Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Border Clash!

Tony and I had our first game in our African Imagi-Nations setting last night.

The battle took place in the disputed province of Zumbura, on the border between the Republic of Zumbanda and the Democratic Republic of Buranda. The Zumburan tribal lands have long been claimed by both Zumbanda and Buranda, and Zumbanda's proxies in the province (which is currently under notional Burandan control) are the 'Central African People's Liberation Army' (CAPLA), supported by their Cuban advisors.

The battle was an encounter between a reinforced company of Buranda government troops, and a reinforced company group of CAPLA rebels.

My force is the Burandans. Buranda is a former French colony, and the young democratic country still maintains close ties with France. On the military side, the Burandans are equipped largely with French equipment, but they do also have equipment from some others. The force in this encounter comprised:
  • Infantry company of 9x Squads, mounted in Casspir APCs (these are 4x4 protected vehicles of South African origin - used because I like the look of them!);
  • 2x 120mm Mortar Squads, mounted in Casspir APC;
  • Platoon of 4x AMX-30 MBTs;
  • Platoon of 4x AMX-13 light tanks; and
  • Recon Platoon of 5x AML H-90 Armoured Cars
The Burandans are all rated 'Fair' under the FFT rules, with Artillery accuracy of '5'.

Tony's force was the CAPLA. These are a rebel group, based in neighbouring Zumbanda (a socialist republic, and cold war Soviet ally). Zumbanda foments rebellion in the border regions of Buranda, trying to force the disputed border province of Zumbura to break away and join Zumbanda. CAPLA are based out of training camps in Zumbanda, and have the assistance of Cuban and Zumbandan advisors. Additionally, CAPLA has a respectable level of support in the Zumburan tribal lands, and receives assistance from these supporters. The group involved in this border incursion was a substantial one:
  • Infantry company of 9x Squads, mounted in BTR-152s;
  • 2x Tank Platoons, each of 3x T-54Bs;
  • Recon Platoon of 3x PT-76 light tanks; and
  • Recon Platoon of 3x BRDM-2 Armoured Cars.
CAPLA are rated 'Fair' under the FFT rules, with Artillery accuracy of '5'.

We played the 'Encounter Battle' scenario from the FFT rulebook. In this scenario, both sides deploy using 'Moving Deployment' (ie. from off table), and earn Victory Points for each unit exited off their opponent's table edge.

Overview of the battlefield looking S to N.
Sparse woods, with a couple of small villages in the centre, and some impassable
rocky outcroppings. Dirt roads connect the villages and run through the area.
The Burandans got the first turn. At top of picture can be seen
the majority of the Burandan force entering the battlefield.

Burandan AMX-13s move up to cover the S of the advance.
This picture shows fairly well the colour of the battlefield covering itself.
This is a terrain cloth from the Cigar Box Battles company.
I spotted this and bought it recently at the Little Wars Melbourne show.
since whilst it's a green matt, it is more yellow and dappled than other matts I've seen,
so I thought it would be quite suitable for temperate and arid Africa.
I have another 'Desert' matt from Cigar Box Battles for battles occurring in more arid areas still.

The Burandan Infantry move up on the N flank.
Two platoons of Infantry in their Casspirs move forward in line abreast cross country (on the L).
The Mortar sections in their APC follow.
The AMX-30 Platoon and the third platoon of Infantry advance in column on road (on the R).

View from the front of the Burandan column - AMX-30s lead.
Burandan vehicles are painted a simple tan colour,
which suffices for camouflage in the arid north of the country.

Buradan AMX-30s and Casspir APCs.

Casspirs advance in line-abreast.

The CAPLA forces advance. The PT-76 platoon moves up behind a village, in the centre.
The buildings were supplied by Tony. They are card buildings, and I think they look quite good.

CAPLA Infantry in their BTR-152s advance in line through the sparse woods on the S flank.

Close up of CAPLA PT-76s. Note the CAPLA three-tone green camo scheme.

CAPLA troops in the centre (bottom of picture) and further N (top of picture).
From bottom to top: BRDM-2s, T-54B Platoon, and a platoon of infantry in BTR-152s.

CAPLA T-54Bs survey the terrain for targets.

The AMX-13s move up to the edge of the woods, to cover the S direction.

Burandan Armoured Cars seize the village and cross-roads in the centre of the battlefield.

The main element of the Burandan force moves up in the N.
The AMX-30s spread out and find cover from which to engage any advancing CAPLA.

The Burandan 120mm mortar sections dismount behind the woods
to provide some indirect fore support.

View of the Burandan forces shaking out int formation in the N.
A couple of the Rocky outcrops provided by Tony can be seen here -
these are made from pieces of 'tan-bark', painted up in grey. I think they look very effective!

View from behind the Mortars.
The figures are actually from GHQ's US Vietnam War Infantry Support Weapons.
Painted in Tan uniforms, and with African skintones, I think they look pretty good
as 3rd world 'western' type troops in older kit...

The CAPLA troops move into view and range of the Burandan AMX-30s.

And the PT-76s move into view of the Burandan ACs in the centre.
These French Armoured Cars are lighly armoured but have very decent 90mm guns on them.
Their range and penetration are sufficient to trouble most MBTs, let alone light tanks like PT-76s!

CAPLA T-54s and BRDM-2s move up in the centre.

In the S, the CAPLA Infantry dismount from their BTR-152s and sweep forward in the woods.

A long range HEAT shot from the PT-76s takes out a Burandan Armoured Car!

The tanks exchange fire. In the foreground, a Burandan AMX-30 is brewed up,
but also manages to get a CAPLA T-54 (the Burandan tanks were on "Hold Fire" orders,
so fire in the CAPLA fire phase is simultaneous).

A slightly wider view of the action.
The remaining AMX-30s are careful to find what cover they can.

The Burandan 120mm mortars lay smoke in front of the T-54s.
This is useful for the Burandans, since the AMX-30s have Thermal Imagers
and can shoot through the smoke (albeit degraded),
whereas the T-54s lack TI and therefore the smoke blocks their LOS.
The AMX-30s find themselves good fire positions in cover.

The Burandan infantry dismount their APCs and move forward towards the fight!

Burandan infantry make the most of cover where possible.
The Burandan Infantry are GHQ US Vietnam War Infantry, in Tan uniforms.
The old-school steel pot helmets look the part for 3rd world regulars... 

The AMX-13s are hidden in the treeline on overwatch.
But they hold their fire, until the CAPLA infantry get closer.
The CAPLA infantry can be seen on the edge of the opposite treeline (top of picture).

Burandan Infantry move forward. The AMX-30s cover them to the front.
Casspirs are thinly armoured and poorly armed (MG only), so remain safely in the rear.

A Burandan squad on the far N flank gets spotted and engaged by the T-54 in the distance.
They are hit and required to take a Quality Check (QC - yellow marker).
They fail the QC ('Fair' troops need a '6' to pass!), and dissapear into the undergrowth for the remainder of the battle.

CAPLA and Burandan tanks exchange fire, with the superior Burandan guns winning out.
Another T-54 goes up in smoke.
Also seen on right of the picture is a Pin marker in amongst the (now dismounted) CAPLA infantry.
This is from indirect fire from the Burandan 120mm Mortars, which suppressed two squads,
along with their (open-topped) BTR-152s)

Burandan Infantry creep up through the trees on the N flank,
and fire a MAW (they have RPG-16s) at a T-54,
causing a QC which it subsequently failed. Another tank down!

Overview of the Burandan advance.
Infantry occupy the wooded areas, and the Casspirs all pull back into a 'Zulu-muster'.

Another view of the Burandan infantry, showing them in the treelines.

After a bit of a stand off and some inconsequential fire exchanges
in the centre, the PT-76s move forward.

Both the Buranda and CAPLA infantry move forward and face off.

The CAPLA infantry can be seen in the woods at top of picture.

The AMX-13s call in the mortars against CAPLA infantry in the treeline in the S.
They pin one squad only, since the CAPLA troops have been listening to their Cuban advisors,
and have maintained decent spacing.

Bad mistake for the PT-76s to break cover and move forward.
The 90mm guns on the Burandan ACs rip through the thin armour of the PT-76s,
destroying the whole platoon in one volley!

This photo shows the aftermath of a Burandan combined arms assault.
The copse of trees in the centre did have a CAPLA infantry squad in it.
One of the AMX-30s suppressed the squad with direct Area Fire (ie. HE), pinning the squad.
The second AMX-30 (up in contact with the copse of trees),
plus a Burandan infantry squad then close-assaulted the CAPLA squad. 
The Burandan infantry was destroyed by defensive small arms fire,
but the AMX-30 destroyed the pinned CAPLA infantry,
then subsequently its BTR-152 (in smoke to the rear). 

The CAPLA troops withdrew at this stage, as the victory was clearly going to Buranda. With the destruction of the PT-76 platoon in the centre, the AMX-13s and ACs had an unopposed route off the table. Likewise, with no more CAPLA tanks on table, the Burandan Infantry and remaining two AMX-30s could drive around the CAPLA infantry and also exit, fulfilling their scenario victory conditions.

We hadn't worked out the specific points values before the game. Instead we just agreed on a rough size ("an infantry company, plus a few platoons of supporting tanks and stuff...") and took it from there. Doing a rough calculation at the end of the game, we worked out that the forces were pretty close in points, but probably with a slight advantage to Buranda. But not intolerably out of balance and commanders have to use what they get! Having said that, with a slight points advantage, it is probably fair that Buranda won.

Some other points on the game:
  • It was really fun!! The setting gives a lot of scope to play around with different forces and equipment.
  • We were happy that the terrain represented what we had pictured for our African setting pretty well. We will add to and develop the terrain as we go along.
  • It was great using some of the older vehicles we hadn't had use of before. Tony said he has had his PT-76 models for about 30 years, and this was finally his excuse to get them out and paint them! Likewise, I had a few packs of cold war French stuff lying around that I'd bought off eBay but never painted up. So this was a perfect opportunity to get them onto the table.
  • I was happy with my simple tan paint scheme for my Burandans. Also the selection of the GHQ Vietnam Infantry to use for the army. Being equipped with 60's-70s era weapons, and having their sleeves rolled up etc really makes them look the part in my opinion. Likewise, I think the three-tone camo on Tony's stuff distinguishes it nicely.
  • The French Armoured Cars are pretty damn cool! With their 90mm guns, they pack a fair bit of punch. They are very vulnerable if fired upon, but if they get the first shot, they can put out some hurt!
  • AMX-30s are pretty good. They lack a bit of armour (especially against HEAT), but their main gun has good range and penetration. A bit like a Leopard I. Other useful things are that they are equipped with TI (very useful), and also their co-axial 20mm cannon! This is great for taking on Infantry, which I found in the assault at the end of the game.
I look forward to seeing some more kit on the table in the future. Maybe some obsolescent aircraft (Alouette helos, or MiG-17s perhaps?), and some more armoured cars and older tank types (I'm picturing some T-34/85s in the hands of Militias, maybe even some upgraded M-4s, T-10s and SU-100s?).

Also some more factions:
  • I'm picturing the main Zumbandan army with Soviet kit, including upgraded T-55MVs (lots of ERA, and look very cool). And maybe some T-72s.
  • Expand my Burandans, with some more vehicle types, and especially with some elite Commando units in Berets (using the GHQ 'Brushfire Warriors' infantry).
  • One I really want to do is a more 'western' themed force with better quality troops and some western equipment - I'm looking at this as a perfect excuse to get all the brilliant new modern Italian vehicles just released by GHQ in the last six months (where else would you use them?!).
  • One of our other gaming mates, John, is putting together a neo-South African force, with Oliphants and the Ratel family of vehicles, so this should be an interesting one on the tabletop.
  • And of course some insurgent/militia types, complete with technicals of verious types.
More to follow!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Modern African 'Imagi-Nations' in 6mm

My latest project (along with a few gaming mates) is some 6mm action set in a current day African "imagi-nation" setting. For those completely unfamiliar with the concept of imagi-nations, they are basically fictional countries set up for the primary purpose of providing a wargames campaign and background setting, without the potential historical and political baggage of using real adversaries.

Imagi-Nations are particularly popular in settings where they could plausibly have existed in reality, but are lost in the 'noise' of a multitude of real-world factions. So backgrounds where there are many fractured small real world countries and factions, like 18th century Europe where there were a multitude of small kingdoms, principalities, duchies, and countries. Likewise, Africa is a popular imagi-nation setting due to the large number of small countries, international  and internal conflicts with many factions, and the occasional creation or disappearance of nations.

The other attraction of Imagi-Nation gaming is the fact that it can offer a bit more poetic licence, imaginative narrative and creativity in creating and gaming with forces. Since the forces are fictional, the gamer can create whatever background fits his needs, and can design and equip the forces according to his own whims. Cobble together whatever equipment you want, or have lying around unpainted and in spares boxes. Paint it whatever colour you want, and organise the units however you see fit. You really can go to town with some wonderful creations, however having said all this I find it is often easiest and best to base your force (at least loosely) on an existing force, as this gives it some veneer of believe-ability. I'm looking forward to using some minis that I either already had, or want to buy (because they look cool), but that I couldn't find a historical pretext in which to use them.

This was the idea in launching our project for 6mm Modern African Imagi-Nations. The guiding ideas were discussed and agreed loosely as:
  • The setting is Africa (could be sub-saharan, central, west Africa or any really). The time is now (ie. current day or very near future).
  • Gaming would be with roughly company to battalion level forces.
  • Rules to be used would be Fistful of TOWs, using the 1:1 gaming chapter modifications from the rulebook. This means each vehicle = 1 vehicle, and each stand of infantry = a squad;
  • Players can use whatever minis they want, but must cobble together at least a loose background logic for the force structure. For vehicles, aircraft etc, use the appropriate equipment listing from the (very extensive) FFT data. For infantry, pick a suitable exemplar to use, again from the FFT data.
  • Forces could run the full spectrum of troops that could reasonably be expected in Africa. Examples are below:
    • The majority of 'Government' and 'Rebel' type troops would be conscript or regular, but could be relatively poorly trained and equipped (by western standards). Equipment would tend to the obsolete end of the spectrum. For example, cold-war era equipment, or even upgraded WW2 kit. However some new or upgraded types could be used to represent modernisation efforts where appropriate.
    • Some Government units may be (comparatively) elite - eg. Guards, Commando, or Special Purpose units. This could include para-military and police units. Likewise, some western styled or trained forces, with an emphasis on well trained volunteer forces, could have better quality training and equipment.
    • 'Militia' or 'Warlord' forces are likely to be present. They tend to fight each other, and also against the local governments. They could form alliance with resistance/terrorist/crime groups or invading armies (including major power 'intervention forces'). They are generally poorly trained, but some are fanatical. They are generally lightly equipped, but may have re-purposed civilian or captured vehicles (eg. 'Technicals'), as well as improvised equipment. Some Warlord groups may have a cadre of well-equipped bodyguard troops.   
    • There is the potential for "Intervention Forces" from major world powers to become involved. These could be US, European (perhaps former colonial rulers?), Russian, Chinese, Iranian, Saudi, South African, UN, etc. On the whole, these are likely to be small but well equipped and trained units. For example, rapid-deployment troops at the lighter end of the equipment spectrum (ie. they are unlikely to be tank-heavy, more likely to have wheeled and light vehicles). Examples could be USMC, Airborne or Stryker Brigade elements for the US. NATO Rapid Deployment elements (eg. UK Paras, French Foreign Legion, etc), or Russian VDV.
Since we're using the FFT rules (which include points), and will likely use scenarios and a campaign system, there are advantages and disadvantages to all of these forces. For example, poor quality troops with obsolete equipment won't perform brilliantly, but will be plentiful because of their low points values. But they might be quite useful in some scenarios, when playing against a much smaller but better equipped and better quality force (eg. Western Intervention forces). In any case, it should all provide some fun and variety! 

I'll post the first battle-report shortly, along with some more info.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Botzer, 1973

After a bit of a hiatus on the 3mm gaming front lately, I finally had an opportunity last night to get some minis on the table for a game with my buddy John. This time I got out my Desert terrain for some Arab-Israeli War action. I consulted my AIW scenario book From Golan to Sinai from Clash of Arms Games and found a scenario that would fit the bill.

The Scenario is "Botzer" from the 1973 Yom Kippur War, pitting an Egyptian Armoured Brigade trying to make a breakthrough along the shores of the Great Bitter Lake against two Israeli Armoured Battalions. Nothing too complex - lots of tanks, a little bit of infantry on the Egyptian side and pretty much no artillery or air (the Egyptians had their Infantry battalion's mortars, but they hardly count...). An old fashioned tank punch-up!!

Although the scenario was written for the Clash of Armour rules, John and I would be using our go-to rules system Fistful of TOWs. We played the scenario basically as written with only minor translations across to fit our preferred rules system.

The Scenario map (turned on its side to align with the direction I took all the photos from).
The deployment edges for the various Israeli and Egytian units are shown on the map:

And here is my version using Kallistra Hexon terrain in Desert flock.
The Great Bitter Lake is in the W, with the road skirting around it.
A number of ridgelines in the E provide good defensive terrain
and ambush positions for the Israelis.
The Israelis had:

Giora Battalion:
Company of 3x M-48A5
Company of 3x M-48A5
Company of 2x M-48A5

Ze'Evik Battalion:
Company of 2x M-48A5
Company of 2x M-48A5
Company of 3x M-113 w/TOW (ie. M-150)

The Egyptians had:

25th Armoured Brigade:
1st Battalion of 10x T-62
2ndBattalion of 10x T-62
3rd Battalion of 10x T-62
Mechanised Battalion of 9x Infantry in BMP-1, 1x 82mm Mortar in Truck

The Egyptian mission was to breakthrough along the road and exit units (battalions) to the north. The Egyptians earned 3 VPs per Israeli Battalion destroyed, and 3 VPs per Egyptian unit exited off the N table edge.

The Israeli mission was to prevent the Egyptian victory conditions above. The Israelis got 2 VPs per Egyptian battalion destroyed, and 2 VPs per Egyptian unit still on table at game end. The game length was 9 turns. The scenario map is drawn at 1" = 50m scale, therefore to maintain its balance and distances, we played using that scale. The 1"=50m scale is actually an option in the FFT rules (the usual scale for FFT is 1" = 100m, but the rules allow you to play at 1" = 50m by doubling range and move measurements, or at 1cm = 100m for large games).

The game went like this.

The battlefield after the first turn moves:
The Egyptians advance along the axis of the road from S to N.
The Egyptians were required (by the scenario special rules) to stay
within 12" of the road until they had spotted any Israelis.
The Israelis move in from the N and E, to take up hull-down positions on high ground.

The Egyptian advance astride the road. From L to R:
2nd Battalion, 1st Battalion, 3rd Battalion, and MR Battalion following.
'Guarding the gates' - a company of Israeli M48s
takes up hull-down positions on the low ridgelines either side of the road. 

First blood to the Israelis - the lead T-62s of the 1st Battalion are engaged and destroyed.  

The Egyptian Brigade's Motor Rifle battalion dismount
to attack the Ze'Evik Tank Battalion's TOW Company.

Egyptian T-62s of the 1st Battalion lead the column.
The lead elements come under fire, but also destroy several Israeli tank platoons.

Egyptian T-62s of the 1st Battalion advance up the road past a farm.

M-48 company of the Ze'Evik Battalion are destroyed by the Egyptian 3rd Battalion.

Having revealed themselves on the Egyptian flank, the Israelis are
subject to a storm of Egyptian return fire. Hull-down positions helped the Israelis,
but they still suffered quite a few casualties from massed volley fire.
The only artillery in the game was a company of Egyptian mortars,
which fired smoke in the centre, to obscure some of the Israeli tank shooting.

Egyptian infantry from the Mech Battalion
move forward dismounted to assault the TOW company.

Israeli M-48s on the high ground.

A company of M-48s of the Giora Battalion take up
hull-down positions on a ridgeline in the centre. 

The (largely intact) 2nd Battalion of T-62s closes the gap on the Giora Battalion
M-48 Company in the centre. Despite the Egyptian's poor gunnery ('Fair' qualtity),
volley fire from a full battalion at close range takes out several platoons of M-48s.

The Egyptian BMP-1s of the Mech Battalion roll up onto the flank of Ze'Evik battalion,
pinning the TOW launchers (which had withdrawn previous turn), and
destroying the remaining M48 platoon with a volley of 73mm shots into their flank. Ouch!

M48s of the Giora Battalion redeploy to plug the holes.

The remaining Israeli M48s of the Giora Battalion move up onto the ridgeline.
(destroyed tanks in the rear were actually previously destroyed on the same position,
but have been placed aside to make space).

The Israelis take out half the remaining T-62s of the Egyptian 1st Battalion.
This tips the battalion over the threshold requiring a 2/3 Quality Check.
The QC is promptly failed and the remainder of the battalion withdraws from the field in haste. 

The scenario ended up being quite well balanced, even using a different rules system. At the end of the Egyptian's turn two it looked like the mass of Egyptian troops would simply have sufficient weight of numbers to smash through. But by the end of Israeli turn two, the game swung back their way. Then in turn three the game swung first to the Egyptians and then the Israelis in their 'last throw of the dice', put all their remaining forces on the line for a final push, and in an all out effort they did just enough to clinch victory for the Israelis. If this final Israeli volley had not succeeded in breaking one of the remaining Egyptian battalions, then the Egyptians probably would have been able to finish off the remaining exposed Israelis. So it was a good game that swung back and forth.

As it turned out, the Israelis had broken all three of the Egyptian tank battalions, which meant 3/4 of the Egyptians' battalions were broken (over 2/3 of their total force), forcing a formation Quality Check. The Egyptians subsequently passed their formation QC, and the Mech battalion fought on, but to no avail. They destroyed the Israeli TOW company, completing the destruction of the Ze'Evik battalion. However, they were then subsequently destroyed by the remaining Israeli tanks of the Giora Battalion.

In a very bloody battle, the final result was 6 VPs to the Israelis (for 3 Egyptian battalions destroyed), and 3 VPs to the Egyptians (for 1 Israeli battalion destroyed). No Egyptian battalions were able to break through.

The T-62s and M48A5s (Magach 3s) were pretty closely matched. It was only the superior quality of the Israeli crews, their slightly better range and rate of fire that gave the Israeli tanks the edge. This was coupled with favourable defensive terrain allowing hull-down positions, allowing the Israelis to negate the Egyptian quantative advantage.

The Israelis almost clutched defeat from the jaws of victory by deploying immediately and committing their units piecemeal to the fight. By moving into firing positions in turn one, they became visible to the advancing Egyptians, allowing them to react and manouever early, as well as return fire. Perhaps the Israelis would have been better off moving all of their forces into position in dead-ground behind the ridgelines in turn one, then moving up en-masse to deliver a devestating round of coordinated fire in turn two? They stopped the Egyptians and won the game anyway, but could probably have avoided a lot of casualties this way. Hindsight is always 20/20 as they say!

The post-battle aerial shot - carnage!!