***WARNING: THIS HAS A LONG 'PREAMBLE' TO GET YOU INTO THE CAMPAIGN MOOD; SKIP BELOW TO THE PICTURES TO GET TO THE BATTLE REPORT***
During the Soviet military coup, Estonia declared independence on September 6, 1991. The Soviet 167th Infantry Division, largely composed of ethnic Russians, was placed in the capital of Talinn in 1989 during the "Singing Revolution," in order to steady Estonia's flagging support of the Soviet state. Following the breakup of the Soviet Union there is chaos, and while the 167th Infantry Division has suffered desertions and equipment failure/shortages due to the breakup, it remains the sole military force in Estonia, as Estonia's own conscript military quickly dissolved.
Nearly two years later there is a liberal interim government in place, and a growing pro-Russian movement led by former USSR Army Colonel Andrei Sirel. The liberal government is nearly powerless militarily speaking, as is Sirel's faction, though Sirel is beginning to enjoy the support of the 167th Infantry Division, which, in the absence of orders, is not willing to become involved in a direct way militarily, is willing to help Sirel arm and organize. The interim government fears for its young nation's life; the fledgling democracy is not yet flourishing, and is all to susceptible to pro-Russian nudges. But who to turn to? The world is largely uninterested; the United States is enjoying its 'peace dividend,' and the rest of the West is all too focused on the expansion of its energy businesses into the Russian markets.
However, it's a little known fact the interim president of Estonia is a blood relation of the French president; an informal line of communication is thus opened, and a plea for assistance heeded. The French ambassador to the UN calls an emergency meeting for assistance, but it falls on deaf ears, and so France pledges to protect this seedling of liberalism in the former Soviet world. Captain LaPieux's task force was previously placed on alert, and so when the order came it deployed to the troubled state in a matter of hours.
The date is August 4, 1993, and forces of the French Foreign Legion have landed near Talinn, the capital of Estonia. The operation is limited in scope: find, fix, and destroy the 'rebel' forces of Col Sirel. Major Louis-Louis immediately set about getting the French quartered near the Estonian Parliamentary building, and Captain LaPieux began seeing to the defenses. Nothing too extravagant, just a simple 360 degree perimeter to make sure there would be no surprises. Colonel Pouspous departed on foot with a small host, his destination the nearby headquarters of the 167th Infantry Division. "We'd be well served to get a read on just how these Russians feel about our presence here," he thought to himself.
The Colonel found the Division's Commanding General had long since returned to Russia, abandoning his men, and the remainder of the Division's senior staff had done like their General, or were present but in a constant state of drunkenness. And so our Colonel met with a rather young-looking Major, the Commanding General's Aide de-Camp and, for all intents and purposes, the commander of the 167th Infantry Division, such as is it was.
The Russian Major, Kholkov, explained the situation thus: morale was very poor. There was no money for training and readiness, and to what end? The Division rarely had contact with Moscow, or Saint Petersburg, or whomever was in charge of the Russian military at this point. Indeed, the men had not even been paid in the last year, and the whole Division was on half rations. One in three had deserted; perhaps not permanently, there were quite a few that simply came and went as they pleased, and this was more concerning than 'actual' deserters, as the returnees often returned simply to gather up weapons and equipment for sale on the black market. Kholkov informed Colonel Pouspous he believed that is how Sirel's rebels were being armed, and that some of the Division's men had likely made mercenaries of themselves simply as a means to earn a living. Kholkov stated Russia had already formally recognized Estonia's independence, and so the French could expect no hostility from the dislocated Russian troops. At one point Colonel Pouspous offered the use of French C-130s to return the Division to its homeland, to which Kholkov simply gave a pained smile, stating he was appreciative of the Colonel's offer, but he was a soldier and would not abandon his post.
Satisfied the biggest threat from the Russians was their weapons and equipment falling into the hands of Sirel's rebels, Colonel Pouspous returned to the French barracks and met with his senior leaders to inform them of what transpired, and to set his priorities:
1) we must implement strong Force Protection measures and aggressive patrolling in and around our barracks and the Parliamentary building so as not to allow the rebels a cheap, visible victory which harms our combat capability or the Estonian's ability to govern.
2) we must conduct aggressive patrolling near the Russians' barracks and assembly areas in order to degrade the rebels' ability to arm and equip themselves. However, we must create a buffer zone around the Russians as we cannot afford to antagonize them and have them become an active participant in the rebellion.
3) we must dedicate all other resources to seeking out the rebels' leadership, troops, and caches to destroy them where they live. This must be done with a cautious eye to 'collateral' damage, as it is likely the rebels are making use of the cover of the civilian population. For that reason, understand that the use of supporting fires will be extremely limited; gentlemen, we will close with and destroy the enemy without creating more enemies.
I did this a bit differently then I usually do; I used Ivan's battle generator (at the back of the book for No End In Sight). I don't usually use those types of things as, with my strange die-rolling, I tend to get into very awkward situations. So here's what I did, using Ivan's various tables: I rolled up five battlefield locations (sparse plains came up a couple times), five missions (secure area/battlefield came up a couple times), five friendly forces (full platoon four times, single squad once), five enemy forces (full plt with limited support was popular, one single squad), five friendly force arrivals (by air, transports wrecked, and three transports in support). Then I mixed and matched them to make five fights I believed would lend themselves to my campaign narrative.
The first fight saw a single section (I used three five-man teams) with support (two Technicals for the bad guys, three Land Rovers, one with Mk19 that saved the day, for the French), fighting in sparse plains (though you can't have a table too sparse), with the friendly mission of 'secure area of battlefield,' which, for my purposes, was an enemy held crossroads.
Situation: Local contacts informed the task force the rebels had established a roadblock (tax collection) on a highway northeast of Talinn. Captain LaPieux dispatched a small patrol to scout, seize, and hold the key crossroads for the task force. The rebels were believed to have a small paramilitary unit manning the roadblock.
V2, mounting the 40mm Mk19 automatic grenade launcher, commanded by Cpl Desjardin and carrying Sgt Adrien's team.
V3, driven by Cpl Navarre, transporting Sgt Laroux's five-man team.
The first two teams have four rifles and a SAW, whilst the last team has five rifles and a Light Anti-tank Weapon (LAW).
The stage is set; ACTION!
This will prove to be a tactical error. I so badly wanted to have a 'right hook' to envelop the enemy's open flank, but the wall on the right (south) side of the wall meant no vehicles could get there, so troops had to bebuss and climb the wall. According to the rules I could use an activation point from the vehicle to debuss the troops, but they are then placed within 1 inch of the vehicle, and would require their own activation to 'hop' the wall and get around to that right hook. So I took a calculated risk and debussed them in the road, knowing I needed a black card to come out so I could activate Sgt Adrien's team and have them hop the wall, else they'd be caught in the street with no cover. Guess what happened...
Then another red card, and all bad guys are exhausted. So I try to activate Sgt Adrien's beat up team, but, because of a poor roll combined with permanent stress due to casualties, he fails without a single action, just like V2. I don't seem to be getting anywhere here...
So, the fight was a good one, nice and frustrating, which is a good thing when you're playing solo! I figured the fight would go well so long as I was able to take care of the two Technicals. Both got in a round of firing without accomplishing much, and then Cpl Desjardin's grenade launcher turned them into rusting hulks. Once that occurred, it could've/should've been a walkover. But five straight red activation cards combined with tactical error of my having unceremoniously dumped Sgt Adrien's team in the middle of the road made things a bit more exciting then they should have been.
Ultimately, Corporals Desjardin and Methot are being recognized for valor (I need to look up French awards; Desjardin for destroying both Technicals and reducing the enemy positions on the knoll and at the barricade; Methot for taking the initiative to rush his unarmored vehicle up the road under fire to evacuate two badly wounded men lying in the highway), while one Legionnaire paid with his life, two are being evacuated to France, and one will return to action here in Estonia. The enemy suffered the loss of two weapons carriers ("Technicals") and ten dead, while the remainder were dispersed by the task force. A nice start to the Legion's campaign against Colonel Sirel's insurrection.