Friday, December 19, 2014

BATREP: City Assault

My regular opponent, John, and I played out a fairly brutal Fistful of TOWs scenario last night.

I recently assembled and painted some city buildings purchased from Gamecraft Miniatures a while back, when they first released their new 1:600 terrain line. These are very nice laser-cut card-stock buildings, which look great, but more on these another time!

Needless to say, I  wanted to set up a table to try out a city-fight of some sort. The battlefield was as shown below:

the battlefield - view from the south
I've also recently finished painting up the majority of my Australians for my campaign setting, so of course those had to be used too. The result? I randomly rolled for a scenario to play over the battlefield, to involve Aussies against the REDs.

This time, the scenario was to be a "deliberate attack", with the Aussies (BLUE) defending against the RED attackers. The REDs would have 10,000 points and the option to take pre-planned artillery and airstrikes, whilst BLUE would have 5,000 points with the option to buy prepared defences.

In line with the scenario description in the FFT3 rulebook, the scenario objective was a suitable feature within the defender's deployment zone. I had one of the Gamecraft buildings that fitted the bill - a very large bombed-out factory, which I decided was a key munitions factory to be captured by RED.

The BLUE pre-battle sketch plan.
Strong defences in the town, oriented W and SW.
Some minefields (about 800 x 100m in ground scale),
some entrenchments and several wire emplacements
RED pre-battle sketch plan (plus fire-plan).
The main assault with two Mech-Infantry battalions and some attack helos in the centre,
through a route covered from observation,
supported by the Brigade and Divisional artillery in a pre-planned rolling barrage.
Holding attacks on both flanks with Tank Battalions.

the plans super-imposed on each other... should be interesting...
Aussie Platoons deployed on the W city outskirts

...and more, facing SW
Aussie Rifle Company dug-in (in light woods), to the S of the city

Aussie Cavalry Reconnaissance Vehicles ("Goanna" CRVs in my campaign setting) in over-watch on the east flank

Two RED Mech Battalions advance up the lightly wooded valley, approaching the city.
A company of Mi-28s accompany the advance.

RED T-90 battalion (with a Tunguska Platoon) approach the city through the woods from the West

T-90s move into column to stay in cover...

Mi-28s cross over the ridgeline to the west...

...and get spotted and pinned by artillery!!

The lead RED battalion of infantry dismounts and advances.
Covering smoke-screen from the battalion 120mm mortars.
All going well so far...

the Aussie reserve company deploys to the threatened area...

...still going nicely for the REDs, continuing to advance through the wooded valley...

...until a sloppy platoon-commander allows his men to break cover!
The company on the battalion's right flank gets pinned by 155mm ICM Artillery.

The Aussie CRVs continue to's too quiet on the eastern flank?...

The REDs keep stoking the smoke-screen with both Infantry Battalions' Mortars.
View of the Aussie defences through the smoke screen.
The reserve company has arrived to stiffen the defence.

Turn 4 - a lot happens!!
The REDs advanced and formed-up behind their smoke-screen for the previous three turns.
The RED pre-planned artillery fire-plan kicks in....
BM-27s, and 3x battalions of 2S19s from the Divisional Artillery smash the forward Platoons(!!)
A couple of platoons fail quality checks (destroyed) and the remainder are pinned.
The plan is going well, good prep-fire, now time for the assault... 

...but aaargh, a buried mine-field!! The battalion in line all hit it at once!
The assault is officially bogging down...
(game note: there's a 50% chance of  hitting mines.
Half the assaulting infantry must take quality checks.
As "Fair" troops they pass on 6+. Many of them fail and die!)
...meanwhile, on the western flank,
the T-90 battalion shakes out into a lovely assault formation...

...cops an incoming Javelin...

...returns fire and clears out the offending BLUE platoon...

...then gets a FASCAM artillery-delivered mine-field dropped on it!

The CRVs, continue to watch the Eastern flank and,
to their alarm, a T-90 battalion enters from the south!
Two troops of CRVs facing a battalion of T-90s. Ouch!
(Game note: the T-90s were my 'flank marching' battalion,
which failed to arrive every turn until turn five!)
A combat-team comprising two troops of Aussie M1A1s and a company of Infantry
mounted in CV-90s ("Waler" IFVs in my campaign setting) had been guarding the northern flank.
Upon hearing the report that the T-90s had entered from the south,
this combat-team realised they were out of the fight and had to head towards the action.
They crossed the river, and moved towards the fighting... 

This picture provides an idea of the threat these M1A1's pose.
South of the ridge is my T-90 battalion bogged in a FASCAM minefield.
To the north of the wooded ridgeline in the Aussie tanks approaching their flank at speed...
The T-90 battalion advances out of the minefield, leaving some more burning wrecks behind.
One company peels off to the north to offer some flank protection from the approaching Oz tanks...
The CV-90s follow across the river...
...meanwhile back in the centre, the assault gets moving again.
The pre-planned artillery barrage rolls forward,
pinning and killing the defenders caught under it.
The BMP-3s and remaining infantry push bravely through
the minefield and close-assault the defenders...
...casualties are heavy, not least because of three (!!) platoons destroyed by Excalibur PGMs,
but they clear the way. A successful assault.
The artillery and assaulting mech-infantry battalion have destroyed two companies of Aussie Infantry,
but in the process, the battalion has lost nearly two-thirds of its men...

...time to push the 2nd battalion through,
but there's still the small matter of the minefield still remaining.
So the 2nd battalion loses some time,
crossing over the narrow wooded ridgeline to the west and then striking NE again towards the city.
This photo shows an aerial view of the situation half way through the game...

The T-90 battalion fights into the city.
Tanks with no infantry support against defending Infantry - this is not going to be pretty...

The M1s get closer...
...followed closely by the CV-90s...

The Aussies fall back, and consolidate their position in the city...

...while the Aussie M1 and CV-90 combat-team ploughs into the T-90 battalion's flank.
The M1s quickly dispatch two platoons of T-90s, but the third miraculously survives!
The Aussie infantry dismount in the woods...

...the surviving T-90 platoon costs the Aussies...
it calls in an air-strike; two flights of Su-25s, loaded up with guided-bombs and napalm!
Unfortunately, an Aussie RBS-70 SAM is in range and scares off one of the Su-25 flights...
but the other makes the Aussie counter-attack pay dearly.
One of the M1A1 troops is hit by guided bombs and an Aussie Infantry platoon wears the Napalm.
Both destroyed!

The 2nd RED Mech battalion moves into the assault, from the west of the city...

...taking some heavy casualties from ICM artillery missions in the process... add insult to injury,
the surviving T-90 platoon destroys the second M1 platoon with close range gunnery...
...before getting destroyed by a Javelin...

...meanwhile, in the south-east, the T-90 battalion advances and dispatches a CRV...
...the second CRV troop withdraws into the city...

...the T-90 battalion moves towards the city, from the south, at high speed along the road...

...the Aussie survivors pull back and consolidate around the Munitions Factory...

...and the second CRV troop gets smoked by volley fire from a battalion of T-90s!!...
At this stage it was turn 9 (of a 10-turn game). I took stock of my position:

The city fighting had been brutal. I had lost most of my two infantry battalions, and my western T-90 battalion had also suffered heavily (unsupported against infantry) in the city fighting.

I couldn't see anything (bad visibility in the city), so no spotters to call my Artillery in. And my troops were moving too slow after the rapidly retreating Aussies ("there's no shame in a tactical withdrawal", says John!) to conduct a coordinated assault into the factory and hold it on turn 10.

My only chance was to assault with my intact T-90 battalion into the city, unsupported by infantry (again!). I had seen what had happened when I did that and didn't fancy it. So I conceded that I couldn't take my objective and withdrew, handing the Aussies a narrow 1-0 scenario win.

If I had been more alert, I should have counted how many casualties I had inflicted. After the game, I realised I only needed to destroy one more platoon to force a quality check (on 5+, for two-thirds of the formation destroyed) to see if they quit the field. I should have sent in my T-90 battalion, which would have suffered but had a good chance of causing at least one casualty.

All up, it was very close, and a great game!!

What did I learn?:

1. Helicopters are useless on a battlefield dominated by complex terrain (mine did absolutely nothing, except for one getting shot down by an RBS-70...).

2. In a deliberate assault, have the engineers on hand to breach unexpected minefields!

3. Masses of Artillery doing a rolling prep fire barrage works quite nicely in a deliberate attack.

4. ICM is brutal when you bunch your forces up too much.

5. The Mechanised Brigade (2 Mech Inf, 2 Tank Battalions) is probably not the one I should have used. I needed the "right tools for the right job"?! Of the formations at the disposal of the RED Expeditionary Army commander, a Motorised Brigade (3 Motorised Infantry, 1 Tank Battalions) probably would have been more suitable for an Urban assault. For the same points, I could have taken a reinforced Motorised Brigade, with 5 Motorised Infantry Battalions and the Tank Battalion (with companies allocated in close support of the infantry battalions). I think that may have been better for the close infantry assaults required in this scenario.

Lots more, but too much to cover!!



  1. Bish, this is beautiful stuff! A real example of what 3mm can do. Hat's off, sir!

  2. Nice report. Love the terrain. Is it Kallistra? Looks like you have some fixed woods and some add-on. Works well to vary the density.

  3. Yes, the terrain is Kallistra. All the woods are actually add-on (ie. they sit on top of the other tiles).

  4. Cracking stuff! All those tanks give me the willies.

  5. Looks great!
    Just curious, did you make any changes to the FFT rules for tanks vs infantry in cities? We found that good, modern tanks (T90, M1, LeoII) were still very hard for the infantry to kill (very high flank armour values)

  6. No, no changes.

    The T-90s were relatively hard to kill, but still not hard enough! You're right that their flank armour values against h-class weapons are higher than older types, but the ADF infantry had a couple of weapons that could do it.

    Javelin ATGM could easily kill them, but not very stand had Javelin (only one in three). The weapon that turned out to be good for the job was the 84mm Carl Gustaf MAW that every stand had. It was only one factor less that the T-90 flank armour (with h-class modifier), but could fire *twice*. Two shots per turn, hitting on 3+ and causing quality checks on 4+ did the job (because the RED tanks' crews were only 'Fair' quality).

    If the T-90s had escorting infantry, the MAWs would have been firing at the front armour, with little chance of destroying them. I knew it, but sent the tanks in unsupported anyway, so my own fault really!

  7. Wow.. if you enter a comment and then go 'back' it loses it all. *rage*.

    Briefly then.. we had LeoII's crushing Soviet inf in a town which couldn't penetrate them. Maybe it was my fault or a stat issue, don't remember but it was very silly hence the query - and the putting of FFT back on the shelf since then & buying command decision instead.

    We will be having another go soon and though I generally liked FFT I found them to be very stat driven rather than 'soft factor' driven - there's no concept of command for example or 'tank fear' (like the fear of assaulting a town in tanks when it's occupied by enemy infantry) - yes even with crap weapons the tanks should really not be up for it at all!

    Your use of pre-planned fire for the Soviets is a great call, in our games we allowed them to use too much allocatable fire power, which in turn gives them too much flexibility.

    From memory if you'g given them inf escorts they'd have been more or less safe which is fair enough. The infantry though would be likely to get massacred (again fair enough) - it was in our games only really possible to get 2-1 in close combats due to base sizes.

  8. What era was your game set in? Depending on the model of Leo-II you were using, in FFT they vary between 10 (early) and 13 (late models) on their side armour aspect against h-class weapons.

    If the tanks were unsupported by infantry, the soviet infantry would have been firing automatically at flank armour, regardless of the stand's orientation (I like this about the rules - it discourages stupid unsupported tank movements through infantry-occupied close terrain - well most of the time!).

    The soviet infantry, again depending on the period, are generally pretty level with the Leo-II (in penetration vs armour), until the introduction of RPG-27/28/29 (mid-90s onwards) when these over-match the Leo-II of the same period's flank armour.

    So depending on era, the soviet infantry in a town should have at least held their own, and if in the later periods, should probably have crushed
    the Leo-IIs?

    Leo-IIs are actually one of the modern 'western' MBTs that are more vulnerable to flank shots. M1s, for example are very well protected from all aspects, as are Challenger II and Merkava III/IV (*and* Merkava has active defence systems!).

    If the Leo-IIs were supported by their own infantry, however, it's likely the hits would have been on their front armour, and then its a whole different story!

  9. PS - regarding C2 and morale:

    FFT does have some morale tests for specific circumstances. eg low-quality infantry must test before close combat with AFVs. Nothing about AFVs testing to enter close terrain though - the problem with doing this is that the AFVs actually don't *know* the infantry is there - only the omniscient player knows this...

    On C2, I agree FFT is a little under-done. This is the reason we use additional C2 rules grafted on from Modern Spearhead (you may have noticed the maps, etc, in my BATREPs?). The modified rules we use are included in the campaign rules linked from this blog...

  10. I think it may have been Challengers (armour D 8 = 12) versus Soviet CAT-1 infantry (strike with 11) so only a 5-6 causes a QT.
    And in city there's the 4+ terrain save to stop the hit half the time.

    I do clearly remember the tanks routing the infantry and just thinking something wasn't right. Points-wise the fight was clearly in the tanks favour but having spoken to several old tankies (indeed one of the local club members is an ex-tankie) his opinion was they wouldn't have done it and even if they had they would have been very exposed - even a Molotov can take out an MBT.

    I downloaded your rules by the way - they're great, I'm going to look through and probably use them in my own campaign when I get the basics of how it's going to work down.