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.

Heroes of the Gap scenario: Sucking in the ’70s

I originally submitted this for publication in Line of Fire 16 but stuff kind of happened and here we are.  I tried to make a scenario where the Soviets invade West Germany after the end of the Vietnam War, well before the US starts making those wonderful and deadly M-1 tanks.  I’ve also tried to think of how chemical weapons would work in the game.  I’m not totally sure it works but I tried my best on it.  I also tried to take into consideration the ability of the M-60 Patton to be used for indirect fire.  Lots of little experiments in this scenario.
“Sucking in the 70s” 
Background:  June 12, 1975 – After the end of the Vietnam War, the USSR takes the opportunity to invade West Germany as it faces down a demoralized and broken US Army.  On the third day of the war, the Soviets attempt to enter the town of Richthausen in an attempt to either pass through to the west or seize a vital local intersection.   With only a handful of men, the Americans waited for the Soviets to arrive.  Soon the sound of tanks in the distance signaled that the wait was over.
This scenario uses maps from Mark H. Walker’s Band of Heroes, while the American units are from Forgotten Heroes, and the Soviet units are from Heroes of the Gap.
Turns:  7 turns.  The Soviets have initiative on Turn 1.
Map: (north is top of map)
Setup and Force Composition:

Soviets: 

D Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Guard Motorized Rifle Brigade Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army
Enter on west side of board, map 13 on turn 1
6 x 2-3-4 5/5                 2 x RPK                 2 x BMP-1
Capt. Sarukin               1 x RPG-7             1 x offboard chemical weapon strike
Maj Petrov                   1 x PKM                1 x T-62
Americans:
1st Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd US Infantry Division,
Set up first anywhere on Board 13 before turn 1
3 x 2-6-4                         1 x M-60               Lt. Anders
Elements 3rd Tank Platoon, 5thCompany, 2nd Brigade, 3rd Armored Division
Set up first on Board 15 before turn 1
1 x M60A1 Patton
2nd Platoon, E Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd US Infantry Division,
Arrive on turn 1, entering anywhere on the east side of Board 15
Lt. Walker                     1 x L.A.W             1 x M-60                                3 x 2-6-4               1 x M-113
Victory Conditions:  The Soviets must exit  5 or more units (MMCs, SMCs, and/or vehicles) off the east side of board 15 by the end of turn 7 OR no American units within 3 hexes of hex J4 by the end of the scenario.
Special Scenario Rules:
1. In addition to direct fire, the M-60 tank can provide indirect fire support for American troops.  In the rally phase, the US player chooses whether the M-60 will be in “direct fire” or “indirect fire” mode.  Once this is decided it cannot change for the duration of the turn until the next rally phase.  In indirect fire mode, the tank acts like a 5FP offboard artillery strike that can be called in once per turn by a US leader.
2.  The Soviets have one chemical artillery strike available to them.  This is called in the same as a normal offboard artillery strike.  It hits the impact hex and all surrounding hexes.  Infantry (and only infantry – vehicles in the impact and surrounding hexes are unaffected but they MUST button if in the affected hexes or moving through or into them) in the impact and surrounding hexes make a morale check but defensive terrain modifiers do not apply.  Infantry units that fail the morale roll are instantly shaken.  For LOS purposes, treat the affected hexes as per smoke rules.
3.  The chemical strike stays on the board for a total of three turns.  At the start of the operations phase of each subsequent turn after the chemical strike is initially called, roll for chemical drift and implement its effects on infantry and vehicles in the new impact hexes . The chemical artillery strike drifts 1d6/2 number of hexes per turn.  Roll for direction (1 = north, 2 north east, etc.).  The chemical strike dissipates completely during the rally phase of the 4th turn after it is called.

4. Use Heroes of the Gap for Hero skill cards if a hero is created.

Video Playthrough – Heroes of the Gap: Air Assault

Continuing through with my video playthroughs, I’ve set up and played a game of “Heroes of the Gap”.  In this scenario, “Air Assault”, the Americans are caught by surprise as the Soviets send in airborne helicopter assault troops in a pre-dawn raid to capture three vital objectives in Eisenbach.  The Americans have a small garrison here and attempt to fend off the Spetsnaz troops for as long as they can while help is on the way.

I really enjoyed playing through this scenario.  It incorporates some of the best elements of Heroes of the Gap.  There are helicopters, air strikes, anti-tank missiles, and an M-1 Abrams tank.  I thought the folks at LnLP did a nice job of creating some specific module rules that accounted for modern weaponry.  They also did a nice job of creating scenarios that let it all shine.  “Air Assault” is a really good example of one of those scenarios.

Heroes of the Gap – Back to Basics AAR

“Back to Basics” is one of my favorite scenarios from Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s squad-based tactical combat game “Heroes of the Gap”.  Set in the beginning days of World War III in a fictional 1985, this scenario consists solely of infantry fighting it out in confined spaces, up close and personal.  This, in my opinion, is what the Lock ‘n Load system does best and that’s what makes Back to Basics so compelling.

In this scenario, the Soviets are trying to gain control of as many buildings as possible to the west of the Eisenbach River.  The Americans are basically trying to keep their grip and hold the encroaching Soviets at bay.  There are two complications.  First, the Soviets (like always) significantly outnumber the Americans.  Second, the US player is facing not only the regular Soviet army but almost two platoons of Spetsnaz infantry who are armed to the teeth.  
Regular Soviet infantry with a hero and leader

The Soviet regulars only have one leader (Capt. Sarukin) but he’s got a Coordinated Fire card that allows him to combine firepower from adjacent units, which is potentially devastating against any spotted American units.  They also have one hero (Yuri), who can be used to try and turn the tide in the Russians’ favor.
The Soviet Spetsnaz group is quite impressive here.  They get two very capable leaders and 5 squads, each of which has a morale of 6 and a firepower of 3.  To add to all that, they get RPKs, which are highly lethal in melee combat.  Make no mistake, these guys are absolutely deadly and can tear through enemy squads like a hot chainsaw through butter.
There is, however, some good news for the Americans in this scenario.
The US player has an impressive amount of firepower and range.  The M-60s with their firepower of 2 and range of 10, are no slouches when it comes to shaking up enemy units.  The addition of 40mm grenade launchers (firepower of 2 at 3 range, firepower 1 at ranges 4-6) could be helpful in beating back the oncoming Soviet onslaught and keep Eisenbach in NATO hands for just a little longer.
Setup
The US player sets up first, with a hero and a squad in the large block of flats near the outskirts of the city.  Col. Meade and a couple of squads stand guard on the west of the city in a small 2 hex building (defensive terrain value 3), hoping to at least delay any flanking move from Soviet forces coming from the west.  Capt Boone and 2 squads (one of them with an M-249 SAW) form an assault team and hang back in the single hex building to the east.
Meanwhile, Lt. Moore is tasked with what seems to be the impossible.  He must hold a huge 4 hex multistory building near the center of the map with only three squads.  They plant themselves in the upper levels of the building, knowing that their position is tenuous at best.  Both 40mm grenade launchers are assigned to the squads in this building.
American setup
With the benefit of knowing the US setup, the Soviets carefully pick their starting positions and get set for their assault.

The Soviet regulars set up to the north of the Americans in J12, K12, and L13.  The plan is to basically abandon the position as quickly as possible, take over the large building just across the street that looks kind of like an apartment complex (H15, I14, J14, etc.) and then push south to the building held by Lt. Moore and his squads.  The idea here is to refrain from rushing guys over open terrain to get to their objectives since the US squads have so much available firepower.

The Soviet Spetsnaz sets up.
Sgt Trinov and Lt. Ilyanich set up near Col. Meade’s forces.  Trinov is positioned in the heavy forest in E15 with 2 squads while Lt. Ilyanich has a formidable assault force of 3 squads, two of whom possess RPKs. 
The plan here is to have one group distract and keep Meade and his squads busy while the other group slips by and takes the buildings on the south edge of the map.
We only have a handful of turns to get to our objectives, so there will be no room to stop and get into needless fights.  The idea here for the Soviets is to move, move, move.  Hopefully the Soviet regulars to the north will have enough success to pull the US assault team (Capt. Boone et al.) away and make the Spetsnaz’ job easier.
Turn 1

The Soviet regulars, commanded by Captain Sarukin, begin pushing to the south and into the nearby building.  By the end of turn 1, they have near total control of it although the US still has a hero and a squad in one of the hexes.  No matter – they will crush the meager opposition soon.
While trying to sneak a squad around the large building, one of the Soviet regular squads comes under heavy fire from J17 and a Soviet hero emerges.  The Russians now have two heroes on the board, which is excellent news. 
Yuri and Drago, the heroes of the Soviet Union, are ready to fight against the reactionary forces of capitalism!
I’ve broken slightly with the plan and decided to try my luck with sending some guys straight for the American position held by Lt. Moore.  One of the Soviet squads has gotten into the first floor of the building where Lt. Moore is positioned and this draws the American assault squad commanded by Capt. Boone north to deal with the threat.  The Americans easily win their melee against the lone Russian group.
Over to the west, the Spetsnaz has had mixed success in their attempts at a hit and run on Col. Meade and his two squads.  Lt. Ilyanich sent a squad to try and melee the Americans in the building but it came under heavy fire and was shaken.  This allowed Sgt. Trinov and his men to rush the building and take out one of the US squads in melee. So far, things are looking up for the Russkies.
Turn 2:
Things start to fall apart a bit for the Soviets in turn 2.  Sgt. Trinov and his Spetsnaz squads are shaken by Col. Meade early in the turn and are forced to retreat from the building and over a wall to some cover.   Meanwhile, Lt. Ilyanich and his assault team carefully make their way past the American flank and on towards the small buildings to the east.  Unfortunately, Capt. Boone and his assault team are waiting for them in K19.  An American sniper far to the east is ready to add to the pain if the Russians advance too far. 
The Soviet regulars, commanded by Capt. Sarukin, have completely taken over the apartment complex and are now trying to assist the Spetsnaz in taking out Col. Meade.  One 2-3-4 squad sneaks past Lt. Moore’s position and is adjacent to Col. Meade.  A lucky roll might shake the nearby Americans up next turn and rip the US flank to shreds.  Several attempts to send squads from the apartment complex into Lt. Moore’s building are unsuccessful.
Several Soviet squads of regulars are shaken up as they try to infiltrate Moore’s position.


Turn 3:

Turn 3 holds some disappointments in store for the Soviets.  It starts with Sgt. Trinov, who is unable to rally his team.   To worsen matters, a Soviet squad adjacent to Col. Meade lets loose with AK-47s but the only result was to produce a US hero.  
Both Soviet heroes are KIA.  Drago moves into the building with Col. Meade and eliminates everyone but the US hero before getting killed.  Yuri makes an ill-advised attempt to breach the building across the street from the apartment complex and is peppered by US fire. 
Capt. Sarukin is now finally in position with a machine-gun team to the north of Lt. Moore but there is hardly anyone left to command at this point. Shaken Soviet squads retreat back to his position to be rallied for another push south.  
With Sgt. Trinov’s team shaken, Lt. Ilyanich cannot move for fear of Boone’s forces moving in and melee’ing his comrades.  They sit uselessly in I20 as the Americans refuse to take the bait and wait in K19.  
Turns 4 and 5:

It’s late in the game and things are not looking very good for the Soviets so they go for broke.  Lt. Ilyanich and his assault team attack Capt. Boone and his assault team.  They both completely eliminate one another in one fell swoop.  Trinov rallies his men and advances east to start taking the town’s buildings.  Rushing through sniper fire, they claim three buildings in the south, two of which are unfortunately taken back by the nearby US squad. 
Captain Sarukin rallies a handful of men, who can do nothing except catch the attention of Lt. Moore’s men and die by the dozen.  This helps keep Trinov’s men from the bulk of the American fire but the result is negligible.  There are too many Americans in Trinov’s immediate vicinity, which prevents securing objectives.  By the end of the game, the Russians are defeated handily.

Conclusion:  
I’m not really sure what went wrong but I’m skeptical of blaming luck for the Soviet loss.  If Ilyavich and Trinov had worked together in eliminating Meade and his squads on the flank in the first couple of turns and then focused their attention on Capt. Boone and his assault squad, I think things would have turned out more favorably for them.  
I strongly believe, however, that the key to winning this scenario is taking and controlling the H15 apartment complex with your regulars and then dominating the Americans with one massive push.  Early on in the game, I sent two Soviet regular squads south to get to Lt. Moore and his men but the gains were only temporary and the end result was a piecemeal effort by the Soviets that the US player easily crushed.  
The Americans more or less played as they should have.  Protecting the northern and western approaches to the city while holding an assault team in reserve to deal with any potential incursions was immensely helpful in preventing Soviet breakthroughs.  

AAR: Texas Hold ‘Em – Homebrew Scenario

About a week or so ago, I posted a homebrew scenario I had made using the All Things Zombie maps with the Heroes of the Gap counters.   After lots and lots of playtesting, I think I’ve finally gotten it to the point where it’s balanced out a bit.

Briefly put, the Soviet player gets the Nicaraguan forces from Line of Fire 12 along with the Spetsnaz against the might of a few defenders from the Texas Army National Guard and a group of grim but heavily armed and determined police and civilians.  The scenario takes place during the Soviet invasion of the United States and the Russians are trying to capture the police station and a military command installation in the town of Chaparalle Falls, TX.

As shown on the map below, the two objective hexes are indicated by a black circle while the Nicaraguan approach is signified by the purple arrow and the Spetsnaz landing spots are indicated by the red box at the top of the map.  Note that the Nicaraguans are allowed to enter from any hex on the west side of the map and the Soviet Spetsnaz can be parachuted absolutely anywhere on the map – the image below just shows my approach for this game.

The American sets up first, with the two Army National Guard squads in the center of the map, defending H9 and H11.  Meanwhile down south, the police and civvies (represented by the 2-5-4 German squad counter) barricade the police station and sit tight, waiting for the attackers.

The Soviet Spetsnaz parachute in on the northern outskirts of the town.  Although some of them land a bit off course, everyone ends up okay.

To the west, the Nicaraguans led by Lt. Chamoro, move into the large building complex across the street from the police station.

By the end of turn 1, one of the US squads moves one street over, hoping to catch any Soviets that try to come straight down the street.

By turn 2, the US gets an M113 on the board after the Russians start moving south towards the Army National Guard positions.

The US player is trying to keep the Russians from moving through the buildings, which offer excellent cover, and instead try to approach through the open towards H9, which would not end well for them.

As the Russians creep down, the nearby M113 pivots and fires at Maj. Petrov, but ends up with the creation of a hero, Drago.

Immediately afterwards, a lone Soviet squad attempts to close assault the M113 adjacent to them, but fail in their attempt.

The US gets a Cobra helo for support, which swoops down at the end of turn 3 for a shot at the Soviet squad near the M113.  Unfortunately, it misses completely and speeds off the board.

Down in the south, near the police station, the Nicaraguans take a beating as they approach the nearby police station.

Finally, Maj. Petrov and his men (along with hero Drago) have made their way to the bungalow across the street from the National Guard installation.

The M113 pivots again, this time to fire at the adjacent Spetsnaz squad.  Unfortuanately for it, however, the Spetsnaz manage to shake it up as they pour fire on the exposed crew.  The APC buttons up and hopes for the best.

Maj. Petrov sends Drago out on the next turn to assault the US position.  The Americans hammer on poor Drago as he crosses the street, even firing 40mm grenades at him.  Only his “Lucky Man” card manages to keep him from being killed.

On the next turn, the wounded Drago gets to his feet and makes his way into the building with the Americans. A fierce melee ensues and, amid the confusion, both Drago and the US squad are eliminated.

Maj. Petrov follows up with an assault but Lt. Moore wipes out most of the Spetsnaz squad as it nears the building.

This does not stop Sgt. Trinov, however, who sneaks into the building during the confusion and enters close range melee with the Americans.  Trinov and his Spetsnaz quickly eliminate the Americans and the first objective is taken.  All that stands between victory is the police station. With only two turns left in the game, however, time is short.

With no time left to lose, Lt. Chamoro charges the police station head on and loses two squads in the process. Hoping for a miracle that never came, Chamoro lays wounded and sprawled near the parking lot.

Sgt. Trinov and his men spend the second last turn double-timing down to the police station and get more of the same.  Unfortunately for the Americans, a Soviet hero is created, Yuri.

And on the last turn, the Soviets win initiative. Yuri rallies the shaken Spetsnaz squad and they enter melee with the adjacent Americans in the police station.  The US player eliminates the Spetsnaz squad but the civilians and police are killed as well.  All that’s left to claim the second Soviet objective is Drago.

Turn 7 is over and the Soviets hold Chaparalle Falls, Texas.

Conclusion:

After tweaking this one for a long time, I think I’ve found a sort of balance with it.  My original scenario had US and Soviet tanks in the mix but it never seemed to come out right.  This is one of those scenarios where it looks at first like the Americans are simply going to be overwhelmed by numbers and melee firepower but there are several factors that serve to balance this out.  First, the US has fewer squads but much more firepower in their Army National Guard squads (an M-60, LAW, and 2 40mm grenade launchers).  Second, the M113 APC adds some advantage for the US if you can keep it away from the Soviet player’s squads (obviously I didn’t do a good job of this in the above playthrough).  Finally, the AH-1 helo is one of those wildcards that can show up to help the US a bit.

I think the key here for the Americans is not to sit around with the Army National Guard and to use their Assault Movement to catch the Soviets as they move around town or to fall back and give up defending the H9 objective in favor of working with the police and civvies to defend the police station.  For the Soviets, it’s essential to stay indoors and it couldn’t hurt to have the Nicaraguans and Spetsnaz link up for joint assaults on one American objective at a time.  Since the Nicaraguans can enter any hex on the west side of the map, it would have been just as easy to have them enter in the northern part of the map and use them to help push for the H9 objective.

Scenario Review: Line of Fire 13 – “Hot in the City”

I’ve just played Mark Mitchell’s scenario, “Hot in the City” from the new Line of Fire 13 and it was pretty great.  The scenario uses the Day of Heroes map and the Heroes of the Gap counters to showcase a battle between the Americans and Soviets in a small Libyan city just after a sandstorm passes through town.

There’s a semi-random setup in the scenario, which is great for replayability and it’s really exciting as both sides scramble for prime real estate on the Day of Heroes map, the entirety of which is available for play.  To add to the tension, each side has a Mobile Reserve Force consisting of some armor and an additional squad.  These forces might come on at any time during the game so there’s a lot of tension here.
The battle gets deadly very quickly, especially with the addition of tanks and the paltry terrain values on the map.  The lighter construction buildings only offer a defensive value of 1 while the rubble hexes offer the most defensive value at 3.  With a scenario full of modern weapons and armor, you can imagine that it’s not long before casualties are stacking up on both sides.  In the scenario I played, the game stopped two turns short of the turn limit due to the massive losses incurred by the Soviets.  
Soviet Political Officer gets taught a lesson
 in “Hot in the City”
Here are a few highlights of the game I played.  
-The Soviet side rolled a 12 on a fight or die rally attempt while sitting adjacent to an American M1 Abrams.  I’ve been playing HotG pretty regularly since it came out and this was the first time it happened.  Anyway, the shaken squad rebelled and killed the political officer.  I felt immense pride in that little squad that decided it wasn’t going to be pushed around anymore…Unfortunately, it was eliminated in melee shortly thereafter.

-The Soviet Mobile Reserve Force entered the map and started mopping up the lone American squads left and right.  Any units that were isolated were quickly destroyed as they took cover in cardboard huts while a T-80 tank fired on them point blank.  No less than 3 US squads were eliminated in this fashion.

-An American squad managed to capture an RPG-16 during melee in a previous turn and as a BMP rolled up to the door to fire at it on the subsequent turn, the US side rolled a “2” to hit, and ended up killing it.  I always love it when squads use enemy weapons to great effect on their opponent.  It’s hilarious and impressive to see.

-A Soviet squad actually managed to shake up an M1 Abrams tank with close range small arms fire, which I’ve never really seen before.  The Abrams kept failing its morale checks in the next three turns and it reversed uselessly back to the edge of the map.  It was quite impressive and it’s something that really only happens on these kinds of maps where the fighting is in cramped streets.  I guess this event highlights the up close and personal nature of the scenario due to the map.

A look at the end result as Turn 6 came to a close.  Carnage and shaken units everywhere.
Anyway, my overall opinion is that this is a terrific scenario.  It breathes some new life into the Day of Heroes map and it focuses on a region other than Central Europe so it offers something different for the 1985 WWIII LnL universe.  You also have to adjust your tactics quite a bit to take into account the very short range combat and the deadly weaponry versus meager defensive terrain on the map.  Both sides have to think about where their opponent will enter the map with their armor and plan accordingly.  Finally, the scenario is very well balanced and the handful of matches I have played see-sawed back and forth until one side finally crumbled completely.

Kudos to Mark Mitchell for doing a great job and I look forward to playing this scenario again and writing a full report on it.

Red Backer One: Soviet Opening Moves

Red Backer One is a scenario from LnLP’s Heroes of the Gap which centers on a tank battle between the Soviets and Americans.  The Russians get a relatively large number of tanks to start out with.  They have 9 T-72s and a couple of ATGM vehicles perched on the hillside to the east of Eisenbach and they have to capture the city from the Americans in only six turns.  The Americans have only 3 tanks but these are M1 Abrams, deadly and highly effective at long range killing.  They also get an ATGM vehicle and a platoon of infantry for defense.

I’ve played this scenario a few times with opponents and, each time, I have lost badly as the Soviets.  After a few turns, my T-72s wrecks litter the battlefield around Eisenbach, perhaps getting a successful kill on an M1 before declaring game over.  After playing around with the scenario solo many times, I think I *may* have found the key to Soviet victory.  I’d like to look now at some possible opening moves that might help the Soviet player overcome the odds.

The usual fate of my Russian tanks when I play as the Soviets in “Red Backer One”

In order to inflict damage on the Americans and to avoid getting wiped out, the Russians need to close the distance between themselves and the M1 Abrams.  Sitting on the hill blasting away at the American tanks is probably not going to work out well due to the armor thickness of the Abrams in defense and the long range accuracy of the Abrams on offense.  So the trick here is to close the gap with the Americans, surround their tanks with large numbers of T-72s and hopefully score some rear-shot kills or at least shake up the tanks and end up with an abandon result.  The Soviets are going to lose some units in the attempt but hopefully with just a little forethought and planning, they can preserve just enough of a force to win the day.

The Setup:  Keep it Together

Setup is everything here.  The Soviet player gets one tank leader to start off, which is key to a good Soviet first turn.  A smoke artillery mission is also granted to the Soviets, which is terrific but must be used very conservatively.   Although the Soviets get a large number of tanks here, they have to be used carefully and with the capabilities of both sides in mind.

The Soviets should place their tank leader just slightly back from the hillside and surround himself with stacks of T-72s (remember that you can stack two vehicles per hex).  Both ATGM vehicles should be placed in the 1 hex command range of the Soviet leader and at the lip of the hill with an LOS to any American armor of Team Yankee.  The Soviet leader will activate all surrounding hexes on the first impulse of Turn 1.
You can also stack your BMP1 with one of the BRDM ATs and add to the chaos.  I would recommend expending the BMP1’s ATGM on the US M901 if it’s out in the open and close enough and spotted.  Otherwise, fire it at a US tank or maneuver it into Bergengipfel to stall the US reinforcements there from reaching Eisenbach..
Opening Impulse:  The Wonderful World of ATGMs
If the US player places his Abrams out in the open in LOS of the ATGMs, you can shut down the opportunity fire capability of the Abrams by starting off the game targeting these units with your ATGMs.  Of course, a smart American player will attempt to use opportunity fire on the ATGM units when they start targetting his tanks because the ATGMs are the biggest threat to his forces at this point.  The good thing about this is that, according to the rules, opportunity fire against targeting ATGM units that are busy aquiring can only be done with DFT (machine guns) and cannot be done with OFT (main cannons and other ordnance) so there’s actually a decent chance that your ATGM vehicles survive the opportunity fire although they may be shaken.  In either case, they have done their job successfully, which is to force the US players tanks to use up the opportunity fire they would have otherwise used on your tank rush.  You may want to spare one ATGM to hit at the American M901, which is a guaranteed kill on your tanks if and when it does fire.  Otherwise, make the M1 Abrams your priority targets.
Once you have soaked up the American opportunity fire with your ATGMs, get your T-72s rolling off that hill and towards Eisenbach!  Remember that you have surrounded your Soviet leader with tanks around his hex so this should all be happening in the first impulse of the first turn.
Hopefully, you have used your offboard HE artillery mission on the American units in Bergengipfel and it has shaken up enough of them to prevent your tanks from getting hit from behind as they approach Eisenbach.  If you have a particularly wily opponent who loves to set up unpredictably, then just fire the 122mm artillery rounds a little west of Bergefipfel so that the arty will degrade and/or block the LOS to your tank units as they rush towards Eisenbach.  Remember that artillery effectively creates degrading terrain and it’s as almost as good as Smoke in terms of blocking LOS.  It’s even better than Smoke because it stalls enemy movement.
If the Americans have set up their tanks close to your own set up area, you should try to isolate and surround them with your tank units and kill them on your next turn. If the Americans are set up further back, you should try to get as many units as possible into Eisenbach itself, use the buildings as cover and try to goad the US into a close range street battle.
Hopefully the end of Turn 1 looks something like this for the Soviets.  Note that several tanks are in the Soviet leader’s command range
The key here is to preserve as much of your forces as possible on their way to the city, inflict maximum losses on those American tanks and then prepare for the US to start sending reinforcements from Bergengipfel right away.  This is not an easy task for the Russian player but luckily, the Americans also have 99 problems to deal with too.  For example, the US player has a terrible dilemma here because sending M113s from Bergengipfel to reinforce Eisenbach will surely result in a quick death from T-72s and moving out in the open on foot is equally deadly.
Also, even if the Americans win initiative on Turn 2, they will be forced to choose between targeting your Soviet tank leader, adjacent enemy units and any remaining ATGM vehicles sitting back on Hill 320.  In the picture above, Capt. Bannon will likely activate himself and the adjacent M1, hit the Soviet leader tank (scoring a kill) and then the adjacent M1 will kill one of the T-72s sitting beside it.  Big deal. That still leaves 7 tanks to contend with at close range.  The Soviet player can then spend the rest of the turn assault moving the rest of the T-72s adjacent to the rears of the M1s and firing at them point blank (save one or two tanks for opp fire on any US units foolish enough to try and reach Eisenbach).

If the Soviets win initative, fire at the US leader tank with your ATGM unit and then use the next Soviet impulse to activate your leader and the surrounding Soviet tanks to kill it.

At first, this scenario looks like a cake walk for the Americans as the Soviets have to send masses of armor out into the waiting fire lanes of the Abrams tanks.  However, with the right amount of setup and a very aggressive opening, the Soviet player can pull this one off.

Update:  After trying this out a bit more, I can see some problems with the above advice.  First of all, the US units will probably be out of range to return opportunity fire at the ATGM units with their machine guns.  Secondly, the Soviet ATGM units may not be quite the American tank killer I had initially thought.  HEAT missiles that attack vehicles with a red armor factor have their penetration reduced by 4, which means that the penetration of the Soviet BRDM ATGMs is a meager 12 – still a threat that might shake up the Abrams but probably not potent enough to score kills.

As a result of all this, I would modify my advice as follows:  The Soviets should sink their two off-board smoke artillery just to the west of Bergengipfel and then fire their HE artillery just to the northeast of Eisenbach.  The latter might be effective in blocking the American Abrams LOS to the Soviets as they move off Hill 320 in the initial impulse.  This should effectively protect the Soviet tank rush as it pours towards Eisenbach.

My basic advice of keeping your units together and in command range of the leader, using smoke and artillery to block LOS and rushing your tanks as close as possible to Team Yankee in the opening turn remains the same.

Heroes of the Gap: Back to Basics

Ah…1985.  It was a year filled with good movies (Back to the Future, Out of Africa, The Goonies), good TV (Miami Vice had just finished its first season and The A-Team was in its prime), and good music (Springsteen’s Born in the USA became the bestselling album of 1985).  But on some alternate branch of reality in the LnL universe, all of that came to an abrupt halt on May 14th, 1985.  Instead of “Morning in America”, we all got “Midnight in Europe” almost exactly 40 years after WW2 had ended.

In LnL’s “Heroes of the Gap”, the Americans are trying to stop the Soviets from steamrolling through the West German town of Eisenbach at the start of WW3 in the summer of ’85. All of the scenarios take place during the first day of the war, allowing players lots of different ways to play out a deadly modern conflict in one small but vital scrap of land.

“Back to Basics” is a scenario that takes place on the evening of the first day of the war.  The Soviets have mounted assault after assault on the town of Eisenbach and the surrounding areas but have not managed to completely eliminate the American presence there.  Exasperated by the tenacity of the American soldiers, the Russians send in some infantry from the 33rd Motor Rifle as well as elite Spetsnaz soldiers to clear out the town and seize key buildings in Eisenbach.

This is a terrific starting scenario for any player because the forces consist entirely of infantry.  There isn’t even any ordnance in the scenario so it’s a straight-up shoot out between both sides.

Here’s how it played out:

Setup:

The Americans set up in a large factory near the center of town.  Lt. Moore starts in the upper floor with a squad that has an M-60 and a 40mm grenade launcher.  On the lower floors are Capt. Boone and his men, whose job it is to prevent the Soviets from infiltrating this building and taking out Moore’s defensive position.

North of the factory are a group of Soviets from the 33rd MRD.  Capt. Sarukin is in the building surrounded by 2-3-4 squads.

To the west of all this is Col. Meade and his small band of men who will try to prevent the Soviet Spetsnaz from approaching from the west side of town.

Of course, Sgt. Trinov and Lt. Ilyanich have tons of Spetsnaz nearby with RPKs.  They will rush the Americans the first chance they get.

Turn 1:

We start off with Capt. Sarukin and Lt. Moore trying in vain to spot each other but they’re apparently using the wrong end of the binoculars.

 Lt. Ilyanich sends out a squad to get near Col. Meade, with predictable results.

The Soviet squad is shaken up badly but this opens the way for another squad to be sent out a bit later in the turn.

The Soviets come under fire from the Americans but the fire is completely ineffective and manages to produce a Soviet hero, Drago, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who is determined to win against these soft capitalists.

Sgt. Trinov continues the attack versus Col. Meade’s position…

 Trinov’s Spetsnaz infiltrate the American position and completely eliminate them.

Meanwhile, Capt. Sarukin has been sending his men into the large apartment building just south of his position.  The Americans (with the Maneuver counter) are surrounded.

Turn 2:

Col. Meade and his awesome mustache are barely hanging on.  The Soviets activate and although Lt. Ilyanich is not successful in shaking up the Americans, it is no large matter.  Drago and some men will take care of it.

 The Soviet veteran and his men pour into the building.  Drago strangles an American with his bare hands.  Someone throws a grenade and there is screaming.  Blood is everywhere. And suddenly it is all over.  The American position is gone.

Activated by Lt. Ilyanich, Sgt. Trinov goes next and does not hesitate to follow suit.  The nearby Americans shout in surprise as the Soviet Spetsnaz advances like lightning.

Trinov and his men completely eliminate the adjacent American soldiers.

The Americans in the nearby apartment building decide to take the initiative.  They cannot back out so they decide to melee on their own terms.

The Americans eliminate the adjacent Soviets.

 Turn 3:

The apartment block has become a hotly contested building as the Soviets and Americans start pouring more and more men inside it.

As the Soviets advance from the west into town, the American defensive position in the factory changes a bit.  Clearly the US will have to defend the building from two directions.  This is not good.

Lt. Moore fires at Capt. Sarukin and his group of men up north, shaking up a few squads.  However, Sarukin’s response is absolutely deadly and he manages to shake up Moore and reduce an American squad.

Trinov and his men are south of the factory and start advancing east towards the small block houses.  The Americans fire at the advancing Russians but to no effect.

Trinov and his remaining squad advance…

and eliminate the lone American unit.

The apartment block up north becomes the scene of more bloody fighting as the Americans take out another of Sarukin’s squads along with Yuri, the Soviet hero.

Both the Soviet and American squads are eliminated in the ensuing melee.

 Drago, our veteran Soviet hero, rushes towards the apartment block to stem the tide of battle over the apartment complex…

but fire from a nearby American squad wounds him badly.

Things start falling apart rapidly for the Americans now.  Lt. Ilyanich rushes into the factory where the Americans believed they had an impenetrable fortress.

Capt. Boone fires at him but to no avail.  Capt. Sarukin sends a squad down to enter the factory.  They are directly below Lt. Moore and his shaken men.

More Soviets enter the apartment block where the Americans have been causing chaos.

An American sniper fires at Lt. Ilyanich but narrowly misses him when he suddenly tilts his head down to light a cigarette.  “Who says cigarettes kill you, Ivanovich?!  Mine just saved my life!”

Turn 4:

The Soviets gain initiative and Lt. Moore and his men rally.

However, the 2-3-4 Soviet squad in the floor below rushes up the stairs throwing grenades and spraying bullets everywhere.  A big metal barrel of industrial solvent explodes, setting Soviets and Americans alight.  When it all dies down, the Soviets have control and no Americans are left alive.

Our US sniper fires at Drago and rolls a miserable “3”.  Drago turns around at the direction of the shot and snorts in contempt.

The apartment complex is the site of yet more melee as Drago jumps into the fray with a US 2-6-4 squad.  They are both eliminated.

Sgt. Trinov and Lt. Ilyanich work together as they near the factory.  Capt. Boone and his men fire on an approaching Soviet squad, which gives Ilyanich a chance to flank the US soldiers.

Ilyanich and his men eliminate Boone and the rest of the Americans in melee.  Sgt. Trinov and his remaining squad take the buildings south of the factory for even more victory points.

Turn 5:  With one remaining American squad in the apartment complex, Sarukin simply sends one Soviet squad to wrest control away from the Americans.

The End.

Conclusion:  What a butt-kickin’!  The Soviet Spetsnaz with RPKs are pretty much unstoppable in melee, especially if the US spreads out their troops.  I probably would have stacked the Americans more tightly to prevent being overrun.  Lots of good melee rolls by the Russians also helped.  I think in this particular scenario, once you start losing as the Americans, it is very very difficult to come back.  In any case, all the house-to-house fighting provides lots of excitement and, as I mentioned before, the infantry-only nature of the scenario lets you focus on the tactics rather than worry about any other rule sets such as air units, artillery, vehicles, etc.  This is my “go to” scenario when I’ve had a long day at work and I just can’t force myself to crunch too many numbers or try to remember lots of different rules.