Sunday, August 30, 2015

6mm Forces for Fulda Gap 1986


Okay, Cuba Libre is wrapped up, and while I've got big plans for future Cuban Liberation Expeditionary Force actions, an opportunity came up that I just couldn't pass up.  Mr. Ben Lacy contacted me and let me know he was working on a new Cold War Gone Hot, Fulda Gap scenario book.  If you're not familiar, Ben puts out skirmish and company-level rules, along with a slew of scenario books, under Britton Publishers.  The scenario books are fantastic, right up my alley.  I own about a dozen of them, and if I was independently wealthy I would not only own all of them, but I would play through them as well.  I already have plans to use several of his Normandy books for my Kampgruppe Klink campaigns, as well as some other Normandy books for my All American campaigns.  I also have several Pacific campaign books I'm looking to use, as well as some modern SOF stuff.  I highly recommend them, they are great products for us wargamers.

In any case, Ben contacted me about Fulda Gap and begged me to playtest the scenarios for him.  Okay, that's not true; he contacted me, and I begged him to allow me to playtest them, he graciously accepted my offer, and so I set out to put together all the forces I'd need to play out all ten scenarios.  I'm really excited about this campaign, and I want to do it right.  I'd intended on starting the war this weekend, but with wrapping up Cuba Libre and real life (in the form of one of my kid's birthday, school starting, and baseball practice starting up) I fell behind, and so I won't get started with the actual fights until next weekend.

But I've got the forces finished up, and that's what you see here.  The setting is that the Soviet Union has decided to invade Western Europe, and the opening shots come where everyone expected, Fulda Gap.  The book is set up so that you can play the scenarios in whatever time frame you wish, from the beginning of the Cold War right up to the end.  I thought that was a pretty cool idea, as each gamer has his own, personal idea of what would be coolest, whether it be the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s.  While the first scenario officially starts with the exploits of the US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, because of the heavy casualties and rapidly changing situation on the ground, I would argue that you could actually use the book for whatever NATO nation's forces you want, be it US, West German, UK, or otherwise.

Being a child of the 80's, growing up with various movies and books (World War III, Team Yankee, Red Storm Rising, The Third World War, The Day After, etc...) threatening our (US) death at the hands of the Red hordes, I chose to go with US forces in the year 1986.  As always, I will form a fictional battlegroup (4th Troop, 11th ACR) with characters as platoon and company leaders, to take into battle.

The whole shebang, with Soviets on top and US on the bottom.  The forces are in 6mm, with 95% being GHQ, with a few CinC and another manufacturer who is now defunct and whose name I can't recall (I bought them second hand).

A head-on shot of both forces.  The scale is one model equals one vehicle, fireteam, or weapons team, and the NATO forces are seriously outnumbered in each scenario, with the mission objective usually being to simply slow the enemy down.  And I'm not sure I'll be able to do even that! ;)

The Soviet Force: four command stands with vehicles, 16 T-72s, 18 BMPs (the models are BMP1s, but I'll treat as BMP2s so that the Soviet AFVs have the ability to kill NATO tanks/AFVs at close range with their chain gun, which the BMP1's low-velocity 73mm gun does not possess), 18 rifle teams, four SA-9s, four SA-24s, one ZSU-23/4, five AT5 Spandrels, four MGs,  two Spetznaz teams, four mortars, a MiG-23, and an Mi-24 Hind-D.

The command and air defense vehicles.

The Soviet tank company (reinforced).  I know they should be T-64s, but I have T-72s, plus Harold Coyle and Tom Clancy told me they'd be using T-72s!

The command and rifle stands.  I used GHQ NVA for the Soviet infantry; I have plenty of Soviet infantry lying about, needing to be painted and based, but these were ready to go and so they'll do.

The Soviet BMPs, two companies worth.

Soviet supporting weapons: SAMs, mortars, ATGMs, MGs, and two SOF teams.

Soviet air support.  Damn that Hind is a beast!

On to the Yanks.

US Command stands, command vehicles, and five M-1 Abrams.  The US battalion task force (Troop) will have a company of tanks, but will never have more than five on the table at a time, against as many as 18 Soviet tanks in a game!!!  I've got my work cut out for me...  Oh, at bottom right the US has its sole air defense vehicle, an M-163 Vulcan.  Each command stand also has Stingers.

The US Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  I painted up 20 of them, then realized I miscounted...  I only need 18 of them, but I need four M-113s, which I'm hurriedly working on finishing (of course I need them for the very first scenario).

US LMG teams below the Abrams and Bradleys.

A close up of some US ATGM teams.  These are actually from GHQ Ultramodern US, a Javelin with a laser designator, but they're standing in for TOWs.

 Center, top center are the US rifle teams.  I used GHQ Vietnam-era US infantry for these.  Again, they were already completed, so I couldn't resist.  They're surrounded by various support teams of LMGs, MMGs, HMGs, mortars, and two SOF teams.

The SOF teams (far left), along with the mortars and a .50 cal HMG.

The US A-10 swoops in low over some infantry.  I tried to do a European 1 camo pattern on it, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.  I also tried to do a shark's mouth, it looks better from arm's length than up close.

The US Apache, with disc rotors.  This reminds me that I need to reach out to GHQ and order some brass rotors.  Looking lean and mean nonetheless.

Another shot of the A-10, just 'cause I love it.  Not bad.

Now for some bonus material...

The first scenario is "Lariat Advance," in which the Soviets come crashing through the West German border into 11th ACR.  This is a look at the table, which is 5' x 4', looking south to north.  The US will be defending the southern portion against the Soviets, who enter with a massive force from the northern board edge.  They're goal is to exit as many vehicles as possible off the southern board edge.

There are small villages at top left and top center, and a sizable town at bottom center.  There are a few small rises, but no geographically significant elevations.  The rises (one level) are at bottom left, bottom right, top right, the village at top center, and the open area to the left of that village.  I don't think the scenario book called for any rises, so I didn't throw in any significant hills, but I wanted the table to reflect the rolling terrain.  The rises are difficult to ascertain as I actually put the hills UNDER the terrain mat; moving up in the world.  The table's still ugly though...

Another look at the table, this time from west to east.  The Soviets will come in from the left, looking to exit on the right (at far right you can see the Soviet forces lined up for photos).  I set the table up last night, and had to hit the garage to find some more trees.  Luckily there were some lying around.

What you're going to see in a second is that 1) the Soviets have a huge force, and 2) the US has a pretty small force, so this is going to get real interesting real fast.  I need to go upstairs and place the US defenders.  As in real life, the Soviets are going to make heavy use of preparatory bombardments, and the US is going to make heavy use of minefields.  As a solo player, you can see this poses some real game problems, i.e., the need to randomize the prep fires and minefields so that they are not too powerful, nor simply skirted by the player's knowledge.

My solution is to place the US defenders and their minefields, then draw up six separate attack plans (with differently plotted prep bombardments), then roll a dice to determine which one the Soviet side goes with.  This will randomize the prep fires so I can't cheat as the US player and simply avoid them, and the Soviets will follow their planned routes of attack until (if) they run into US minefields.

If you've got a better, smoother, easier, and faster way of doing this, please let me know!

The US force: two (TWO!!!) damn M-1 Abrams, four M3 Bradleys (there are four more in the pic, but that's when I realized four of the Brads are supposed to be M-113s), quite a bit of rifle teams, a handful of ATGMs, and a bunch of machine guns.  There are also a random number of minefields, an Apache on station, and one airstrike by the A-10.

And they face this mess: sixteen (16!!!) T-72s, eighteen (18!!!) BMPs, plus command, rifles, and a big, bad Hind.  So it's pretty  much 'die in place, take as many of them with you as possible' for my 4th Troop, 11th ACR fellas.

Stay tuned, the war starts this Saturday.



  1. My first impression - the US is f*cked :-) But that is what scenario testing is all about.

    Did you have to move out of home (or a lot of bribery) to be able to play 10 games (at least!) on a large table. I have an idea how the conversation may have gone in my head, none of it looking good from your side!

    1. I agree with your assessment of the US situation ;) Regardless of testing, I don't think the US is supposed to have a chance, it's just 'do the best you can,' though Ben did tell me to 'shoot at their tracks.' :0

      Regarding the table, I'm good man. I have a dedicated toy room upstairs, with an 8' x 6' table, I just set my little boards up on it and play there. The big problem was cleaning all the wargaming detritus off the table to get it cleared to play on...


    2. You have a permanent room, and 8'x6' table, and you play on 2'x2'? If I had that, I am not sure I would have ever got into small table gaming. Of course, I am so glad I did, 2'x2' gaming is different and fantastic experience, lending itself to chaotic,fast and furious - which provides the immediate narrative fix :-)

      I find it hard to imagine not playing on small tables.

    3. Yeah man. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't. In my opinion, neither is better than the other, just some games are better suited to big tables and some small tables.

      I think you hit the nail on the head; they're much different than each other, and sometimes I want that fast and furious, super Hollywood-drama wargame. Sometimes I want it spread out with plenty of room to maneuver.