Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Fivecore Brigade Commander - first game

I got a chance this last weekend to try out the Fivecore Brigade Commander rules. I had been wanted to try these since reading a few reviews, since they sounded quite intriguing.

To compare them to the rules I normally use (Fistful of TOWs), I used the forces and terrain from the last game we played. Actually, that sounds a bit too scientific and planned - if I'm honest, it was simply that I'm lazy and hadn't packed up after my last game, so this was an easy option!.

This had the advantage of providing a fairly small game for the Brigade Commander rules (which are pitched at brigade-plus). I made a couple of minor tweaks to the rules to suit my terrain and miniatures:
  • Since I use hex terrain, I utilised the hexes for facings, movement and ranges. All stands had to orient themselves on a hex 'spine' (corner), and I converted the game measurements to 4" hex distances, rounding up or down as necessary (6" = 2 hexes, 12" = 3 hexes, 18" = 5 hexes).
  • I used the optional quick push rule, since this allowed for push moves to be a standard 4" of one hex - very simple. Displacement would also be one hex in a random direction (d6), and follow up after assault would also be one hex.
  • As I would be playing these rules with my platoon-based 3mm miniatures, I grouped these into companies and put them on sabot bases. Each infantry company comprised three stands of APCs/IFVs and three of infantry. This gave them a 100mm (4") frontage, making them pretty close to the 3" described as probably the "most authentic" frontage in the rules. It also meant that each unit also occupied one (4") hex. As the game's ground scale is 1" = 100m, a company frontage of 400m is a reasonable average in real world terms I think. And I thought the nice large company stands at 1:1 representation looked pretty cool!
  • For attachments, I used my normal platoon markers, which were put in base contact with their supported unit. They moved around from turn to turn and were positioned wherever they would fit, which was fine as they are really just markers (although, for aesthetics the attached tanks led my Red companies whenever possible!)
  • To make up for the larger base sizes, I increased the table size from 3x3' to my usual 6x4'.
  • Terrain: I made heavy woods and areas of broken terrain rough ground for movement and cover from firing. Light Woods and fields did no impede movement or count as cover, but blocked LOS.
  • For marking unit status, I adapted the markers I already had. Units that were out of action were removed from the table, a smoke plume marked units in casualty status, a 'pin' counter for hunkered down or pinned units, and a yellow '!' counter for cowering units.
This all worked pretty well, and speeded the game even more than usual. I find that using hexes always speeds play, as there are no rulers, or ambiguity about facings or the terrain a unit occupies (my rule is: if the hex contains 50% or more of a particular terrain type, it counts as that terrain type).

The forces I took in Brigade Commander terms were:

Red Motorised Brigade:
  • 9x Mechanised Infantry companies, capable AT
  • 2x AA attachments (Brigade SAM Company of two platoons)
  • 9x 'heavy tank' attachments (this was the Brigade's Tank Battalion attached out, with a platoon attached to each company)
  • 3x AT attachments (Brigade AT company of three platoons)
  • 2x Recon attachments (Brigade Recon company of two platoons)
  • 3x persistent Artillery assets (Brigade artillery battalion)
I gave the Reds the 'Breakthrough', and 'Determined Assault' persistent Assets to reflect their doctrine. These would focus them on offensive action and assaults, benefiting from extra reliability in assault (determined assault), and with an extra hex follow up movement after assault (breakthrough).

US Stryker Battalion:
  • 3x Mechanised Infantry companies, capable AT
  • 3x Infantry Support attachments (Stryker MGS platoon in each company)
  • 1x Tank Company (M1A2)
  • 2x Mortar attachments (Battalion Mortar Platoon)
  • 1x Recon attachment (battalion recon platoon)
  • 3x persistent Artillery assets (Brigade artillery battalion)
I gave the US forces the 'Communications Jamming', 'Coordination', and 'Intel Advantage' persistent Assets. These would reduce the enemy's activations by one per turn (communications jamming), give the US battalion an additional activation of their own per turn (coordination), and allow them to convert special turns (scurry or fire-fight) to a regular turn. Additionally, as a higher quality force, I gave them two High Spirits points for use during the game (allowing them to ignore a pinned, hunkered down, or cowering result at any time by spending one of these points). So all up, a more reliable force with some decent C2 and quality advantages.

The game went like this:

The battlefield:
US forces on right, Reds on left

US left flank: Stryker company,
with Infantry Support attachment (MGS platoon in base contact on left),
and recon attachment ('deployed' to top left).

US centre and right (top),
both with Infantry Support (MGS) and Mortar attachments,
plus tank company (M1A2s) in reserve at bottom.

Red left flank:
three companies, each with Tank attachment
Red centre:
Infantry battalion of three companies,
each with tank attachment and centre with AT attachment.

Red right flank:
Infantry battalion of three companies,
each with tank attachment, left company with AT attachment.

First turn:
The right flank battalion moves forward.

US left flank Strykers:
the Recon attachment redeploys to screen in the centre.

...then the Red battalion on the left flank advances...

Red Infantry company (attached tanks lead).

US M1A2 company redeploys to the right flank.

The Red battalion in the centre then moves forward.

The advance continues on the Red right flank.

US Stryker company awaits the onslaught...

...then does some reaction fire (guard fire),
and drives the right flank company back into cover behind the hill.

The plucky Reds advance on their left flank,
straight towards the waiting M1A2s.

Red artillery forces the US tanks back
behind the covering woods (out of LOS).
(yellow marker I used for cowering results)

...before the US artillery also forces the left flank
Red infantry company back in behind cover.

View from the US left flank:
the left flank Stryker company watches a Red battalion move up
to assault the Stryker company holding the town in the centre.

...and a view of this action from above...

...the US centre and right also faces Red forces moving up...

The centre US Stryker company is pinned by Red artillery.
(in the process, one Red battery fails its roll and
losing its persistent status and moving into reserve).
The Red close-assault commences,
and the lead company's attached tank platoon is destroyed.
(the advantage of attached tanks is that any out-of-action result
is suffered by the attached tanks first, saving its parent company)

On the right flank, the US tanks destroy the leading Red company's attached tanks.
(the smoke plumes mark destroyed attachments, or alternately
companies under casualty status).

The left flank US Strykers inflict casualties on the right flank Red company.

The US tanks drive back the Red left flank (cowering, top right).

The US left flank Stryker company re-deploys back behind the town,
leaving its recon attachment deployed to screen the left flank.

view from the US right and centre...

The Red right flank battalion advances forward through the town.
(one company still suffering casualty effects, and cannot move forward)

The US Stryker company moves forward to slow the Red advance in the town.

Having delayed the Red battalion on the right,
the US tanks re-deploy into the centre.

The Red artillery pins the US Stryker company in the town,
prior to assaulting them...

the Strykers kill the accompanying tanks,
but are destroyed by the determined Red Infantry.

...and the rest of the Red battalion moves up
(the third company rallies from casualty status too).

The remaining US Stryker company re-deploys near the tanks in the centre...

... leaving the Red left flank battalion
to commence a flanking move around the US right. 

A random event was rolled.
For some unknown reason a Red company commander loses his nerve,
and withdraws back away from the enemy (top left)

The Reds continue their flanking move...

The US MBTs turn to face the flank threat,
and the Red battalion forms up to assault.

The Red infantry assault the US MBTs in the open...

...destroying them and rolling up over the hill.

Game over! The remaining US company is surrounded and withdraws.

The result was probably not unexpected for a battalion attacked by a Brigade. It was certainly decisive, but from what I understand from reading other reviews of these rules, the US force (of only 4 units) was probably too small to perform properly in a rules system designed to be played with 9-18 (-ish) units per side. Having said that, it was an interesting little sample.

So, how did it play? Well, it was quick!! The whole game was done in less than two hours, which was good for a quick-play result. The action moved along at a pretty good pace, with something happening each turn. I liked this aspect of the rules.

I wasn't totally convinced by the rules though. However, I want to reserve my judgement until I've at least played another game or two. The play was certainly solidly at the 'game' end of the 'game-vs-simulation' spectrum. Unfortunately I found myself 'playing the rules' and trying to work out what mechanics would achieve the best results, rather than thinking in terms of applying real-world tactics. I find that this issue is fairly common for rules with abstract mechanisms; whilst the rules seem to 'work' in terms of providing outcomes, the way of getting there is not very intuitive in terms of real world actions by the forces involved. For example, close combat seems to me to be far too effective for attackers to ignore, since it is very lethal indeed (which seems a bit unusual when all the other WW2/modern rules systems I know of strongly favour the defender in these exchanges).

I do fully appreciate, however, that these abstractions have been made for the sake of playability and speed. I have a feeling that the rules may grow on me, once I've gotten my head around not having data charts and lots of tech detail, since in other gaming periods (eg. Napoleonics) I'm very much a fan of more abstract 'grand-tactical' rules systems. So we'll see!

As per all first games, I forgot a few things. A few of the most important ones are below:
  • the high spirits points for the US forces! These could have made a difference I think, cancelling the pin results prior to the Red assaults.
  • the +1S die for tanks firing at Mech Infantry. Again, this could have made a difference. Particularly to perform snap fire at the company of infantry in BTRs which assaulted a company of M1A2s in the open (and destroyed the tanks, which felt a bit 'wrong'?!)
  • the option to substitute a free Scurry move in the first turn. This would have been a good way to get an initial move in by the whole Red army in attack.
Will I play again? Yes, probably - I like the speed of the game, and the level it is pitched at. The rules also have a lot of options for tweaking it to align with your forces and understanding of the capabilities of different forces. I'll probably use the rules when I want a quick fun game to resolve campaign actions.


  1. Commented on TWW as well. Interesting to run the same scenario again under a different system :)

    The Americans had it pretty rough but then, they were vastly outnumbered so not a bad result all in all.

    High Spirits can make a pretty big difference if you use it at the right time.

  2. Thanks for sharing the AAR and describing the rules with your feelings on them, very helpful when (like me) you are thinking about buying them!

    Also, I wanted to say thanks for writing the bog - it has motivated me to continue my stalled 3mm O8 project in a big way!

    I'll be following your posts with great interest!!

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