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.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

...and for the real life warlord who has it all...

Following on from setting up some imagi-nations, here's a site for setting up your own new nation in the real-world:

Modern Day Military Pricing List

Fun with 'Imagi-Nations'

I was recently reading some reviews, comments and AARs on various forums about the newest set of rules from Nordic Weasel Games, titled Fivecore Brigade Commander. What I had read intrigued me, so I paid my hard-earned and downloaded the rules in PDF from Wargames Vault.

Whilst I haven't had time to play the rules yet since I downloaded them last week, they look very interesting. They seem to be nice and simple, should play very fast and are very 'effects-focused' (being quite abstract, and not simulation, detail, or process focused). Most of all, from what I've read they seem fun! So I will give them a try very soon (report to follow I hope).

One of the aspects that I was immediately attracted to in the rules was the "War Generator" system contained in the rules. This is basically a random generation system comprising a number of tables to create a couple of fictional protagonists for a conflict, to provide context for a one-off battle or small campaign. This kind of thing is right up my alley, as I've always loved the idea of 'Imagi-Nations' .

Imagi-Nations are now a reasonably traditional wargames concept, dating back to such stalwarts as C.S. Grant and Tony Bath. They are a great way to fight battles, without the sometimes controversial subject of real-world politics, or the constraints of adhering to absolute historical accuracy. They give the gamer an opportunity to "explore the space" in their wargaming (to borrow a quote from the SNL "more Cow-bell" sketch). So I like them!

Imagi-Nations have always been popular in periods where small countries  could plausibly exist. The 18th century has always been a very popular setting for this (with its many small kingdoms / principalities / duchys / etc, what's a few more?!). But in recent years the concept has also become increasingly popular in the 'modern' period. Again, the most popular settings are commonly fictional small African nations (or factions) in "Brushfire Wars", but South America and Eastern Europe (former soviet republics) have also been used. These all provide plausible settings for new countries that have broken away from others, or have just been insignificant enough otherwise that no one really paid them much attention! All of this is great gaming fodder, as it provides some key advantages:
  • The ability to field whatever equipment you want, including new, old or downright obsolete kit. This can be sourced from whatever diverse mix of suppliers you can justify cobbling together. This aspect is particularly good for gamers buying on the second hand miniatures market, or scrounging odds and ends from friends, as you can throw together whatever acquisitions you end up with;
  • limited conflicts with whatever scale forces you want to play with. Being generally quite small, these countries often field only small armed forces - perfect for fighting anything from skirmish actions up to small 'armies' of multiple brigades;
  • the ability to design the force structures, uniforms, traditions and key 'characters' in your force;
  • the Imagi-Nations can easily be used in a campaign context, adding more factions / bordering nations in as required. They tend to generate a narrative of their own as the campaign evolves.
So because of all this, the "War Generator" from Brigade Commander already looked like a great bit of fun. And then...

...NWG released more tools for the prospective Imagi-Nations builder!! Also on Wargames Vault is the Nation Generator, and soon to be released is the Military Generator. These allow for the random generation of Nations, including their size, population, system of government, important issues, level of corruption, government legitimacy, alliances, etc - all great stuff for providing background and pretexts for our fictional internal or international conflicts. The Military Generator provides the background for the country's military - size, structure, equipment supplier(s), etc.

So, by way of experiment I thought I'd have some fun and demonstrate the tools by 'generating' a pair of Imagi-Nations to square off against each other in a fictional conflict. As I already have one imagi-nation (the "Republic of Red") in my existing Oz Invaded! campaign setting, I thought I'd use the tools to add a few more to provide some other options for the Reds and the other factions in my existing campaign to get involved with.

I decided I'd roll up a couple of countries, and then tweak where needed to shoe-horn them into the existing setting. As such, these are going to be some of the smaller islands around Red. I used the "War Generator" from Brigade Commander to determine the situation, which came up with "war of independence" and "minor skirmish". As I like to play 'ultra-modern' period and my Oz Invaded! campaign is set in 2025, this therefore became the 'base year'.

So what did I generate? Well here it is:

Country 1 (which I named "Russet") is:
  • Massive. ~ 5m (the result was actually >50m, but I divided the population result by 10, since I thought a country of 50m would probably have been noticed by now! I wanted my countries to be much smaller...)
  • Resources: Strategic Position, Cheap Labour. (I decided that Russet is to the east-northeast of Red, on the shipping lanes between Red and Asia & Australia)
  • 'somewhat urban'. (I'll give the island a number of coastal towns of substantial size).
  • ~10 years behind leading edge technology
  • Plentiful Heavy Industry (a worker's paradise! - plentiful coal has provided cheap electricity, and coupled with the cheap labour has attracted plenty of heavy manufacturing. The Russet Tractor Works produce some very fine agricultural equipment!)
  • Moderate socialist state (The "Islamic Republic of Russet" - Russet followed Red's socialist inspired independence movement in the 60's)
  • Govt viewed as reasonably legitimate (70%)
  • but very unpopular
  • dominant religion in the region (Islam - Sunni)
  • endemic corruption
  • very low cultural coherency (I decided the country is plagued with ethnic/tribal/religious rivalries, one of which has led to the independence bid by Country #2)
  • allegiances: neighbouring nation, patron state (strong). (I decided that this country would be a close neighbour and client-state of Red)
  • pressing concerns: corruption, cultural coherency, informal economy
  • Military:
    • tactical doctrine: Offensive Operations (the RuDF follows Soviet/Red doctrine)
    • air force: focus - token, status - limited, tech - 8 years old (Russet has been a close ally of Red for a long time and has not focused on its air-force)
    • armoured forces: focus - MBTs, status - very limited, tech - 25 years old (Russet has limited armoured forces, equipped largely with Red (Russian built) surplus equipment. It has, however, bought a small number of more modern Type-99 MBTs from China)
    • elite units: commandos
    • source of weapons: primary - Russia (via Red as surplus equipment), secondary - China
    • Level of Support: somewhat limited (The Russet army is fairly poorly equipped)
    • training level: acceptable training but lacking practical experience (largely Red-trained)
    • army corruption: unusual, army politics: as per society
    • morale level: accepting (conscripts)

From this, I'm thinking thatthe Russet Defence Force (RuDF) is an Infantry based force of three "Motor Rifle" Brigades (the 7th, 12th and 55th Brigades). These are largely organised and equipped along Soviet lines, with two brigades (7th & 12th) mounted in wheeled APCs (BTR-70s), and one (55th) in tracked IFVs (BMP-2). Each brigade comprises three infantry battalions and one battalion of tanks (old in 2025, but with some modernisation - T-55MV or T-64BM). There is also a single Independent Tank Battalion (2nd Guards Tank Battalion), equipped with Chinese ZTZ-99 MBTs. Artillery is largely towed (D-30 and D-46).

Vehicles and Uniforms will be Green.

Country #2 (I decided Country #2 is a breakaway region from the island of Russet, named "Ambertan"):
  • Large: ~ 2m (the result was actually 20-50m, but I divided the population result by 10, as per country #1)
  • Resources: Cheap Labour, Control of vital territory (Ambertan province contains newly discovered significant Uranium deposits).
  • 'somewhat urban' (as per the rest of the island of Russet)
  • ~1 year behind leading edge technology (Ambertan has received significant recent investment and modernised infrastructure from French companies that have invested in the area).
  • Some Heavy industry (mainly focused around Uranium mining and processing, plus support of mining equipment and operations).
  • Limited Democracy. (The people of Ambertan have always been fairly progressive, and have long agitated for more autonomy and freedom. Additionally, a large portion of the population identify themselves more strongly with Ambertan than with Russet, largely because the majority of the province's population is Christian. With the extreme unpopularity of the Russet central government, the provincial government in Ambertan has declared autonomy as the "Commonwealth of Ambertan" and held democratic elections - hence 'limited democracy').
  • Govt viewed as somewhat illegitimate (50% of the population are uncertain about independence - mainly the Islamic and ethnic Red parts of the population.)
  • but very popular (most of the population are thrilled about the prospect of democracy and economic advancement, and therefore support the new Government)
  • offshoot / alternate denomination of regional religion (Christian and moderate Islam)
  • corruption accepted but infrequent
  • imperfect cultural coherency (The ethnic Reds in the Province don't get along very well with the other Ambertan residents, and agitate to return to Russet or Red).
  • allegiences:  former colonial power, patron state. (In their bid for independence, the Ambertans have received solid diplomatic support in the UN from the UK (as their former colonial power), and the US and other western nations (including Australia) have also supported Ambertan in its democratic aspirations. Also from France, which sees the country as part of the wider struggle to limit Islamic fundamentalism, and for commercial interests with its companies having just signed 50 year mining leases on the new nation's Uranium deposits).
  • pressing concerns: wide spread drug use (actually alcoholism from the plentiful home-made rum), informal economy, cronyism
  • Military:
    • tactical doctrine: Special Operations (the Ambertans recognise they are a small army, and have embraced western special operations and doctrine).
    • air force: focus - ground support (with the low threat from the Russet Air Force, air to air combat is not a priority), status - moderate, tech - 8 years old
    • armoured forces: focus - Infantry Support (actually combined arms), status - limited, tech - 23 years old (old equipment in 2025, but solid and has been modernised)
    • elite units: paratroopers (a single battalion), particular regiment of armoured forces (1st Mech Battalion)
    • source of weapons: primary - France, secondary - Other (mix of opportunity buys)
    • well supported
    • training level: limited, hasty or outdated training
    • army corruption: endemic, army politics: as per the population
    • morale level: steady
Militarily, the fledgling Ambertan Armed Forces (AAF) were raised around a former battalion (the 83rd) of the Russet 8th Infantry Brigade. This battalion was garrisoned in the province, and, having been largely recruited from the Ambertan population, these troops quickly went over to the new Government as regulars (on much better pay and conditions than they had previously been). UK advisors have provided advice and training to the AAF. The 83rd Battalion has subsequently been re-organised and re-titled as the 1st Mechanised  Battalion within a new 1st Combined Arms Brigade (1 CAB). The 1 CAB has also been supplemented with the raising of an additional reserve combined-arms Brigade (the 2nd CAB).
Despite the UK advisors' training of elements of the fledgling RuDF, the overall training level is still 'limited' in the 2nd CAB and most of the 1st CAB, and slightly better ('acceptable') in the remainder of the 1st CAB. Morale level, however is 'steady' as the troops are ready and willing to defend their new nation. Following the mining lease negotiations with France, sufficient credit has been extended to Ambertan to purchase a fairly decent armoury of French surplus equipment (early 2000s era and older). This included VBCI and AMX-10 armoured vehicles for the Infantry battalions, LeClerc MBTs for the armoured units, GCT SP guns, and a small number of Rafale aircraft. Whilst this all looks good, units have suffered variable provisioning, due to corruption in the procurement officer's ranks allocating funding and equipment preference to family connections or for favours.
Uniforms will be Tan (for AmberTAN) and Vehicles will be Tan with Green and Black camo.

I think I can have some fun with these. The two new countries can fight some relatively small actions against each other (up to about Brigade level). Or Ambertan and Russet could both fight some insurgencies, special forces and militia cross-border raids in small skirmish type actions. Or it could all escalate to multi-brigade conventional fighting, as there is plenty of opportunity for Red aggression in support of their Russet allies re-taking the wayward province, or in 'protecting' ethnic Reds in Ambertan. The AAF can call on its allies (UK, France, US, Australia) to assist it.

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!