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.



  1. Very cool beret :-)

    What changes did you make to the rules?

    1. I'll send ya an e-mail this evening. The boy put it on and said, "I'm going to be a Marine when I grow up." I said, "excellent, but real Marines don't wear berets." ;)


  2. What a great game and a cracking report too!

    I really like the pace and the terrain is great for such a small sized area.

    Looking forward to reading some more AAR's

    1. Thanks Jim, glad you liked it. The pace was frenetic, and the 2' x 2' worked like a champ. Next batrep will be up this evening.


  3. Excellent report Jack. Be great to know what changes you made to bring the core rules up to the present. Lovely looking table as well, lots of terrain density.

    Cheers, Andy

    1. Andy,

      Thanks man, glad you liked it. Regarding the changes, I'll put them out soon. I didn't know you were a 5Core player; as you can see, I'm a big fan.