Thursday, June 30, 2016

Royals in Helmand, circa 2011


I've been using Ivan Sorensen's rules "Five Men at Kursk" quite a bit lately for skirmish gaming (not to mention his Five Men in Normandy and 5Core Company Command); a great set of rules 'as is,' but I just can't help myself when it comes to tinkering with rules.  I've been looking at getting heavily into Vietnam-era and Modern wargaming, but I wanted something a little different.  Being me, I wasn't exactly sure what all that entailed, but I definitely wanted to make it a bit more violent in order to take into account the greater lethality of modern warfare, as well as to better differentiate between modern, Western, professional forces and various hostile militia/insurgents.  So, without thinking too much about setting and forces, and wanting really just to play a game to see if any of my ideas would work, I jotted down some ideas, grabbed the closest forces to hand, threw up a quick table, came up with a quick scenario, and got to it.

The next thing I knew I'd played three linked games and decided I should sort of retroactively come up with/turn this into another campaign.  Put simply, I was having a great time and didn't want it to end.  I hope you guys like this much as I do.  So a quick background, which is only semi-historical (i.e., I'm taking liberties with the units and all town/village and hostile personality names are fictitious).

The time is May 2011, and the Royal Marines' 45 Commando has deployed for another tour in Afghanistan, this time to Helmand province.  The area has been semi-quiet the past few months, but as we move from Spring into Summer the Taliban is becoming more active and the Royals are taking steps to counter these new enemy initiatives.  The campaign will follow a Royal Marine rifle section during their missions in Helmand; I'm not going to do up a proper roster.  Owing to the fact I'm rolling up forces for each side based on the scenario, it's not likely I'll ever have the entire section on the table at once, so you'll see various characters come and go, though I plan (as usual) on following a key, central group.

The scenario is this: a team from our Royal Marine rifle section is on a normal, foot mobile presence patrol, having left their base and moving east to west.  About an hour and a half into the patrol the radio crackles; approximately two kilometers to their north a local Taliban commander, designated "Raven," has taken a force into the hamlet of Tashur, apparently on a tax collection mission.  The Royals quickly huddle up, do a quick map study, formulate a plan of attack, and begin moving in that direction.  HQ radios that no air is currently up, but should be in support by the time the Royals make the village.

Overview, north is up.  The village of Tashur is at top, and the Royals will enter via the road at bottom center right.  There are two craggy outcroppings (bottom left and bottom right) which may offer good vantage points, though the one in the southwest (bottom left) is not reachable as the river is deep enough to be not fordable.  The road is hardball though heavily potholed, and there are a few fields and trees spread throughout.

Looking west to east.

Looking north to south.

Looking east to west.

The opposing forces, with British at top and Taliban at bottom (yes, I have some real Taliban that I need to get painted up; these are 15mm terrorists from Rebel Minis, while the Brits are from Flytrap Factory).  The Brits have five men, the Taliban seven.  I rolled these up based on the blinds system from Joe Legan's fantastic "Platoon Forward," though I rolled up the Brits from 5MaK (modified a bit for moderns, of course).

The Taliban have their leader, "Raven," an RPG, an RPK (magazine-fed light machine gun based off the AK), and four AK-series riflemen.

The Brits are, from left to right: Pvt "Gimlet" Grabowicz (SA80), LCpl "Sparks" Anderson (SA80), Pvt "Jonesy" Jones (SA80 w/UGL), LCpl "Knocker" Dawes (top center, Minimi), and Corporal "Corp" Choudhry.

Sorry for the crappy lighting...

The patrol enters and moves up.  The troops are in the following order of march: Gimlet, Knocker, Corp, Sparks, and Jonesy.  Gimlet is almost to the bridge, and no sign of trouble yet...

I place blinds on the table and this is how they shook out: you can see the seven Taliban spread across the top of the table (this is looking north to south, with Brits at top center).  There are Taliban atop both buildings, behind the red pickup truck (bottom left), at bottom center in the field, at far right on the road, at center left behind the tree, and just above him and to the right, behind the left-hand outcropping.

As the Royals move up, the Taliban spot them but are caught by surprise and dash into fighting positions.  Knocker (bottom center left, just left of the tree) spots them first.  He shouts out a warning and opens fire with his Minimi, pinning the Taliban rifleman in the field (center top).

The Tango behind the pickup truck returns fire, but misses.

Gimlet bravely dashes forward towards the bridge, and he doesn't become aware of the Tango behind the outcropping until he hears the report of the AK...

The 7.62mm x 39mm rounds whiz by too close for comfort, and Gimlet falls back, suppressed (red bead, from explosion at top left; Knocker is at right).

Corp (bottom center, between Gimlet on left and Knocker on right) fires on the Tango machine gunner (atop building at top center)...

Putting him out of the fight.

Corp then dashes up to Gimlet to rally him...

But Gimlet is still shaken and falls back again (red bead at bottom center, from Corp at top left).  Sparks is to Gimlet's right, and Jones is behind him.

Sparks (bottom center right) moves up next to Knocker and fires, knocking the Tango behind the tree at top center right down (just visible next to tree and explosion).

Jonesy begins climbing the right-hand hill (bottom right), but as his head pops above the crest he's spotted by the Tango leader, Raven (top right, atop building).  The terrorist fires, knocking Jonesy down.

The Tango at the red pickup truck fires on Knocker (top left)...

Forcing him to fall back (red bead at center, from explosion at top left).  Things aren't looking good; Sparks (just left of Knocker) and Corp (off camera to left) are good to go, but Gimlet and Knocker are suppressed and Jonesy is hunkered down.

Despite not having a great shot due to the outcropping, Sparks (bottom center) returns fire on the pickup truck and manages to pin the Tango there.

But then Raven (bottom right) fires on Corp (top left)...

Forcing him to fall back (red bead at top right center, from explosion at top left).

You can see the red beads piling up...

Then the Tango at the hill gets brave: he dashes forward to get a shot at the Brits suppressed on the other side.  But as he turns the corner Sparks sees him and snap fires...

But he misses!  But the Taliban foot soldier's aim is thrown off and he misses too!!!

Without a clear shot, the Tango RPG gunner sprints to the rear to clear his field of fire, as well as to help his hunkering comrade.  But he's misjudged the distance and doesn't quite make it.

In 5MiN/5MAK you roll a D6 to see how far they go, and he didn't do so well.

On the far left, an as-yet unseen Tango moves up (top left) and fires on Gimlet (bottom right), but misses.

Sparks quickly adjusts and fires another burst at the nearby Tango...

Putting him out of the fight (top left), then sprinting up the hill to Jonesy...

But as he gets up the hill, the Tango on the left (top left) spots him and opens fire.  With rounds impacting all around him, Sparks checks Jonesy and he's back in the fight.

Seeing Sparks and Jonesy (far right) under fire, Gimlet (bottom left) gets his stuff together and returns fire, knocking the Tango down.

Yes, I've changed things up regarding pin/hunker/man down.  That's one of the reasons why I was playtesting ;)

With a quick lull in the fight, Corp (left) and Knocker (bottom center) both get their wits back (successful self rally).

But the lull doesn't last long; Raven (bottom left) opens fire on Jonesy and Sparks...

This time Jonesy is really down, out of the fight.  Sparks returns fire, pinning Raven.

The Tango at the pickup truck fires lays down covering fire, and though he doesn't hit anything the RPG gunner is able to move to the hunkering Tango at center (white bead).

Gimlet (bottom center) returns fire on the pickup truck...

Putting that Tango out of the fight (just above the truck), though the RPG gunner checks on his buddy and he's back in the fight (left).

And then Sparks (bottom center right) gets up the hill into a good firing position and fires...

The Raven is no more...

Knocker joins Sparks atop the hill (far right), drawing fire from the Tangos at top left...

The rounds zip, bounce, and ricochet all around him, but Knocker rattles off a long burst...

Knocking the Tango rifleman down (white bead) and driving the RPG gunner back (red bead).

At that point, the last two remaining Taliban (these two), with their leader and comrades clearly dead, decide to hoof it for the hills.

With Knocker covering, Sparks heads down to check on Jonesy; turns out he's okay, just knocked out by a spent round (very lucky casualty roll).

Corp and Gimlet cross the bridge and press forward, ultimately counting five enemy KIA, including the Raven.  A successful mission.  Corp calls to Sparks for the radio, and just as he's about to key the mike to provide a SITREP, the radio crackles and HQ reports friendly air is on station...

Well, what a fight!  That was a tremendous amount of fun!  Quick, bloody, decisive, a bit heroic, it really felt right to me, like what I want out of these games.  As I said, I'm writing after the fact, but at the time I wanted to see if this really worked the way I thought and I ended up playing two more games.  And yes, I'm very happy with them, and will get the batreps out as quick as I can, and hopefully play some more this weekend (baseball is over, so no reason I know of that it won't happen.

A quick side note:

I had the pleasure of getting to mess about with the Royal Marines of 45 Commando back in April-May-June of 2001 when I was in Bagram, even got to walk around with them a bit on the aptly named Operation Snipe, in which absolutely ZERO contact with the enemy was made.  Not always a bad thing I guess.  I had a Zippo lighter with the USMC Eagle, Globe, and Anchor on it, and ended up trading it for a beret.  Pretty cool little memento.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Last Fifty Yards #2, Near Caen, July 1944


This is the second fight of "The Last Fifty Yards," which I recently restarted with "Canadian and German Patrols Clash Near Caen," in which I am following the exploits of a Canadian rifle section and a German rifle squad.  That fight essentially ended in a draw, with the Germans coming out slightly ahead, but both units pretty beat up.  It is now July 18, 1944, three days later, and another fight is brewing.  A British rifle platoon had advanced north to south under heavy fire, now dealing with (off map) heavy opposition.  The remnants of the platoon, with an artillery forward observer attached, has taken up shelter in a bombed out farmhouse atop a knoll.  The fight continues; the platoon is low on ammunition, and the only thing keeping them hanging on is great work by the FO.  But not only is ammo low, the FO's radio battery is about to run out.

Cpl Kelly's rifle section (though he is still convalescing from wounds received in the first fight) is called up by the Company's Officer Commanding, and a team is put together move up and deliver the necessary ammunition and batteries to the beleaguered rifle platoon.  But, due to some faulty map reading and the confusion of battle, the team is a bit further off the mark than should be, and now has to cross the last fifty yards to deliver the supplies.  Simultaneously, Cpl Wyche's German rifle squad is being sent into action from the south in order to isolate the Canadian rifle platoon from reinforcement.

Once again, this is a 'real' game, with me playing the Canadians and the boy playing the Germans.  He's been knocking the hell out of me, let's see how this goes...

The map, north is up.  The Canadian platoon is sheltering in the bombed out house at top left (there will be a couple figures there, but they are simply representative, not a part of the fight).  The Canadian team will enter at top right, and the Germans along the bottom edge of the table.  The Germans are forbidden from moving to the bombed out house (in real life terms, to avoid friendly fire as the bombed out house is being engaged by German units off table to the left (west).  The stream is crossable at the bridge, and fordable anywhere, though at a movement penalty.  Note the liberal German use of Dragon's Teeth.  I don't know why, I just think they're cool ;)

Looking west to east.

North to south.

East to west.

The opposing forces, Germans on top and Canadians on bottom.  The Germans have six troops (left to right): Cpl Wyche (MP-40), LCpl Krumrie (MP-40), Pvt Braun (K98), Pvt Tomsen (K98), Pvt Busse (K98), and Pvt Voote (sniper rifle, K98 w/scope).  The Canadians have five troops: LCpl Reed (Sten), LCpl Bennet (Sten), Pvt Levy (Sten), Pvt McKellar (Enfield), and Pvt Lofton (Enfield).  At bottom right are two more figures to go in the bombed out house, representing the platoon leader and the FO.

The number of troops and their weapons were come up with from straight up die rolls on the Five Men in Normandy force chart, as was the scenario and terrain.  The Germans are pretty normal, the Canadians have a large number of Stens; I figured they were provided by the company as they're supposed to move quickly with a decent amount of short range firepower in order to accomplish their delivery mission.

The Canadian team enters in the northeast corner; from left to right we have Levy, McKellar, Reed, Lofton, and Bennet.

With the Canadians at top left and the bombed out house at top right, the Germans are strung out along the bottom edge of the table.  From left to right: Voote (with sniper rifle), Wyche, Busse, Tomsen, Krumrie, and Braun.

Let's get it on!

The Canadians move first, pretty aggressively.  Pvt Levy sprints straight towards the bridge (bottom left), while Pvt Lofton moves south (bottom right, between tree and Dragon's Teeth).  The rest of the team sits tight (top right).

The Germans also move aggressively (they rolled a 'scurry').  Pvt Voote gets into the ruins at bottom left, with Cpl Wyche (squad leader) just below him, and Pvt Busse just to his right.  Pvt Tomsen (center), LCpl Krumrie, and Pvt Braun move up to the river (Krumrie and Braun are above and to right of Tomsen).

Seeing this, the Canadians react very quickly, fanning out.  Lofton is at bottom left, moving up the knoll, being backed up by Bennet (bottom center), with LCpl Reed (team leader) just above him.  Pvt McKellar took Levy's spot (center, above and to left of Reed), while Levy pushed up onto the bridge.

Pvt Lofton (bottom center) spots LCpl Krumrie across the stream and takes a shot, putting him 'man down.'

And then Lofton moves up (far right, near ruins, from bottom right near tree).

On the bridge, Levy (bottom right) spots the German sniper (Voote, top left), and sets his Sten to stun.  I say stun because, while he loosed a long burst, it was to no effect...

With LCpl Krumrie down at bottom right, Pvt Tomsen (bottom center) takes a shot at Levy (top left, with Lofton at top right)...

Forcing him to fall back and hunker (red bead at right, from explosion at left).

The Germans pour on the fire (rolled a firefight): Pvt Braun (bottom right) fires at Lofton (top center)...

Dropping him.

Back on the German left, Pvt Busse (bottom center) fires on the hunkering Levy (top center), putting him 'man down.'

Next to Busse, Cpl Wyche says hell with it and fires his MP-40 at Levy, but doesn't hit him (leave him alone, he's already 'man down'!).

And then Tomsen (bottom center) takes a shot at Levy too, missing.

And then the German sniper, Voote (bottom center) lines up a shot on McKellar (top center, with Levy left of him)...

McKellar (white bead at top center) is 'man down,' while Reed falls back (red bead at bottom right, from up next to McKellar).

Things are off to an auspicious start for the Canadians...

But then, from way down town, LCpl Bennet (bottom right) sprays the ruins (top left) with his Sten, sending Voote 'man down.'

Feeling lucky, Bennet (bottom right) turns his Sten on Pvt Braun (top left) and sprays again...

His rounds miss, but he sprints to cross the road (top center right).  However, Braun (bottom center right) shoulders his rifle and fires...

But he misses too!  Bennet makes it safely across the road to check on McKellar (far left, with Reed hunkering at bottom right), but McKellar is shot up and out of the fight...

Reed tries to self rally...

But fails and falls back (far right, from red bead at bottom center.  Bennet is at top left)...

The Germans continue to burn through their ammo (the boy rolled another firefight; seems the 6's are just pouring from him...).  Braun (bottom center) fires on the cowardly Reed (top right), but misses.  Krumrie (bottom left) is still man down.

Bussey (bottom center) fires at Levy again, getting him man down.

And then Cpl Wyche (just left of Bussey, with Voote 'man down' in the ruins at left) fires on Bennet (top right)...

Wyche's (top left) rounds miss, and Bennet (bottom right) returns fire, missing too.

Bennet (top center) takes another shot at Wyche (bottom left), and misses AGAIN.  Reed (top right) successfully self rallies.

Cpl Wyche (bottom left) returns fire, pinning Bennet (top right).

No one is moving anymore, the firefight continues at a frantic pace, though not hitting a lot: Braun (bottom right) fires on Reed (top right), missing.

Reed (bottom right) turns and returns fire with his Sten (far left)...

Forcing Braun to fall back (red bead at bottom center, from explosion at top right).
On the German left, Cpl Wyche runs up into the ruins (bottom center), spraying his MP-40 at Levy, but missing.  Wyche bends down to check on Voote...

And finds a hole in his chest...

LCpl Reed is beginning to panic; we need to get moving, gotta get the ammo and batteries to the bombed out house!  But we've got so many men panicking or down!  Reed sprints across the road to get to Bennet and rally him (top right), but Cpl Wyche (bottom left), seething from seeing his friend Voote hurt, spots him and fires his MP-40...

Driving Reed back (red bead at bottom right, from top right).  Bennet (top right) is pinned, and Levy (top left) is 'man down.'  McKellar (at Bennet's feet) and Lofton (at Reed's feet) are out of the fight...

Bennet is not doing great, but he can help;  should he help Reed or Levy?

Bennet decides to push forward and check on Levy; along the way, Bussey (bottom center) fires on him (top center), but misses.  Bennet checks Levy; he's a little shook up, but ready to get back in the fight.

Braun gets a sudden shot of courage and shakes off his hunker (random event), then dashes forward through the forest and checks on LCpl Krumrie (center, from bottom right); Krumrie is back in the fight.  Tomsen (far left) moves forward into the stream.

LCpl Reed (bottom right) self rallies, then shouts orders to his remaining men to damn the torpedoes and push ahead!  Bennet moves onto the bridge (center), while Levy gets across the bridge and begins moving up the knoll to the bombed out house (far left).

Seeing this, Cpl Wyche nearly loses his mind with rage!  He charges down the hill and up to the bridge (left), while Busse moves into the ruins at bottom left.  On the right, Krumrie and Braun move into the river (bottom right) as Tomsen emerges from the river and sprints into the ruins at center right.

Well, there's our maneuver!  Took awhile, but there it is.

Wyche (bottom center) pulls up, takes a breath, levels his MP-40, and fires a burst at Levy's back (center left), getting 'man down.'

And then he charges up and butt-strokes Levy!!!

On the right, Tomsen and Reed exchange fire at point blank range, but both miss!!!  Understandable for Tomsen, who has a bolt-action rifle, but Reed has a damn Sten Gun!!!

Braun and Krumrie (bottom left) watch from the river as Tomsen works his bolt with great difficulty and Reed changes magazines...  Reed is quicker and fires another burst.

Tomsen (top left) goes down, and that's enough to unnerve Braun, who falls back (red bead at bottom right, from the river next to Krumrie).

Reed dashes up the road (top center right), intent on getting to Bennet, but Busse (bottom right) spots him and fires...

The 7.92mm round skips off the pavement harmlessly and Reed reaches Bennet.  There he attempts to rally the lad, but he remains pinned...

The failed rally attempt probably had something to do with the fact Bennet (bottom center, with Reed next to him) was solely focused on the German Corporal, who was standing over his friend Levy (top left).  Bennet fires a burst from his Sten...

Forcing Wyche to fall back (red bead at bottom left, from explosion at center).

The Canadians are soooooooo close; all they need to do is get one damn man to the bombed out house (just off camera to top left, with Levy 'man down' there and Bennet and Reed just off camera to right on the bridge).

Ugh; I missed a photograph, and it's important...  Back on the right. German LCpl Krumrie charges out of the river to get a good look at the bridge, and then sprays an entire magazine from his MP-40 at Bennet and Reed...

Bennet goes out of the fight and Reed is 'man down.'

Game officially over; with 'man down,' the figure may not move, shoot, or rally.  The only way to get him back in the fight is to move another man to him to check on him, then roll to see if he's okay (and he has a 33% chance of not being okay).  The Canadians have three men out of the fight, and two men down, but no longer have any men in good fighting order, so they can't move anyone over to check the two 'man down' figures.  Besides the fact that we had them ignoring any conventional morale and fighting to the death...

So, without ammo and batteries, the Canadian platoon is forced to fall back out of the bombed out house.  Seeing a a large group of enemy soldiers emerge from the building, Cpl Wyche and his men grab their casualties and fall back.  The Canadian platoon grab the team's casualties and retreats, mission failed for the Canadians.  The damn boy got me again!!!


The Canadians got off Scott free (I swear I didn't cheat, the boy was right there as I rolled up the casualty effects);
Pvt Levy went down when Cpl Wyche fired his MP-40 at point blank range, but he wasn't hit, just scared @#$%less.  But Wyche moved up and butt-stroked him, knocking him out.
LCpl Reed, LCpl Bennet, and Pvt McKellar are all okay, just suffering battle fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, and a lot of minor scrapes and scratches (shell splinters, hit by dead rounds, etc...).

That's right, I rolled up one 'big scar' and four 'knocked out.'

Pvt Voote was severely injured by the chest wound, to the point he was sent home and medically discharged.
Pvt Tomsen was hit in the shoulder and is out until 7 Aug 1944.

Pretty cool; again, probably fought too long, should have had the Canadians fall back after a couple casualties, but I was pressing, I really really really wanted to win ;)  I think it worked pretty well on the 2' x 2' table, though I need to get more terrain in that blocks LOS.  Unfortunately the table is a lot uglier with the carpet hills on top of the boards, but it's a helluva lot quicker to set up and take down.

Three more very cool batreps coming up; I'm very excited and interested to see what kind of reaction they will get.