Bounding Fire Productions (2018)
Country of Origin:
Historical map (composed of 2 x 22" x 28" sections), 1 sheet of 1/2" and 5/8" die-cut counters (244 counters total), 21 scenarios on cardstock, 2 campaign games, 4 sets charts/tables, 36 pages of rules.
Corregidor: The Rock (CtR) is a historical module from Bounding Fire Productions released in late 2018 that depicts fighting on the island of Corregidor situated in Manila Bay in the Philippines during World War II. Corregidor is a small but strategically significant island that dominates Manila Bay–and thus access to Manila. In 1941-42, it also served as the headquarters of MacArthur and his forces (USAFFE) until the Japanese took the island in May 1942 following the fall of Bataan in a costly amphibious invasion. In February 1945, as MacArthur invaded Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, he also retook Corregidor with a combined air landing and amphibious assault.
Corregidor is often described as a “tadpole,” because of its unique shape. The “head” of the tadpole, the highest and largest area of the island, on its westward end, is known as Topside. In the middle of the island, at its waist, are Bottomside, where the port areas are, and Malinta Hill, a tall hill containing a large tunnel system. The long tail of the island extends to the east. In 1942, the Japanese landed on the eastern end of the island and fought their way west to Malinta Hill, at which point the Americans surrendered. There was no fighting on Topside. In contrast, in 1945 the Americans decided to retake the island via a somewhat risky low-level daylight air assault on Topside, supplemented by an amphibious landing on Bottomside. Most of the fighting thus occurred in the western and central areas of Corregidor, with only mopping up occurring in the east.
In both 1942 and 1945 the defenders greatly outnumbered the attackers, but this is rather misleading, because in both cases the majority of military personnel on Corregidor were not front line troops. In 1942, most of the 13,000 Americans and Filipinos on Corregidor were artillery troops (coastal and anti-aircraft) or rear area personnel. There was only one real fighting unit on the island–the 4th Marine Regiment. Similarly, in 1945 most of the 7,000 Japanese personnel on Corregidor were naval personnel (commanded by an IJN captain) organized into provisional units; like their counterparts in Manila, they were well-armed but not trained at all as infantry, except for a contingent of naval landing troops. They would die rather than surrender, but did not have the tactical ability to take that many Americans with them. To this serious liability can be added the fact that, due to several developments early in the battle, the Japanese forces were left without communications and senior leadership, rendering their efforts even more uncoordinated and ineffective. The Americans in 1945 suffered only a quarter of the fatal casualties in retaking Corregidor that the Japanese did in capturing it in 1942, despite the risky airdrop.
CtR, designed by David Roth with graphics from Rick Reinesch, nominally simulates both of these battles, although in reality the product focuses almost its entire effort on the 1945 battle. The historical map, however, covers only a fraction of the island–indeed, just looking at the map one would have no real idea that it even depicted an island. CtR’s historical map features only the central part of Topside, where the initial airdrop took place in 1945. No 1942 scenarios are set on the map, as no fighting took place there in 1942.
This is where the unusual nature of CtR becomes apparent. It is not a historical module in the same vein as Red Factories or Festung Budapest, where all scenarios and campaign games use the included historical map(s). Rather, it is more like Operation Watchtower, in that it features both historical map scenarios and geoboard scenarios, but with far more of the latter than the former. In fact, only 7 of the 21 scenarios of CtR actually use the included historical map. The other 14 scenarios all use geoboards only. This may legitimately disappoint some ASLers who like their historical modules to focus on historical maps. Moreover, CtR’s back-of-the-product marketing language is not explicit about this fact; only careful reading of the “fine print” will allow players to realize that at least some CtR scenarios are geoboard scenarios. However, the marketing language on Bounding Fire Production’s website, at least, is much more explicit about the product’s nature.
Despite the large number of geoboard scenarios, the centerpiece of Corregidor: The Rock is still its historical map. This map, depicting the area of Topside centered around Topside Barracks, comes in two 22″ x 28″ sections, each folded into 8 small squares printed on what seems to be reasonably thick paper with a semi-gloss finish.
The artwork of the CtR maps is impressive, starting with the palette, which paints the 6 elevation levels of this section of Topside in pleasing hues of green tan and brown, with level 0 being a sort of muted lime green. The nonstandard palette really works for this map, creating a nice set of tones but still being perfectly functional, with all levels easily distinguishable from each other. It’s quite attractive. Added to that is an impressive level of detail work especially on the various buildings and batteries, which are rendered in minute detail, even down to their (inoperative) guns. Most of the buildings are roofless, thanks to the extended aerial and naval bombardment that preceded the 1945 invasion, while rubble, debris and shellholes dot the map. Brush–perhaps the most dominant natural terrain feature–is everywhere, while little splotches of jungle appear here and there. The inoperative rail system used to bring shells to the various batteries is also present, though largely for aesthetic reasons rather than because of any practical effects. A great many buildings–the radio station, the NCO club (in ruins), the cinema, and others–are labeled, making the place seem very real rather than abstract.
The Corregidor: The Rock map is far, far more attractive than Bounding Fire’s Objective: Schmidt map, published around the same time, and demonstrates that Bounding Fire is capable of first-rate historical map artwork when it wants to be. It’s the sort of map you just want to put into use (which makes the limited number of scenarios actually set on the map a bit of a shame).
CtR also comes with a single countersheet containing both 1/2″ and 5/8″ counters. Most of these are markers, including around 115 or so just for the campaign game (perimeter markers, CVP tracking markers, weather markers, etc.). There are also a handful of American 7-4-7 squads and SW, as well as the same for Japanese 4-4-8 squads and infantry crews, plus some extra Japanese concealment markers. There are also 12 “historical” American aircraft counters, a few markers for NOBA direct fire (see below), and some terrain counters (Open Ground and Debris). The Japanese also get two captured Stuart tanks (who seemingly get the HE ammo and machine guns they did not have in 1942). As is typical with Bounding Fire counters of this era, they are nicely die-cut with good graphics. No complaints here.
The CtR rules, however, are a bit of a mishmash; this is the result of a strange “strategic” decision by Bounding Fire Productions regarding the rules in all their products. Rather than providing self-contained rules for each module/product, Bounding Fire instead seems to assume that purchasers of any of their products will purchase all of their products and thus they divide the rules of CtR into various chapters, some of which are intended to mate with rules appearing in other CtR products and some of which are not.
So, for example, the first rules page that one sees upon opening CtR is a page labeled with a page number of “BFP 9,” which primarily features rules for Poland in Flames. That’s presumably where pages BFP 1 to BFP 8 also are. The green color bar and terrain-like icon on the top of this rules page would seem to suggest that it was a sort of Chapter B terrain chapter, but the left-hand column is all about SS troops. Corregidor: The Rock only comes into play in that the bottom of the right-hand of the page contains rules for the Open Ground and Debris terrain counters provided in the game. There is really no reason for these rules not to be in the main rules chapter (below) rather than stuck onto the end of a page of Poland in Flames rules.
There is also another, unnumbered rules page with a yellow header labeled “Corregidor: The Rock Vehicle Notes, which features the captured Japanese M3s.
The bulk of the rules, 22 pages of them (including a second page “BFP 9”) come in another green-barred chapter with what seems to be a patch icon on it. Much of these rules detail specific terrain features for the historical map, such as Roofless Buildings, Gun Batteries and Mortar Pits, Powder Magazines, Railroad-related terrain (including disabled cars and a rail terminal), Water Tanks, and a Lighthouse. There are also extensive rules for Slopes (which, unfortunately, appear in considerable number on the historical map).
One of the more exciting rules provides for NOBA Direct Fire. That’s right–naval guns firing directly at targets on the map. These can attack specific locations, with “bonus” results against an adjacent location. Even though it’s from an off-map vessel, a player can easily imagine a 5″ naval gun zeroing in on Japanese huddled in a building. There are also extensive air drop rules, because the air drop on Corregidor was different in several respects from typical World War II air drops, as well as rules for ground attack aircraft. These pages also include “Chapter H”-style details for the individual aircraft types.
The remaining rules are for the two included campaign games, particularly the second one, which is essentially a Red Barricades-style campaign game.
The first campaign game, CGI (The Rock Force Assault), is a linked-scenario campaign game. To play this campaign game, players have to play the 7 scenarios of CtR that take place on the historical map. Victory in a scenario will give a player from 1-4 “points,” depending on the scenario. Players may also accrue points for inflicting more CVP on their opponent than vice versa (1 per scenario). Thus there are a total of 22 points in contention, which allows for a tie. In such a case, there is a somewhat clumsy rule mandating that players choose a 1942 geoboard scenario to play. It would have been smoother simply to add another point to one of the 7 scenarios.
The second campaign game, CGII (Assault on Fortress Corregidor) is a traditional campaign game with 10 campaign game dates (one per day for February 16-25, 1945) that starts with the American airdrop on Topside. Neither side can choose their initial OB (largely for balance reasons; the Japanese can purchase fortifications) but they can choose reinforcement groups. To win, the Americans must amass at least 200 more CVP and 50 more VP than the Japanese. Regular VP are won primarily by controlling or eliminating various batteries, buildings, fortifications, and so forth.
The Japanese can purchase companies of 4-4-8 squads (up to 9), 4-4-7 squads (up to 3) and 3-4-7/3-3-6 squads (up to three), as well as machine gun sections, a couple light vehicles, and a wide variety of Guns. Their OBA is limited, but their fortification purchase options include Caves and Underground Explosions (!).
The Americans have mostly 7-4-7 companies, as well as a few 6-6-6 and 6-6-7 (assault engineers). They have several Gun options, as well as vehicle options including Jeeps, Priests, Shermans and halftracks. They also have a wide array artillery and air options.
The campaign game offers the advantage of being 1) a PTO campaign game, which is not very common, 2) a PTO campaign game not featuring the USMC, which is rarer still, and 3) an air drop campaign game, which itself is quite rare in ASL. So it offers an interesting and unique ASL playing experience.
It should be noted that the Japanese OB in the campaign game, as well as in the 18 scenarios set in 1945, probably significantly overstates the troop quality that the Japanese had at their disposal on Corregidor. Most of their troops were untrained naval personnel, augmented by a few Army personnel and naval landing infantry, that could sit in place and fire, kill themselves while hunkered down in tunnels and caves, or engage in suicidal banzai charges of various sizes, but not engage well in infantry warfare. The Americans suffered far more air drop injuries from broken bones and the like than they suffered deaths from Japanese fire (330 injured–not wounded–in the 503rd Parachute Regiment, versus 210 deaths in all units combined).
Two things should be noted about the rules in general. First, they are printed on the thin glossy paper that Bounding Fire Production continues to use for its rules pages, so it is recommended that players scan/print or photocopy these rules onto a more sturdy type of paper. Second, the rules (or CtR in general) have a considerable amount of errata, so be sure to download the errata for this product (also available in “sticky format” so that the errata can be printed on an adhesive label sheet and individual erratum can be “pasted” over the original, erroneous text). Incidentally, BFP also provides a “bombing example of play.”
Because of Slopes, Caves, NOBA/Direct NOBA, Air Drops, Seaborne Assaults, and other features of this product, CtR gets an “Advanced ASL” tag from Desperation Morale, as it is not for the faint of heart (although it should be noted that not all of the individual scenarios are necessarily complex).
CtR itself comes with 4 cardstock sheets of charts and play aids, all hole-punched in “chapter divider” style. These include standard American and Japanese campaign game force organizers, a two-sided Paradrop Player Aid to help players with the air drops in scenarios and the campaign game, and a one-sided NOBA Direct Fire Player Aid (essentially a flowchart).
Bounding Fire Productions likes to include a lot of scenarios with its products, and Corregidor: The Rock is no exception, with 21 scenarios, although only 3 of these deal with the 1942 Japanese invasion and only 7 utilize the Topside historical map. Unfortunately, no playtesters are given any credit in the CtR rules. BFP has a good reputation for playtesting, so unlike for certain other third party publishers, there is not necessarily any reason to think that these scenarios were not playtested, but it is good standard practice to list and give credit to all people who helped playtest a particular ASL product. It is also the generous thing to do.
To play all the geoboard scenarios, players must have boards 2, 24, 36, 37, 39, 40, 43, 44, 46, 58, and 61. Additionally, one scenario requires board BFP I from High Ground 2, although BFP has provided a PDF version of this modified board for players to use instead (and it is probably preferable).
The Japanese are on the attack in 8 of the scenarios, while the Americans are on the attack in 13.
In most BFP products, the scenarios tend towards the large or very large, but that is not the case in CtR, where there is a relatively even mix of scenario sizes. Seven of the scenarios are small in size, while 9 more are medium-sized and 5 are large or very-large. BFP products also tend to feature extensive fortifications and in that regard, CtR is very much a BFP product. Twelve of the 21 scenarios feature extensive fortifications (either in an absolute sense or relative to the size of the defenders). Usually it is the Japanese who get such fortifications but in a couple of cases it is the Americans.
Three of the scenarios use Night rules, 3 use Air Support Rules, and fully 9 use OBA/NOBA. One scenario is an Air Drop, while two scenarios are Seaborne Assaults. Caves appear in 6 scenarios (although in one scenario there is only one cave and the Japanese player may choose to pick some other fortification instead).
One of the historical map scenarios, CtR-17 (Clearing the Badlands) is large enough to be considered a “monster”-sized scenario. It is only 15 turns long, but the U.S. forces have 50 squads, 3 guns, 6 AFVs, and various toys (including OBA/NOBA, Air Support), 4 .50-cal HMG, 6 FT, and 12 DC), while the defending Japanese have 52 squads, 19 crews, 5 Guns, 4 FT, 7 DC, 12 MMG/HMG, 9 knee mortars, and 52 fortification counters (not including minefields). They also get some OBA of their own.
The weird thing about this scenario is that its 15 turns take place over the course of an entire week (February 20-26) and the scenario is intended to represent various mopping up efforts against scattered and uncoordinated Japanese remnants after the Americans had essentially won the battle. That renders this scenario historically suspect in several ways, not least the combining of many unrelated actions over an extensive period of time into one scenario. It might well have been better to have designed a monster scenario that represented the first days of fighting on Topside instead.
Overall, Corregidor: The Rock is an interesting ASL product. Its strongest aspects are its attractive and detailed historical map and its considerable play value (taking into account the 21 scenarios, the linked-scenario campaign game, and the traditional campaign game). Another strength is its (non-USMC) PTO focus. Its weaknesses include the proportion of geoboard scenarios to historical map scenarios, the focus on digging the Japanese out of fortified positions, and its historical representation of the quality of Japanese troops on Corregidor in 1945. Neither a strength nor weakness, but something that needs to be taken into account by would-be purchasers, is the fact that it is a complex product that requires knowledge of many fairly difficult ASL rules sections, such as caves, air drops, and amphibious landings (although, again, not all scenarios have those features).