The Bear and the Jackal – Nightmare

The Bear and the Jackal is an expansion for LnL’s tactical game, Heroes Against the Red Star. This expansion deals with the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. It’s great to see wargames that deal with this conflict because even though it seems to have faded into public obscurity, it is one of the most fascinating wars in modern history – not so much for the usual reasons, but because of how important this conflict was for shaping the world as we know it today. So before I get into the game itself, let me talk a little bit more about this.

The First Domino: Afghanistan

In December of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in a bid to keep its puppet government in Kabul from being overthrown by a growing but determined insurgency in the countryside.

It wouldn’t take long for the shock waves to be felt around the world.

The West was unanimous in its condemnation of the Soviet invasion. US President Jimmy Carter boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics, announced punitive sanctions, and began a trade embargo. But this was just the beginning. Though it wasn’t obvious at the time, this was only the first link in a chain of events that would shape the coming decade.

For better or worse, the invasion of Afghanistan served as a political lightning rod throughout the 1980s and was used to confirm what conservatives had always asserted:

The Russians were big. They were bad. They were coming for us all. Afghanistan was just the start.

This is a real book! It came out in 1984.

The invasion of Afghanistan wiped away long-held liberal assertions that detente was a necessary and sustainable strategy in light of the Vietnam War hangover of the 1970s. Reagan was elected in 1980 on a rising tide of patriotic resurgence that rode on the back of traditional conservative values and a pledge to revitalize America’s role as the premier force of moral good and order in the world.

Perhaps nowhere was this newfound moral certitude more evident than in movies like Rambo III, which depicted the Mujahideen as valiant freedom fighters battling against the evils of oppression. But western support for the Afghan insurgency was also material in nature. Generous shipments of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles began in the mid-80s courtesy of Uncle Sam and soon enough, Hind helicopters began dropping out of the sky.

The Soviets, who were already looking for a way out of the quagmire, now faced a well-armed and emboldened enemy in a foreign land that had known only war for a thousand years. The longer the war dragged on, the more it served to erode trust in Soviet leadership at home. Abroad, it completely demolished the aura of moral superiority the USSR had enjoyed during the years of the Vietnam War. The Soviets keenly understood this problem and looked desperately to military solutions that would stabilize the government and allow them to withdraw their forces.

But the war had an appetite of its own. It consumed careers and materiel at a prodigious rate. Every time an operation failed, the solution seemed to always be the same- more troops, more helicopters, more of everything was needed. And as the bear struggled to get out of the trap, the more ensnared it became. In the end, it took ten years and no less than four Soviet general secretaries to throw up their hands and call it a day.

When the last Russian troops withdrew in February 1989, there was little cause for celebration. 15,000 Soviets were dead along with 2 million Afghans. The country was in tatters – a collection of fractured groups with diverse agendas who were set to vie for control of what little remained (I am talking about Afghanistan here but I can understand if you thought it was the Soviets).

With the bad guys gone and the Cold War drawing to a close, the plight of Afghanistan no longer warranted the same level of interest from the Western public, who were too busy celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and contending with new threats in the form of Saddam Hussein.

It would only be after the events of September 2001 that the West would come to realize its folly with Afghanistan and this time, it would cost more than Stinger missiles to set things right.

The Bear and the Jackal

TBaJ comes with a 35-page booklet, a single sheet of counters, two maps, and two player’s aid charts. The game was initially included with Line of Fire magazine issue 15 and LnLP has decided to just send out that countersheet with the game. As a result, you’ll also get ten counters that don’t belong to this particular game. That’s okay. Use ’em as spares for making your own games, I guess.

The booklet includes nine scenarios designed by Ralph Ferrari, Jeff Lewis, and Norm Lunde. These are presented in chronological order starting from 1981 and go all the way up to late 1987. Scenarios range in size from single-map battles with low counter count right up to much larger engagements over multiple maps. Speaking of which, the maps are gorgeous and give the player a sense of the arid hills and sun-drenched valleys of that inhospitable land. As you can see below, Marc von Martial did a beautiful job with the art.

The Mujahideen are tough fighters and this is represented by their advantage in movement in mountainous terrain. They can also split up their forces from full to half-squads during the Rally Phase if they are stacked with a leader. Finally, we get an ambush capability much like the VC units in Heroes of the Nam. If a Mujahideen unit enters melee with a unit that did not have LOS to it at the beginning of the impulse, their FP is tripled for the first round of melee.

The Soviets get 2-3-4 forces, which represent experienced special forces teams that show up in later scenarios to reflect the Russians adapting to the situation. This is really neat and I love that you’re using standard infantry for the early battles, reflecting the Soviet’s stubborn insistence on with using fixed doctrine against an insurgency.

Finally, we get a unique terrain feature here in the form of rooftops. These are a welcome addition to the LnL Tactical universe. It’s been a while since I played “A Day of Heroes” but I don’t remember rooftops being on there. In any case, rooftops basically act as an upper level marker on small buildings with a +1 defensive terrain modifier. Great if you have some guys with an RPG who want a little cover to fire from.

Scenario AAR: Nightmare

“Nightmare” is the first scenario from TBaJ. It’s a cozy one-map affair that has a small Afghan force fighting for its life as the Soviets bring in an impressive amount of firepower against them.

August 1981: Alishang, Laghman Province, Afghanistan

A Mujahadeen force entered Alishang and met up with the local forces. After sleeping the night in the village, they awoke to find the village surrounded by the Soviet army. When dawn broke, the fighting began.

Scenario Length: 6 turns. The Soviets must control all nine buildings in the village by the end of the game.

The Mujahideen must set up in any building hex in the village. We get two leaders (Abdul and Hakem). I put Abdul toward the southern entrance to the village with a 1-6-4 and 1-3-4 and arm them with an RPG-7 and PKM. Hakem is in the eastern part of the town with a 1-6-4, 1-3-4 and 0-4-4. Like Abdul’s team, they have a rocket launcher and an LMG.

The Soviets enter on Turn 1 with Captain Sarukin and 5 x 2-5-4 forces armed with two RPKs. Sarukin brings up the rear with a few men while the platoon pushes forward toward the outskirts of the town.

Hakem and his men get on the rooftops but leave the 0-4-4 on the ground level to fend off any early incursions. Abdul and his men start to move to flank the oncoming Soviets.

Turn 2

The Soviets retain the initiative and push a little further toward the village.

The Russians move a squad with RPKs into the same hex as the 0-4-4 squad and enter melee. It’s indecisive. The rest of the platoon gets to the rough terrain in M2 and O3. It takes some light fire from Hakem and his men, but nothing really effective.

Abdul and a squad sneak up along the southern edge of the village ready to pounce on the Russians as they come over the wall. The 1-3-4 to the north in J2 will serve as the other half of the trap.

Clearly Sarukin is waiting for the second element to arrive and push up from the south. For now, it’s just probing action and getting into position.

End Turn 2

Turn 3

Tanks! The Soviet T-55 rumbles in and starts laying fire on Abdul and his men, shaking all of them with main gun and heavy MG fire. One of Sarukin’s squads moves up and eliminates them in melee.

I should have seen that coming but got carried away with my ambush plans.

Trinov and his men make no delay in moving up north toward the village. By the end of the turn, we have a pair of 1-4-4 half-squads in the southern end of the village. The others have a base of fire set up in E7 and G7.

Meanwhile Sarukin to the east moves a squad into M5. Some ineffective fire is traded with Hakem and his men. The melee in M3 drags on without conclusion.

End of Turn 3

Turn 4

Sarukin has had enough of delays. Another 2-5-4 enters melee in M3 and finishes off those pesky 0-4-4 Mujahideens. Sarukin gets his men into the village, only for them to be shaken up in M4. Trinov uses this opportunity to get the bulk of his men and the tank into the village and they start doing damage.

The Afghans are in real trouble right now. Hakem splits his full squad into two 0-4-4 squads and hopes for the best. The 1-3-4 squad in I2 is hoping to mix it up with the Soviet 1-4-4 in H4 next turn if it can manage an ambush.

Things look bleak for the Mujahideen.

End Turn 4

Turn 5

The Soviets win initiative yet again and Trinov shoves his men into the building in H3/I3. Despite some light fire from the enemy in I2, the whole thing goes smoothly. The tank blasts Hakem and his men, shaking them up. The whole stack is just barely saved when the squad in J3 sprints across the road under fire and enters the building in L4. Though they keep Hakem and his men on the roof safe, the 1-3-4 squad pays for it in melee with the Soviets.

Another short and deadly melee ensues in K4 between a 0-4-4 Afghan and 1-4-4 Soviet half-squad. Both are eliminated. It looks briefly like there might be some hope for the Mujahideen to pull off a win if they can keep holding onto L4 for just one more turn.

End Turn 5

Turn 6

But it is not to be.

Hakem fails to rally and now his only hope is the 0-4-4 squad in his hex. Well, it’s not nearly enough. The tank opens fire and wounds Hakem and shakes the squad. It doesn’t take long before the Russians in M3 storm the building and eliminate everyone in the hex.

Trinov pushes the rest of his men to seize the remaining buildings while tying up the Mujahideen squad in I2. The result is a Soviet victory.

End Turn 6 and Game.

Lots of fun! As expected, plenty of brutal close-in fights here with a great deal of tension toward the end.

Controlling the Mujahideen requires a bit more finesse than the Soviets. You can see I probably didn’t use them to their full capabilities here. Losing Abdul in Turn 3 was also a huge problem but it happens when you lose sight of when your enemy reinforcements are coming on the board. Perhaps if I had rolled better initiative for the Afghans, things would have worked out differently. Would have. Should have. Could have.

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.

Phoenix Command – The Rescue Mission

Phoenix Command was a combat system for miniatures and roleplaying games (and whatever else you wanted) that was published in the 1980s.  This wasn’t just any combat system.  Designed by NASA rocket scientists (I’m not even joking there), the system aimed for realism through an incredibly detailed rules set.

Combat was segmented into two second impulses and half-second phases so everything – and I mean everything had to be accounted for (even flicking your weapon from safety to auto needed to be done).  Weapon damage and penetration was based on detailed ballistics tests.  Damage to the human body was based on computer simulations.  The first time I played the game, it really took me almost an hour to go carefully through the tables and figure out the modifiers and then apply damage.  That was for a single shot!

Leading Edge Games, the publisher of Phoenix Command (and the Aliens and Living Steel RPGs) has long gone out of business. But a quick browse through many RPG forums will eventually reveal some form of discussion about the sheer insanity of the Phoenix Command system coupled with admiration that someone actually tried to seriously model realism as closely as they could by releasing an uncompromisingly complex rules set.

Whether or not Phoenix Command succeeds in its attempt to closely hew to realism is up for debate.  I do think it does a considerably better job of it than most RPG systems I’ve seen where characters seem to take an inordinate amount of damage from bullets (or swords or arrows or whatever) before being adversely affected in any way.  Getting shot in Phoenix Command commonly results in very fatal problems and even if your character doesn’t die, there’s a good chance they’re going to be in shock and not real functional for the rest of the firefight.

I’ve played Phoenix Command for some time now and I can see why people are somewhat intimidated by the rules.  They are a bit hard to grasp at first – and there is a lot of referencing tables and flipping back and forth to find results.  Doing all of this for an entire evening in a face-to-face group game session would tax the patience of the most gentle gamer.  Luckily, I’m a solo gamer with lots of time on my hands and a basic familiarity of the system, so I could afford to sit down with the system and use it to model a small firefight scenario using my old Axis & Allies miniatures and a bit of ingenuity.

The Scenario:

It is the summer of 1998 and the former Soviet republic of Lateria is in a political crisis. Under the guise of restoring regional stability, Russia has decided to send in troops without invitation from the Laterian interim government.  The West has condemned the Russian action and tensions are running high as all sides attempt to find a diplomatic solution.  In the meantime, the Russians have seized a small military headquarters building near the Laterian capital, taking two local Laterian commanders prisoner.  The Laterian government is outraged at the military action and decides to send in a group of special forces to retake the building by force and rescue the prisoners.

There are only four Russians inside but they are well-armed and well-trained.  The Russian commander has a Makarov pistol but knows how to use it.  The two prisoners are unarmed (of course) and their hands are tied, left to sit in the conference room.  The Russians are prepared for an attack and are keeping watch on the two entrances – one is a single door on hinges while the other is a set of double doors.

The Fab Five – Laterian Special Forces ready to storm the military HQ

The Laterian Special Forces are all armed with AKMs and grenades.  Their skill rating is “Elite” so they can all use their weapons quite well.  They are wearing flak vests and kevlar helmets, which should protect them a little bit.

The Laterians split up into two fire teams, A and B.  Team A will go in the single door on one side of the building while Team B, consisting of 3 men, will try to pick the lock on the double doors on the other side.  They’re hoping to surprise the Russians and hit hard.

Laterians get ready to assault the building.

The Raid:

The Laterian Team B has one man pick the lock (no breaching demolitions here – I guess this is all short notice) on the double doors.  The Russians make a roll for sound detection and make it.  One of the Russians in the hallway nearest the double doors goes into a kneeling position and assumes a firing stance.

One of the men from Team B pulls on the door too early and the man who picked the lock is standing exposed in the open.  The Russian in the hallway fires on full auto and hits the Laterian with 7 bullets.  Ouch!

Russian (left) fires on Laterian team B at door (right)

Laterian Team A has the door open already and starts ducking around the corner and firing at the Russian commander, who is firing back with a Makarov.

The two remaining Laterians from Team B start to return fire.  One of them fires at the Russian who has just shot their friend.  He brings up his AK-47, aims for a half second and fires.  At this range, he hits with his single shot and it hits his enemy in the mouth, instantly killing him.

Team A sends a man running into the building after exchanging a dozen shots with the Russian commander with no purchase.  As one member runs in, the Russian commander fires his Makarov, hitting the Laterian in the head.  Luckily, the kevlar helmet prevents the bullet from penetrating but the Laterian has a hell of a headache now and staggers to his right.  The other member of Team A moves in and hits the Russian commander in the left forearm.  Since the Russian is in a firing stance with his elbow bent and in front of his chest to support his firing arm, the bullet overpenetrates through the forearm and into the chest, resulting in a lung hit that kills him.

Two Russians remain.

Team B is outside the building still near the double doors and one of the Laterians puts his head around the corner to see what’s in store.  As he ducks his head around to look, a nearby Russian fires at him on automatic fire but misses.  The Laterian reflexively ducks back around the corner.

One of the Laterian Special Forces preps a grenade while the other puts his rifle around the corner and fires blindly.  Automatic fire sprays close to the nearby Russian but fails to hit.  The grenade is prepped and the Laterian throws it around the corner.  It hits the wall and bounces off gently, next to the Russian, who tries to run but only makes it less than a yard before it explodes and kills him.

Team B has now entered the building and looking around for bad guys.  The single remaining Russian sees one of the Laterians with his back turned to him and fires but misses.  Both Laterians from Team A advance near a corner and start spraying fire at the Russian, who is hit by the blind fire and killed.

The prisoners are rescued and the Laterians seem to have won this one, suffering one dead.

Star Wars Minis – Battle on Endor

I don’t often get out my Star Wars minis but I always find that when I do, I usually end up having a much better time than I thought I would.  After slogging through The Third World War for the past couple of weeks, I needed a chaser  – something light, quick, and easy.  Star Wars Miniatures fit the bill nicely in this regard.  There aren’t a whole lot of rules to remember but it has some nice wargame-y aspects (line of sight, cover, squad cohesion and command elements, etc.) that make it a nice light tactical affair for afn evening play.

Deep in the back of the gaming closet, I rummaged around and found my old “Battle for Endor” expansion set with a huge AT-ST along with the map for the famous shield generator scene from “Return of the Jedi”.  Since my last game of Star Wars featured a small group of major characters (Darth Vader and Obi Wan) battling it out, I decided to change up and have a large group of minor characters (plus the AT-ST) in a bigger battle.  Here’s how things turned out.

Setup with the Rebel forces outside the Shield Generator building in the tree cover.

The Rebels set up on the outer perimeter of the base, just inside the tree cover offered by the forest moon’s lush vegetation.  There are a couple of Scout Troopers near their speeder bikes nearby while an AT-ST sits just on the left Rebel flank.  The Rebels need to somehow get past this outer defense and penetrate into the Shield Generator building and set off a demolition charge beside the Shield Generator to allow for the Rebel fleet to destroy the new Death Star currently under construction high above the forest moon.

The Scout Trooper makes a break for the Imperial bunker as nearby Rebels fire at them.

The first turn involved the Rebels fruitlessly attempting to shoot the Imperial Scout Troopers as they tried to make their way into the Imperial bunker but several shots missed and the Scouts found themselves firing back and killing off two Ewoks in quick succession.  The smell of burning fur and shrill annoying cries fills the forest air.

Another Scout Trooper flees from the Rebel commandos hidden in the forest.

Another Scout Trooper fared worse in his attempts to flee and return fire on the other flank.  A commando led a Quarren Assassin, a Rebel Pilot, and C-3P0 and R2D2 to the outskirts of the trees and managed to wound but not kill off the trooper before he got much further.

Stormtroopers inside the bunker assemble and prepare to repel the Rebel attack

Inside the bunker, three Stormtroopers (including an officer) are aware of the battle outside and are ordered to get to the bunker’s doorway and return fire at the encroaching Rebels.

The AT-ST gets to work

The AT-ST starts firing away at the Rebels on their left flank and seriously messes up the enemy’s day.  A  Rhodian Mercenary and his ally are both killed by the Scout Walker’s twin blasters.  Things are not going well for the Rebels!

Stormtroopers return fire as a Scout Trooper runs for the safety of the bunker.

By this time, the Rebels hadn’t done very much against the Imperials and the Scout Troopers were nearly to the entrance of the bunker.  Two Stormtroopers at the bunker entrance managed to eliminate another one of the Rebels on the left flank.

Rebels make a break for it.

The remaining Rebels on the right flank are faced with little choice but to make a break for it.  C3P0 and R2D2 make their way out of the forest.  Since they have the “Distracting” ability, they automatically draw fire from all enemies.  While the droids circle around the clearing uselessly, the rest of the Rebels runs from the forest cover and towards the bunker, taking their chances with the deadly AT-ST fire.

Rebel forces about to make a break from the forest cover towards the bunker.
All hell breaks loose as the AT-ST, the Scout Troopers and the Stormtroopers open fire on the Rebels as they approach the bunker.  Although the remaining two Rebels on the left flank are killed (thus the entire flank is gone), they take out both Scout Troopers before being eliminated by the AT-ST’s twin lasers.  The Rebel Commando takes a well placed shot and kills a Stormtrooper.  The remaining Imperials gather inside the bunker and prepare to defend it to the last man against the meager attacking forces.  It’s anyone’s call as to who will win this one.
Imperial forces get ready to defend the bunker as Rebels attempt to enter.

The blast doors on the bunker slam shut but C3P0 and R2D2 have the ability to open these things.  As AT-ST fire rips at the Rebels outside the bunker, the droids manage to open the doors and the Rebels charge inside.

Rebel Commando and his pal, Quarren Assassin make their way inside the bunker as Stormtroopers fire at them.

While the Stormtroopers take a couple of shots at the Rebels as they enter, the AT-ST clunkily moves from the side of the base towards the front.  Before the droids can get inside, the Scout Walker unloads on them and reduces both robots to burnt metal fragments and wires.  Don’t worry – it’s nothing that a sequel can’t fix!

AT-ST fires at the droids near the blast doors and eliminates them

The blast doors slam shut behind the two remaining Rebels, rendering the AT-ST unable to fire at them.  Now it’s just a fight between the people inside.  The Imperials are made to pay for using their turn to eliminate the droids as the Quarren Assassin levels his rifle at the Stormtrooper Captain and kills him.  It’s just 2 on 2 now.

The Stormtrooper and an Imperial Navy Trooper blast away at the two Rebels, confident of their ultimate victory.   Unfortunately, both (!) of them roll a “1”‘s on a d20  roll to hit.  Both Rebels fire back and kill the Stormtrooper.  The Navy Trooper gets off one more shot before succumbing to blaster fire from the Quarren Assassin.  Both remaining rebels make their way to the Shield Generator room.  The Rebel Commando plants the demolitions and a narrow victory goes to the ragtag group of good guys.

Rebel Commando plants explosive detonators next to the Shield Generator.

The Third World War: The Battle for Germany – NATO Counterattack!

Well, here we are coming to the end of turn 1 but there are two very important impulses to go through before things start to really wind down.  NATO gets two consecutive movement and combat impulses now, each with a regrouping phase at the end of it that lets you get rid of those nasty disruption markers that degrade unit proficiency.

I pulled back quite a few units at the start of the impulse because I wanted to give them a chance to regroup.  The big advantage that NATO has over the Pact in this regard is that NATO units can fully recover their disruptions while the Warsaw Pact units cannot recover from the first level of disruption so once a Russian tank unit is hurt, for example, it stays hurt for the rest of the game.

To that end, I had several units in the south that the Pact had hurt quite badly, including a West German panzer division with five disruptions.  Up north near Hamburg, so many units were hurting that I basically pulled the line back to the nearest river and set up a defense there.  I could also see the real possibility of the Pact isolating and destroying the units very quickly in the coming turn with the way they were positioned.

Poor movement decisions in the first impulse seriously limited my attack options against the Warsaw Pact.  An unfortunate 3 -1 attack near Hamburg resulted in two disrupted NATO units and not a single loss for the Soviets.  Other minor attacks resulted in little to no gains being made.  I shuffled around my units in the second NATO combat/movement impulse to get some better results and ended up pushing back two divisions of the 28th Guards Army back across the East German border – not an easy task but something had to turn my way after the setbacks and terrible choices of the past turn.

Perhaps the best thing about this turn was that NATO had yet another chance to regroup its units and suddenly the situation was looking a lot better.  Both sides failed their escalation rolls at the end of the turn to see if they could use nuclear weapons in the coming turns.  That’s too bad because NATO could definitely use some nuclear assistance to push back the Soviets off of West German soil.

Here’s a short video to explain a bit more about what’s happened and what’s about to happen.

All of the aircraft that weren’t shot down return to base and we’ll make maintenance rolls at the beginning of next turn to see if they manage to get back up in the air.  NATO gets quite a few air reinforcements so I wouldn’t be surprised if it manages to get air superiority.  On the other hand, it’s slated to lose 2 random air units thanks to the Soviet Blackjack runway cratering mission earlier in the game turn.

From this point, I’ll play a bit more and then set up the game again and go for another try now that I’ve learned the very basics of play and I’ve had the chance to make some mistakes.

My impressions so far of “The Third World War”:  It’s a very tense game that makes you think hard about how to use your units and there are always tradeoffs as NATO between getting guys up to the front and rotating them to the back to recover.  For the Warsaw Pact, you have to be extremely forwad looking in order to exploit your second echelon moves otherwise you’ll be stuck slogging it out at the border.

I’m pretty sure that I blew the Pact’s first turn by approaching the front line in a big column of guys and trying to hammer at the enemy rather than exploiting gaps and pushing divisions and armies through the holes to isolate NATO units and then push on.  As it stands now, I’ll reset and see what can be done with the benefit of lessons learned.  My bet is that this game would probably have NATO winning in a couple of turns due to air superiority and reinforcements coming on line.  The Pact’s major advantages seem to lie at the beginning of the game and it quickly loses steam every turn henceforth.

Third World War: The Ground War – Part 2

Continuing with my posts on my first game of “The Third World War” here and I’ll try to provide a bit more detail here about what’s happening.  If you’re new to the game, it sort of flows in this basic sequence:

1.  Air Phase
2. Warsaw Pact move and attack (first echelon) with a NATO reserve movement phase in here afterwards
2a.  Warsaw Pact move and attack (second echelon)
3. Warsaw Pact move and attack (first echelon)
3b. Warsaw Pact move and attack (second echelon)
4. NATO move and attack x 2
5. End of Turn stuff (Supply, Aircraft maintenance, etc.)

Right now, I’ve gone through 2 and 3 and I’ve “paused” the game just at the end of phase 3 to give this little report.  Basically first echelon phases allow for everyone to move and attack and second echelon allows for those Pact units that are not in enemy ZOC to move and attack again.  This allows for the Pact to keep pushing with its attempt to find a breakthrough in the NATO lines.

The Warsaw Pact moved and attacked during the first echelon impulse phase and managed to dislodge a few NATO units but not make any real advances across the front.  No serious breakthroughs have happened although NATO is kind of in trouble around the center of the board.

A look at the board as the Warsaw Pact combat phases end and the NATO phase is about to start.

In the second echelon phase, the Warsaw Pact gets to move and attack with its units that are not in an enemy zone of control.  This means that if you have units behind the frontline (or if your units were lucky enough to push enemies back so they are no longer in your zone of control), they get to move and attack again.

Making mistakes is all part of being a new player and I’m no exception here.  I had forgotten to enter the Pact’s reinforcements on the board.  That’s okay – I send forward about six Soviet divisions, enetering on the east side of the board from Poland.  Most of the units are used to reinforce the successes in the center of the frontline although a couple of units are sent to buff up the northern sector near Denmark, which has had few successes against the stubborn NATO resistance in the area.

Although the Pact moves and rearranges a few forces along the line in the second echelon phase, the changes are quite minor to the overall battle and no further attacks are made in the second echelon.  I suspect my attacks have not been wisely coordinated enough with the second echelon impulse properly in mind.  I feel that even though I’m in the first turn, I should be well past the border by now.

The Warsaw Pact gets another full combat impulse with a first and second echelon movement and combat phase.  This time the Pact concentrates its attacks and tries to focus a little more on a breakout rather than just hitting randomly at weak units.  The results are a fair bit better this time as NATO crumbles a bit in the center of the board and Pact units are now 100 kms into West Germany.  The British lose the 3rd Armored Division up near Hannover while a West German mechanized division down south of Nurnberg gets hammered by the 4th Guards Tank and is sent back west in a retreat, taking two more disruptions (for a total of 5) by the time it pulls back towards Munich.

UK suffers losses from the 28th Guards Army southeast of Bremen
Further south of Bremen, the Pact is getting very close to a breakout!

The Soviets decide to help out the Poles in their attack on West Berlin but thanks to rolling a “1” on the attack die, the British, US, and French forces hang on, suffering only a single disruption.  It’s kind of amazing how such a small force is managing to tie up several divisions of armor and infantry and I need to take care of them very quickly so I can get those Poles to the front. (I initially thought those NATO units in West Berlin must be isolated but according to the rules, NATO units in the city are never isolated).

By the time the NATO impulse comes around (they get two in a row now), things are looking fairly good for the Pact near the Fulda Gap while the south of the map shows a steady advance of Pact units moving towards Munich (although most of them are suffering disruptions – which basically affects unit proficiency.  This acts to shift the CRT odds in favor of the enemy when attacking units with higher proficiency levels).

In the south of Germany  West Germans suffer major disruptions but Soviets are hurting a bit too.

In the north, a stalemate has occurred but there are quite a few Soviet tank divisions moving up from the line to help out after dealing serious damage to the nearby British.

Anyway, here’s a youtube video that sort of describes what’s been happening over the last couple of impulses and might help to make things more clear for those interested.

Next Up:  NATO!

The Third World War: Battle for Germany – The Ground War

Okay, it’s time for the Warsaw Pact to get this party started on the ground.  The first echelon impulse begins and we start with some jostling around the intra German border, hoping to hit at nearby NATO units and push hard past them.

The Intra German border at the start of WW3

Everything in the south part of the board suddenly looks pretty vulnerable right now on the western side of the border.  A couple of the Pact units in the extreme south make it  including the Czechs in the far south, who are hitting at the 4th Panzergrenadiers Division to the east of Augsburg.  The odds here are actually pretty low (only 1.5: 1 in the Pact’s favor) for this attack due to the low proficiency rating of the Czech divisions.  It probably would have been wiser to support their attack with a Soviet unit but I wanted to hit the 2nd ACR up north as hard as possible.  I also think that I can supplement the attack with air support, especially since the WP has air superiority this turn.

Su-25 Frogfoots revved up for the attack

Further north of that, to the east of Nürnberg, the 8th Guards Tank Army piles on the attack factors versus the 2nd Air Cav of the US 5th Division at odds of 5 – 1.  Again, I’m going to be sending in aircraft to bring up the odds even further and hopefully earn enough of a victory to send my Pact units far forward in the second echelon phase.

Everyone jumps in against the 1st Armored Division (15-15-7)

Going further up north, the Warsaw Pact is going to throw everything it can at the US VII Corps’ 1st Armored Division.  I’d like to start clearing out the big units here to free up my other guys so they can surge forward without having to worry about them too much.  This attack is a big combined operation consisting of the 8th Guards Army, 1st Guards Tank Army, and 8th Guards Tank Army.  Of course, I’d like to throw air into this battle too, even at 6-1 to make for a nice schmorgesborg of destruction.

The US V Corps’ 11th ACR is slated for annihilation next at 9-1 odds against.  No need to throw air into this one.  Unless something really bad happens, the poor 11th should be just a nice little speedbump on the way to Paris.

I’m gambling big time with a 1.5 – 1 attack vs. the British 1st Armored Division.  I know this isn’t a good idea but a good result for the Pact here could really set back NATO in the northern area and let the Warsaw Pact make some big gains in the ensuing second echelon phase.  Airstrikes are going in to help improve Pact odds.

As we get further north, up near Magdeburg, the 1st Panzer Division is about to get its lumps.  Facing off against the entire 3rd Shock Army at odds of 8 to 1, a victory for the Pact here could rip open the entire northern area for advance since there are so many gaps in the line around here. At the northernmost point, the area around Hamburg is getting crowded with NATO units, so it’s time to at least try and send one of them packing.  The West German 1st Airborne Helo Regiment and the 3rd Panzer Division are attacked by 2nd Guards Army and 4th Guards Tank Army (which has just rolled in from Poland, I believe) at 2-1.  Hopefully, Pact air strikes will make the difference here by shifting the odds a little further in the Soviets’ favor.

Over to the east, the Poles are assigned the task of crushing NATO forces in West Berlin.  Although the fight looks easy enough at first due to overwhelming numbers, the proficiency of NATO units (especially the British) in West Berlin and the perils of urban fighting help to tip the balance a little further towards the beleaguered NATO units.  At 3 – 1, the Poles should be able to pull of a win here but I’ll throw some air at the situation to try and ensure success.

Ground Attack: 

A total of 5 Su-25 air units are assigned to hit at the NATO forces along the border and in West Berlin.  NATO decides to stay its hand and doesn’t send up any counter-air as it would likely get shot down pretty quick.  Also, with the impending loss of two flights from the runway cratering mission, it might be wise to be a bit conservative with its air right now.  Hopefully, air defense will manage to be enough.

The missions take off and…hol…ee…crow.  Only one mission succeeds while air defenses cause two aborted missions and shoot down the remaining two air strike missions.  The good news for the Pact is that the West German 1st Helo and 3rd Panzer Division are now being attacked at 5-1 near Hamburg.  However, there were two missions that really needed to get through that cause me great concern (the 1.5-1 fight between the Czechs and West Germans in the deep south and the 1.5 – 1 fight against the British 1st Armored Division near Hamburg in the north).  I’m suddenly starting to get a sinking feeling here about the coming battle.

Attack Results:

The terrible effects of losing so many aircraft on ground attack missions is sobering and the lesson has hopefully been learned – air support is is to be used as additional insurance for attacks rather than a substitute for a lack of ground attack strength.  It can shift the odds in your favor but shouldn’t be relied upon too heavily.

The frontline after the first echelon attack phase

Despite all that, the attack rolls don’t go too badly for the Warsaw Pact.  Near Hamburg, the 3rd Panzer Division and 1st Helo are take 2 disruptions and get pushed all the way back to the city.  The 1st Panzer Division east of Hannover gets completely destroyed as does the poor 11th ACR further to the south near the Fulda Gap.  South of that, the 2nd ACR takes two disruptions and retreats back southwest.

The attack against the British ends up with nothing gained, nothing lost as both sides take a disruption hit.  The big loser here is the US VII Corps 1st Armored Division, which takes 2 disruptions and is forced to retreat.  This was the most powerful unit the Pact attacked this turn and this result hurts NATO.  To make matters worse, because it passes through the LOC of a Pact unit on its way back, it takes yet another disruption.  Down at the very south of the map, the Czechs fail to gain any ground, inflicting a disruption against the West Germans and suffering disruptions themselves.  I believe the Pact will be able to carry out a few interesting moves here in the second echelon phase.

I think I got everything right in this phase!  I’m sure I could have allocated the attacks in a better way but as this is my first playthrough, it felt pretty good to actually get some units past the border.  Now let’s see what we can do with the gaps we’ve created.

Up Next:  Warsaw Pact Second Echelon Impulse!

The Third World War: The Air War – Turn 1

This is just a series of short posts dealing with my attempts to play through a turn of “The Third World War” in order to learn the basics of the game.  If you haven’t tried it before, hopefully this will give you some insight into how it plays – providing I don’t make too many major rules errors!

The Air Superiority Phase starts and the Soviets throw anything up in the air that might be able to fly – regardless of whether it’s obsolete junk or the newest high-tech fighters.  They have more air units available this turn (NATO starts getting serious with air reinforcements in the coming turns) so this is the Warsaw Pact’s big chance for AS (and probably the only time they’ll get it all game, from what I’ve been reading).

Warsaw Pact throws almost everything into the air to gain air superiority on turn 1

With 24 air units on air superiority missions, NATO concedes the air to the Warsaw Pact for now and assigns its better aircraft (F-15s and F-16s mostly) to intercept Pact air missions attempting strike or ground attack missions.  The rule here is that the player who has air superiority gets to have two air units on air superiority missions (escorts, interception, top cover, etc.) while the one without only gets to have one unit on these kinds of missions.

The Deep Strike Phase happens and NATO is unable to launch any strikes on turn 1 so the Pact goes ahead and tries for a runway cratering mission and also a logistical strike.  The cratering mission is flown by long range Tu-160 Blackjack bombers and escorted by Su-27s and Mig-29s.  Meanwhile, the logistical strike mission will be flown by Polish Su-20 attack aircraft and also escorted by Su-27s and Mig-29s.

NATO scrambles USAF F-15s to attempt to intercept the incoming strike missions.  First off, we resolve interception against the cratering mission and the F-15s manage to shoot down the Su-27 escorts before being shot down by the Mig-29s.  The same exact thing happens with the F-15s intercepting the logistical strike mission.  Despite the nasty losses of the F-15s for NATO, the loss of the Su-27s is far more devastating for the Warsaw Pact, which has fewer high capability combat aircraft to lose.  NATO still has F-15s left in its arsenal and will have more coming online in future turns.

Left:  Runway cratering mission w/ escorts vs F-15s  Right:  Logistical Strike mission w/ escorts vs F-15s

The runway cratering mission gets to its destination and has some remarkable luck, catching two NATO air units on the runway and destroying them (these aircraft will be randomly selected and removed in an upcoming impulse).  The logistical strike is also quite successful, putting 5 NATO brigades out of supply.  This will come into effect on the turn 2 Supply Phase*.  So far, things have been going quite well for the Soviets and their allies but the real test is yet to come.

*Oops, no. That should have come into effect immediately.  I tried to balance this out in the subsequent turn.

Next up:  The Ground War begins!

Anzac Attack: Amgrunts – The Scenario AAR – Part 1

Well, you’ve read the history, now it’s time for the report!

This is a 13-turn affair that involves three forces; the US Marines and the Republic of South Vietnam are up against the K-500 Battalion of North Vietnamese Army regulars.  Four maps are involved with a nice variety of terrain.  In the northwest, we have some very heavy jungle and east of that, we have lighter jungle with a small village.  The scenario doesn’t say which side sets up first (oops!) but I’m just guessing based on my own LnL experience that it’s the NVA.

NVA force 1 consists of 8 squads with a 60mm mortar team set up on map board 1 to the northeast.  Two units with RPGs are set up in the kunai grass to the south of the village in an attempt to keep the American Amtracs at bay should they attempt a head-on attack from the south.

NVA force 2 also has 8 squads and they are set up in the jungles on board 9.  A recoilless rifle and a platoon of men are set up along the road to ambush the American Amtracs should they try to come up the road.  Another platoon is set up slightly to the west and it will be used to attack the nearby South Vietnamese troops.

The South Vietnamese (ARVN) forces set up on board 9 quite near the NVA.  They get 6 squads and some light weapons.  Without assault move capability, they are outgunned as well as outnumbered by their North Vietnamese enemies.  Clearly, they will not last long against a sustained NVA assault.

Cue the US Marine Corps, which will be sending elements of the 1st Amtrac Battalion up from the south side of the board on turn 1.  They get a few Amtracs with .30 cal machineguns and one Amtrac with a 106mm howitzer.  The Marines also have a decent amount of hard-chargin’ 2-6-4 and 3-6-4 squads to take on the North Vietnamese.

A view from afar:  The board all set up and ready to go before turn 1.

Turns 1 & 2:

The USMC comes on to the board first, entering with all squads mounted on the three .30 cal Amtracs.  The Americans approach on a broad front on both board 5 and board 2, spread out from east to west.  Lt. Reagin and his two squads dismount in the light jungle just south of NVA force 2 and they get hammered by a double whammy of accurate RPD machine gun fire and 130mm artillery.  While the Marines lose a half squad and suffer a wounded leader and a shaken full squad, they do manage to get a hero with the “Multifaceted” hero trait.  He pulls two cards and gets “Loner” and “Veteran” – a deadly combination that may prove instrumental in the hard fight ahead.

Lt. Reagin and his squads on board 1 in trouble.

Meanwhile, far to the left, the NVA trade a squad to get a better position on the South Vietnamese on board 9.  Advancing through the heavy jungle using assault movement, they get close enough to make Sgt.Dunk nervous and he pulls a squad back with him towards board 5, hoping to coordinate movement and fire with the Marines to the south.  A nearby 75mm recoilless rifle spoils these plans, however, as it fires at the moving squad in the nearby trees.  A “2” is rolled to hit and the damage rolls shake both Dunk and his squad.  The NVA follow this up with a devastating melee from an NVA leader and two squads who eliminate the South Vietnamese leader and his men.

Lt. Khai eliminates Sgt. Dunk on board 9.

Much of the second turn is spent with the NVA slowly moving forces south to hit at Lt. Ho and his men but the NVA lose another squad to a South Vietnamese assault.

Beginning of turn 2

The Marines offer some assistance against NVA force 2 by driving up an Amtrac adjacent to an NVA leader and squad.  The .30 cal machinegun fire shakes the NVA leader and his men.  Things seem to be going reasonably well on the American/South Vietnamese left flank.

Marines on the left flank start moving up to help out the South Vietnamese vs. the NVA

Having said that, however, the right Marine flank is in jeopardy.  Peters sends a Marine hero off to melee an adjacent NVA squad after shaking it up but the NVA take this opportunity to advance a platoon of men straight towards the Marine flank, seriously jeopardizing the Americans on board 2.  Now they are practically surrounded!  To add insult to injury, the NVA manage to shake up an Amtrac providing cover for the Marines.  Things look very shaky right now for the USMC right flank.

Marines in serious trouble as NVA force 2 maneuvers around their right flank.

Turns 3 & 4:

The Americans need to work hard to save their flank here but that will mean easing the pressure from other areas of the board first.  The South Vietnamese on board 9 begin turn 3 by eliminating the NVA’s 75mm recoilless rifle in melee.  The NVA respond by pushing their squads at the fragile American right flank.  A 2-5-4 NVA squad with an RPD easily eliminates the hero adjacent to Lt. Reagin’s position.

The Americans try to preserve their infantry by sending the Amtracs around to sow chaos.  One of them cuts over to the right and hits at Lt. Thien and his squads poised behind the Marine flank.  The NVA start sending more men down south from board 1 to board 2 and their grip is tightening around Reagin’s precarious position.  The US responds by sending over another Amtrac from the left flank to prevent further envelopment.  However, the NVA simply take this opportunity to fire at and shake yet another Amtrac (now there are two shaken Amtracs on the board).  This isn’t turning out well at all.

NVA close in on the American right flank.  The US tries to hold on by using Amtracs but they get shaken.

Things do turn around a bit as the Americans score some minor success in the center of the board.  Capt. Peters and his men manage to advance into the jungle and eliminate an NVA squad.  Now they hold a spearhead position with a small force that can be used to threaten the NVA on either board 1 or 2.

Capt. Peters and his men advance on the left flank against the NVA on board 9.

It’s pure chaos as the Marines advance on the left and just barely hold on to the right.  If Reagin and his squads go down, the left flank will be surrounded and collapse with it.

By turn 4, things start to slowly come back the Americans’ way.  They manage to make their rally rolls (except for one of the Amtracs) and Reagin directs his squads to shake and then melee an adjacent NVA squad.  Lt. Ho makes his rally roll and heads back north into the fight on board 9 and a single 2-4-4 ARVN squad fends off an entire platoon of NVA moving up adjacent and assault moving on them.  The ARVN defense is helped out by accurate fire from the 106mm howitzer mounted on one of the Amtracs.

Lt. Ho’s ARVN forces and the US Marines keep up the fire on the left flank.

The NVA also get their licks in.  Lt. Thien fires on and shakes up an adjacent Amtrac while one NVA squad goes for broke and attempts to melee Reagin’s hex, which only has a single half-squad and an M-60 in it.  The melee is undecided as both sides miss their elimination rolls.  Captain Peters, seeing that the situation on the left flank seems to be under control for now, rushes towards the right flank to help bolster the Marines’ numbers.

Right flank:  The NVA shake up an Amtrac and send in a 2-5-4 squad to melee Lt. Reagin and his men in hex N5.

The game still has 9 more turns left in it so things are far from decided at this point.  I’ll hopefully be posting part 2 in the next few days so tune in!

Update:  Part 2 is here!

Forgotten Heroes: Ambush!

Line of Fire magazine issue 12 has several excellent scenarios that expand on Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s Forgotten Heroes II, its game of modern squad tactics set in the Vietnam War.  One of the first scenarios in the magazine is called “Ambush!  Relief Attempt During Operation Attleboro”, which was created by Peter Bogdasarian, who designed such games as Tank on Tank and the Corps Command series (which includes “Dawn’s Early Light” and “Totensonntag”) among others.

Before we get into the AAR, I’ll talk a little about the scenario’s historical background.  During Operation Attleboro in October and November of 1966, the Americans conducted Search and Destroy airmobile missions against the Viet Cong near Tay Ninh, located just south of the Cambodian border in War Zone “C”.  Conducted in two phases, Phase I went relatively well for the Americans from the start of September but in early November, four US Army battalions became part of an ill-fated plan intended to capture a concealed enemy depot.

The US battalions advanced towards a nearby river where the depot was thought to be located.  However, they soon found along the way that the thick vegetation in the area quickly led to a loss of unit cohesion.  One of the attacking companies from the 27th Infantry Regiment ran into a heavily fortified VC reconnaissance camp from the 9th VC Division.  Confusion reigned among the Americans in the heavy jungles along the Suoi Ba Hoa River as command and control quickly broke down and no one seemed to really know where the other attacking American units were quite located.  Sensing the problems that the Americans were having, the 9th VC Division commander, Col. Hoang Cam, funneled his men (and those of the 101st NVA Regiment) into the area.  Over the course of several days, the battle grew ever more larger and the fighting became desperate as each side committed more and more troops.

One of the reinforcements companies that was landed in the area to the north of the area ran into an ambush on its way to helping out the 1st battalion, taking sniper fire from the trees and machine-gun fire through fire tunnels cut through the tall grass that concealed the gunner’s positions.  The company needed to be rescued by two American companies the next day and was found badly mauled with six dead and 19 wounded.  There’s an excellent article here with more details about the operation. This particular scenario focuses on the plight of the American reinforcement company sent in to help out 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment on November 4th, 1966.

Scenario Rules:

We’re using map 4 from Forgotten Heroes here but hex columns I to the right side of the board are out of play.  The US also can’t use low crawl or spotting until the fighting starts to simulate the fact that the Americans are walking into an ambush.  The VC have cut fire tunnels into the kunai grass near the bunker to the southwest so the kunai doesn’t actually block any fire coming from the bunker (though it does degrade it).

Playing area:  US comes in from north after VC sets up in south.

The US gets two leaders and one hero along with nine 2-6-4 squads.  The VC have six squads, a 12.7mm machinegun team and only one leader, “Lt. Diem”, who gets an “Eagle Eye” skill card.

There are also a few events here but I have marked them with spoiler code and avoided mentioning them explicitly anywhere so it’s safe to read if you haven’t played it yet!

Victory is measured by how many units each side can eliminate or reduce.  Basically, the VC side gets 2 points for eliminating a US squad and the US only gets 1 point for taking out a VC squad.  The side that holds the B7 and H7 hexes at the end of the scenario also gets additional victory points.

This is a quick scenario – only four turns, so everyone needs to move fast and hit hard!

Setup:

The VC break their ambushing forces into two.  In the southwest, they place three 1-4-4 squads along with the leader and plunk the 12.7mm WT into the bunker in the kunai grass.

The VC player places three 1-4-4 squads in the southeast corner, one of which gets an RPD and is placed in the other bunker.

VC setup south side of board 4.  Diem is stacked with one 1-4-3 w/ RPD.  MG team in left bunker.  1-4-3 w/ RPD in right bunker.

Turn 1:

The Americans have initiative and start hustling through the jungle with both of their leaders with three squads each double-timing to the edge of the treeline.

US forces after entering from the north.  Note squad in C2 should be in C1.  Corrected next turn without affecting play.

The other three squads are trailing along, looking at the pretty flowers and admiring the scenery.  The US has a hero (with a “Thumper” card) who goes it alone along the right side and arrives at the edge of the bush.  An event occurs

Event Spoiler:
and a US medic shows up

The VC open up from their concealed positions.  Walker and his squads get hit very hard, with all but one 2-6-4 unit shaken in the first volley of fire.  Another VC squad on the right shoot at them again and reduce two of his squads to casualties while wounding Lt. Walker.  The blood starts to flow and the Americans realize they are in big trouble. The only consolation is that the US player gets a hero (“Loner”) in Walker’s hex in F3.

Lt. Jenson and his platoon suffer a shaken squad from being hit by 12.7mm machinegun fire on the left.  The US player has certainly taken his lumps this turn.  A VC 1-4-3 squad is sent up towards D6, hoping to get into a lucky melee situation next turn if the Americans fail their rally rolls.

End of turn 1

Turn 2:

Walker manages to rally a couple of reduced squads back to life while Jenson calms down his shaken squad and gets everyone in his hex back into fighting shape.

Thumper goes to work, firing at one of the VC bunkers but it doesn’t do anything.  “Loner” runs out and acts as a bullet magnet.  He makes it out of the treeline before being eliminated by heavy VC fire.  Walker and one of his squads fire back but nothing happens.  With the VC on the right flank occupied, one US squad runs out towards the VC ambush position.  An event is triggered and:

Event Spolier:
a VC squad with an RPD shows up behind the American lines, which moves in and eliminates Walker and his squads in melee!

US 2-6-4 squad rushes towards the VC positions in front of him. 

Jenson shakes up a VC squad in D6, inviting return fire from Lt. Diem and the 12.7 mm machinegun team in the lower left of the board.  One VC squad is sent up into the jungle hexes near enough to melee the Americans (at their special triple melee strength if coming from a hex out of American LOS) if they fail to protect their flank.

So far, things are going poorly for the US.  They have lost a significant portion of their attacking force and failed to eliminate a single one of the ambush positions held by the VC.  I’m getting a bad feeling about the possibility of a close outcome for this scenario but I continue anyways because you just never know with this game system.

Turn 3:

The US player decides that it’s time to get out of the jungle and on towards the VC.  Sitting here is just not working at all.  It’s impractical to try and take out both ambush positions with such few men, so they focus on taking out the VC on the lower right of the board.

“Thumper”, the US hero, is sent down towards the VC position in H6 and gets hit.  With more guts than brains, the 2-6-4 squad in G4 decides to go for it and gets next to the VC 1-4-3 squad in G6 and makes it through the opportunity fire without a scratch.  The Americans jump into the VC foxholes and eliminate the enemy in melee fighting.

US 2-6-4 wins melee in G6 while Thumper closes in on VC positions in H6

Jenson sends a nearby squad to melee the VC in the nearby jungle hex before it tries to sneak up on the Americans. Another short melee ends in a US victory.  The Americans seem to be finally pulling together here.  They push their luck a bit by sending another squad south to take out the shaken VC squad in D6.  Lt. Diem and his squad fire at the advancing squad but miss horribly.

US 2-6-4 in D5 low crawls into D5, hoping to eliminate shaken VC in D6 next turn.

The turn ends with Jenson moving down towards the lower right of the board with his remaining squad.  As they advance to the southeast, however, they are shaken by 12.7mm machinegun fire coming from all the way over in the B7 hex bunker.

End of Turn 3

Turn 4:

Final turn and the US gets initiative here.  Lt. Jenson fails to rally so the US is going to need to work hard.

The US squad in G6 hops on top of the bunker in H7 and then goes inside, winning a melee and capturing the hex.  The VC in H6 fires at the US hero in H5 and eliminates him.  Over on the left side of the board, two US squads make a play for the VC leader and squad in C6 but are shaken up on the approach by the B7 bunker’s weapons team and Diem’s RPD squad.

2-6-4 squad advances into bunker melee in H7.

Conclusion:

This was a really interesting scenario!  The events were really surprising and definitely changed the outcome of the battle.  By the end of turn 2, the Americans had taken so many losses that they were forced to choose between one of two objectives.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to make up for all the American casualties that the VC were able to inflict early on in the game.  The VC won this scenario coming out at around 10 to 7, a slim margin of victory.  If I had to play it again, I would shove at least one of the American platoons out of the jungle at the top of the board and get them heading towards the VC ambush positions on turn 2.  Hanging around at the top of the board for too long proved almost fatal for the US squads.