Thursday, October 30, 2014

OZ INVADED! Campaign Rules


They've been a long time in the making, but finally they're here. I've added links to my campaign rules and map over on the right. Also below:

Oz Invaded!! - Campaign Rules

Oz Invaded! Campaign Map

Games will follow! I plan to keep the blog updated with battle-reports and a record of events.

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.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"We're surrounded!!" - part 3

As the Red commander, I soon realised I had to take some risks to achieve something.

The US tanks were in good positions covering the open ground around them and not allowing my troops to get around their flanks. I saw what they had done to one of my T-90 battalions frontally, and didn't feel like risking the other.

I also realised that my BMP-3s, despite being very heavily armed for an IFV (100mm gun, 30mm cannon, tube-launched ATGM) could not harm the M1A2s, except with an ATGM shot to the flank armour. And I wasn't going to get any of those from my current positions. And worse, the northern most M1A2 company was now in position to engage and destroy multiple BMPs in the light woods per turn, which they started doing.

But I did have something that could harm the M1A2s - my Red Infantry dismounts were luck enough to be armed with Spike SR as their MAW. These missiles are relatively short range, but are top-attack and can therefore penetrate the M1A2's top (flank) armour. So, I decided to take the somewhat drastic action of dismounting my infantry from both battalions, and moving them forward to engage the M1s.

RED Infantry moves forward from their BMPs, covered by the light woods

I was able to make use of cover from the woods and hills scattered around, moving forward over several turns towards the US MBTs, until the Red infantry were positioned in covered positions in light woods to the front of the US tanks, but also luckily within the range of their Spike SRs. Meanwhile, both of my Artillery battalions were hitting and suppressing this M1A2 company.

The other battalion also moves forward

Two battalions of 152mm Artillery pins one M1A2 platoon and destroys a second

In a single turn, my luck changed on this front. My artillery caused a failed quality check on one of the M1A2 platoons, destroying it due to failed morale, and pinned the second tank platoon. Two of my infantry platoons took a shot at the other visible M1A2 platoon in the heavy woods with their MAWs. I got very lucky (or John very unlucky). Both ATGMs hit, he failed both terrain cover saves, and I brewed up the M1A2 platoon. The Third platoon of the MBT company subsequently failed its quality check (for unit losses) and retired to the rear.

RED Infantry in the tree-line destroy a second M1A2 platoon with Spike-SR MAWs

As this was going on, John's Stryker company performed a sneaky, but very successful infiltration through the woods on the eastern flank, attacking my Brigade HQ and reserve. He dismounted his infantry, and swept through from my HQ's flank through the woods. His infantry close-assaulted, destroying my HQ, and the defending Engineer company. His Strykers subsequently mounted up and drove north, un-opposed, to their objective (the river).

Stryker Infantry on the move - dismounts lead through the light woods

They move into the flank of the unsuspecting RED Brigade HQ (top) and Engineer Company, in reserve
The RED Engineers dismount, but were close-assaulted by the US Infantry

That's how the game ended. The US SBCT had earned 1 VP for exiting a unit. The Red Mech Brigade had earned 1 VP for killing 1/3 of the US units (one of their 3 companies - an MBT company). A draw, but the US troops had inflicted very heavy casualties against overwhelming odds.

"We're surrounded!!" - part 2

First turn deployment saw the armies revealed as shown below.

Initial deployment - turn 1
The US troops deployed with both tank companies in the west, moving to occupy hull-down positions on the large dominating ridgeline. The Stryker Infantry company was positioned on the S-N road on the eastern side of the battlefield. Ready to react and exploit any gaps in the Red defences.

Two US M1A2 SEP companies head for the ridgeline
US Stryker Infantry Company advances up the eastern road

RED Mech. Battalion (in BMP-3s) starts occupying the tree-line (light woods)
...and the other one occupies the town

RED T-90 Tank Battalions advance onto the battlefield - seeking contact
Both our plans worked almost immediately. John's Abrams MBTs occupied the ridgeline commanding the battlefield, and my first tank battalion certainly got its wish and encountered the enemy. Unfortunately they did it whilst crossing open ground. The M1A2s opened fire, maximising their superior range, gunnery (crew quality) and rate of fire (using CITV). The majority of the T-90 battalion was destroyed in a single turn (seven platoons!). Needless to say, the remainder of the battalion failed their quality check at the end of the turn and turned tail and ran. A good start for the US defenders.

RED T-90s push forward
M1A2 SEPs take position on the ridgeline (hull-down)
...and the inevitable happens. The first T-90 battalion was almost wiped out in one turn!
The next few turns saw one of the US tank companies push forward along the ridgeline, to take up a position in the dense woods at the northern end of the ridgeline. A US Recon Stryker also pushed forward, calling artillery and mortar fire onto the defending BMPs in the woods.

The second T-90 battalion sits in reverse slope, waiting, having seen what happened to their comrades...
The game settled down into an artillery duel for a couple of turns, with both sides taking cover in the woods, and calling artillery to try and destroy / suppress their opponents. The US came out on top in this duel, as John had wisely purchased ICM for his guns, which he used to great effect. Several Infantry and BMP platoons were destroyed, as was the entire Red Recon company (all in light vehicles, Tigr and BTR-80As, to their misfortune).

BMP-3 battalion occupies the tree line covering any US advance along the road
and the Recon Company sits in the tree-line above the cliffs, observing across the valley
To be continued...

Battle Report: "We're Surrounded!!" - part 1

Just the other night, my gaming buddy John and I played out an Ultra Modern scenario for Fistful of TOWs.

It was a pickup game, but using forces from my upcoming campaign. In this case, the game pitted elements of the neo-soviet "Red" force against elements of a US Stryker Brigade Combat Team (SBCT). I played Red, and John played the SBCT.

The scenario was randomly generated from the FFT3 rulebook. It was to be the Encirclement scenario, with the SBCT as defender. A brief synopsis of the scenario is:
  • 6' x 4' table, game length 10 turns;
  • Defender (SBCT) sets up at one end (short table edge), up to 2' in from the edge. Defender got 5000pts;
  • Attacker (Reds) come onto the table, using moving deployment, from one or both long table edges (flank edges). Attacker got 10 000 pts;
  • The defender gets 1 VP for exiting at least one unit from the opposite (short) table edge, and 1 VP for occupying the third of the table closest to that edge. As the tabletop was an 8' area, we were only using the table up to the river (ie. we ignored the terrain north of the river). So to 'exit', these troops just had to touch the river;
  • Attacker gets 1 VP for causing 1/3 casualties, and an extra 1 VP for causing 2/3 casualties (in number of units).
For my points I got a Mechanised Brigade, comprising 2 Mechanised Battalions of Infantry in IFVs (BMP-3) and 2 Battalions of Tanks (T-90). Additionally, the brigade's support companies (AT, AA, Recon,  Engr) and the Brigade's Artillery Battalion (2S19). I also purchased an extra Battalion of 2S19s from the Divisional Artillery Regiment. All troops were rated "Fair".

John got two companies of M1A2 SEP MBTs and a company of Strykers and Infantry. These were supported by an Artillery Battalion (M-777 Towed). All rated "Good".

The table looked like this (my plan is superimposed on it):

Table setup (Nth is top of picture)
with the Red Plan
to be continued...

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Link

I just recently discovered another site featuring our favourite scale. So I've now added a link to the 3mm - 1/600 Miniatures Facebook page. You'll find it in the "Favourite Links" section. Lots of good info and updates on there, so I'm going to keep an eye on it...