LnL Basics: Combat for Beginners

Lock ‘n Load was one of the first squad-based tactical combat systems that I bought when I first started getting into wargaming a few years ago.  I excitedly got it back from the store, punched out my counters and sat down to play the first scenario and then I opened the rulebook in giddy anticipation.  WHAM.  I was totally unprepared for this kind of game after looking at the rules and I desperately needed a hand just to get the basics drilled into my skull before I played a game that even resembled something that the rulebook described.  
After setting up numerous scenarios and bumbling my way through them, slowly poring over the rulebook to check each and every move, I finally started to get the knack of it.  In an effort to spread the knowledge and make things a bit easier for new players, I’ve created a short video that shows how combat works.  It’s pretty basic but I think it’s enough to give new players a small headstart in learning the rules.  It’s not a perfect tutorial in any way but it’s an attempt to provide a small portion of the rules in a different media format.  I’m not sure if I’ll continue with these kinds of videos after this one but here’s something that someone may be able to use.  If I’ve screwed something up in the video, please let me know and I’ll make some edits.  Happy hunting!



Anzac Attack: Amgrunts – The Scenario AAR – Part 2

This is part 2 of the ‘Amgrunts’ scenario from Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s Anzac Attack, the expansion for Forgotten Heroes II.  Part 1 is posted here.

Last we left off, the Marines were in considerable trouble, with the NVA managing to surround their right flank and threaten to overrun it.  On the left flank, the Marines and the ARVN were having better luck against the NVA, managing to make some small gains.  
Turns 5 & 6:
The fifth turn starts with the Marines fending off the NVA squad and shaking up another one nearby with .30 cal fire from an Amtrac.  The NVA pull their half-squad back and manage to shake up an amphibious vehicle with mortar and machinegun fire.  Overall, the pressure starts easing up on the Americans on the right flank and the tables slowly turn in their favor.  The Americans push one squad and a half squad up the center of the board.
American right flank has pushed back the NVA by the end of turn 5.
On the left flank, the ARVN are performing well despite constant pressure from the NVA.  Nu Dat keeps pushing squad after squad at a single 2-4-4 ARVN squad but the combination of defensive fire from both the Marines and Lt. Ho’s squads helps to keep the NVA bottled up in the heavy jungle.  The 106mm howitzer mounted on the Amtrac directly to the south also limits the NVA’s options for maneuver.  
The following turn, the Americans make some major gains as they push through with attacks everywhere.  Two of the shaken Amtracs from the previous turn manage to rally and Capt. Peters and his men are also back in action.  This frees up the Marines’ right flank and they are completely let loose at the slowly dwindling number of NVA around them.  One Amtrac shakes up Lt. Thien and his men and Reagin follows up by eliminating them in melee.  Two Marine squads in the center advance close up to the nearby NVA positions on board 1.  One squad takes some hits from NVA fire but a hero (Lucky Man) emerges from the cauldron of combat.
Over on the left flank, the NVA leader and his squads suffer several shaken results but a hero with a “Rage” card prevents a melee elimination.  Lt. Ho holds off on the melee and orders his squads to fire again on Nu Dat.  The hero is wounded and two squads are reduced to half-squads.  Overall, a painful but not yet fatal experience for the NVA on the left flank.  An ARVN squad gets a hero after coming under fire from an adjacent 2-4-4 NVA.
American and ARVN left flank:  The ARVN and one Marine squad face a giant pile of shaken NVA.
Well, after a harrowing first four turns of the game, the tide seems to have slowly turned in the US favor by turn 6.  Still too early to tell who’s going to win this one.  The piles of eliminated squad counters for both sides looks pretty even.
End of turn 6:  Reagin and his men are off to the southeast and not shown here.
Turns 7 and 8:

The NVA starts to overreach here a bit at the start of the turn.  Lt. Van Du fires at and melees a nearby USMC half squad.  With the Americans able to rally almost all of their Amtracs, they open fire at Van Du and an American Marine hero closes in and melees the shaken NVA.  The right flank is almost totally clear now for the Marines!

US hero about to enter melee with Lt. Van Du and clear up the right flank.

On the left flank up on board 9, Lt. Ho and an ARVN hero fire on a big stack of NVA squads under Nu Dat, shaking most of them.  An NVA hero and a half-squad with an RPD are protecting the stack, however, so the nearby US Marines opt to pull back slightly rather than charge into a risky situation.  Captain Peters follows up from the right to help out and the Amtracs begin to surround and isolate the remaining NVA stack.  Things suddenly look very grim for the North Vietnamese.

Remaining NVA on left flank fend off nearby ARVN hero.

Turns 9 and 10:

“From hell’s heart, I stab at thee.”  The few remaining NVA manage to eliminate Lt. Ho and his squads with
the help of some firepower and some nice rallying.  Two NVA half squads get reconstituted at the start of the turn into a single powerful 2-4-4 with an RPD and this proves extremely deadly.  By the time the dust clears at the start of turn 9, the ARVN have only a single hero still on the board.  Not a single ARVN squad has survived the scenario.

The remaining NVA in their final moments: beleagured and surrounded by vehicles and Marines.

The American player pushes the rest of his Marines into position to take out the NVA with a single powerful push in turn 10.  Captain Peters gets a 3-6-4 squad with an M-60 to move in after a nearby US hero draws the fire of Nu Dat.  At 1-1 odds, the NVA have a decent chance but they roll a 2 while the American player gets an 11.  Things end badly for the NVA and the three remaining turns in the game consist of isolated mopping up of shaken units and a 60mm mortar team.  I wish I could say this was tense right through to the end of turn 13 but this particular game just fell into the American player’s lap with the loss of Lt. Van Du and the NVA never had a chance to recover.

End Game

With no NVA units on the board, we take stock of our casualties and see what the battle has wrought for both sides.  The NVA get a total of 31 points for eliminating several US Marine squads and basically wiping out the ARVN.  However, with the NVA suffering a complete collapse in turns 9 and 10, they have lost an entire battalion, which gives the US player 45 points.  It’s by no means a complete blow out but the Americans have won a significant victory.

The eliminated NVA points counted up at the end of the scenario.

Conclusion

Those Amtracs really are deadly!  The NVA put a lot of pressure on the Americans in the early and mid-game but they kept getting hurt by the armored amphibious vehicles roaming around the board and firing at the enemy from adjacent hexes.  It’s clear that NVA firepower should have been better used in the early game to knock out the Amtracs permanently rather than merely shake them (the Amtracs were repeatedly shaken up throughout the game but they almost always rallied in the next turn).  Although I realized this by mid-game, I had all of my RPG-carrying units sitting in buildings and since ordnance cannot be fired from a building, they were unable to strike effectively at nearby enemy vehicles.

It would have been interesting if the NVA had been a little more aggressive up on board 9 from earlier on in the game.  They should have chosen to melee the ARVN units instead of assault moving and firing on them from adjacent hexes.  By trying to preserve too much of their force through careful movement and fire, they ended up inadvertantly buying time for the Marines on the right flank.  Also coordinating the two NVA forces (board 1 and board 9) would have certainly worked in their favor if they had been able to manage it.  I really feel that the NVA should have had this one but they let too many opportunities slip through their fingers.

This was a particularly interesting scenario!  The pressure is really on for both sides and the extremely high number of casualties reflects how deadly these forces can be when they run into each other in pitched battle.  My first playthrough of this scenario ended with the NVA ruling the board by turn 7 so with this result, I believe it is nicely balanced.

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!

Anzac Attack: Amgrunts Background

Last week, I received my copy of Anzac Attack, the expansion for Lock ‘n Load Publishing’s Forgotten Heroes II.   Since then, I’ve been immersing myself on a daily basis in the game, trying out various scenarios here and there.  The first scenario, Amgrunts, provides the player with a large-scale battle with a really interesting historical background.

Background

Amgrunts pits the US Marines of the 1st Amtrac Battalion versus the NVA in an area of South Vietnam called Cua Viet, located just north of Hue City.  The Cua Viet waterway was an important supply channel that could be used to ferry equipment and men deep into Vietnam to vital strongpoints such as Dong Ha.  For this reason, maintaining control over the mouth of the waterway in and near Cua Viet was essential for the Marines.

In 1967, the 1st Amtrac Battalion, was tasked with building defenses and constructing operating bases in the area in and around Cua Viet,   As things started to heat up, however, elements of the battalion were removed from these duties and assigned a dedicated infantry role to help defend the area from NVA incursions.  Despite this unexpected shift in roles, the ‘Amgrunts’ fought with distinction in Vietnam  and won four commendations by the end of the war.  40 years later, the term “Amgrunts” would be revived when 1st Marine Division’s 3rd Assault Amphibious Battalion began operating as infantry around AO Bagdadhi in Iraq.

106mm weapon LVTP5 Amtrac

The Amtracs

One thing I should note about this scenario is that 3 “normal” Amtracs are used while the fourth Amtrac has a 106mm weapon mounted on it.  This threw me for a loop as I kept looking for the LVTP5 counter with the HE values when actually, you’re just supposed to plop the 106mm counter on top of one of your LVTP5 counters and there you go!  From what I’ve been able to glean online, the 106mm weapon has an HE value of 5.  To Hit numbers are on the back of the counter.

The LVTP5 Amtracs were used by the Marines for troop transport (with Marines riding on top) and fire support (with the 106mm cannon sandbagged and chained to the vehicle).  Apparently, they were favored over the Ontos, which were considered vulnerable to mines (and thus mostly assigned to secure static positions).  Being used extensively for such dangerous missions had a price, however, and by the end of the Vietnam conflict, around 300 LVTP-5s were destroyed or damaged beyond repair.

Scenario History

This particular scenario takes place on January 20, 1968, which marks the point around which the NVA became more active in the Quang Tri area.  If the NVA could contest the area and cut off or reduce the flow of supplies along the Cua Viet Waterway to Dong Ha, this would jeopardize the resupply of several Marine bases (Cam Lo, Camp Carroll, the Rockpile, and Ca Lu) inland that were isolated in the jungle and operating far from other friendly units.

Quang Tri area with Cua Viet east of Dong Ha.  Several isolated US Marine bases in the Quang Tri area are shown.

On January 19th, Marines from C Company, 3rd Battalion, ran into NVA positions, leading to a major engagement that lasted almost the entire day. The scenario recounts events of the next day.  On the morning of the 20th, the NVA were desperate to pick another fight.  They fired on several patrol and naval craft along the waterway.   Elements of the 2nd ARVN Regiment and 1st Amtrac Battalion went on patrol and ran into an entire NVA battalion.  The NVA came to the fight prepared and called about 50 rounds of 130mm artillery fire on the ARVN and Marines.  The Amtracs suffered damage during the battle, with one of them getting hit 3 times by RPGs.  By the time the NVA had withdrawn from the fight, the Marines had suffered 13 KIA and 48 WIA.

This is a large 4 map scenario that runs for twelve turns.  There are no events or special scenario rules.  It is a straight-up knock-down fight between two large forces.  The NVA start off on map 9 and 1 while the ARVN forces start up on map 9 and the Marines enter from the south of the board.  Right away, the Marines have a decision to make.  Do they let the ARVN fend for themselves while taking on the large force on map 1 or do they rush over to map 9 and end up fighting in the very heavy jungles (where the Amtrac fire support is of limited help).  I tried the former option on my first play and ended up with the ARVN getting wiped out fairly quickly.  With no one left on map 9 to fight, the NVA turned the rest of its entire force on my Marines and hurt them very badly by the scenario’s end.


Sources:
Esthes, Kenneth (2000).  Marines Under Armor, Annapolis: US Naval Institute Press.
Nusbaumer, Stewart (2008).  ‘The Amgrunts’, Leatherneck Magazine, March, vol 91, no. 3.
Shulimson et al (1997). US Marines in Vietnam – The Defining Year 1968, History and Museums Division Headquarters, USMC.
Thompson, P.L. (1968). ‘Amgrunts’, Leatherneck Magazine, June, vol 51, no. 6.

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.

Band of Heroes: Overlord Begins

“Overlord Begins” is a scenario from Lock ‘n Load’s Band of Heroes expansion “Swift and Bold”, which focuses on the British efforts in Normandy and Holland during 1944.  It’s an impressive expansion with 12 scenarios and 83 counters. Although it is tough to find these days, I hear it will be included in the upcoming new edition of Band of Heroes.

“Overlord Begins” depicts the landing of the 6th Airborne Division’s D Company in the early hours of June 6th, 1944.  The company’s mission was to take and hold the Caen Canal Bridge over the River Orne, a vitally important strategic target.  With the bridge in British hands, it would help speed the passage of friendly units as they pushed south of the beaches while at the same time preventing the Germans from easily reinforcing their coastal defense units later on in them morning.
In scenario terms, the British win this one if no German units are within three hexes of the bridge by scenario’s end.
Here we get map 14 and 17 with a handful of Germans at either end of the bridge while a platoon of men is set up anywhere west of the river hexes or on board 17.  Just a quick note that the scenario rules indicate that some of the terrain on the board is different than what is actually depicted; bocage is actually hedge while marsh hexes are clear terrain.
The playing area for the scenario.
I love the Horsa glider mechanic and how it plays out.  You pinpoint where the gliders are supposed to land and then make a morale check that’s modified by terrain and enemy defenses to see where it actually lands and what happens to the glider’s occupants.    Since this scenario takes place at night, the chances that the glider is going to crash land off course is a little higher than during the day. The night rules for combat and spotting are slightly modified by the scenario.  Basically, units can spot anything within 3 hexes of their position (instead of the usual two).  The scenario rules also state that the Germans are taken by surprise by the landing so all they can do in the first turn is basically sit there and defend in melee.  The British plan to take full advantage of this.
A little closer look at the German setup here:
On the eastern side of the bridge, the Germans get a single 0-5-4 squad with an MG42 in a bunker.
The eastern side of the bridge with defenses
On the western side, we get another 0-5-4 squad with an MG42 but it’s sitting right on the bridge hex in 17H6.  The Germans have a platoon of infantry, which they plunk down on the west side of the bridge.  
German defenses on western side of bridge.
With the Germans set up, the British decide on where their Horsa Gliders are going to land.  They choose two gliders each (both of which have a platoon of men inside) to land to the west of the bridge.
Two Horsa Gliders will be landed on the west side of the bridge.
The remaining glider will land on the eastern edge of the bridge and hopefully take out the MG bunker quickly.
Remaining Horsa Glider to land near the banks on the east side of the bridge.
After we choose our landing spots for the British, we roll away and see what happens.  As it turns out, both gliders on the west side of the bridge land perfectly and the men are in good shape.
Lord Holmes and Sgt. Livingston arrive safe and sound with three squads each.
Disaster strikes when the third glider fails its check badly and lands far to the south of where it was supposed to land.  Captain McCloud and his three squads are instantly eliminated and the British are down to 2/3rds strength before a shot is even fired in the scenario.
With no time to mourn the loss of the other British platoon, Sgt. Livingston and his three squads move east towards the bridge to melee the German machinegun crew in H6. 
Livingston and platoon head into melee with German 0-5-4 with MG42.
Unbelievably, both sides in the melee roll poorly (both of them roll a “3”) and no one is eliminated.  Lord Holmes moves a bit further south, hoping to cover any advance from the German infantry under command by Sgt. Baumann.
Placement at end of Turn 1.
Turn 2 begins and the British retain the initiative.  Sgt. Livingston decides to get the melee with the German machinegun crew over and done with but the British roll a “4” while the Germans get a lucky “11”.  Sgt. Livingston and his men are completely wiped out.  The British now have only 1/3rd of their starting force and it’s only the start of turn 2.  What a disaster!
With a stiff upper lip, the remaining British platoon decides to carry on, cautiously pushing up towards the bridge using assault movement.  Sgt. Baumann moves two of his squads up to intercept the British paras in the coming turn.
End of Turn 2
At the start of turn 3, it is time to throw caution to the wind.  Lord Holmes orders one squad to fire on the German machinegun crew sitting on the bridge and manages to shake it.  He commands one of the squads to follow up by moving in to melee the shaken Germans.  
One of the Para squads melees and eliminates the German machinegun crew in H6.
The Germans get a bit of revenge here as one of the Wehrmacht squads shakes up the Para squad in I7.  The turn ends. 
Turn 4 begins and the British gain initiative.  With bravery that borders on recklessness, the British squad that eliminated the German machinegun crew last turn jumps into melee with the adjacent German squad in G6 after picking up a Bren during the rally phase.  A couple of rolls later, the British squad has eliminated these Germans too.
British paras eliminate their second German squad of the day.
Just before the melee takes place, an event marker calls for German reinforcements to arrive in the following impulse.
Sgt. Beck and a handful of squads arrive with a light tank that trundles up towards the British position.  Now the Brits are really outnumbered!
A German tank and a platoon of Germans arrive on the scene.
Lord Holmes can do little about the uninvited guests so he hauls back an adjacent British squad, hoping to rally the men in the coming turn.
It’s Turn 5 and the Germans get initiative.  Lord Holmes successfully rallies the squad with him.
This is it – time to crush these pesky Brits!
The Panzer tank pulls up adjacent to Lord Holmes and his two squads.  The adjacent British paratroopers fire back with everything and shake up the vehicle crew.  
Lord Holmes and his men fire on and shake up an adjacent German tank.
The remaining British squad in the G6 building hex ends up in a short victorious melee with a German squad that rushes for the machinegun sitting on the bridge in H6.  While the British are preoccupied with enemy tanks and machineguns, Sgt. Baumann and his men take the opportunity to move south towards Sgt. Livingston’s position.
Turn 6 begins and again the Germans get initiative.  The German tank rallies and immediately fires on Lord Holmes and his men, scoring a hit.  The tank fire shakes up Lord Holmes and one of his squads but what’s this?  A British hero (“Chapman”) emerges and is given the “Preempt” skill card. The unshaken men fire on the adjacent tank and shake it up.  Baumann and his men fire on the British but without result.  Despite being almost impossibly outnumbered, the British are still clinging on.
The Paras get a hero with the Pre-empt skill card after taking on fire from a German tank.
With only one turn left, the British will need to start securing the far side of the bridge.  The remaining British squad runs across the bridge to the east side of the river.  They get adjacent to the German machinegun in the nearby bunker.  Sgt. Beck see the Brits race across the river and take possession of the building in G6 on the west side.  The British will now have to eliminate him and his men in order to win the scenario!
British paras get close to a German MG bunker while Sgt Beck moves into building hex in G6.
It’s turn 7, the last turn of the scenario.  In order to win, the British will need to eliminate any Germans within three hexes of the bridge.  It’s going to be a very tough job.  The Germans win initiative and fail to rally their shaken Panzer in the rally phase. The British use Chapman’s “Preempt”  card to go first in the Operations Phase.  They send the hero off towards Sgt. Baumann and he is wounded while approaching the German position.
Chapman runs towards the German position in F7 and is wounded.
Now the British paratroopers will have to eliminate Beck and his men and also take the bunker. First, they went for the bunker…and took it!
British paras successfully melee the German MG bunker on the east side of the bridge.
Now to take out Sgt. Beck and his men.
Lord Holmes sends one of his squads out towards Beck’s position but the Germans hold their fire, waiting for the main assault.  The Para squad gets adjacent to the Germans and fires using its assault movement.  However, the Brits fail to shake the Germans.
Brit Para squad gets adjacent to Beck and fires at the Germans without result.
With no other option left, Lord Holmes and his remaining men move towards Beck, hoping to get past the German fire and beat them in a melee.  As they get adjacent to Beck, the Germans open fire and shake the British leader and his men.  With Beck and his men clinging to the G6 hex near the bridge, the Germans retain control of the crossing. 
Lord Holmes and his squad are shaken as they get adjacent to Beck and his men in G6
The British have lost this one, but just barely.  I believe it was a matter of just not having enough men to take the objectives despite a good amount of luck on their side.  The combined loss of Cpt. McCloud and his platoon in the third glider and Sgt. Livingston’s platoon in melee on turn 2 was just too overwhelming for the British to make up for.  Still, it was shockingly close and the British did have a chance of winning even right up to the very last impulse of the last turn of the scenario.  Great stuff!

LnL Tactics Part II: Of Problems and Dilemmas

A little while back, I wrote an article about my own Lock ‘n Load tactics and how they had changed over time, especially in terms of how to use specific kinds of units for attack and maneuver.  Today, I’d like to broaden out into the conceptual and just talk about the way I try to approach each game in order to get the most tactical bang for my buck.

Generally speaking, I try to set up and use my forces in a way that creates dilemmas for my opponent.  When I use the word “dilemma”, I’m referring to a situation that presents the opponent with lose-lose choices.  Note that this is much different that the word “problem”, which refers to a bad situation that can be resolved with a definite solution.  Good players are good at creating problems but great players are able to create dilemmas.  For more information about how these two terms are used and thought of by military planners, check out pages 1-22  and 1-23 of US Army Field Manual 3-21.8 right here.

In game terms, you can create dilemmas in a number of ways.  One of them is to setup your units in a way that forces your opponent to make tough decisions.  I’ll use Heroes of the Gap’s scenario “Air Assault” as an example:

In this scenario, the Americans get a handful of guys at the start of the game that can be plunked down anywhere in the city buildings of Eisenbach.  The Soviets come in on turn 1 with overwhelming force (6 Spetsnaz squads and two army squads with a Hind, four Mi-8 Hips and Soviet air support to boot) in an attempt to take and hold three key buildings for the win.  On turn 4, the American player gets reinforcements in the form of several squads, an M-113 and an M-1 tank.

The big issue here is that the American units at setup are vastly outmatched.  They even need to make a morale check to fire or move on the first turn.  So how can the American player make the best of this very bad situation?

Well, he could simply put his forces in an objective hex and hope that the dice roll his way.  But this would be giving his opponent a problem rather than a dilemma.  The problem being:  “There are bad guys in the objective hex.” and the obvious solution being:  “Kill the guys in the objective hex.  Take the objective.”

Defender setup 1:  Defensive units in objective hexes presents enemy with a problem.

As the defender in this scenario, it’s probably much better instead to place your units as far away as possible from the objectives.  This gives your opponent a dilemma.  He can either 1.) go for the objectives and leave your guys untouched or 2.) he can try to take out your units before getting to the objectives.

Defender setup 2:  Defensive setup outside of objective hexes presents enemy with dilemma.

If your opponent takes the first option, this leaves his units open to immediate counterattack from your units in the subsequent turns.  The second option will require him to spend his time and resources away from the objective and leaves part of his forces out of position when your reinforcements arrive on turn 4.  Neither of these is good for your opponent so it’s a perfect example of creating a dilemma rather than a problem.

This is just one example of “dilemma” thinking that can help improve a beginner’s game.

You can also create dilemmas for your opponents by using combined arms.  Effective use of artillery, for example, can be particularly effective at giving your opponent tough choices – especially when combined with infantry or vehicles.  Artillery can be used to try and funnel your opponent into kill zones.

In the example above, the Soviet defender has called in artillery on AC7, presenting a dilemma for the American attacker.  If he moves his infantry into the adjacent buildings for cover, he will get hit.  If he moves out into the open ground beyond, he will get hit.  If he sits and does nothing, he will probably get hit or, at the very least, waste the turn.  There is absolutely no good choice here for him and one could argue that this might actually be a more effective use of artillery than simply calling it down into AE7 where the US units may or may not survive their defensive rolls.  Often the threat of getting hit by artillery is a more effective tool than actually hitting the enemy directly with it because of its ability to create dilemmas for your opponent.

Good luck and remember:  always think of ways to create dilemmas instead of just problems!

Lock ‘n Load: Forgotten Heroes – River of Perfume

River of Perfume is a small 7-turn scenario that takes place during the battle for Hue in 1968 just after the Tet Offensive.  It pits the United States Marine Corps versus the Viet Cong in a pitched battle.  This differs significantly from the usual hit and run scenarios that feature the VC.  Instead, we get a stand-up fight over the control of a handful of buildings.  The Marines’ task is not easy – they need to have control of 5 buildings on the map by scenario’s end.  Any other result is a VC win.

The VC set up first.  They have two leaders, Arnat and Dobie-san, as well as a hero with a Rage card.  They basically start with three buildings – one in the center of the map board and two others to the south.

The large stone building just south of the Marines’ starting position is probably key to the fight.  It is large and offers excellent defensive protection.  If the Marines want it, they will have to come in and melee the VC, a dangerous proposition in such a cramped map.

The VC hero and 3 VC squads set up in this citadel and wait.

During the American setup phase a bit later, I set up Sgt. Ash in a small building just to the north with 2 Marine squads in his hex and 2 others in the hex beside him.

VC Hero and 1-4-3 in upper level with 2 x 1-4-3 squads adjacent in G3.

Just to the southeast of this large stone fortification is yet another stone building.  I put Dobie-san in hex G5, hoping that he can rally any shaken VCs that withdraw towards G4 (his “Charismatic” ability allows him to rallying friendly units in adjacent hexes).  Three other squads are set up in the same building, set up to hit at any Marines that attempt to reinforce the large fortification.  They also have control of a building with a swimming pool in G5 so they can go off for a dip should things get too crazy.

Lt. Reagin is in the building just to the north (I2 and J2).  He has a Marine squad with an M-60 and also benefits from the “Lucky Man” bonus, which allows him a one-time opportunity to add or subtract 3 from a die roll.

Dobie-san and friends set up in the G5 building while Reagin is in the building to the north.

Arnat and 3 VC squads set up far to the southwest in a large triangular building that offers some avenue of fire at the American chaplain, who is stacked with two Marine squads directly to the north.

Arnat and 3 x 1-4-3 squad set up with field of fire directly to the north.


The Marine chaplain and his two 2-6-4 squads (with LAW rocket) set up in the building directly to the north of Arnat and only a mere two hexes away from the large stone fortification where the VC hero and his comrades sit.

Close up of northern part of board with Marines set up around the large stone fortification.



The Plan:

The VC plan is basically to run and gun from the large fortification (F3/G2), taking out as many Marine squads as possible before retreating south.  After that, they will try to find opportunities to whittle away at lone American units.  Arnat will try to make it hard for the Americans on the left flank to advance while Dobie-san’s two squads will try to keep Lt. Reagin from moving into the large fortifications.  Hopefully this will encourage the Americans to send in forces piecemeal, where they can be dealt with in small groups.

The Marines are basically going to kick down the doors and go in guns blazing.  This means committing maximum force towards their objectives.  There will be no half measures.  Every man will either be firing or moving – or both (thanks to having assault move capability) on every turn.  The high morale of the Marines should keep them going through the tough times ahead.  They will take the large stone fortification directly to the south at all costs and then advance into the building held by Dobie-san and his men.

Turn 1:

The Americans are granted automatic initiative on turn 1 and the advance begins.

The VC hold their fire and let the Americans move in.  The Marines barge into the large stone building at G2, adjacent to the two 1-4-3 VC squads. Lt. Reagin and his men open fire on the hapless VC in G3 from across the road.  One VC squad takes casualties while the other is shaken.  They crawl away from the building towards Dobie-san, hoping to be rallied next turn.

Since the VC are holding fire for now, the Marines take the opportunity to crash the west side of the fort with another 3-6-4 squad in hex F3.  The Marines move in and get ready for a fight.  Another 2-6-4 squad arrives in G3 and now the Americans are quickly gaining control of the large fortification.

The VC, however, will not give up so easily.  Dobie-san directs the squad in his hex (G5) to open fire on the 2-6-4 Marine squad, achieving a shaken result.  The VC hero in F4 moves from the upper floor to the adjacent hex and eliminates the Marine squad in melee.  The Americans have suffered their first loss in the game.

To help reinforce the 3-6-4 squad in F3, the Chaplain and his Marines move from their starting building towards the stone fortification but a VC sniper pops up and starts hitting them in the open.  Arnat joins in and her RPD squad shakes up the Chaplain and all of his squads very badly.  She sends her two VC squads up north in hopes that the Americans will fail to rally and they will become easy targets for melee in the coming turn.

Turn 1 has ended with mixed results.  The Marines seem to be taking over the large building very quickly but they are encountering some stiff resistance.  Moving the Chaplain and his two squads towards the fort may not have been the smartest move.  Now the American player is going to need to commit time and impulses towards preserving and rallying these men.

The Chaplain and 2 squads are shaken in D3 while other Marines start to control the stone building.

Post Turn 1 Comments:  It was just dumb to have my Chaplain and the two Marine squads charge towards E3.  They were easily shaken up and now very vulnerable to the approaching VC squad to the south.  The US player is going to have to get them moving away from the enemy early in the next turn, which will take away precious time I have to shake up the VC in F4 and G3.

On the VC side, it may have been a mistake not to use up opportunity fire on US troops as they approached the large stone building.  Now the Americans are in the building for good.  The Chaplain and two Marine squads are a tempting target.  Eliminating them in the coming turn should considerably sap the energy of the American assault.


Turn 2

The VC get the initiative this turn, much to the Americans’ chagrin.

Rally:  The VC adjacent to Dobie-san fail to rally but, on the other hand, the US Chaplain fails to rally the two squads with him.  That’s great news for the VC!

Operations:  The only thing that might prevent the VC from getting to the Chaplain and his squad would be taking opp fire from the 3-6-4 Marines in E3.  So the VC 1-4-3 squad in F4 makes a sacrifice move and jumps into melee with the adjacent unit at 3:1 odds.  Incredibly, the VC player rolls an 11 and they eliminate the Marines.

1-4-3 in F4 jumps into melee with adjacent 3-6-4 and they are both eliminated.  

The US player tries to minimize further losses by pulling the Chaplain and his squads back to the far north of the map.

The VC player, riding a wave of luck, decides to throw his hero (with the Rage card, which offers +1 firepower) into melee with the adjacent 3-6-4 Marines (who have an M-60 machinegun) in hex G2.  Normally, this would be a 5-1 melee attack but with the Rage card, this comes to a 5-2 attack (for a ratio of 1-2), which is further shifted right to a 1-1 attack for the VC hero.  The hero’s dice come up 9, which eliminates the US Marines.  The Americans are really suffering.

Overall, it has been an amazing round for the Viet Cong, who have eliminated 8 firepower from the Americans at a loss of only a 1 FP squad and a hero.

The building after the VC-US melee.  No one is left standing.

Lt. Reagin is determined to get revenge and fires at the two shaken VC squads in G4, eliminating both of them.  Dobie-san orders his RPD to shoot at Reagin in the building to the north to no effect.  The VC start to slowly re-occupy the stone building, sending in lone squads here and there.

Lt. Reagin (Lucky Man in I2) and his men eliminated the shaken VC squads in G4.

The VC player decides to push one of his squads straight towards the shaken US Chaplain and his men, getting adjacent to them and ready to melee them in the next turn.  Sgt. Ash sees the nearby threat and starts moving towards the VC squad.  A sniper fires at Ash and his men and a US hero is created (The Gunner).

The Americans continue moving and enter melee with the VCs who are adjacent to the shaken US chaplain.  The US wins handily but they will soon be sitting in the open.  Arnat moves her squad towards both Ash and the Chaplain and take up positions in the building hex adjacent to them.

Arnat sits adjacent to Ash and the hero, ready to deal some damage next turn.

Things look great for the VC at the end of turn 2.  The US player has control of only two buildings and has lost many of his own men from devastating melee this turn.  Arnat is sitting right beside the two major US groups and is ready to do some serious damage in the coming turn.

On the other hand, the US has managed to inflict some damage on the VC, who have lost 5 squads of their own this turn.

Turn 3

Initiative switches to the Americans this turn and their luck starts to turn around.

Rally:  The Chaplain in D1 rallies himself (like a rock star with a roll of “2”) and a half squad of Marines.

Operations: Sgt. Ash and his stack of Marines in D2 open up on Arnat and her squad in the adjacent C2 building hex and shake everyone up.  The American hero with “The Gunner” skill card immediately moves in and eliminates all of the VC and Arnat in the ensuing melee.  This is a stunning setback for the VC.  Sending Arnat up so close to the Marines at the end of last turn was apparently a huge mistake.

The VC are shaken by Sgt. Ash and his Marines (under the hero in D2) before “The Gunner” moves in and kills everyone.

The Chaplain and his shaken men move into B1, which offers some defensive terrain.  This gives the shaken units a better chance to rally next turn.

The action moved to the east after this happened but there were no fewer surprises in store.

A group of VC get close to Lt. Reagin and his men over on the other side of the map.  The Americans refuse to take the bait and Dobie-san and his RPD squad open fire on Reagin’s men.  Dobie-san rolls well on the attack, prompting Reagin to spend his “Lucky Man” card. This reduces the damage roll to a mere “1”.  Reagin and his squad are both fine but wait, what’s this? Another American hero is created (“Stealthy”) and stacked with Reagin.

Dobie-san (“Charismatic”) fires on Lt. Reagin in I2 and ends up creating a US hero.

Reagin sends off the hero to get into the stone fortification to the west.  The VC shoot at him with opportunity fire as he approaches hex G2 but to no avail.  The hero slips into G2 and is in excellent defensive terrain.  With only a 2-1 attack advantage in melee over the adjacent VC in G3, I decided to play it safe and stop the hero there.  Reagin opens up on the VC squad in the building hex and shakes it.

US hero in G2 adjacent to shaken VC squad.  

The turn starts to come to a close.  Out of spite, the VC sniper takes a shot at Sgt. Ash and shakes him up.

VC sniper shakes up Sgt. Ash in D2.

It’s been an amazing turn.  The Americans have come back full force after some serious setbacks in turn 2!  The game is far from over at this point, however, since there are still 3 turns left and the US must capture 2 more VC-held buildings.

Here’s how the board looked at the end of turn 3:

End of T3

Wow, it really looks like sending Arnat up north to chase after the shaken Marines was a huge mistake.  Had the VC won initiative on the turn, they probably could have fired at the adjacent Sgt. Ash and his Marines, which would have really hurt the American player.  As it turned out, however, the gamble was not worth it and now the VC are down to only one leader (Dobie-san).

The VC are going to have work really hard to turn the tide against the Americans.  It may not be too late to squeak a victory out of this one if they can keep their eye on holding buildings rather than chasing down shaken enemies.


Turn 4

US wins initiative this turn.

Rally:  The US Chaplain way over in the northwest corner of the board manages to rally the 2-6-4 squad.  Sgt. Ash makes a recovery too.  So far, so good for the US.

Operations:  The US player sends his hero (“The Gunner”) from C2 down to C4, which is just adjacent to the VC sniper.  The sniper fires at the lone Marine, rolling a 10 on 2d6.  2 FP is added due to the target being adjacent and another FP is tacked on for a moving target.  Luckily, the Marine rolls a “6” for the defensive die and then a “1” for damage, escaping unharmed from the sniper fire!  The hero jumps into the hex with the sniper and eliminates him in melee.

US hero about to melee Viet Cong sniper.

Sgt. Ash takes this opportunity to try yet again to take the large stone fortification nearby and enters building hex E3 with his squads, coming under heavy fire from the adjacent VC.  Luckily for Ash, the fire is totally ineffective.

Sgt. Ash and two squads of Marines enter the stone fortification and avoid enemy fire.

Ash and his men decide to keep moving. They push into hex F4 and get into a melee with the VC 1-4-3 squad.  They eliminate it but also lose a half-squad of Marines in the process.

Dobie-san in G5 decides to try for some revenge against the Americans.  He fires on Lt. Reagin in the I2 building hex and manages to shake up Reagin and his 3-6-4 squad.  Reagin and his men withdraw from the building to G1.  A VC squad is in range of moving into melee with the shaken Americans but the VC player has learned his lesson.  Instead of chasing down shaken enemies, the squad is moved into the building that Reagin has just vacated.

Lt. Reagin and his men retreat from I2.  Next, the VC in I3 move into the building.

The US hero in G2 (“Stealthy”) creeps into hex H2 and fires on the adjacent VC in I2 but to no avail.  Our US Chaplain moves to B3 with a squad and they prepare to get back in the fight.

Well, this has been quite a turn!  The US player has worked hard towards fulfilling the victory conditions but the unexpected retreat of Reagin from I2 and the subsequent loss of the building really hurt.  The American player has managed to kill lots of Viet Cong but the VC player has smartened up a bit and is more focused on frustrating American attempts at winning scenario objectives.

An overall look at the board at the end of Turn 4:

End of Turn 4

The VC player is hoping to rally the 1-4-3 adjacent to Dobie-san next turn and shake up and then melee Ash and his men.  If Lt. Reagin fails to rally, that will help to delay the Americans in their attack.

Turn 5:

The US has initiative this turn again.

Rally:  Lt. Reagin fails to rally and the shaken VC squad to the north of Dobie-san also fails its morale check.

Operations: The turn begins with both sides trying to retain the meager forces they now possess.  Reagin pulls back to the building hex in F1 while the shaken 1-4-3 VC squad retreats back to Dobie-san’s hex.

Ash and his men fire at Dobie-san with no effect but the Americans make gains elsewhere. The US hero (“The Gunner”) heads down south to capture the triangular building at C6, claiming two of three of its hexes.

“The Gunner” captures a building.  Only two more buildings are needed for a win.

The VC squad in the upper floor of I5 descends to the first floor and moves north towards the I2/J2 building to help reinforce the single squad there.  If the VC can just hold out in both buildings for two more turns, they can prevent the US from winning.

VC in hex I4 as they move towards the north to reinforce the 1-4-3 squad in I2.

I started to get a bad feeling about the Americans’ chances of winning this one.  It’s proving hard to get shaken US forces rallied and there’s not enough firepower to go for a direct melee assault on Dobie-san.  With the VC moving another squad towards the I2/J2 building, it seems they will be able to hold off any assaults from my meager forces in the next two turns.

Turn 6:

The VC player wins initiative.

Rally:  Reagin and his men rally while the shaken 1-4-3 squad in Dobie-san’s hex fail the check again.

Operations: This VC player moves the squad in I4 to J3.  If it can get into the building next turn, it will be really difficult for the US to take it.

The US Chaplain and the Marines stacked with him move to G2 to help with the coming assault.

Reagin and his men move towards the J2/I2 building, hoping to add their considerable firepower to a last-turn push against the VC.  Unfortunately, Dobie-san tells his men to fire at Reagin and it manages to shake the Americans yet again.

Reagin and his men are shaken up while approaching a nearby VC-held building.

The US hero “The Gunner” moves adjacent to Dobie-san.  The plan is to have the hero jump into melee with Dobie-san’s squads, which will prevent the VC in G5 from firing on the main US assault versus the J2/I2 building.

End of turn 6

Things are looking grim for the US.  They have a bunch of shaken guys and a couple of leaders with only a squad each.  The VC, on the other hand, are sitting pretty right now with two buildings firmly held.  All they need to do is sit tight and let the US approach…and then just open fire.  One building needed for the US to win.

Turn 7

The VC player wins initiative.

Rally:  Reagin and his men fail to rally.  Dobie-san rallies a shaken 1-4-3 squad in his hex.

Operations:  The VC squad in J3 low crawls into the J2 building hex.

The US player goes for broke.  The US hero in F6 runs into Dobie-san’s hex and enters melee.  Dobie-san has two 1-4-3s and an RPD in his hex, which gives him a firepower of 4 versus The Gunner’s firepower of 2.  The US player rolls an 11, taking out all of the VC in the hex.  Surprisingly, the VC player rolls a 3, which is not enough to kill the US hero.  Well, this certainly changes things.  All American efforts are now suddenly switched from capturing J2/I2 to getting hold of the G5 stone building.

The US hero “The Gunner” enters into melee versus Dobie-san, two 1-4-3 squads and an RPD

The VC player passes and the Chaplain sends his 2-6-4 squad towards I2.  The 1-4-3 VC squad opens up and shakes the US Marines.

The Chaplain’s 2-6-4 squad moves towards I2 and is fired at by the VC squad.

After that, the American player sends Sgt. Ash into H6 capturing part of a building needed for the US win.  The other US hero (“Stealthy”) moves into the remaining hex.

The other US hero makes it down to I5 hex.
Sgt. Ash and his squad rush into the remaining unoccupied building hex.

The result is 5 US-controlled buildings, just in time for the game to end.  The Americans win.

A final look at the board:

A look at the end of the final turn.

Conclusion:  What a game!  The early game see-sawed back and forth between the VC and the American hero.  Late in the game, it seemed that the VC were going to hold on to the last two buildings on the board.  The very lucky melee roll that allowed “The Gunner” to take out Dobie-san and two squads and still survive the melee was basically the key to allowing the US to grab the win in the last turn.  I felt the US player basically capitalized on the early mistakes made by the Viet Cong and then had some incredible fortune in the rolling on the last turn.

Props go out to “The Gunner” who single-handedly took out a VC sniper, captured two buildings, and eliminated a VC leader, two squads, and a support weapon in the course of a single game.

My Lock ‘n Load Tactics

Lock ‘n Load is easily one of my favorite game systems and I find it just gets better the more I try out and learn different tactics. Lately, I’ve been going back and replaying scenarios that I haven’t touched for a long time and I’ve noticed that things were much more fun this time around.  I think part of this was due to knowing the rules a bit better but I think another reason is that my tactics have changed and improved a little bit over time.

Generally speaking, the decisions have become a lot more interesting and the outcomes are a lot less one sided than they used to be.  This is an article about how my tactics in LnL have changed over time and where I’m at now with my game.  Of course, tactics are going to vary widely based on the type of scenario objectives, terrain, and enemy considerations but I think every player has a few general principals that they try to follow in order to get the win.

1.  Infantry Tactics on the Offense

When I first started playing Lock ‘n Load, I relied heavily on using ranged firepower to shake up and hopefully inflict casualties on nearby enemies. The problem with this is that it just doesn’t work very well and it takes a lot of time.  I would spend several consecutive turns with the bulk of my guys sitting around waiting for a leader to make a successful spotting roll and then fire away at the enemy from a distance.  Like most LnL players, I discovered fairly quickly that this kind of tactic is really not the most effective way to fight and win.

So now I focus mainly on thinking about ways to get my guys into favorable melee situations against the enemy.  This kind of “melee focus” is much more effective in terms of eliminating enemy units in a hurry.  The trick, of course, is to have enough units to soak up enemy defensive fire before proceeding with the melee assault.

Generally speaking, I usually divide up my units into three elements.  I have a base of fire with a leader and a squad with a long range weapon, one squad for reconnaissance, and an assault group consisting of squads with high firepower (usually two squads with a support weapon of some kind).  The recon squad will be sent out to approach the enemy and draw its fire, after which I’ll use the base of fire to shoot at the enemy and hope for a shaken result before sending in the main assault squads to move in and melee the enemy. These concepts can basically  be thought of as the old military addage “Find, Fix, Finish”.

In melee, I will try to assault unshaken enemies at 3-1 odds, which seems to be the safest way to ensure a win without losing my own guys in the process.

2. Leaders as Rallying Points

I notice that I use leaders slightly differently now.  Instead of viewing them merely as a way to increase firepower, I see their most powerful ability is to rally units.  If kept in terrain with a defensive bonus, a leader will be able to rally at least one or two units in its hex per turn (on average).  Lots of players seem to forget that leaders can reconstitute two half-strength MMCs into a full-strength squad.  That’s too bad because that’s an extremely powerful ability.

I always try to have a leader to sit slightly back from the action in order to give my shaken squads somewhere to crawl back to after a failed assault.  This helps to keep recycling my guys towards the front. I think the trick here is try to place my leaders close enough to the action but far enough away that they’re not in any immediate danger from a sudden shaken result and a follow-up enemy melee assault.  I have noticed after observing my own games that the side that usually wins is the one that knows where to effectively place their leaders on the map and when to move them.  I rarely, if ever, throw a leader into melee now.  I find the benefits are too few for the risks that are ventured.

3.  Using Vehicles as Mobile Cover

I used to primarily think of vehicles as good for one thing – blowing up lots of stuff.  Lately, one of the best things I’ve noticed about vehicles is that they can be used as a sort of mobile cover for my troops.  If I need to cross an open area that’s in the enemy’s line of fire, I will usually get my tanks in front of my guys and then slowly advance my men in coordination with the vehicle.  The vehicle will serve as degrading terrain if the enemy tries to fire past it at my advancing squads.  It also offers +2 defensive terrain bonus to units that are in the same hex and there’s no additional cost to enter a vehicle terrain hex.

4. Focusing Firepower and Ignoring Distractions

I used to try and have my guys shoot at everything that moved on the board but now I’ve noticed that there are times when I have to ignore the enemy in one area for a short time while I deal with a threat in another place.  That may mean letting the enemy move through an open area and missing out on a perfect chance to seriously mess up his squad with opportunity fire in exchange for holding fire for a chance later on to shoot at another squad sitting in tough defensive terrain.  Of course, priorities will be determined primarily by victory conditions rather than just killing the enemy so it’s always best to keep this in mind and focus in on achieving these goals.  I notice that when I do this, I control the battlefield situation instead of my opponent.

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.