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 N├╝rnberg, 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.

D-Day at Omaha Beach: June 6,1944

D-Day at Omaha Beach, published and reprinted recently by Decision Games, is a solitaire offering that lets the player take control of the US 1st and 29th Divisions in a bid to storm Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944.

Designed by John H. Butterfield (of “Ambush!” and “RAF” fame), the game is primarily card-driven.  A typical turn will have the player drawing a card to see what happens to his units about to land on the beach, then draw again for special events, and then once more to see which German units fire and what American units are hit.  The US player then gets a handful of actions (moving, attacking, etc.) for his units in each division.

In the game’s introductory scenario, Easy Fox, the player has control of the 1st Division as it battles for control of the eastern half of Omaha beach, which includes Easy Red and Fox Green sectors.  The scenario goes on for 16 turns and it’s notoriously tough to win.  The US player needs to get his men off the beach and take out all the German opposition on top of one of two draws.  So not only do you have to get through the death trap waiting for you just off the shore in the form of bunkers and machinegun nests, but you also need to contend with fighting through bocage and into the nearby coastal towns.

Here’s how my own recent playthrough went:

The American tanks are sent out first, launched from the horrific distance of 5000 yards out from the beach amid turbulent seas.

American tanks sent to land on Fox Green and Easy Red.

Two of the tank companies are immediately wiped out before even landing on the beach while another is delayed and the remaining two are reduced to half-strength.  The two tank units clamber on to the beach and one of them manages to disrupt a German machinegun nest.

The remnants of the tank companies on the beach.

On the second turn, the 16th Infantry Regiment starts to land after drifting far to the east towards Fox sector.

16th Infantry Regiment lands on the beach.

F company drifts into H company’s landing hex, providing the Germans with a concentrated target.  The men start taking casualties immediately.  Engineers start clearing the beach to the right of the American landings.  I also managed to get a couple of tank platoons on the beach on this second turn.

I had my tanks start to provide cover fire for the 16th regiment as it made its way to the shingle.  It had no effect on the Germans.

By the next turn, the 16th has taken even more casualties on its way to the shingle.

Two infantry companies have been reduced to single step strength.  If six more companies suffer the same fate, the game is over and I will have lost.

16th makes its way to the shingle and two tank companies of the 741st follow.

For my two actions, I sent two tank platoons from 741st tank battalion to follow the depleted infantry towards the shingle and hoped for the best.

Turn 4 arrived and several more companies of men from the 16th Infantry Regiment were arriving.  Again, I faced a terrible situation where two companies (K and G) landed too close together and provided a concentrated target for the German machinegunners.  They ripped into the American infantry as the soldiers disembarked from their craft.  The only positive note, if you could call it that, is that this left my guys huddling at the shingle safe from fire.

K and G companies land together at Fox Green providing a target for the German machineguns.

Things were getting desperate and it was time for the US to try and assault WN 61 bunker.  Luckily, the event card had given me an extra action this round, so I used both tanks to support an infantry assault on the machineguns by E and L company.

Infantry and tanks work together to attack the Germans at WN 61.

After flipping over the German marker, it revealed that I needed bangalores and mortars to successfully defeat it.  Luckily, the remnants of E and L companies still had these tools, so the German depth marker was revealed.  The marker indicated that it could only be taken out by naval gunfire.  So much for luck at that point.  I had no naval artillery whatsoever, so I would need to sacrifice an attacker in the coming turns to take it out.  This was going to cost me.

Turn 5 came and the beach was looking completely nuts.  All of my infantry and tanks had been drifting east with the strong tides so Fox Green was absolutely crowded with guys while Easy Red sector was nearly vacant except for a single reduced tank platoon that had done nothing since the invasion had begun.

Fox Green has a traffic jam while Easy Red is nearly empty.  

Determined to take out WN 61, I push one of my tank platoons up towards the shingle and out of German intensive fire while sending L company of 16th regiment up on to the bluff to hit the Germans from the flank. This will negate the German’s defenive bonus from the terrain.  The new arrivals of I company get shot to pieces on their landing.  Anguish.

It’s turn 6 and K company gets raked by machingeun fire and is reduced to a single squad.  However, the combined use of tanks and infantry manages to take out the depth marker from underneath the German machinegunners at WN 61.  The remaining Germans are disrupted and should be easy to completely clear out by the end of next turn.  I currently have suffered 4 major losses of units so I’m halfway to losing the game right now.  I need to keep moving and have a bit of luck.

WN 61 in trouble as American tanks and infantry assault.

Turn 7 provides a couple of disappointments as a lone infantry company far to the west in Easy Red sector suffers two step-losses.  L company from the 16th regiment again gets hit and now I have lost 6 companies total.  Two more similar losses and the beach will be closed down by Allied High Command.

The good news, however, is that WN 61 has been taken out and now the way up the draw is clear.

The behemoth of the beach, the WN 62 machinegun bunker, sits just to the right of the main American effort and with several actions available this turn, I sent my freshest units and a tank platoon to the west to start taking it out.   Hopefully, the dominoes will start to fall now and the draw will be mine.

C company and a tank platoon moves towards WN 62 to prepare for an assault next turn.

At the end of turn 7, the tide rises from low tide to mid-tide, so I ended up losing two reduced tank platoons and a group of artillery that were sitting at the edge of the shore.  It’s a tragic loss but I needed to spend my efforts elsewhere on the beach and keep my infantry and tanks moving.

Turn 8 landings start and I finally get an HQ on the beach in Fox Green sector.  HQs provide many benefits, the most important of which is to give adjacent units free activations.  This puts everything into overdrive for the Americans.  We might just be able to pull through yet.

The 16th Infantry Regiment’s HQ lands on the beach and starts issuing commands.

The cards are once again in my favor this turn as a hero is created for the 1st Division.  I place him with C company of 1/16th to help with the assault on WN 62.  In the meantime, the HQ starts sending infantry up across the bluff to take out German reinforcements that have been arriving since this morning.

During the action phase, B and M companies move up adjacent to WN 62 and get ready to take it out in the following turn.

M and B companies are both adjacent to WN 62 while the remnants of F and I companies move up the bluff.

In the subsequent turn, M and B companies manage to disrupt the German infantry in WN 62 and remove the depth marker.  By turn 9, the Americans in B company move up off the beach and D company, which had landed far to the west in the earlier hours of the invasion, joins up with the main American assault.

The HQ decides to leave the WN 62 assaulters to do their work and focuses instead on moving up on the left side of the map to use his depleted forces and some artillery to hit at the German reinforcements in the bocage near the coast.

Turn 9 actions.  HQ sends I and F companies to the left while three companies on the right start to head off the beach.

Turn 10 begins and Gen. Wyman, commander of the 1st Division is lined up to land on the next turn.  The Americans get another hero, who is placed with D company of 1/16.  I decided to put the hero there because they give units free activations.  I sort of envisioned the 16th HQ taking care of the German reinforcements to the left while the two companies with heroes acted independently to take on the German reinforcements to the right.

F company and I company are directed by HQ to assault the Germans in the bocage while the HQ itself coordinates artillery fire.  Unfortunately, things don’t turn out well.  The assault reveals that the Germans are very strong (defense of “3” doubled to “6”).  Since the attacking factors are 12, the Germans are given a depth marker, which makes them even tougher to take out.

I and F companies fail to dislodge the Germans in the bocage.

On Turn 11, the American units on the right flank make a joint attack with M and B companies to destroy the remnants of WN 62 machine gun bunker.  The fight is hardly over as German reinforcements in a nearby village are holding fast.

The last resistance from WN 62 crumbles as M and B companies take out the machine gun bunker.

The two companies led by heroes make their way towards the German defenders in a group of buildings just south of the machine gun nest.  Neither company has suffered any losses so this could be a very easy battle indeed.

Americans slowly make their way towards German reinforcements beyond the beach.

At turn 12, I can see that this game could go either way.  It seems likely I’ll take out the German reinforcements on the right flank but I’m having some terrible trouble on the left flank.  The HQ will need to shift additional forces over to help its flagging assaults on the entrenched Germans.

M company and B company are sent towards the 16th regiment HQ while the two full American companies on the right can probably handle things on their own, especially since they have heroes with them.  The recently landed 6th field artillery is sent up towards the HQ as well to help out with the fighting on the left.

Units start to shift over east to help out the American assault on the left flank.  

General Wyman starts to send reinforcements up on the right flank to help out the two US companies.

Both companies with the heroes attack the German reinforcements after finally getting into position.  However, things go sour.

Two companies with heroes attack German reinforcements.

The German unit requires flanking tactics in order to defeat it.  Normally heroes can be used to help negate most requirements but this is not allowed with flanking.  In order to defeat this unit, I’ll need to assault the Germans from hexes that are not adjacent.  This will take time though the clock is steadily ticking towards my time limit.

Eventually, the Americans units are shifted around after taking a couple of step losses but I get my flanking maneuver and prepare for an assault on the German position on the right flank.

Two companies about to go for an attack on German reinforcements using flanking tactics.

On the left flank, things seem to be going steady.  I have a hero for one of my units now and M company has moved up off the beach.  The HQ also has command of field artillery in order to lend considerable firepower to the attack.

US left flank:  HQ and considerable firepower about to attack the 8/2/916 Germans in bocage.

Tragedy strikes, however, on turn 13 when the 8/2/916 Germans on the left flank fire on the approaching M/3/16 Americans, reducing it to a single step.  Eight American units have now been reduced to single step units.  The game, for better or worse, is over and the Allied commanders close Omaha Beach.  Although my defeat was anti-climactic, I have to concede that I was simply not moving and assaulting fast or smart enough.

Conclusion:  What a heartbreaker.  If I had managed to hang on for a couple of turns, I’m sure I would have taken out the German reinforcements and at least been very close to a victory.  As it stands, it was poor planning on my part and a bit of bad luck that ruined my chances.

The US took some very heavy losses early in the game, probably because of the traffic jam of men and equipment that always drifted to Fox Green.  As a result, when I pulled fire cards for Germans in these sectors, the resulting casualties were terrible and mounted rapidly.  I think I had the general idea by the end of the game.  Having two powerful units to take out one group of reinforcements while an HQ and several units focused on the other seems to be the way to go.

Fire Team: Reconnaissance on the Nuremberg Highway

Last month, I posted a short review of Fire Team, a tactical squad based game set in World War III.  I’ve had a bit of time to sit down and play this West End Games offering from 1987 and I’m enjoying it for the most part.  There are some holes in the rulebook and one or two things that don’t seem to make sense, but overall I’m happy I bought it.

Today, I whipped out scenario 2 from Fire Team, “Reconnaissance on the Nuremberg Highway” and played through it.  The situation is that the US 2nd Armored Cav has sent out a small task force to find the Soviets advance down the Nuremberg road.  

To win this scenario, the Soviets have to get two vehicles from the same platoon off the north side of the map in five turns.  The Americans gain victory by preventing the Soviets from doing this and by inflicting losses.

This scenario is really interesting because the Soviet player can choose from one of three types of force compositions:  1)  Two platoons of BMP-2s and a handful of troops.  2.)  A helicopter forward detachment with attack and transport choppers or 3.)  several T-80s and a few more BMPs.  Depending on the type of force that the Soviet chooses, the NATO player may or may not get reinforcements.

I also enjoyed the “mystery map” aspect of this scenario. Basically, all forces start out on map C.  If the Soviet player moves his forces off the map to either the east or west, he rolls a die, checks a chart and selects the adjacent map based on the result.

So here’s the Americans, who start off with six M2 Bradleys with TOW missile systems.

The Soviets get two platoons (3 vehicles each) of BMP-2s.  Each platoon has a reduced weapons team with RPG-16 rocket launchers.

For this scenario, I decided to keep things small since I’m still learning the game system.  I’ve gone with the basic forces for both sides.

The map below shows the way the setup went.  Basically, the M2 Bradleys are strung along the road to the north while the Soviets are in two “clumps” down at the bottom of the map.

The Soviet 1st vehicle platoon plans to hook east and try to get around the Bradleys to escape to the north while the 2nd platoon will drive straight north and try to engage the enemy.

Here’s a closer look at the Soviet setup.

Soviet setup:  1st platoon to the right (east) while 2nd platoon is to the bottom left (west)

The Soviets get first activation and the BMPs of 1st platoon trundle towards the east side of the map.  The first vehicle arrives at the edge of map C so the Soviet player rolls for and places the adjacent map, which is map A.  Below we have the new board setup with Map C to the left and Map A to the right.

1st Platoon starts to advance northeast

The Soviet BMP-2s take a bit of ineffective opportunity fire from one of the Bradleys but otherwise make their way east totally unscathed.  They are making very fast progress towards the edge of the board and I’m worried that the Soviets might actually win this thing in turn 1.

1st Platoon finishes its first move.
BMP-2s of 1st platoon make their way northeast.

The US player responds by spreading out his Bradleys further along to the east, hoping to catch the Russians before they exit 1st platoon off the board and claim automatic victory.  Three M2 Bradleys try to form a net near the city of Ehrenberg, which is the most likely route for any Soviet advance to come through.

In the next couple of impulses, the Soviets push 1st platoon behind the large hill to the south of Ehrenberg, hoping to swing the vehicles east and then north in an attempt to flank the American M2 Bradleys.

M2 Bradleys start spreading out to catch Soviets before they exit the map.

On the next American impulse, a lone M2 creeps up behind the column of BMP-2s as they move behind a large hill.

An M2 Bradley pursues the Soviet 1st platoon, hoping to sneak in a kill on the rear vehicle.

The Bradley moves cautiously towards the rear vehicle and is about to go for a shot when the BMP-2 changes facing and fires its 30mm cannon into the Bradley’s hull, destroying the American vehicle.  The BMPs change direction after killing the Bradley and decide to make it through the west side of the town, which is nearly undefended after the loss of the M2.

On the right side of the map, the Soviet 1st Platoon slips north between the town and the small hill.

Meanwhile, far to the west on map C, the Soviet 2nd platoon moves up north to engage the other three Bradleys.

Soviet 2nd platoon starts moving up north towards the US M2 Bradleys.

By the next turn, the Soviets have had another vehicle platoon activation and they spend it on 1st platoon, which is now within range of escaping the north side of the map and securing a win for the Soviets.

1st platoon BMP-2s make a run for the northern edge of the map.

Unfortunately, the Soviets seem to have run out of luck.  The first BMP-2 gets within 3 hexes of the map edge before it is eliminated by opportunity fire from a nearby M2 Bradley.

Soviet BMP-2 comes under fire from nearby M2 Bradley.

The next BMP-2 is hit by a TOW missile and immediately eliminated as it gets within striking range of the map edge.  Deciding not to follow in his buddies’ footsteps, the remaining BMP-2 unloads its infantry into the buildings of Ehrenberg and they prepare to use their RPGs on the M2 Bradley across the street.

Soviet infantry with AT launchers unload and prepare to attack M2 Bradley in Ehrenberg.

Far to the west, the Soviets 2nd vehicle platoon tries to salvage the situation.  Since the Soviet victory conditions call for 2 vehicles of the same platoon to make their way off the map, the attention now shift to this other part of the board.  One of the BMP-2s lets off a weapons team with two RPG-16s in the woods south of the town of Fesselsdorf where three M2 Bradleys are skulking around.

One M2 sits near a group of buildings on the outskirts of the town and opens up with machinegun and cannon fire on the encraching infantry.  The Soviets are unaffected, however, and start firing rounds back at the M2.

Soviet BMP2s drop off troops with a couple of RPG-16s near Fesselsdorf

While the M2s are busy dealing with the infantry, the Soviets send off one of their own BMP-2s to try and make a run through the town and escape to the north.

BMP-2 rushes north through Fesseldsdorf

Unfortunately for the BMP-2 crew, an M2 in the woods takes notice of the Soviet vehicle.  The M2 Bradley fires off a TOW missile, which easily destroys the BMP.

Another look at the situation to the west as the Soviet BMP tries to get through Fesselsdorf.

The Americans get an activation next and decide to start hurting the remaining Soviet BMPs.  Another M2 Bradley fires a TOW missile at the BMP-2 on the hill to the south of Fesselsdorf and destroys it.

West side of the board looks very empty at this point.

The Soviets respond by getting two lucky shots off and killing off two American M2s with the help of RPG fire and some good shooting from the remaining Soviet BMP-2.  The RPG-16s run out of ammo and both sides decide to call it a day and break off contact..

The resulting victory points are calculated:
The Americans have accumulated 10 victory points for destroying Soviet vehicles.  They have lost three of their own vehicles, however, which puts them at a total of 4 victory points.  The US scores a marginal win here.

I’m sure I made several mistakes with the rules during this play but I’m getting the hang of things too.  The variable command points and random chit pull really make you think hard before committing to actions.  The fact that you have to spend command points to do anything really helps to make things tense too.  In this game, I found the US quickly lost command points as their vehicles were destroyed and they were actually forced to spend really carefully in the latter half of the game to inflict damage on the Soviets.  It was hard to convey this aspect of the game in the writeup, but it was actually very interesting. The Soviets came close to winning an automatic victory twice and the Americans had lots of good luck and wisely spent their precious few command points.