Friday, November 13, 2015

SABRE SQUADRON: Soviet River Crossing

Played another game of Sabre Squadron before work today.

This game was a little more complicated than previous games as I introduced helicopters and battlefield engineering.  There was a considerable amount of page-flipping but a challenging and fun game none-the-less.  (as an interesting aside, this solo game would have been much better with Ken playing one side or the other as  I believe I screwed up some things on the infantry-firing side).

Dutch Centurions in cover awaiting word of Ivan's advance.
 Also, instead of using the regular programmed artillery for just blasting the tree-line, I used a pre-programmed smoke screen since this battle takes place in the  70s, or possibly the very early 80s and before the more sophisticated imagers are in place amongst TA units and Soviet reservist or Cat II troops (which these all are, by the way)

White puffs are the Soviet smoke screen.  18" x 4" it would do a commendable job of covering the advance for the tank company - but not enough!
Soviet T-55 Company moving forward.  

BRDM 1 reconnoitering forward.  The AOO is part of the recce crew
World War III Traffic Jam!  The BTR open top is my engineering vehicle.  Going to use him to punch through the mines.
Objective is a small canal crossing.  There is another one, more like a ford, downstream that is another Soviet objective.
NATO spotting round - which I quickly removed from the table after realizing the spotter can't see the ground through the smoke!
 The other echelon of artillery continued to hammer NATO positions for this hasty assault and brought artillery screaming down on everybody.  NATO did surprisingly well throughout and resulted in only a few squads becoming "SUPPRESSED" but no vehicle or infantry losses at this point...

Dutch Squad in the town in a destroyed building.  They are directly overlooking the bridge.
MILAN section occupying a pig sty
More Dutch troops at the farm complex overlooking the crossing.  They're suppressed but so far ok.  
"I can't see them but I can hear them moving!" T-55s approach the canal bank and crossing site.  The Soviet Company Commander dispatches a platoon to support the motor rifle troops on his left.
My unfinished Soviet BTR 152s moving towards the town.  Their armor support would be separated from them as they crossed the line of departure.
Meanwhile Dutch Centurions move forward.
Dutch Squad in reserve.
Soviet platoon commander radios the company commander "THIS IS THREE OH ONE - WE ARE ENTERING THE VILLAGE!"

BTRs race along to catch up.  The Dutch have a nasty surprise waiting for them when they do, from the department store across the canal.
Soviet metal bears down on the village and enters the edge of the smoke screen
 So far the Soviet advance is slow - very slow to get started.  The company commander opts to move them straight through the woods to minimize his company's footprint and artillery vulnerability.  In hindsight that probably wasn't the best idea as it took about 3 turns or 4 turns for the company to get straightened out for the attack and the smoke covered them at the wood exit.
Soviet hind skirts the smoke screen and tries to find some NATO armor
 Meanwhile the infantry platoon has reached the village.  "THREE OH ONE THIS IS VOROSHILOV [the company commander], WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY PLATOON?  HAVE THEY REACHED THE VILLAGE?

"oh how the hell should I know?" the Third platoon leader thought to himself.  I lost sight of them a few minutes back.  The old man is not going to like this...."

BTRs reach an the old church at the edge of the village

Voroshilov's company fans out to reach the canal - their first landmark.  Voroshilov, seen sticking up out of the turret, backs off. 

The third platoon leader tries to order his men forward. THREE OH TWO, THIS IS OH ONE, MOVE FORWARD AND...One of the third platoon vehicles erupts into a fireball as a Dutch tank destroys the lead Soviet armor crossing the bridge.

Vehicle 302 destroyed
The Soviet recce troops request smoke from a 122mm towed battery to cover the canal crossing as Soviet armor lurches to the right. The Dutch tanks creep to their left to cover the crossing
 The Dutch troops open fire on the BTRs to no avail - the Carl Gustav misses and their small arms fire barely chips the paint.

Firing at the APCs in the village

MILAN section fires but the range is too close!  Time to break contact!

The Soviet infantry platoon dismounts their APCs and runs into the village.  With no radio however, the Platoon Commander is helpless to let Voroshilov know.  That was supposed to be the Third platoon's job.
Advance!  Assault!  Attack!

 The Soviet Hind crew finally checks in with a target.  They fire an AT-5 and miss.  NATO tanks spotted in the treeline!  The Soviet second (middle ) tank platoon lines up along the canal and blasts the Dutch infantry on the other side.  The MILAN section and a fireteam are wiped out!

Note the Soviet armor skirting the mine field.  The engineers are still exiting the woodline!  
 2 MANPADS shots against the Hind fail to hit their target...

THe Soviet infantry start blasting away at the infantry firing from the other side of the canal, knocking out a fireteam in conjunction with the tanks.  The Dutch luck goes even further south as all of the Heavy RPG fire misses its targets due to suppression and the MILAN is ineffective.
The Soviets have occupied the Gasthaus on the edge of town and are entering the church.
 THREE OH ONE, THIS IS VOROSHILOV, PASHA, LISTEN TO ME - I NEED YOU TO FIND OUT THE STATUS OF THE INFANTRY AND GET YOUR TANKS MOVING ACROSS THE BRIDGE! NOW! OUT!  The old man's voice was getting nervous but third platoon had problems of its own as NATO artillery starts falling all around them...

The third platoon leader's then got even worse as his next lead tank finds itself blanketed in 155mm HE.  He loses radio contact with 304.
Voroshilov moves at speed over to the minefield and the breach site to find that the engineers haven't started work yet on the clearing.  The second platoon in the background is firing coax and AAMGs at the infantry on the far bank.

IF YOU WANT SOMETHING DONE, YOU'VE GOT TO DO IT YOURSELF!  Voroshilov decides to encourage the sappers.

A Hind finally knocks out a Centurion in the orchard.
 The Soviet hind finds one target and KOs a Centurion but as the Third platoon crosses the objective, it loses another tank to NATO tank fire.
The Third platoon finally gets moving as fire erupts from the church on the Soviet side of the canal.  The third platoon gets moving again - still under the watchful eyes of a Dutch Centurion!
 Voroshilov arrives at the breach site and urges the engineers forward.  In SABRE SQUADRON you can perform an action of engineering as part of your action options.  Engineers clear 1 Movement Segment of mines per turn so it's going to be a slow process and likely the Dutch AOO (FO) won't just let them do it.

This is the end of Turn 7 with 5 turns to go.  At this point, the Soviets are gaining the upper hand in the village after an intense back-and-forth firefight. The Dutch are attempting to extricate themselves from the village but the Dutch infantry platoon morale is still holding despite the loss of the MILAN team and a fireteam from the second squad.  They still have a mortar section and another infantry squad in reserve and the Dutch company commander thinks now is the time to put them in
The Soviet infantry platoon fans out into the village to cover the bridge.
The Dutch tank platoon morale starts to waver as the Hind scores a hit!
So this game took awhile to get started as I had to look up a few things.  Namely Anti Aircraft fire from MANPADS (man portable air defense systems).  SAM fire is actually in the air support section and firing at helicopters is in another so I had to look that up.

Engineering rules are quite nice as are the smoke rules.  A pre-programmed smoke mission lasts until turn 4 - which is great because that's about how long it took my Soviets to get into position for the attack.  The smoke was helpful since no one had thermals and the IR only sees about an inch into the smokescreen.

Going off my previous lessons learned, instead of "penny packeting" my tank platoons, I tried to use them more decisively and in conjunction with one another.  After playing against Ken's deadly Chieftains, sending a platoon or 2 "up the middle" is not going to win any battles.  So this time I tried using them in conjunction with the artillery smoke and the infantry.  Unfortunately the timing didn't work out quite right for the first part of the battle but now that the engineers are clearing a lane through the canal crossing, the attack can start to shape up in earnest.

The Soviet tank company is using a platoon to cover the crossing while another platoon moves forward with the engineers.  The third platoon, under the half-hearted command of "301" is tasked with supporting the infantry, but 301 probably isn't thinking about his foot-slogging comrades at this point.

The Soviet strategy to advance in line through the woodline was a bad one.  Woods really slow down movement and the smoke screen was protecting the T-55s for 4 straight turns so in the interest of speed, they could have just as easily moved in column through the forest gap along the "hardball" or improved road surface.

The Dutch also had a tough mission for this battle.  There is much constricting terrain and no great lanes of fire to set up a kill sac.  Everything is close range or near close range.  Better, probably, if they allowed the Soviets to capture the objectives and then launched violent counter attacks with artillery.  If you're curious about that, you'll get to see it in the next installment, provided the Dutch squad in the department store, now suppressed, can get the hell out of Dodge...

That said, the mission was "hasty attack" and the Soviet objectives were the bridge in the village and the canal crossing.  So there's no good reason to set up a defense in depth I suppose.

I can see Soviet weight of numbers winning the day here, especially if the MANPADS AA section continues to miss that bloody Hind and if the Dutch lose another tank.


  1. Very nice! I'm going to test out SS tomorrow. I'm going to be using infantry-heavy forces - re-purposing my AK47 Republic minis. I'll probably start off with just infantry with maybe a couple of jeeps or armored cars in the mix. I just want to get a feel for the flow of the game. Thanks as always for posting!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ski. Can't wait to see the results of your game. I think Sabre Squadron gives a good account of itself in the infantry fight. I had a lot going on today and I lost track of some rules but otherwise I like how they handle infantry fighting.

  2. AT section in a pig sty, yup authentic...especially if you shook up the plt sgt's beer the night before.

    1. "so you boys like to play pranks eh? Well not to worry. I've got plenty of cards left to play. Like your position for the battle. Marcus, set up the MILAN on top of that pig sh*t pile."

  3. AT section in a pig sty, yup authentic...especially if you shook up the plt sgt's beer the night before.

  4. Those Sov might have taken some getting going but it looks like they are going to roll over the Dutch now they have the momentum. I think getting those early casualties seems to be the key to NATO dominance now.

    And that 301 commander is going to get a serious debrief after this battle...

    1. Paul,
      We'll see what happens. That Dutch Centurion watching down the road has already KO'd 2 of #301's tanks and I think 301 is next. When I sit down to finish this battle, it will be Soviet morale check time, too. Poor old Pasha might leave the fight. That said, the infantry on his left are giving a good account of themselves and may be able to push into the town and seize the bridge on their own before the Dutch artillery gets them.

      if the Dutch HQs section can drive off that Hind they'd have a better chance. 2 x missed missile shots so far and the Hind has already killed 1 of their tanks.

      The only way for Ivan to take that canal crossing in time (12 turns) is to push the first platoon straight through the minefield as it will take the engineers too long to breach. Things are about to get even more interesting! If the Dutch can rally their morale in time, they can counterattack the crossing but I don't know. It will come down to morale and who breaks first.

      I love these World War 3 battles!

    2. And you're absolutely right about casualties I think. Knock them down early on and don't let them gather the speed and shock they need to win.

  5. It reads like a Harold Coyle novel Steve! Excellent.

    Love the Dutch centurions vs T55s - none of this T80 reactive armour and Chobam nonsense. Great game. I need to get my Falklands scenario done now.

    (Of course - it won't be a Harold Coyle novel until one of the main characters gets killed when the reader least expects it ...;) )

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Darren. I certainly had alot of fun playing and then writing about it! :)
      It's funny that you mention the write up reads like a Harold Coyle novel. Haven't we discussed the "narrative" that our games tend to produce? This game played out like a World War 3 Novel and really makes you think about your decisions. I continue to find that sound, tactical principles serve me well in this game.

  6. Very cool board, really appreciated the appearance of the Hind. What scale and manufacturer are the minis?

    1. Beast,
      Glad you liked it.
      My minis are a polyglot of manufacturers but mostly all the same scale: 1/100 or 15mm (some were purchased as 15mm and some were purchased as 1/100).

      The Centurions, BTR-50, BTR-152, BRDM-1, and T-55s are Roskopf plastic 1/100 "toys" that I ordered used from a collection from the Fidelis models website.

      If you can find any, the Roskopf models are usually pretty cheap if you're looking for any mid-Cold War stuff. Ebay has many but they come packaged and go for about 10 bucks per model, which I would not have paid. Look for the big, used lots of them if you can find any. They turn up from time to time.

      You can't see it in any pictures, but the M577 Command track is a 15mm "Quality Castings" model.

      The Hind is a 1/144 Zvezda "Hot War" model that I paid 9 dollars for from "The War Store" online.

      The Soviet infantry is a mix of the Khurasan 1970s Soviet Motor Rifle Troops and the Command Decision "Modern Arab Regualrs" which I use to fill in the gaps. All are 15mm.

      The Dutch troops are Command Decision 15mm US Vietnam Range, mixed with 15mm Command Decision US Paratroopers and 15mm Command Decision DAK troops. There are a few Peter Pig Vietnam US guys in there as well.

      Basically, I take the US Paratrooper heads and chop them off, putting them on the US Vietnam guys. I also saw off the M16 carrying handle to make it look like a G3 battle rifle. The DAK guys are used for their field caps. It's an ad-hoc Bundeswehr platoon but made completely from stuff I had laying around. No one seemed to mind...

  7. Tasty Steven.Excellent feel to your stuff lately. The 70's stuff is underrated mate.

    1. Thanks, Paul! I agree. The 1970s and early 1980s battles make for a really interesting fight because you don't have the sophisticated thermal imagers and sensors flooding the battlefield yet. So the skills of the crews, smoke, visual detection are still vitally important.

      In this game, the Centurion had a big advantage over the T-55 simply because of its stabilization. I love it!