Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Forgotten Heroes Vietnam: Unboxing

So I just got my copy of Forgotten Heroes Vietnam today and I'm pretty stoked about it so let's open it up and see what we've got here:


Nice box art with good use of color and photographs.  Reminds me of the Heroes of the Gap box art with the use of counters in the middle and bottom of the box.  It's a surprisingly heavy box too.  Although I don't have a shot of the back, it seems a lot less "cluttered" in terms of text and art, which is a nice change from the "Band of Heroes" days.



Inside the box, we are greeted with the module rules, which has a nice color cover.  The rules themselves are your standard LnL series rules with black and white photos, etc.  What's great to see is that the rulebook now uses photos and examples from newer games like Heroes of the Gap and rules changes are now in italics.





The Module rules are of thick stock (which is a departure from the usual standard paper format) and presented in a "fold out" fashion with large font and features an introduction from Mark H. Walker as well as the standard national characteristics and module-specific rules.




Underneath those 2 books, we've got 5 geomorphic maps, two six-sided dice, the skill cards and other goodies.  It's a tightly packed affair so you'll probably have to keep your counters in a separate box after you punch them out.




The Skill Cards look great and appear to be of standard playing card thickness, which seems to be a little thicker than the Heroes of the Gap skill cards.  The illustrations on the cards are excellent and relate well to the card description.  My favorite card happens to be "Lucky Man" which is a really imaginative and funny way to make the photo work with the card description.



Interestingly, the skill cards also contain a couple of cards that advertise other LnL games, Heroes of the Gap and White Star Rising.  I've never seen that before in an LnL product so I wonder if this will be standard now.  I'm not sure what to do with these advertisement cards...


The map boards look great and have the usual attention to detail. Of course, the terrain layout is the same as the first edition of the game but the art is updated and the halos have been removed from around the hexes.  It really looks like you've got a God's eye view of the battle, peering down on some remote village in Vietnam that hasn't changed for a thousand years.




The Player Aid Card is pretty much the same high quality stock and layout as the "Heroes of the Gap" aid card.  This time, there's a pretty sweet image of a Huey at the bottom of the first page.  The terrain chart is inside and fire modifiers are on the back.  It's well organized and easy to read.  The thicker stock and lamination means that it will probably withstand a minor beverage spill or two, which is a big plus for a clumsy guy like me.  




The scenario cards are a real step up from previous efforts with lots of use of color and well-organized information.  I liked Heroes of the Gap but often found the color and background of the scenario cards seemed to make it harder to read the info at times.  That problem has been corrected here.  We also have the return of the turn counters on the card, which was sorely missed in Heroes of the Gap where the turn counter was literally right on top of the map (even on top of the terrain itself).  I think this is a nice mixture of using the information organization from the older games (like Band of Heroes) on the cards along with the higher quality of presentation from HotG.  Using both sides of the scenario card for one scenario works so much better than cramming all that stuff on one side of a card.


Lastly, there are two sheets of counters in the box.  Here we have the NVA, ARVN, Marines and US Army  forces represented along with your standard administrative markers.  The counter art seems to be improved in a lot of ways.  The weapons are a bit bigger and seem to take up more of the counter size.



The leader illustrations seem a bit more lifelike and distinct than in Heroes of the Gap.  I really couldn't distinguish Cpt. Boone from Sgt. York in terms of facial features but here in FH: Vietnam, each leader is very distinct and you can almost make out their personality from the picture.  Well done.


I also loved the "in action" shots on the helicopter counters with the rocket flying out of the Huey.  I hope LnL does more of this in the future as it looks pretty cool and adds a movie-scene sense to what's happening on the board.




Conclusion:  I think LnL Publishing got it right this time, especially in regards to the design of the scenario cards and the images for the leader counters.  I can see that LnL is trying to find ways to advertise their existing products to  casual buyers (through the admittedly cool-looking HotG and WSR "skill cards" as well as the ad for "Paris is Burning" on the back of the rulebook) and I think what might work much better is to just slip in a pamphlet that is separate and distinct from the game components. That being said, anything that helps to sell games to keep the company healthy is alright by me.


It's also apparent that LnLP is committed to continually improving the overall quality of their product through tweaks here and there while still putting out distinct products that belong to the same LnL series.  It's a tough balancing act in many ways because players of the series have come to expect a certain amount of consistency among the various LnL games and components while at the same time demanding new products that are unique from other games in the series.

I'm looking forward to Anzac Attack, the expansion for Forgotten Heroes, which includes Aussie and New Zealand forces in Vietnam.  Line of Fire 12 has provided several excellent new scenarios for Forgotten Heroes as well, even incorporating the Vietnam maps as substitutes for Nicaragua in the Heroes of the Gap universe.  So it seems that FH:Vietnam is well supported by LnL Publishing and we can expect lots of shiny new add-ons to the game in the future.

Update:  After giving the game a quick spin and looking closer at the components, I have to say that my favorite bit is the fact that Mark has written some notes on the scenarios, which is terrific.  I enjoy reading how some scenarios were tweaked or re-worked to add balance or flavor.  It adds a lot to the game for me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sixth Fleet: Day 2 - AM Cycle

Scenario 9 continues.  To recap what's happened so far:

1.)  Turkey has entered the war this morning on the side of NATO.

2.)  Diplomatic negotiations between NATO and the Soviets are progressing.  The Soviets have scored 18 VPs through Sea Denial.

3.)  Storms rage across the Eastern Med. and the Tyrrehnian Sea, messing up invasion plans for both sides.

Strat Air Missions:  Not too much going on with Strat Air this morning as the storms in the region have prevented aircraft from flying.  There is an interesting development in the Black Sea when the Turks send an RF-5 "Tigereye" Recon flight out to pinpoint the location of the Black Sea fleet.  A Mig-23 catches the recon flight and completely eliminates them.

AM Cycle:

US wins Initiative.

US Surface Segment:

The Moroccan FF Erham and a handful of patrol craft absolutely lay waste to the Algerian surface fleet in the Western Med by using SSMs.

Turkish destroyers head south through the Aegean.

USSR Air Segment:

The Algerians retaliate by sending out an Su-20 squadron, which eliminates the Morroccan frigate and the patrol ships.

Public Domain.Free of Copyright.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.
Soviet Su-17 (the Su-20 is the export version)


The Soviets send out some Tu-26 Backfires from the Crimea and they sink the Yugoslav frigate Split.

Two flights of Tu-16 Badgers also depart from the Crimea for friendly Bulgarian airspace to avoid Turkish CAP.  From high over Bulgaria, they launch missiles and destroy a pair of Turkish destroyers.  The Turkish surface fleet is now completely eliminated in the space of a single morning.

US Sub Segment:  

The Tango-class Soviet sub Perm is damaged by the USS Drum near Gibraltar.

The rest of the US sub fleet in the Eastern Med uses the opportunity of the storm to make their way towards the Soviet task force sitting off the coast of Syria.  The noose tightens!

Soviet Sub Segment:

The Soviets likewise start moving their submarines near the US carrier task force in the Eastern Med.

The Soviet sub Perm takes a shot at the USS Boston but misses.

US Air Segment:

The B-52s take off from Rota and strike at Algiers in hopes of destroying the Algerian attack aircraft there.  Unfortunately, the AA is strong enough and although the bombing does considerable damage, the Algerian aircraft are not affected.

P3 Orions in Rota take off and try to finish off the Perm but are unable to do so.

Soviet Surface Segment:

Two Soviet surface groups meet up in the Central Med, consisting of the damaged Minsk, the Kirov and several other ships.

The Black Sea fleet slowly crawls down towards Istanbul.

The AM cycle ends.  The storm has kept major combat in key victory areas from happening but there have been some interesting developments.  Turkey has been completely hammered by Soviet air power launching from bases in the Crimea.  Algeria has taken a beating from Morocco and the US over on the other side of the Med.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Sixth Fleet: Day 2 - Strategic Cycle

Day 2 of my ongoing Sixth Fleet campaign has begun and I'm blogging the results here.  So far, here's a recap of what's happened so far on Day 1:

1.)  The Soviets have angered the Turks by overflying their airspace.  The Turks enter the war on the side of NATO on Day 2.

2.)  Diplomatic attempts to resolve the crisis have actually made significant headway at the UN.

3.)  The US has a carrier task force searching for the Soviets in the Eastern Med.  The bulk of the Russian fleet has been able to avoid detection by sitting quietly off the coast of Syria.

4.)  Israel and Egypt have successfully drawn Soviet subs away from the US carrier task force but they have taken horrible losses in their attempt.

5.)  A group of US surface ships without air cover sits near Sicily and is being harassed by Libyan surface craft and Soviet subs.  The Yugoslavs, who have surprisingly entered the war on the side of NATO, are en route to assist them.

6.)  Each side is gearing up to land troops at vital targets in the Mediterranean.  If the weather is good enough, there should be some attempted landings in the morning.

So, without further adieu, let's take a look at the first part of the Strategic Cycle early in the morning on Day 2 and see what happens:

Political Events:

Roll: 3 (+2: Short Game, +1 Breakthrough):   Negotiations between both sides begin as both sides begin to make conciliatory tones and work through the proper channels.  That's great but until an armistice is signed, it's on like Donkey Kong.

This also means it's time to determine victory points.  No one has landed anything yet and both sides are fairly even in terms of sinkings and air units downed, so we'll just go with Sea Denial here.

The Soviets pick up a handful of victory points in the Central Med and a bunch more for their concentrated forces in the Eastern Med for a total of 18 VPs.

Weather:

Storms roll into the region, affecting the Eastern Mediterranean and the Tyrrehnian Sea Zones.  This severely limits amphibious invasions and other combat operations in the area.

Command and Control:

The US loses C and C and is unable to launch Strategic Air missions from the Atlantic, Western Med, Aegean and Baltic Sea.

Satellite Recon:

The US player rolls low and does not get any SATINT in the area but the Soviets manage to get very good intel with 3 detection markers.  Unfortunately, since we can't get SATINT from storm zones (hey, it was the 1980s) this renders the whole advantage a bit pointless. However, the Russians detect a US sub (USS Drum) near Gibraltar, a Yugoslav DD (Split) near its coastline, and a Turkish sub (an Atilay class sub) in port at Istanbul.

Reinforcements:

Welcome to the party, pal!  The Soviets get a bunch of reinforcements this morning up in the Crimea with a task force consisting of 2 CGs (Moskva and Ochakov) and some other deadly DDs as well as an amphibious assault ship.  The US gets a P3 Orion in Rota and the old but faithful Sturgeon class USS Cavalla submarine, which sets up in the Atlantic Ocean just off Spain.

The Moskva is deployed in the Black Sea and is ready to set sail.


The Turks have also joined up to fight the Russians, deploying a small force of DDs with a sub in Istanbul and a pair of subs in the Eastern Med.

The US has a bit of luck this turn as a B-52 squadron arrives in Rota, Spain.

Strategic Air Missions:

With the storms in TY and EM, this will significantly reduce the number of air missions today.  In the areas of the Med that are clear, we'll have some activity.  The US, with its loss of C and C, has zero Strat Air Missions this turn (ouch) while the Soviets send out some Tu-95s to recon the Aegean Sea and find out what the Turks are up to.  They also send out some Badgers for Tac Coordination in the Black Sea and the Aegean.  To enter the Turkish Straits, the Soviets will need to invade Istanbul, which they are well prepared to do now.

Detection Phase:

No one in the storm zones is able to detect anyone else.  It's a huge mass of confusion.  This may benefit the US player the most, who has a task force hiding near Sicily that was only yesterday constantly harassed and harried by the Soviets.

The Moroccans and Algerians find each other over in the Western Mediterranean and start sizing each other up.  Air units are on standby in both countries to deliver killing blows.

Invasion Phase:

Availability:  The US has an airborne regiment ready this turn.  The Soviets get nothing.

US Invasion Segment:

Amphibious invasion plans in storm zones are scrapped and put off for another day.  The US Marines alike are unimpressed.  With few air units available to perform a drop of airborne troops and the real prize sitting in the Eastern Med, the US decides not to land any troops this morning.

Soviet Invasion Segment:

The Soviets cannot invade anywhere right now but will be positioned for landing tomorrow morning.  Maybe the weather will clear up tomorrow.

Task Force Phase:

The Soviet reinforcements in the Black Sea form up to make a formidable task force (TF7) while the remnants of the US fleet near Sicily pull together and form a task force (TF4).

This ends the Strategic Phase for Day 2.  It's a bit anti-climactic due to the storms in victory point areas but it should be an interesting day ahead nonetheless.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Heroes of the Gap: Air Assault - The Soviet Perspective

I've written up a bit of fiction to go with the action from a game I recently played through Vassal with the indomitable Kevin Sharp over on The Big Board.  This is my little narrative from the Soviet perspective, of which I played their side.  The narrative voice sort of shifts around a bit among various characters on the board.  I've highlighted the narrator in blue in the photos just to avoid confusion from the "jumpiness" of the narration.  I'll be cross-posting Kevin's AAR here when he has time to finish it up.

It's a long write-up so if you'd rather just sit back and watch a video of how the game unfolded, then please check out Kev Sharp's excellent video AAR:



Preamble:  This scenario, called "Air Assault", is from LnL's tactical level combat game that features a loosely fictionalized war between the Warsaw Pact and NATO.  The events in Air Assault are the opening of World War III at dawn on the morning of May 14th, 1985.  The US player gets a few squads set up in the town of Eisenbach and the Soviets get helos and a bunch of Spetsnaz whose mission it is to capture and hold three objectives in the city.  The Americans are pretty weak at first but they get some reinforcement in the shape of an M1 tank and some infantry to try and foul up the Soviet plans.

Turns 1-2:




The Americans had rock 'n roll and hamburgers but we had big goddamn helicopters.  And we used them to effect.

I watched from my cockpit bubble canopy as the Mi-8s soared low over the treetops and, for the first time ever – west of the large snaking fence that had parted the two Germanys for the last forty years.  So this was it.  We were at war and there was no going back now.  I didn't think the old men in the Kremlin had the heart for another big war but apparently they had all forgotten what it was like.  Or perhaps they just wanted one last big adventure before fading out and dying quietly in some big state hospital on the outskirts of Moscow.  Who knows?

I pushed the collective and my flying tank (the Americans called them “Hind” but the name did not do it justice) danced a light jig before the ground tilted upwards in front of me and we picked up speed.  We too crossed that fatal little green line.

We were told there would be casualties as soon as we crossed over.  The Americans had fighter planes, SAM missile batteries, and anti-aircraft artillery.  We fully expected to die, to be shot down in one of many possible fascinating ways.   But apparently everyone was still in too much awe that it was actually happening so we slipped right through their fingers and the Mi-8s gracefully slid down towards Eisenbach to secure the town.

Major Petrov radioed us to drop off a Sagger team on a ridge to the north of the town.  I told Mikhail, my co-pilot in the front seat, to watch out carefully for any surprises.  The landing gear came down and we dropped like a beast on the ground below.  I could hear the door behind me slide open and the men spilled out.  To the south, I watched in anticipation as the Mi-8s unloaded men and equipment.  It was just like a training exercise and except for the fact that World War III had started; it was a nice day for it too.

Everything seemed pretty okay, which was a first for Soviet Army Aviation history.


Sergeant Trinov was a good leader but even he was not so sure of the best tactics for assaulting a McDonald’s hamburger restaurant.   He tried his best, however, and sent his men after the Americans inside.

The Spetsnaz squads poured fire and grenades into the big glass windows near the front of the store.  After the firing died down, Yuri and I scrambled through the double doors to our left.  Both doors were no doubt necessary to allow the bloated capitalist pigs to enter the store and eat more hamburgers.

As soon as I was inside the restaurant, I got the scare of my life.  One of the capitalist stooges stood at the far end of the restaurant with his hand in the air in surrender or maybe greeting.  I startled and fired half of my AK-47 rounds at the bastard.   The American's head exploded instantly and his body disintegrated in chunks.

Yuri shouted again and again at me to stop and I finally released my finger from the trigger as my heart pounded in my chest.  Yuri got up to inspect the damage.  "Is the American dead?" I shouted at him.

"It's not soldier you killed, Vasily," he said as he lifted up a plaster arm painted in red and white.  "Is just statue of silly American food clown."

The rest of the Spetsnaz squad poured in behind me.

Trinov scanned the overturned tables, the shards of glass littering the empty restaurant and the pock marks of bullet holes everywhere.  "The Americans are over in that building over there," he said as he pointed across the street.

I'll admit that I suddenly felt hungry for an American hamburger.




The Mi-8 helicopters took turns sweeping their guns and firing rockets at a small building to the east of the bridge before departing back to base.  

My flying tank was to wait around and try to help the Spetsnaz below with their assault.  Finally, it was my turn to join the war and kill the enemy.  This was not like Afghanistan with the enemy that hid in the holes.  No, these men were sitting in a building that I could completely level at a whim.  It's too bad I needed to conserve ammunition or I would have done just that.

I swung towards the building and let loose with a pair of rockets and I cursed as they only hit some cars in the building parking lot.  Several cars flipped over and one exploded, belching out inky black smoke in the air.

Mikhail ripped at the building with the big 12.7 mm machine gun and tracers spit out of the nose.  It was dazzling and, for a moment, I forgot that we were in great danger here.  I veered off from the enemy position.  





So the first casualty of World War III was a silly American clown but I had no time to laugh or cry about this because Trinov ordered us to rush into the big building full of little shops just across the street.  From the outside, it looked very nice.  There was a little bar with a patio outside and no doubt only yesterday this would have been full of peaceful West Germans, going about their lives, drinking good German beer and reading the newspaper.  Today, however, it was going to be the site of mayhem and destruction.

"GO!" screamed Trinov.  Our squad burst out of the hamburger restaurant and I sprinted across the street and into the parking lot.  We took cover behind a burning car.  One of our Mi-8 helicopters swooped low and shot out a stream of bullets as it went past the nearby building.  We ran to the bar across the street.   After a pause, we clambered up the patio and inside.  

Yuri was beside me and he suddenly dropped as I heard a noise coming from behind the bar.  In shock and anger, I scrambled behind a barrel while my other squad mates kicked over a table and started returning fire.  A grenade landed behind the overturned table and my eyes went wide as Niki casually picked it up off the ground and flung it back.  There was a very loud pop and the firing from behind the bar stopped.  

I looked behind me and Trinov and the rest of my squad mates had set up a PKM machinegun in the nearby hamburger restaurant and fired at the rest of the Americans in the adjacent shop.  With all that helicopter fire and the PKM, it must have been a living hell in there for the American soldiers. 

Good.  Yuri was my friend.



As I watched the men scramble below at the American positions and the other helicopters raked them with machinegun fire, I got a call over my radio warning about "incoming support".  What the hell was that supposed to mean, I thought?

Suddenly my little radar screen lit up with something very fast coming our way.  I could only pray that it was not an American fighter.

Much to my pleasant surprise, a Rook (yes, I know you called it a "Frogfoot" back then.  Were you just giving them silly names to make them sound less threatening?)  soared low from the west shoving cannon fire out from its nose before dropping a bomb on one of the buildings.  From up here, it all seemed so precise and deadly.  Were there really men down there under all that, suffering and dying and killing?

Turns 3-4:





Major Petrov and his men rushed to the south side of the building where the Americans were trying to make a counter-attack.  As he ran, he fumbled with his bayonet before dropping it out of frustration.  Somewhere in front of him, there was  a fierce firefight and several explosions.  Smoke filled the hallway as his men charged forward.  He stepped over several bodies.  An apartment door stood crookedly in the hallway, dangling off its hinges.  He tapped two men on the shoulder and told them to rush the apartment.  They charged in and a second later there were a handful of small pops.  Both of his men groaned and fell to the floor dead.  Useless.

He ordered several men behind him to charge in again and this time braced his submachine gun against the door and shoved it in the doorway.  He was firing blind into the apartment but he was safe behind the cover of the wall and the door.  The SMG jumped up in his hands.  His men charged in, screaming and firing wildly.  He followed them in, watching as an American jumped on one of his best men with a kitchen knife in one hand.  Both men cursed at each other.  The young Russian shoved at the American’s throat with his rifle stock.  Finally, the American pushed the rifle stock away and lunged at the Russian with the big knife.  Petrov snapped out of it and emptied his AKM, the bullets walking their way up the American's body before he fell to the ground.  Petrov's young subordinate looked up and nodded a quick thanks.

Petrov turned the corner out of the kitchen and headed towards  the apartment bathroom.  Two Russians pushed at the door but were unable to budge it.  One Spetsnaz flew at the door with a kick but only managed to put his leg through the flimsy wood.  He squealed in pain as the American on the other side of the door shot the offending limb.  Petrov pulled the young man away from the door, writhing in pain.  He pulled a grenade off his webbing, took the pin, and sunk the grenade into the hole made by the Russian soldier's leg.  Suddenly he heard cries of panic and the Americans inside desperately trying to open the door to escape.  His men held tight on the door as it pushed and pulled against the jamb.  A few seconds later, the grenade inside the bathroom exploded and no one tried to open the door anymore.

Trinov barely paused to survey the carnage.  The sounds of moaning and dying were all around. "We must get across the bridge," he told the men around him.


Boris sat idly in the factory to the west of the Eisenbach Bridge.  If the war ended today, he could be proud.  His only job so far was to liberate the factory where the West German workers had been exploited for the past forty years and he and his men had done it without firing a single shot.  The fact that the factory was empty and that no American soldiers were in sight helped the smooth completion of this task immensely.

As he took a long drag of a cigarette, he peered out of the large windows and looked worriedly to the west.  So far things had gone smoothly this morning but sooner or later the Americans would figure out what happened and there would be hell to pay.  He hoped that he and his men would not be the ones to foot the bill.  

His hope died the instant he heard the M1 tank.


Turn 5:

Heavy machine gun fire does not bother me.  M1 tank rounds whizzing past my helicopter do not bother me.  Even the threat of Stinger missiles does not bother me.  What really bothers me, however, is when I am unable to hit back at them.  

From my cockpit, I saw clearly the American armored vehicles rushing in from the west.  They had managed to avoid fire from the Sagger weapons team I had dropped off on the north hill and the little armored vehicles were fast enough that they could avoid my machine gun fire and still drop off their men.  It was maddening!

Mikhail was not happy either.  He had all but locked up one of the armored vehicles with the anti-tank missiles but the little pest weaved past a church just as we fired.  The missile took off and then spiraled straight into the steeple with a fantastic explosion that rained bricks and mortar onto the street below.  



Major Petrov had never before had the pleasure of watching an armored vehicle try to crush him.  As the M113 plowed towards him, he screamed at his men to open fire, which they did with gleeful abandon.  Their bullets mostly bounced off the vehicle's hull harmlessly.  Someone behind him fired a grenade launcher at the APC, however,  and this seemed to finally give the driver pause.  More angry than scared, Petrov turned to say something but the look of horror on his men's faces made him turn to the west and look down the street.  

An M1 tank sat in front of them and all he could think was, "That's a very large tank," before the muzzle flashed and everything in the world went white.



Boris ran to the second floor of the factory with his men.  The M1 tank just outside was firing down the street.  One of his men aimed their RPG at the tank below but Boris put out his hand.  There was no sense giving away their position to the other Americans that were surely all around him.  They would wait until the Yankee soldiers came near and then they would fire at them point blank and kill them all.

Another group of comrades in the factory downstairs were not so reticent, however, and as an American APC rushed down the street, he saw a quick flash and a smoke trail coming from the factory window.  The M113 was turned into a twisted metal wreck in the middle of the street.  The hull was black and charred and there was a big hole punctured in its right side where the RPG had penetrated.  The rear ramp was crumpled and peeled slowly from the back of the vehicle before falling slowly to the street with a soft "clunk".

Suddenly Boris thought he spotted something moving below.   Incredibly, American soldiers from across the street were racing towards the factory, using the wrecked vehicle as cover.  Now was the time to shoot.  He switched his weapon to automatic and let the bastards below have it.  The Americans might get their big tanks into the city but this factory was his now and they would not take it back from him.  

Perhaps after the war, they would be so proud of Boris that they would let him manage this very factory.  That would be nice, he thought, as he emptied his magazine into the Americans below.



Turn 6:



The big American tank was a big Russian problem, Boris finally realized.  There were now American soldiers on the factory floor below him.  All the grenades and RPG rounds had been exhausted on the Americans near the M113.  The men around him were pulling their pistols and slipping bayonets on the end of their rifles.

This was not very effective, however, against 105mm high explosive rounds.  One of the tank rounds slammed into the window down the walkway where his squad sat.  While the explosion nearly deafened him, he stopped feeling sorry for himself when he looked back to find many of his men missing important body parts such as their heads and torsos.  There was a lot of screaming too.  He wouldn't forget that – even if they did give him this factory after the war.

He crawled away from the windows, coughed up the dust swirling around him and he heard the strange sounds of a foreign language being spoken below him.  He waited.



Did I mention to you that I don't really like M1 tank rounds flying past my helicopter?  I thought so.

Now please don't think that I was scared of that silly American tank.  It was no match for our missiles and I would have gotten around to destroying it eventually.  Mikhail pointed out, however, that American soldiers were swarming the factory near the tank and that this factory seemed to be their objective.  It was time to ruin their day so I did what any self-respecting pilot did and I put the flying tank four feet above the street, rotated it towards the factory and let loose with everything I had.  Missiles, rockets, machine gun rounds.  All I could think was, "So the Americans think they have firepower with their tanks?  No, my friend, I will show you firepower.  You have only little toys!"

The factory started on fire immediately after we started firing.  Something inside exploded as I raked across the windows with the machine gun and the rocket pods.  I saw American soldiers on the first floor try to frantically scramble from the windows but I caught them too and they died in their flight.  Eventually, a big black cloud of dust burst through the windows and then the outer wall completely fell off and there was no more facade.  The factory's steel girders and machinery were exposed naked to the street outside.  I should have probably stopped there but I didn't.  I just kept firing.  Eventually, Mikhail told me that we were completely dry.  I smiled and turned for home.

Epilogue:  On the way back to base, I heard over the radio that the rest of the Americans pulled out of Eisenbach pretty fast after that.  The Soviet Army moved in and the Hammer and Sickle rose above the city hall to greet the residents as the sun came up over the hills that morning.  Perhaps tomorrow will be different and we will all die.  But for tonight, I will grin a little and give a silent toast to those dying old men back in the Kremlin.




Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Sixth Fleet: Middle East Crisis - Day 1 Action Turn 3 (Night Cycle)

Here's the last action turn of the first day from my ongoing game of Sixth Fleet.  So far the Soviets and the Americans have traded lumps with each other.  Here's a rundown of the significant events so far on Day 1:

1.)  A US Carrier task force in the Eastern Med has launched a successful air attack on a Soviet carrier task force, damaging the Minsk.

2.)  The Soviets are using their air bases in the Crimea to launch devastating attacks on the Israeli fleet, which is trying to prevent the Soviets from embarking from their bases in Syria.

3)  A US amphibious task force is steaming east to join up with the rest of the US carrier task force but it has been harassed by Soviet subs the entire way.  It is currently sitting near Sicily.

4)  The Soviet air attacks from the Crimea have angered the Turks so much that they have broken neutrality and will enter the war tomorrow morning on the side of the US and its allies.

5)  The UN discussions between the Soviets and the Americans are progressing very smoothly.  Both sides look to be approaching a diplomatic solution to the conflict very soon.

The sun sets on the Mediterranean...

US Surface Segment:

The US wins initiative and the US amphibious task force near Italy tracks the Soviet Kilo-class sub Byngi and damages it with depth charges.  It also launches SSMs at nearby Soviet patrol craft, sending them all to the bottom of the sea before the group of US ships moves along the Sicilian coastline.

Likewise, the American carrier task force in the eastern Med damages the Soviet Alfa-class Nezhin thanks to some great ASW teamwork.  The USS California and the USS Deyo fire SSMs at a nearby group of Syrian patrol boats, sinking half of the boats.  The entire task force then moves north towards Famagusta on Cyprus where, if all goes well, the accompanying amphibious transport ship USS Ponce will land the US Marines tomorrow morning.

An Egyptian task force finishes off the patrol boats that the US carrier task force earlier ravaged.

Soviet Air Segment:

The Soviets activate their air units and launch a massive attack from the Crimea on the US carrier task force near Cyprus.  F-14s on CAP from the Nimitz intercept the Soviet air group and turn it away successfully.

The Libyans move their attack aircraft west to Tripoli in hopes of catching the Americans near Sicily tomorrow morning.

US Submarine Segment:

The USS Boston fires a torpedo at the Nezhn but misses.

The Israeli subs start going to town.  The Israeli sub Gal takes out a pair of Syrian patrol boats hanging around off their coast.  The Rahav sinks two more.

The USS Drum sinks the Foxtrot Soviet sub Shuya over in the Atlantic near Gibraltar.

It's been good hunting tonight for the US and its allies.

Soviet Sub Segment:

The Hovly and the Sumy are both in the Eastern Med, which is swarming with Israeli, Egypt, and American ships.  The Sumy gets into a tangle with the USS Boston but fails to score a hit.  Meanwhile, the Hovly gets revenge for the Syrian losses and destroys an Israeli patrol craft.

Whiskey class Tyumen sneaks up on the US carrier task force near Cyprus and scores a once in a lifetime shot, damaging the USS Ponce after slipping through some impressive ASW countermeasures.  A major blow for the US.

Near Sicily, the hapless US amphibious landing force hugs the coast while the damaged Soviet submarine Bygni, along with the Libyans and the Lipitsy pour through the dark waters towards them.



US Air Segment:

US A-6 Intruders are launched from the Nimitz and bomb Latakia in Syria.  They score some light damage but everyone comes home okay so at least there's that.


Soviet Surface Segment:

A Libyan task force consisting solely of fast patrol craft swing up north near Sicily and get close to the US amphibious force.  They fire SSMs at the Detroit but fail to hit it.

The Soviet amphibious force parked near Beirut simply sits and does nothing in anticipation of the early morning invasion of Beirut tomorrow morning.



The terminal phase ends and we're on to Day 2.  Update coming soon.



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Dawn's Early Light: Random Events Table

I really love LnL's "Dawn's Early Light", an operational level game involving NATO and the Soviets slugging it out over a series of scenarios depicting WW3.


One thing that I think the game could use to spice things up a bit would be some more random elements to represent the chaos of modern war.  I haven't fully tested this random event table so use with caution and modify as you see fit.  Have fun!




Dawn's Early Light Random Events Table 
Either player rolls 1d10 before the beginning of Phase 1 at the start of every day. Roll only once per day!

Die roll result / Event

1:  Refugees:  The cities and roads are clogged with civilian refugees trying to flee from the fighting. City hexes cost double MPs to enter.  Road movement bonuses may not be used.

2:  Inclement Weather:  Airstrikes and helicopters cannot be used due to heavy rain and thunderstorms in the area.

3:  Strong Winds:  Chemical weapons affect all surrounding hexes of and including target hex.

4:  Political Games:  The war rages on but still the generals are engaged in petty political squabbling. Roll 1d6:  1-3:  NATO units from different nationalities may not stack together with each other.  4-6:  Warsaw Pact units from different regiments may not stack together with each other.  **NB:  Does not apply to different units already stacked together before this event was rolled.

5:  No effect.

6:  Command & Control Sabotaged:  Special Forces have disrupted the enemy command and control network behind enemy lines. The affected player's initiative is chosen by the opposing player.  This must be done BEFORE the opponent rolls for their own initiative. Roll for which side is affected by this event.  1-3:  NATO forces  4-6:  Warsaw Pact

7:  Bad Maps:  "The most dangerous thing in the combat zone is an officer with a map."  Roll 1d6  1-3:  NATO chooses where any enemy units enter on the map (restricted to allowed entry hexes as stipulated in scenario).  4-6  Warsaw Pact player chooses where any enemy units enter on the map. (restricted to allowed entry hexes as stipulated in scenario).

8:  Battlefield promotion:  Roll 1d6:  1-3:  NATO player chooses one unit that immediately recovers 1 strength point.  4-6:  WP players chooses one unit that immediately recovers 1 strength point.

9:  Good Intel:  1-3  After both sides roll for initiative, NATO player may modify their initiative roll by 1 (either + or -).  4-6:  After both sides roll for initiative, Warsaw Pact player may modify their initiative roll by 1 (either + or -)

10:  Repair and Refit:  1-3:  NATO player may put one destroyed unit back in play.  Unit enters map as specified in scenario rules and at minimum level strength.  4-6:  WP player may put one destroyed unit back in play.  Unit enters map as specified in scenario rules and at minimum level strength.

Duration:

After rolling the event, roll for duration on a 1d10.
1-9: Event occurs for first phase of the current day only.
10:  Event occurs on every phase of current day

Friday, August 3, 2012

Heroes of the Gap: Back to Basics

Ah...1985.  It was a year filled with good movies (Back to the Future, Out of Africa, The Goonies), good TV (Miami Vice had just finished its first season and The A-Team was in its prime), and good music (Springsteen's Born in the USA became the bestselling album of 1985).  But on some alternate branch of reality in the LnL universe, all of that came to an abrupt halt on May 14th, 1985.  Instead of "Morning in America", we all got "Midnight in Europe" almost exactly 40 years after WW2 had ended.


In LnL's "Heroes of the Gap", the Americans are trying to stop the Soviets from steamrolling through the West German town of Eisenbach at the start of WW3 in the summer of '85. All of the scenarios take place during the first day of the war, allowing players lots of different ways to play out a deadly modern conflict in one small but vital scrap of land.

"Back to Basics" is a scenario that takes place on the evening of the first day of the war.  The Soviets have mounted assault after assault on the town of Eisenbach and the surrounding areas but have not managed to completely eliminate the American presence there.  Exasperated by the tenacity of the American soldiers, the Russians send in some infantry from the 33rd Motor Rifle as well as elite Spetsnaz soldiers to clear out the town and seize key buildings in Eisenbach.

This is a terrific starting scenario for any player because the forces consist entirely of infantry.  There isn't even any ordnance in the scenario so it's a straight-up shoot out between both sides.

Here's how it played out:

Setup:

The Americans set up in a large factory near the center of town.  Lt. Moore starts in the upper floor with a squad that has an M-60 and a 40mm grenade launcher.  On the lower floors are Capt. Boone and his men, whose job it is to prevent the Soviets from infiltrating this building and taking out Moore's defensive position.





North of the factory are a group of Soviets from the 33rd MRD.  Capt. Sarukin is in the building surrounded by 2-3-4 squads.







To the west of all this is Col. Meade and his small band of men who will try to prevent the Soviet Spetsnaz from approaching from the west side of town.




Of course, Sgt. Trinov and Lt. Ilyanich have tons of Spetsnaz nearby with RPKs.  They will rush the Americans the first chance they get.




Turn 1:

We start off with Capt. Sarukin and Lt. Moore trying in vain to spot each other but they're apparently using the wrong end of the binoculars.




 Lt. Ilyanich sends out a squad to get near Col. Meade, with predictable results.



The Soviet squad is shaken up badly but this opens the way for another squad to be sent out a bit later in the turn.



The Soviets come under fire from the Americans but the fire is completely ineffective and manages to produce a Soviet hero, Drago, a veteran of the Afghanistan war who is determined to win against these soft capitalists.



Sgt. Trinov continues the attack versus Col. Meade's position...



 Trinov's Spetsnaz infiltrate the American position and completely eliminate them.




Meanwhile, Capt. Sarukin has been sending his men into the large apartment building just south of his position.  The Americans (with the Maneuver counter) are surrounded.



Turn 2:

Col. Meade and his awesome mustache are barely hanging on.  The Soviets activate and although Lt. Ilyanich is not successful in shaking up the Americans, it is no large matter.  Drago and some men will take care of it.



 The Soviet veteran and his men pour into the building.  Drago strangles an American with his bare hands.  Someone throws a grenade and there is screaming.  Blood is everywhere. And suddenly it is all over.  The American position is gone.




Activated by Lt. Ilyanich, Sgt. Trinov goes next and does not hesitate to follow suit.  The nearby Americans shout in surprise as the Soviet Spetsnaz advances like lightning.



Trinov and his men completely eliminate the adjacent American soldiers.


The Americans in the nearby apartment building decide to take the initiative.  They cannot back out so they decide to melee on their own terms.




The Americans eliminate the adjacent Soviets.



 Turn 3:

The apartment block has become a hotly contested building as the Soviets and Americans start pouring more and more men inside it.



As the Soviets advance from the west into town, the American defensive position in the factory changes a bit.  Clearly the US will have to defend the building from two directions.  This is not good.





Lt. Moore fires at Capt. Sarukin and his group of men up north, shaking up a few squads.  However, Sarukin's response is absolutely deadly and he manages to shake up Moore and reduce an American squad.





Trinov and his men are south of the factory and start advancing east towards the small block houses.  The Americans fire at the advancing Russians but to no effect.



Trinov and his remaining squad advance...


and eliminate the lone American unit.



The apartment block up north becomes the scene of more bloody fighting as the Americans take out another of Sarukin's squads along with Yuri, the Soviet hero.


Both the Soviet and American squads are eliminated in the ensuing melee.



 Drago, our veteran Soviet hero, rushes towards the apartment block to stem the tide of battle over the apartment complex...


but fire from a nearby American squad wounds him badly.





Things start falling apart rapidly for the Americans now.  Lt. Ilyanich rushes into the factory where the Americans believed they had an impenetrable fortress.



Capt. Boone fires at him but to no avail.  Capt. Sarukin sends a squad down to enter the factory.  They are directly below Lt. Moore and his shaken men.



More Soviets enter the apartment block where the Americans have been causing chaos.


An American sniper fires at Lt. Ilyanich but narrowly misses him when he suddenly tilts his head down to light a cigarette.  "Who says cigarettes kill you, Ivanovich?!  Mine just saved my life!"



Turn 4:

The Soviets gain initiative and Lt. Moore and his men rally.




However, the 2-3-4 Soviet squad in the floor below rushes up the stairs throwing grenades and spraying bullets everywhere.  A big metal barrel of industrial solvent explodes, setting Soviets and Americans alight.  When it all dies down, the Soviets have control and no Americans are left alive.



Our US sniper fires at Drago and rolls a miserable "3".  Drago turns around at the direction of the shot and snorts in contempt.



The apartment complex is the site of yet more melee as Drago jumps into the fray with a US 2-6-4 squad.  They are both eliminated.



Sgt. Trinov and Lt. Ilyanich work together as they near the factory.  Capt. Boone and his men fire on an approaching Soviet squad, which gives Ilyanich a chance to flank the US soldiers.



Ilyanich and his men eliminate Boone and the rest of the Americans in melee.  Sgt. Trinov and his remaining squad take the buildings south of the factory for even more victory points.




Turn 5:  With one remaining American squad in the apartment complex, Sarukin simply sends one Soviet squad to wrest control away from the Americans.



The End.

Conclusion:  What a butt-kickin'!  The Soviet Spetsnaz with RPKs are pretty much unstoppable in melee, especially if the US spreads out their troops.  I probably would have stacked the Americans more tightly to prevent being overrun.  Lots of good melee rolls by the Russians also helped.  I think in this particular scenario, once you start losing as the Americans, it is very very difficult to come back.  In any case, all the house-to-house fighting provides lots of excitement and, as I mentioned before, the infantry-only nature of the scenario lets you focus on the tactics rather than worry about any other rule sets such as air units, artillery, vehicles, etc.  This is my "go to" scenario when I've had a long day at work and I just can't force myself to crunch too many numbers or try to remember lots of different rules.