The sounds of thundering hooves echoed throughout the gameroom on tuesday as we played Jonathan Miller’s latest Philippines ’41 scenario titled, ‘Horseman’s Heart.’ It models the final cavalry charge made by the United States Army’s 26th Cavalry. Recent scholarship and Eureka’s new 15mm figures has brought this event to the attention of gamers. So, in an effort to give gamers a reason to use those new figs Jonathan brings us this and all of his other Philippines scenarios. As for Fireball Forward it is the first time we used the cavalry rules. We were eager to see how they felt and how much drama they created.
The scenario depicts a Japanese infantry company trying to cross a river and take a small town centered around a stone church. The Americans had originally held the town but due to a mix up had abandoned the position. A small advance force of Japanese had moved into the town when the 26th Cavalry was ordered to restore the situation. That is were the action begins.
The Japanese were played by Curt Daniels, Sean Barnett, Tom Bierschenk and myself (Mark Fastoso.) The Japanese victory condition was to get six squads across the river. If the US occupied the stone church then seven squads were needed for victory. Our advance force of four rifle teams was spread out along the streets of the town while the rifle company was approaching the river.
The US players (Bruce Weigel, Bill Kreig and Mike DeCarlo) started the game with the cavalry charging onto the board and bypassing the village to take up positions at the river bank. Feeling that the Japanese infantry company moving towards the river was the bigger threat they left the Japanese advance force in the village free to occupy the church. The cavalry charged through with one squad’s horses becoming blown but the other making it into position.
As the troopers took up positions along one end of the riverbank Japanese infantry began to appear on the other side. A brisk firefight broke out as the Japanese company headquarters tired to make its way across a very rickety bridge…with many planks missing it was slow going and they took alot of fire.
It looked like the US might get the upper hand in the firefight as the Japanese were getting pinned down and finding it hard to cross in the face of the cavalry’s firepower. Then…more thundering hooves were heard as a second cavalry platoon and the company headquarters roared onto the battlefield. Deciding that the riverbank was secure they took up positions on the edge of town facing the church. But the Japanese teams ensconced in the town were able to put down fire on the troopers manning the riverbank defense and pretty soon 10 men were either dead or wounded. Then word went up and down the firing line…does anyone have ammo? The trooper’s fire slackened as runners headed back to the horses for more .03 rounds. (Mike DeCarlo who was playing 1st platoon went on a sting of rolling 1’s…six in all…and caused no damage to the Japanese on the riverbank allowing them to recover.) Getting the upper hand in the firefight the Japanese surged across the river and managed to gain a foothold on the American side.
The tide seemed to be turning. The cavalry position on the riverbank was growing desperate as more and more Japanese pressed to cross the river. Down stream two more platoons appeared and there was little the Americans could do to stop them from crossing. Realizing that they needed a strong fall back position and wanting to free up troops who were tied down in a firefight with the Japanese in the church the US Company Commander ordered an immediate assault to retake the church. The remnants of 1st platoon fixed bayonets and charged. In a confused melee they broke into the church but could not drive out the Japanese. They held one part of the church and the Japanese the other. The Company Commander realized the fight hung in the balance and lead his headquarters group into the fight. That did the trick and the Japanese were forced out.
But would that be enough or was it too little too late? 1st platoon could now try to help stabalize the fighting on the riverbank…but the Japanese were pouring over the river. In the end it would prove to be too late. The Japanese had created a sufficient bridgehead in strength to guarantee the rest of their battalion could cross the river and mover through the town. The cavalry’s last hurrah was for naught.
In game terms the Japanese needed 6 squads across the river or 7 if the US held the church. The Japanese got 10 across. Everyone agreed that the US could have won and the game was fun, fast paced, full of tactical choices and exciting. The cavalry rules worked out very well … we can’t wait to try it again!