Saturday, November 8, 2014

Downed Pilot, US Army vs. 11th Motorized Rifle Regiment

I ran a game with the Colorado Springs Gamers Association tonight, a bit different than the normal Force on Force fare.  Instead of pitting regulars against irregulars in a historical scenario, this game set two factions of regulars against each other, with relatively even forces, tasked with recovering a downed pilot from one of the buildings set in the middle of the board (and inflicting as many casualties on the other side as possible).  A full US Army Mechanized Infantry Platoon (played by Tom) squared off against a Russian-esque foe - the Donovians (played by Steve), the Opposing Force (OPFOR) employed at the Army's National Training Center (see here and here).  Scenario intro:

The war between Atropia and Donovia continues as the US aids its Atropian allies in ejecting the Russian-trained and -equipped Donovian Army from Atropian soil.

Donovian surface-to-air missile fire brought down an American jet in a rural area outside of the town of Razish.  The pilot escaped from the crash site and evaded Donovian ground forces, moving to a collection of houses in search of a place to hide. 

A US Mechanized Infantry Platoon (M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and organic infantry) is advancing toward Donovian lines and has been tasked to head toward the last known location of the downed pilot, who was last known to be in one of buildings at the center of the map.  The pilot has been out of radio contact for several hours, and his real location is not known by either side.  The elite Donovian 11th Motorized Rifle Regiment is closing in from the opposite end of the map, also determined to capture the pilot.  Both sides want to keep the other faction’s vehicles and Soldiers out of the larger fight, so Victory Points are awarded for casualties inflicted against enemy forces.
Neither side knew where the downed pilot was, and neither did I.  Every time a unit spent a turn in a building, it rolled a d10.  On a 9 or 10, the pilot was in that building.  
Conceptual dry run at home, with eldest son using the board as a place to play with his toy soldiers, tanks, camels, and pirates.  The pilot is somewhere in the middle, hiding in a building.  The actual game map would look a bit different.
Order of Battle:
US Forces:  4 x M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, 2 x 9-man infantry squads inside.
Donovian Forces:  3 x BTR-80, 3 x 7-man infantry squads inside; 1 x T-72; 1 x T-55.
Turn 1:
The Donovians won initiative, sent all three BTR-80s up the road into town, and put both tanks on overwatch.  This proved to be a good decision.
Tanks flanked on overwatch, infantry advanced up the main road.
The Platoon Sergeant's BFV and the lead BTR-80 caught sight of each other.  The BTR won initiative and bounced a few rounds off of the front of the Bradley.  The Bradley missed.
One of the BFVs took a hit from the T-72 on overwatch.  It go boom.
View of the kill from the T-72.  Well played.
Turn 2:
The US won initiative this turn.  The Platoon Sergeant's BFV and the lead BTR traded fire again, and the BTR brewed up, causing a number of casualties.

The lead BTR-80 brewed up, and the platoon decided to get out of the line of fire.  Good choice.
BFV #2 advanced past where its brother in arms fell to the T-72, finding a sweet spot where he had a hull-down position to engage the Donovian tank.  He missed, but return fire from the T-72 found its mark.  Another BFV down.
Turn 3:
The US won initiative this turn, and the fire teams that survived the T-72's destruction of their vehicles sent their AT-4s against the tank's front armor.  That panned out poorly.

The two dead gentlemen were US AT-4 gunners.  Both fired at the distant T-72.  One missed, one hit and failed to penetrate, and both were gunned down by coaxial machine gun return fire from the T-72.
The Donovian T-55 advanced down the main road and lost an initiative roll against one of the US BFVs.  It took a TOW to the front and, luckily, was only reduced to half speed.  The T-55 returned fire and hit, but failed to damage, the BFV down yonder.
Turn 4:
The US won initiative this turn, with mixed outcomes across the battlefield.
The T-55 and BFV trading fire down the main thoroughfare kept it up, with the T-55 prevailing on initiative and destroying the BFV.
The Platoon Sergeant's BFV remained on overwatch, catching the advancing T-72 off-guard and destroying it with a TOW missile.
T-72 Commander:  "Hey, these binoculars are great!  You can totally make out the Bradley Fighting Vehicle that smoked us!"  T-72 Gunner:  "Sir, I may shoot you.  Please shut up."
This US fire team advanced toward the blue-domed mosque, taking a casualty from the machine gun of the distant BTR-80 at the top of the photo.
The turn closed with two Donovian infantry elements checking buildings on their right flank.  No luck - no pilot.  Yet.
The state of affairs at the end of Turn 4.  Plenty of burning vehicles.
Turn 5:
As Turn 5 opened, the US Platoon Sergeant's track exchanged fire with the Donovian T-55.  The US TOW missile missed (its last in the tubes, and thus its last good chance of destroying the tank), and the T-55 hit but failed to penetrate.
Donovian infantry moved out of the compound in the middle of town and exchanged fire with a US fire team through an arched doorway.  The US forces took two serious wounds but their morale held firm.  The Donovians took one light wound, but had to move back to cover to get their heads straight.
US and Donovian forces trade small arms fire in the middle of the town.
Bird's eye view of the center of town as US and Donovian forces exchange fire.
As the turn closed, the US forces in the mosque at the far US right/Donovian left discovered the downed pilot cowering in a closet.  He was ready to make a run for the US edge of the board.

Turn 6:
The US won initiative, and the BFV on the main road pulled back to cover.
The downed pilot (pictured in the element at the bottom left of the picture) made a break for safety along with other US elements.  All beat the Donovian BTR-80 crew, pictured afar, that tried to take a shot at them.
A BTR-80 rounded the corner, hoping to take the BFV here by surprise.  The BFV, on overwatch, had other ideas.  The BTR-80 brewed up and the Donovians took another casualty.
The Donovians, bottom of the photo, climbed to the roof in hopes of a good vantage point from which to engage the US forces in the courtyard below.  They took two casualties to one US casualty.
Turn 7:
The pilot and US forces on the US right flank continued their flight. 
Keep running!
Just as things were going well for US forces, a Donovian squad jumped out from the alley, beat the BFV crew on overwatch for initiative, and put an RPG into the side armor of the BFV.  The last US armored vehicle brewed up.
View of the field from the US right flank..

View from the US left flank.  Plenty of vehicles up in flames.
At this point, we called it a game.  The downed pilot fled off the US edge of the board.  At that point, the Victory Point tally sat at 88 - 62 in favor of US forces.

This scenario ran fairly well, if a bit "gamey" relative to the historical and objective-focused schemes that Force on Force usually provides.  There was little sense of a fog of war, and the open competition for victory points made this a light-hearted, if close-run, contest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Shoot and Scoot: US & Iraqi Armies vs. ISIS

I ran a scenario I drafted at the Colorado Springs Gamers Association on Saturday, which pitted US and Iraqi forces against ISIS fighters in the suburbs of Baghdad in the near future:

Iraq, 2015

The Iraqi government has continued to perform poorly in the field, and Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) forces have advanced to the outskirts of Baghdad.  ISIS forces are within medium mortar range of Baghdad International Airport (BIAP), and are employing indirect fire against the airfield and hampering US Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO).  US forces are now fully embroiled in the conflict, with US Special Forces advising Iraqi Army units in the field, and most of a Heavy Brigade Combat Team (HBCT) deployed in support of BIAP and embassy security and NEO efforts.

A particularly wily Chechen mortar cell has been harassing BIAP with indirect fire, then displacing in a station wagon to a new firing point.  The cell is currently located in a neighborhood protected by an ISIS GPS jamming device, further complicating US targeting.

An Iraqi Army unit advised by a US Special Forces Operational Detachment-Alpha (ODA) has advanced far into the ISIS-controlled neighborhood that currently hosts the Chechen mortar cell, skilled Chechen snipers and anti-armor teams, booby trapped buildings, and ISIS armor captured from Iraqi units that have either fled their posts or been defeated in battle.  US forces have committed a Bradley Rifle Platoon to reinforce the beleaguered Iraqi soldiers and their SOF advisors.  Both sides have sniper teams hidden on the board (without hidden unit markers), but do not know of each other’s whereabouts.  US air support is on the way, but so are ISIS reinforcements.
The scenario started out with both sides able to place hidden units (particularly the sniper team for each side, which had no "hidden" marker) in anticipation of the enemy's moves.  The US/Iraqi players had mixed units with TQ/Morale of d10/d12 operators interspersed with d6/d8 Iraqis and US d8/d10 infantry coming to reinforce.  The ISIS player had d6/d12 troops, while the Chechen ISIS had d8/d10 troops manning key positions, such as the mortar crew, hidden RPG-29 crew, and hidden sniper team.  The Chechen and ISIS players had the option of two positions at which they could hide their GPS jammer, and the US/Iraqi players knew that the device was at one of the two places.  The Chechen/ISIS faction players chose to put the jammer in the mosque with the blue dome on top, making this their strong flank with hidden unit placement.
Conceptual dry run at my house, from the US/Iraqi end of the board.  The US/Iraqi forces have to neutralize the ISIS mortar team as well as the GPS jammers.
Side view of the battlefield from the US/Iraqi right flank.
Turn 1:  
ISIS won intiative, and the ISIS team at between US/Iraqi Team #1 and the ISIS mortar team exchanged fire.  This didn't go well for ISIS, causing 3 ISIS casualties. Vehicles from both sides maneuvered and fired, causing one Iraqi casualty, damaging an ISIS technical's machine gun, and suppressing an uparmored Iraqi HMMWV.
View of the board from the ISIS side.
The US SF and Iraqi squad started the game in contact with an ISIS cell providing protection for the Chechen ISIS mortar team in the courtyard.  The ISIS cell fared poorly in its exchange of fire with US/Iraqi forces, rapidly reduced to one PKM gunner.
The US SF and Iraqi squad in the center of the game provided a testing ground for joint adviser/advised units.  Every time the unit had to make an opposed initiative check, the SF advisers rolled a TQ check to see if they used their initiative (d10), or if herding the advised cats was too much and they revert to the Iraqi initiative (d6).  This mechanic worked well, if a but cumbersome, and the unit weathered the whole game with one Iraqi KIA and no other casualties.
The ISIS technical, bottom of the picture, was immobilized and had its MG firepower reduced by half.  The crew and troops in the bed displaced into the mosque to carry on the fight.
The DShK-equipped Chechen ISIS technical shown here exchanged fire with an Iraqi Army HMMWV, suppressing the inferior Iraqi troops, and moved forward to let troops in the bed of the pickup disembark and take up position in this building.
Turn 2:  The US Mechanized Infantry platoon showed up with 4 Bradley Fighting Vehicles.  The Chechen sniper team immediately took a shot at the Rifle Platoon Leader (PL), who was dutifully leading from the front of his element, standing up in the turret exposed to name tape defilade.  The Chechen snipers missed, and the US player narrowly averted a significant blow to command and control. 
Arrival of the Bradley platoon.  The ISIS insurgents exchanged fire with the lead BFV, then exited out the back of the building.
The BFV returned fire at the building housing the Chechen sniper team, killing one of the Chechens in the co-located fireteam.
The lead BFV took an RPG hit, reducing its chain gun firepower by half.  It stopped to disgorge the fireteam contained inside so that they could get into a building and get into the fight.

Close-up of the mortar team firing at BIAP from this compound's courtyard.  At this point the sole remaining member of the ISIS team that was exchanging fire with the US SF/Iraqi team across the way has displaced to the safety of the mortar cell's station wagon, getting the engine warmed up for a quick getaway when the BIAP fire mission is rounds complete.
Turn 3:  The BFV platoon rolled on, with the second BFV exchanging fire with an RPG gunner in the mosque at the other end of the board.  The RPG gunner lost this exchange.  The US SF sniper team on overwatch successfully spotted the Chechen snipers and fired at them, hitting the Chechen sniper that fired the errant shot at the Rifle PL.  The suppressed US SF sniper weapon helped hide their location, allowing them to remain completely hidden (no hidden unit marker for snipers in this scenario).

Turn 4:   US/Iraqi troops continued their advance.  ISIS forces received reinforcements in the form of a captured Iraqi M1A1 Abrams MBT, but it didn't exactly shift the battle's momentum like I thought it would.  A Fog of War card brought the Iraqi Army an M1A1 of its own, and the ISIS Abrams was quickly knocked down a peg by the US forces.
The Army goes rolling along.  One BFV fired at the far building that housed Chechen ISIS fighters and the Chechen sniper team.  On a Fog of War card, the Bradley's fire hit something that caught ablaze and set the building alight.  All Chechens inside displaced out the back of the building.  The Chechen mortar crew made an insanely lucky unobserved mortar fire mission on the dismounted US infantry, wounding two.
Another US SF/Iraqi unit advanced in the burning M113.  Prior to it attaining kindling status, it rounded the corner and the Iraqi gunner exchanged near-point blank HMG fire with the Chechen DShK-equipped technical gunner.  True to form, both Iraqis missed.  The Chechen RPG-29 crew perched on the nearby roof, however, did not miss.  It smoked the M113 and killed the ODA's Team Sergeant, a couple of Iraqis, and inflicted numerous wounds on the troops inside the vehicle.
A lot going on here.  In the burning bulding, an extraordinarily unlucky ISIS team tripped one of their own IEDs (Fog of War card) and all but one of the ISIS fighters was killed.  The ISIS M1A1 that showed up is pictured at the top of the board.  It rolled in to the battle, lost initiative against a heavily-penalized BFV crew.  The BFV fired a TOW missile that knocked out the M1's main gun, reducing it to a heavily armored taxi and convincing the ISIS crew to reverse and look for somewhere else to be.  The second BFV in the order of movement disembarked its troops at the corner of the mortar cell's firing position compound.
Turn 5:  The US retained the initiative, and on a Fog of War card (as if they needed it) received reinforcements in the form of a 4-man SOF team.  The two factions exchanged fire, with ISIS taking the worst of the casualties dished out.  The US SF/Iraqi element in the middle of the board knocked out the Chechen DShK technical parked behind the burning building.  At the end of this turn, a Fog of War card brought a sandstorm, significantly changing the course of the battle.  In Turn 6, US forces were supposed to get dedicated Apache gunship support.  Not only was that not going to happen now, but visibility was reduced such that optimum range no longer applied, movement was limited to tactical speed only, and only units with thermal sights (the M2 BFVs and the M1A1) could engage anything beyond 18" away.

Turn 6:  US/Iraqi forces retained initiative, but Fog of War cards continued to derail the anticipated course of the game.  A Fog of War card gave the Chechens their own captured M1A1, which showed up behind the mosque.  I only have one M1 model (a toy, really - but to scale) so a Matchbox flatbed truck and SUV were serving as my other two tanks.
The Iraqi HMMWV shown on the right had its HMG knocked out and was reduced to half speed.  The crew chose to get out and assault the crew of the destroyed Chechen DShK technical.  They chose poorly.
The Iraqi HMMWV crew dismounted their vehicle, and the vehicle commander was promptly shot.  The driver and gunner lost their nerve and froze outside of the vehicle.  The US SF/Iraqi squad from the destroyed M113 had treated casualties, rounded the corner, and shot down the Chechens in return.
A Fog of War card brought a random mortar barrage down on this US fire team - the second one they faced - killing one of the team members.
The burning station wagon in the middle of the road doesn't do justice to the insanity that happened here.  BFV #2 pulled even with the doorway of the mortar cell compound and fired on the mortar cell members, who were all loaded up in the station wagon.  The 25mm cannon FAILED to damage the station wagon - I guess it blew a luggage rack off of the top.  Then the mortar cell screamed out of the compound in their vehicle, and a US AT-4 missed the vehicle as it fled.  Small arms fire, however, immobilized the station wagon in the middle of the road.  In Turn 7, as the Chechen M1A1 moved toward this stretch of road, the Chechen mortar crew ran to the safety of cover behind the wall of the compound.
Turn 7:  The Iraqi Army M1A1 destroyed a Chechen-crewed uparmored HMMWV on the left, and a Fog of War card dropped an IED in the middle of the ISIS left, complicating movement of forces.   This turn was dominated by the advance of the Chechen-crewed captured M1A1 and ISIS efforts to move forces around their right, hoping to compensate for the collapse of their left flank. 
The Chechen M1A1 didn't inflict any casualties on US/Iraqi forces, but merely by moving toward contact it helped the Chechen mortar crew escape and forced the Bradley platoon to displace anywhere else as fast as possible.  The 24" arming range of the TOW IIA missiles on the BFVs handicapped US anti-tank capabilities.  Lucky for the Americans, the M1A1 couldn't clear this alley quick enough, and couldn't turn its turret to engage up the road.
ISIS forces displaced around to their right flank, hoping for an RPG shot on a BFV...
...alas, they lost an opposed initiative roll and the BFV cut down the RPG gunner.
ISIS counter-advance in Turn 7.  The SUV at bottom of the picture is an M1A1 MBT.  Really.
State of the battle at the end of Turn 7.  A lot of stuff was on fire.
With the end of Turn 7, we closed out the game.  The hour was late, and the insanity imposed by Fog of War cards meant that this wasn't going to end any time soon.

ISIS forces claimed victory.  The victory points for the US/Iraqi forces were entirely objective-focused on knocking out the mortar crew and the GPS jammer.  Neither happened, and ISIS forces inflicted a number of casualties that gained them victory points.

As a closing thought, I need to retool the scenario.  US forces, though they didn't prevail here, had a ridiculous amount of combat power.  The US player should start on the board in Turn 1, and only have half a platoon - two BFVs and a squad of infantry.  One thing that doesn't need to change is the uncertainty I built in.  Each side only received their objectives, and a number of ISIS units started hidden.  This definitely added to the sense of the unknown for both sides.

We'll see how this goes next time we play it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Hornet's Nest

I hosted a Force on Force game with the Colorado Springs Gamers Association on Saturday, playing a scenario from the Road to Baghdad supplement, "The Hornet's Nest."  The scenario description:
Objective Pistol, Outside As Samawah, March 22
On March 22, 2003, a Hunter Killer Team (HKT) from C/3-7 CAV "Crazy Horse" approached a canal bridge at Objective Pistol.  Based on reports from an SOF unit in the area, the team expected to be greeted by Iraqi regulars eager to surrender.  Instead, they became embroiled in a fierce firefight with irregular Saddam Fedayeen troops.  This would be the Cav's first encounter with fanatical irregular troops in civilian garb, but it would be far from their last.

The US player starts with an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) that has just followed an Iraqi insurgent truck into a courtyard, only to discover that the courtyard is was the center of an insurgent headquarters.  An M1A1 Abrams tank backs up the BFV, though it starts the scenario outside of the courtyard.
View of the board from the side with elements labeled.
As with other Force on Force scenarios, this one was exceptionally well balanced.  The scenario lasts 8 turns.  US victory points as follows:  10 points for keeping the BFV in the courtyard for 4 turns, 5 points for the BFV and the Abrams withdrawing from the table via a marked exit direction.  Insurgent victory points as follows:  3 points per US Soldier seriously wounded or KIA, 5 points per US Soldier captured, 5 points if the BFV is immobilized or destroyed, 10 points if the Abrams is immobilized or destroyed.

Turn 1:
The view from the US edge of the board at scenario's outset.

The situation from the Bradley IFV's point of view.

The Bradley opened fire on the insurgents n the courtyard, pulping three insurgents from Cell 1; return RPG fire proved ineffective.  Cells 2 and 3 opened fire with their own RPGs, but all missed, and the Bradley inflicted 3 more casualties.  The Abrams tank moved forward, but Insurgent Cell 4 held its fire, hoping for an easy shot on the tank.  All of the insurgent elements made their morale checks.

Turn 2:
The insurgents received reinforcements with both a leader and a Heavy RPG, which allowed them to both move without rolling to activate and bring a big stick to the fight.

In the courtyard, the Bradley was still taking on the world, dishing out three more casualties on Cell 1.  The Abrams Main Battle Tank (MBT) moved up even with the opening to the courtyard.  The tank had line of sight on the building housing Cell 3 and opened fire with the intent of dropping the building.  The building did not drop, but the tank shell killed one insurgent.
The Americans continue to slug it out with a horde of Iraqi insurgents.

The insurgents in Cell 4 had a deck shot on the Abrams, and let loose with two RPGs.  Both bounced harmlessly off of the tank.  The tank swiveled its turret, returned fire, and dropped the building.  All of the insurgents inside, save one of the RPG gunners, were killed in the building collapse.
That used to be a two-story building.  Used to be.
The insurgent from the hot spot made a rapid move and entered the fray, but ended up adding little to the insurgents' cause.

The insurgents from the hot spot showed up just in time to bounce an RPG off of the Bradley IFV and get shot up.
Turn 3:
The Bradley pivoted back to the wall on its left and continued pouring fire into Insurgent Cell 1, causing 3 more casualties.  One was the RPG gunner, but he would shake off the wound in the casualty check at the end of the round.  Most likely a rock that hit him when a 25mm round pinged off of the ground.  The cleared line of sight allowed the Abrams MBT to level the building housing Insurgent Cell 3, causing 3 insurgent casualties, including the remaining RPG gunner at that location.  The insurgents attempting to return fire, and losing, drew a Fog of War card - the Golden BB.
The M1 Abrams blows up the building housing Insurgent Cell 3.
The remaining insurgent RPG gunner from Cell 4, who survived the building being dropped, passed his morale check after his harrowing experience.  He now rolled for initiation, passed, and played the Golden BB card.  The Abrams erupted in a ball of flame.
Ouch.  That hurts.

View of the Abrams' destruction from the RPG gunner's vantage point.  Holy smokes!

Two of the Abrams crew members survived (two were crispered) and dismounted to the left rear of the vehicle and sought cover.  The Abrams wreck was blocking the Bradley's planned route of egress out of the courtyard, so the situation had suddenly become quite dire for the Americans.

Turns 4 and 5:
Insurgent casualties showed up again at the Hot Spot, but would fail to activate because they didn't have a leader.  The turn ran rather uneventfully, with the Bradley exchanging fire again with Insurgent Cell 1, inflicting one casualty, and receiving ineffective RPG fire.  The insurgents that previously ran into the courtyard from the Hot Spot attempted to close assault the Bradley, but failed the necessary Troop Quality roll and chickened out.
Come on, guys, let's assault the Bradley.  Guys?  Guys?

Insurgent Cell 2 rolled successfully to activate and move into the middle of the courtyard.  They won initiative, fired an RPG at the Bradley, missed, and saw the Bradley's return fire reduce the RPG gunner to ground chuck.

The insurgents from the hot spot, however, activated and moved to the courtyard.  The Bradley reacted to their attempt to open fire and pulped two cell members.  Even with the penalty for rapid movement, the Heavy RPG gunnery in the cell, who survived the Bradley's salvo of fire, launched a round into the front of the Bradley and rolled a catastrophic hit, causing the Bradley to brew up, killing 4 of the 5 Soldiers in the vehicle!
This is going to hurt the American victory point total.  A lot.
The surviving Soldier dismounted out the back of the Bradley.  He decided to make a rapid move out of the courtyard and off of the map.  As he sprinted out, he came in view of every insurgent element in the courtyard and beat all but a couple in initiative rolls.  In one, he drew a Mad Minute card from the Fog of War deck and laid low one of the insurgents.  This entails emptying most of your available ammo supply with increased firepower.  Not being sure whether the card required him to remain stationary, we rolled a Troop Quality check to see if he could continue his movement out of the courtyard.  He succeeded, and ran off.
"Say hello to my little friend!"
As the turn wrapped up, the two tankers who escaped the burning Abrams exited the board.

Turn 6:
The remaining Bradley crewman continued his flight off of the board, making an amazing number of save rolls as a group of five insurgents shot at him. 
Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor.  Especially when you've had your teeth kicked in.
We called the game at this point and tallied victory points.  The Americans had 7 (10 for remaining in the courtyard for 4 turns, 3 deducted for a Fog of War card based on bad press from unit actions); the Iraqi insurgents had 33 (10 for destroying the M1 Abrams, 5 for the M2 Bradley, and 18 for the 6 x US KIA).  Decisive victory for the Iraqis.

On a closing note, the scenario was actually very well balanced.  The Bradley lasted four turns in the courtyard before it finally succumbed to RPG fire.  Had the Golden BB card not killed the Abrams and blocked in the Bradley, this could have been a totally different story...