Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chain of Command Modern - Bush Wars:Rhodesia - Ambush

An AAR on a game pulling together some ideas about using Chain of Command in a modern setting. In this case it is for the Rhodesian 'Bush War' in the 1960s and '70s.

Ambush scenario

A Bush War encounter - Rhodesia c 1977

….we tried out ideas we have for the Bush War. Early days on this but here's the flow of the action to give you a taste of what’s possibly with Modern CoC. No pics on this one.

c 1977, a Fireforce action is underway 3 miles to the east of your current location. A ZANLA insurgent ambush platoon has been lying in wait on what was the only road that the Security Forces could have used to bring their ‘land tail’ into the fight. They plan on ambushing this land tail, striking a blow and getting out of there! They plan on a level one insurgency action needing only to inflict modest amounts of damage before moving off.  They will use a mine so increasing their level of success requirements a bit.

The Rhodesian force is a Troop of RLI from the Support Commando company in three trucks racing to reinforce a planned Alpha Stop Line location to encircle the terrs……or so they thought…..

The preliminary Ambush phase resulted in the Hasty Ambush not being discovered. The convoy was moved slightly to the Insurgent’s advantage to make maximum use of the brush near the roadside….overall, a good start for the ZANLA force.

The action opened up with the mine exploding and destroying the second truck. Unfortunately for the RLI player the mine did not strike his protected vehicle but a soft skin Bedford instead. …boom…it flipped on its side, a riflemen injured, becoming a casualty and temporarily out of action. The rest of the Stick took some shock but debussed on the side of the road tending their wounds.

The second phase of the ambush resulted in the deployment of the ZANLA force leader and his squad which unloaded their AK magazines at point blank range into the rear vehicle…hoping to trap the RLI force and push it into the jaws of the ambush further up the road.

…with a deafening roar the AK riddled the side of the tail end Unimog totally destroying the vehicle…exploding as the troopies piled out the side to save their lives. A savage fire, one troopie went down as a casualty and 10 shock was unloaded on the clearly unnerved Rhodies….they broke, dragging their buddy along, they scampered into the scrub, pinned, exhausted and for now, out of the fight.

At this point the insurgent player had forced the morale of the RLI to drop by one (from 11 to 10) but he had inflicted two casualties, not yet dead.…further dropping the enemy morale and possibly enough for his mission to be complete….all in all, the insurgent commander, whilst hoping for a better body count, was reasonably satisfied.

….then the initiative passed to the RLI…

The young troop sergeant assessed the situation. He had one Stick pinned and broken, no immediate use to anyone but safe. Another had a casualty and needed to get off the road and seek cover before they could do anything to help, but his lead stick was good to go. Taking the fight straight to the greatest threat the Fns and MAG LMG poured a fire into the guerrillas in the scrub near the road that had destroyed the rear end Unimog. Though in cover they  were easy targets with such a weight of fire at point blank range. In one savage burst  4 terrs dropped. By getting a back to back phases the fire continued, this time dropping another two terrs and the leader went down with a wound. With six dead and shock now at 4 the squad broke and ran.

The next phase saw the ZANLA commander unable to react as his Command Dice scores built up the CoC dice, which could be useful, but no action with any leaders as the senior force leader did not have any troops to command! He hoped his ‘big man’ would be able to take over the action whilst he limped away….

Next phase started a ‘pepper pot’ run for the lead RLI Stick.  Having neutralised the initial ambush threat they ran across some open ground and pushed toward a yet to be used enemy jump off point in the nearby scrub - getting yet a further follow on phase they crossed the enemy JOP, shutting it down, and then opening up fire on the ‘left jaw’ of the insurgent ambush. Causing two casualties and two shock the sheer firepower, aggressiveness and lethality of the RLI stick was now a cause for deep concern for the ZANLA commander.

…the action now shifted to the ZANLA commander . He needed to restore the situation and stop the lead rampaging RLI Stick.  He did have some aces in his hand however. He could nowcall on his ‘big man’ to activate a squad and bring both the two remaining squads into action with their RPD LMGs and a yet to be deployed RPG…a substantial amount of firepower. If he could just stop that lead RLI stick he might do enough damage to then withdraw and claim a victory.

…not enough. An abysmal command roll had only one squad activated, one more CoC dice added (now 4) but it was all let down by atrocious shooting, causing only one shock on the RLI Stick…defiantly not enough...

…next phase the RLI Stick opened up again but this time caused no losses and only minor shock… doubt sensing the slackening fire the ZANLA terrs pushed in as much fire into this hyper aggressive Stick as possible and now both sides of the jaw unleashed everything they had. The RPG popped his head up and it went whistling by the Stick commander (only just missing!). Whilst no wounds were suffered they took a huge amount of fire causing them 7 shock and nearly resulting in them being pinned….head down, stay down!!

Things were starting to get a bit touch and go for the Rhodie commander. If his main ‘running’ Stick was pinned that would mean two RLI sticks down, with the third one man incapacitated and the other also with a casualty, the RLI commander could be about to lose the initiative for the entire engagement.

….with the build up of the ZANLA player’s CoC dice and no end of turn on the command dice rolls…which must surely come,  both sides now figured it must only be a matter of time before the Turn ends and the RLI casualties bleed out…their force morale reducing. He rolls his CD and gets two more 5s allowing him to play the CoC dice immediately and call for a Casevac. At the same time he removes some shock off both his Sticks in preparation for an end of turn so as to unpin one or possibly two units so he can keep the fight going... hopefully he can get his casualties away before that occurs….so a short period of recovery and forward planning for the Rhodie, but he wasn't to get it so easy off course.

…the ZANLA insurgents could smell blood. Rolling well, both squads activated and once again fired effectively causing yet more shock on the ‘running’ RLI Stick - it now having shock equal to its men…so it teetered on being pinned. The Force leader ran into a nearby shack in an effort to hook up with the main squads still engaged. The RPG failed to hit again (snake eyes…must have been a miss fire!) but the weight of fire from two squads on one RLI stick was having an effect. With the other sticks still not yet active with so much else going on….they needed to get into the fight…...

…things were getting tight!

…calling in the Casevac G-Car, which still didn’t arrive, fortunately the phase is still a good one for the Rhodies. They get back to back turns and with the ‘running' Stick teetering on being pinned the Stick leader removes a shock and orders a sustained fire…it gets the job down. Even though still carrying some shock the shear weight and volume of fire from the FN-FALs and FN-MAGs takes its toll on the inexperienced guerrillas. Unleashing a devastating series of short bursts the left hand, closest, ZANLA unit takes two dead and 5 shock…it breaks. With this the ZANLA commander can now see he is up against it. With still one unit yet to commit he must now deploy this unit exactly at the right place to derive the maximum benefit.

….However the back to back phase has afforded the RLI leader an opportunity to race onto the ZANLA jump off point and shut it down…if he falls short or fails to get another back to back phase a ZANLA unit could pop up in front of him and unleash a fresh unit of AK-47 armed guerrillas right in front of his Stick….which the veteran RLI commander suspects.

…deliberating for  a second, he acts. Using his ‘pepper pot’ movement he races toward the ZANLA position…but unfortunately the heavy burden of shock has slowed his men down too much….they move forward to slowly, advancing little more than 10 yards before they hit the deck and take a huge volley of fire from an unseen enemy…

….with no back to back phase the RLI leader’s luck has run out. To his front emerges an as yet unseen (undeployed) ZANLA unit. Rising from the ground they unleash a murderous volley. This time they did not aim high. In a blink the RLI squad is caught and riddled with bullets, 3 of the 4 men going down…the Stick leader is still OK but his Stick is finished….in a heartbeat a fleeting opportunity has turned into disaster for the RLI commander. Further to that the ZANLA CoC dice is now at 5 and if the casevac does not arrive next phase then there is the possibility of losing 5 out of 12 men in this deadly ambush encounter.

…from a rapidly deteriorating position the engagement has turned on its head. The ZANLA commander now senses victory.

…on the next phase the G-Car does not arrive…it is fatal. Stick 1 is pinned, Stick 3 is pinned and broken and Stick 2, now leaving behind their wounded comrade, races to aid Stick 1 which is in so much trouble. As they run through the bush they hear yet more AK fire….

…the ZANLA commander pushes his advantage. He now rejoins the last squad on the hill in the scrub and screams at his men to fire. The bullets fly into the hapless, brave, yet foolhardy, Stick 1.  Taking a further 4 shock and a loss the entire Stick is now down wounded…

…at this time the ZANLA player plays his CoC dice and ends the turn…no G-Car in sight. With that there are multiple losses on table for the RLI player resulting in his Force morale dropping from ten to one!! The end of the Turn also saw the the broken ZANLA units scamper which also caused their force morale down from six to one!!

…so began the next Turn with both sides well and truly exhausted, neither capable of achieving any outright victory. Stick 1, lamenting the loss of the riflemen pushed on and spied the lone RPG gunner in the scrub…drawing a bead, the MAG gunner fired a volley and RPGer dropped to the ground…another team lost and ZANLA’s force morale drops to zero…the engagement is over.

The remaining ZANLA squad, force leader attached, slinks away knowing he has dealt the RLI a savage blow even though it cost his men dearly as well…

..battle end!

OBSERVATIONS close an encounter as you can get! 

Perhaps the RLI commander was over playing his hand with the final attack knowing there could have been more enemy yet to deploy, but a rush of blood to his head let the ZANLA force back into the contest when maybe they shouldn’t have been allowed. Even though the casevac didn’t turn up, if Stick 1 had reducing their shock some more and brought forward support troops in Stick 2 to go on overwatch they could have moved on the enemy jump off point whilst Stick 2 provided covering or overwatch fire.

If that had occurred it would likely have resulted in only a a force morale drop of 4 points or so based on the losses up to that point.That alone would’ve gone close to the Level 2 insurgency victory condition being met so that was still on offer for the ZANLA player. As it was for this scenario the RLI rolled  6 for his force morale so starting at FM 11, which was going to be a hard ask to get them to 4…losses were the only way that was going to happen.

For the RLI Player he would likely have been able to keep his force morale around the 5 he needed for victory and still be able to reduce the ZANLA FM to zero..that to was finely balanced and possible also.

So from a balance point of view, the scenario played out very well.

The opening ambush produced marginal results really, bad tactics here, and the response by the RLI was very positive with a number of back to back phases in a row..three at one point, so whilst this denied the RLI player of lots of activity in any one phase he was able to push hard where he wanted with a successions of move and fire actions that enabled him to wrestle back the initiative after the initial ambush….turning into the ambush historical tactics worked though his command dice really helped him recover

The Ambush worked very well. It was quick and easy to set up and all flowed nicely….tick! The deployment to ambush and double phase also worked really well to allow the ambushing force that chance to try and dig in at the enemy. I think the ZANLA play in future should be to get on as many troops as possible and lay down as much fire as they can in those first two phases.

One thing that is of note is the power of those RLI Sticks …they really are lethal, if a little brittle. It really does capture the effectiveness of these small but powerful teams on the COIN battlefield.  They can take a lot of shock  (Aggressive trait now allowing for double shock to accumulated)) which had the absolute desired effect. It all hung together very well and captured the period well whilst both sides were in it right to the end. 

The ZANLA player probably could have spent more time trying to remove off shock but with 4 command dice he really had his hands full just staying with the RLI player if he pushes…a tactic for the SF player for sure…grab them by the horns and do not give them a chance to rest and recoup.

So, all in all, a cracking good game - fast fluid, brutal. Historical tactics worked and the mistakes made by both sides made the difference. The game played out in less than 2 hours and rumbled along with lots of tactical decision and game ‘high points’…all excellent stuff!!

...and here is a real report that is kind of similar!

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