Background: US Mechanized Cavalry Squadron
Unlike Armored Divisions and Armored Infantry, Mechanized Cavalry Squadrons focused on mobility and light-armor while remaining relatively self-sufficient. Armored platoons preferred larger, heavier tanks especially as the war progressed. Cavalry squadrons did not function the same way and they had a different doctrine.
Cavalry Squadrons were typically made up of troopers “mounted” in AFV’s. From jeeps bristling with machine guns to armored cars (M8 Greyhound), light and medium tanks (Stuarts and Chaffees), and mechanized artillery platforms (like the M8 Scott HMC), mechanized squadrons were versatile and mobile. Despite their role as a reconnaissance force for mainstay army units, mechanized cavalry squadrons were often utilized as an advance assault force and in some instances (like during the battle of the Bulge) were left defending positions as if they were standard infantry.
But they were far from typical grunts. For one thing, they were armed differently than infantrymen. Rather than an allotment of rifles and LMG’s, which were too cumbersome for the small turrets and crew compartments in AFV’s, cavalrymen were often armed primarily with SMG’s and carbines. Cavalry Squadrons were made up of fewer men; a basic platoon consisted of about 30 troopers. They could be ‘mounted’ in their vehicles or act as ‘dismounted’ infantry. To make-up for their lack of personnel, cavalry troopers relied upon superior firepower.
During assaults or when they had to defend a position; the troopers often fought dismounted but with close support from self-propelled artillery or light tanks. Without the asset of rifles or LMG’s, however, AFV crews would remove the machine guns from their vehicle mounts and use tripods that came with each machine gun in their AFV’s. A typical squadron would have 25 heavy machines to a standard infantry battalions’ mere six; they would have 122 medium machine guns at their disposal where a standard infantry battalion would only have 22. They also had a larger armament of anti-tank weaponry when compared to basic infantry. Greyhounds sported a bazooka and AT mines, for example, and when ahead of a main force armed with only light 37mm guns, the extra AT came in handy.
There were also different types of Cavalry groups; there were tank destroyer groups, self-propelled artillery groups, reconnaissance groups, and light tank groups. Of course if you just want to field a platoon of walkers or Shermans, Tank War is the game you want to play. For the trooper in us all, though, we need something a little different.
For the sake of gameplay, balance, and fun, I have developed the following rule-set, selectors, and new units for those looking to try a game using a US Mechanized Cavalry list. Obviously this is a narrative list and experimental at the moment. Feel free to offer any suggestions or thoughts in the comments below!
1. US Reinforced Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron
The first thing you will notice is that this is not your typical reinforced platoon list! For one thing, there are no weapons teams! Where are the flamethrowers? The AT rifles? The MMGs? For god’s sake man, where are the flipping MMGs?! (look for the special rule ‘Set Up the Guns!’ below). Also, that is a lot of armored vehicles….
Well, rest assured, I have put my relatively under-worked and over-hyped brain to the task of developing some rules which should play well (re: balanced) against any standard Bolt Action or Konflikt ’47 reinforced platoon. Probably. I hope.
Now the amount of vehicles you take is dependent upon the amount of squads you take (because of the ‘Mechanized’ special rule). So if you take only the bare minimum of 1 CO and 3 squads, you can only take four vehicles. So choose wisely!
In addition, even though you are purchasing the crew and the vehicle, you only get one order dice per pair. Don’t panic! You can bring multiple platoons (as points for units are relatively cheap compared to most lists), you will be able to make up the dice gap quickly!
Let’s just move on to the units and additional rules.
Adjusted Weapons Stats
The M1 Carbine was the backbone of the Mechanized Cavalry force. They could be fired quickly and were lighter than a Garand. Unfortunately they had some drawbacks. Their range was not nearly as good as a Garand and the round fired from it was also weaker than the Garand round. Nevertheless, it was a trusty weapon.
For the purpose of the game, the M1 Carbine gets the ‘Assault’ special rule but at a cost of reduced range. It fills a role in between a standard rifle and an SMG.
Cavalry officers are the pinnacle of their profession, often having the most experience in their squadron. With the American armored units usually out-matched and out-gunned, only the best and most experienced become officers. They also never ride alone; cavalry officers accompany a full squad, though at times they are better-equipped than the rest of their squadron. When mounted on their paired vehicle or walker, they gain the ‘Command Vehicle/Walker’ special rule.
Mechanized Cavalry Squadrons did not organize the same way as a standard infantry battalion either. As they were a 100% mobile fighting force, they had to operate in a unique way. Each Squadron broke up into smaller platoons, consisting of individual teams; each team consisted of squads manning different types of vehicles in order to handle a certain part of the job.
In order to represent this in game, each Squad is paired with a vehicle, tank, or walker and special rules will dictate the interaction between them. For example, if the jeep gets destroyed while the squad is dismounted, what happens to that squad? There will be negative impacts on that squad, so it is up to the player to make the best use of his mobile force without damaging morale or being overrun by a larger enemy force.
The Mechanized Cavalry have also been issued Walkers as support, though few in number as most units have gone to front-line Armored divisions. In order to bring the walkers into line with the typical tactics of the Mechanized Cavalry, the Grizzly and Bruin have undergone some modifications and placed in specific roles as support units. This not only keeps them relatively safe from front-line action but preserves the limited number of walkers that the Mechanized Cavalry has received.
M8B1 Medium Tank Destroyer Walker
The Grizzly walker is an excellent addition to the Cavalry’s medium armor types and found a home in both the Light Tank Platoons and Tank Destroyer Platoons, however for the latter, the 75mm medium anti-tank gun was found to lack the punch needed to fit the role. It was up-gunned to a 76mm heavy anti-tank gun. However, due to the lengthy gun, the fists have been rendered relatively useless as close-quarter weapons. As a support unit it would likely be kept in the rear or in cover providing fire support for jeep squads or infantry.
M8A5 Bruin Support Walker
A small number of Bruins have also been integrated into Mechanized Cavalry platoons, replacing a few of the aging M8 Scott HMC’s in service. Finding the anti-tank gun useless, especially for a support vehicle, the gun was removed on a few of them and replaced with a modified M8 Scott light howitzer gun. This proved to be extremely useful, given the large quantity of ammunition stockpiled for the M8 Scott. The additional support gun added to the bruin’s already formidable loadout.
Mechanized Cavalry 60mm Mortar Jeep
In every reconnaissance platoon there were three designated jeeps that carried 60mm light mortars for quick support. These came in handy in terrain where an M8 Scott wouldn’t quite fit. Besides the mortar, the jeep carries no weapons. The mortars were secured in the jeep with the crew and then set up adjacent the jeep when fired.
To represent this in the game, this vehicle will have a fixed four-man crew that is included in the cost of the jeep (no need to buy a crew for this vehicle). When the crew and the mortar are ‘mounted’, place a token in the jeep. Because of the weight of the mortar and the shells carried, jeep only moves at half of its normal distance (on an ‘Advance’ or ‘Run’ order). Once the mortar is placed, it cannot be moved for the duration of the game.
A NEW VEHICLE CATEGORY: RECONNAISSANCE
Mechanized Cavalry Machine-Gun Jeep
Being self-reliant and highly mobile, Cavalry squads need a way to get around and still fight. Jeeps or ‘peeps’ provided the key. Cavalry jeeps allowed for small squads of up to four or five men to move around relatively easily over rough terrain. They were fast, agile, and light compared to their armored car counterparts. To make them combat capable, troopers would often add a pintle-mounted MMG or HMG to the rear and/or a dash-mounted MMG to the front on the passenger side.
The need to create a new category for the jeep is twofold. First, in the standard game, a jeep is a transport. But for the Mechanized Cavalry unit, it functions much in the same way as their armored cars, and for the cavalry trooper it is basically their ‘steed’ (you may name your favorite jeep ‘Dullahan’, if you so wish). This is not so much a transport but a part of their equipment–as necessary as an ammo pouch or their carbine. So the jeep–while, yes, it still is technically a transport–is more of a tool that cavalry troopers used every minute of every day they were on duty.
The second reason is that there are new special rules for the jeep to accommodate the tactics and fighting style of the mechanized cavalry. These rules don’t work for a transport, but for a fighting vehicle they do. To facilitate this for the purpose of the game, Jeeps can only take four-man squads–and these men are paired with the jeep like they are with any other vehicle; if they lose the their paired jeep, they suffer penalties. So plan accordingly if you intend to take a lot of jeeps!
New Unit Special Rules
– Mechanized: This squad must be paired with an armored vehicle or walker. When dismounted, that walker or vehicle becomes ‘Uncrewed’. See special rules for uncrewed vehicles.
NOTE: The vehicle or walker experience level must match the squad experience level for which it is paired. You cannot pair a Regular Squad with an ‘inexperienced’ Jeep.
– Dismount!: At any point during the game, squad may ‘dismount’ their vehicle or walker, where the squad is placed adjacent, unobstructed from, and within 1″ of the paired vehicle in which they are dismounting, and act as normal infantry. They do not suffer any penalties for dismounting a vehicle, nor does this count as an action.
– Mount up!: At any point during the game, squad may ‘mount’ their vehicle or walker when the paired squad is adjacent to, unobstructed from, and within 1″ of their paired vehicle. They do not suffer any penalties nor does this count as an action. When crewing a vehicle, they may fire any vehicle-mounted weapons–including machine guns, casement weapons, or turret-mounted weapons (so long as they have enough squad members to fire them). However they will not be able to fire with small arms from their vehicles (unless they are paired with a jeep and utilize the ‘Jeep as Cover’ reaction).
– Cavalry Scout: For Reconnaissance Platoons only. The squad may start the game dismounted. If special rule is taken, squad may be placed in the same way as snipers, spotters, and observers. However squad counts as ‘dismounted’ and vehicle counts as ‘uncrewed’.
– Large Crew: Walkers with the ‘large crew’ special rule require a full five-man squad to operate. This also means that every weapon on the walker can be fired as there are enough crew members to operate it. However, if the squad paired with this walker takes two or more casualties, then the vehicle cannot move and shoot in the same turn, but rather must indicate one.
Paired Vehicle Special Rules:
These rules apply to all paired vehicles taken in a Squadron list.
– Uncrewed: When a vehicle or walker is uncrewed, it cannot move and no weapon can be fired. Vehicle can still be targeted by weapons as if crewed. If an enemy infantry unit assaults an uncrewed vehicle, they have the option to capture it rather than destroy it. Enemy player roles a D6. On a result of 1-5, vehicle is destroyed. On a 6, vehicle is captured and normal rules for captured vehicles apply. Note that the enemy unit is then paired with that vehicle for the remainder of the game. Note that the dismounted squad that is paired with a vehicle that has been destroyed or captured that squad is considered ‘permanently dismounted’. See special rule below.
– Permanently Dismounted: Any squad that loses their paired vehicle (whether it is destroyed or captured) will suffer a -1 to morale for the rest of the game, but otherwise act as normally.
– Set up the Guns!: Rather than having dedicated machine gun teams, Mechanized Cavalry just detach the machine guns from their mounts on the vehicle. Tripods were always included for every machine gun. To represent this in the game, when a squad dismounts their paired vehicle, they may choose to remove the machine gun(s) from the vehicle or walker and use them as infantry team weapons.
A full complement of HMG’s and MMG’s can be devastating to an enemy advance and can provide covering fire to an allied assault. If this option is taken, the Cavalry player must note the following:
- The Dismounted squad forms around the machine guns and acts as a cohesive unit. Unit cannot be separated even if the squad is larger than the allocated machine gun crew. The whole squad gains the ‘team weapon’ special rule. Note the following:
- MMG: Two-man squad. One man fires the weapon, one man becomes the loader.
- HMG: Three-man squad. One man fires the weapon, two men become the loaders.
- As an extra option, a single squad can handle more than one machine gun as long as there are enough men and machine guns. For example, a squad of four paired with a jeep that has two MMG’s can choose to allocate all four men to crew the two MMGs. Similarly, five-man squads can successfully fire one MMG and one HMG (if available on the paired vehicle).
- No squad can use the weapons from a vehicle in which it is not paired. A squad that has paired with an M8 Greyhound cannot use an MMG from a jeep paired with another squad.
- If casualties are taken when manning a machine gun, as long as there are enough men “alive” to crew the machine gun as noted above, they will maintain their ‘team weapon’ special rule. If the squad falls below the required minimum to fire the weapon, then they lose the ‘team weapon’ special rule, but can still fire the weapon s long as there is one man crewing the gun.
- If the squad has opted to take a bazooka, then the trooper with the bazooka and the loader cannot crew an MMG or HMG.
- Any enemy unit that has captured a vehicle where the paired crew has removed the guns will obviously not be able to use those machine guns (as they aren’t there). Note that the paired squad will still gain their -1 to morale if their vehicle is captured.
- When the squad mounts up again, it is assumed that all the machine guns are placed back in their original vehicle mounts. The squad can fire them while mounted as normal.
– Vehicles and Objectives: Vehicles and walkers cannot hold or take objectives, even when crewed. A squad must dismount in order to take and hold objectives.
– Assaulting from Vehicles: Because of a Mechanized Cavalryman’s training, they excel as getting into and out of their vehicles quickly with their small arms. To represent this, any cavalry squad that is dismounting an open-topped vehicle or walker can make an assault as long as the enemy unit is within half the standard run distance of the vehicle or walker; that vehicle or walker is then considered uncrewed. Note that they can only assault with small arms and not with machine guns.
If the cavalry squad loses the assault, and the enemy unit consolidates within 1″ of the uncrewed vehicle, they can choose to capture it by rolling a D6. If the result is a 6, vehicle is captured. Any other result will destroy the vehicle or walker.
– Command Vehicle/Walker: When mounted, the vehicle or walker with the Squadron CO is considered the Command Vehicle or Command Walker. The CO can issue ‘Snap To’ commands to both mounted and dismounted squads within 12″ and offers a +1 to morale of all units (mounted or dismounted) within 12″. Once the CO is dismounted, however, he can only issue ‘Snap To’ commands to dismounted squads within 6″ but he still grants +1 to morale to all squads (mounted or dismounted) within 6″.
New Reaction for Mechanized Cavalry
– Jeeps as Cover: Jeep squads are trained to use their jeeps as cover. When a jeep that is still crewed and the opponent announces that they will shoot at or assault the jeep, and if that jeep has not taken any actions this turn, the Cavalry player may take a reaction test. If it passes, the Cavalry player may use the Jeep as cover.
The jeep may pivot so that its side (right or left) is facing the enemy. The paired squad disembarks (though the jeep still counts as ‘crewed’), and is placed behind the jeep. The jeep is considered hard cover. One squad member may be designated to fire the jeeps machine gun (or if two machine guns on the jeep, two squad members–one for each gun), and the rest use their small arms.
- If being assaulted: The squad can acts as if a ‘Stand and Shoot‘ order were given. If the paired squad wins the fight, rather than consolidating, they instead roll a D6. On a result of 1-3, the crew mounts the jeep again. On a result of a 4-6, the crew remains behind the jeep. In either case, they cannot take any other action for the remainder of the turn.
- If being fired at: The squad acts as if a ‘Firefight’ reaction were taken. After the firefight has ended, squad may remain in place or mount the jeep again.
Jeeps are not bullet proof, however. Jeeps used as cover take damage when being fired at and can even be destroyed depending upon the situation. Cavalry troopers knew the risks involved but cover is better than no cover at all! Please note the following if you choose to use ‘Jeeps as Cover’.
- Without PEN Value: If this is the first time that the specific unit being targeted by a ‘Fire’ order (by a unit with small-arms with not PEN value) has used ‘Jeeps as Cover’, after the fighting has ended, and if you intend for that squad to mount the jeep, roll a D6:
- On a 1: Critical Hit! A bullet (or bullets) have damaged the engine. Jeep is immobilized and leaking fuel. For remainder of the game, crew is considered ‘permanently dismounted’.
- On a 2-4: Significant Damage. Bullets peppered the jeep, but somehow it still starts! Hopefully it does not take additional damage! For remainder of game, if your jeep unit is fired upon a second time, regardless of whether your squad takes any damage, after the round of firing has concluded it will become immobilized.
- On a 5: Minor Damage: The shots dinged and dented the soft-skin and left some holes in plating but it did nothing more than cosmetic damage. But it does weaken the structure of the vehicle regardless. For remainder of game, jeep suffers a -1 modifier to Damage (instead of a 6+, it is now at 5+). If you use ‘Jeep as Cover’ again, roll a D6 again for damage, but consult the the chart labeled ‘With PEN Value’ below for results.
- On a 6: No Damage! The enemy unit facing your squad had either the best shots in the world or the worst shots in the world, because they completely missed the jeep. If there are any new scratches on the vehicle, they were put there by your squad when they escalated over and out of it to avoid incoming fire. It’s a good thing your squad was wearing their lucky socks. If your squad again uses the ‘Jeep as Cover’ reaction, you may roll again as if it were your first time. As long as this result is rolled, you may continue use ‘Jeep as Cover’ and roll in this same manner until another result is reached.
- With PEN Value: If your squad is being fired upon by a unit with guns that have a PEN value, after the fighting has ended, and regardless of whether you intend for that squad to mount their jeep, roll a D6:
- On a 1: BOOM! That shot was powerful enough to blow up that jeep and unfortunately your squad was caught up in the explosion and resulting fire. Your squad takes D3 casaulties and D3 pins. If the squad falls below half-strength or they have more pins than men left, they are assumed to have been killed, captured, or fled to the rear. Remove them from the table. If the squad remains on the table, for the remainder of the game they are considered ‘permanently dismounted’.
- On a 2-5: Jeep Disabled! The damage this jeep has sustained has turned it into a smoking husk. Crew is considered ‘permanently dismounted’.
- On a 6: Significant Damage. Bullets peppered the jeep, but somehow it still starts! Hopefully it does not take additional damage! For remainder of game, if your jeep unit is fired upon a second time, regardless of whether your squad takes any damage, after the round of firing has concluded it will become immobilized.
2. US Reinforced Mechanized Cavalry Vehicle Squadrons
There were other types of Mechanized Cavalry Groups besides ‘infantry’-style groups. For games like Tank War, rather than using the standard reinforced platoons available in Konflikt ’47: Resurgence, you can use the following selectors instead. Note that you will still have to follow the rule-sets for these platoons as you would if you were using the Mechanized Cavalry Reconnaissance-based platoon. This means that your vehicles will still need to be paired with squads, for example.
Some Final Thoughts on Taking a Mechanized Cavalry Platoon
I really had a blast putting this together. I think the selectors and rules are going to be enjoyable to play and bring with them a challenging tactical element that I feel is sometimes lacking in some of the hum-drum shoot-em-up scenarios.
Incidentally, the ruleset is designed to be played within a narrative-driven campaign (which it just so happens I am also writing). So expect more gobbledy-goop from me in the near future.
Before this blog post concludes, I need to really thank Chris Hale for his very useful suggestions after I basically dropped this on him one late afternoon. He was gracious enough to find ways to re-balance the list in a manner that really made it more playable. (Gone are the days of worrying about bringing along a bunch of Jumbo Sherman’s with 105mm guns as self-propelled artillery!)
As such, I need to say that if you find anything particularly brilliant about the rules, they are likely the results of his advice. And in the event you think something is stupid, it is probably because I refused to take his advice and didn’t change it (stupid stuff is therefore my fault).