Wednesday, July 19, 2023

The Roaring 80s!

Dave and I were able to get a solid game of Battlegroup: NORTHAG on the table recently with my 1/285 Soviets and Cold War Americans and all I can say is that the rules and the NORTHAG system did not disappoint, with the game delivering an outstanding narrative, and crazy-lethal action that only modern weapons can deliver!

tried the felt mat and it looked good with undulating hills.  Much better than the wedding cake hills esp with 6mm models

The scenario, itself a test for a convention game this fall, was based on the "First Blood" engagement from Harold Coyle's "Team Yankee" book - with a Soviet advanced force consisting of a T-72 tank company and a BMP-1 company and supporting reconnaissance and off-table artillery supporting Lieutenant Colonel Yuri Poteknov's force.  Over to the guardians of freedom and the American way of life, we have Captain Bannon and his hastily but *begrudgingly* (if you've read the book - you know) assembled "Team Yankee" - with 2 x tank platoons and an infantry platoon in M113s.  Supporting Team Yankee is a scout element in M113s, 2 x Improved TOW vehicle tracks, and a battery of 155mm howitzers delivering off-table hate at CPT Bannon's beck and call.

The NORTHAG rules and their CENTAG supplement (Northern Army Group and Central Army Group respectively) have scenarios in them for use and we used the NORTHAG escalating engagement scenario which strays from the hasty defense in the book a bit and plays out more like a meeting engagement.  That did not take away from the nail biting action delivered by the rules, but the game unfolds less like the "First Blood" battle in the book since Team Yankee's platoons are not in place from the start.

Soviet recce skulks down the hill looking for trouble

American scouts and their M113 mount

The cold war fiction fans among you will note the only reference to "Abrams" in this post is in this sentence, and for good reason.  I wanted to use the older MTOE (modified table of organization and equipment) for this battle - basically giving Team Yankee the cold war workhorse tanks - M60A3s - instead of the new M1s (this is 1983, afterall).

vanguard shows up on Turn 3 - a T72 company

American M60A3s occupy their battle positions overlooking the valley

here comes trouble!  T-72 storming the valley

scout section in the valley at the objective (star) - destroyed by a direct hit from Soviet artillery - note the burning Soviet scout tank off to the left

In typical Battlegroup style, only your scout / recce units start on the table and NATO is instantly out-scouted with the Soviets deploying their doctrinally correct scout platoon and tank platoon.  There is a cat-and-mouse game with the American cavalry scouts seizing the objective, only to be destroyed in a timely Soviet timed artillery strike on the road junction.  Not long after, T-72s from the vanguard start pouring over the ridge.  Facing them are a platoon of M60s from Team Yankee deploying from the march and charging up the hill, their massive engines belching smoke as their drivers gun the engines to get into position.  The hill top has a commanding view of the valley and it's not a comforting sight as Soviet tanks are starting to approach the hedge and the road, churning their way towards the objective.

Dave's main column is the infantry, battlegroup commander, observer for the mortar platoon, and his air defense element.  Speaking of air power, Dave gets a "gunship" and a Hind helicopter shows up, strafing the ridge with the M60s, pinning one.

Hind D gunship arrives after a lucky chit draw by Dave

Id be smiling too if an attack helo showed up!

T-72 company surges forward and reaches the road

Soviets gain the T junction objective

Hind bringing some pain to the American M60s on the hill - air defense hasnt shown up yet

pinned from a strafing attack by rockets!  I think the Hind was shot down or driven off by pintle mounted AA fire

Soviets preparing to storm the valley

Soviets storm the road after crossing the hedge.  The game changes considerably now as American tanks enter on their baseline, directly in front of the Soviet armor!

By now, the tank battle on the valley floor is NOT going NATO's way and luckily Captain Bannon, fashionably late, shows up with the remaining tanks and mech infantry from Team Yankee.  I'm now fighting from my baseline as Dave's remaining T-72s are pouring into the road exit, and the objective for the Soviets.  Bannon and company set up a textbook "kill sack" but their shooting is terrible and Ivan escapes the trap with a bunch of T-72s escaping off the table.  The tank company suffers 70% casualties with 7 tanks knocked out but it's the mech infantry who are the real heroes today as the BMP company exits almost all of their infantry fighting vehicles off table around the hill forcing me to draw 10 (!) chits and I surpass my breakpoint on turn 9.  The Soviets won handily.  

Some cool pictures of the fight follow.

Soviet tank at the objective

The BMP company arrives on turn 5 - the main column - and fans out into the attack

American armor joins the battle and tries desperately to stop the rising tide of Soviet armor

This is the scene that greets CPT Bannon as he gets onto the field!

Fighting from the US Baseline

BMPs flanking the valley - the arrival of this company will decisively turn the tide in favor of the Soviets

BMPs fanning out to climb the hill.  This is a beautiful picture and straight from the game.

gratuitous shot of an M113 in the woods - I think this was the FIST / FSO vehicle (AOO for your Brits...)

Captain Bannon directing fire but it's too little, too late!  The BMPs make it off table!  1 chit pull per BMP and 1 chit pull per accompanying infantry team!

Post Battle Analysis

To put this all in perspective for you, in World War II Battlegroup it would be unheard of to end a 750 point game in 9 turns - which gives you an idea of how lethal the equipment is, and how quickly the game can be played.  Dave and I were looking up stuff furiously, there were probably 50-60 vehicles and troop stands on the table and we still finished the game in under 4 hours.  Ken and I played the same battle the next day and it finished even faster (similar results - Soviet victory - but a bit closer and lasted 11 turns).

In the post game analysis, we felt that these rules really captured the spirit of modern warfare, at a time when computers were really just starting to make their mark on modern military staff teams, and the weapons were just vastly improved versions of their WWII cousins.  NORTHAG really hit the mark here and I'm pleased that the team is working on a WWII version of the NORTHAG bigger battle rules (infantry stands are teams) which will allow bigger WWII battles to be fought and in much quicker time.  

The second game played even faster but still found me fighting on my own baseline - a result of the scenario most likely.  Will work on that a bit.  I scored some outstanding long-TOW shots when playing with Ken, and to avenge my first game, an AH-1 cobra showed up and I rocket-strafed a bunch of T-72s!  

I also felt the 6mm was the way to go (PSC has an entire 10mm range supporting the NORTHAG rules and they're wonderful minis by the way) but the distances, ranges, and my suite of terrain all just came together perfectly here and so if you are just starting out by all means buy the 10mm kit, but if you have vast cold war micro armor collections, they will happily fight battles with the NORTHAG rules seamlessly.  

Anyways this was fun- blogging about a recent battle.  Not sure when I will again (blog that is) but plenty of gaming up on the horizon.  I am still (as I am able) painting Russians for Eylau to hopefully play with at Cold Wars 2024.  In other news, I left my previous job and moved to a new one, so new one at a new agency starting this week.  The last 5 months have been very eventful here.  I hope everyone is having a great summer and rolling 6's!