It is surprising the number of times I play and lose games against my wife and against my daughter. I have been playing and designing wargames much longer than they have. Yet somehow, they still consistently beat me. I would say the ratio is 60:40 in their favor. Therefore, I finally figured out a way to not lose. I decided to play a Co-op game with them!
The game we decided to give a go was Combat! Starring Vic Morrow. This is a game I designed in homage to the old (mostly) black-and-white television show of the same name. Therefore, it is set in World War II; but with a twist. It is not designed to be super realistic, but to adhere to the tropes of TV war shows. The game has player-vs-player, Player-vs- AI, and Co-op game modes. In Co-op the player can take control of a number of cast members form the show and play against Decision tree opponents and randomized enemies.
Somewhere west of Paris, the American forces were pushing the Germans closer to the French capital. However, the fighting was fierce and the American troops had to bleed for every mile. 2nd Lt. Hanley was tasked with escorting an Army Air Corp observer into German territory to determine the effect and extent of the night time bombing raid carried out by the British RAF.
This was a mission that would require speed to succeed. However, Lt. Hanley knew he would also need to back-up his speed with firepower to bust through enemy lines. He surveyed the squad and called Sgt. Saunders and Private Kirby to his side.
We decided to pick cast members from the show. In this case, I played Lt. Hanley, my daughter was Sgt. Saunders, and my wife was Kirby.
2nd Lt. Hanley- Star
Rifle, Pistol, Knife, Grenades
Sgt. Saunders- Star
Tommy Gun, Knife
Pvt. Kirby- Cast
Browning Automatic Rifle, Knife
1 Army Air Corp Observer- Co-star
Randomized German Stooges!
-Based on the Ratings of the Combat! Cast members we choose, we would face off against about 7 Combat Markers of unknown enemies.
For this game, we used some of my (in)famous green army men to take the game for a spin.
The mission was randomly generated, and it was to escort the Army Air Corp Observer across the board. He had to leave the opposite table edge. Lt. Hanley decided to escort the Observer himself.
The board will be a 4 by 4 board for today's battle. There was a road across the board, a hill, and several fields. A stream cut across the corner of the far side. The Combat! Markers were scattered in cover all over the board. Kirby was on the right flank, Sgt. Saunders in the center, and Lt. Hanley and the Observer on the left.
Normally, I have pretty detailed batreps for the games I play, but this one did not work that way. I was busy trying to help my family through the game. Therefore, I only have the general idea of what happened.
Kirby cut across the field in front of him and found a German soldier with a rifle on the other side. He took a shot at Lt. Hanley and forced him to take cover. However, Saunders moved up and Tommy Gunned him down.
As Hanley and the Observer went up over the hill, they revealed a German with a sub-machine gun. He opened fire on Saunders, but missed. Lt. Hanley tried to get the drop on him, but missed. The German was pinned from the shooting. Eventually, Saunders scuttled over and traded shots with the German while Hanley and the Observer hurried past. Eventually, Saunders managed to gun the plucky German down.
As Kirby approached the road, he was jumped by three German soldiers. They fired wildly and missed him, and Kirby kept his cool and fired back. 1 went down. Things looked bad for Kirby until Lt. Hanley tossed a grenade into the German position and took them all out.
The group scurried across the road, but a group of German soldiers appeared from a nearby field. Saunders drew his knife and charge into their ranks to keep them from attacking Lt. Hanley and the Observer. This kept them distracted as the wildly defended themselves against the Sergeant.
Lt. Hanley and the Observer rushed ahead to bypass the German's in the field but turned the corner and came face-to-face with a German NCO. He fired a quick burst from his sub-machine gun and rushed Lt. Hanley. The Lt. Dropped his rifle and tried to pull his pistol but was too slow. The German NCO bowled him over with his momentum and proceeded to stomp Lt. Hanley into unconsciousness.
Lt. Hanley was lucky that Kirby was covering the flank because he turned and fired, taking the German NCO out. Kirby rushed forward and took control of the Observer who had hunkered down into cover.
Saunders was battered but he eventually took out the three Germans he was tussling with. That's why he was the star of the show! He moved up to support Kirby and the Observer. Kirby grabbed Lt. Hanley and slung up over his shoulder. The small group then managed to bypass the last German patrols and make it into German held territory.
Mission a success.
Eventually, the small group made it to the target area. 2nd Lt. Hanley had recovered enough to take care of himself, but he was nursing a swell goose egg on his forehead. After getting past the frontlines, German activity thinned out and they had made good time.
The four of them huddled in the bushes, as the Observer pulled out his camera and started snapping pictures. Then, he eagerly jotted notes with a grease pencil into a small pad. After about 60 minutes of traversing around the demolished rail yard, the team took cover in a small french bard for the night.
“We'll wait here until dawn, and then head back to our own lines.” 2nd Lt. Hanley ordered, “Did you get what you needed?”
The observer tapped his notepad, “All right here. Are you feeling okay Lt.?”
“He's had worse,” Kirby chirped in.
“Nothing a relaxing walk in the French coutnryside tomorrow won't cure,” grinned Sgt. Saunders.
Music swells and roll credits.
The mission was successful, but not without some tight spots and daring do! My wife immediately noticed that the “Stars” of the show had more opportunity to act and complete objectives than the Extras and Cast Members. Through the adventure we used all the little things that make this ruleset somewhat unique such as extending Screentime for more actions, suppression fire, aimed fire, pinning, Star Power to re-roll a dice, and Plot armor to take more than one hit. I wish we would have thought of using the First Aid action on Lt. Hanley.... Oh well!
Overall, the AI decision tree worked even if it did feel a bit roll heavy on occasion. Also, the activation process using multiple, collaborating players as opposed to Axis vs. Allies was a little bit more challenging. It required us to decide as a group who was going to use Screentime next. Finally, I may have deployed the Combat! Markers incorrectly as I placed them in cover randomly around the board instead of by the letter of the rules. This allowed us to bypass a couple. Despite these minor quibbles, the game worked just fine as a cooperative battle.
My family said they would play again as they prefer co-op games instead of versus games all the time. That means, some of my future design work may try to cater to this preference. Can anyone point out other fun co-operative miniature rules?