Preparing the squad only took five minutes, using about three simple tables for Troops (lists are provided for Commonwealth, Germans, Americans, Soviet Union, Free French, Free Polish, Italians and Fins), Gear and Special Skills. My first squad ended up being 7 men in Normandy with a mix of Garands, SMGs, a BAR and a .30cal, so I re-rolled something a bit simpler for my first game. There are also a series of tables to flesh out the squad's members with more background, which don't necessarily have any impact on the game but help build a narrative.
The squad I ended up using was:
- Sargeant Hanratty - Thompson and 2 grenades, Inspiring leader
- Corporal O'Keefe - M1 Garand, 2 grenades, Entrenching tool (helps in Brawls)
- PFC Scott - M1 Carbine, 4 grenades
- PFC Michaels - M1 Garand, 2 grenades, Rapid Fire skill
- PFC Mitty - BAR, 2 grenades
I rolled up a Capture Mission, which would happen at a landmark between the lines, and would start out as a stealth mission. Opposing the GIs would be 5 German soldiers in a defensive position, including an MG and loader, with the rest armed with Kar98s.
So the situation is that a German outpost is holed up in a pumping house overlooking a minor road. Battalion want to know more about what's facing the, so Sarge Hanratty's squad have been order to infiltrate the position and take prisoners. Oh, and if they can take out the MG as well, that would be just fine as well...
Aerial recon of the area. The pump house is on the left. The US squad will arrive on the right.
The MG providing overwatch on the road
Rifleman guarding the MG's flanks
The plan was straightforward. Hanratty, Mitty and Scott would use the hedgerows as cover to approach the pump house on the opposite side of the road, and open up with the Thompson, BAR and grenades to try and suppress the MG in the pump house. Michaels and O'Keefe would approach the back of the pump house through the orchard, and try and snatch the guard watching the back of the building. What could possibly go wrong?
Mitty, Scott and Hanratty, the fire team
Michaels and O'Keefe, the snatch team
The first few turns saw the US squads gradually advance, leapfrogging on either side of the road (in a normal turn in 5MIN, only two of your squad will move and/or fire per turn). Turn four saw a hairy moment, when the die for the German forces rolled a 6 ('Forward!') and one of the riflemen moved out to check out the road, covered by a second. Luckily for the US, the next German roll was a 1 ('Dig in') and, satisfied that the road was clear, they withdrew back behind the pump house wall.
A lone German checks that the road is clear, covered from behind the pump house wall
The fire team lurk behind the hedgerows...
...while the snatch squad move up through the orchard
The next turn saw the US roll a 6 for their activation, 'Firefight'. Normally this would allow every member of the squad to fire at once but, as no one had line of sight to the enemy, it was converted to a 'Scurry' result, with everyone moving up closer to their positions. A couple more turns (and another Scurry activation roll) saw the US troops all in position.
The snatch squad eye up their target behind the wall
Hanratty kicked off the assault, popping his head up from behind the hedge to spray the MG position. The MG and one of the riflemen got first shot in, being on guard fire, but could only roll shock dice (weapons in 5MIN roll a mix of kill dice and shock dice), with no successes. Hanratty proved to be of different stuff, spraying the MG with 3 shock dice, and forcing the gunner to bail right off the table! The BAR opened up as well, but to no further effect.
The German MG gunner remembers an urgent appointment elsewhere!
However, despite losing their MG, the german response was savage. The rear guard re-positioned to cover and opened up on the BAR gunner, scoring a 'knock down' result on him ('Knocked Down' models have a chance of recovering during the game), while another rifleman responded by hurling a stick grenade over the hedge, knocking down the rest of the fire team!
In an attempt to take even the score, the snatch team went in at the back of the pump house, only for Michaels to be put Out of Action (not necessarily dead, but unable to recover during the game) by their target, but O'Keefe managed to drive him back with a flinch result. Meanwhile the MG loader and one rifleman repositioned themselves to cover the rear of the pumphouse, leaving another to cover the hedgerow.
The Germans reposition to cover the threat from the rear
The next turn saw the US roll a 'Firefight Activation', and the Sarge and BAR gunner dusted themselves off and got back up (Scott, unfortunately, was out for the count). The US poured on the fire, resulting on 'Flinch' results on two Germans, while the two at the back of the pump house were put Out of Action by a grenade thrown by O'Keefe.
O'Keefe then followed this up by charging over the wall and knocking out one of the two remaining germans in a Brawl (helped by his trusty entrenching tool). The BAR gunner tried unsuccessfully to flank and take out the remaining German...
...Who responded by putting the BAR gunner Out of Action! Score one for bolt action over automatic!
Deciding enough was enough, the Sarge and O'Keefe moved up and used grenades to flush the last German out of position and off the table.
In the end, a tough fight for the US, but ultimately they succeeded in capturing their prisoner and taking out the strongpoint, although Mitty and Michaels would be out of action for a few days with light and moderate wounds respectively (Scott was just concussed and recovered after the fight).
So what's the verdict on the rules? On the whole I found them really simple to learn and the game played fast and furious. The use of a mix of kill and shock dice puts the emphasis on the use of suppressing fire, and grenades play a big role up close, but aren't devastating, which feels right. You have to work out how to push the enemy out from where they want to be. The way cover is used takes some getting used to as well, as it works differently to most games. Basically you're either hidden behind it, or completely vulnerable for a brief period when you poke your head out to fire. I'm sure a few times I missed out on certain rules or misinterpreted them, but that was partly as I was reading them on my ipad and the battery gave out in the last couple of turns!
All troops are the same level of experience, there are no elites or veterans here, but it would be easy to create them by using appropriate skills.
Would I recommend them? If you want a short, easy to pick up game that has a few nice RPG elements as well? Yes, definitely.