The Boshin War period was one I initially got into primarily because I wanted to play the Combat Patrol rules, and I’m not the biggest fan of platoon-level WW2. So, after a few weeks, we finally got around to trying it out.
The action was a pretty straightforward one, basically being the usual unimaginative ‘meeting engagement’ that everyone does to try out rules for the first time. My platoon of Chōshū volunteers faced off against Mike’s Shogunate regulars.
^ Chōshū troops on the right, Shogunate men in the distance.
Combat Patrol is a card-driven game which uses sets of bespoke cards to resolve issues of firing, movement and morale. The use of cards gives a lot of control over probability. For example, on the face of it, the to hit roll is a 1-6 spread, but there are more cards that are 1,2 and 3 than 4,5 and 6. Also, ‘out of ammunition’ results are easily woven into the firing mechanic. Overall, once you get used to the cards, the game moves along very quickly.
For the Boshin War I made some straightforward adjustments. The rifle ranges were reduced a bit and every shot would result in being ‘out of ammunition.’ Actual ‘out of ammo’ results would be treated as misfires that required one action to clear and one to reload. I also put a blanket -1 on all firing (as the weapons have a much lower rate of fire than bolt-action rifles).
^ Shogunate troops
^ Chōshū troops.
I’m still a little unsold on the morale. Basically, as wounds and stuns are taken, a unit must draw morale cards which may result in all or part of the unit seeking cover, or individuals being stunned or running away etc. The problem is, once the initial causes are resolved and the unit is gathered back together, previously casualties are ‘forgotten’ and units tend to be too robust. For this game I treated any unit with 50% or more casualties as being in the open for morale purposes to make them more likely to retreat. There may be better ways of dealing with this in future, such as extra morale cards for units at half strength, or a mandatory morale card every turn for such units.
Combat Patrol also has no overall ‘army morale’ where the whole force’s morale is checked, and I think I may want something like that for this period, where troops are more likely to know what’s happening with their platoon than would typically be the case with WW2.
^ Amazing quite how many people you can get behind the only hard cover on the table.
But morale quibbles aside, I really like the game. There are some great ideas in there, and the author has written extensive designer’s notes on his own page HERE (scroll down near the bottom, there’s a 4 part series in a yellow box). Good for him, I love designer’s notes…. It’s a great ‘toolkit’ for firearm-based skirmish games, and easily amendable (you could introduce die rolls to modify card events for example). There is supposed to be a medieval version in the works next year too, so I’m looking forward to that.
As to the game itself, it was remarkable for the fact that not a single one of my men was hit throughout the whole battle. By the end, 8 Shogunate troops were incapacitated or dead and none of my guys had a scratch. Quite the most incredible run of bad luck with shooting I’ve seen. And, as the game uses cards, he couldn’t even blame the dice.
Ultimately it will be necessary to come up with some kind of campaign system and/or scenarios which may not happen for a while as I seem to have a ton of other things to be going on with. But a very encouraging first outing.
All figures from the excellent range by Bac Ninh Miniatures.