A Force-on-Force Battle Report by Mike Proudlock
Lt Rogers was a very unhappy man, stuck in the square of a middle-of-nowhere Afghan village, riding shotgun on a TV news crew who were determined to talk to the locals despite his reservations, and trying to deal with an RAF PR type who outranked him and seemed determined to take charge despite having no tactical experience or knowledge. Between them, and supported by Battalion, they had overruled every precaution he had wanted to take, leaving him in this dust hole with just a single fire team, deprived of their support weapons, and his radio operator. The Taliban had been relatively quiet in this region for a while, but he had a nasty feeling that this was about to change (photo 1, photo 2). The news crew offered a possible propaganda coup that would be hard to resist. He had placed the fire team on a building in a compound with a good field of fire (photo 3), but Saunders, the RAF officer, had insisted that the command group stay with the camera team in the square. Rogers had a feeling that a big target was painted on his back!
Part-way through the first interview Roger's reservations were realised when gunfire from a rooftop splashed around the soldiers, leaving the TV producer writhing on the ground with a bullet in the side (the Taliban failed a troop quality check required when firing close to civilians or friendly troops. Their only hit went astray, losing both sides victory points). Dragging the fallen civilian and shepherding the rest of the news crew, along with their interviewee and interpreter, the troops rushed for cover as the rooftop team came under fire from multiple directions. Although the inbound fire caused no further casualties, the British return fire did hit a few Taliban. Unfortunately for the Taliban, that included one of their few leaders (an irregular unit without a leader and not in line-of-sight to a regular control unit must pass a TQ check to take any action). This led to one cell taking very little action for some time (they repeatedly failed TQ checks in the next few turns!), although a Taliban technical did arrive, but declined to fire at the compound due to the risk of hitting the news crew again, instead taking up a position to fire down the road from the British base (photo 6).
An additional Taliban team in a pickup came into town from the north (the result of a reinforcement roll which randomly allows irregular reinforcements to arrive, and allows for random placement, between "hot spots") as one of the Taliban cells finally managed to hit all of the soldiers on the roof, killing one, and seriously wounding the other three (photo 4). Without the overhead defensive fire, other Taliban teams closed in on the compound gates. One particularly bold group charged for the gate, but were halted in confusion by some deadly fire by the 2 officers while the radio operator tried to summon assistance for the platoon patrol base.
The Taliban in the pickup also found the British fire to be deadly as they tried to drive up to the gates, being hit by a fusillade that damaged the engine of the truck (reduced to half mobility) and felled nearly half their number. The survivors tried to take cover wherever they could (photo 5). Finally the small Al Qaeda cell that had been supporting the local Insurgency braved the defenders fire and charged the gate into hand-to-hand range. Having already piled up bodies with rifle fire, the defenders initially held their own, disabling 2 of the 4 attackers, but then the Radio Operator, Private Taylor, went down with a serious wound, followed shortly afterwards by both Rogers and Saunders, although the RAF officer was only stunned. The British were completely oblivious that a group of Taliban had been meeting in one of the buildings in the compound, but they reminded in hiding until the compound had been captured (to the Taliban players' frustration they failed every TQ check to activate the 8 man team, which could have change the whole course of the game!). The radio message had done its job, however, as a roaming Jackal patrol vehicle responded (the result of a "Fog of War" card which generates random events whenever anyone rolls a one in a reaction test), and the platoon sergeant began double timing a rescue force towards the village.
The jackal almost immediately ran into trouble, first encountering a Taliban sniper team, which the crew managed to shoot down, but not before the sniper had managed to damage the grenade machine gun (the sniper team won the reaction roll so fired first). It then had a narrow escape as a nearby female civilian turned out to be a suicide bomber, which the crew failed to recognise, until the bomber thought better of detonating himself and disappeared into the nearby scrub (the bomber failed a morale roll, despite the high motivation of the insurgents).
The Taliban in the village were busy securing their captives, and there was a heated discussion about whether they should take the soldiers hostage, or just shoot them on the spot (the scenario gave the Taliban victory points for killing or wounding British troops, but gave them more for military hostages. However, searching and securing the hostages with soldiers in the group took an extra turn to be ready to move). This took some time, and with the officers having held the compound for longer than expected, the Taliban knew that a relief force would be on the way, and were keen to get out of the village as soon as practicable. Unfortunately the damage to the pickup meant it would be of very limited use to transport the hostages, now being no faster than walking.
As the Jackal continued up the road they spotted an Afghan lurking in the crops at the side of the road and a disturbed patch on the road surface. Reacting before the suspected bomber, the driver put his foot down and cleared the danger zone before the IED exploded. Although the Jackal was clear, the blast killed both the trigger man, who had set up too close to his bomb, and a passing goat herder who was also in the blast zone. The British were not out of the woods, however, as the rapid drive left the vehicle in line of sight of the Taliban technical, and it was promptly shredded by the technical's 14.5 mm heavy machine gun before they could react (photo 8). The crew managed to bale out uninjured, with the gunner managing to snatch a javelin missile from the deck as he jumped. They then spent some time trying to get into a position where they could use the missile against the Technical while dodging HMG fire and fighting off a group of insurgents that had been hiding out in the fields (another successful reinforcement roll for the Taliban) but were now working towards the wrecked vehicle and its crew (photo 9). The technical eventually fell to small arms fire, and the Javelin was used, with limited effect against the surviving crew.
The rescue reaction force advanced more cautiously as they came closer to the village (as they came onto the table) in expectation of trouble. Split into two forces, one section advanced up the road towards the crater left by the earlier IED explosion. The other, consisting of the second fire team from the TV crew escort, and the command and sniper teams, advanced up a track on the other side of the fields. The fields seemed to be alive with hidden Taliban, however, as another cell began to move towards the track (the second successive reinforcement roll that put the reinforcements in the field!) aiming to ambush the advancing British troops (photo 7). Unfortunately, despite being hidden in a ditch between the fields, the British weren't taken by surprise and shot down all the Taliban before they could fire (although small, the British fire team pack a lot of automatic firepower rolling 7-8 fire dice even if moving, and for once the British dice rolls were very good, and the Taliban defence dice rolls were, typically for this game, bad!).
The section on the road was attacked by another IED close to where the Jackal had been attacked. Although the British managed to shoot the triggerman, he set the device off as he fell, killing one member of the rearmost fire team (photo 11, photo 12). On the opposite side of the fields, another IED was also encountered, but in this case the operator was killed before the device could be detonated, although this meant the command group, following the rifle team, had to divert wide around the danger area to avoid any possible booby traps (photo 13) (required to keep 4" clear of the device, which meant going through the crops, limiting them to tactical movement).
As the Taliban began moving the hostages, a group of insurgents began engaging the advancing British in a long-range firefight. The Taliban fire was ineffective, but the return fire both from their target and another fire team appeared to be devastating with all of the Afghans dropping from sight. However, 4 of the 6 quickly reappeared (the first time the Taliban first aid roll had managed to save any of their troops) and opened fire again, with the same results, although only two insurgents survived the second burst, and they failed to get any more rounds away before the British finally finished the job (photo 10). This firefight gave the sniper team time to get into position to attack the Taliban group covering the village square, killing the leader and rapidly whittling down the cell, allowing the section from the road to get line of sight on the insurgents loading the hostages onto a second pickup that had just arrived with another small group of Taliban. Bravely (given the result, otherwise it might have been considered reckless) the section leader ordered his men to fire on the Taliban, managing to kill the overall leader and his body guard without hitting any of the hostages (unlike the Taliban players, the British succeed in their TQ check so they're were no accidental hits on the hostages). The remaining fire team then charged into the few remaining Taliban and quickly overcame them, rescuing the hostages (photo 14).
Victory points between the two sides were very close, but low due to casualties to the TV crew and local population. A quick toting up indicated a marginal Taliban win (3-0), but as after the event I realised that the TV crew would have been filming for most of the battle to break into the compound, so the British gained 3 more points, making it a 3-3 draw overall. It was a close-run engagement, but could have gone either way at many points during the game. The British had achieved their objectives, but lost two killed, 7 seriously wounded, and 3 light wounds out of the 26 troops involved, a casualty rate of 46%, plus the loss of the Jackal! They had, however, rescued the hostages, taken out 3 Local Taliban leaders, numerous insurgents (probably about 50 - I lost track early on), and the news crew had some dramatic footage of the desperate defence of the compound gate which played on national news for several days.
With very limited experience of the rules (only 1 out of the 7 players and the umpire had played them before) the game took about 4 hours to run, and kept all the players enjoyable employed throughout, despite some appalling dice rolls by both sides at times - the action-reaction mechanism in the rules meaning even the non-initiative players had to keep their wits about them and be ready to seize fleeting opportunities as they arose.Rules - Force on Force (Ambush Alley Games)
Figures - Under Fire Miniatures and Britannia Miniatures
Buildings - Britannia Miniatures and Fieldworks
Vehicles - Britannia Miniatures and Tesco (!)