I’ve been doing research for an upcoming 5150:New Beginnings scenario where my detective sergeant, Sally Blue, & her partner accompanies a SWAT team to assault a condo on the 12th floor of a high rise to free hostages held by a vicious gang. The material I’ve been reading refers to entering through a doorway into a building held by hostile forces as stepping into “the fatal funnel.” It is the place where an officer is most vulnerable to fire from the enemy.
This month’s colonials game also had its own “fatal funnel”. A portion of Pancho Villa’s force had retreated to a mountain village that had only a single entry point. There were 2 mountain paths, but they merged into a single opening at the top of the mesa. The scenario designer had meant for the Mexican forces to be in the village & to march out to engage the Americans as they formed up after completing the climb. But the deployment rules allowed me to set up much closer to the opening. In fact, I was able to place an entire platoon within rifle range of the opening. The other player playing the other half of the Mexican force also placed a platoon & a Maxim machine gun within range of the opening creating a deadly crossfire for anything coming up the mountain paths.
The trap is set
It did not take long for all of us to discover any & every American that made it to the opening was almost instantly killed. As one player commented “The American commander must have failed tactics at West Point.” The American army didn’t have any cavalry, so they had no way to quickly emerge from the path & speed through the crossfire. They also had no artillery to suppress the Mexicans so assault forces could gather enough strength to break through the crossfire. It was a totally frustrating situation for the players. I couldn’t help but think of how many times through history where generals threw away lives on an ill-planned unsupported assault.The mouth of the pass fills with dead & wounded Americans
So we halted the game & tweaked the scenario into something a little more game-able. This time the Americans would make their ascent in the dark. The Mexicans would be in the village and there would be lookouts posted near the paths. The rules allowed us to detach a pair of “scouts” from each platoon to serve as lookouts. Once the lookouts spotted an enemy force, one of the lookouts would be sent back to the village to sound the alert. The rules we were using wasn’t Colonial Adventures, but that other set, The Sword and the Flame. The 2 games have similarities, but they also have some major differences.Chillin’ in the village
Unfortunately for the Americans, it didn’t take long for my scouts to spot them. They were lucky in that the scouts of the other Mexican platoons did not spot them right away. By the time my 2 platoons were alerted & moved up, the Americans had moved 2 and a half platoons & 1 machine gun onto the mesa.A lookout rushing to alert his platoonThe Americans try to quickly deploy on the mesaThe American right flank is ready as a Mexican platoon approachesThe American center is set as troops continue to emerge from the passThe first firefight finds the Mexicans decimating an American platoonThe rightmost American platoon charged into melee with the Mexicans & was broken. The Mexican platoon then neutralized the American machine gun.
I didn’t get good pictures of what was happening to the American left as it engaged Mexican right. I keep wanting to call the two Mexican force brigades, but do 2 platoons actually constitute a brigade? Anyway, the Americans broke the platoon supporting the Mexican machine gun. Then they charged the gun. The 2nd Mexican platoon charged into the melee in hopes of saving the gun.
Meanwhile the remaining American platoon in the center broke my lead platoon with rifle fire. I brought up my second platoon, the one commanded by the brilliant soldadera, Consuela Elaina Vasquez. 🙂The Americans charge Consuela’s platoon, while a huge melee takes place on the Mexican rightThe American charge is repelled! The battlefield is a swirling mass of chaos as the Americans have had enough.A picture of the carnage on the table. The Americans have retreated & half of the Mexicans have fled as well.
This was my first game of The Sword and the Flame or TSATF as the old timers call it. It’s ok, but I like the mechanics of the reaction system in Two Hour Wargames’ Colonial Adventures better. That is probably a matter of preference. Both rulesets give a good skirmish game.
One thing is for sure, however, you will probably never see a “fatal funnel” game played using one of the “tournament” style rules. The fatal funnel is just not a fun experience for the tournament mentality. Even for those who like the challenge of scenario games, the fatal funnel is a tough nut to crack.