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.

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