Heroes against the Red Star: Down Time

Let’s take a quick look at a scenario from Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s Heroes Against the Red Star. One of my favorite scenarios is “Down Time”, which is a quick battle (five turns) of mostly infantry in confined quarters. Here’s the rundown:

May 14th, 1985 1500 GMT
Well into the afternoon of the war’s first day, both sides were bruised and beaten. Following the foiled attack of the early afternoon, the Soviets rested and resupplied. But war has an appetite of its own. The company’s best LAW gunner dashed for a wounded comrade, drawing the enemy’s machine gun fire. The soldier’s friends engaged the machine gun, and then a tank blasted the position. Of its own volition, a firefight erupted smack dab in the middle of what both sides hoped would have been down time.

The scenario is claustrophobic in the extreme, using only a small selection of the entire game mapboard. These are the buildings we’ll be fighting in and amongst for the next five turns. The objective of the scenario for both sides is simple: inflict as many casualties as possible on the other side. There are no victory locations here – just straight up murder.

There is a catch here (there always seems to be one, doesn’t it?). The first time one side enters another side’s building hex, we have to roll for a random event. These usually benefit the attacker and it’s a nice device that gets the players moving instead of just sitting in their buildings and shooting ineffectively at one another.

The US player sets up at the top and bottom of the playable area with the Russians kind of sandwiched in between.

I put Sgt. York with a 2-7-4 squad up in L9. They get an M60 machine gun and a “Slayer” skill card that lets you fire on enemies that wander into the hexes adjacent to your initial target – if you can make a morale roll that is!

In L10 and M10, we put a squad. Our hero, Felice, is in P12 with a LAW anti-tank rocket. I know that carrying a support weapon is supposed to reduce your movement by 2 for SMCs but we’re talking about an additional 5 pounds of weight with the LAW. I choose to ignore the rule in this case and Felice’s movement remains at the full 6 MPs.

At the bottom of the map is Captain Boone in Q13 with a squad and an M249. Beside him in R13 is a 2-6-4 squad with a 40mm grenade launcher.

I went with this setup because it’s kind of evenly distributed with clear fields of fire to pretty much everywhere on the map.

For the Russians, I went with something a little different. I put four squads into R11 and S10, which I know is telegraphing my intentions to move south, but I can live with that. The PKM (on a tripod) in P10 and the two squads in Q9 are there mainly to keep the Americans to the northwest at bay while I push for the southwest buildings in force.

From playing this scenario multiple times, I have learned that the Soviets need to focus their strength on a single objective. Of course the cost of this will be multiple casualties, but I’m willing to accept these sacrifices for the noble cause of proletariat revolution.

Oh right! I forgot to mention that the Russians also have a tank! The T-62 is sitting in S9. Maybe it will do something really cool. Let’s wait and see.

Turn 1 – Here We Come!

The Soviets win initiative and start off by shooting the crap out of Felice with the PKM and wounding him. At this point, it seemed like a fun idea that a really pissed off dude would just crash into the building and take on the entire Russian army (and the best thing about this game is that it’s a possibility). So I sent Felice up to P11 where he soaked up opportunity fire from the two Russian squads in Q9.

Riddled with holes and bleeding from every orifice, Felice was Kaput. Gone. Snuffed it. Pining for the fjords.

And I want to stop here and say something important :

Please notice that the US player now had two enemy hexes nearby with Fired markers on them. They had an entire platoon with a clear line of advance toward the Soviet buildings and if they had wanted, they could have charged toward the enemy without having to come under fire.

Instead, they elected to sit on defense – and though it wasn’t obvious at this point – the cost of doing so became apparent a few turns later.

Sarukin activates the adjacent hexes and sends a squad from R11 straight toward R13. Of course, the M60 in hex L9 opens up and rips the Russians apart (causing casualties) as soon as they get into R12. The “Fired” Slayer marker is placed upon the hex. A second squad from S10 moves from S11 to S12. The US squad in L9 passes its MC and fires again, this time shaking up the Soviet squad.

The Americans pass.

Sarukin activates the tank in S9 and the adjacent hexes again in R11 and S10. He sends yet another squad from S10 to S12. The American Slayer MC check fails and the “Slayer” marker is removed. The US player uses the squad in R13 to open fire at the adjacent Russians. This time they use the 40mm grenade launchers too. The Soviets take casualties. This is punishing. The Russians are taking eye-watering losses for no gains at this point.

It is time for the tank! The T-62 is moved to S11 and opens fire on the US squad in R13. The main gun perforates the thick concrete walls and shakes up the Americans inside. Sarukin’s only remaining squad dashes out of R11 and works its way into R13. The event is a Psyops marker, which we place on our machine gunners in P10. The Americans in R13 are killed in close combat.

The American player fails to capitalize on what has happened and instead throws some ineffective fire at the PKM in P10.

Turn 2 – We’re Coming For You!

The US wins initiative. Captain Boone and his men in Q13 rush into the adjacent building and engage the lone Soviet squad. Neither side manages to do any damage in the ensuing melee.

The Russians pull back their wounded from S12 to S11. They are now under the cover of the T-62 tank.

The Americans pass.

Sarukin and his men rush into R12, hoping to reinforce the lone Soviet squad in R13. Instead, they are sliced apart by the American M60 in L9 once again.

The American player elects to sit still, not wanting to expose their men to fire from the PKM in P10.

The Soviet player shrugs and sends up two squads from Q9 into the light forest hexes of L9 and O9. Opportunity fire from L10 and M10 fail to inflict any damage.

Strange turn. The Americans seem to be battling to a standstill while the Russians are pressing hard for victory and taking risks to achieve their goals.

Turn 3 – Take it from Me

The Soviets win initiative. Sarukin fails to rally. During the activation phases, he low crawls back to the T-62 ‘s hex.

Boone and his men manage to kill off the pesky Russian squad in R13.

Now things start to really fall apart for the Americans. The Soviets activate the squad in N9 and move it into M8, adjacent to the 2-7-4 US squad with M60 MG. For a random event, we get “Medical Supplies: Rally one shaken unit.” I elect to rally one of the Soviet squads in the T-62’s hex. I want to get that tank moving and shooting, rather than sitting there and serving as cover.

The resulting US opportunity fire does nothing.

The Soviet squad in O9 moves up into the building hex in M8. The resulting opportunity fire from M10 combined with another attack from L10 end up causing casualties. Our other Soviet squad in the hex is unaffected, however. The PKM fires back to no effect.

It certainly seems like things are going in the Soviet’s direction! On the other hand, it would be easy for things to stall out, especially if Sarukin fails to get his men going again in S11.

Turn 4 – Knocking On Your Door

The US gets initiative. Sarukin and two of his squads in hex S11 manage to rally. The US M60 team in L9 opens fire on the Russians in M8. One half-squad is eliminated. The other is untouched. This is very bad for the Americans.

Sarukin and his men low crawl to R11. The T-62 moves up, taking intense close-range fire from Captain Boone and his men. None of it is effective. The tank pivots and fires on the US M60 position in L9, shaking the squad but not the leader, Sgt. York.

In a desperate bid to save the MG/2-7-4 squad, the US player pushes the US squad in M10 up toward M8. It makes it through the hail of opportunity fire from the PKM and then enters melee with the Soviet squad. The Americans lose. What a heartbreak!

The momentum is definitely swinging in the Soviet direction now.

Turn 5 -Stayin’ Alive!

US wins initiative. Sgt York fails to rally his 2-7-4 w/ M60 team in L9. Oh crap!

Sarukin rallies a squad with him in R11 and reconstitutes it with another half squad.

York and his men low crawl from L9 to the relative safety of hex L10. There’s a good order MMC here that should protect them…maybe.

The Russians send the T-62 right up adjacent to the building. It sticks its main gun in the window but somehow misses (rolled a nat 12 here). It doesn’t really matter because the PKM does the trick. Everyone in L10 is shaken up except the medic and the Soviet squad in M8 moves right in and takes everyone out in melee.

Sarukin and his men charge into R13 and take on Captain Boone and his squad. Unfortunately, neither side manages to inflict any casualties and the turn – and the game – end here.

The end result is 5 US squads eliminated to 2 Soviet squads eliminated. According to the victory conditions, we have a Tactical Victory for the Russians.

I think this scenario proves that a focused offense with the right amount of leadership and firepower behind it will usually prevail against a dug-in force that just sits and uses Opportunity Fire. Still, things could have gone very badly for the Russians if not for a few terrible rolls for the US player.

In the end, though, you can only blame so much on luck. The Americans should have been more aggressive, especially when they saw the main effort being directed toward the buildings to the south. Certainly, they would have suffered at the hands of the PKM team in P10, but once they got inside the building, they would have created a real crisis for Sarukin, who would have had to decide whether to abandon his offense against R13 or pull his units back to deal with an attack to his rear.

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