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Subject: Patrol! A Supplemental Review rss

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Doug Mann
United States
Corpus Christi
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First I must preface this review by saying that I love this game and will not pretend that I am objective about its faults. Second, it is meant to supplement the prior review of Dan Edward, "Going on the Old Patrol," which can be found at and which more objectively rates the game. With so many copies available on EBay and and BGG, some prospective purchasers might want more details about how it plays. Here is an overview.

Patrol uses a sequence of play which I have set forth, per Rule 4.1, below:
A. Plotting Phase
B. Panic Determination Phase
C. Initial Combat Resolution Phase (Infantry Fire)
D. Movement Execution Phase
E. Stun Recuperation Phase
F. Explosive Weapons Combat Phase
G. Maintenance Phase
H. Game Turn Record Phase

Yes, movement is plotted. Some people hate that. Once you are accustomed to the orders list, it is not so bad. To avoid peering at the map grid and telegraphing your move, I suggest the movement notation that uses the compass rose code letters. As for targeting fire and grenades, you may just have to ask your opponent to step away from the board briefly, then do the same for him.

The panic system is also decried by some. Most veterans discard the six-sider table for hexes that panic in favor of rolling a 10-sider for each soldier.

Combat preceeds movement and is considered simultaneous. If your point man is incapacitated by your enemy, he will still get to execute his direct fire in return.

Note the position of stun recuperation. Since being stunned is a result of explosive weapons combat, a stunned soldier will spend an entire move in that condition. While a stunned soldier can plot and perform direct fire, opportunity fire, movement, or throwing a grenade, he cannot reload, rearm, prepare a grenade or stand (if prone). Even SPI admitted in "Moves" that grenade combat in Sniper/Patrol is overly effective and that the side that "grenades" first will usually win.

The Maintenance Phase includes smoke drift & dissipation, preparing grenades, rearming, reloading or exchanging weapons and final posture segment, where any standing soldiers have one last opportunity to hit the dirt.

Soldiers' postures are erect or prone, and they may be stunned, wounded, incapacitated or killed in action.

Combat is resolved through comparing a weapon's attack strength at a given range with the target's defense strength, based upon movement, posture and terrain. However, any soldier within the blast radius of an explosive weapon will be stunned. Rarely, hand-to-hand combat will occur, keyed to the attacker's posture, wound status and weapon. Both men (or all) in a hex get their attack, with results applied simultaneously.

In addition to the Panic Rule, control of your squad is limited by the Preservation Rule. Each side has a preservation level noted in the setup, and each wound (not stun) results in a chit draw, in secret, with the number drawn applied towards your total. When preservation level is reached, that side's panic level increases by 40% (if you started at 20%,it's now 60%) for combat tasks. Panic decreases for units attempting to exit from their predesignated exit edge to a flat 10%.

The patrol scenarios are a good place to start, since they are generally pretty even (keeping in mind that Panic and Preservation Levels can be as important as numbers of men). One key to keeping set-up time down is to have certain preplanned routes for each side and agreeing that both players will take the luck of the draw. If skill levels are not even, consider playing an ambush scenario, with the the newer player taking the ambusher.

There is a pure solitaire scenario for World War I, but it is your squad against the games system -- you do not fire or throw grenades, just dodge the shells and machine guns to get as many men as possible off the exit edge (it won't be many, sometimes none). Fear not, solo gamers. One of the Mt. Austen (Guadalcanal) scenarios is a Japanese banzai charge against the American defenders that works well solitaire while allowing both sides to fire.

This game demonstrates that it is a rare plan that survives contact with the enemy. Be flexible. As soon as contact occurs, start mentally dividing your squad into fire and maneuver elements. Have at least one man in each element ready a grenade. Try not to be too predictable, but utilize cover as far as possible (if cover is scarce,be prepared to go prone).

Patrol won't be everyone's cup of tea. Keep in mind, this was state of the art in 1974 - it's somewhat drab by today's standards. Still, the game teaches valid lessons about squad level combat, about utilizing fire and movement and using your squad's assets to the fullest.

Circumstances permitting, a session report will follow within the next couple of weeks.

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Charles Heckman
United States
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Mr. Yuk sez, "Play more games!"
Doug1020 wrote:

The panic system is also decried by some. Most veterans discard the six-sider table for hexes that panic in favor of rolling a 10-sider for each soldier.

It's such a common complaint and such an easy fix!

As you said, old school. I believe some better maps would do wonders for Patrol! 's ratings.

Are there some good 5m hex geomorphic map sets out there?!

Good to see another fan of Patrol! out there!

- C
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