Monday, February 24, 2014

Operation Yodel, Sep 1966 - Zambesi Valley


In this game we are taking a different tack to the full platoon level action which is typical of many Rhodesian War engagements. In the early years of the Zambesi Insurgency, many of the actions were quite small, virtually skirmishes in the scheme of things to come. In fact many of these engagements are best represented by squad level actions and rules aimed at that level of game. To that end, the use of Chain of Command would 'wash away' some aspects of this squad approach as those rules do not really allow for individual figure actions in a game of only 10-15 figures. Simply put, they are not suited to squad level games. Whilst not usually a game size I would normally play the opportunity to try to represent these small level action using the Ganesha Games system 'Flying Lead' seemed like a good idea. 

To my surprise, these rules and the level of action portrayed generated an excellent scenario and in fact these rules fill a niche for these 'sub platoon level' games so it all worked out rather well....on to the action.


In 1966 The Rhodesian security forces launched Operation Yodel in response to an insurgent incursion across the Zambesi. One group, led by Comrade Mpofu, crossed at Chete island near Kariba into the Lupane Tribal Trust Lands, his mission, to train and subvert the local populace and lead attacks on any white farms he encountered.

This scenario is based on a ZANLA incursion and the Rhodesian response to the operation centred on a small grazing property, Walker Farm......


Walker Farm, a small wooden building surrounded by a wooden fence, worked with the help of local tribesmen and supporting open grazing livestock. Following a tip-off the family have locked themselves in the building awaiting the arrival of the local defence forces, who have been notified of the terrorists/insurgents in the area.






..shaking out into line, the patrol commander decides to use his Gun Group as a base of fire sending them through the scrub parallel to the road under the command of his corporal. He will move with the Rifle group further into the scrub and flank the insurgents to relieve the civilians in the farm. His two troopies will form a local reserve to be used as the situation demands...









Comrade Mpofu has a plan of his own. Moving from the small gomo (hill) near the farm he will send his RPG gunner to destroy the building, set up his RPD machine gunner along the road nestled into the hard cover of the rocks and push the rest of his insurgents along the road using and interdict any Security Force that tries to relieve the farmstead from the gomo above...











...as it turns out the patrol commander took a good deal of time to get his orders understood and the insurgents were able to get something of the 'the jump' on the Rhodesians. For a while it seems that the opportunity to catch the insurgents before they were able to attack the farm would pass. Comrade Mpofu pushed his men up into position and the the plan was set. ...

...once his orders were issued, the Rhodies moved out. After an initial slow start the Rifle Group pushed up in to a small series low rise mounds and through the scrub to set up a fire position subsequent to a sweep line to drive of the guerrillas...





















...as can be seen, the RPG is positioning for the shot on the farmstead, the RPD machine gun, though having gone to ground still covers the road approach and the insurgent CTs are well placed to bring fire on the Rhodesian Security Forces...

....the Rhodesian rifle group has moved quickly and is now well placed to prevent the RPG insurgent from taking his shot, if they can fire in time. The Gun group is a little slow but still able to bring fire onto the group of CTs on the gomo and the HQ rifle group is nicely ensconced behind some heard cover....








...this insurgent has gone to ground having taken some rifle fire from the Rhodies behind the rocks...







...as Mpofu had hoped, his RPG shooter is in position to take a close range shot and destroy the squatter's home...


...aim....



...quickly boys, push forward....



"...here they come, safety to full auto!..."


"there they are!...contact, contact, contact!.."













...the insurgent rifle squad on the gomo starts peppering the Rhodies taking cover behind the rocks down near the road....causing one casualty, he hits the ground out of action....










"...fire!!!!!"







...the RPG cadre, at Comrade Mpofu's command, fires and the missile goes hurtling toward the building. It hit directly on the door, such a perfect shot it goes through the door and out the other side of the building, exploding as it exits through the back wall!!!....the windows shatter but the structure is left intact.....a good shot but it does not destroy the building as planned. The occupants cower in side, shaken but alive...




...thinking that they may be too late the Rhodie rifle group opens up on the RPG guerrilla before he can reload, and despite a good degree of cover, the Rhodesians find the mark and kill the RPG shooter outright....a good shot!




...a general firefight now breaks out...the insurgent forces fail to activate at a crucial time and the Rhodesian riflemen pour in accurate fire. They kill a couple of CTs outright, one as a gory death causing a morale check...in the exchange, Comrade Mpofu is hit and morale tests now come thick and fast for the insurgents...



..on the gomo where the insurgent rifle group is positioned, they come under intense fire from the MAG machine gun and take several hits....this triggers a general morale test for all troop as their casualties have now hit more than half their force.....


...with their leader down, and now no way to achieve any hope of fire superiority or further damage to the Rhodesian section, the insurgent forces pull back and break off the action leaving the field to the enemy....effectively bomb-shelling from the engagement....their mission somewhat incomplete.....

...so ending the battle.......

Summary
A sharp, tense and swift little engagement!

Despite the low figure count in this action it proved a fluid and engaging encounter.

The game started off with a number of quick activations for the CT player and for a time it looked like he was on track for an easy victory...simply get close, fire the RPG, hit a few SF soldiers and get away...it was all looking so good!

Off course it didn't end up like that. The higher quality of the SF forces ultimately allowed them to push up, despite their slow start, and get their troops into position and pour a good deal of firepower into the insurgent cadres as several failed activation rolls. Comrade Mpofu couldn't be everywhere to control the action and with an activation quality die roll of 5+ this sort of thing was likely to occur.

The rules themselves worked quite well for this level of game as mentioned in the intro. The combat medic rule resulted in the two Rhodesian Out of Action soldiers recovering from their wounds so historical loss ratios and effects were modeled quite well. The inclusion of an in game CASEVAC option would add another layer of texture and provide for the inclusion of some nice 'toys' to be used in play. The opportunity for a small campaign system given the relatively quick games  bodes well for representing the Rhodesian War on his scale.

A point to bear in mind will be that players will need to be disciplined to ensure forces don't creep up beyond the 10-15 figure mark. For the most part the game is driven by leaders with group moves of up to 5 figures per group being an efficient way to manoeuvre troops. Regardless of quality though the temptation to use figures on an individual activation basis is core to the game system, so limiting a player's 'pieces' will keep the game moving along.

We allowed the Rhodesian Section to use the rule allowing NCOs to issue group orders within short range and this seemed appropriate given the command structure of a regular army unit. The CT organisation does not have this ability and rightly so.

Flying Lead (by Ganesha Games) is a 'generic' system and the supplement for Afghanistan and Iraq shows just how period focused they can become. I think a tailored supplement for specific periods will provide the best use of the rules and a Rhodesian War supplement would be a very good candidate for making them work best in Africa. The Hearts and Minds Iraq supplement has a number of event cards that easily fit in for use in the Bush War and we'll be including them in any future games we play.,..it's got a lot of very good info and as it uses Flying Lead in a Counter-Insurgency conflict many of the same factors apply to Rhodesia, so is worth getting even if you don't want to game that conflict....both Flying Lead and H&M are very reasonably priced as downloadable PDFs.

The low level individual focus of the game makes their use for specific engagements of the Rhodesian War work better than a platoon level set as individual characteristics can be highlighted and in fact form part of the game. This type of gaming is just above role playing which is on the cusp of game/simulations I prefer, but by not over doing the individual characteristics play is smoothed out and flows nicely.

Small patrol level actions fought by Selous Scouts patrols for example would be handled well by this rule system I think. Similarly, the many cross border raids by Insurgent forces also provide focus from a different perspective that the game allows for with its many trait driven mechanics. The vehicle rules look a little more detailed but with only one or two vehicles on-table this shouldn't overburden the system.

Larger operations of platoon level raids or actions fought by both sides would be better simulated using Chain of Command, so in this regard the two rule systems complement each other for the Bush War covering most if not all of the types of battles of the conflict.

....recommended.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rhodesian Regulars...c.1969

...in the previous post we saw the better part of two African nationalist platoons of ZIPRA and ZANLA insurgents. Here we see their adversaries that fought them in the insurgency campaigns of the mid to late 1960s in the Zambesi Valley. Often when we think of the Rhodesian Bush War it's focused heavily on the mid to late 1970s when the Rhodesian Fireforce units are in full swing....RLI, Selous Scouts, SAS...they're all there doing that 'vertical envelopment' and 'external' thing.


However in the 1960s the Rhodesians laid the ground work for all that went afterwards and many of the veterans of the later years cut their teeth on the insurgency campaigns of the 1960s, of which they were very successful. This time period provides for many platoon level operations as the insurgent forces, mostly ZIPRA, learn't 'new ways' to take on their enemy after having suffered trying to beat them at their own game.

Nevertheless, the forces of this time are slightly more balanced as the overwhelming firepower, personified by Fireforce operations, had not yet taken hold in the typical Rhodesian operations of the 1960s of which there were so many...so lots of good gaming potential and something a bit different.

...These troops can represent most any Rhodesian forces of that time. Out bush they could be in full camouflage or mixed as I have depicted them here. They could be early PATU or BSAP forces and might even work for reserve forces of the 1970s.

I've organised them as a standard Commonwealth Platoon typical of the Rhodesians before they moved to the small 4-man Stick organisation driven by their Fireforce doctrine utilising the 4-man Alouette helicopter. In the 1960s however a platoon had a Section made up of a Rifle Group of five men with FN-FALs and a Gun Group with a FN-MAG and two riflemen in support. There are three of these per platoon, each with a section command group and platoon HQ. This is the force below.

I went with a two tone paint scheme mostly because they are visually interesting with the green shirt and camo combination which I like, and as there was so much variation within the Rhodesian forces its almost anything goes! Pictures of the RLI of this time show them exactly in this kit. The astute buyer of Eureka Rhodesian War minis will see I've snuck in a few Portuguese miniatures as well. They fit in perfectly and many a Rhodesian soldier had personalised kit utilising items of Portuguese origin. The Sterling SMG was still used by the Rhodesians also so these fit in no problem....all together a very nice look.

The figures are from the Aden British range by Kosta Herko courtesy of Eureka miniatures who makes them. Paint time on these was about 10 hours (4 days painting)...very easy. Even the camo wasn't too painful once I got the 'production line' going.

I think you would agree they are indeed lovely sculpts with superb levels of detail, nicely animated and they really look the part......next stop...Victoria Falls!










Full Platoon. x3 sections and Platoon HQ