TITLE: Combat Patrol: World War II
AUTHOR: John R. “Buck” Surdu
PUBLISHER: DriveThru Cards
PUBLICATION DATE: November 2015
WEB SITE/SUPPORT FORUM: There is a Web page for the rules here:
PRICE (with date):
- Set A of cards: $25.00
- Set B of cards: $25.00
- The basic rules as a .pdf download: Free
- The advanced and vehicular rules as a .pdf download: $5.00
REVIEWED BY: John R. “Buck” Surdu – (author)
PERIOD COVERED: Designed for World War Two ground combat skirmish. Also suitable for science fiction ground combat skirmish games. Also suitable for modern ground combat skirmish games.
THE BOOK: The basic rules are only eight pages of rules, with three large, full-color figures that take up almost a whole page themselves as well as additional figures. The advanced rules and the vehicular rules are separate download. There are additional color figures and images throughout the book, as well as black and white images.
The game is card based (see below), so the largest part of the game is the deck of cards needed to play. A set of cards, either A or B, consists of 225 full color, professional-looking cards on heavy, premium stock that usually arrive in the mail within two weeks. A set consists of 4x 50-card Action Decks and a 25 card Activation Deck. Each deck has a different, but subdued colored back so that each player can tell the decks apart. Among our group some believe that two players can use a single deck, but I prefer that each player has his own deck. With sets A and B you get eight different colored Action Decks, which are sufficient for up to sixteen players.
SCOPE: The basic unit in the game is the “team.” A team is typically half a squad, but in some armies it takes three teams to make a squad. A player can easily control two or three squads
ARMY SIZE: There are no army lists, per se. The game is designed for several players to each control one or more squads. This enables players to run games as large as they might want.
BASE UNIT: A base unit is usually two teams of four or five figures each.
- Ground Scale: 1” = 5 yards
- Time Scale: 1 turn = approximately 10 minutes
- Figure/Base Ratio: 1 figure = 1 soldier
- Recommended Figure Size: 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, or 28mm
- Table Size: There is no specified table size, but 4 feet by 5 feet is probably the smallest that would make an enjoyable game.
- Game Length: About three to four hours for a game involving reinforced platoons on both sides.
BASING SIZES: Figures are individually mounted. Vehicles are not mounted.
TURN SEQUENCE: Combat Patrol uses a unique Double Activation mechanic, that is designed to retain all the unpredictability and drama of card based activation mechanisms while addressing their shortcomings. Those shortcomings include a) one player not getting to activate his units for several turns and b) one player doing things while everyone else watches. The way the Double Activation mechanic works is that at the beginning of each turn players roll a six-sided die for each team, squad, or platoon leader and placing the die next to the leader. Then a set of cards, called the Action Deck is shuffled, and cards are drawn. There are some nuanced, but essentially the Activation Deck consists of cards numbered one through six in red, one through six in black, and a reshuffle card. When a card is drawn from the Activation Deck, all teams whose six-sided die matches the drawn card activate and perform actions. In this way, many players are acting simultaneously. When all teams with that number have activated, the next card is drawn. When the reshuffle card is drawn, the turn ends, and all the six-sided dice are re-rolled.
Some people have a visceral reaction to card-based activation schemes. One of the drawbacks of card-based activation is the non-uniform activation sequence for units. If a player doesn’t like that, there is no card-driven scheme that will satisfy him. Another drawback is that often one person is doing something while everyone else acts. The notion of the six-sided command dice on each leader means that potentially several units are acting at the same time so many people are involved. If a player has two squads (four teams), he is often doing something during the turn. Another drawback is that sometimes a turn will end before a unit gets to activate. Of course that is exactly what the reshuffle card is supposed to do. This is addressed several ways as optional rules. First the game master can just remove the reshuffle card from the deck. Second, when the reshuffle card is drawn in the first three cards of a turn, it is placed on the bottom of the deck, so in that turn every unit will act. Finally, there is an optional rule that a limited number of times during the game, each side may pull an undrawn card ahead of the reshuffle card if neither card of that number have been drawn that turn. All of these mechanics reduce the likelihood that a player will spend several turns without being able to do anything.
GAME MECHANICS: G.A.M.E.R. : Combat Patrol uses an engine the author calls G.A.M.E.R. . This is an acronym for the attributes that define soldiers in the game: Guts (morale), Accuracy (shooting), Melee (hand-to-hand combat), Endurance (hit points), and Reaction (used to interrupt enemy actions). Guts and Accuracy can be Elite, Regular, or Green. The other attributes are numerical. The Melee attribute ranges from -1 to 3. Endurance is typically 3 but for a more cinematic feel, Endurance can be as high as 6 for certain characters. Reaction ranges from 2 to 6, but is typically 3 for Regular troops.
The Action Deck is used to resolve most actions in the game and eliminates the need for chart cards and cross indexing modifiers or doing detailed computation. It reduces game play complexity while not making the game a simplistic, “sixes hit” system. The cards were carefully designed over three years of development.
Shooting: Shooting involves a series of draws from the Action Deck. Some weapons have a rate of fire greater than one, in which case the shooter gets to make more than one shot. Each shot is resolved as follows. Draw a card and consult the hit indicator section, looking for a bullet hole icon. You start using the hit indicator by looking for the black circle or bullet hole above the first initial of the figure’s accuracy, E for elite, R for regular, and G for green. You may move right one “bubble” if certain conditions exist: the target is moving, the leader is not present to direct the unit’s fire, the shooter is wounded, or the target is at medium range. You may move right two “bubbles” if the target is at long range or the shooter is moving. These modifiers are cumulative. If the resultant “bubble” is a black circle, the shot is a miss. If the “bubble” is a bullet hole, the shot is a hit. For a hit, immediately draw another card, looking at the hit randomizer, wound, and cover protection sections of the card. The hit randomizer tells you which figure in the target area was hit. The wound area tells you whether he was wounded or incapacitates as well as where he was hit. The cover protection area is really important. As implied above, soldiers fire into an area, not at specific enemy soldiers. This tends to streamline play, as players don’t run through the “minimax” analysis to figure out which figure to fire at, and they cannot snipe for crew-served weapons or leaders. The game also doesn’t need rules like “if more than 50% of the target unit is in the woods, apply the woods modifier to all shots.” Finally, since you fire at an area, hits might be distributed across multiple enemy units, depending on how the hit randomizer turns out. So when the figure that was hit is determined, you look in the cover section. Different cards show different sets of cover icons, which are related to the hit location. If the figure that was hit is in the cover indicated by one of these icons, the hit is converted from a wound or incapacitation to a stun, as the figure ducks back behind that cover when a shot came too close for comfort. In the example card shown above, the cover icons shown are “in a bunker,” “in a fox hole or behind the military crest of a hill,” “in a window or door of a building,” “behind a wall,” or “behind low over, such as a log.” The hit randomizer also has the effect that the same soldier may be hit more than once. A team can resolve its fire from multiple soldiers and multiple shots in less than a minute. When a figure is incapacitated or receives wounds equal to his Endurance, he is essentially out of the game.
Hand-to-Hand Combat: When soldiers are locked in hand-to-hand combat, they each draw a card from their Activation Deck and consult the ten-sided die icon. This number is then modified by some circumstances, such as being wounded, outnumbered, stunned, etc. The player with the higher resultant die roll wins the hand-to-hand. The loser drops back two inches, and the winner has the option to move forward an inch. This allows the winner to potentially push his way into a window, over a wall, etc. The winner also draws a card and consults the personnel wound section to determine if he wounded or incapacitated the loser. There are, of course, a few nuances to this procedure, but this gives you an idea of the basics.
Movement: When a player elects to have one or more figures in a team move, he draws a card from the Action Deck and consults the blue movement speed arrow, looking at the speed associated with the leader’s Guts rating, Green, Regular, or Elite. All figures in the team may move up to this amount, which can be reduced based on terrain and wound status.
Morale: When figures in a team are wounded or incapacitated, the team leader accrues a morale check marker. The next time the unit activates, he must make one morale check for each morale marker accrued before the unit can perform actions. For each morale check the player draws a card from the Action Deck and applies the results indicated in the morale section of the card. The author’s perspective on morale failure is that units don’t always get up and runaway as a whole. Instead morale failure is often a gradual loss of cohesion, where one or two soldiers wander off, hide, hesitate to follow orders, perhaps even rush toward the enemy. Many of the morale effects are actions like “The figure with the lowest Guts, runs 10 inches away from the enemy,” “Random figure is stunned,” and other similar results. Some results are even positive, such as the leader “rallying” some number of his stunned soldiers.
Levels of Resolution: Teams can come in three different levels of resolution. The lowest level is the most common. In that level of resolution, all figures in a squad have the same attribute values; although, the leader may have different ones. Wounds are tracked with markers on the table. At the middle level or resolution, figures in a squad still have the same attribute values, but wounds are tracked on the unit record. Wounds in the upper body impact shooting; while, wounds in the lower body impact movement. At the highest level of resolution, each figure in a team may have different attributes. This need not be homogenous, so it is possible for the commandos to be individualized but the installation guards to be all the same.
Anti-Tank Fire: Anti-tank fire uses the same basic firing procedure, but there is an additional step once the hit location is determined in which the player sees if his shot penetrated the enemy tank. Penetrating hits have a pretty large chance of brewing up the target vehicle. Non penetrating hits may cause lesser damage like knocking a mobility kill, knocking out a weapon, jamming the turret, or knocking out a radio.
There is just one sample scenario in the book that is designed to enable players to play a game with just the basic, infantry rules.
The author’s philosophy is that there are plenty of good WWII skirmish scenario books available.
As the author, I feel it is unfair to offer an opinion on this subject. There are more than 30 explanatory figures and tables in a 35-page rule book, many in color. The rules are organized in numbered paragraphs. The rules contain a comprehensive table of contents but no index. The rules are clearly organized into major sections: basic rules, sample scenario, advanced and optional rules, vehicular rules, play aids, and data tables.
I have played the game many times, but as the author, I feel it is inappropriate for me to comment at this time. I will say that the card mechanism for resolving actions like direct fire, high explosive weapons, movement, and morale really streamlines the game and makes it move quickly. Players can concentrate on the action and don’t have to keep up with big chart cards or cross indexing a bunch of data. Flipping a card and looking at a particular area is essentially equivalent to rolling a die, modifying the roll, and looking up the result in a table.