I ordered Merrill’s Marauders: Commandos in Burma, 1943-1945 on a whim because I needed a few extra dollars added to my Amazon order for free shipping. It’s my first solitaire game and the solo play concept is somewhat interesting.
The game comes in a ziplock bag and includes a small map of Burma, 40 counters, 18 cards, and instructions. The ruleset is the Decision Games Commando series rules shared by their line of mini-games. It uses point-to-point movement powered by Ops points which are set by the scenario and increased or decreased by cards and combat. The OPFOR, in this case, the Imperial Japanese, are run by the deck and their composition and strength determined by blind chit pull.
The four scenarios require you to either capture and transport objectives or to build and secure forward operating bases. The location of the objectives is randomly determined by die roll and assigned blind due to some of the objective chits being ambushes.
My first game was pretty exciting, drawing Operation Galahad out of the scenario pile. It started with two elements heading into the jungle. Merrill’s group secured Sumprabum right as they receive news of the Japanese invasion of India losing half of their airbases. Meanwhile, the second group failed to recon Indaw and walked into a Japanese ambush. The battle was ferocious and the Commandos had to summon air support and air resupply but finally secured the objective.
Unfortunately, the group led by Merrill was raided and pinned around Tianzup airfield by a superior force. Air was unable to support or resupply and all elements were KIA.
Finally using Air Reconnisance the final objective was discovered at Mogaung. Commando elements paraglided in and successfully secured it. Unfortunately even with the objectives secured the mission was an overall failure due to the massive loss of American lives.
I played four games this weekend and managed to win none of them. I came within one move in my third but lost due to being out of operation points. The key to the game is observing where the hidden objectives are located and creating a force mix that can complete the mission.
Merril’s Marauders is a pretty fun and after four games I feel like I got my money’s worth out of it. I’m going to keep playing until I beat one of the scenarios then I’m going to try to play them linked together using the campaign rules where Ops points spill over from mission to mission.
The games main fault lies in the ambiguous nature of the rulebook. A lot of game specific rules supersede the Commando base rules and there’s a distinct lack of clarity, specifically surrounding the required KIA points and how to come about that score. My other minor complaint lies with the number of cards in the deck. The game would be much improved with a bit more card variety.
I enjoyed the solitaire wargame experience and I want to try more. I have GMT’s Labyrinth which I didn’t enjoy two-player with my wife but might be better solo, and other, strictly solitaire games like Zulus on the Ramparts or Air Wing games kind of interest me. I’m going to keep an eye out for more.
One of the main thing I enjoy about wargames is the historical aspect. I’m not very familiar with WWII in South East Asia and playing this game makes me want to do some reading on Chindits, Merrill, and the Burma Campaign.