Thursday, January 23, 2014

Chain of Command Modern - Bush Wars:Rhodesia - Sweep

Following on from the previous game we tried another scenario – this one involving a Sweep operation so typical of the Rhodesian War. This one invariably involves the Security Force player as the aggressor but I suspect it could be used in a hypothetical setting with more conventional forces against some adhoc Rhodesian elements, perhaps a Guard Force caught away from their protected village or a late war game involving FRELIMO forces from Mozambique pushing into Rhodesia itself or perhaps trying to throw back a Rhodesian external operation. 

..anyway, this one is a typical set up with Security Force elements vs insurgents who are on a border crossing raid - it is in the style of a Fireforce type action but does not directly represent it. The insurgents have been cornered and are now being swept to the Stop lines placed to the rear of the table (which is not represented)....a classic cordon and sweep operation.

Note – whilst Fireforce engagement are typical of mid to late war clashes in the Bush War there were many different and varied forces and engagement types happening on the Rhodesian side. The reason the Rhodesian Light Infantry figures prominently in these AARs thus far is that I am ‘stress’ testing’ asymmetric warfare concepts using Chain of Command. 

This is best done by trying to get the most contrast between the forces engaged. That’s the reason for the RLI vs Guerrilla focus. If this works then using similar troop types such as Selous Scouts and ‘C Sqn’ SAS should be achievable as well, whilst more evenly matched troops such as ZIPRA vs BSAP (British South African Police) forces will give more ‘even’ force balance mixes and present new challenges for players as troop quality, force mix and support options vary.....current results are that Chain of Command suitably adjusted, does a very good job of asymmetric actions....

c 1977, following on from the previous Fireforce action in the morning, 1 Commando was tasked with another action later in the day.

Deploying 2 Troop as a sweep force, they were to clear out the insurgents before they could bombshell and slip away…pushing them up against the stop line to the insurgents rear.

The PFR difference.
ZANLA Green; CD5 (-3)

RLI Regular;CD6 (+8)

PFR dif is +11 for ZANLA
Level Two insurgency = 4
Mujiba = 2
AK47 upgrade = 2
Deputy Leader = 1
RPD LMG (two) = 2


Scenario Support dice rolled is; RLI=3, ZANLA=n/a

RLI with their 3 extra support points take;
K-Car = 3

The Insurgent commander was set to strike a further blow against the RLI by selecting a level two insurgency. Hoping to inflict some damage and then exit the field before the sweep closed in on his position. The RLI force, flown in by Yellow 1, Yellow 2 and Yellow 3 aimed up for another action late that afternoon. The exertions of the day had the RLI force morale at a relatively low 8 (rolled a 1) whilst the local insurgent commander’s pep talk had lifted the spirits of the men and gave them a force morale of 9 (rolled a 5).

…so encouraged, the insurgents patrolled aggressively and boxed in the RLI before the encounter commenced. Despite roping in the support of the local boys (Mujiba) they did not elicit any more intel on the RLI locations, given the speed with which the RLI deployed this seemed understandable.

The first encounter had the RLI pushing forward gingerly through the scrub. The ground was entirely covered with brush and trees with only the road bisecting the centre of the field being truly open ground. This would limit small arms fire to close range, the optimum for the AK-47 armed guerrillas…so typical of this part of Rhodesia.

...pushing on, the first guerrillas were encountered. Rising from the ground the ZANLA men fired a burst with their AKs fair into the Rhodies. Taking a couple of shock they were largely unhurt by this opening exchange of poorly aimed fire…so typical of spray and pray shooters. This triggered an immediate reaction from the Stick commander…”contact, contact, contact!”….the call went over the radio net….keenly picked up by the Fireforce troop commander in K-Car 2.

…on the ground, the Stick hit the dirt and commenced firing…. the MAG LMG barked out short burst after short burst, but the guerrillas only took a modest number of hits despite all the noise…

….shortly after a lull in the firing, the distinctive ‘wocka, wocka” of rotors could be heard approaching. Not sure if they were inbound for their location the guerrillas stuck to their positions and hoped to do as much damage as possible before withdrawing, their job done…

….unfortunately the ominous silhouette of the Rhodesian killer bee K-Car could be seen in the sky above…in short order it located the guerrilla squad located to the front of Stick 1, who called in the contact….

…with its distinctive 'thump, thump', the deadly firing of the 20mm cannon rained down fire on the guerrillas, calibrated with lethal precision, several rounds landing close enough to kill 2-3 insurgents and riddle them the rest with shock… quick as it had come, it was gone, obviously low on ammo or responding to another call it flew away (end of Turn). The guerrillas, realising they needed to move off or be annihilated, ran back to a safer location and broke contact with Stick 1 to their front…. for the moment they got a reprieve…almost…..

…a follow on back to back phase saw the Rhodie Stick 1 inflict further damage to the guerrillas causing them to become pinned as it now appeared certain things would end badly at the rate they were taking fire..

..all this attention had slowed the left had sweep sticks, 1 and 2, and enabled the right hand flank guerrillas to start to put some fire, mostly nuisance, into stick 3. For the most part it didn’t amount to much as it seemed obvious the push was on the insurgent' s left wing..supported by their gunship.

..the Stick 1 leader, his blood up, seeing the confusion the insurgents were in, decided to charge the enemy position! Even though weakened and pinned, the veteran light infantrymen took a risk…combining the fire of their LMG and AKs the guerrillas fought the RLI stick to a draw, but it was too much, with excess shock, they broke.

…after this fierce engagement…and with the K-Car not being in the vicinity having left the immediate area, the insurgent commander seized his chance. Deploying two further squads into the fight to bolster his left flank he planned to draw the Rhodie into his own ambush…it worked. Firing furiously the guerrillas caused much consternation to the recently victorious but tired Rhodesian Stick. It was too much. Taking excess shock and two casualty hits the Rhodies broke and ran back into the scrub from whence they came.

…the medic tended to the wounded immediately, half the stick having been wounded, the Stick commander only lightly wounded, as was the other riflemen..all very lucky..minor wounds all round. They were good to go after a short pause (phase) but having received so much shock they were rattled by their ordeal and for now, out of the fight…. this moment the ZANLA commander really pushed his advantage. Ending the Turn he now planned on getting away, thinking he had done enough. He moved one unit back toward his dispersal point and other on his right flank. The Rhodie stick, thoroughly shaken by the hail of fire they had received retired well back out of the fight (removed from play) causing the RLI morale, already low to start with, to teeter at 1 force morale point above the victory level need by the insurgent play.

…for the moment it looked like an easy ZANLA win…despite the terror caused by the K-Car foray earlier on. With a broken RLI Stick and only one friendly unit lost and the others preparing to get away..mission accomplished!

…off course things changed….and fast…..

…getting not one, not two or three, but four back to back phases strung together, the RLI went hard. The K-Car now replenished. returned to the action and immediately set to brassing up the now ‘in the open’ ZANLA guerrillas….

…..It was an awesome display of vertical envelopment….swooping across the field, the RLI Fireforce commander, high above the action, commanded the RLI sticks to move forward and engage the insurgents.

…at the same time he instructed the Tech Gunner on the cannon to fire into all the ZANLA squads he could now see. In a matter of a few minutes the battlespace had changed completely. The insurgents, so close to slipping away having done the damage they had come to do, were now caught like wildebeests on the veldt…with no where to run they took more than they, or anyone, could take. Too fresh units broke and ran, one subsequently gunned down to a man….

…shortly after the K-Car, its work done, flew off once again (another end of turn).

…after a short pause, recovering from the shock of the previous aerial onslaught, the ZANLA leader positioned himself with the last squad in his command….however it was obvious now the battle was lost. In the dying moments of the action the remain two RLI sticks, cautiously advanced toward the last insurgent forces, mindful not to take any casualties to avoid an ‘own goal’ and allow the ZANLA guerrillas to claim a draw, placed themselves on Overwatch and awaited for their support to fly in...

… just as the two remaining sticks were in position the Killer Bee arrived once again and firing its cannon, like a deadly sting, eliminated the last of the guerrilla force on the field…

…and emphatic victory for the RLI, one they were so close to losing, at least in the eyes of the insurgents, who had come very close to victory who no doubt would be back for more…...

K-Cars live up to their name and reputation! They are indeed a lethal means of delivering firepower. We discussed whether they were too powerful but given that they can come and go, are reasonably vulnerable to enemy AA fire and that the leaders onboard need to activated, not to mention their loss having a morale effect…we felt overall the balance was about right. They should dominate against poorly armed terrs that they catch. The Insurgent player will really need to think on his force mix to counter the K-Car and his insurgency level to achieve his objectives.

If he takes heavier equipment then it can have the dual role of forming a base of fire on the ground and taking on the aerial enemy should it arrive. Alternatively he can go to ground and reduce the effect of fire but this will hand the movement initiative to the RLI stick in the Security Force player’s hands…all sounding a bit historical really. We’re still pondering whether to tone down the K-Cars a bit but overall they do much as they did historically which is the name of the game…so it close to being right.

The insurgent player needs to mindful of his exfil locations and not get to far away from them. In this game a unit was but 1” away from their dispersal point which caused the Insurgent player to hold off ending the turn so he could get his requisite two units to Gap It…that small delay resulted in the return of the K-Car which literally snatched victory from the Insurgent player’s hands…..they didn’t even have a chance to Bombshell so swift was the aerial assault….

Some more refinement of the COIN concepts for the insurgents point of view and how the Security Force player interacts with them are to be refined  but overall the outcomes are pretty good…..

Here is a small article on a Rhodesian Light Infantry operation in Mozambique...

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!