Wednesday, March 4, 2015

"Speed and aggression, boys! Speed and aggression..."



We played game three of our mini-campaign last night, with the struggle continuing between the Red 21st Motorised Brigade and a US SBCT. The Strykers were victorious in the last game, which meant the initiative for this game switched and the Blue force would be attacking for this Hasty Attack scenario.

The terrain was again generated using my campaign terrain generator system, and again worked out to be quite interesting. The battlefield was dominated by the highway running SW-NE, through a medium sized town. A secondary road branched off the highway to the N of the town, to the NW. There were a couple of smaller villages in the NE and NW, on the highway and secondary road respectively. Terrain is generally quite open, however a number of light and heavy woods break up the battlefield into a number of corridors. We decided that due to its domination of the highway, and proximity to the road/highway junction, that the town would be the objective. The Blue force had to capture the town within 8 turns, gaining a bonus VP if captured within seven. The Red force had to hold the town at the end of turn 8, with a bonus VP for inflicting casualties.

View of the battlefield

 

As the red commander, I wanted to defend from a number of battalion strongpoints, with my infantry dug in. I purchased heavily up to my 20% maximum allowed by the scenario on hasty infantry and vehicle entrenchments. I had two battalion positions forward, with one in the town, and the other to the south of the town. With both of these battalions, I would push a company forward into a delaying position, between 800-1600m forward. As the scenario only requires defence for 8 turns, these company standing positions were there to slow the Blue advance, and to inflict some casualties if possible. The third battalion would provide my 'depth', and also protect the objective from a flanking move coming around to attack the town from the rear (west).

As I wanted three battalions, the Brigade Tank Battalion couldn't be taken due to points limitations. But to supplement my heavy firepower in a more static role, I chose the Divisional Anti-Tank battalion as my 'attachment' choice. This unit is a little anachronistic and is of limited use normally, since each of its three companies comprises two platoons of MT-12 100mm AT Guns and a platoon of Spike-LR ATGMs. The AT Guns are usually problematic since they are towed, but the defensive nature of this scenario meant they could start deployed and may prove useful. They wouldn't be much good against the US M1A2s frontally, but they could bother them if given flank shots, and could also make things difficult for any Stryker mounted US Infantry! Each of my battalions received the AT gun platoons from the AT Company to supplement its defence, with these generally sited to the flanks. My depth battalion also got the Brigade AA Company (Tunguska) to provide by Brigade position with SAM cover from the rear against air strikes or helicopters. The Brigade AT Company (BTR-90s) would be pushed forward on the N Flank and the Brigade recon company on the S flank, both to provide some flank security and early warning of flank marches.

The three ATGM platoons of the Divisonal AT Battalion were held as the Brigade commander's reserve, to react where needed as events unfolded.
 
The Red Plan
For Artillery support, my three infantry battalions had their integral 120mm SP Mortar companies. Off table support would come from my Brigade Artillery battalion (152mm SP), firing ICM. To further delay the US attack, or to plug gaps, I also purchased two missions of FASCAM. If used well, these could seriously interfere with the SBCT's advance as their Engineering support is limited (if taken at all within the limited points...).

The US Stryker Brigade again provided a battalion for this fight, with three Stryker Infantry companies and a Tank company (M1A2). The US plan was to attack from the N flank, with only some minimal security positions screening to their south, in case of counter-attack. The north was chosen due to the better fields of fire for the US tanks, and the covered approaches for the Infantry companies to approach the objective for an assault.

The Blue Plan
Red & Blue plans superimposed
 
The battle didn't go terribly well for me as the Red player for a couple of reasons. One of the principle issues for me was that for some reason I completely cocked up and thought my force was rated 'marginal', whereas it should have been higher quality at 'fair'. So for the whole game I was counting my troops as one quality grade lower than they should have been! Those familiar with FFT will realise that this affected everything; lowering their morale for quality checks, lowering their ROF, and making it more difficult for them to call in artillery and shoot. Doh! I guess we can put it down to a dose of dysentery or some other illness spreading through my Brigade?! Another error was my purchase of FASCAM for my Dana SP Artillery Battalion - great plan, except that these guns aren't eligible to fire FASCAM (very kindly pointed out to me during the game by John!). So that was a bit of a waste of points. With such an incompetent commander, my Brigade was  really 'up against it.'

John, on the other hand, did very well. I thought that with such a small force attacking, he would struggle. But this turned out not to be the case. His MBTs moved rapidly into overwatch positions, whilst two of his companies advanced rapidly with one on the N flank and one moving through the wooded terrain in the centre of the battlefield towards the objective. Masterful use of smoke and PGM strikes against positions encountered en-route saw the US forces continue to advance with very light resistance.

Starting Red Deployment

Red S flank security

Red N flank security

Red N positions

Red centre positions

Red S positions

Red depth positions

Forward left battalion elements ready to move to advance positions

Deployed MT-12 ATGs from the Div AT Battalion
 
more MT-12s

MT-12s to the rear of the town

Blue artillery targets the N Red positions
 
Blue smoke-screen

US M1A2 MBTs occupy the NE town


...and move up to their covering position on high ground on the N of the battlefield.
The MBTs advanced in the N to support the company advance on that flank.

A Stryker infantry Company moves around the N flank

A screening Combat Team takes up position in the S

...with the US Battalion's recon platoon in an OP even further S

view of the battlefield following Blue initial moves

The Red forward left battalion sends a company forward to delay the Blue advance

The forward right battalion also sends forward a company security position

Blue artillery hits pre-planned target #2 - nothing there!

The central Stryker company advanced and within several turns of firefights and close combat
destroyed the Red centre Battalion's forward deployed company delaying position.
Use of PGMs and thermal smoke from the US battalion mortars and Brigade artillery was key to this.
Here, the US Infantry dismount and move through, clearing the woods ahead of their Stryker ICVs

The N Stryker company continues to advance, covered by MBTs in overwatch

Close up of the M1A2s on the wooded hill

The forward right Red company security position digs in 

As does the forward left security position

The Stryker company advancing in the centre screen their advance with smoke

More smoke screens movement in the N


MBTs move up behind their covering smoke.
 

US Infantry assaults through the smoke

...destroying several Red platoons, but being pinned by Red artillery


.The presence of US MBTs drove the Red N flank protection (Red Brigade AT Company)
into the protection of the N small town.
Their ATGMs and Guns could not damage the frontal armour of the US MBTs.  

The smoke clears in the centre

Blue artillery falls on the main Red N positions

US Infantry continues its assault in the centre, destroying the BTR-80s in their path

...but losing an infantry platoon in the process

Smoke falls in the N

Whilst back in the centre, Red fires its own smoke screen
to reduce the effectiveness of Blue fire

 The N screening position was then blinded by mutli-spectral smoke
(surprisingly the Red AT Company has no Thermal Imagers!)
and was assaulted by the US Stryker Infantry.
The whole company of BTR-90s was destroyed
by close range LAW shots in the built up area.

The final platoon of BTR-80s succumbs in the centre

US infantry advance through the smoking hulks of BTR-90s in the N

With no visible targets, the US Artillery engages in some speculative fire at the objective.
Unbelievably, with a 50% probability, they hit and pin 5 of 6 stands under the template!

Then, a smoke screen obscures the central Stryker company attack on the town

The assault goes extremely well for the US troops,
destroying the defending Red company in the first town sector.


The US M1A2s move onto the flank of the N battalion position,
destroying the entrenched MT-12 ATGs
 
The end result was a draw. Blue had captured part of the objective by the end of the game, however Red still occupied the remainder of the town. As the result was a draw, the campaign initiative switches back to the defenders (Red) for the next game.
 
In the post-battle procedure, the Reds had lost three platoons of Infantry, four BTR-80s, and a BTR-80A permanently. My other losses had been from the Divisional AT Battalion (not permanent in campaign terms). I spent 5 campaign points to cancel the loss of the three Infantry platoons, and to add +2 to the result of the roll for the next battle.
 
Blue had lost one infantry platoon, and one Stryker ICV, however spent two campaign points to recover these.
 
Following all of this, the roll was made to determine the next battle type, which is to be a Red 'counter-attack'!
 
The campaign running tally is as shown below:
 
 


 

Lessons learned:
 
1) Having made my mistake and inadvertently down-graded my troops' quality, the difference in quality between the forces was even more obvious than normal. 'Marginal' troops really are terrible! (maybe that's what they should be called?!) They vaporised when fired upon, and couldn't hit any targets themselves. On the other hand, 'Good' troops are very... ahem... Good!
 
2) The use of the GPS-guided munitions available to the US artillery and 120mm battalion mortars was key to their success. They were able to pretty much automatically destroy any soft targets they could spot, even when the infantry are dug in. A rapid, but methodical advance, combined with destruction of positions able to delay the advance, and effective obscuration with multi-spectral smoke worked very effectively. 
 
3)  I tried to hide my infantry (mainly from PGMs!) within the available terrain (towns and woods). But this pretty much gave carte blanche to the US troops to assault right up to my positions and into close combat without being subjected to Overwatch Fire before entering combat (my stands couldn't see out, as they weren't on the edge...). The 2" minimum range of my infantry's Spike ATGMs (as their MAWs) also didn't help here, since these could not fire in close-combat. Aaargh!
 
4) My specialist AT platoons (both at Brigade and Division level) were pretty much useless in their intended role. The main reason is that since they lack Thermal sights, they are easily rendered ineffective by screening with multi-spectral smoke. It also didn't help that neither my ATGs or missiles could harm the frontal armour of M1A2s. They could have bothered Strykers, but naturally my cunning enemy didn't give me that opportunity...
 
5) I probably would have benefited from a stronger reserve. My defence was quite static, and I effectively committed everything to the static defence. With hindsight, a more substantial reserve could have reacted to developing threats better, or counter-attacked to retake the part of the town (the objective) lost to US close assault. The US assault was actually relatively weak, and probably could have been pushed out by a decent counter attack. Also, I did not actually use the reserve I did have, since they were not appropriate - a company of AT vehicles could have been good at reacting to threats (although note my comments on their actual effectiveness above), but as a counter attack force they were completely inappropriate.
 


5 comments:

  1. Great AAR mate, I love how you go through the plan development from both sides and the show the cinematic 'clash of wills'...

    Your terrain and models look fantastic. Quite the setup you have there!

    A draw is better than a loss - looks like the campaign is balanced on a tightrope!

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    1. Thanks for the comments, Paul. Glad you like them : )

      The campaign is indeed in the balance. Part of the "clash of wills" will be working out how to actually inflict some reall damage in the next battle or two. Good news is that Blue's campaign points are almost used up, so the majority of any heavy losses will be permanent from here on...

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  2. Beautiful stuff, as always, Bish. I really need to make me some superhighways using your method.

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    1. Actually, the roads and highways shown this time are new ones. They are Hexon, to match the rest of my terrain.

      The next thing I want to tackle is some proper highway on/off ramps and over-passes. Just trying to work out how to build them?

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  3. What a great battle. I especially liked your terrain.

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