Monday, November 17, 2014

FFL Game 1, Estonia



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.

Friendly Forces, in order of march: V1, driven by Corporal Methot, transporting Lieutenant Harpin's team, though they quickly dismounted as the column approached the crossroads.
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).

Enemy Force: three five-man rifle teams, each with four rifles and a UGL, and two Technicals, one mounting a 105mm recoiless rifle, the other a 12.7mm HMG.

Overview of the table (2' x 2'), with left being North, French entering on the road at the bottom (west), rebels holding crossroads at top (east).  You can see the three French vehicles at bottom, following Lt Harpin's team on foot (spread out in field and road at center).

Looking east at rebel roadblock and HMG Technical.

Looking at rebels in northeast (top left), showing one team on road at left and one team with recoiless rifle Technical behind knoll at top.

Looking north at French column moving east on the road with Lt Harpin's team leading the way on foot.  From right to left, V1, V2 (w/Mk19), and V3.  V1 and V3 are unarmed, and none are armored (neither are the Technicals).

The stage is set; ACTION!

While Lt Harpin's point man calls a halt for activity at the crossroads (off camera at top right), the far left trooper calls contact to the northeast, enemy troops on the road (top center)!  Lt Harpin moves his team left (north) of the road and engages the enemy rifle team.

Pinning two and putting one down.

(Looking north) Hearing the French (left center, in the field), the rebel HMG Technical (far right center) rolls forward and opens up on Lt Harpin's team, pinning one and wounding one.

Cpl Desjardin's V2 (bottom center, mounting the Mk19, with Lt Harpin's team on left) rolls forward and cuts loose with 40mm rounds at the rebel HMG Technical (top center, behind barricade).  Simultaneously, Sgt Adrien's team debusses and hugs the wall next to V2.

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...

Oh, first, the results of Cpl Desjardin's AGL fire: a pin on the rebel team manning the barricade, whilst the HMG Technical is kaput.  But a red card came out, and so the rebel recoiless rifle HMG moved up and fired at V2, missing, but pinning some guys in Sgt Adrien's team (at the wall).

A black card came out, and now I'm in a quandary: do I activate Sgt Adrien's team to get most of them over the wall and into cover (I can't move all of them because two are pinned, yellow bead visible at bottom right), or do I take action against the recoiless rifle Technical?  Easy choice; I rolled up Cpl Desjardin again, and he again rained 40mm grenades...

Dusting down the second Technical.  Nice shootin', Tex-ois.

But then the rebels at the barricade (top left) activated, and the rent came due.  They opened up a torrent of fire, getting a few pins and dropping one of Sgt Adrien's men at the wall.

Then the rebels' third team moved up (far left, atop knoll) and joined the fray, also firing at Sgt Adrien's boys, but in two rounds of fire they only managed one pin!  Sgt Adrien manages to unpin some guys, but then exhausts himself.

Lt Harpin then unpins several of his troops and moves to stabilize his wounded man, while two men fire at the rebel team at far left, to no effect.

V3 (this pic is looking south, bottom right, with Lt Halperin's team above them and the rebels all along the left side) darts left and pulls up behind cover, disgorging Sgt Laroux's team.  The team engages the rebels and gets several pins...

Forcing them to fall back (seen in NE corner, barely hanging on the table).  Then they failed their morale roll, so the far left enemy team is gone.

The rebels at the barricade manage to activate two more times, unpinning then putting more fire on Sgt Adrien's exposed team (far right).  That was the end of Turn 1 (Phase in NEIS parlance).

To start of Turn 2, the rebels on the knoll (top left) open up on Sgt Adrien's team at the wall, dropping another Legionnaire and forcing the remainder of the team to fall back (bottom right).  The same bad guy team activates again and fires on V2 (the Mk19 Land Rover, center top), putting one stress on it (making it harder to activate).

After two red cards, I get another one, and so the barricade rebels (far right) open up on Lt Harpin's team (center left, in field), pinning two and dropping another one!

Lt Harpin's team falls back, dragging one of the WIA with them, but the other is still lying near the tree...  A fourth straight red card, and so the barricade rebels activate again, firing at V2 (center right, w/Mk19) and put a second stress on it.

Then a fifth straight red card comes out, and the rebel team on the knoll (top right) manages to activate a third time!  They fire on Sgt Laroux's team (far left), managing a pin.  Finally, a black card.  I'm going to activate Cpl Desjardin in V2, to get his Mk19 thumping on the barricade, but, due to the two stress already accumulated, he fails and is exhausted!!!

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...

Lt Harpin manages to unpin his team and get them moving, then they take a shot at the rebels on the knoll, getting a couple pins...

Which causes them to fall back off the knoll.

Then Sgt Laroux gets his boys rallied and moves them up into position (bottom center, with Lt Harpin's team to their right).  They open fire on the rebels at the barricade, and fire their LAW as well, but some horrendous dice-rolling means they only manage one pin...  The team fires again, and doesn't even get one pin!

Seeing the situation beginning to deteriorate, and knowing something needed to be done, Cpl Methot zooms V1 up the road and slams on the brakes, shielding the two wounded from Sgt Adrien's team.  Then he hops out, grabs a downed Legionnaire, and throws him in the truck.

Cpl Navarre in V3 sees this, and drives over to police up one of Lt Harpin's wounded.

Cpl Navarre manages to get back in the truck and move up behind Lt Harpin's team.  Thus ends Turn 2.

Turn 3 starts with a black card, so I immediately hop on my draft horse, Cpl Desjardin's Mk19-equipped Land Rover, which promptly opens up on the barricade, dropping one enemy soldier.

But then several of the rebels are able to unpin and re-mount the knoll (center right), and open up on Lt Harpin's team, pinning two men (far left, in field).

Cpl Desjardin loads a new belt of grenades, racks it (with both hands!), and cuts loose on the barricade again.  Another rebel body hits the ground, and the survivors head for the hills.

Which is offset by the bad guys on the knoll opening up on Sgt Laroux's team, managing several pins and wounding a French trooper.

Causing Sgt Laroux's team to fall back (bottom left, behind trees, with their wounded man at center, and Lt Harpin's team at far right).

Sgt Adrien is finally able to rally his beleaguered team and get them moving forward, but they don't get far (bottom center, with V2 then V1 to their right and V3 and Lt Harpin's team ahead of them, barricade at top right).  Meanwhile, Cpl Methot is able to get the last WIA from Sgt Adrien's team into his Land Rover, and he gets in too.

Sgt Laroux then goes on a great string of activation rolls: he rallies his boys, then moves them up into the copse to a good firing position (bottom center), then is able to unleash two rounds of fire on the rebels atop the knoll (top center left).  However, as good as the activation rolling was, the shooting rolling sucked, and they managed only one pin...  And that's how Turn 3 ended.

Turn 4 started with two black cards, and that was enough to do it.  As you might expect, I went straight to Cpl Desjardin's Mk19 (bottom right).  The first time he fired on the rebels on the knoll (top center left), he didn't score a single hit, but the second time he made up for it with three pins and two kills, and the enemy quickly forfeit the battlefield.

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.



  1. Well done, inspiring all around. I love how you put the campaign together, and the setting is novel and very cool. I always love your AARs. They're the reason I started my own campaign and blog.

  2. Scott,

    Holy crap! That is... very flattering, thanks, I appreciate it! I'm glad to have had a role in encouraging your campaign/blog.

    We're about the same age, so I too recall growing up with the wars in Central/South America. We had Time magazine, and I remember every issue had something about Nicaragua and/or El Salvador. I say all that to say I think your campaign is pretty cool; but you need miniatures!!! Just joking, obviously the beauty of this hobby is everyone does what makes them happy, or should ;)