Monday, July 11, 2011

The Wee Red Juggernaut

The 1980s: parachute pants, The Police, and Ronald Reagan. It was also a time known as The Cold War, which most people thought might turn into The Hot War at any moment. A great deal of speculation over how that war might be fought took place among wargamers in the 70s and 80s and game companies produced more than a few tactical games about it. SPI's Red Star/White Star was one of the first, although my favorite was SPI's MechWar '77. My friend Chet and I played numerous games pitting T-62s and T-55s against M-60s and M-48s and the fields of West Germany were criss-crossed with the wires of ATGMs that flew back and forth. But these were all board games. Despite having models available since the late 60s, I've never games the hypothetical WW3 in miniature.

While there are a number of ready-made rules sets for this period, we've started our home-grown version based on the Kampfgruppe Commander rules we use for World War 2. We also decided to go wee. Rather than the 15mm scale we use for WW2, we're using 1/285th (or 1/300th) minis from GHQ, CinC, and Heroics and Ros among others. John Kennedy is doing all the work on the rules while the rest of us kibitz and kvetch, but the project is starting to take a decent, final-ish form. John has basically taken vehicle and weapon stats from other sources and converted them to the KGC scale and game design philosophy. There are still kinks to work out and we haven't established anything yet for indirect fire, air attacks, and helicopters.

We played our first game last week using erzatz values for the vehicles because John hadn't fully worked them out. We had Chieftain tanks using M-1 stats, which got evened out the next game by using Chieftain tanks with Centurion stats. The first game was enough to get me excited about painting an army, so I'm now busy painting a few battalions of Bundeswehr circa 1985: Leopard 2s, Marder 1s, Luchs, Jaguars, PAH-1 helos, etc.

We played again yesterday at The Panzer Depot in Kirkland, WA. Ken Kissling designed a scenario representing a the vanguard of a Soviet motorized rifle division advancing on a 7km front against a battalion of British mechanized infantry and a supporting armored battalion.

The Red Menace was played by Ken and Steve Puffenberger. Their forces were two motorized rifle regiments, which consisted of three battalions of mechanized infantry and one battalion of tanks. The tanks were all T-64s. Steve's infantry was in BTR-70s with an attached company of BRDM-2s carrying a load of AT-5 Spandrel ATGMs. Ken's infantry were in BMP-2s, which mount a single launcher for a AT-5. In addition was a reserve tank battalion of T-64s.

Ken's BMP-2s advancing across plowed fields
Deployed against them were John and me. John started with the 1/Royal Highland Fusiliers mounted in FV432 IFVs with support from some Milan ATGM assets, a mortar platoon of two FV432 self-propelled 81mm mortars, and a scout platoon with two FV101 Scorpions. Farther back in reserve, I had the 3rd RTR with three companies of Chieftains, an anti-tank platoons of two FV438s mounting Swingfire ATGMs, and a scout platoon of two FV107 Scimitars.

A column of T-64s advances past an infantry battalion in BMPs
Ken and Steve came on with their units in echelon formation. Both of them led with motorized infantry and kept their tanks back. John's units were the first to be hit. They were able to hang in a few turns and repulse the first assault. However, the Bolshevik horde was too numerous and after a few turns, John's infantry was streaming back.

Steve's BTR-70s attempt a mounted assault on infantry in a town
With John's infantry hard-pressed (and John hard-pressed with customers in the store), I decided to abandon my excellent positions and move up to meet the Slavic Sledgehammer of Doom. I took up closer positions and waited until Ken's lead units got close to open fire.

Chieftains take position in the wheat field to support the retreating infantry
I had one company of Chieftains and my platoon of FV438s that opened fire on a battalion of Ken's infantry in BMPs. While I fired with good effect, the barrage of missile fire I got in return, severely messed up my units. Reduced and shaken from the return fire, I held position for a few more turns, but my fire was less effective.

Steve's regiment in supporting echelons advancing on a town
On the other side where Steve had taken the town in another assault (this time dismounted and in force), I moved a company of Chieftains and my recon platoon to support John's infantry. As happened earlier, I got a bit shot up by a mass of T-64s supported by ground-mounted ATGMs. I retreated into a wood and remained, shaken and reduced.

I also moved my third company of Chieftains into a position in a wood where they emerged at the edge to shoot Steve's T-64s. Again, the responding barrage of tank fire and missiles shot me up. Missiles, I surmised, were getting to be a problem.

Things were looking pretty hopeless and the Red Juggernaut, somewhat reduced, was poised to continue on and overrun us. But then the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards came on the board as reinforcements. One tank company went to take up an overwatch position against Steve, while the rest faced Ken. With two tank companies and an FV438 Swingfire platoon, John had enough fire power to hurt. The resulting exchange saw Ken's battalions further reduced until his total force was less than half what he'd started with. John also took casualties (#@!* missiles), but did not suffer adverse morale and, because he had a higher hit number, didn't lose any stands.

Royal Scots tank companies move into position
While John and Ken were exchanging shots overhead, I had my two units tucked into a gully in between them where I was able to resurrect my units through a few turns of rally and recovery actions.

Having forced Ken back, John took the two tank companies over to the other side of the table to face Steve's advance, which remained still potent. Ken also brought on the divisional tank battalion of more T-64s and put them in position to move to either flank. 

T-64s moving up
The situation looked promising for a British counterattack, although except for the Royal Scots, every formation was pretty shot up. I managed to recover one tank and one ATGM unit, but my other two tank companies were badly shot up and shaken. Had I advanced my recovered units out of their gully against Ken's stalled forces, I could expect a barrage of missiles from his BMP battalions that might end me.

After playing nearly five hours—interrupted by rules discussions and pesky store customers—we called the game. The Brits held the line against the Bolshies. Despite much concern, I ultimately lost only three stands while the Soviet regiments had been significantly reduced. Even then, they outnumbered the Brits. However, it would have been difficult for either side to make progress against the other. 

The rules seem to work very well. KGC has it charms, which is why we like the system—despite it anomalies. The modern stats transfer over well and easily integrate with the KGC command/control mechanisms. In the next games, we'll introduce helicopters and indirect fire, which should add an interesting new dimension to the games.

1 comment:

  1. If you want to do a realistic game from the 1970's then you can recreate the maneuver problems posed to my unit, Troop F, 2/2 Armored Cavalry Regiment. We had 3 Platoons each 6 M551, 1 M113 w/squad of infantry, 1 M106A1 mortar carrier. HQ of 1 M577A1 and 2 Jeeps (CO and 1st Sgt/XO). In support 5 M60A1 MBT, a 33% chance of getting 1-7 Cobra attack helicopters (we never did) and 33% chance of support by 6 M109 155mm Howitzers.
    That should be 3-4 M551 (representing 18 total), 1 M113, 1 M106, 1 M60A1(TI), 1 Battery 155 SP.

    Defensive Frontage. 18 km.

    Attacking forces.
    Advance Guard Battalions of 3 MRR and 1 TR probing the front.

    Actual exercise. US mission is to delay the Soviets and force them to deploy giving the main US forces behind us enough time to load ammunition and occupy/prepare their pre-planned defensive positions.

    If you do better than a 100% casualty rate you will have done better than we did.