Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Bridge In Spain - Combat Patrol: Napoleonic AAR

Barrage 2019 was held on Friday and Saturday of the last weekend in September. As I haven't had a chance to play many games recently, the convention was a fantastic opportunity to sit down and roll some dice with games I haven't played before.

Last year I went and took part in the L'Art de la Guerre. This year, however, I didn't want to dedicate my time to a single ruleset (and the shine has somewhat worn off of ADLG for me at the moment). Plus, I plan to take part in not one, but two tournaments at Fall In! later this year. So I went down to Maryland to take part in a few participation games. 

While I had preregistered to play in a Chain of Command game Saturday morning, upon arriving I discovered that the game had disappeared from the roster! So after perusing the flea market and trader stalls, I instead signed up for a Napoleonic version of Combat Patrol. 

The game was being run by Duncan Adams of the HAWKS wargaming club (the group behind the convention. He explained that Combat Patrol was originally designed for WWII skirmishes, but had a number of alternate versions - Star Wars, the Falkland Wars, and Napoleonics. 

The scenario was a classic wargaming scene. A few units of French infantry and dismounted dragoons had to hold a bridge as reinforcements arrived over time. A larger force of Portuguese attackers (part of which I was commanding) needed to secure the bridge before the French could strengthen their positions.  

A small walled area and a rocky outcrop made for a good position for the French to start their defense in.

The main body of the Portuguese attackers launched an assault on a lightly defended area of woods, hoping that the 4-to-1 odds would quickly see the French off.

I sent my smaller command of Portuguese into the small forested area on the right, thinking to keep the dismounted units of French dragoons occupied.

The Portuguese line infantry made good time up and over the hill to support the units attacking into the woods. 

Meanwhile, the Portuguese Caçadores squared up against their French opponents. Whoever had the chance to activate first would have the chance to fire a devastating volley.

I should make some comments on the way Combat Patrol plays. It's a somewhat detailed skirmish game - individual models in squads can take different actions when activated. In an eight man squad, for example, your squad leader can direct fire (making the enemy easier to hit), as three men fire, two other soldiers move up to a different position, and two other soldiers recover from being stunned. Even shooting is done on a model by model basis.

All actions in the game are determined by cards, and each player had their own deck to draw from. These cards do literally everything - they determine how far a unit can move, how effective a model's firing is (as well as where an enemy model is hit, how effective the hit is, and what terrain might stop the bullets), morale effects, randomizing effects, determining close combat results, and more. The cards were intimidating to look at when we first started, but thanks to Duncan's explanations (and a couple HAWKS members playing that were already familiar with the rules) I was able to quickly catch on.

The assault on the woods by the main body of the Portuguese attackers eventually wiped out the French defenders, but at a high cost.

The fighting on the other side of the battlefield wasn't going especially well (although it was only later that I realized that my Caçadores should have been firing using their Elite rating instead of the Regular that I had been using).

While one unit of Caçadores was holding the line and causing damage, the dragoons on the hill were able to hit the few Portuguese that hadn't made it all the way into the cover of the woods. A bad morale result on the cards saw half the unit flee, and then become stunned - meaning I had to spend their entire activation removing the stunned status, instead of moving them into position to support.

The French defenders readied themselves, seeing their compatriots cut off and cut down.

However, just out of shot, French reinforcements were moving in to support across the river, which guaranteed that any Portuguese attack across the open ground would be a bloody affair.

And speaking of bloody affairs, a well timed series of card draws (and the application of their Elite shooting stat) meant the Caçadores wiped out the defending Dragoons in a single volley!

By that time we had reached the end of the allotted time for the game. The group decided to call it a victory for the French defenders, as it would take too long for the Portuguese elements on both flanks to reorganize and make an assault on the bridge, which was quickly filling up with more French.

Duncan ran a fantastic game, and I'll likely be picking up Combat Patrol to add to my collection of wargame rules. It makes for a quick playing (once you understand the layout of the cards) game that would work for platoon or smaller actions. It may be something I could get the SJGA to play at an upcoming meeting. 

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