Saturday, 10 January 2015

A victory of sorts

We tried another web-cam game, with our West Australian player taking the part of the insurgents, with good local knowledge, but poor command and control; and a local player playing the Australian (UNSAF) forces, who would have better communications and overview. However, we were thwarted to some extent by 'technical' issues; the web cam kept seizing up. We ended up using an iPad and skype. The board was set up as below; the road ran through a shallow valley, with a village in the centre. The main compound was just outside the village to the left. All woods were average, restricting line of sight to 3". There was a legacy minefield that the insurgent player was aware of - the large poppy field, surrounded by walls, between 2 woods and the compound - but was unknown to the UNSAF player. 10 turns were allowed on a 6 x 4 board.

The insurgent brief was as follows :- You've been informed that the westerners are going to search your compound for drugs and weapons, so you've moved everything out in advance, and decided to give them a little surprise... Your aim is to kill, wound or capture the westerners. Your men are hidden in ambush around the area, and ratlines enable them to move between positions without being spotted. Some other local groups have also promised to assist, including a mortar team. You, of course, are 'supervising' from a nearby hill (bottom right corner in the first photo); be aware that the westerners are likely to be monitoring your communications.

The UNSAF brief was simple :- Your platoon is to raid the compound of a suspected local drug lord, and confiscate any drugs or guns you find there. You are not expected to encounter anything but token resistance; the main suspect has shown pro-western sympathies in the past, but must be taught that poppy cultivation is not acceptable in the modern Malikastan. There are also believed to be civilians in the village, so be on your best behaviour. (UNSAF to enter from the top of the photo, and advance to the compound).

Here is one side's version of the events that followed...

The valley from the south
Ubadul Hin-D’most’s satellite phone rang, it was the interpreter from the local UNSAF base, the man earned his drugs by quickly saying, “Ubadul, they are coming to get your guns and opium.”  With that said the phone went dead.  Ubadul swore, the damnable drug-stealing crusaders had not been in his valley for months.  His latest lecture on the pro’s of Holy War [to ensure the crusaders stayed away from his compound] had put the new batch of international volunteers to sleep.  This bunch were even worse than the last batch, lazy drug-dealing thugs from Australia and across Europe.  All they did was steal his drugs and eat his food and kick his dog.  He sighed, “O, for the good old days.”… when he had well trained, well indoctrinated soldiers to protect his poppies from the Russians.

Ubadul's compound, with flag flying...
He shouted his Holy ‘Warriors’ awake; “Brothers, I need to head over to town to buy more…food.  While I am away please go to your rooms and make sure your weapons are in good order.” With that he mounted his donkey, called his dog, and with a few slaps of his fly-switch was off in the opposite direction.  He eventually reached his hide, well stocked with hashish, beer and literature (porn). He then phoned the idiot…his second in command…, “Hey, Rubesh bin-Sidni, bad news man, some soldiers are coming down the valley, there are only…hmm, 4 of them, get your boys into ambush.  I am riding as fast as my ass can carry me.”

Rubesh was over the Moon: he could fight the UNSAF without having to go to “El Stalingrad” and test his faith against a 2,000lbs JDAM. He ordered his men to take up positions around the village, and sniggered, this was way cooler than being arrested for selling drugs in King’s Cross! Rubesh ordered his PKM man to setup the machine-gun on the top storey and then sat back and had a smoke.  He did not even look over when the PKM gunner got his finger jammed in the feeder.
The Australian advances (blue) and the Insurgent responses (Black)
The first sign of trouble was when Rezikel bin-Brisbani, the brave fool, opened fire from his forward position on the advancing UNSAF only to be met with an accurate fusillade from the UNSAF troops.  Rubesh laughed, Rezikel was a fool, not like Rubesh himself who was way back from the fight.

Ubadul sat miles away from the fight munching on a Hershy bar.  Ah, contact! He got on his radio to some Hotakistani soldiers at the border post to the east, “Hey, can you send over some mortars?”, “Eh?”, “Send over some fncking mortars.”  “Hey, is that you Ubadul?”  “No, it's your bloody mother.”  “Hey Uba, the hashish you sent us is all finished.” “So, what, I want mortars…”  And so on, as the UNSAF advanced Ubadul spent the time arguing over how much a mortar was worth in hashish-dollars.

The international Holy Warriors held their fire as Rezikel took the hits.  But when targets appeared they fired, but were truly terrible, they exposed themselves, and even before they could fire were pummeled with a rain of bullets and mortars.  Ubadul watched the clown show through his binoculars.  He sighed.  He received a few calls from his men; they begged for help; he told them they were doing fine - "I can see the UNSAF falling like wheat before a [blunt] scythe". He phoned the mortar men again but the phone was engaged. By now UNSAF mortars began to pepper the town, a few of the buildings collapsed.
UNSAF mortars destroy the village. (Note Ubadul's Golden Holden)
Ubadul cursed; he could see UNSAF troops advancing in the open and the mortar men’s phone was still engaged. He was happy to see a UNSAF solider go down on the broken down wall, but cringed to see the heavy fire hit his men’s positions.  He watched with silent anticipation as the UNSAF advanced through the Russian-Italian minefield… Gah!  His sheep regularly blew up!  Not even a little smoke.

He phoned each of his teams, but found most were silent.  He heard an explosion as UNSAF breached his compound wall.  He phoned Rubesh, “Rubesh, keep them away from the dr…weapon cache.” Rubesh was frantic, “They are killing everything!” “Who is doing the killing? Us?” “No.”

An insurgent sniper team is spotted, and comes under punitive fire.
By now more mortars smashed into the town, and whenever Ubadul’s men tried to shoot they received x10 in return and soon the town was full of the dying and dead.

Then Ubdaul saw an amazing sight; six of his idiots were charging up a hill, in the open, bullets landing everywhere, somehow they made it to the woods at the top of the hill.  Moments later he saw them reappear, once again with UNSAF bullets landing all around them, but dragging an UNSAF prisoner.  “Sweet, that will keep my masters happy.”
Udadul watches helplessly as the Australians head into his compound. All defensive fire is met with withering overwatch
Rubesh looked out the window down into the colonnaded lean-to in the compound.  There, below were Australian soldiers.  He counted two of them trying to medicate two of their fallen comrades; he whooped!  But he then realized that meant his friends down stairs were no more.  He looked around and thought, two UNSAF…and he had 6 men and himself.  He pulled out his knife, and with much ululating ran down the stairs to finish off the two soldiers.  Unfortunately it was a gunfight.  And ululating sought of killed the advantage of surprise...

As Rubesh slumped to the ground his last thought was, “Damn...I thought I was...”

An Australian soldier walked up to the bodies, “Holy Shit mate, this dead fucka has a Manly shirt.” His mate looked over, “Ha, Manly always loses.  Fucker should have known better.”

Ubadul finally saw mortars raining down from his friends across the border, but instead of landing on the UNSAF troops crossing the street they landed amongst his herd of goats. Ubadul cracked a beer and sighed; these volunteers from Australia were crap; he had lost 29 “soldiers”, and the interpreter reported that amongst the Australians two were dead, a few wounded and one missing.  He asked himself what would having one warrior like old Ubadul be worth?  He laughed, “Hell, if there were two of me I would be sitting here sharing my shit.” All in all a good day. Though Ubadul had lost lots of AK’s and bags of opium he now had 29 fewer mouths to feed.  “Always look on the bri...”  

Then he cursed - he had a whole herd of goats to eat this evening.

Ubadul's goats...  :~(

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Hostage Rescue

We played this game a couple of weeks ago, but then real life intervened... The subject was the rescue of a western hostage from a group of insurgents, which was based on ongoing events in Iraq and Syria. Possibly a little too sensitive, but set in our fictional country of Malikastan, and played with 15mm lead figures, dice, and the force on Force ruleset, I thought it made a good subject for a scenario. However, the very next day, there was a hostage situation ongoing in Sydney. I felt it was probably not appropriate to post this then, and, even a couple of weeks after, I'm not entirely comfortable. All I can fall back on is the standard disclaimer - "This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental." If anybody out there is still having trouble distinguishing reality from a game, I suggest that they refrain from visiting this site, and seek professional help.

The game - I tried to keep it as simple as possible, to make it run swiftly and involve a couple of new(ish) players. In Malikastan, insurgents allied to the WOZ militia have seized several westerners - journalists and aid workers - and have threatened to behead them. This does not play well in the western press, so their resue is high on the agenda of the governments.
Intelligence has identified the location of one of the hostages, and a team of special force operatives has been assembled to carry out the rescue. They will infiltrate into the area by night, moving on foot to the target compounds; arriving there, they will seach for the hostage, release him from his captors, and exfiltrate back to a waiting helicopter for extraction. Time is limited - they must get out before dawn, and the exact location of the captive is unknown.

The two players were each given four special operatives - highly trained and motivated individuals, armed with weapons of their choice (suppressed M16's with grenade launchers, with a SAW (unsuppressed) for additional firepower if needed; Night Vision Goggles; body armour; stun grenades and pistols). They were stealthy, elusive and were also trained medics. The table was set up as shown, with six buildings in four compounds. The special forces were told they could enter by either of the corners (top and bottom in the photo), and that they had to exit by the end of turn ten; they chose to have one team approach from each corner.

As umpire, I chose to randomise what the insurgents did; I placed six counters, face down, one in each of the buildings. Two of these counters denoted that the building was empty; two had 1D6 insurgents with AK's in; one had 1D6 civilians, one of whom had an AK (a local man with his family); and one with the hostages and four guards armed with AK's. (Yes, you read that correctly - unknown to the rescuers, there are two hostages - not one - being held in the same room). I didn't know what was in each room; the special forces operatives did not know what the counters represented, and would only find out when they actually entered the room, and then only in vague terms described by me - to simulate the confusion of a night raid. I then set up two groups of two sentries - using scatter dice to determine where they started and then moved - and a wandering dog, just to add to the mix, for the players to avoid. Insurgent reinforcements (1D6) would only arrive from the board edges once/if the alarm was raised.

Team one moved on from the top of the board, into the group of trees; a pair of sentries were lurking close by the corner of the building, and the team leader ordered them taken down. (Photo shows the situation at this point, game turn 2). The suppressed shots were hardly heard, and both insurgents went down - however, one wasn't dead, and started shouting for help. The alarm was raised, but the insurgents had no idea where their attackers were. however, team one's luck continued to run bad - reinforcements poured on to the table right next to their location, and there were several desperate turns where they were beating off attack after attack. During this, one of their number was seriously wounded, but their superior discipline and firepower enable them to hold on.

Team two, meanwhile, had approached from the bottom end of the board, found no sentries en route, and made it to the large central compound. Bursting in through the door of the nearest building, they discerned five individuals, one of whom appeared to be reaching for a weapon. He was quickly despatched, but he turned out to be a civilian trying to guard his family. At this point, shooting and shouting broke out from the other side of the village, and all attempts to keep silent were forgotten. The team swiftly searched the other nearby buildings, finding them both to be empty. Exiting the compound by the main gate, they broke into the isolated building, to find it occupied by a group of armed insurgents. Taking them by surprise (the insurgents were peering out the window at the firefight between their colleagues and team one), team two quickly eliminated them, and moved against the forces opposing team one.

With this help, team one finally overcame their opponents, and were able to break into the nearest building. This was found to be occupied by a half dozen individuals; a fierce hand to hand battle erupted in the darkness between the three active members of team one and the insurgents, during which they realised that they had found the hostage(s). Once again, speed, surprise, and the better training of the special forces told; all the insurgents were downed, and the hostages hustled from the building, and away from the compound. With team two covering their rear, and carrying their wounded colleague, both teams withdrew to safety, as, behind them, the village resembled an ants' nest, with armed men milling around in the pre-dawn darkness.

The mission was judged a success, despite the serious wounding of the team member, and the killing of a civilian. Two hostages were rescued unharmed, and up to thirty insurgents were eliminated. The whole game took just over an hour to play, and tension was high throughout; ranges were short in the darkness, and insurgent teams kept on appearing where they were least wanted. Team one came close to being overrun, but held out until rescued by Team two, who did most of the work, by searching most of the buildings and fighting off the reinforcements. Team one get the kudos for rescuing the hostages, though !

Sunday, 19 October 2014

AAR- A Log...Fog in the Eye

Or, Playing Miniature Wargames over the web.

As a proof of concept we tried some long distance remote miniature gaming today.  It was a quick proof of concept and I think better than we could have hoped for.  Well, nightmarishly better.

Player Location 1 was 3,600km from Player Location 2.  The board was setup at Location 1 with a remote controllable webcam and player 2 got to swivel the camera and give orders.  The camera was always situated behind the leader unit and could only see what he could see (a little higher thank the gods!).  It was really like having a log stuck in your eye, suddenly your miniature gamers "god's eye" view had a huge log jammed in it by the devil (player 1).  Decisions of what to do are so much more difficult with lack of awareness and it feels as if every tree, wall or house is hiding something nasty.

We used Skype to communicate, and used the Share Screen option in Skype so Player 1 could see the EXCEL spreadsheet dice rolls of player 2 (makes it easier to compare) and also see what Player 2 can see through the webcam.

The interface as seen on the web browser.  The camera has a remote control swivel control
The After Action Report
Corporal Petersen was leading his section through a mostly deserted village on the far flank of the UN advance.  Over the radio he could hear chatter that the main column had been ambushed and he could hear distant exchanges of fire.  But, with the arrival of UN air support the insurgents began to melt away from the UN spearhead.  Corporal Petersen soon got a radio message from his platoon commander, a group of insurgents were heading straight for his position.
The world from an ants point of view - this is all you can see, and can swivel left and right.
Corporal Petersen shouted over to L/Cpl O'Donnel, "Donnyboy, get that GIMP up on a roof and see what you can see.  Watch out for civilians."

With that the Corporal ordered Private Bowles to kick in the door behind him.   The door gave away easily and the stack surged into the room, it was empty.  They moved up onto the roof for a better view of their surrounds.
With fireteam Charlie on the roof the better view is a breathe of fresh air.
Fireteam Delta climbed through the broken compound wall and advanced towards the doorways of the house.  The feeling of a hundred eyes following them across the empty courtyard could not be  shrugged off.
Fireteam Delta advancing across the compound courtyard
And now for something completely different - Cpl Petersen double takes thinking he saw a big hand come down from the sky, a swig from his camel pack clears his vision - at least it was not a big foot
The town seemed empty.  While Corporal Petersen and his men scanned the buildings for movement Private Cakubau in Fireteam Delta attempted to kick in the door in the compound, but all he got for his efforts was to fall backwards onto his arse to the nervous amusement of his team mates.
Fireteam Charlie scanning the houses on the left flank
Private Cakubau bouncing off the door
While Private Cakubau examined his trousers, "Gods, I think I am lying in human shit," the burly Private Lovett kicked the door in with a deafening crash.  The team surged into the room followed by the complaining Cakubau.  The team moved up onto the roof and setup the GPMG.
Both teams on the roofs
Now both teams had good eyes on each flank, but they had limited mutual support opportunities.

"I see movement," said the Charlie team SAW gunner, Private McLane.  Petersen grunted that McLane always saw something, then thought  how he had just hallucinated about the big hand in the sky.  He matched his scope on the doorway across the street that McLane was aiming at.  A figure moved furtively out into the street before motioning to men behind him to follow.

"Fucking Woz's," said the Corporal, the men were obviously armed with AKs and RPGs, they were definitely Woz insurgents [Successful Check on Intent].
A Woz insurgent leader appears in the doorway across the street
Corporal Petersen shouted into his radio for the L/Cpl to get eyes on.  Then he opened fire.  The fireteam poured in fire, some of the insurgents fell or scattered, but a few stood their ground and returned very heavy fire.  The fireteam ducked below the parapet, Corporal Perkins rolled to the ground, "Shite, shite, I've been hit in me face."

Corporal Petersen rolled him over, "It is just a graze, you pussy."

Private Bowles looked over and laughed, "Fuck Herky, I did not think you could get any uglier, but you just did!"

Perkins replied with an appropriate Queen's English reply, though his wave did not look at all like the Queen's.  But then he perked up and grinned through the blood, "I put a bigger fookin' hole in that Woz bastard's head" patting his L129 affectionately.

The Corporal ordered his men to get eyes on and give covering fire for Delta team as Delta moved up.
Fireteam Delta moves to bring fire to bear
Fireteam Delta moved into the other compound building, kicking in the door and rushing to the windows.  In the street in front of them they could see one insurgent being dragged to cover by his mate, and several others firing at Charlie.  The GPMG (only +1), the SAW and the UGL all fired, the insurgents turned to face the new threat.Charlie in its overwatch position poured in fire.  The insurgents all fell in the crossfire.

Lance-Corporal O'Donnel reported, "At least a dozen bodies, and one managed to crawl back through the doorway."

The UGL gunner on the roof fired one grenade into the doorway for good measure and then the teams fell back to their platoons position to the south.
I finally get a Gods Eye view

As a proof of concept I give three thumbs up.  The lack of awareness is truly scary, every house was a threat.  I think this is a great way of playing, and would consider adding this in even if the players were not 3,600km apart.  It adds a very nice dimension to the game.

In the future we will also look to have the remote player being a JTAC offboard giving support fire to a larger battle.  But, commanding units from the ground view is heaps of fun (in a masochistic sort of way).  Thank you Marcus for setting this up.  100% Proof of Concept.  Highly recommended as a way of playing, even with FtF players.

I used an EXCEL sheet to do the dicing, but will get myself a camera now, and use real dice.