Sunday, December 6, 2015

5Core Brigade Commander - 2nd Try

I have been meaning to get back and try out the FiveCore Brigade Commander (5CBC) rules from Nordic Weasel Games for a while now. This weekend I got the chance to do that, with another trial game (this is my third game).

This time I made sure to play a game of the size recommended in the rules (the forces last time were smaller than recommended). The scenario this time would see a Soviet Tank Regiment face off against a US Mechanised Infantry Battalion and an Armoured Battalion. The year is 1985.

The Soviet TR had:
  • 3x Tank battalions of T-80Bs (each 3x companies)
  • a battalion of Motor Rifle Infantry  (3x companies)
  • 2x Mi-24D units
  • a battalion of 2S1 122mm SPGs (persistant "Stonk" asset)
  • other (one-use) assets were: Communications Jamming, Deception
The US had:
  • an Armoured battalion of M1s (3x companies)
  • a Mechanised Infantry battalion in M-113s (capable AT) (4x companies)
  • M-901 ATGW Platoon (AT attachment)
  • Mortar Platoon (Mortar attachment)
  • one-use A-10 Air Strike
  • a battalion of M-109A1 155mm SPGs (persistant "Stonk" asset)
  • other (one-use) assets were: Tactical Withdrawal, Intel Advantage. 
The Objectives for each side were randomly generated from the table in the rulebook. The Soviets had to advance and hold a feature, and the US had to capture one. So I made them the same objective (a wooded hill in the centre of the table, covering the road in both directions).

Astute and diligent readers of this blog will notice that the terrain was the same as I used for my last game and AAR (the Team Yankee one). This is a combination of my laziness and the fact that I wanted to see how the different rules played on the same terrain (allowing direct comparison).

So how did the game play out?:

The battlefield and initial turns. Soviets on L, US on R.
Both sides entered from their table edge on turn 1.
Both took elected to take the free 'Scurry' move, to bring on and move all their units.
By using 'Push' moves, the Soviets are almost onto the objective at the end of the first move!

Mi-24 Hinds go looking for targets.

Two M1 companies advance towards the objective.
(for the 5CBC rules, I am using two of my normal Platoon bases for each company)

The Soviets advance on the Objective Hill.
Tasked with taking and holding it against counter-attack is the BMP-2 MR battalion.

The Soviets advance onto and consolidate the Objective (L of picture).
Their Tank battalions take up positions in the tree-line to disrupt counter-attacks.
The US battalions move up (R of picture).
Tanks ready to provide fire support for the Mechanised Infantry battalion to try and capture the objective.  

M1s take up fire positions in the fields.

Another T-80B battalion takes up position (bottom of picture),
to prevent flanking attacks from this direction.
The Soviets played their Electronic Jamming asset (cancelling one of the US activations this turn).
But this was immediately cancelled, by the US use of their Intel Advantage asset (giving an extra activation for the turn).

The US A-10 Air-strike goes in on the forward Soviet MR Infantry company.
Direct hit!  The Soviet MR Company is destroyed.

Close up of the A-10 strike.

The Soviets move the MR battalion's depth company up
to assume the position of their destroyed comrades.
The Soviet artillery targets the advancing US Mech Infantry, but fails to hit.
To add insult to injury, the Soviet artillery becomes unavailable for the rest of the game!

This company is pinned by Guard Fire...

... Then cops an Artillery Stonk as well!

US covering fire engages the Soviet Tank Battalion in the tree-line (L),
Forcing a company back to the rear to cower (bottom R).

T-80s on the R flank are also driven back (bottom R).

The Soviet commander sees an opportunity and sends the third (second echelon)
tank Battalion around to the L, to take the advancing US Mech battalion in the flank.

The US Mech battalion Assaults the Hill, two companies forward and one back.

The US artillery suppresses the defenders again.

The lead US Mech Company destroys the first Soviet MR Company position,
and takes their place on the hill.

The remaining Soviet MR Company re-orientates to face the attack direction.

The Mi-24s move around the R flank, to attack the advancing US troops in the rear.

The Mi-24s inflict casualties on the assaulting US Mech Infantry.

The remaining Soviet MR Company is flanked by M1s, and pinned by the US artillery...

... causing casualties and forcing them back off the hill.

The US Mech battalion has captured the hill,
But in the process, a T-80 company destroys one of the Mech Companies.

The T-80 company counter-attacks back onto the hill.
The Mi-24s continue to cause casualties.
An interesting game. I'm getting used to how the 5CBC rules play - they are growing on me, although I still have some difficulties with some of the levels of abstraction.
For example, my main problem at the moment is the “Scurry” special turn, where both sides get to make a move with all of their troops. This allows some unusual and (IMO) unrealistic behaviour, because there is no reaction fire against Scurry moves! So units can move away from imminent contact, or even worse move right up to within assault distance completely un-scathed. Hmmm…
I think that it's only after playing  a few games that you see some of the subtleties, tactics and importance of Assets in the rules. For example, the Asset that allows you to convert a Scurry or Firefight to a normal turn gets around the problem I outlined above for an attacker, by not letting their intended victim escape if a Scurry is rolled.
I have decided that anything that generates Kill dice can be brutal in ranged combat. Assault combat is just brutal all round.
One of the things I do like (a lot!) is the speed of play (the game only took about 90 mins). Also the feel of specialist troops supporting the 'main' units, rather than being special game-winning troops in their own right. This aspect feels pretty realistic to me.
The key to the game seems to be the Assets and Attachments, plus the usual Rock/Paper/Scissors interaction between the main troop types. I still think it may be too abstract for me, but I’ll keep giving it a try.

Pico Team Yankee

This weekend provided the opportunity for a game with a new opponent, Tony, who I met at the recent Little Wars Canberra demo game. We had chatted on the day, and as he was keen to get back into modern gaming, we organized to catch up for a game.

Tony had not played the Fistful of TOWs rules before, although he had read the rulebook. I thought the best option would be a relatively small scenario to run him through the rules.

Due to the imminent release of the Battlefront rules of the same name,  Team Yankee has been a great topic of conversation lately. I figured that would be as good a place as any to start and I would base my scenario around that theme.

For those that have read the novel, Team Yankee is a company-sized US combat team in the Cold War (mid-1980s) that sees a lot of action fighting off the Soviet hordes in a fictional invasion of Germany. Team Yankee is a tank-heavy combat team, comprising a couple of M1 Platoons, a cross-attached Infantry Platoon (in M113s) and an attached section of M-901s.

This is what the US force would field in my Pico version, except that the M-901s would be a full platoon. As only a company-sized force of four platoons, this would be a very small force for FFT, but that's what I was after to keep things simple. Team Yankee would be supported by the battalion's SP Mortar Platoon, along with a Battalion of M-109 SP 155mm Artillery.

The opposing force was a Soviet tank battalion of three companies (9 platoons) of T-80Bs (I couldn't quite come at using the T-72s featured (somewhat in error) in the novel. The tank battalion also had an attached company of infantry (3 platoons) in BMP-2s , along with artillery support from the parent regiment's battalion of 2S1 SP 122mm guns.

The scenario was a "Hasty Attack", based very loosely on an action from the novel,  and also included in the scenario book The Bear Marches West by Russell Phillips (shown below), as the Check and Checkmate scenario.

The general gist of the scenario is that Team Yankee has captured the ridgeline (R of picture) and must hold it until reinforced. The Russians launch a hasty attack to take the hill back from the US troops, before it can be consolidated.

In FFT Victory Condition terms, the US force gained 1 VP per Soviet company destroyed (so maximum of 4 VP on offer), whilst the Soviets gained 1 VP per company anywhere on the ridgeline at the end of six turns (again, maximum of 4 VP on offer).

The battlefield is shown below. We used my hidden deployment system described previously on this blog (a counter for each unit, plus two 'dummies', per side). As there was only one unit per side (US company vs Soviet Battalion), that meant three counters per side, however we gave the US an additional one for the M-901 platoon, which was allowed to set up out of cohesion if desired.

Team Yankee set up their counters across the whole front, along the ridgeline. No clues for the Soviets as to where the US troops were deployed initially!

Somewhat predictably, the Soviets entered their three counters with one in the centre and one on each flank, to keep the US troops guessing for a turn or two. Since time was limited (6 turns), the Soviets really had to act quickly to take the objective ridgeline. The counter on the Soviet right flank was to be the real force, with the other two being dummies. The right flank offered a covered approach to the ridgeline though woods. This would slow the advance slightly, but would provide concealment in the initial turns.

In the first couple of turns, the Soviets advanced through the woods on the right flank. The two other (dummy) counters also advanced along covered approaches, keeping the US forces guessing as to the location of the real main effort. In the initial maneuvering, the dummy counters on both sides were spotted and revealed as dummies. It soon became apparent that the Soviet thrust was up the right flank. Team Yankee and the attached M-901s were the two most central counters.

Once this became obvious, it was clear that the soviets had stolen a march and would be onto the ridgeline in the S within no time. Team Yankee would have to redeploy to cut them off or counter attack. The Soviets laid a large smoke-screen to cover their left flank as they advanced.

Then the US decided the smoke screen was actually good cover for their own re-deployment onto the wooded ridgeline (bottom right of photo), so stoked the smoke screen with their own smoke in case the Soviets lifted theirs!

The entire Combat Team swung south. One of the M1 Platoons took up a hull-down over-watch position on the low rise covering the road and the approaches onto the ridge.

The remainder of the Team marched around to the SE and back around to take up positions on the objective ridgeline, from the E.

The Soviets dismounted the Infantry Company, which broke cover from the woods and crossed the gap to advance on the objective. The over-watch M1 platoon pinned one of the infantry platoons as it advanced.

The M113 mounted Infantry platoon took up position in the woods on the objective, to defend against the inevitable infantry advance onto the hill. The second M1 platoon also too up a position in the woods on the objective hill. The US platoons spotted for their Artillery and mortars, raining HE onto the hapless Soviet infantry crossing the open ground.

The Soviet artillery targeted the defenders on the ridgeline. The 2S1 battalion fired on the Mech Infantry platoon and their M113s, pinning both. Shortly after, BMP-2 platoons in the tree-line poured cannon fire into the US Infantry platoon, destroying them.

At the same time the Soviet infantry assaulted onto the hill. the assault was supported by two T-80 platoons firing direct Area Fire at the M1 platoon. Unfortunately this pinned the M1 platoon, but even so its defensive fire destroyed both dismounted infantry platoons that were assaulting them. The over-watch M1 platoon also destroyed a T-80 platoon and pinned a second one.

Enough soviet tanks remained to drive onto the objective, destroying the M1 platoon with close range flank shots.

In the subsequent turn, BMP-2s took up positions in the tree-line and destroyed the M-113 stand with point blank cannon fire. 

Several platoons of T-80s also moved to a position on their battalion's flank, in order to return fire at the M1 platoon in over-watch on the distant hill. These were able to destroy the M1s within a couple of turns.

The M901s had been moving into position to try and have some influence on the fight. They finally took up position straddling the road, and able to cover the gap between the woods and the objective hill. But they arrived too late.

One interesting thing I noticed was that the contemporary M1 and T-80 MBTs are really quite even in their technical abilities. The US tanks had a slight advantage in their Thermal Sights, their Rate of fire, and in the quality of the crews in this scenario. Both forces were a bit limited in their ability to capture or hold terrain, due to their lack of infantry.

It was a good fun game, achieving a useful and quick intro for Tony to the FFT rules. We'll be having some more games in the future.