Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Next War: Korea - Seoul Train AAR

GMT's Next War: Korea is part of the ongoing "Next War" series designed by Gene Billingsley and Mitchell Land.  The series is based on potential conflicts in the world today. The first release in the series, Next War:  Korea, was successful enough to keep the series going with the 2014 publication of Next War: Taiwan..  I can see why.

Next War:  Korea has gotten a lot of positive response from gamers over the last couple of years and it's been well supported with updates, errata, and Land's helpful responses to even minor questions over on BGG.  The rules are cleanly written and the units are nicely done with beautiful maps.  There's a standard rule set and an advanced one with all the bells and whistles and tons of optional rules. The standard rules are not difficult to learn and they manage to incorporate the core concepts of a good wargame without feeling watered down.  The real meat of the game, so I'm told, is in the advanced rules - which I haven't gotten into yet.

GMT'S Next War: Korea (2012)

In this first scenario for Next War: Korea, called "Seoul Train", we're using standard rules.  The DPRK has begun a surprise attack on South Korea and its intentions are to cross over the DMZ and grab Seoul as quickly as possible.  But this isn't going to be a cakewalk like 1950. The DMZ is heavily fortified and the ROK is no pushover.  Fortifications at the border prevent the DPRK from using road movement in these zones and it's an extra +1 movement point to pass through these hexes during the game's first turn.  Add to this problem that the North Koreans only get 4 game turns (2 weeks) to grab Seoul and you've got a division-sized headache for any military commander bent on impressing Dear Leader.

The game starts out with the North Koreans having initiative (and keeping it for the next two game turns), which allows them to conduct extra movement and combat (exploitation movement and combat) after going through the standard movement and combat turns.  The scenario also allows the DPRK player the use of three tunnel markers, which allows for overstacking in attacking hexes and a -2 DRM on attacks directly across the border into the DMZ.  The North Koreans also get a couple of Mi-24 attack helicopters for close air support as well as some specialized elite units that can add to attack efficiency ratings or be used to sneak around ROK units and cause havoc in the rear areas.

Game Turn 1:

The North Koreans start off the war in clear weather with 2 air points while the ROK has no air points available for support this turn.  I guess the DPRK really caught the south with its pants down today!  In any case, the skies are still contested at this point.  It's not enough of a difference (not even close, actually) to obtain air supremacy.

The NK player lands an airborne brigade to the east of Seoul in swamp terrain just outside of Uijeongbo after it survives air defense fire.  The brigade moves immediately to try and seize the northeast outskirts of Seoul and draws a clearing marker (in NW: K, you don't just automatically grab control of urban hexes, you need to clear them out first).  This is a diversionary move meant to pull vital units to the south away from reinforcing the battle going on up at the DMZ.

The NK player uses three tunnel markers to attack several ROK hexes and, with the help of light infantry (especially the 17th Sniper Brigade, which can call in Mi-2 support), it takes all but the most eastern hex.  In the battles, one of the ROK AH-1 Cobras get called in for air support and was shot down by air defense fire.  The North Koreans also took losses with their Mi-24 Hind helos, but the unit is far from finished fighting.

NK airborne units seize Seoul and are placed under clearing marker.  

The only remaining survivor of the attacks is the ROK 5th Infantry Division from VII Corps (which has suffered a step loss) while the ROK Ist Corps has lost two full divisions.  The 101st brigade from Ist Corps huddles in the corner of the fighting, surely to be targeted next for elimination in the exploitation phase.  The North Koreans have lost only a light infantry brigade so far.  The first round of the invasion can be considered an enormous success for the DPRK at this point.

DPRK advances after the initial movement and combat phase of GT 1.

In the elite movement phase, the non-initiative player (the ROK) gets to move its best units which are not in an enemy ZOC.  The Capital Mechanized Infantry Division, sitting in the south of Seoul, moves up to take on the DPRK's 38th Airborne Brigade in hex 3021.  Since leg units get double defense values in urban hexes, the battle may not be so clear cut in terms of outcome.

Elite Reaction Phase:  Capital Mech. Div. moves adjacent to 38th DPRK Airborne, spoiling for a fight.

Exploitation movement and combat begins so the DPRK starts to shuffle around its units in the rear, placing two light infantry brigades on the eastern flank in a hopeful attempt to bypass the ROK units and get around into the ROK rear again.  The objective is just to sow more chaos in the South.  Meanwhile, the 101st ROK brigade is completely overrun near the border and the 5th division from VII Corps to the east is destroyed.  The North Koreans are pouring in everywhere and with no air to stop them, the south is getting hammered again and again.

The ROK 9th Division moves east to hex 2919 to try and help contain the flood.  It is placed just behind the front lines and right in the direct path of Seoul itself.  The Capital Mechanized Infantry Division assaults the DPRK airbone regiment in Seoul and both units are completely destroyed.  This is a huge loss for the ROK as a 10-11-8 unit has just been wiped out by a 2-2-5 one.

During the reinforcement phase, the Americans enter the scene and a mechanized brigade from 2nd Infantry Division arrives northeast of Seoul.  Two AH-64 Apache units are based in Incheon for close air support.  

Reinforcement Phase:  Turn 1 - US Army's 2nd ID arrives to help defend the capital.

Things aren't completely lost for the South Koreans.  The NK advances have mostly stopped short at the Han River and the arrival of reinforcements could certainly help shore up the defenses.  On the other hand, the extra MP cost for moving through the DMZ fortification hexes will be gone in the next turn, which will certainly keep the ROK busy with units moving steadily south.

Game Turn 2:

Just when you think things couldn't get too much worse for the ROK, along comes a storm and grounds their entire air force.  The DPRK's air force is also grounded but it's not like it was doing much anyways.

The movement phase starts off with North Korea sending its light infantry on the eastern flank down south through the DMZ.  Controlling these hexes enables follow on units to use road movement so this helps out considerably when a couple of divisions north of the DMZ punch down to join the growing push in this area.

DPRK light infantry brigades clear the DMZ hexes on the right so follow-on heavier units can take the road.
In the combat phase, the North Korean player has two options - either to push on to the eastern flank and hit the 20th ROK Mech. Inf. Division or try for some riskier attempts closer to the coast.  Undoubtedly the terrain to the west is a little easier to deal with than the highlands hex where the 20th now sits.  But it seems that DPRK can bring much more strength to bear on the 20th and taking out this ROK unit before the Americans arrive at the front would be most helpful.  So the DPRK attacks at 3:1 odds and trades a step loss with the South Koreans, who nevertheless stubbornly remain in the hex.

The Americans move their unit from the 2nd ID stright north to Uijeongbo in the elite reaction movement phase to firm up the ROK's right flank.

During the exploitation movement phase, the North Koreans replace some light infantry lost in the fight against the 20th and send another light infantry unit down into the DMZ to keep clearing the path to Seoul.

During the exploitation combat, the DPRK decides to hammer away again at the 20th ROK Mech. Inf. Division in an attempt to finish it off.  With a -2 column shift on the CRT, this will be riskier than last time even though the 20th has already taken a step loss.  Fortunately, for the North Koreans, they manage to destroy the 20th after taking two step losses and advance a stack of attacking units from north of the Han straight into the highlands hex.  As a bonus, they also capture an ROK airfield in the hex.

North Korean armor and mech infantry advance south   ROK units move up HQs to help with defense.
The ROK is in a real panic now.  Moving its stronger units from the west would mean inviting an attack on the left flank that would bring the North Koreans within easy reach of Seoul.  In desperation, the South Korean player brings up some HQ units to add a meager amount of defense to help out the crumbling right flank.  It seems obvious the DPRK is going to hit hard in the next turn so the idea of gambling a loss by counterattacking north is out of the question.  The only thing that might save the ROK next turn is air - and lots of it.

Game Turn 3:

The storms continued unabated into the second week of the war.  North Korean light infantry continued their advance along the ROK right flank and headed into the city of Namynangju.  Now the North Koreans had effectively bypassed the front lines and had infiltrated into the ROK's unprotected rear.  Nothing lay between these advance units and Seoul.

Turn 3 Movement:  NK forces push their light infantry past the Americans and towards Seoul.
The first combat phase for the North Koreans was full of possibilities.  The American unit in Uijeongbo was the obvious next target for the DPRK but the defender's terrain was unfavorable to armor river crossing and an uphill battle into the city.  It was time to dent the ROK line further to the west and gain some breathing space for the DPRK units in the center of the front line.

The ROK 2nd Armored Brigade and 25th Infantry Division of I Corps stuck out like a sore thumb in hex 2918 and the rough woods terrain was great hunting ground for the DPRK light infantry massed to the north and northwest.  The attack wasn't totally without risks.  Crossing the mighty Han River during a storm would be no piece of cake but the DPRK units managed to eliminate both ROK units in one fell swoop without taking any step losses in return.

DPRK units advance into hex 2019.

The ROK was completely shattered at this point.  A lone HQ unit sat in desperate defense between two mechanized divisions and the Americans held on to the right flank - but just barely.  Not wanting to further risk losing their momentum, the DPRK held back during the exploitation phase but did move a light infantry unit south into Namynangju to assist its comrades with clearing the city.

Flipping over the clearing marker, we get a "3", subtracted from the efficiency rating of the light infantry (6) for a +3 DRM.  Since we're one unit under the minimum safe stacking number,  there is a -1 DRM applied to the roll.  All we need to do is get a "1" or greater on the roll and the city is cleared.  The roll comes up a "0" and the city is not cleared.  One of the light infantry units is destroyed.

DPRK light infantry units in the south fail to roll equal or greater than the clearing number and take a step loss.
This could actually work very badly against the DPRK.  Next turn is a contested turn, which means that exploitation movement and combat will not happen.  This really limits what the North Koreans are able to do.  Best case scenario at this point is grabbing a single hex in Seoul for a minor victory.  I'm kicking myself for not getting more light infantry on the right flank moving faster down into Seoul earlier in the game.

Game Turn 4:

More storms!  Both air forces have been grounded for more than a week now as each side slogs it out in the rain and mud near the DMZ.  Since this is a contested game turn, I decided to go for broke here.  My DPRK light infantry unit bypassed Guri without clearing it and went right through to Seoul, hoping to capture it by the end of the turn.  A clearing marker is placed on it.

DPRK light infantry in the heart of Seoul placed under clearing marker.

Meanwhile, I decided to just go for broke with the units I had at the front and try to destroy the defending ROK army units.  Successfully doing so would shift victory one level further in DPRK favor, leading to a major victory.  The DPRK attacked all three ROK units but destroyed none of them.  They each took a step loss after inflicting heavy damage on my DPRK divisions.

The 30th ROK Mechanized Infantry Division near the border took a step loss along with a divisional HQ unit in hex 3019.  The lone ROK headquarters unit defending in the middle of the pack lost a step and was forced back south towards Seoul.  The attacking DPRK infantry units were only too happy to advance one hex after combat with only one hex between its new position and South Korea's capital.

DPRK punches a hole right in the middle of the front by the end of combat at turn 4.
The ROK units were forced to pull back and form a new line of defense around the northern outskirts of Seoul.  The frontlines were extremely brittle but they held - for now.  The only remaining thing to do was to check if the DPRK could squeeze a victory out of the scenario by controlling a hex of Seoul.

Checking for hex control at the end of turn 4.

We get a "5" on the back of the clearing marker and this gives us a +1 DRM for the clearing attempt.  Unfortunately, we only have 1 stacking point and the minimum safe stacking points for an urban hex is 4.  This means a -3 DRM for a total of -2 DRM for the clearing check.  We roll a "1" and curse, as the clearing attempt fails and the unit is removed from the map.

The final result is a Minor ROK victory, according to scenario rules.  This is actually the best result I've had yet with the DPRK.  One thing I've learned is that the North Koreans need to use their light infantry to make repeated infiltration attempts from the first turn and get as many units as possible into Seoul.  The ROK military might be too powerful to totally overwhelm and punch through in enough time for a win.  There were so many situations in this game that made infiltration a perfect option for the DPRK.  First there were the tunnels in turn 1, which allow for automatically successful infiltration attempts.  Next, the storms give a favorable die roll modifier for infiltrating units.  It looks like my efforts may have been too little too late.  Perhaps I also could have just focused more on the ROK right flank with the DPRK attacks in turn 3.  A very successful attack would have also opened the road to Seoul.

Update:  Made some mistakes here with movement of light infantry and going a hex or two beyond the play area.  I also didn't follow the complete phase order.  No wonder things were so tough for the North Koreans!  Anyways,  I'm replaying again with the correct rules now and finally using those precious airmobile units to full effect!  I'll rewrite another AAR later so you can get a more accurate picture of the game.

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Best of 2014

Well, looking back at 2014 (over 60 articles), it seems that this blog saw a lot more action than 2013 (36 articles all told).  It probably had something to do with finally being finished with a degree and having more free time this year but I would also say that I got a bit deeper with my gaming experiences too.  Up until this year, I'd kept the gaming scale down to short (a few hours of play time) platoon/company level (Lock 'n Load, World at War, etc.) games with brief forays into brigade-level (Dawn's Early Light) affairs.  With my purchase of Victory Games' The Korean War in early summer, that all changed for me.

The Korean War was really a turning point in my own gaming experience.  It was the first really large-scale operational game that I had ever played and which covered an entire year of a war.  I wasn't sure how I would make the jump to this scale and scope and I was concerned that it would be too complicated.  Fortunately, the learning scenarios in the game were terrific and the number of interesting decisions (just enough to make the game cool, not so many to be overwhelming) really drew me in.  From there, it was a no-brainer that I had to finally sit down and play Gulf Strike, another VG game that was operational, although a bit more complex.  From that point, it was all downhill to Vietnam: 1965 to 1975, where I finally reached my Waterloo after a year of game time and called it quits (I still intend to return to it some day).

I think the most important thing I've learned this year is to just keep putting things on the table and see what sticks despite the intimidation factor of any given game due to complexity, length of time required for play, or just the size of the map.  By playing these "larger" games, I also got a new appreciation of my smaller-scale games and how nice it was to have something that could be played in a single evening session without the need for book-keeping or notes.  To say my gaming habits and preferences have changed radically is not really true - but it would be fair to say that they're becoming more diverse...even though I still haven't brought myself to step outside the confines of modern conflict.  Maybe I'll try that next year and see how it goes.

Since it's the end of the year then, I guess it's fashionable to make lists.  So here (in somewhat hierarchical order from good to great) are what I consider my top 5 articles from this year followed by a brief reason why they're on there:

5.  Twilight: 2000 - The Last Battle:  A Review

I don't write many reviews but when I do, I try to be detached.  Not this one.  I had a long personal history with the roleplaying game, Twilight:2000, and I was cutting it no slack here as I played through it and found some ridiculous and hilarious results during the course of the game.  Was I disappointed?  Yeah, man.  This was my teenage years at stake.  After getting slightly inebriated, however, the game took me right back to the late 1980s, surrounded by high school friends on a Friday night while eating pizza and complaining about how bad the last episode of Miami Vice sucked.  It was a bit like watching the movie Starship Troopers, where all you could think about for the first thirty minutes was how bad the movie was - only to realize in the last half that something wonderful is happening.

4.  Vietnam: 1965 to 1975

I tried...I really tried here.  I dove into this campaign at a really busy time in my life.  Work was exploding and I had conferences to attend overseas along with a big side project that was getting off the ground.  Still, this thing sat in my game room for weeks on end as I scurried back and forth reading the rulebook on the couch and then going into the game room and moving a piece or two.  Still, I sort of somehow got to the point where I could see the decisions I had made piling up and this beautiful epic narrative start to unfold before my eyes.  You don't really play Victory Games' Vietnam...you experience it.

3.  Gulf Strike:  The Invasion of Kuwait

Gulf Strike was one of those games that sat in my gaming closet for about a year before I dared to bring it out on the table.  I'd read about.  I'd scanned and skimmed the rulebook.  I stared at the box.  Finally, I just went with it, trusting Mark Herman not to lead me astray.  He did not and I found GS to be one of the best games I've ever played.  I loved the reaction system and the way that detection works along with the overall scenario design.  It doesn't drag on and on.  Decisions are made and the rules are fluid enough to handle whatever you want to do without getting bogged down in minutiae.  It took a while to get the system down in my head but once you get it, you can start to appreciate the beauty of it.

2. World at War:  Counterattack

I need to give a shout-out here to Mark Walker, who brought a narrative to his World at War games through "The Untold Stories" and then took things a bit further with the dual campaigns of "Counterattack".  There's a real mystery unfolding in the pages of Counterattack and some very solid scenario design.  I always felt CA never really got the love it deserved and that's too bad.  The WaW system had some new life breathed into it and Counterattack helped to keep things fresh and interesting for people who had been following the series from the start.

1.  The Korean War:  North Korea Invades

This was the year I fell in love with Victory Games and operational-level gaming and big campaigns.  This was the game that started it all.  I can't say enough good things about The Korean War.  It was based on a conflict I really knew nothing about and hadn't really been that interested in before playing this game.  The rules are easy to understand and the decisions are really interesting.  The combat and movement system are like nothing I had ever seen before and the idea of activations, world tension levels, intervention, and commitment are handled so nicely that it's a real joy to play - even for someone relatively new to wargames.  If you haven't checked this game out, I really recommend doing so.  I think you'll find it's well worth the trouble of tracking down an older copy.  I would put it on my shortlist of things to bring if stranded on a desert island.

Thanks very much for reading and I hope you have a great holiday and prosperous new year!

All the best in the new year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Patton's Best - Ballad of the Spring Chicken

In 1981, Avalon Hill released the beloved B-17:  Queen of the Skies, a solitaire game that put players in the shoes of a B-17 bomber crew trying to fight its way through the war just one mission at a time. The player would go through each mission, rolling dice and checking tables as his crew made it from England to occupied Europe and back on a bombing run.  Although B-17 was short on strategy and long on random results, the experience of watching your crew grow in skill and experience over the course of a campaign made the game somehow more than the sum of its parts.  Many people grew to love the game and it's still played and remembered fondly even today.

The well loved B-17: Queen of the Skies (AH, 1981)

One of B-17's designers, Bruce Shelley, took the basic concepts of this game and brought them down to the ground level.  The idea of the player having a tank crew and taking it through the war similar to B-17 probably seemed like it would be a sure-fire success.  The result was the 1987 game, Patton's Best, a solitaire game where the player commands a Sherman tank in the US 4th Armored Division on the western front.  Patton presented the player with far more decisions than B-17, involved more complex rules and results, and even tried to simulate "fog of war" that introduced uncertainty about which exact enemy units were out there trying to kill you.  Despite (or maybe because) of these added mechanics, Patton's Best doesn't seem to get the same love that B-17 still enjoys.  Personally, I love Patton's Best and although it doesn't get on the table very often, I feel the rules are quite decent and I can admire it for what it attempts to do.

So let's get playing!

We start off with the Combat Calendar and roll a "1", which means our tank crew is at work on July 27th, 1944.  As this is in the middle of Operation Cobra, this could be very interesting for our green crew.

On the After Action Report, we fill in the various details of the tank, including its name and the crew ratings.  I've dubbed the tank the "Spring Chicken", which won't exactly strike fear into our enemies.  It does kind of reflect the green-ness of the crew and the fact that the major plan is to avoid staying in contact with anything that will kill us (which is nearly everything at this point).

The "Spring Chicken" bravely drives away from a group of angry French farmers after liberating some wine cellars.

I've rolled the ratings and YES!  I managed to roll a "9" for my first three crew members.  I can't believe it!  The other two crew members get "8"'s for their rolls.  We divide these rolls by 2 and round up to get the ratings.

Now we get some names from a random historical figure generator and fill them in.

Our tank commander's name is...Ben Franklin.  Our gunner's name is Mozart.  The loader is Pvt. John Lennon.  The driver's name is Shakespeare and our assistant driver's name is Al Capone.  That's quite a motley collection!

Our esteemed tank commander.

Now we check for weather and roll a 06, which gives us nice clear weather on this day in late July.
We check the ammo tables and find that we have unlimited AP and HE available to choose from the stores but there's only 2 rounds each of HCBI (Hexoclorothane Base Initiating) if we want them.

Our basic load is 97 rounds for the main gun..We take 34 rounds each of HE, 30 AP, and 30 WP with the extra 2 rounds of HCBI.    The company commander orders us to carry 20 extra main gun rounds and 10 boxes of .30 cal ammunition inside our tank, the addition of which makes the tank vulnerable to a real brew up if it gets hit.  It's also incredibly uncomfortable for the crew to be cramped in by all the extra rounds.

Time to load the ready rack.  Our ready rack is loaded with 4 HE, 3 AP, and 1 WP.

Top down view of the Spring Chicken and her ready rack load.

Let's check how much time has passed since the start of the day.  The game starts at 7 a.m. with 4 HE rounds already expended and 2 boxes of .30 cal gone. We're deployed as stopped with a group of other Shermans.  The "Spring Chicken" is not the lead tank (whew!).

As the tanks of the 4th Armored Division halted in the Normandy countryside during the early morning of July 27th, 1944, Sgt. Franklin and Pvt. Shakespeare opened their hatches to soak in the ambiance of the battlefield around them.  As Shakespeare opened his mouth, Franklin put a hand up to interrupt him.  "I know, Bill.  I already know.  You don't need to write me a sonnet.  The war is finally here for us.  And it's hell."

The sound of artillery in the distance rumbled from the horizon to the east.  Tank and machine gun fire punctuated the air occasionally in the direction of where the men were headed, leaving the unspoken question of their fate unanswered.  Would the "Spring Chicken" weather the coming battle or would it end up a roasted bird?  There was only one guarantee.  If they managed to survive it, none of the men around them would ever be the same by the end of the day.

Franklin ducked down inside the tank for a moment. "Lennon, load up an HE round and let's get movin'."

The maps of the area were poor but from what the tankers could collectively gather from radio chatter, rumors, and frustrating attempts to communicate with the locals, there was some glimmer of hope.  There was a road leading to the east for quite a ways and then a forest further east surrounded by fields.  They would stick to the roads for the first part of the trip and move fast, avoid the forest and move over the fields before linking up with other US units in the area.  Enemy resistance in the area was reported to be light so things couldn't be that bad, could they?  Although they were eager to be tested in combat, the men in the company would be more than a bit relieved to accomplish their mission without any unnecessary fights along the way.

Start area and Exit area shown on map.

As the tanks rolled east through the next sector, they met no resistance.  The sun shone through a bright blue summer sky and it was only the buzzing of Allied air planes above that reminded the men of the task force that yes, this was in fact a war happening all around them.  The next sector to the east was also reported to have almost no enemy presence but something in the task force commander's mind told him to put up an artillery screen in front of the advance.  A major road ran north-south through the next sector and the map showed trees and orchards to the north and south - maybe a good place for an ambush.  After arguing on the radio with HQ for 30 minutes, the artillery finally came.

Artillery support lands in the next sector before the task force advances.

The tanks advanced into the next sector but found only the big holes in the ground that had been pounded out by the arty.  Still, no one complained.  There were plenty of spots around here where an 88 could wreak havoc on a small group of Shermans.  The next sector to the east was not much better, with a crossroads running through the middle of it and the treeline of a forest just to the east.  The task force commander was loathe to call for artillery again so soon, not wanting to waste more time haggling on the radio.  With plenty of ammo left from the early morning, the tanks were ordered to use advancing fire.

As they entered the sector, they shot at everything that might have hidden an enemy tank or AT gun, pulverizing rows of trees with HE rounds and firing their .30 MGs at possible bunkers or concealed positions.  The "Spring Chicken" unleashed three HE rounds of her own and spent up the same number of MG ammo boxes as part of the task force's efforts.  Still nothing was found in the sector.

It was 0845 and all had gone well so far.  Another sector had been cleared and the task force swung south of the large forest after calling for artillery and using the dirt roads in the area to keep everyone on time and moving forward.  Radio reports showed that the sector directly to the east showed medium enemy resistance and there were multiple reports of Germans operating in the area earlier in the morning.  More artillery was called in before moving.  Everyone used advancing fire.

The task force enters a sector with medium expected enemy resistance.

When the task force arrived in the new area, they stopped near a clearing where the US artillery had apparently struck a German truck and left it a broken shell of flaming wreckage.  Little did the American tank crews realize that there were other Germans nearby.

Enemy truck (destroyed) and light weapons team to the left and close range.  Possible AT gun sitting in the woods at long range.

The Shermans caught unaware of an AT gun and a light weapons team nearby.

A mile away from the task force position, the German AT gun crew had been expecting someone to come this way.  They hoped to catch the Sherman tanks in an ambush just after their comrades near the tank were in position - then they would rain death down upon the Americans.  A couple of hundred meters to the Spring Chicken's left, a German light weapons team crawled through the tall grass undetected, crossing right in front of the Spring Chicken's bow.

Sudden horror dawned on Franklin as he heard over the radio from the task force commander that a group of Germans had been seen moving an AT gun into position immediately to the Spring Chicken's 2 o'clock.  "My god!  I can see them!"  Ben yelled down the hatch.  "AT gun on our right.  Reverse, Bill!  Get us the hell outta here!  Load WP!"

Another German AT gun makes an appearance on the battlefield.
Shakespeare closed his hatch and put the tank in reverse gear, trying to get to a hull down position.  The Spring Chicken lurched backwards.  Al Capone opened his hatch and fired his sub machine gun at the Germans in the woods near the AT gun.  Meanwhile, Mozart rotated the main gun turret, ready to orchestrate death and destruction on the enemy in the woods.  The crew of the Spring Chicken worked together in a symphony of activity.  John Lennon broke the zen he had finally reached, as if he had been laying in bed for a solid week, and unloaded the HE from the breach and threw in a WP round from the ready rack.

Although it was not known to the task force, reversing from their position put them out of range of the farthest German anti-tank gun, which was now off the battle board.

Sherman moves back one range band away from the Germans.

The Spring Chicken (middle Sherman) about to reverse its way out of a tricky situation.
As the German infantry and AT gun fired at the Americans without result, the crew of the Spring Chicken slowly gathered its nerves.  All that training back home and in England started to kick in.  Small arms fire sprayed the tank and nearly hit Al Capone as he leaned out of his hatch with the sub machine gun blazing away.  Al just shrugged it off and lit a cigar.  He saw the little buggers ahead of the tank, trying to pick him off with their Mauser rifles.  "Ya want some a 'dis?!" he yelled back at them.

Capone buttoned up and got on the bow machine gun, hoping to mow down the German infantry out in the open.  Ben Franklin directed Mozart as he fired the main gun towards the anti-tank weapon in the woods to their right.  Calm and composed, Mozart sighted in the enemy and fired at the German 88.  Unfortunately, the WP missed the target area and they would not get the smoke they hoped for that would hinder the Germans' aim.

Franklin looked to his right just in time to see the lead Sherman blow up.  The German 88 had hit it cleanly and knocked a hole in the turret.  A few seconds later, the ammo inside started to brew up.  After a heartbeat, the Sherman to his left rotated its turret and fired back at the 88, knocking it out completely.  Friendly artillery erupted a few hundred meters away, right amidst the German infantry that had fired at Capone only a few seconds ago.  It was dead on.

After collecting the wounded from the destroyed Sherman tank and taking German prisoners, the task force pulled back to the previous sector.  There was some debate about whether to try and push through again but the task force leaders decided to try another route rather than risk getting hit by another ambush in the same sector.  It was 1045 and the task force had been making good time so far - there was no need to take unnecessary risks.

The US task force pulls back to the previous sector and tries to find another route to the Exit Area.

By 1115, the task force arrived in the next sector and found no German resistance.  The final sector was ahead and HQ radioed a report of light German resistance found there earlier in the day.  The task force commander decided to be cautious, however, and ordered artillery support as the tanks trundled along through the fields.  Using advancing fire, the tanks finally arrived in the sector and found...nothing.

By 1330, the task force had made its way to the exit area and linked up with other US forces in the area.  The crew of the Spring Chicken was exhausted but clearly elated at surviving their first taste of combat.  Sgt. Franklin lit a cigar as he walked around the tank and his men clambered out to stretch their legs.  He wished he could grant them a few days of liberty after today's performance but he knew this would be just the beginning.  Tomorrow would be another day.  Another day of trying to stay alive in that cramped hunk of metal they had grown so fond of.  He looked his driver in the eye and patted him on the shoulder.  "You guys did good today.  Get some rest now.  We need to be ready for tomorrow."

Shakespeare returned a smile.  "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, S'arnt Franklin."

Victory Points:

Capturing 7 sectors on the map: 7 points
Capturing Exit Area:  10 points
Knocking out AT gun (friendly tank): 4 points
Knocking out light weapons team (friendly artillery): 1 point
Knocking out truck (friendly artillery):  1 point
Losing 1 friendly tank: -5 points

Total VPs:  18 points

Pvt. Mozart and Pvt. Lennon's ratings go up from 5 to 6.

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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ranger - Recon Enemy POL Site

Well, it's been a long while since I've done a video so I decided to get the camera out again.  Not sure of what to play after my affair with Victory Games' Vietnam, I went with something simple that I could play in an evening.  Omega Games' Ranger seemed to fit the bill.  It's pretty straightforward and I haven't played nearly enough of it since I got it almost two years ago.

The mission I pulled here was to recon an suspected enemy POL site.  Not long after my squad was dropped off in the jungle, they ran into some pretty huge problems that created a domino effect of disaster.  Check out the video below to see how the chips fell and how bad decisions compounded on each other to make for a bloody affair in the jungles of Puerto Ono: