Saturday, May 26, 2012

Breakthrough at San Angelo - Part 3

Gran Bolivarian infantry, #1 Section awaits an attack
that never arrives...

Having cleared out the leading enemy infantry from the fringe of brush flanking San Angelo, the Orotinians pressed on.  As the infantry swept through the brush, the Mark IV and one of the Mark III tanks eased up to the stone wall behind which the sole Crusader tank so far encountered was smouldering gently.

At once the armour came under fire from a 6pr anti-tank gun a short distance beyond.  At the same time, a Boys Anti-tank rifle team, finding itself too distant for an effective shot, tried sneaking along behind the stone wall to close the range.

Both sides had a measure of luck, here.  The 6pr gun's shot simply went wide, and the Boys team, spotted by the Mark III commander, escaped the quick burst from the tank's co-axial machine gun.  But their position was becoming precarious, as the Orotinian infantry rapidly approached.

A brisk tank and anti-tank firefight quickly ensued. 

The Boys rifle fires ... and misses!
Just as the Orotinian infantry burst out of the brush, the AT Rifle team squeezed off a shot at the Mark III.  A complete miss!  A sad fate for what had been a suicidal attempt: under a hail of small arms fire, the anti-tank rigle team were eliminated.

A tank shell eliminates half the 6pr gun crew!

The 6-pounder's first shot drew attention at once to to both AFVs, which returned fire with high explosive and machinegun fire.  With men dropping all around, the gun fired back with a will, switching its fire to target the more dangerous-seeming Mark IV.  It was a fortunate as well as fortuitous choice.  The solid shot penetrated the gun mantlet beside the main gun, putting the vehicle out of action.
The Orotinian commander was now in something of a quandary.  Could he continue the attack?  Down to two tanks, one of those on the other side of the road guarding against a possible counter-attacck from that direction, his infantry was as much depleted.  As the latter swept across field towards the anti-tank gun, its remaining crew having been wiped out by the panzers' HE, he ordered the left flank Mark III to check out the situation in its part of the field.
End of the action: the lone effort of the Mark III tank is stopped cold
by a single shot that penetrates the front hull.
Disaster!  In a village back yard, the defenders' second 6-pounder gun was waiting just such an opportunity.  Early in the action, it had had a go at the tank through the gap between the village and the tract of forst to their front.  Unsuccessful, the crew had waited patiently, half expecting the enemy to emerge around the other end.  The gun's first shot settled the matter before the tank crew could see whence the threat would come.
An unfortunately fuzzy picture of an
Orotinian armoured infantry platoon
At once the Orotinian commander yielded the palm to the defenders.  Having one tank left of the five with which he began, and just 19 men remaining of his 40-strong platoon, it was clear to him that further progress could not be achieved if he were to retain sufficient strength to resist a likely counterattack.  It was unlikely he could succeeed at all!
Gran Bolivarian infantry - two sections of a platoon.
  Nearest the camera is a Boys AT Rifle team stand
 adapted from first generation Airfix figures.
  This counts as an ordinary infantry stand when I'm using Command Decision rules.
The Gran Bolivarian losses, though severe enough, were light compared with their opponents: some 13 men - 7 from #2 Section, 2 anti-tank riflemen, and the 4 6pr gun crew - plus a Crusader tank.  The situation was clear: the attack had been defeated, San Angelo was safe.

Overall, the Airfix rule set offers a framework for a brisk and enjoyable game.  But I do believe a deal of work needs to be done to make it really playable, especially if infantry are to have a role on the table-top...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Breakthrough at San Angelo - Part 2

As the recon light tank erupted in flames, the commanders of the mediums frantically searched out whence the deadly shot had come.  It soon became clear that the range had to be closed for an effective shot by the Mark IIIs, but the Mark IV dropped at once into action.  The first exchange of fire was 'honours even': both missed.  But soon enough the three Mark IIIs were ready.  At four to one odds, even with the partial protection of the stone wall (which I tended to think of as offereing a partial concealment rather than protection against solid AP shot), the Crusader might have been better advised to have bugged out when he could. 

Four against one!  The Crusader's 6pr gun knocks out the centre Mark III, but the left hand tank drills the Crusader turret with a solid shot.  The PxIV missed altogether; the other PzIIILs strike the wall directly in front of the enemy tank.  That the turret hit was effective saved me from deciding how much protection the stone wall could give to the Crusader's front armour!
True, a Mark III suddenly clanked to a stop, smoke billowing from its hatches.  But a 5cm solid shot punched through the Crusader's turret armour, and ended the fight.

The executive decision to which I alluded rather abruptly before ending the last posting was this.  About to adjudicate the response of the Gran Bolivarian infantry observing the approach of the Orotinian armoured infantry and tanks, I saw two aspects of the rules that reminded me why the Quarrie WW2 battlefield was such a hostile environment for miniature infantry.  First was that the range: long range being 900 meters - 900mm in the Airfix rule set. 
The second was that rifles had a rate of fire of 4 shots per 30-second turn; and machine guns could claim a target of anyone within an unspecified arc.   This seemed to me far too punitive.  Right there I let the ranges stand, but reduced the rifles to one aimed shot per turn, and machine guns to 3 shots (SMG), 4 (LMG and vehicle MG) and 6 (MMG).  Even that was bad enough...
As the leading sections dismounted, the incoming laid low four from #1 and two from #2 Sections - a third of the 18 men dismounting. 

At just under 600 meters range, it would be a long time before these lads could get close enough to shoot back - that is, to within 100 meters.

As the rest of the platoon pressed on, accompanied by the armour, it became clear that the planned 'suppressive' fire wasn't going to work.  Under the spotting rules, anyone in cover could be spotted only at very short ranges - 100mm on the table.  There were no rules that allowed speculative fire into cover from which enemy fire was emerging, or might be expected.   A firing unit became easier to acquire, yes, but only within the standard spotting range.  There was absolutely no chance of the leading Sections (#1 and #2) getting close enough to make a difference, and indeed, half their remaining dozen men were cut down as they struggled forward. 
Gran Bolivarian infantry fire: SMG (green), LMG (red), and rifles (white).
 Good shooting at that range - though they must be getting a bit edgy
 with Orotinian panzergrenadiers so close - 6 hits out of 10 shots.   
Once within range at which they could engage the Gran Bolivarians, #3 and #4 sections dismounted, and pushed forward into a hail of fire.  Half a dozen were at once bowled over by the defenders in the brush;
Vickers MMG catches the right flank of #4 Section...
 and when part of #4 Section strayed to the right, three more were cut down by a hidden Vickers gun.

But these Orotinians were now in a position to fight back.  Spotting their assailants, #3 and #4 Sections gave back everything they had.
#4 Section shooting into the scrub.  Not terribly effective:
 just 3 hits - 1 from the SMG, 2 from the vehicle MG.

Not especially accurate, their shooting was deadly enough.   Brutal as the exchange had been, and the Gran Bolivarians had got slightly the better of it thanks to the Vickers MG, as the clatter and bang of the firing died away, there was nothing left of the Gran Bolivarian infantry section that had borne the brunt of the attack.  The Orotinians could now advance into the town...
Slightly more effective, this: 4 hits.
 This patch of scrub is now clear of the defenders...

To be continued...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Breakthrough at San Angelo

In recent times, I have noticed several blogs posting articles on refights of some of the more well-known actions from wargames literature.  The two favorites come to mind: 'Battle of Blasthof Bridge' and 'Horse and Musket action in the Plattville Valley'  (having lost or mislaid my copy of Don Featherstone's book, I don't properly recall the chapter title).
It was in the spirit of this kind of nostalgia that I resurrected a game based upon a report in an old Model Soldier Magazine under the above title.  That game used a set of rules that enjoyed a considerable popularity in this country in the 1970s - probably because they were the most accessible in terms of availability, but also to learn:  Bruce Quarrie's Aifix Magazine Guide 15: World War 2 Wargaming (1976).
From the original game, I made some changes: one to the identity of the countries involved, another to the army lists, and a third to the terrain.  The action purported to be a border clash, the invading Orotinian (Pangolian) army seeking to force its way through or past the village of San Angelo, defended buy a hastily cobbled Gran Bolivarian (Uralayan) battle group.  Owing to differences between the original army list and what vehicles I had available, the composition of both sides I had to amend:
Gran Bolivarian (Uralayan) Army:
3 x Crusader III tanks (6pr guns armd)
2 x Bren gun carriers
2 x 6pr anti-tank guns
2 x Heavy machineguns (Vickers MMG)
2 x Light machinguns (Bren LMG)
2 x Anti-tank rifles (Boys ATR) - seemed to be more in keeping with the other equipment than did bazooka ATRL,
12 x infantry organised as 2 x SMG armed  Section commanders and 10 riflemen.
The infantry were organised into a weak platoon of 2 Sections comprising 1xSMG, 5 rifles, 1xLMG, 1xATR.  I added a small Platoon HQ comprising a pistol-armed CO, an SMG man and a couple of riflemen.
Orotinian (Pangolian) Army:
1 x PzIV Special (75L43 gun)
3 x PzIII Special (50L60 gun)
1 x PzII (substituting for the 2 PzI tanks)
1 x Command SdKfz 251 with frame radio aerial
5x Hanomag SdKfz 251 (1x251/10; 4x251/1)
5 x LMG (bipod mounted MG34)
40 x Infantry.
The infantry was organised as a Platoon HQ of Pistol-armed CO, SMG, and 2 riflemen; and 4 sections (Squads) of 1xSMG, 1xLMG team and 6 riflemen (9 men) each.

Finally, I thickened up the terrain a bit and gave it more definition.  This applied to the tracts of heavy wood and scrub dotted about the envorons of San Angelo village.  To the scasttered trees, I added dark, tree clad areas of thick bush; fringed here and there by brush represented by the moss.
Crusader, 6pr Anti-Tank, Boys ATR, and No 2 Section.
  Hidden by the thick bush on the extreme left, lurks a Vickers MMG attached to No 2 Section.
As the Orotinian invaders spilled into the cleared farmland about San Angelo, they almost at once came under fire from the Crusader tank close by the house on the north end of the village. 
No 1 Section, Vickers MMG and 6pr Anti-tank gun on the east side of the town.
Pushing forward up the road, the Orotinian light PzII tank did not last long before being put out of action.  Meanwhile, at slightly under 600 metres range, the two leading sections of infantry debussed.  At once they came under a deadly fire from the scrub edging the belt of jungle.
The Orotinian Composite Panzer Platoon arrives upon the field...
Where are the enemy?
At once I saw that I would have to make my first of a series of 'executive decisions...'
There are the enemy!

To be continued...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Border Incident at Oasis Hakeem - Part 4

What happened to the Diesela Khann technicals?
A half hour after their relatively inexpensive victory over the Garrison ARV Squadron, most of the Diesela Khan Light Group technicals and command vehicles were smouldering wrecks, great smudges of smoke  polluting the clear desert air.  What had happened?

The map gives the answer (in the absence of clear pictures of the events).  As what remained of the Garrison ARVs fell back to deplore their losses, the Relief Column squadron, accompanied by the mule mounted TOW platoon sped into the gap between Hakeen itself and the Village of the Infidel.  Perhaps they were unwise to ignore the mortar platoon they bypassed, but the Squadron Commander's primary aim was to take out the PLFK Saladins if he could. 
A brisk exchange of HEAT rounds ensued at long range, but the Imperialist had drawn the attention not only of the mortar platoon little more than 100 meters off, but the Light Group of technicals, and shortly afterwards, the Heavy Group as well, lurking about the small village. 

Grimly enduring the incoming from all directions - Anti-tank, mortar HE, machine-gun and finally RCL - the ARVs fired off their HEAT rounds at the enemy Saladins.  The latter, having played their part in the earlier action against the Garrison Squadron, ran out of HEAT first, meanwhile losing some of their number.
Imperial ARVs attacked in rear by Diesela Khann
heavy technicals
Then it was the turn of the mortar and the technicals.  The light HE rounds remaining to the ARVs soon drove off the mortar platoon, its survivors making off into the Village of the Infidels; and the Diesela Light Group suffered the fate depicted in the leading picture.  The survivors of the Garrison ARV squadron returned to add what help they could to the fight.  As the Light Group began to burn, elements of the Heavy Technical Group sneaked into the ARV right rear, and let fly.  The Imperialists' luck held: the tribesmen's nervous shooting went wide, and the return fire sent them scurrying whence they came.

By this time, the situation within the town was reaching its climax.  The Imperialist troops had now occupied or cleared close to 80% of the place.  Just the Mosque and the southern edge of the CBD remained in insurrectionist possession.  The relief Column Infantry company were now setting up firing positions under the walls of the Mosque itself.  In the vicious short range shooting that ensued, both sides suffered heavy losses, but the Imperialists seemed to be getting the upper hand.

Then, with victory almost within his grasp, Col Mustafa made his crucial and disastrous error.  Anticipating for some time a push by the PLFK fighters towards his HQ compound, he ordered his citizens' militia to side-slip to their left in support of the loyalist desert tribesmen still lurking among the streets and alleys of the CBD.  This left a gap between the militia and Major Iqbal's regulars.

Relief Column infantry locked in firefight with
the Brotherhood of the Faithful

The insurrectionists took full advantage.  Instead of advancing in a northward direction, the PLFK fighters swung west, right onto the left flank of the Imperialist company.  Though giving a good account of themselves, and hanging on grimly for a quarter of an hour, the regulars found the odds  too great.  
The Citizens' Militia (nearest camera) inadvertently allow a gap
 to develop between themselves and the Relief Column infantry

Defeat for the Regulars. 
The garrison troops' help arrives are too late.
Taking heavy losses and overwhelmed by numbers, the scant survivors drew back from the Mosque.

The desert riders advance into the area of town left by the PLFK
 - too late!
The Commandant's effort to help the Relief company by advancing the militia and tribesmen, supported by his own 3rd Platoon, struck empty air (the 2" range rule for built up areas), nor was he prepared to commit them to action once the Relief Column Company had fallen back.

Situation at the close of the action. 
Imperial and loyalist troops still hold 50% of the town, but that hold is none too secure
Recalling his troops, he began to set his mind about how he might yet retrieve the situation.

At this point, as if by mutual consent, the action (game) ended.  I was never quite sure whether the subsequent discussion between Brian and me was by way of a roleplay, debrief, or a claim (by him) for victory.  I knew I had fallen short, and had already a pretty good idea why (a certain rustiness with the rules contributed more to my style of play, but it was that tactical misjudgement at the end of the day that proved the turning point, I think), but to the Arch-Mullah's offer of safe passage provided the Imperial troops quit the town, I (and the Colonel) was disinclined to accept.  The situation was bad, and night fighting would have been a problem against the fanatical Brotherhood of the Faithful (that Morale 12 thing - the Regulars were rated at 9, which was pretty good, but 12 is near unstoppable).  All the same, I felt that the Colonel - as I chose to portray him - would stand to his duty.  At that, he still had something to fight with, and even had he lost the town, I now feel that he would have had enough in hand to own the surrounding desert...

At any rate, Brian rated the day's result as a draw, which seems to me about right.  One of the upshots of the day's action was the report sent in to the Harad Imperial Army Capital Headquarters suggesting a thorough recalibration of the sights for the main armament of the Saladin armoured cars.  Their shooting performance was dismal all day - both sides, which suggested to Colonel Mustafa Mustash the answer to the mystery whence the PLFK got their ARVs. 

Overall, that was one of the most complicated and enjoyable games I've had in quite a while.  Great fun! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Border Incident at Oasis Hakeem - Part 3

As the Garrison ARV (Saladin) Company rounded the east end of town, they could see in the distance the Khand Separatists (PLFK) close to and about to enter the central business area of the town.  Of greater interest, they could also discern beneath a crawling cloud of dust a sizeable group of technicals streaming off towards the southeast.  Farther off still, a mortar group seemed to be preparing fire positions.
About a mile - 1600 meters -  due south of their position,  a squadron-sized group of ARVs (Armoured Reconaissance Vehicles - Saladin Armoured Cars) seemed to be milling about - clearly they would be out of action for a while.

    The Squadron commander gave the order to  advance; the tribesmen took up the challenge; and soon a brisk clash of vehicles developed in the desert southeast of Oasis Hakeem.  Helped by the PLFK Saladins' HEAT rounds coming in upon the Imperialist flank -  the Khandist Separatists having rallied betimes -  the tribesmen soon got the upper hand.
A touched up picture depicting the loss of vehicles on both sides...

The tribesmen have lost their RCL-carriers, but the Garrison Squadron more than two-thirds of their strength
Before long the desert was littered with burning vehicles, but most of those were the Imperialist ARVs.  Defeated, more than two-thirds of the Squadron lying in wrecks across the desert, the scant remnants fell back to the east end of the town.

The Diesela Khann tribesmen were reluctant to follow.  A good quarter of their own vehicles were no better than scrap metal, they had lost most of the limited anti-armour capability they began with, and they had received good reason to apprehend a team of TOW weapons at large in the eastern suburbs.  They would stay for now right where they were...

Meanwhile, the Diesela Khann's Heavy Group, after their initial success against the Relief Column ARVs (see previous postings), had come under fire from the lorry drawn RCLs.   The ARV Squadron had moved forward under the lee of a projecting part of the town, discovering as they did so the Relief Column's RCLs deployed and ready.  In a trice, the Heavy Technicals had lost most of their vehicles.  The survivors fell back to the Village of the Unbelievers, and there set about restoring order to the few survivors. 
Out in the desert the Mullah had sent his team of mortars, together with a band of porters carrying extra ammunition.  This group was to prove of minor nuisance value throughout the day.
The action in the town had by this time sputtered out into a lull.  To begin with, the firefight between the Desert riders, assisted by the Garrison's 1st Platoon against the Mullah's Faithful had ended with some success for the Loyalists.  But the advent of the PLFK swung the fight in favour of the Insurrectionists.  The tribesmen drew back further into the middle of the town, some even emerging out the north side, and the Garrison Platoon fell back, badly hurt.
Second Platoon replaced the 1st, but it, too, found the going tough, and soon rejoined the Garrison Company at the Military Government compound.
Colonel Mustafa Mustash was reluctant yet to commit his 3rd Platoon.  Although his hitherto piecemeal commitment went rather against his instincts, he realised that he had to support his allies whilst at the same time maintain a secure hold upon the compound buildings.
The confused situation in the town
PLFK Saladins waiting. 
In the distant haze, Imperial ARVs are rapidly approaching
As his regulars and militia continued their advance through the bazaar and the western residential areas a lull also developed in the surrounding desert after the defeat of Mustafa's ARVs.  They remained nevertheless a force in being, however weakened.  But now a new element entered the arena.  The Relief Column's ARVs were now sweeping from the west side into the open spaces south of the town.
The stalled Diesela Khann Light Group. 
Out of the picture to the left, Imperial ARVs
 are sweeping behind them. 
The PLFK Saladin Company, still rallying a kilometre to the southeast, soon saw in the distant haze west of them the approaching clouds that heralded a fast-moving force.   The Diesela Khann Light Group, looking back, also saw them.  Disorganised by their earlier victory, and reluctant to commit themselves to further action for the moment, they hoped that maybe - just maybe -  the Imperial ARVs would pass them by...
To be continued...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Border Incident at Oasis Hakeem - Part 2.

Clear to the Military Governor, Lt-Col Mustafa Mustash, that a confrontation was not only inevitable, but imminent, he quickly formed and communicated his plans.  The narrow streets being no place for his armoured cars and larger vehicles, they would have to operate in the desert outskirts of the town.
Right.  The loyalist Citizen's Defence militia, already assembled amongs the storage sheds and loading bays in the Northwest sector of the town, he instructed to sweep in a southeaster direction, through the bazaar and in towards the commercial district (see Map).  The Relief Column's Motorised Company, less the mule, would drop in behind the militia, but carry on a sweep down the West Side, swinging eastwards towards the Arch-Mullah's lair: the Mosque.  The remainder of the column would protect their desert flank whilst carrying out what the Commandant hoped would be the right pincer of his plan of envelopment.

The following sketch map outlines the Military Governor's plan, and the manner in which he expected (hoped) events would develop...

Meanwhile, the Garrison Armoured Car Squadron would move at once to the east end of town, and, sweeping around it would engage whatever motorised enemy they found.  In support of them, he sent his TOW platoon.    When further clouds of dust and sand boiled up from the south, the Colonel once had recourse to his well-known fatalism: the wine was drawn - he was no very abstemious man - and now must be drunk.  Besides: those technicals, lacking in armour, they'd be no match for his Saladins, surely...?

[Picture: the Lighter Group of Diesela Khann tribesmens' technicals head for the west side of the town...]
Before resuming the narrative, it behoves me to outline the forces available.  Note that Brian has posted this encounter on his own blogspot (See 'Fistful of Plastic' in the links list to the right), and details the manner in which the scenario was presented to me.  When looking over the various forces before making my choice, I did not know that I was looking at only part (about 2/3 to 3/4) of the final strength of any of them; the motorised tribesmen and their technicals were not on the table at all, and I was not told of the possible consequences of my choice (shifting alliances and what have you).  That made for an involving beginning, right there.  Having made a choice (based on what toys seemed to be available), then I was briefed as to the general and overall situation.

It meant you were suddenly faced with unexpected complications, and had to stretch the resources available to deal with them.  An interesting way to begin, and already I found myself thinking in terms of the situation as a problem, and how to tackle it with the resources at hand.  Instead of  listing these TO&Es in Command decision format, I'll use platoon or Company, or similar expressions.

[Picture: The Relief Column begins to carry out its orders, but is at once confronted by the Diesela Khann's Heavy Technicals in the distance.  In the brisk exchange of fire that follows, the Imperialists lose a third of their Saladin armoured cars.]

The forces available to or loyal to the Imperial Government were:
1. Imperial Garrison, Regular Army troops commanded by Lt-Col Mustafa Mustash himself:
        - Infantry Company of 3 platoons and a platoon-sized TOW team;
        - Armoured Car Company (Squadron) of 3 troops.

2. Loyalist Citizens' Protection Militia
        - Company-sized force, trained in arms, but neither as confident or as well armed as Regulars.

[Picture: Regular garrison troops begin their sweep: 1st Platoon directly towards the Mosque; and the TOW team to the east of the town (the arrow was knocked...).  Cautiously, the Commandant retains 2 platoons within his compound...]

3. Relief Column, Regular Army troops, commanded by Major Tirif Iqbal:
        - Lorried Infantry Company, with a platoon-sized unit of mechanical mule-mounted TOW weapons attached;
        - Squadron Saladin Armoured Cars;
        - Support Company with two troops of towed 106mm recoilless (RCL) rifles;

4. Desert tribesmen mounted on horses and camels - about company strength.

[Picture: The Garrison Saladin Company moves to the east end of town (the 'full advance' arrow token),  The faint arrow you see rounding the eastern outskirts is the intended further move by these vehicles.  Col Mustash planned a pincer movement.]

About to confront them in a contest for command of the Oasis Hakeem, was a polyglot but powerful force gathered under the overall leadership of the Arch-Mullah Addullah Dafullah:
1. Brotherhood of the Faithful - a band of highly experienced and fanatical (Morale 12) fighters:
         - a strong company-sized force of gunmen and infiltrators (3 infantry and 2 patrol stands)
         - a troop of 81mm mortars with extra ammunition being carried by a platoon of porters.

2. People's Liberation Front of Khand (PLFK)
         - Company of  infantry with a platoon-sized RPG-7 team attached;
         - Company of Saladin Armoured Cars.

[Picture: the PLFK forces press up against the southeastern CBD; the loyalist mounted tribesmen having faded betimes within its back streets and alleys.  The PLFK foot followed them in, but the Saladins could not follow.  In the brisk firefight was to develop shortly within the town,  the loyalists  - the tribesmen supported by the Garrison's 1st Platoon - got the better of the firefight, and contained the PLFK in a fairly confined sector.  The PLFK armoured cars withdrew discreetly about a kilometer of so south of the town.]

3. Diesela Khann Motorised Tribesmen:
         - Light Group of technicals with 3xHMG platoons and a 106mm RCL platoon;
         - Heavy Group of technicals with 2x40mm AGL and one 106mm RCL platoon.

[Picture: the Light Technicals of the Diesela Khann tribesmen sweepng around the southwest corner of the town]
First blood went to the insurgents, when Major Iqbal's armoured cars came under a brisk fire at about 1200 meters from truck mounted RCLs.  Their return fire ineffectual - a feature of the shooting be Imperial Saladins all day - the armoured cars moved forward into an angle in the town's outskirts, the duel being taken up by the Relief Column's towed RCLs...

To be continued...