Hi everyone, Jersey James here today will a look at a book that got me interested in a new theatre!
Gung-Ho: US Marine Forces in the Pacific, is Battlefront’s first Allied briefing for the theatre! It focusses on the US and their island battles with Imperial Japan from 1942 to the end of the war. It also gives points for Pacific battles and Late War battles meaning you can field a company from this book against forces from the European Theatres.
Let’s talk about the content in the book first though then I’ll look at the rules and units you will be seeing: Gung-Ho follows the format Battlefront have laid down recently for their softcover briefing books like Fate of a Nation or Nachtjager. The book contains lots of reference material for the United States Marine Corp (USMC) and their campaign which helps set the scene and puts the scope for the company briefings into context.
As well as good, inspiring cover art and informative blurb on the back you’ll find Pacific maps, an historic summary of the USMC in World War Two from 1942 and more detailed examinations of the Battles of Saipan and Operation Iceberg with mini-campaign ideas. An explanation of what the USMC was and a descriptions of their equipment is also included. A Pacific terrain guide including rules of table top features and missions for beach landings on islands and atolls along with a painting guide and a correctly referenced index wrap up the sections intended to support the rules in the book.
The rules section of the book include all the USMC special rules unique to the Pacific, the usual arsenal after the company briefings allowing players to reference stats quickly and perhaps most importantly of all, the company diagrams and platoon organisation charts for A Marine Rifle Company, two variants of Marine Tank Companies and all the support platoons the USMC can take including a couple of US Army platoons.
As I mentioned before, this briefing follows the trends of other recent releases and only really contains two and a half companies for the budding USMC player to pull together out of the book. Given the Flames of War communities interest in this period and the overall scope of the Pacific Theatre I would expect there to be many more digital briefings given time which may eventually be reviewed and included in hardback books just like the Bulge compilations due next. However, this briefing is very focused which is not a bad attribute unless you don’t want to game in this area of the theatre.
Why wouldn’t you though? The USMC are Fearless Veteran with a wide array of interesting and new support alongside old favourites; however, old favourites are likely to be far rarer as the humble M3 and M4 tanks are extremely expensive and rare in the Pacific, as are bazookas that US players are used to using to defend against tank assaults. Instead the USMC have war dog teams to sniff out the enemy, a lot of combat attachable support weapons including .50 Cal HMGs with their usual firepower of 5+ and LVTs, DUKWs and landing craft all round. Amphibian Tanks, Flame Tanks, Rocket Launchers, Corsairs, revised Naval Gunfire rules and all new Naval Air and Sea Support rules are some of the highlights of the lists meaning the USMC are unique when compared to companies from the European Theatres. You have the option for a Marine Infantry Company, A Marine Sherman Tank Company (not sure this will see much action in Pacific Era points as 2 Shermans is just north of 1000pts!) and an Amphibious Tank company.
The USMC Rules
What sets the USMC stand of infantry apart from their European Theatre counterparts though (USMC get the US National Rules too):
Gung-Ho: Is the Chinese term for “working together” and that is now the Chinese in 1900 described the USMC. Gung-Ho means you’re USMC platoons have the Mission Tactics special rule. Always useful when you have to run up the beach under fire!
Semper Fi: is the shortened Latin phrase Semper Fidelis which is the USMC motto. This rule means you can re-roll motivation tests to counterattack in assaults. Combined with a fearless rating your USMC platoons are going to be hard to shift.
War Dogs: Are teams that can be combat attached out to specific USMC platoons or upgraded in other recce platoons prevent ambushes being placed within ten inches of the War Dog. This doesn’t need line of sight. You can use these teams to stop pesky Japanese ambushes however, neither of the island missions allow ambushes so the main benefit is to have a recce team with your troops to lift Gone to Ground rather than having a whole platoon to try.
BAR Automatic Rifles: This upgrade brings your ROF on infantry teams to 2. However, it also works like the stabiliser rules for US tanks meaning you can chose to keep that ROF 2 when moving in exchange for a -1 to hit. Also BAR teams re-roll defences fire when they are pinned down. It’s not cheap on your already fearless veteran platoons and light machine guns can be purchased as an alternative for greater numbers.
Naval Air and Sea Support: represents a warship or ships off the coast using it’s resources to support the USMC by intercepting aircraft or disrupting Naval Gun Fire Support. It works a little like an air interception pool except it can be allocated to stop air or NGFS and can be picked up at Priority (Carrier Group), Limited (Carrier) or Sporadic (Destroyer) level. This is a useful spend in my opinion. I don’t want AA guns on the beach as easy kills and as the idea in Pacific missions is to close with the enemy quickly, the Corsair you can take will have limited targets.
Canister Rounds: These are special ammo for 37mm guns which crop up on Stuarts, LVT(A)A1’s and obviously, in 37mm anti tank gun platoons. Canister ROF does not reduce when moving but suffers a -1 to hit with its rate of fire 4. This attach has a low anti tank rating and a firepower of 6 so is designed to help your army repel Japanese infantry on the move.
Improved Tank Assault Armour: This is a better version of the improvised armour in the European Theatre with a 5+ save in assaults against specific types of hits on top of the save against firepower 5+ shots in the shooting phase. It can be taken as an upgrade for Shermans; however, as Shermans are very expensive in the Pacific points scheme you won’t have many tanks to upgrade. With the late war points values where you could take more than a couple of tanks, Sherman platoons get a big buff in assaults from this rule.
So I said Naval Gunfire had been revised… well… how?
First of all even the most powerful guns on the Heavy Cruiser are limited to four guns; however, even if there are more guns in the bombardment, the template used must always be the smallest, opting for re-rolls where required. This means no pizza box template peddling, high AT and good firepower un-killable bombardments!
Of course you still don’t have the guns on table to provide direct or defensive fire which is a downside considering the expense of the support option. In beach assault games it could be an easy target and the AOP eats up 40 points you probably want for something else. If you’re playing a one off game I can see NGFS being selected for offence but on defence I’d probably want the new rocket launchers
Speaking of which… US truck mounted rocket launchers!
You can get up to six and each model can count up to four guns if you buy and paint extra crew. Whilst they’re only trained, it means you can lay down large templates perfect for forcing saves on infantry running towards objectives. They’re also cheap compared to every other artillery in the game due to their trained rating and low stats. You pay an awful lot for high firepower in the Pacific and assault guns and larger artillery will sap a lot of points. Get you’re opponent to move though and units like this will have a big effect.
Speaking of things to dig out infantry that i previously told you that you probably won’t have points for… Corsairs with optional Napalm could be worth saving for! Whilst this double wide template only lets you hit targets on a 6, any target that isn’t a fully armoured vehicle dies on that six! Fully armoured tank teams are bailed out on a 5+ with no save. The Corsair comes in priority or limited forms and you can buy rockets as well as napalm to compliment its bombs and machine guns.
Now a while ago I said… I think some of the things Battlefront learnt in Vietnam will pop up in the Pacific. Napalm armed aircraft, canister ammo (its like beehive), missions that aren’t based on company moral checks and a lot of other little rules remind me of Vietnam without preventing the Pacific from being played in late war.
Which brings us onto a small mention of lists which we’ll be doing separate blogs on. However, I found it very hard picking lists from Gung-Ho because I wasn’t in the right frame of mind at first. The problem is that in a small point game you’re not going to get everything you want, its just not possible with the points cost f a fearless veteran army. Gung-Ho notes that Pacific points roughly line into early war points meaning everything with good firepower, high anti tank or armour is very, very expensive (You could convert the list to early war points but you don’t get very much due to the fact that the majority of what’s in the book doesn’t show up till 1942 and I suspect an early war digital briefing may be on the cards) and with all the cool platoons that combat attach, your force may look a little odd for island games. The problem then comes when you play a follow on game and you’re strange army plays Cauldron or Breakthrough.
If you play late war points, yes you can get tanks in much larger numbers of tanks or support weapons but your core infantry is just as expensive for the most part, yet you don’t have the bazookas other US units do. One thing I considered is taking the 37mm AT platoon with all the bazookas possible and stringing the platoon out to provide cover where your two other bazookas aren’t. You do get pioneer marine teams which combat attach out though so you can play the dangerous game of letting the tanks into the assault and try and beat them in combat. Unless there is a trick I’ve missed I’m not sure these lists are going to be tournament winning late war lists though, but they have some nice, different rules that means it might be fun to play with and against them and depending on the meta at your event, some of those weird rules might come in handy. I’d be so smug if I got to block my opponents 2iD pizza box NGFS in a blue on blue game!
All in all this is a good book. It reads well, the lists are spread out between interesting articles and it’s very different to other World War Two books whilst being usable in late war. The quality is good and it think it would be money well spent as with this Gung-Ho you don’t need another Pacific opponent, just the desire to field interesting USMC lists!
Over the next few weeks keep a look out for:
The promised list writing blog
A blog on the development of the LVT
Reviews of the Japanese book Banzai
and hopefully lots of AARs and reviews! I’m looking forward to games and even if my life is too busy I’ll lend my army to Ben so he can rope in another opponent!
Hope you’ve enjoyed the review,