Sunday, December 1, 2013

Operation Stalemate II, Mission One Battle Report

With all my US Marines and IJA forces complete, I am now ready to play the scenarios in Britton Publishing's Operation Stalemate II campaign book. There are 11 scenarios based upon the 1st Marine Division's actions on Peleliu. I will be skipping one of the scenarios (set in the jungle and with a recon dog.... just don't want to bother with it), to play out 10 over the course of several months.

I've gone back and forth on what rules to use for these games. Savage Worlds is awesome for squad level, character based games, but these scenarios jump around in time and don't follow any fixed group of soldiers. Also Savage Worlds requires a ton of prep work and the scenarios here can be big. I was leaning on Disposable Heroes, which has a lot of crunch but gets fiddly with vehicle rules. Also, I don't know these rules so well, and don't want to learn as I go. So at last I settled on Bolt Action.

Bolt Action is almost ideal for these scenarios, as it covers 90% of what I need and is not too complex that I have a lot of weird rules to remember. I like the randomness of the order dice, too. What Bolt Action doesn't do is work at the squad level (there are a few scenarios at the squad level that I want to play), and it doesn't have rules for most of the Japanese defenses like minefields and barbed wire.  So I'll have to house-rule a few things. I'll probably use Savage Worlds for the couple of squad-level scenarios.

The biggest adjustment for Bolt Action is that I'm playing 15mm. I've tried a number of things to fix the scale and none have been satisfactory. (I've been playing Normandy scenarios with Platoon Forward in 15mm Bolt Action.) First I tried cutting all ranges in half, but leaving movement the same.  That doesn't work because once you are in rifle range (12") you are also in assault range and the game becomes broken. Scratch that.  So I did the next logical thing, which is to halve movement. So moving at 3" a turn means you've got to compress the board size or you'll be there all day. OK, next idea. I tried replacing all inches measurements to centimeters (e.g. 12" becomes 12cm). Dear God, just kill me.  That's even shorter than halving all the distances. It is like playing the game in a slow-motion nightmare that never, ever ends.

At the end of the day, I'm playing in 15mm using all the normal 28mm ranges. You know what, it works fine. I know there are those of you out there who just read that sentence and fell the to floor. You're now thrashing beneath your desk, palms pressed into your eyes, and you're screaming, "It burns! It burns! Those ranges are not realistic. The ground scale is wrong. Arrgh! No!!!!!" Well, it's a only a game and if we wanted to go looking for unrealistic shit in our games we'd never get around to playing them.  I combed message boards looking for better "conversion" advice and I heard the ground scale argument a lot. I just am not worried.

OK, onto the game. The first scenario is called H-Hour, where the Marines hit the beach.  My objective is to start at the water edge and get 20 Marines off the opposite table edge, which I've placed 24" away. Here's my force list as given in the scenario book.
  • 1 x LVT (A) 1
  • 1 LVT (A) 4
  • 2 x LVT-4
  • 1x 7 man Platoon HQ (2LT, medic, 5 riflemen) all Regular
  • 3 x 13 Marine Rifle Squads each with 3 BAR & 1 SMG (regular)
  • 2 x .30cal LMG teams (regular & veteran)
  • 2  x 60mm Mortar teams (regular)
  • 1 x Flamethrower team (veteran)
Now that's some firepower! Should be a ROLFStomp for the USA!

Blocking the beach are the following Japanese forces:
  • 2 x Anti personnel mine fields (2x6") -- oh my, no rules for these!
  • Off Board Forward Observer -- crap, nothing about FO teams being off-board in the rules!
  • 2 x Type 92 MMG teams (regular)
  • 1 x 4 man Platoon HQ (1LT and 3 Veteran riflemen)
  • 2 x 6 man fire teams with LMG / Rifles (regular)
  • Fortifications to include coconut log bunkers and rifle pits
So you'll notice that these lists don't necessarily conform to the Bolt Action force organization rules. I don't know how many points this represents on either side. Since these are semi-historical encounters, the lists will reflect history more than game rules.

The minefields are tricky. So I made markers for 4 of them, and put a star on the reverse sides of two of them. Any troops that enter the minefield will take hits like a flamethrower, but not be subjected to the morale test destruction (that just seems over-powered for a minefield).  Once movement is over, I can flip the minefield to see if it was real or not. The off-board FO just added a die to the cup each turn, but couldn't be eliminated. Easy as that.

I also added an extra die to the cup for random events. When I pulled that die, I rolled it and on a 6 I'd have a random event. No random events happened in this game.

OK, turn one you see the layout of the board. All troops are aboard one of the two LVT-4s (with the open backs). The Japanese are all in hidden status and set to ambush, per their special rule.  The US has the unimaginative layout you see here. The Japanese MMGs are in the log bunkers that bracket each side of the table. I'm playing a 48"x24" table.

Here's another shot of the Japanese lines.  Set up for them was easy, as it's provided in the book. Honestly, as a two player game this would suck to be Japanese. All you do is try to block the beach exit and then roll dice whenever the US moves. Otherwise, not much to do for them except die.

The Japanese have a prelim bombardment that is actually fairly effective. It puts two pin markers on most vehicles and very nearly destroyed the LVT A-4. I got lucky on the damage roll or it would've been blown before the game started.

To make a very long turn one much shorter, my guys disembarked and advanced across the beach. The beach is rough ground, so no running. I threw tons of fire at the Japanese and hit a few to reveal them from hidden status.  I used a little exclamation marker to indicate who was NOT hidden after taking a hit. Once everyone was revealed, I dumped that marker.  I just wanted to use those markers!

By the end of the first turn, I guessed I'd have the game won by turn three. My guys were looking good.  I chanced moving one of my units into a minefield, as the beach was crowded otherwise. Would I make it?

Ha ha! Lucky bastards! Nope, this was not one of the two minefields, so I pulled it out and these guys were good to go. I felt so confident that I tried it again on the right flank. Oops. That was real. And it was right in front of the MMG in the bunker and the Rifle and HQ squads of the Japanese. And it killed a lot of my guys. Crap.

Here's the disposition of  my guys at the end of turn one. The LVT A 4 and LVT A 1 are hanging back to provide fire. The 60mm mortars would try all game to lay smoke in front of the MG bunkers, but would miss and the smoke would dissipate the next turn. Smoke was a real let down.  Also, you'll notice the ominous aiming token for the IJA's artillery strike in the center of the board. Turn two could be interesting.

Well, turn two was interesting. The artillery strike flat-out destroyed the flamethrower team... poof they're dead. All other teams within 8" of that aiming point took 2-3 pin markers each. The HQ team was not in the right place, and so when it came time to rally, no one did. All I managed was to get shot up by MG fire. The only saving grace was the Japanese on the left flank kept their heads down too.

I didn't even bother taking pictures of turns 2 - 4, as my guys failed rally test after rally test. The two squads were frozen at the edge of the beach on the left, and on the right that squad evaporated to concentrated fire. The medic didn't save anyone.  My two armored support units were both pinned from the prelim bombardment, and the LVT A 1 on the far left didn't rally until the final turn! However, over the course of this horrifying time, the MG teams and mortars wore down the IJA fire team and HQ on the right. Sadly, my 2LT was killed (due to excessive damage from the MMG on the right). I could not answer the bunkers, because I couldn't blind them and couldn't hit them. Firing into a bunker is impossible!

Here are my guys just before the end of turn four when the LT died (he's to the right of the squad, wearing the soft cap with hand up). If they don't start to rally, I will lose the scenario. With the LT dead, my chances are even lower!

By turn five my LVT A 4 howitzer was back in action and blew up the remaining IJA fire team. I only had the MG teams at either side of the board. I started running units off the table, and jumped for joy with one of my two remaining rifle squads rallied. The last one never did and the MGs chewed them up until I realized I could move the LVT-4s to block the MG LOS!  DOH!  Anyway, once they started to pass tests, it got easier. I literally needed turn 7 (based on a random die roll at the end of turn 6 to continue), so that my medic could run off board and complete the needed 20 soldiers. I won but just barely!

Here's my line at the end of the game.

It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to the next scenario. That one will basically be the same thing only with Sherman tanks coming ashore and facing AT guns.


Da Green Skins said...

Looks like a lot of fun. Have you thought about using the GRUNTZ rules for what you are doing. It will require a lot of prep time to get vehicles worked out but might work for what you are doing.

Jerry said...

Thanks Mike! It was a lot of fun. I hadn't thought of Gruntz, but it might work especially well for the squad based stuff which won't require vehicles. I'll consider it. Otherwise, Bolt Action is about right for the larger games.