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Saturday, August 29, 2015

SABRE SQUADRON GAME! COLD WAR HOT

Ken and I played a game of "Sabre Squadron" today using their "rapid deployment rules" and while there are many questions about the rules processes and the author's intent behind certain mechanics, I think overall the game scored pretty well  (well enough to be played again) and the game delivered a very fun and highly satisfying battle between the Soviets and West Germans.  (sorry for the photo quality - used my crappy phone).

Ken played the Soviets today and I played the West Germans.  Ken had a platoon of 3 x T-64Bs (actually Zvezda T-72s substituting for T-64B) and a motorized infantry platoon in BTR-80s (substituting for BTR-60s).  I had a Leopard I platoon with 4 Leopard IAIs and a mechanized infantry platoon in Marder IFVs.  We both had artillery standing by in support.  Ken had a battery of 122mm Self Propelled and I had a platoon of 155mm Self Propelled standing by.

The West Germans were tasked with defending a ridgeline.  The Soviets needed to seize the ridgeline or at least force the Germans off it.

Marders and West German Infantry in their Battle Position!
Late-added pic from Ken - my Leos in their Battle position.  Sweet pictures!
We initially had (still have, actually) some questions regarding the wording of the player action options in regards to what your units can do and the author's meaning.  There were a few other questions (built up area terrain being one) but we were able to fight through them and I felt the overall mechanics of moving and shooting were very smooth and straightforward.  It took us a little while to figure out infantry fire (fire as a platoon?  fire as an ad-hoc group?) but the results of all were, again, very straightforward and smooth.

Something I really like about these rules?  It's very easy to suppress infantry.  But very difficult to kill or dislodge them.

Leopard Is in their initial Battle Position!  Waiting for Ivan...
 Ken moved his forces forward using "transit speed" to get into an advantageous position and raced the infantry up to the village in the center.  My Leopard's fire basically chipped the paint of the T-64 on the first volley...I was able to KO a BRDM recce vehicle (we placed one of the Soviet AOOs in that vehicle, and the other in a PT-76 recce vehicle!)

overlooking the town
 My infantry were overlooking the right-most section of the ridgeline with a wooded section in front.  Behind the wooded section, Ken's T-64s moved forward and started returning fire at the Leo's.

Recce with the Artillery Observation Officer (FO) work their way up the right flank in a Spahpanzer Luchs
Soviet T-64s (T-72 models) advance through fields!  Ivan's infantry advanced up the left side on the road.

Soviet advance towards the village.  Ken's BRDM AOO and PT-76 AOO in cover.  The BRDM's life would end next turn...

Ken's T-64s work their way up.  The infantry are in the far, far woodline
First blood!  A T-64 easily knocks out a Leopard I.
We realized early-on that if you were able to secure a hit on the first-generation Leopard, you'll kill it, regardless of the protection roll adjustment.  Scratch one Leopard!  Then another!

Ivan reaches the village.  You can just see make out the Leopards on the hill in the woods upper right
West Germans dismount!
 The infantry have a really low movement rate and they don't fare well equally in dense or rough terrain.  So getting them up to the treeline was tough, especially after Ken's artillery started raining down on the right flank and they all became suppressed.  Ken kept that barrage in place for another turn so it was especially tough to get them moving!

MILAN missile takes out a BTR from the infantry position!  Note the infantry team on the right.  They're actually "inside" the building.  We treated BUA as area terrain, like forest.
Ken's 122mm Fire Mission rains down HE fire all over my infantry.  Note the KO'd Marder from a T-64 shot.
 What was great about this game, besides the simplicity (love that you can do basically anything with a roll of 5+ and simple modifiers on a D10!) is the fact that you, as the commanding officer, must manage your units' morale and ensure they can continue the advance, or defense.  Rallying a platoon in order to get its morale back up to advance toward the enemy isn't easy, and many factors contribute to successfully rallying.  (you've got a job to do, company commander!)  So it's easy to get "stuck in" during an advance and before long, you can find yourself in a spot of trouble with units wavering under fire. 
KO T-64 and a suppressed one behind it.  The platoon's morale is "uncertain"
 Also, as I stated in a previous post, you continue to roll morale until you pass.  Meaning your morale can be fine, and next thing you know, your troops have just stopped.

View of the Soviet advance!  Ken has his T-64s in cover.
This infantry team is "neutralized" I believe - can't remember.  These guys would receive 3 platoon volleys of 155mm as well as auto-cannon, LMG and other small arms.  Tough SOBs!!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned:

Well if you have read this far you can probably tell I enjoy these rules very much.  I actually emailed the author about writing a WW2 set eventually because I like the engagement and artillery mechanics that much.

One of the things I told Ken that I liked most about this game was it achieves the perfect balance of detail and simplicity with the "right" amount of modifiers and abstraction.  There aren't too few modifiers, or too many modifiers - but "the right amount" of modifiers for the situation.  It's not like a standard microarmor game where you roll to hit, roll to kill and move on to the next tank.  It's also not as complicated as some other games at the same scale.

You still have to cross reference penetration and protection data but there is variable armor protection and this beautifully handles a myriad of weapon penetration scenarios that are missing from other games I've played at the same scale.

I like that I have to tally up infantry fire.  I've always felt that ROF is the way to go.  Although Sabre Squadron doesn't do rate of fire quite  that way, it quantifies your unit's firepower into different types that equate to extra dice in your anti-infantry roll.  This is beautiful!  If only we knew exactly what the author was trying to convey regarding the firing group.  Can I form ad-hoc groups?  Or does the entire platoon have to fire at once?

Artillery can really ruin your day.  If you are caught in a barrage, it's going to suppress you - or worse.  The fire zones are fairily large as well - you've been warned!  ( the author has assured us that rules for sophisticated artillery rounds like DPICM or FASCAM are "incoming" [pun intended]).

The game forces you to plan a move ahead because the enemy gets to either plot or fire his artillery during your turn.  So sitting there in a battle position without moving can be hazardous to your health.

A couple things I did not like about Sabre Squadron's rapid deployment rules were the movement values - especially for the infantry.  My goodness were they slow!  And if you're suppressed and in built up or dense terrain?  Forget about it!  You're barely crawling! Also - the author has assured us that infantry movement has been ironed out for the main edition of the rules coming out (thanks Nick for your prompt reply!)

I also didn't like the -1 modifier for shooting subsequent artillery fire missions at the same target.  In my experience, this only gets easier to shoot with subsequent missions, especially if there are no changes.  (The author also clarified this point and they were posted to the comments below for a detailed explanation.  This modifier makes perfect sense to me now.)

As an interesting aside - this is why we never say "REPEAT" on the radio in the US Army.  Because all you have to say is "REPEAT" and the artillery's Fire Direction Center shoots the same mission, same quantity of rounds at the same target a second time - no questions asked.  If anything, shooting the same target ought to get easier?

All in all a very fun and enjoyable game that we will hopefully be playing again soon.  I highly recommend you get your hands on this game when it comes out.  Even if it's not your "go to" game for moderns, you'll really be missing something if you don't give it a try.

Monday, August 24, 2015

SABRE SQUADRON Test Game!

Ken and I are supposed to play a game of "Sabre Squadron" this weekend so I thought I would use the micro armor from that modern Flames of War game and take these new rules for an introductory spin!  You can read about Sabre Squadron here.

This game featured 1 American M60A3 platoon against 2 Soviet T-64 platoons (6 AFVs total).  The Americans are defending a battle position.  Both sides have artillery in support.  The Americans have 1 platoon of 155mm artillery (self propelled) and the Soviets have a battery of 122mm Self Propelled in support.

What follows is my account of the battle in the picture captions, with a specific emphasis on the mechanics of the rules.
American armor awaiting the "red hordes"
The first thing you'll is that Sabre Squadron has a very non-standard sequence of play.  As the active player, you select a range of options, each with varying degrees of restrictions.  For example you can move a "transit speed" which is hauling a** and moving at 150% of your movement.  Or you can fire and move, move and fire, etc.  The next phase the enemy gets to either request, or actually call for his artillery, which can really play hell on your plans.  Next you handle some administrative "tidying" with morale status.

It takes some getting used to, but I really like it.  Much better than a linear, more predictable game.  
The "Red Hordes" 3 T-64 disguised as T-72.  (actually they are T-72 but you get the idea)

Americans went first.  The "ranged in" marker was a Soviet request for fire.

Ivan enters the battle area!
 The movement values are generous but not too generous.  So far, so good!
gratuitous shot of a tank.

another gratuitous shot of a tank!

US forces take up firing positions.  Good shooting (and some lucky rolling) and the US player KO's 2 T-64s.
 Shooting.  I love how the author handles shooting.  As I was telling Ken, I didn't think I would like the D10 being used, but it works great!  The modifiers are more subtle than when using D6 (I think I read 10% instead of 17%?).  There are modifiers for the firer's state and the target's state that are pretty much what you'd expect but have a dramatic impact on your ability to hit the target.  Some of those modifiers are:

Target not visible at start of your turn, (so you were moving him and just spotted him during your movement) Firer suppressed, Target at long range, and suppression.

Here's something different.  "Firer and/or target using action option #4" which is stationary firing.  So you get a bonus for staying still to shoot - and the bad guys also get a bonus to hit YOU when you stay still to shoot.  I really appreciate these subtleties that the author put into the game.  They show thought, research, and an appreciation of real-world tactics.


Artillery plasters the Soviets
 Something else near and dear to this former redleg's heart?  The artillery.  Artillery has a dramatic effect on operations - and best of all - you call for it during the enemy's turn.  So a well thought out fireplan can really wreak havoc on the enemy's plans.  In this game, those T-64s advanced into a wall of 155mm HE steel and 1 round actually knocked out a tank and the other tanks of the platoon were suppressed.  Granted, it's not very easy to do with HE in the game, but it was good rolling on the American part.

The Artillery stays in place for an agonizingly long amount of time so it can also affect the maneuver plans 1 turn down the road as well.  So you have enormous flexibility in using it and it can be used for its intended purpose.  Destroy, Neutralize, or Suppress the enemy (all 3 are possible) and if you want to get creative with your artillery you can - like using artillery to "turn" an enemy's flank or force him into an obstacle belt!

 
Soviet turn they KO 1 M-60
 Killing tanks isn't incredibly easy but it's not impossible either.  The author uses variable protection which can increase or decrease your armor protection by a few points each time you're hit,  Sometimes these points make all the difference in the world and can be life or death for your tanks.  I really like that, as in armored warfare, nothing is certain or given.  The right shot in the right place with the right physics behind it can knock out a tank.

American artillery plasters the Soviets.  3 155mm howitzers from a platoon fire mission bring enough heat down to paralyze ivan's advance for the time being.  The blue dice are "suppression" markers.  There are a good assortment of markers in Sabre Squadron.  They are optional I think, but very useful.  I should have cut some out.

Suppressed Soviet tanks driving straight through a nightmare!
 Morale rules are brutal and unforgiving but I appreciate them.  If you lose people or equipment, you test morale.  You continue to test morale and reduce morale states until you pass a check (like Snappy Nappy), and to let you know how awful that can get - there are 5!

There are rules for company morale vrs platoon morale but I didn't get that far as I didn't have a full company on the table.  The author wants you to have at least a company command element on the table to help with rallying though, so perhaps next game will be bigger.

There are also rules for ATGM, "Confusion" (which occurs when platoons occupy or overlap the same space!  So cool - when do you see that in modern rules??), and infantry combat in the "rapid deployment" rules, which are the author's introductory rules that are available for free.

The real version of the rules are coming out in a month or so!  Sign me up for a copy!

This platoon this guy belonged to doesn't exist anymore.  His morale rolls didn't go so well so he's on "withdraw" orders until I can rally him.

Ivan's next turn he would move out of the barrage area.

This lone tank has rallied!
 
The Americans fire into the Soviets but fail to hit anything.  They beat a hasty retreat from the battle position for fear of Soviet artillery landing on them!

the advance continues

Ivan's tanks are still suppressed and that's a game.
Final Thoughts:

So as you can tell, I really enjoyed playing Sabre Squadron and am looking forward to playing it in a bigger battle, hopefully with more "goodies" like infantry, ATGM, and of course more artillery.

I think these rules are really something special and definitely worth trying out at least once in your gaming career.

The author has a real appreciation for tactics and a real respect for the weapons systems that are represented on the table.  They were easily learned, even by me, so that's saying something.

If you are going to play it, read up on your field manuals.  Failing to do that, take a covered and concealed route to the objective, and remember - if you can be seen, you can be hit.  If you can be hit, you can be killed!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Soviet OOB: Ponyri Station MEGA GAME

So I finally got around to putting together the Soviet OOB for our Ponyri Station "Mega Game."  This OOB is based on Bob Mackenzie's excellent Command Decision Ponyri Station scenario but has been converted to a generic platoon = stand laydown.

The Soviet force headquarters is the 307th Rifle Division, reinforced by the 13th AT Brigade. 


The Division Task Organization is as follows:


No shortage of supporting units here that's for sure!  In terms of gaming and scenario planning, this will be the biggest game I have ever played without a doubt.  In fact my "fuzzy math" was off and I will have to make another order to Craig at Game Models for more AT guns....
 
First up is the 1019th Rifle Regiment, Cohesion 14.  (All Soviet units are Cohesion 14 in GHQ terms, except for the 27th Guards Heavy Tank, who are 15).
 
Followed by the 1023rd Rifle Regiment:
 
 
And of course the tanks!  Gotta have the tanks.
This is going to be a crowded battlefield....Here is the artillery both on board and on board and mounted support for the 1019th Rifle:
 
 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Modern Flames of War: CENTAG 1600 pt "Hold the Line" Battle

So had an hour or so to kill yesterday before work and played a very quick game of modern "Flames of War" with my Micro Armour using "Stopping the Red Tide's" Modern Flames of War conversion rules.  (find his excellent work here and download it for free!).

Most of you know my thoughts about playing FoW with Micro Armor and this game did not disappoint.  Realistic looking ranges and no "parking lot effect" on the battlefield.  I think, had my terrain been better, this game would have really looked the part.

Anyways, force is a 1500 or 1800 point Regular Soviet Army (Reluctant Conscripts) T-64B company along with some ZSU-23/4 ADA, Artillery (offboard BRM-27 MRL) and Recce (2 x BRMs) advancing down the narrow edge of the map to seize an objective or 2 in their zone.  Like most of my FoW games, this game literally comes down to the wire with a few dice rolls on the last turn of the standard game.

Soviet recce leads the way, hoping to stop an ambush.  
The Pact advance is fast and the T-64 is a light tank and haul's a** down the battlefield.  The stabilization allows them to shoot at full ROF but with a modifier so most of the time, they're firing at the US M60A3's with a "6" to hit.


The map.  The Soviet objective is the village in the upper right.  the US objective is the small hilltop upper left.  US only starts with 1 platoon on the board.
The stipulation for "Hold the Line" games and having the US troops on "delayed reserve" didn't do them any favors.  Also, NATO troops are quite expensive so I didn't have the points for Artillery or any "sexy" support options.  "MY COMPLIMENTS GENTLEMEN, ALL ELEMENTS ARE TIED UP AND UNAVAILABLE.  DO WHAT YOU CAN WITH WHAT YOU HAVE.  SIX OUT"

So NATO took to the field with 2 M60A3 platoons (1 in ambush off-board) and an infantry and ITV platoon in delayed reserve.




US M60s concealed in the woodline.  

Soviet objective

T-64s race on ahead!  (Actually T-72s but what the hell)





Soviet artillery finds its target and plasters the woodline with High Explosive rockets!



They manage to bail 1 US tank


Showing some tactical sophistication, a Soviet platoon occupies a support by fire position 

meanwhile another of Ivan's platoons heads for cover


Ambush!  The right flank of the Soviet advance is stopped cold by an armored counter attack!

lovely looking ranges!



showing more tactical sophistication, the Soviet platoons leap-frog ahead trying to make the best use of cover against the US tank guns.

tank duel.  The same US tank bailed by artillery fire is bailed by tank fire!

THe US Ambush on the Soviet right bails 1 T-64 and KO's another.  Russian return fire is nasty and KO's a US tank.
 With the clock running out for Ivan, he makes a desperate move to seize both objectives using his superior movement.  The "Hold The Line" scenario dictates that he must start the turn in control of an objective to win.  No US tanker worth his salt was going to let that happen.  Cue the savage counterattacks!

US Patton tanks turn around and head towards the village.  They KO 1 tank, and bail 2 others.  
 I think one the more exciting aspects of FoW is the dramatic, final turn rush where you "go for broke" and rush your units across an objective.  Ivan certainly lived up to those expectations, and the US had to mount a desperate counter-attack to try and get him off the objectives.

no village for you, Ivan!


It's the same story on the hilltop objective, but this time he had 4 tanks to deal with instead of 3.  The US guns made short work of those T-64s at this range.
So the beginning of turn 6 saw no viable Soviet elements on the objective.  Ivan failed to remount both tanks in the village and a stalled platoon due to bailed tanks saw more KO vehicles and failed its platoon morale, bugging out.

Lessons Learned:

Well the delayed reserves really hurt the US player this time.  I thinkt he task-organization was sound though.  You need all the tank killers you can get from the outset if you're going to be facing tanks.  I had the ITV's and Mech infantry on reserve.  The ITVs showed on turn 3 but the "little M113 that could" never made it up into the action in time to make any serious difference.  The infantry never arrived due to bad rolling.

If you're playing the NATO forces, you have better tanks more than likely.  Your ultimate dilemma is to keep them hidden behind cover, and move them out slightly to shoot.  The Pact forces got the first shots off and managed to bail a tank.  Ivan can't hit what is out of sight.  Probably best if I would have kept all of my tank platoons in ambush, then I would have gotten 8 shots off from both platoons.  Something to think about.

If you're the Soviet player, you have capable equipment but you cannot should not move every turn.  Recommendation (and I have no idea how the "real' FoW modern supplement will be) is to use some platoons on overwatch, keeping them stationary.  Had I brought along some wheeled infantry, I might have been able to sneak them by and get them lodged into a position.  Given that the US player didn't have any infantry, I don't think he would have been able to risk the casualties and dig them out.

Also, I feel that I wasted a support option on ADA.  I should have brought along tank killers or infantry, but I'll know better for next time.