Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Red Counter-Attack!

Last night we played the next game (game 4) in our 3mm modern (near future) fictional mini-campaign. Following the draw result in the previous game, the campaign initiative switched back to Red and the scenario was a Red 'Counter-Attack'. Red (elements of a Motorised Brigade) had 7500 pts (with optional pre-planned artillery and airstrikes), and Blue (elements of a US Stryker Brigade) had 5000 pts. Blue set up within their one third of the table (16"), and Red entered using 'moving deployment' (optional 'flank deployment' of up to 25% of the force).

The objective for both sides in the game was destroying or breaking enemy troops. Both sides gained 1 VP for destroying one third of the enemy units, and an extra VP for destroying two thirds of the enemy units.

The battlefield was generated using the campaign terrain generator system from Oz Invaded!. The terrain was relatively close, but with some more open corridors (primarily in the centre). Three towns were linked by roads, with some fields and some relatively large tracts of wooded areas. The terrain in the NE of the battlefield was quite hilly, and in the S the terrain was quite wooded. The battlefield is shown below:

The battlefield
(the wind should be W to E, as shown in subsequent pictures)
As the attacker, my Reds were going to have a tough time in this scenario, since the objective was effectively the enemy forces themselves. I couldn't try to avoid them and capture objectives - I had to find them, pin them, and take them on. With 5000 pts available, I knew the US force would be quite small. In previous games of this size, they had been able to field two Infantry Companies and a Tank company, so that's what I expected to see again.
I knew that to get a win, I had to destroy one company of troops (without losing 2 battalions or more, as I planned to take 5 battalions). Should be do-able? Well, yes, but I had a healthy respect, from pervious games, of the damage the Strykers could dish out.

My plan (Red) was centred around trying to:

(1) conserve my own force, and

(2) find and destroy a single company of US troops.

I expected the Strykers would be deployed in several company strong-points, with MBTs to the rear, able to move to support either infantry company. But I didn't know exactly where they would be across the wide frontage. When I did come into contact, I wanted to have sufficient strength to overwhelm whichever unfortunate US company I encountered. I expected only minor flanking security positions (recon platoon and the like) on the extreme flanks.

I decided on a flanking move with two of my infantry battalions on either the N or S, through the covered terrain. These battalions would then turn and sweep down (or up) the length of the table, attempting to catch one of the US companies from the flank. To attempt to pin other positions across the frontage from moving to assist the main objective company, my third Infantry battalion and two tank battalions (one from my core Brigade and the second from my other Brigade) would advance in the centre and occupy the enemy's attention. The tanks were there in particular to stop the US tanks moving to freely reinforce any US infantry company that was attacked. My movement would be assisted by a pre-planned fire plan laying covering smoke screens, and suppressing possible enemy locations en-route. The Red Plan is below:
The Red Plan
Pressing in the centre,
Main attack from the left (N) flank, and
Tanks driving up the right flank

Unfortunately I chose the N flank as my main advance route for the flanking move. I say "unfortunate", because that is also where the Blue forces decided to defend in strength. Knowing that his own forces were the objective, John set up a strong defensive position in the NE of the battlefield. He did not attempt to defend the entire frontage of the battlefield. The Blue Plan is below:

The Blue plan
Defending in the NE
The two opposing plans ensured one thing - that there would be plenty of action on the northern flank. The two plans overlaid on each other are below:

The plans overlaid on each other;
Both of us decided to focus on the N flank
My plan relied on getting onto the flank of the enemy, and attacking out of covering terrain. But because the Stryker Battalion had a full company position right on the extreme N flank (ie. on my planned route into my forming-up positions), I had no option but to attempt a frontal assault on this position. My advance was slower than planned, since my troops had to dismount early, about halfway along their intended route. It was necessary to deploy into cover so that my infantry were not slaughtered in their lightly armoured BTRs. As the majority of my fire plan was pre-planned, my slower rate of advance became increasingly out of synch with my troops' requirements.
The initial advances went in accordance with the Red Plan. The smoke screens went in and covered my advance in the first two turns (only one mortar company was off target slightly). The Red columns advanced along their designated axis of advance. Blue forces did not react, since they were unable to spot anything to trigger a change of their orders. In any case, their positions were pretty good for dealing with the Red advance. The Blue infantry attempted to dig in, with about 50% of them digging in in the first couple of turns.

The Red UAV scans the battlefield
The Red UAV, which had been sent to attempt to spot the Blue positions got shot down by a Stinger MANPADS - not very useful at all!

US Stryker Company defends the N flank

Stryker Platoon and MGS platoons form the second strong-point further S

Two Red Tank battalions march up the S flank 

Tanks (right - S), and a Red Motorised Battalion (left - further N) march on

Two Red Motorised Battalions march up the N falnk

Overview of the initial moves.
Smoke screens cover the Red advance.

The Red Motorised Battalions dismount in the N, and advance through the woods.

The Motorised and Tank battalions to the S continue to advance, covered by smoke

overview of the Red advance
From the left (N): 2x Motorised Bns, 1x Motorised Bn, 2x Tank Bn
On turn three, the Red Tank Battalions and the Infantry battalion in the centre too up their covering positions in the centre. It was increasingly clear, however, that there would be no Blue forces deploying from S to N (or vice versa), since the US troops were already where they needed to be to effectively defend.

The Red infantry in the N dismounted and moved forward through the woods on that flank. Red artillery fell on three suspected pre-planned locations. One of these was un-occupied, but the other two pinned the defenders in those locations (no casualties though). The two Red infantry battalions needed to advance in the N, in order to keep up with their artillery barrages and attack whilst the enemy were suppressed. Unfortunately, this meant breaking out of the woods and advancing towards the US company position in the N. Two Red infantry platoons from the northern most battalion were destroyed in the open by 120mm Battalion mortars firing GPS-guided munitions. The US M-777 Battalion fired ICM at the densely packed Red infantry battalions exiting the treeline in front of the Defending US Stryker Company, causing failed quality checks on a further infantry platoons across both battalions. A Stryker MGS and ICV on the far N flank killed another infantry platoon.

The Red dismounted infantry continue to advance.
The N Stryker company is pinned by 152mm Artillery.

...and the MGS Company (+) is pinned further S

The tanks and Motorised Infantry deploy in the centre.

The Red battalions in the N suffer heavy losses (about 50%!!)
from US Artillery and Mortars
With a total of eight platoons destroyed across the two battalions, both were close to half strength. And all that in a single turn of punishing indirect and direct fire! Another couple of casualties on each would tip them over the 'two-thirds quality check' level, and most likely result in at least a minor win to Blue. So I decided not to press the attack, and to withdraw my forces to accept the draw (neither side having caused greater than 1/3 of the opponent's units lost).

view of the Red advance from the S

Infantry in the S dismounts

another view of the Red Tank battalions.
(These are PT-91 MBTs)

aerial view of the Red troops in the centre
I could have attacked with my tanks (PT-91s) from the S, however I knew from bitter experience that the US M1A2s (which had good coverage of this direction) could easily break at least another battalion if I attempted that. Likewise, my central Infantry battalion was not well placed to attempt an attack across the open towards the Blue positions (they had been placed there to cover exactly this area). Funnily enough, John also thought his position was untenable and said if I hadn't withdrawn, he would have done so the following turn, leaving only his tank company to wreak destruction on my troops (in the scheme of the campaign the tanks were an attachment choice and so didn't count towards permanent losses anyway...).
Lessons learned:
  • I probably would have been better off leaving my infantry mounted. The losses to artillery could have been slightly reduced and I would have moved quicker.
  • Also, a combined arms attack (ie. with tanks attached to the Infantry) would have taken some attention off the infantry, allowing them to carry on with their assault.
  • My plan didn't really have a 'plan B' - it was not flexible enough to react or re-deploy when the enemy deployment was unexpected. This was particularly the case with the pre-planned artillery fire. It may have been better to hold a higher percentage of my artillery on-call to fire at opportunity targets, and adjust when my advance started to lose synchronisation with the fire plan (I only had a single company of battalion mortars not committed to the fire-plan).
Following the game, we did the post battle campaign account keeping. Since it was a draw, neither of us gained any territory (km) or additional exhaustion points. However, both of us took the standard four exhaustion points from this scenario type. Blue had lost no troops permanently, and Red lost an additional four infantry platoons. The running tally looked as per the table below:
We then generated the next battle to be fought, which would be a "River Crossing", with the US attacking across the river against Red with 50% of its points value. This would be a tough task for the Blue forces!
Once we looked at the scenario, however, we realised that both of us would gain five more exhaustion points just for fighting it. This would take Red to the magic number of 22 exhaustion points to end the campaign, with no campaign points remaining to get rid of any exhaustion. The Strykers would reach 22 as well (forcing a campaign draw) *only* if I secured a 'major victory'. Even if I did this, John had two campaign points in hand to spend on reducing his exhaustion. The River Crossing scenario would be interesting to play, but it was pointless since Red couldn't avoid losing the campaign. So we decided to call an end to the campaign at that point, with a US Stryker victory.
A pity to finish what had been an enjoyable campaign , but finishing the campaign would allow us to fight some battles (or even another mini-campaign) with different forces for some additional variety.

Campaign wrap-up:

After all of that, the Stryker Infantry had fought well over the four games of the mini campaign (Red Hasty Attack, Red Hasty Attack, Blue Hasty Attack, Red Counter-Attack). The fact that they had defended in three of the four battles had suited their capabilities, and helped them out a little. The campaign was actually very balanced, with one win to each side, and two draws.
The points system and scenario constructs had meant that a much smaller but higher tech and quality force was more than able to hold its own against a numerically stronger opponent. The US forces had taken light casualties in each battle, which were easily recovered or bought back through the 'campaign points' system. So the US force ended up fresh, with nil casualties. On the other hand, the Red forces had suffered more heavily. Of its starting six infantry battalions, almost two full battalions had been lost. On top of this, a small number of Brigade Troops (primarily the engineer company) and one company (out of six) of tanks had been lost. So it was a punishing little operation for the Red forces, with the 21st Motorised Brigade pretty much rendered combat-ineffective.

We enjoyed the campaign immensely and would recommend that any who own the FFT rules should give it a go (either with FFT or another rules system). One of my favourite things about the campaign is the running 'narrative' and the context it creates. Also the more realistic decision making, as seen by the fact that  both sides withdrew in one game (game 1 for the US and game 4 for Red), in order not to suffer excessive permanent losses to our forces. To me this is an attraction of the campaign system and precisely why campaign play is better than one-off battles; if these had been one-off pickup games, we both would probably have driven our forces into total destruction with no consequences. Playing the same forces over a series of battles helps to get to know that force very well. I think we both had a good feel for how we should be fighting our troops by the end, and we knew their capabilities and limitations.
A good campaign - bring on the next one!


  1. Another great BatRep mate - talk about a Red Tide...wow! Very impressive column of minis and I love the Red UAV too! The battle almost read like "Team Yankee".

    Looking at the overall campaign balance I would call that primarily a draw, but from a strategic perspective I guess Blue managed to stall the Red Offensive out. I absolutely agree with you on the matters of Campaign play, it makes all the difference.

    Perhaps the next campaign will see a reconstituted 21st Motorised Brigade back in action, maybe with a few equipment upgrades? Its commander might be a bit more iron walled after his "re-education". Or maybe the new commander will want to avoid the same fate as his predecessor (and his family)...

    1. Are you suggesting that the Red regime is about anything other than group-hugs and fluffy bunnies?! Of course Brigadier Dedmanwalking of the fighting 21st will be absolutely fine ; )

      We will probably do another mini campaign soon, but most likely with some other formations for variety. Maybe the Reds will field one of their heavier Mech Brigades, with 2 battalions each of T-90 and BMP-3? Or maybe a brigade from the 3rd Division, equipped with modern wheeled IFVs/APCs in the form of the Patria AMV? I'd like to get the Aussies back on the table, so that may be the Blue side of things...

      Then again, we want to do some other things too. Arab-Israeli wars (1973) was mentioned, as was cold war BAOR vs WARPAC. I have also been amassing Chinese as O8 release them, and want to get them painted and on the table too.

      Too many projects!!

    2. Its not too many projects - its not enough time and funding limitations!

      Cold War is awesome, as would be an armoured Chinese Border incursion into Russia...