Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BATREP: Exploitation Scenario

We had another game of Fistful of TOWs this week, set in our 2025 campaign setting. This time the scenario was “exploitation”, with the RED side defending and BLUE attacking. A little bit more about the scenario for those without the FFT rulebook:

  • 6’x4’ table, baselines are the long-edge.
  • 8 turn duration
  • Attacker got 10,000 points, and entered from his base table-edge using moving deployment. Flank Deployment is allowed. No pre-planned artillery or airstrikes.
  • Defender got 2/3 of the attacker’s points (ie. 6,666 pts). Defender got to set up on-table, up to halfway across the table.
  • Each side gained 1 VP each for occupying the middle table third, and 1 VP for occupying the table third closest to the defender’s table-edge.

The table is shown below. Similar to the last game, the battlefield had plenty of light woods and hills. The road network, linking several small towns, provided a couple of fast avenues for movement. In the SE corner of the battlefield there was also a narrow, fordable, stream.

The site of the battle

Once again, my RED units were from the 2nd Mechanised Division. However, I had fewer points available than I did in the last scenario and I still wanted sufficient troops to cover the large frontage I had to defend. So this time, my troops were from the 22nd Motorised Brigade, one of the Division’s two Motorised Brigades (in BTR-80s). I had three Infantry battalions in BTR-80s (each company also had a platoon of BTR-80As), plus the Brigade’s tank Battalion with ‘PT-91 with ERAWA2’ (the Reds recently upgraded all their old T-72s to this standard, and these equip tank units in the Motorised Brigades). I also had my Brigade Artillery Battalion (with Czech 152mm Dana wheeled SP guns) the usual Brigade support Companies (SAM, AT, Engineers, Recon), and because I suspected John would bring Helicopters and/or Airstrikes I also got an extra company of SAMs from the Divisional AA Battalion (two platoons of Tunguskas). All rated “Fair” quality.

One interesting thing with the Red Motorised Battalions is that they have gone with SP Mortars to boost their otherwise weak firepower. They have three platoons of 2S23 Nona 120mm Gun-Mortars (2S9 turret on BTR-80) at battalion level, giving them the option of retaining them centrally at battalion level for indirect fire support, or allocating them down to the battalion’s companies for direct area fire support (enough for one platoon per company).
As per the last game, the BLUE units were selected from the US Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). Once again, John had gone high-quality and high-tech. The core of his force was a Stryker Infantry Battalion (of three companies, plus Battalion support elements). These had plenty of support assets, including:
  • two Companies of M1A2 SEP tanks;
  • a battalion of M-777 towed artillery with HE and ICM, plus GPS-guided Excalibur ammunition (9 fire units!);
  • an A-10 flight loaded up with Napalm and Guided-bombs;
  • his Battalion and Company 120mm Mortars also fired M395 GPS-guided ammunition.
All of the US troops were rated “Good” quality.

The initial plans for the two sides are shown below.

The RED (defender) and BLUE (attacker) sketch plan
For those wondering about this, we ‘borrow’ an aspect from the Modern Spearhead rules, in order to reduce the player’s omnipotent view of the game (well initially at least). We require each player to commit their units to an initial plan, which they then implement in the early turns of the game. The plan for the units can only be changed once enemy units are spotted (on a Friction response die roll).
We think this works quite well in reducing players’ reactions to troops that they would not, in reality, know about (since they’re un-spotted). It also increases the need for, and utility of, recon units and forces at least some rudimentary pre-planning.

The initial plans are written to take the armies up to the point when the players think they'll need changing due to likely contact with the enemy. This is probably why the BLUE orders do not plan to penetrate all the way into the RED deployment zone.

The RED deployment had four company-sized security positions as far forward in the deployment zone as possible (so right up to halfway). These were one company from each battalion, with the fourth (on the right flank) comprising the Brigade Recon Company). These were intended to spot for indirect fire on the advancing enemy, as well as to force attacks on them, taking up precious time (ie. turns). If the company positions were bypassed, they had sufficient firepower to inflict some damage with flank shots on the passing enemy, using LAWs, MAWs and Tanks (each company had a Platoon of MBTs attached). In scenario terms, these also occupied the middle third of the table, securing 1 VP.

The remainder of each RED Infantry Battalion (two companies, plus battalion assets) were deployed further back (in the defender’s third of the table, securing the second VP). Each also had a tank company of two platoons attached (ie. minus the platoon attached to the security position companies). Each flanking battalion also had a platoon of Tunguska SAMs from the Brigade AA Company, and the centre battalion had the two-platoon Tunguska Company attached from Division.

The Brigade Reserve was held centrally to the rear. It comprised the Brigade Engineer Company and Brigade AT Company.

Anticipating heavy use of BLUE air and artillery assets, all of the RED dispositions made maximum use of reverse slopes and crests of hills, plus other forms of spotting cover (ie. woods and towns). This also provided maximum utility for what I thought was likely to be my main deterrent threat against penetration of my position – the Infantry’s MAWs (Spike-SR and Spike-LR ATGMs).

The BLUE plan involved two combat team advance routes. Each Combat Team comprised a Stryker Infantry company and an M1A2 SEP tank company. The third Stryker Infantry Company was tasked with a deep flank march, from turn six. The battalion Recon platoon positioned itself on the high ground on the right of the BLUE advance, spotting for Indirect Fire and Air-Strikes.

initial deployments
the RED right flank

RED central deployment 
RED left flank deployment
RED left-centre deployment
the RED Reserve - BTR-90's of the Bde AT Company (foreground)
and Engineer Company in BTR-80s (central) 

In the first few turns of the game, the BLUE units advanced slowly, taking up positions in cover and trying to spot the RED troops, in order to bring the superior BLUE fire support to bear. The RED deployment thwarted these plans, offering very few spotting opportunities. Some artillery fire occurred, with an unusually high number of SNAFU results for the US Artillery, which seemed to be in need of some ‘refresher training’!

Central US Tank Company and Strykers

US troops on their left flank entered through the town
A number of RED platoons in the open on the reverse slopes of hills (so covered from spotting) made use of the time to dig hasty entrenchments for their protection if the enemy crested the hills.

entrenchment markers show RED troops dug in on the reverse slopes
The middle turns of the game were characterised by the central Stryker Infantry company advancing up onto the wooded hill in the centre of the RED position, and a brutal and protracted assault on the company security position there. Over several turns, artillery and mortars dropped multi-spectral smoke covering the US advance, and the Stryker company successfully moved up, dismounted, and engaged in short range fire (2” spotting range inside the light woods) against the defenders.

plenty of smoke covers the coming US attack on the central RED company security position
The Strykers move up to the woods and Infantry dismount
The Stryker Infantry Company assaults through the light woods, direct fire and artillery.
The RED 152mm howitzer battalion pins the advancing infantry and MGS
The defending RED company returned direct fire from their infantry, as well as a supporting BTR-80A, which survived several attempted shots from the Stryker company’s Mobile Gun System platoon (with 105mm gun!). In addition, the RED artillery battalion successfully suppressed multiple US platoons over a number of turns. The action culminated in a close assault by the Stryker company. During all of this, both sides lost two platoons of Infantry and a couple of vehicle stands (BTRs and Strykers). With the arrival of the RED Engineer Company on their flank, the Strykers and remaining infantry platoon pulled back into the woods and went into all-round defence in case of counter-attack (the engineers had been dispatched from the Brigade reserve, to plug the gap resulting from the likely loss of the Infantry Company under assault).

casualties mount on the Stryker Company
The RED Engineers arrive from Reserve,
but the BTR-80A platoon is targeted by artillery and the Stryker MGS

...and the defending RED infantry and BTR-80A are destroyed
Meanwhile, on the BLUE right flank the other Stryker Infantry Company had also edged forward behind screening smoke into a wooded area. Still unable to spot anything, they were reluctant to move forward towards the unseen enemy they knew were defending the hills and woods to their front.

Stryker Company occupies the woods on the US right flank

The Recon Platoon successfully called in multiple artillery strikes on RED Platoons, however only resulting in pinning of the target platoons. No targets were considered high-value enough for the BLUE commander to use his A-10 strikes or Excalibur PGMs.

The Stryker Recon Platoon moves into the woods
on the high ground on the US far right flank
This action took the game up to turn six. At this stage, John announced his flank marching force, which promptly failed the die roll to enter the table. 

Artillery exchanges continued during turns six and seven, and the flank-marching force again failed to come on in turn seven. Surprisingly to me as the RED commander, the US M1A2s stayed completely out of action, waiting in woods for an opportunity to be released into a weakened gap that never eventuated.

The M1A2 SEPs stayed in this position all game!

At the end of turn seven, I was sitting pretty for a narrow win. The middle table third was contested, so there were no VPs there for anyone. And I had control of the defender table third, and its associated VP. All I had to do was hope that the flank-marchers failed to arrive again…

So of course, they arrived on turn 8!!
And they arrived in a burst of fury. They moved onto the table, through the light woods, and into the rear of my right-flank battalion. They called artillery, dismounted the infantry and assaulted my troops. I had a 2S23 which attempted to engage the attackers with its gun-mortar, but to little effect. The star of this action was the Stryker Company’s MGS platoon, which destroyed the 2S23 platoon, a BTR80A platoon and an Infantry Platoon (we have given Stryker MGS the CITV ability, to reflect its current capabilities, so no loss of ROF when engaging multiple targets).

the flank-marching Stryker Company arrives
...and attacks the rear of the RED right flank battalion
I now had the final turn (my turn eight) to try and break this company and snatch back the VP that was currently denied. I threw everything within range into the counter-attack. This included three platoons of Infantry (from two companies), a PT-91 MBT platoon and multiple BTR-80 and BTR-80A platoons.

It went badly. The defending US Strykers, MGS and Infantry destroyed pretty much all of the assaulting force (Strykers with AGLs are surprisingly good against BTRs and Infantry!). The MGS easily dispatched the tank platoon.

The RED counter-attack is a disaster!

This didn’t matter in the scheme of things as I still held the defender’s table third, but I failed to repel the attackers contesting the zone, so no VPs for either of us. Another Draw!

So what lessons did we take away from the game?
It was an interesting game. John spent about 2,000 points (out of 10,000) on expensive high-tech artillery and airstrikes that he couldn’t use due to the defender deployment denying his opportunities to spot. So the deployment negated 20% of his points.

The US troops were vastly out-numbered albeit by inferior equipment and troop quality. However there were minimal gaps in the deployment able to be exploited without very serious losses from concealed defending infantry with ATGMs. The older PT-91 MBTs stiffening the infantry units also could not be ignored, since their 125mm guns could destroy even an M1A2 from the flank, and with luck even from the front, if targets moved into range of their concealed positions.

 This scenario was very difficult for a small force to win, even with a significant advantage in point values. Even concentrating an aggressive attack with his full force on a single defending battalion would have taken a number of turns and probably resulted in serious casualties to BLUE. And then there would still be two other battalions occupying the zones required to earn VPs! Very tough, and BLUE did OK to achieve a draw in the scenario in my opinion.


  1. Great report, thanks!
    Excellent terrain and units.

    How do you find FFoT stands up to post-modern levels of tech & ratings?
    I am interested to know what other rules you have found work well with FFoT.

  2. I've been finding FFT pretty good with the ultra-modern tech and ratings.

    There are a couple of things not specifically covered (eg. newest ammo types, UAVs, newest active-protection systems, etc). But we've just been house-ruling these as we go, by modifying existing rules.