Saturday, May 26, 2012

Raid & Riposte: The NATO AAR

I recently played my first game of Lock ‘n Load’s new game, “Raid and Riposte” which was featured in their latest issue of “Line of Fire” (issue 12 for those of you keeping count).

Raid & Riposte is a light wargame based on an event in designer Mark H. Walker’s novel, “World at War: Revelation”, which took place during a fictional invasion of Western Europe by the Warsaw Pact in 1985. The game is centered on the Soviets’ attempt to defend the captured West German city of Tanenhause from a NATO counter-attack. It features a pretty interesting set of game mechanics like action points, assaults and units with special abilities, all of which encourage players to use combined arms tactics to achieve their goals.

LnL's "Raid And Riposte"

This AAR is a report of my first time playing this game. I’m the NATO player and Kev Sharp took the role of the defending Soviets. At times, we were forced to muddle our way through the rules to determine if we were doing things right and I think we largely succeeded. Here’s the turn by turn report:

The West German M48 tanks approach the city of Tanenhause.

Turn 1: The Soviets have a lot of equipment pointing towards my measly tank force. My two West German M48 platoons, along with the Luchs recon element, move their way towards the city. I’ve decided to basically get the M48s in a position where they can fire at the city from long range and hopefully do enough damage to help the following waves of NATO units behind them.

Unfortunately, one of the M48 gets suppressed by a Hind helicopter. I’ve noticed that the Soviets don’t have much protecting the north side of the city so I send my remaining M48 towards Tanenhause in hopes of making some sort of progress.

An Mi-24 Hind helicopter suppresses a W. German M48

The W. German tanks manage to suppress the only Soviet forces in the northwestern area of the town.
Not wanting to leave the Luchs out in the open, I decide to bring it into the light forest area to give it some cover.

The M48 I stupidly brought closer to Tanenhause earlier on gets hammered by the Soviets and it is reduced before getting destroyed.  

Turn 2: 

NATO gets initiative! Huzzah! 

The West Germans get a bunch of reinforcements this turn so I’m determined not to squander them like I did with my initial forces. 
I move up my M48 towards Tanenhause, hoping to absorb some hits so that the reinforcements can safely enter the map later on.

The Soviets have a BMD sitting to the south of Tanenhause and it’s in the woods, which gives it great defensive cover. If I move my Luchs next to the BMD, that cover bonus will be negated. I successfully plant the Luchs in the adjacent area but Kev assaults it with the BMD. By combining his assault with a Soviet airstrike, he successfully suppresses the Luchs unit.  

With the help of an airstrike, the Soviet BMD assaults the Luchs.

The M48 fires on the BMD, reducing it.

The West German reinforcements enter on the west side of the map.  The West German HQ gives action points to adjacent friendly units so this is a big deal if I can play it right.  I put the HQ and some infantry in the woods to keep them protected a bit from enemy fire.  I have also spotted an opening as the Soviets have a mortar unit out in the open near the center of the city.  NATO calls in an airstrike on the Soviet mortar team but it misses completely.  Wonderful.

The West Germans head on out with a major advance towards the city.  Unfortunately, the Soviet mortars and the withering fire from the anti-tank weapons and infantry take its toll.  One of the West German infantry platoons is suppressed, along with an M48 tank platoon.

The West German infantry approaches the outskirts of Tanenhause.

Col. Balakriev and a squad of Soviet VDV paratroops rush out from the city and assault one of the suppressed West German units, destroying it.  The Soviets pull back into the city before anything can be done about it.

Turn 3:

Again, the West Germans pour infantry at Tanenhause and again they are met with overwhelming force from the Soviets. NATO is attempting to crack the egg but it seems impossible! Kev wipes out another West German infantry unit.

Luckily, the Soviets pull some of their units out of the northern sector of the city and the West Germans jump in, happy to be out of the open. This joy is short-lived, however, when the Soviets counter-attack into the northern part of the city, using air strikes to add to the hurt. The West German infantry pull back to the west, panicked and miserable.

The West Germans get a temporary break as they capture the north of Tanenhause.

There is a bright spot for NATO as the Luchs manages somehow to destroy the Soviet BMD unit.  The Americans come on board from the south and start to make their way towards Tanenhause.

The Americans come on the board from the south.

Turn 4:

Disaster! As the Americans rush out into the open, a Soviet Hind attack helicopter appears, blasting away an American infantry platoon. Private Hudson is killed instantly.

The rest of the American forces start to close in on the city while the West Germans take some ineffectual fire from the Soviets.   American M60 Patton tanks pour onto the map from the south.  It’s a glorious sight to behold as NATO has paid again and again for its mistakes throughout the game. Will it be enough to get inside the city?

Turn 5: 

NATO gains initiative and I waste no time in assaulting the city. Although the Soviets have piled men and armor into the southern sector of Tanenhause, I’m convinced that a good airstrike and a bunch of M60 Pattons will do the trick. Lucky for me, it all works out and the US pushes out the Soviets deeper into Tanenhause. With a toehold into the city, I start pouring in everything I can.

NATO finally gains a foothold in the city after an assault.

With only two turns left, it’s no time to play gingerly so I follow up the previous assault with another one and push the Soviets back yet again. The Americans now have control over the vital bridge that leads deeper into Tanenhause. After spilling much blood, things are finally looking up for NATO.

The West Germans follow up in the north area of the city while the US takes the south. There is a combined West German and US force on the bridge and it will lead the main assault on the rest of the city.

NATO follows up its initial success with a second successful assault to capture the bridge.

Turn 6:  

One of the advantages for the Soviets is that they get to roll for a new unit of infantry (a “cadre”) to replace previously eliminated cadres.  So far, Kev has been rolling hot and the Soviet VDV paratroopers keep pouring into the city.  It gives the Soviets a real “Hydra-like” quality that is both frustrating and unnerving at the same time.

Airstrikes and tank fire fail to dislodge or hurt the Soviet commander and mobile anti-tank gun to the north.  Assaults don’t work either.  I shift focus to another sector of the city only to get the same results.  The West German HQ moves into the city and starts to feed action points to my most vital units but the rolls are simply not there and the Soviets just are not budging.  Oh well, better luck next turn.

The W. German HQ unit sits in the northwest and feeds its action points to friendly units.

Soviet Commisar Col. Petrova and a Spetsnaz squad enter the map from the east.  I’m not sure exactly what that means but it can’t be good for me.

Col. Petrova and her boys enter from the east.

Turn 7: (Last Turn)

The Soviets make a push for the bridge after suppressing and eliminating some of my M60 tank units. The assault is unsuccessful but I believe it has taken enough wind out of my sails to make victory impossible at this point. More airstrikes, assaults, and firing from NATO. No results.

Finally, the Spetsnaz make an assault on my lone West German infantry unit on the bridge and they retake area 19. NATO is pushed back to the edge of the city. As a point of pride, I retake the bridge easily with multiple units but the action points and the luck are gone and NATO is shut out of a victory by a steadfast and determined opponent.

The Soviets temporarily capture the bridge, forcing NATO to counterattack.  

In order for NATO to get a win in this scenario it has to clear out all the areas adjacent to the bridge.  The Soviets cleverly spread out their units in each adjacent area, which made targeting and assaulting them very difficult. I really regretted losing my West German Luchs recon unit so early on in the game as its special ability (reduce enemy defensive cover bonus) would have been extremely handy.  Thanks to Kev again for a great game.

We made a couple of small mistakes but nothing earth shattering.  NATO gets a sniper to place every turn and the Soviets get a couple of AT missiles.  Also, assaults always drain a retreating unit of all action points.  Still, that's pretty minor for a first game attempt.  Can't wait for a rematch!

Friday, May 25, 2012

London's Burning (Part 3)

Friday, August 16th, 1940:

Pilot Sergeant Waters is pulled from reserves and will work with F/Lt. Stone this morning.  In the early dawn, a huge raid comes over the Channel.  With only 2 fighters against six aircraft, the odds are long that they'll be come out of a scrap unharmed but Waters and Stone decide to check it out.  At 10,000 feet, they encounter four German fighters escorting two bombers.  One bomber is an He 111 and the other is a 'flying pencil', Do-17.  With such heavy fighter protection, the pair decide that it's probably not worth risking their planes so much on such little fish.  They bug out and let the raid move on.  It's not their proudest moment but at this rate, the RAF needs to conserve its pilots and planes.

Not worth it:  the RAF pilots let the raid move on in hopes of bigger fish later on.

The raid hits the emergency airfield at Lympne and returns back to France.  

10 a.m.  Another raid comes in, this time with 4 aircraft.  This seems much more manageable!  In order to check out where it's going, the men decide to wait for the raid to cross over land.  Stone takes off from Marston while Waters circles over Hawkinge.  

Unfortunately, the raid goes straight for Marston and Stone is hit by German fighters, not only from a higher altitude but also coming with the sun behind them.  An Me 109 ace utterly destroys Stone's plane and he bails out.  He survives the bailout but is injured.  He will need several weeks to recover and is slated to return to the roster on September 6th.  To add insult to injury, RAF Marston is damaged.

Although this was a complete disaster, I've learned a couple of important things.  First off, if you're going to base your men close to the channel, make sure that one of them patrols over the airbases constantly.  Also, keep your men together rather than alternating them.  I've been slow to learn this so, as a result, I've got only one pilot until Sunday when Palmer becomes active.  

2 p.m. Waters rests at RAF Gravesend to the north.  The coastal areas of England are effectively abandoned until two pilots are available for interception.  Thankfully, no raids come for the rest of the day.

RAF Marston and Rochford are repaired overnight.  Rain would be a blessing tomorrow.

Saturday, August 17th, 1940:

The sun comes up and it is a beautiful cloudless August day.  At 10 a.m., there are reports of a large group of 6 raiders approaching southern England.  With only one plane, there's no way I'm risking it with such long odds.  The raid goes in and absolutely hammers RAF Rochester, a minor airbase.  Alone, this is not such a bad thing but taken with the other raids in this area over the past several days, it has utterly destroyed a cluster of important emergency airfields in the middle of Kent.  Unless we can start repairing this area soon, it's going to be a series of holes for the Luftwaffe to chuckle at while on the way to bombing London.

RAF Rochester gets hammered.
2 p.m.:  Four German raiders come on the board and Waters goes up to meet them.  If the German flight is vulnerable and without too much protection, it might be worth a shot.  Meeting the flight, things don't look good.  There are two German fighters and one of them is an ace.  Not wanting to risk it, Waters turns back. The raid, unfortunately, hits London.  The southwest of the city is on fire and heavily damaged.

Another raid comes in at 5 p.m. with heavy German fighter escort.  RAF Manston is yet again damaged.

Overnight, RAF Manston is repaired yet again and some of the fires in London are put out.

Sunday, August 18th, 1940:

The RAF squadron commander sighs in relief as he now has 2 pilots with whom to work.   F/Lt. Palmer, a Hurricane pilot, is paired up with Waters.  The two men discuss strategy and decide that it would be a better idea to work on destroying the Luftwaffe's escorts rather than going directly for the bombers.  Reducing the fighter coverage of the attacking Luftwaffe would make the bombers much more vulnerable in future missions.  Right now, it's simply too dangerous to go right for the main prize.  Also, both men will patrol and rest together.  No more alternating between pilots.

The day passes with boring patrols and no reports of a raid.  The pilots land around 6 p.m. and decide to get some rest.  Just as they settle down to a nice cup of tea, the receive a phone call to scramble.  Four Germans arrive over the coast and bomb the hell out of RAF Hawkinge.  It's a bloody good thing the pilots are up at RAF Rochford.  

Although the damage has already been done at RAF Hawkinge, the German flight package seems like a dream.  There is only one escort fighter, an Me 110 while the rest of the Jerries are in big fat bombers.  The pilots, fatigued but excited, follow the Germans back south over the English Channel and engage them there.

Without much time to scramble, both Waters and Palmer are at low altitude.  They climb up to meet the bombers but fail to hit them.  The Me 110, flying top cover, dives at Waters but misses.  

Palmer's Hurricane fires back at the German fighter, destroying it completely.  Meanwhile, Waters manages to wound an He 111.  As he turns away, however, Waters gets careless and his plane is hit by the He 111's rear gunner.  Luckily, his plane has just taken some frame damage and he's still in the fight.  Palmer jumps in to splash the big German bomber and sends it into the cold of the English Channel.  With the rest of the bombers defenseless, both Hurricanes swoop at the remaining German bombers, damaging them badly but unable to splash any more of them.  Both men return home for a well-earned rest.  It was a good day for No. 54 squadron.

Overnight, the fires in London are put out completely.  London is no longer burning.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

London's Burning: August 14th and 15th (Part 2)

In the previous post dealing with this game, Adlertag had just finished and the RAF was licking its wounds.  Our two pilots, F/Lt. Stone and Pilot Sgt. Drake had met two very different fates.  Stone had been in battle with a German raid in the morning and was shaken so badly that he was unable to fly the rest of the day.  Drake heroically prevented another German raid from bombing a radar station but his Hawker Hurricane was turned into swiss cheese by three German fighters.  Though he bailed out near the coast, Drake drowned in the sea.

On August 14th, F/Lt Holmwood, a reserve pilot was called up to replace the loss of Drake.  Holmwood, a Hawker Hurricane pilot, gets ready for the day ahead.  Stone is still somewhat shaken from the events of yesterday.  The damage to the squadron's sector has been surprisingly light, with an airfield at Marston and West Malling bombed and taken out of the action until repairs are made.

Nothing much happens on August 14th.  Routine patrols in the morning fatigue the pilots but there are no raids in the area.  At 5 p.m., a large raid comes in over the coast.  Licking our wounds from yesterday's heavy losses, the squadron commander plays it safe and waits to see where the raid is heading.  The Germans hit an emergency airfield at Detling.  It's not good but the airfield is certainly not worth the loss of two pilots.  Manston Airfield is repaired overnight and is operational again the next day.

The emergency airfields at Detling and West Malling are hurting.

August 15th:  The squadron commander shifts tactics a bit.  Holmwood and Stone are sent down south.  Stone is based at RAF Maston on the coast and Holmwood patrols near Dover.  Hopefully this will help with faster interception of raids and we can better choose where we fight our battles.  A flight of four Germans raids the coast and does light damage to the convoy near Dover.  The pilots need rest and are brought back to base.  As they are resting, a raid comes in.  The pilots try to scramble for it but they are too slow and their home base of Rochford gets hit by some light bomb damage.

Finally at 5 p.m., a huge raid of 6 aircraft is reported near the coast.  The men get their act together and scramble on time.  The raid heads closer to them as they increase altitude.  Stone and Holmswood come at the raid from up high.  Unfortunately, 4 German fighters (a pair of 109s and a 110) are flying top cover.  The RAF pilots decide to perform a quick hit and run on the bombers (an He 111 and a Stuka) and get out of there as quickly as possible.

Stone picks apart the He 111, which crashes on its way home while Holmswood destroys the Stuka.  The Germans have their revenge, however, as a 109 finds its way on the tail of Holmswood, destroying his plane.  Holmswood bails out and is successfully rescued near the coast but his wounds are too serious and he later dies of them on the operating table.  Another terrible loss for the squadron.

For the rest of the RAF, things went a little better.  August 15th became known as "Black Thursday" as the Luftwaffe suffered shocking losses after launching massive raids across a 500 mile front.  Approximately 1/8th of the Luftwaffe's bomber force was lost in a single day while about 20 per cent of its long range fighters were destroyed.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

London's Burning: August 13th - Adlertag

In 1995, Avalon Hill produced "London's Burning", which is a solitaire game about the Battle of Britain.  London's Burning doesn't attempt to cover the wider aspect of the battle like RAF:  Battle of Britain but instead builds a tighter narrative by focusing in on a single squadron of pilots and their attempts to fend off German bombing raids over England during August and September, 1940.

For this report, I've chosen the "regular scenario", which starts on August 13th and ends on September 6th.   I'll be playing through the game on and off in the next couple of weeks, highlighting or narrating any interesting events that occur as I play through it.

Setup and Pilots:

Our two active pilots are Flight Lieutenant Stone and Sergeant Pilot Drake.  Stone is a Spitfire pilot while Drake flies the Hawker Hurricane.  In reserve are Flight Lt. Holmwood and Sergeant Pilot Waters, both of whom are Hurricane pilots.

Our two current pilots:  Drake and Stone

Each Sunday, another reserve pilot becomes available and, luckily for us, Flt. Lt. Kowalski, an ace, will be joining the squadron on August 25th.

August 1940 calendar with pilots becoming available each Sunday.

We have many sector airfields from which to base these men and I have chosen Hornchurch home of no. 54 squadron.  It's just south of London as our squadron's home airfield. It's right in the middle of the action so that should guarantee we'll get a chance to shoot down some Jerries!

Let the battle begin!

August 13th:  It is Adlertag (Eagle Day) today and the Germans are about to launch the some big raids on Britain.  In the early A.M, Flt Lt. Stone is patrolling around Dunkirk in his Spitfire.  Drake is moved to a satellite airfield in Rochford on stand by.  No raids come.  

10 a.m.  The two pilots switch roles as Stone lands at Rochford and Drake patrols over Dunkirk.  A raid of 5 Jerries is reported incoming at 10,000 feet near Dover!  Stone scrambles from Rochford airfield but there's simply no time to wait so Drake decides to try to go it alone.  He approaches the raid from behind and out of the sun as it clears the English coastline.

Drake intercepts the raid on his own.  A wise choice?

Unfortunately for Drake, coming at the Jerries from out of the sun is not such a great advantage when you're at the same altitude!  The German raid is at 15,000 feet, which is 5,000 feet higher than earlier reported.

A formation of Dornier Do-17s circa 1940
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-342-0603-25 / Ketelhohn [Kettelhohn] / CC-BY-SA

The raid consists of an Me-109 fighter, a pair of Dornier Do-17 bombers, an He 111 and a Ju-87 Stuka.  Drake bites his lip and decides to go for the big He 111.  He lets loose with his eight machine guns riddling the He-111's frame.  The rear gunner in the bomber fires back but misses entirely.

The German raid.

The Me-109 fighter almost manages to get on Drake's tail but the Hurricane jinks and the German pilot curses as he maneuvers around for another attempt at a firing solution.

Drake tries for one more pass at the He-111 and then he'll bug out.  He empties the rest of his ammunition on the He-111, again damaging the frame but the big bomber refuses to go down.  The Me-109 catches up to Drake.  Tracers fill the air and the German fighter's machine guns damage the Hurricane's frame and engine.  With no ammunition and a damaged aircraft, Drake breaks off from the raid and makes an emergency landing at Hawkinge airfield to the west.

Stone is now in the air and at 15,000 feet.   The German raid presses on to the northwest.  No one knows its ultimate target but it is getting awfully close to an airfield at Detling.  Stone decides to waste no time and heads for the raid, intercepting it.  Stone goes straight for the He-111, trying to finish off the job that Drake started.  He fires a six second burst at it and the Spitfire's guns damage the German bomber's engine.  The He-111 jettisons its bombs.  This is good enough for Stone and he will try to get home after this.  The Me-109 pilot, however, begs to differ and fills Stone's cockpit with machine gun bullets.  Although Stone is unhurt, he heads for home.  He is badly shaken by the incident, replaying the scenes in his head again and again.  He will not fly again today.  

With the two English fighters gone, the German raid closes in on West Malling and bombs the airfield.  Light AA fire prevents the Ju-87 Stuka from accurately divebombing the field but the Do-17s hit the target, causing 2 points of damage.  

The German raid drops its bombs on West Malling airfield.

West Malling was an emergency airfield that means little to the RAF and probably wasn't worth the near-loss of two fighters.  Hopefully the rest of the day won't bring any more raids.  Drake gets a new replacement aircraft and flies home to Rochford airfield.  The only good news is that the He-111 from the raid crashed in the English Channel on the way home.  The award for the kill goes to Stone.

August 13th, 2 p.m.

Sergeant Pilot Drake patrols around Dunkirk, waiting for news of an incoming raid.  4 incoming German planes are reported at 10,000 feet coming across the channel.  Drake heads south towards Dover, hoping to intercept them.

The raid's target, however, is not Dover but Manston airfield.  Drake has no chance to intercept it and Manston airfield is bombed.  

August 13th, 5 p.m.

Drake intercepts a raid of German bombers going for the "Chain Home" radar station at Pevensey.  If he wants to catch them, he'll have no choice but to try and shoot them down before they hit the coast.  

Drake intercepts the raid heading for Pevensey.

Unfortunately, the Germans have three Me-109 fighters (one of which is piloted by an ace!) protecting the He 111.  

Wasting no time and knowing the odds are against him, Pilot Sgt. Drake dives at the group from 20,000 feet, firing all of his ammunition at the He 111.  The German bomber pilot is killed and the He-111 crashes into the sea.  All three Me-109s gang up on Drake.  He twists and turns, trying to dodge their fire but it's too much and smoke fills the cockpit as his engine is destroyed.  He bails out over the coastline...but the sea claims him.  Drake dies a hero, having prevented the certain loss of the radar station at Pevensey but no one would argue that it has not been a terrible day for the squadron.

Note:  In the very first battle with Drake, I made a mistake by not rolling enough for damage but I corrected this in the fight with the second raid.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ranger: Commo Site Recon

In 1984, Omega Games published "Ranger", which is less a board game than sort of a solo role-playing game that features realistic elements of US Army Ranger patrols and operations.  The game takes place in a fictional country in Central America and players make a host of decisions such as how to equip and prepare men for a mission, the route to an objective and how to extract after completing a mission.  Since the game was written by an ex-Ranger, it feels accurate and there is great attention to detail throughout the product.  The game includes a ton of mission cards and there are maps and even a grease pencil!

Here's a mission I recently played.

Puerto Oro has recently been suffering from leftist incursions from its southern neighbor. Congress has approved a limited deployment of a single Ranger battalion to advise Puerto Oro's government forces in the area and to lead strike missions against leftist elements.

US President Ronald Reagan has dispatched US Army Rangers to Puerto Oro.

This is our area of operations (AO) in Puerto Oro. It consists of AO Yankee (North and South) and further to the west (not shown) are AO Victor (North and South). The yellow line delineates the limits of available offshore naval gunfire support from the US Navy.

AO Victor and Yankee.

The mission today is to lead a squad to recon a suspected enemy communications site. We'll be parachuting quite far north of the objective and traveling south on foot through jungle. After the mission is complete, we will not be returning to base but instead establishing a patrol base in the area to interdict and observe the enemy presence. 

Today's Mission:  Recon an enemy communications site.

We'll be parachuting in from a CH-47 helicopter.  After we land in a clearing, we'll head south, and sneak up to the edge of the forest around a small village where the comm site is reportedly located. After that, we head west along a river and establish a patrol base just north of it.  We have to get all of this done within 12 hours which doesn't give a lot of wiggle room for errors.  

The planned route:  the objective is to the south, after which we head west to establish a patrol base.

The terrain we're hiking through is all heavy jungle so it will be slow-going.  The planned route is carefully laid out to avoid trails or roads.   The route also follows a zig-zag pattern to throw off any trailing enemies or ambushes. There are rally points (RP) established along the way in case someone gets lost or we have to back track for whatever reason.

Planned Actions at the Objective: This is a mockup of how the mission will proceed at the objective. We will establish an Objective Rally Point (ORP) about 200 meters north of the objective. The Rear Security Team (RST) will consist of a machine gun team and an assistant gunner. A Right Flank Security team (RFS) will sit near the jungles edge. A Recon element (R) will conduct the recon by observation and using surveillance equipment such as cameras and hand-held video recorders. A Left Flank Security team (LFS) will cover the Recon element's left flank.

The recon should take no more than 45 minutes and then we will extract to the west and establish a patrol base.

A rough sketch of  each team's actions at the objective.  

There is a full platoon in the available roster from which to choose.  We can only take a squad out there today so 2nd squad gets pulled for action along with a 2-man machine gun team.

MG team:
M60: Johnson. 1 claymore, AT4 rocket launcher, 1 extra box of ammo, radio.
M4: Harris. 1 claymore mine, 2 grenades, 1 box ammo.
A Team Leader:
M4: Welch: 1 box ammo. 1 set Night Vision Goggles, 1 set binoculars
M203. Lopez. 1 set binos, 1 digital camera
Automatic Rifleman:
M249. Stephenson. 1 box ammo. 1 Night Vision Goggles.
M4. Wilson. 1 box ammo. 1 thermal sight. grenades.
Squad Leader:
M4. Meoni. 1 claymore. 1 AT4. 1 box ammo.
B team leader:
M4. Rocke. 1 claymore mine. grenades. 1 box ammo.
M203. Pina, 1 box ammo. 1 AT4, grenades.
Automatic Rifleman:
M249. Balafas. 1 claymore mine. 1 box ammo.
M4. Modica. 1 AT4. grenades. 1 box extra ammo.

With everything ready, the squad gears up and boards the Chinook helicopter.  

The drop goes ahead with no problems. The men parachute into the night and head south. By 2100, they are about to cross a trail. We have rehearsed trail crossings so this shouldn't be a problem. However, as the squad is about to move out, there are reports of an enemy vehicle (a technical) coming down the road at high speed.

The squad hides in the jungle and finds concealment. However, the technical pulls up just short of the squad and eight men jump out of the truck and start firing!

Our B Team Leader, Rocke, is fatally hit! Pina fires his AT4 at the enemy truck and vaporizes it. Meoni throws two hand grenades and kills the rest of the communist guerrillas. Loud explosions and gunfire echo through the night. The Rangers split up the equipment from Rocke and call for a medevac. A jungle lifter helicopter arrives in 15 minutes and extracts Rocke's body. The sound will definitely attract more enemies if the Rangers don't start moving fast to the objective.  The time it has taken for extraction and cleanup means that we're behind schedule.  The planned route is abandoned in favor of an alternate route that is more dangerous, but gets the squad to the objective a bit faster.

The squad runs into trouble just south of the drop zone.

After slogging through dense jungle, the Rangers scout out the Objective Rally Point by 0130. Meoni, the Squad Leader, takes a security element (the MG team) and the Surveillance team near the objective and leaves them there. Meoni arrives back at the ORP and sends out the flank security teams. The rest of the recon element moves towards the objective after the security teams set up.

The squad starts to set up near the objective at the edge of the village.

Rocke's death means juggling around responsibilities between the left and right flank security teams but the men make do and set up a perimeter with no real problems.

The Recon element of four men arrive near the jungle clearing and start recording. They see a busy communications base with many guerrillas moving around in the night while radio operators seem busy at their post. Luckily, none of the men are spotted and after 60 minutes of taking photos and drawing sketches of the site (thanks to the miracle of night vision scopes and infrared), the recon is finished.  

By 0530, the Rangers have moved out and are now in AO Victor (South) near the edge of a swamp. The men establish a patrol base and await further orders. Mission accomplished.

The sun comes up and the men wearily establish a patrol base to the west, awaiting further orders.
Result:  Mission Accomplished:  100 points
-10 points:  Ranger KIA
-10 points:  Switch to dangerous (but faster) alternate route
 80 points - Major Tactical Success

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Band of Heroes: Carentan - The American AAR

Here's Kevin Sharp's report from our game yesterday.  He fought like a lion as the commander of Easy Company.

Ok… Let set the record straight at the get go.
I’m the Allies. In fact, I’m the American player. Actually I am Easy Company.
Yes. Indeed.
E for Easy.
Not E for eliminated.
Not E for Eventually.
Not E for Exterminated.
When you see the word Company and the Letter E you think this:

So starting out on this scenario as my first exposure to WWII LNL, I figured this would be a cinch. The good guys always win, when you roll with Easy Co.
WTH? I start in Line Of Sight (LOS) with 2 of my 3 squads? No matter what one of them is shot at by that honking great MG the Jerries have.
We of course dodge a bullet, no one is hurt and we hurtle across the board, evading fire.
Well since this is a AAR, I’ll leave hooha out of it. I got a little carried away there! A quick look at the board reveals that we need to cover a lot of territory in 8 turns.
The Germans are fearfully set up with wonderful cones of fire.

Capturing all ten buildings will be tough, but I think we can easily grab 6 or 7. I got lots of reinforcements coming, and he has to place his or lose them on his turn.

I think our plan is to push hard in the North of the map and also send a small force South to keep him honest.

Ok. Row H is in sight, my guys are gun ho and pushing up nicely. The T Shaped building will serve as my base of Ops to root out that pesky MG. Then its a walk down the boulevard. 

Oops, His MG tears my guys a new one. Then he pops the reinforcement across the way, AFTER I move. He then dashes across the street and pulls the Melee the enemy shaken routine. Sigh. Ok. I may have got a bit hasty on the moves, here.

This is however no problem. I can afford one squad, and we will Melee them and crush ‘em. but I still need to work out some way to get rid of that MG.

I need to obtain initiative next turn and swipe those guys hard.

For Petes Sakes…..He gets init, of course fires and barely shakes my boys. Phew. That could have been really ugly. I move up and close assault those guys ASAP and lose one squad and take him out.
Ouch. But hey this is war and Easy company rolls hard….right?
But wait – what the hell is this.  Yes reinforcements can go in ANY HEX….H2.

The arrival in H2 is the death knell for those 2 squads., the pimple faced little recruits just crush them as my guys are shaken..I have now lost nearly 50% of my forces and made ZERO head way.
With the Zones locked down, I must admit I have underestimated the terrain, the player and the capabilities of the Wermacht.
I’m going to need to reassess my goal.  If I can get 5 of the hexes I can win. But I cant afford any more losses. shit just got real Easy Company.
Over view at Turn 4:

Two turns fly by, and my teams and squads are either reduced, shaken or useless. I’ve now turned the music off, stopped drinking my martini and begun focussing. The risk of a 100% Axis blow out is now a reality. Jerry has prevented the 101st from getting into its rhythm, whilst the men of Easy Company have paid a dear price for sloppy movement, no overwatch and all the other things that YOU MUST DO to NOT DIE in this WAR!!!

I hate to do this, as it is an expensive way to use men, of which I now have too few. But I send the 1/2 squad out as bait. Jerry, wisely holds fire. Lucky for me. All I really need is one guy in his rear to at least get a pyrrhic VP hex, I pop the unit into the Snipers hex and relieve a little pressure on Sgt Hill and co.

At the end of Turn 6 The Jerries have torn thru the men of Easy company, with furious fire. 50% of the men are shaken, or reduced. It is time to break loose of concede. If I can recover some men for the last 2 turns then its all or nothing.

I finally catch a break, most of my guys recover, and the Germans were so focussed on the primary force in front of them, that I sneak by and get into the rear to capture some building hexes. He misses a Opportunity fire chance, thankfully.

Lt Michael rushes the building. He is doing two things. 1 absorbing fire, and two moving a unit out of LOS of the guys in the South. He will die. He does it for his men. For the mission. for freedom. Ok.. He does it because I either have no idea what the hell I’m doing or I’m desperate!

My last live hero, rolls out take on the Jerry solo, or actually to capture a building hex! He lies in the street in a pool of blood.
The rest of Easy companies squad, now launch an assault and throw the satchel charge into the building (was that played right?).

They clear the building, dying in the effort.

The end of turn 7 sees more fire and casualties, the death of Lt. Michael and the reinforcement of K1. The situation at the beginning of Turn 8, is still tight.

Easy has suffered horribly. They have a wounded hero, a Sgt with one squad, a reduced shaken squad in the street, 2 squads all alone and a 1/2 squad which can capture 2 more buildings.

We have however redeemed the game, albiet at a great cost.

The Hero picks up two building hexes. That makes 3. Now the cat and mouse angle comes to the fore, I need to be able to move my guys without risk of being shot last.  Like any good game this baby is going down to the wire for either a draw or a German victory.

2 more hexes! M1-M2-N3. phew. ok. That is a net 3 VP hexes as his squad moved across the road and contestJ1/K1…why the hell didn’t I put a guy in each hex? UGH!!!!

Ok. Now for the big building. I need one more building or one of his contested for a draw.

Huzzah. I drip feed the half squad towards the green building and he ignores it. I melee the hex, I fail to kill a unit, and so does he at great odds. That nets it out to 4 buildings controlled each and 2 disputed.
Easy company is a shell of its former self. This platoon in particular is a mess. Then men hunker down and await reinforcements.
Good game Brad, well played and I am officially a fan of WWII squad level tactical combat in LNL!

-Glad to hear it, Kev!  Thanks again!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Band of Heroes: Carentan - The German AAR

Through the miracle of Vassal, I sat down and played LnL's "Band of Heroes"  this afternoon and played through a scenario called "Carentan". The June 12, 1944 battle for Carentan was fought by two fierce opponents, the men of the 101st Airborne 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, Company E ("Easy Company") which was immortalized in the HBO series' "Band of Brothers" and the German Fallschirmj√§ger Regiment 6.

Due to my affection for the TV series and my admiration of the men in Easy Company (or heck, any veteran of any war, for that matter) I have a special place in my heart for this scenario so I was pretty happy when my regular opponent agreed to play it, despite his stated desire to blow stuff up with tanks. We had a really good run with this scenario and it took some interesting twists and turns, especially in the late game. My opponent has agreed to do a joint AAR for this scenario so I'll post the progress of the battle from my perspective as the Germans now and then his report (as the American player) later. I'll be cross-posting all of this stuff to The Big Board later with his kind permission.

Carentan is an impressive eight-turn scenario, which takes place on a single map board.  The American objective is to control as many buildings east of hex row "H" as possible.  Because of the awesome fighting skill of Easy Company, they are given 9 fate points at the beginning of the scenario.  They can spend these points to do a number of cool things, such as change die rolls, remove "Moved" or "Fired" markers from units, etc.

Both sides start up with only a handful of units on the board and then for the next two turns, they receive reinforcements.  The Americans must enter on the west side of the map while the Germans get to just place units on or east of hex row H.  This makes it a real tough one for the American player.  Here's how it all went down:

Turn 1:
Alright, time to inflict some pain on the Americans!  The American player starts inching his guys forward and Capt. Weiss and his MG-42 squad spit out metal at the US 2-5-4 in C4 but there’s no joy to be had.  That’s okay, there is plenty of time left still.

Easy Company enters Carentan and is in for the fight of its life.

Turn 2:  
Mein gott!  Ze Americans are approaching the big building in F2!  I just wait and let Capt. Weiss and his buddies chill out and enjoy some fine bratwurst and beer while the men of Easy Company advance into certain death.  

The American player is pretty sneaky so I decide to cover the southern approach into the town by planting Lt. Frietag and his men in I6.  They immediately fire on the 1-4-4 squad with the M1919 in C3 but miss.

Capt. Weiss has better luck up north when he spots some American squads low crawling into G2.  The Germans start shooting and end up shaking the US squad pretty badly.  The German squad from J1 rushes in and melees the shaken American squad, eliminating it.  

A German Fallschirmjager squad about to melee some unfortunate Americans.

Turn 3:
Things start looking really good for me this turn.  The Germans get initiative and my squad in G2, which eliminated Maj. Tom and his men last turn, fire on the adjacent Americans in F2, shaking them.  

Then something really weird happened.  The American player decided to send Sgt. Hill towards the large building where all the action has been happening.  I was certain he would move them into F2 to protect Major Tom and his shaken squads but to my horror, he enters into melee with the Germans in G2.  The German squad is eliminated but at least it took down an American 2-5-4 with it.

Alright, if my opponent is gonna play hardball then it’s time to step up to the plate.  I plant a 1-2-4 into H2 and move them in to melee Major Tom and his shaken squads in F2.  

Major Tom and his men in F2 about to meet their fate as a German 1-2-4 closes in for melee.

My opponent has 9 fate points at the beginning of the scenario with which to modify rolls, remove “Fired” and “Moved” markers but so far he hasn’t been spending them.  This makes me nervous.  What is he waiting for?  What does he have up his sleeve?

He starts sending most of his reinforcements to the north side of the board so I decide to make the I2 building a fortress.  Another MG42 squad and Lt. Praun are placed in I2 beside Captain Weiss before I put another squad in J4 to seal the deal.  I have simply decided that no one is getting past this building.

Lt. Frietag and the MG34 fire at the 1-4-4 sitting in C3 again, this time giving the American player a hero with the “Versatile” card.  Ah well, things are going pretty well for me right now so I can’t complain too much.

The American player sends a handful of guys along the southern route so I move my squad from J4 down to J6 to just shore things up a bit down there.

Turn 4: 
The vicious house fighting continues.  Lt. Michaels and his men move toward my 1-2-4 German squad in F2.  A lucky shot with my sniper in J1 shakes up a 2-5-4 squad as the American stack approaches the large building.  My opponent presses on courageously and the American lieutenant and a 1-4-4 American squad with hero melee the German 1-2-4 squad.  The small German squad is eliminated but it takes out the U.S. 1-4-4 squad.  It’s not a bad tradeoff for me.

The F2 building hex becomes a magnet for Americans and German soldiers and casualties mount.

The Germans in I2 and the Americans in G2 trade fire from across the street with little result.

Turn 5: 
The US tries to break the German defense by sending a hero out in H2 adjacent to Lt. Praun.  The German sniper picks him off, wounding him.   The American player sends a half squad out in the street but they’re just target practice for Lt. Praun.  The US seems to be stuck at a standstill, unable to make any effective advance. I wonder when my opponent is going to start using those fate points.  It’s really making me nervous now.  

Turn 6:
My sniper in J1 finishes off the American hero in H2 so he can’t use it to spot the adjacent German units.
The US player sends Lt. Michael and his men out into the street and Lt. Praun mows them down from I2.

Capt. Weiss watches as a small US half squad rushes across the street but holds fire as he knows more Americans are in the building across the street.  “Let the little fish go,” he tells his men.  “The real sharks are still inside.”

Unfortunately, this is where the American started spending his fate points.  He uses all of his remaining FPs to reactivate the US half squad and it move it into J1, taking out my sniper.  Suddenly, things don’t seem so rosy anymore for my Germans.   I pull a 2-3-4 squad from down south back up north to take care of this pesky US 1-4-4 squad!  

US 1-4-4 squad shoots past the defenders and eliminates the German sniper.

I start to feel a bit uncomfortable about the southern approach into town now as the US starts low crawling some guys to the east.  It’s slow progress for my opponent but it’s still a bit unnerving for me.
The only real good news is that Capt. Weiss shakes up Sgt. Hill and his men across the street.  If they fail to rally then I can relax a bit.0

Turn 7:
Unfortunately, the US starts making its rally rolls and things seem to be kind of coming apart.

The American player moves Lt. Michael adjacent to the Germans, which allows his guys to start shooting at my now spotted units.  I quickly put a stop to that by eliminating the leader in melee.

In the south, however, the Americans are a small but persistent group.  The hero moves near Lt. Frietag and is wounded.  The US 2-5-4 follows in from behind and jumps into melee with Frietag and his men.  They both eliminate each other.  Now there are no Germans to cover the southern approach and the US has a hero down there!

In the south of town, the US manages to take out the German's defenses.

Capt. Weiss fires at the hero but misses.  My opponent uses this opportunity to advance two full US squads to the east and into the nearby buildings. 

Turn 8:  Last Turn
The US hero starts rockin’ the south, storming through buildings like crazy and cranking up the VPs for the US player.  I can only try and stop the bleeding at this point and hope that it’s enough.  I send one of my German squads up adjacent to the two US squads in J1.  Both of the American player's suads opportunity fire at the advancing Germans, tying everyone up for the rest of the turn.

The German 2-3-4 moves adjacent to two US squads but the other Americans advance effortlessly.

The American half squad that so bravely pushed past my defenses is activated.  It takes two buildings, which hurts my final VP tally considerably.

The real problem is when the unforeseen happens and my opponent sends in a lonely 1-4-4 squad to melee Lt. Frietag.  Although the US is outnumbered, this effectively wrestles control of the building away from the Germans.  The result is a 4-4 stalemate. 

What started out as a cakewalk for the Germans ended up being a real nail-biter in the last few turns of the game.  Thanks to some good use of FPs for the Americans and just the right amount of pressure, The American player turned out a pretty nice result from what looked like certain defeat.  Nicely played!