others are lucky to see an RPG flash amongst them but too close to arm properly it buries itself into a tree and doesn’t explode.