Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Bloody Patrol


Coalition forces have been in Alephstan since 2001, and the British have been in-country in Kigal Province since 2006. Today is the 15th March, 2008. Eight men of 6Para in an isolated strongpoint are making their daily patrol in Irkulla. It is not a city, not a town, and barely a hamlet. It is simply Some Corner of a Foreign Field.

British Forces, 6PARA
Name
S&D
A
M
P. Wpn S. Wpn
Grenades
Corporal James
4
H
R
SA80
Pistol
2 smoke
Pvt. Sloane
3
H
R
UGL
Pistol

Pvt. Andrews
3
H
R
SA80
Pistol

Pvt. Kane
3
H
R
LSW
Pistol

L.Cpl. Thomas
3
H
R
SA80
Pistol

Pvt. Rhys
3
H
R
UGL
Pistol

Pvt. Galliant
3
H
R
SA80
Pistol

Pvt. Farragut
3
H
R
LSW
Pistol


Ansari al-Mawt
Name
S&D
A
M
P. Wpn S. Wpn
Grenades
Emir Takbir
3
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Ehsun
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Ali
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Abuz
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Umar
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Othman
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Ephaz
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Ibn Artur
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Khaled
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Nasir
2
N
I
AK74
Knife
None
Mahsud
2
N
I
PKM
Knife
None
Tulwir
2
N
I
RPG
Knife
None

The patrol started well enough. Well, it left the patrol house. 
They did, look!

Thomas, Rhys, Galliant and Farragut walked all of six yards into the road. And then the firing started. The greenzone began to crackle with smokeless flame. Lance Corporal Thomas was hit in the helmet and staggered away from his patrol. The rest of them took cover against the mud wall of the closest house while Corporal James' fireteam on the towers began scanning the area for enemies. “Muj down.” came over the radio, a blue jacket stained red on the edge of the greenzone.

Thomas came back to his men, identifying targets in the bush as the battlelines began to form. It was still not obvious how many men they faced – no sooner was an insurgent spotted than they disappeared from view. The fireteam began to spread out through the village. Suddenly, a hail of fire came from a killing hole in the wall of a house, downing Galliant with a sucking chest wound. The radio began to go wild with sightings, with updates, with all the noise of battle. Suddenly Galliant and the others saw an old bearded man standing over him, pointing an AK at his face. His curses were drowned by the magazine the downed paratrooper emptied into him.
Galliant and the Emir, both down!

Thomas threw a smoke grenade to cover Galliant's extraction, unwittingly blocking off half his fireteam from the patrol house's supporting fire. Suddenly Rhys spun round with a bullet in his thigh. A heavy machine gun opened up as he knelt in the dust, and then he too was on the ground, mercifully unconscious as the blood poured from his mouth and leaked from behind his armour.
Thomas' ill-thought-through smoke grenade.

Desperate to correct his earlier tactical errors, Thomas led Farragut in a flanking manoeuvre, slotting an Ansari at no more than three yards. As he edged forward, he realised Sloane, Kane and Andrews were behind him too. And then came the whistle. Or the shriek, depending on your view of things. Whatever it was, it was followed by black smoke and mud chips as the wall behind them all exploded under the impact of an RPG.
Thomas assaults an Ansari.
What's he up to behind the smoke?

The smoke cleared, and not before time. Others might say too late. Galliant and Rhys lay still, too still. An unnaturally calm looking local stood crouched over them, bloody knife in hand. Sloane's 40mm grenade caught him under the jaw and blew the bottom of his face off, leaving him screaming in the dust.
Juuust before the grenade was fired...

Kane stormed forward, kicking the bastard for good measure, and sprayed the inside of the house with fire, unprofessionally framed in the doorway. This prompted a frankly pitiful surrender from the insurgent inside, who threw aside his still-smoking AK with a cringing gabble.

Thomas saw a sitting insurgent in a crimson shirt raise his gun and charged him. A bullet caught him in the shoulder as he realised he had not even fixed his bayonet. His epiphany came as Andrews' bayoneted SA80 came down and speared his adversary.

Suddenly, the battlefield was quiet. There had been screaming as a harmony to the gunfire's melody, but now all was quiet. There were not even footfalls to be heard in the distance. There would be no patrol today, but the last post would sound.

Butcher's Bill
British: Privates Galliant and Rhys dead, Lance-Corporal Thomas lightly injured.
Ansari al-Mawt: Ali, Abuz, Mahsud & Khaled dead, Takbir, Ephaz & Nasir seriously wounded, Tulwir lightly wounded, Othman POW.

Conclusion
Chris set up the scenery a little more sparsely than I expected, but he thoroughly enjoyed his first go at Some Corner of a Foreign Field. Thomas, his lancejack, did not acquit himself with honour. In any campaign system he would lose a lot of kudos. From his first failed morale check to his ill-thought-out smoke grenade to his failed attempt to win close combat against a severely wounded enemy, he did not do much right.

All told though, the British scraped a losing draw. They achieved only one of their three patrol objectives, but did secure a POW and inflict 75% casualties on the enemy, including their emir. The game system held up nicely, and Chris even thought it was “more balanced than Chain of Command”. I don't know if that says more about my rules-writing or my rules-adapting (I guess the latter), but it was nice to hear.

I very rarely play such a low level game, and writing it up gave me a new unsettling feeling about the difference between simulation and gameplay. The larger a battle one models, the easier it is to ignore the real human cost of what is happening. Some Corner of a Foreign Field has been very fun to play, but writing up the games has brought the whole thing a little close to home. The level of detail required for this small a scale depiction of warfare is a little unnerving. It was particularly unpleasant when I realised just what was involved in me sending someone over to automatically win combats against unconscious wounded men. Well, playing pieces. But still, in these fantasy worlds of imagi-nations, made-up regiments and fake anti-Western militia, men.

In the end, we both felt bad when men were seriously injured or killed, we both felt a real tactical imperative to minimise losses while achieving objectives, and both got sunk into the game without worrying too much about the mechanisms – which is what a good game should do! The game will be trialled by the modern-gaming lags at the club in a fortnight, so watch this space! If you want to playtest it, get in touch at infoatmorningstar at gmail dot com. Playtesters will get a free copy of the finished product.

Some Corner of a Foreign Field - First Playtest


SCOAFF Playtest Game

Grand Fenwick has been invaded by Ruritania! Here, deep in the eastern European countryside, British Forces Germany clash with the Republican Armed Forces in a playtest game of Some Corner of a Foreign Field. This is one of the upcoming “Tactical Two Pagers”, inspired by a less than inspiring modern game at the club.
The table set up - Ruritanians arrive bottom, Brits top.

BFG – 41 Commando Royal Marine Section
Name
S&D
A
M
P. Wpn S. Wpn
Grenades
Cpl Jones
4
H
R
SA80
Pistol
Smoke
Mar. Smith
4
H
R
UGL
Pistol
Smoke
Mar. Ash
4
H
R
SA80
Pistol
None
Mar. Dean
4
H
R
SAW
Pistol
None
L.Cpl Anders
4
H
R
SA80
Pistol
Smoke
Mar. Kyrie
4
H
R
SA80
Pistol
Smoke
Mar. Tanner
4
H
R
UGL
Pistol
None
Mar. Lees
4
H
R
GPMG
Pistol
None

Republican Armed Forces – Strelsau Grenadiers
Name
S&D
A
M
P. Wpn S. Wpn
Grenades
Cpl Heinrich
4
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Wehn
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Weiss
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Schwartz
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
Smoke
Gren. Grun
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
Smoke
Gren. Rott
3
L
R
UGL
Pistol
None
Gren. Braun
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Wessel
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Wurst
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Sauer
3
L
R
AK74
Pistol
None
Gren. Macht
3
L
R
PKM
Pistol
None

Game
The game started slowly, with both forces edging their way toward the village square. Corporal Heinrich moved into an alleyway to keep an eye on the area, while Braun and Wessel dashed behind an abandoned car. GPMG gunner Lees noticed them, but to begin with couldn't quite draw a bead (never roll a 1!). Next to him, Marine “Kylie” Kyrie saw them straight away, and opened up with his SA80. The Ruritanians ducked behind the car as a spray of bullets passed overhead.
Braun and Wessel glare across the square.

Hearing this first exchange of fire, Heinrich went prone. Further up the square, Tanner and Anders dashed across and dived prone behind a car, ready to open fire from a secure position.

Regaining his composure, Kylie broadcast his targets' location to the rest of the squad, before firing again. This time he saw his man go down – little did he know that Grenadier Ernst Braun had just breathed his last. Lees went prone to better aim his GPMG, but his first round of fire merely popped the hood of Wessel's cover.

Looking past the memorial fountain, Heinrich spotted Tanner & Anders, and broadcast it to his squad. From his vantage point in the cafe's upstairs lounge, Grenadier Macht opened fire with his machine gun. The car windows sprayed glass over the stretched out Marines, but no harm came to them – yet! Rott came up to join Wessel and fired his UGL at them, scarring the wall behind them. On the other flank, Wurst noticed two marines in the garden across the way and opening fire, informed the rest of his squad. Two of his squadmates burst into the building behind him to take cover before returning fire. Wiping Braun's blood off his face, Wessel dropped prone, took careful aim and opened fire.
Wurst and the others see the Marines.

Smith and Ash, in the garden, opened up from their prone positions behind the hedges at the AK sparking from the alley. Wurst fell back, blood spurting from his abdomen as fire raked his comrades in the barn.
Marines take out Wurst.

Wessel's reward for his aim was an armful of lead from his prey. As he gasped on the cobbles, heavy tracer fire pumped over his head, spraying him with broken glass. Beside him Rott's ka-chunk of fire was rewarded with screams and curses. Macht's fire moved down the square, toward the enemy machine gun in the hedges. Fire from Schwartz and Weiss, who had manoeuvred to the upstairs of the terrace, caught Tanner in the chest and laid him out choking next to Anders' still body.
Tanner and Anders halfway through their ordeal.

Heinrich raced across the square to tend to Wurst's unconscious body, holding his guts in with both hands. Seemingly out of nowhere at the other end of the square, a smoke grenade arced through the air, landed and started pouring fog between the combatants. Dean and Jones ran behind it to start dragging their downed comrades away.
Smoke across the square.
The board at the end of the game.

Conclusion
At this point the game ended – the Marines had sustained 25% casualties (both Seriously Injured), and the Ruritanians had one man dead, one Seriously Injured and one Lightly Injured – 30% casualties. Both sides were tending to their wounded, and in their current positions, disengagement would be swift.

The game ran very well, very quickly. The difficulty with a Tactical Two Pager is fitting the whole game on two sides of A4. This means ruthlessly trimming fat, and trying to make every mechanism as efficient and multi-purpose as possible. This game threw up a few things that just had to be added, and a few rules that had to be tweaked. This they were, and it all went very well. It was a shame that no Close Combat occurred, but it rarely does in modern warfare so I'm not too upset. We also forgot to use the armour rules, but them's the breaks. Our next games will have underlines on the rulesheet, I think!

Here are some more photos to say goodbye.

Tanner and Anders being dragged away.

And again.

Ruritanians tending to Wessel.

Smith and Ash keeping an eye on the other flank.