Sunday, August 26, 2012

Operation Firefly - Mission 2: "Narrow Escape"

April 20, 0730 Local Time.
Operation Firefly has reached its second stage, as Mayasaf is now secured. The advance towards the central settlements continues. While some Forces prepare their entry into El Qualeed, a reinforced platoon has been tasked to liberate the village of Mul Qasr. Located outside the Greenzone, Mul Qasr is dependent on irrigation from groundwater sources. Due to the decreasing groundwater-levels, the area is slowly beginning to turn towards Poppy-cultivation as these crops require less water.
As troops enter into the area, a lot of movement starts among the locals. It does not take long and the civilians have disappeared from the village. Before the Soldiers now lies a ghost town. Or so it seems.
Intelligence reports already indicated the presence of Anti-Coalition Militia troops in the area, and it seems like they´re not giving up without a fight.
As the troops advance towards the village, the strange calm is disrupted by the sputtering of the comm as it comes to life.
"Bravo, this is Bravo 1 Alpha. HQ has advised us that the CIA has intelligence on the presence of POWs in the area. They´re supposedly held in a compound nearby. We´re tasked with securing the area around the compound and retrieving the prisoners. Do you copy?" 
The Setup
-Take the Compound and secure it.
-Locate and Rescue the POWs

This time, the US have larger forces on their disposal. Their force consists of 2 Squads and 1 MG-Team, which is a total of 5 Units (4 Fireteams + MG-Weapon-Team). The objective is to capture the central compound and hold it until turn 8. Furthermore, the POWs must be rescued from the Taliban, who are trying to evacuate them from the map. 

Starting Positions: Team Red & Team Blue
Starting Positions: Team White (MG), Team Yellow, Team Green
 Some notes to the scenario and its twists: The Taliban deployment was very scattered. In the middle of the compound, only 4 leaderless guards where on duty. Those 4 guys (just as any other leaderless unit) had to make a TQ-check to realize that an attack was imminent and that it was time to pack the POWs and leave. Otherwise they´d just stand there and guard the building until contact with the enemy/gunfire, whatever. Furthermore, they had to pass their standard activation-check as leaderless irregulars.  Units with leaders moving into the house could start to evacuate the POWs without further checks.
To pack the POWs, another TQ-check was required, as the prisoners were wounded and required special handling. Same for getting them into the car. Thus, the Taliban weren´t able to simply evacuate the POWs on Turn 1.

Turn 1

First Turn: Blue and Red advance to clear the fields

"Okay boys, I want these fields along that pathway secured. We don´t want any nasty surprises.", Sgt. Cinder instructed his teams. "Our group is tasked to secure the northern half of the fields, while Bravo 2 clears the southern half and prepares to enter the compound. Any questions? No? Then we´re good to go! Hurry up, I want your asses over there asap!"
As Team Red and Blue start to cross the ridge, the terrain proves to be more diffucult then expected. Their advance is slowed by tricky outcroppings of rock that slip loose between their feet. Furthermore, the open Terrain in front of them makes the soldiers move more carefully, as dashing over the hilltop would easily expose them to enemy fire. Sgt. Cinder is not pleased, but has difficulties to get a safe foothold on the slippery rocks himself and does not complain. The matter is not worth broken ankles and wounded soldiers. Its probably going to get bloody soon enough, judging from the first days of operation. 
Unfortunately, the advance over the rough terrain is only possible with tactical speed, which slowed down the regulars considerably during the first and second turn, as they chose to advance over the flanks. 

White, Yellow and Green after they have moved
To the south, Yellow and Green face similar difficulties. Their advance is slowed by the rocks in front of them. Furthermore, nobody wants to dash headlong into the fields, knowing that the ground there is very tricky. Thus, both teams establish a position adjacent to the fields and prepare their next move.
Suddenly, Private Johnson spots something odd. He shares his observation with his Team Leader, who has a suspicion of his own:
"Look - can you see this clearing in the fields? There´s an odd spot where the density of plants is a lot smaller than in its surrounding."
"Could be a ratline. Or maybe its just where the farmers have rested during their breaks. Hard to tell from here."

Meanwhilem Team White has moved towards their new position and is setting up the MG. 
For now, nothing spectacular has happened. However, as Team Green advances towards the poppy field, they discover a potential location for a Hot-Spot - which is just what the US player was looking for on the fields... 
Actually, this was the first uncomfortable situation for the Taliban, as I had three Leaders without any further support hidden in the field. The die-rolls during the scenario-generation placed them there and now two groups moved towards them - fortunately, both failed their spotting roll. Thus, I used the chance to evacuate the leaders with my End of Turn Movement (hereafter: EOT-Move). 
Leaders moving out of the field.

Then, a soldier from Team Green spots movement somewhere in the fields.
"Hey! There´s someone moving over there!"
"What? Where?!"
"1 o clock!"
"Can you get a clear view on them?"
"Negative - but there´s definitely movement going on!"
"They´re moving away - I´ve lost contact! Can´t see them anymore."
"Bravo, this is Bravo 1, be advised: We´ve got an unknown contact to the south, keep your eyes open for trouble!"
  Furthermore, I wanted to move a group with a leader towards the compound, as the guards stubbornly refused to realize that they were being attacked. Furthermore, I wanted to bring the other groups into favourable blocking positions to keep the enemy occupied.
Taliban Troops moving into position

"Bravo 1, this is White. We´ve got multiple contacts down the alley, possibly Talibs. Got at least two groups to our front."
Turn 2
Taliban Reinforcements arrive...  One Triggerman arrives at the southern field, where Team Green is ordered to destroy the hotspot. The triggerman will not approve!
While Bravo 4 is still setting up their Machine Gun and adjusting their aim, the intended target leaves the area, before any clear shot can be taken. 
Team White fails to put fire on the Talibs on the street
 Fortunately for my Leader, Team white failed their Reaction Test and was not able to carry out its orders to engage the team on the street.
Red and Blue on the Northern Flank
Meanwhile, Team Red pushes into the northern fields and find nothing but crops. The ground is rough and the visibility is bad beyong a few meters, and Red is forced to advance carefully. 
Team Blue reaches its intended target at the building and prepares to enter.
Team Yellow moves towards the compound walls and starts to check its integrity to determine the required strength of the charges to make a sucessfull breaching entry.
Team Green encounters a Triggerman...
Their buddies to the south advance into the Poppy field and discover that the barren place is indeed the entry to a tunnel. The traces on the ground indicate that there has been movement around here recently and everyone keeps an open eye. Something feels wrong. The ground is rough and piles of mud from the tunnel are strewn everywhere. Suddenly, one of the team-members spots something. Someone is hiding in the crops nearby! A closer look indicates that the person is obviously watching the team and starts to do something they can´t identify...
Suddenly, the piles of mud seem like a terrible menace. Ideally suited so place an IED somewhere... a perfect trap. 
The US Player decides that shooting the triggerman is the only way to continue his advance, even if its a hazardous choice.

Fire is opened on the lonely observer in the fields. Some bursts and several grenades later, silence returns to the field. No explosion. Nothing happened. The Taliban ahead is found dead some minutes later.
The Team prepares to destroy the tunnel entry.

Turn 3

After skimming the first field, Team Red prepares to cross the irrigation ditch to clear the second field. As the terrain is rough and the ditch harder to cross then expected, the team is exposed longer than expected. To the front, two groups of men are identified as possible threats. A triggerman and his companion are neutralized with aimed shots, while the MG-Team tries to suppress the position of the large group in the house. Due to bad aiming and the well fortified position, their fire is wholly ineffective. Team Red has more success in engaging the position and is able to land one hit on a Taliban.
To their flank, right in front of the car, a second large group of enemies open fire on the Team. One US-Soldier is hit, while the firefight causes three losses on the Taliban-group.
Though the MG-Team is on Overwatch and even had a sucessfull reaction-test, their salvo is wholly ineffective. Neither do they suppress the enemy, nor do they cause any casualty. Unimpressed, the Taliban hit one trooper of Team Red after suffering a casualty.
Team Red in Firefight with three Insurgent groups.
Team Blue moves towards the house and establishes its position right next to the rathole located in the backyard. Supporting the pressured Red-Team, Blue opens fire on the group by the compound wall, gunning down all remaining Taliban.
Team Blue annihilates the remaining Taliban after occupying the building
Team Yellow struggles to place the charges - the compound wall seems to be more solid than expected and a sophisticated placement of explosives is required. While they´re still fiddling with the device, they hear shouting and movement in the building in front of them.
Yes, Yellow failed their Breeching Check... Fortunately for the Taliban, as the POWs are still in the building and no-one has started to take them away!
Meanwhile, another explosion rocks the Opium field to the south as Team Green successfully detonates a charge to destroy the tunnel entrance. 
  Thats the first Hot-Spot gone... 
And Yellow is dangerously close to securing the POWs! 
Fortunately, I got my EOT-Activations left. And look what happens: The guards realize that they are needed (now that a leader is close by with his entire unit...) and move into the compound.  Aaand: They manage to get the POWs moving instantly and make it halfway to the car!

Turn 4

Casualty Check for Team Red: Nothing happened, he´s fine!  Lucky bastard, rolled a 6! 

Overview from the US-Entry Zone, left to right: Red, Blue, White, Yellow & Green
Orders from the US-Player! Unfortunately, he got the position of team red wrong, they can´t move into the building

Struggling through the mud and water of the canal, Team Red advances towards the building. The weapons of the Taliban in the house up front have fallen ominously silent. Fire is expected to resume any moment now, but miraculously, nothing happens as Team Red moves towards the building. 
Team Red on the Move, Blue on Overwatch
At the compound-wall, the charges are now placed and rigged to blow - the team stacks up along the wall and triggers the charge. A deafening explosion rips through the wall, but the Team has no time to hesitate. They charge the building and find the place deserted. The place looks like hell on earth, one of the beds is smeared with blood and shackles are found - but no prisoners. As the Team establishes its position, the prisoners are located outside the door: escorted by four Taliban, the group is moving towards the exit. But they´re not alone in the courtyard...
Someone screams a warning, as a man outside braces himself to hit a button on a remote trigger in his hand. The place is boobytrapped!
Instinctively, the menace is neutralized. A storm of bullets rips him apart before he is able to trigger the bomb.
Yellow breaches the Building, encounters an IED and again, shoots the triggerman!
Seconds later, the courtyard is clear of enemies, as the Team shoots down the second large group of Taliban, while the third one escapes through the gate.
Firefight in the Courtyard - Four Taliban downed, the RPG-man flees
The POW-Escort uses its reaction to flee towards the car.
Team Green takes up a new position in the farmhouse by the Poppy Field. 
Shortly after, movement is spotted along the road near the white compound.
EOT-Movement of Taliban blocking the approach to the road.
Just as Team White spots an opportunity to relax again, aimed shots are fired at their position. This time their reflexes are too slow and while still try to adapt to the situation, one man after the other gets hit. 
Team White goes down
 Turn 4 marks the heating-up of the game. This is the decisive phase of the battle. My Taliban in the courtyard are brutally wiped out, the POW-group barely escapes and is lucky that US-troops are badly positioned and cannot lay down further fire along the road (Blue Team has no LOS, otherwise things might look different). I decided now was the time to take risks and force some results, actively engaging the MG-Team with my resilient Talibs in the clay house.  MG-Teams are able to put down pretty heavy fire, but as they are only 3 men they´re also more fragile than other troops. 

Said and done: I roll an incredibly lucky combination. 6 sucesses (4,4,4,5,6,6) out of 7.  And Team White suffers a catastrophic fail: 4 misses (1,2,2,2) and only 1 sucess (7) - which results in a complete wipeout. Went better than expected. The chaos caused by this attack is vital in delaying US action.

Turn 5

No casualty check is made for Team White, as they´re wiped out and no troops are in contact. 

Orders for Turn 5 - we will use these nice pics regularly from now on! What a great improvement!

Leaving their overwatch-position, Blue moves along the wall to take aim on the Taliban.
"Westings, Fields!  I want this car suppressed! No-one gets in, are we clear?! Shane - fire on the escort! But don´t dare hittin' me one of´em Prisoners!", the Leader shouts. 
The SAW and one Rifleman take aim on the car and though they don´t cause any damage, the Taliban are too scared to attempt to enter. The remaining soldiers fire on the Escort, which retreats as a reaction. Three of the four guards are hit! Though no Prisoners are hit, a lone Taliban that has recovered from his light injuried (from the wiped-out group of turn 3) is hit again - this time, fatally. No regrets are felt by the team.

Taliban Escort retreating under fire - three guards go down!
Meanwhile, Team Red move into the house and are promptly greeted by heavy Taliban fire. Hell on earth breaks loose as three men go down. Fortunately, the remaining team members remain cool and are able to effectively counter the threat by taking out three enemies.
After having already earned respect for wiping out Team White, they now earn a new nickname: "Ze Killahz" However, return fire causes heavy losses on this especially ferocious group of Taliban.

Firefight in close quarters. Heavy losses on both sides!
Another round of increadibly bad defense die for the regulars! The Taliban rolled:  1,1,1 - 5,5,5,6,6  which is already very good - but Red answers with a terrible score of: 2,2,2,2,3,3 - 5,6.
Thus, more than half of the Team goes down! A good trade...
In the Compound, the Squad Leader of Fireteam Yellow leaves his team to check the status of the GPMG-crew. The rest of the fireteam moves out to secure the entrance of the backyard.
To the south, team Green advanced while firing on the Taliban crossing the opening. Three enemy are hit and their return fire is ineffective.
Just as they are moving, they spot another team of Taliban jumping over the wall and running towards the car...

Green on the Move - three casualties, return fire ineffective!
Now, as you can see, I´m actively employing a meatshield-strategy here. Those guys are irregulars, they don´t stand a chance against any regular forces. Anything I hit is down to pure luck and dice-failure of the regulars. So, I decided to employ my forces to achieve the Taliban scenario-conditions: Getting the POWs off the map, and utilize the remaining units as blocking forces / meatshield to distract the regulars and block their LOF to my escort. 
Thus, I use my EOT-Move to bring the freshly arrived Reinforcements of Turn 5 into such a blocking position to buy vital time. Time that I desperately need, as the escort can only move 6" (Tac. Speed) with their dependents!

To the north, I redeploy a sniperteam next to Ze Killahz. Those guys decided to aid my effort when I drew a FoW-Card. Maybe they can serve as another distraction.
End of Turn - Taliban Group moving towards the car to shield the escort!
Turn 6

Time for Casualty-Checks on Red and White! 
White -  1,4,5  (Dead, Light, Light)
Red  - 1,5,6 (Dead, Light, OK)
-2 at the POW-Group get up
 Yeah, my escort got lucky and is almost up to full-strength! This could make a huge difference (and it will, as we´re about to show..)

Orders for Turn 6
Honestly, I was a bit surprised why he set Team Green on Overwatch... They had nothing to gain by this action. I´d probably have ordered a close-assault, despite the risks. 
Team Blue puts a barrage of fire on the Taliban that are storming towards the car to reach for the rewards of heaven by sacrificing themselves. Six of the eight man are put down instantly. 

Allah should better reward those brave men generously - they´ve done their job well and distracted the infidels from taking any more shots at the escort!
Meatshield suffers heavy losses but are willing to die for the just cause!
Team Red neutralizes "Ze Killahz", while the Snipers are neutralized by white!
Team Blue and Team Yellow advancing along the road - The Meatshield is completely eliminated, but noone was able to take a shot at the guards!   (That picture looks pretty bad-ass, don´t you think? ;) )
Time for EOT-Activations! Now, if I move my POW-group to the south, I might come under Overwatch-fire from green...  But wait, I´ve got another group of 3 in a blocking position!  As these unfortunately don´t pose any cover or restriction for LOF, my idea is to lure the Overwatch-unit into attacking, hoping that they might fail their TQ-roll... risky, but i´ve got nothing to lose at this point.
A Reaction test is made.... 
And they fail!
Though my fire is ineffective, Green falls off Overwatch and is now no threat for the POWs, who move closer and closer to the Table-edge...  One more move remains until they reach safety! 
 Turn 7
Reinforcements arrive!  More Taliban emerge from the white compound! 
Right where I need them!  And in decent numbers! Fate smiles down on me!
Overview & Orders for Turn 7
Red is ordered to close-assault "Ze Killahz" and the remainder of the Sniperteam. However, they decide its time to take a break after the intense moments of combat.

TQ-Check for Close-Assault fails and the remaining two Guerillas can live in peace. 
The Reinforcements try to react to advancing Team Green, Blue falls off Overwatch
The result of the firefight.
Team Green rushes forward to land more decisive hits on the fleeing escort! They reach their position, start shooting and hit one Guard and one POW!

Green Firing on the retreating Escort! POW goes down!
However, as they can now carry out their reaction (movement), the escort is able to get off the board.

They made it!
 At this  point, I decided that we could end the game, as the Taliban had no real chance to capture the compound within the remaining turn. The game endet with a Taliban Victory: 

Take the Compound!  (5)  - Achieved
Rescue the POWs  (5)-  Failed
Evacuate the POWs (10)-  Achieved
Kill Enemy Soldiers  (2x3)- Achieved
Seriously Wound enemy Soldiers  - failed

Final Score: 16-5


This was a very very close thing. Several times, I already thought the Taliban were done, but they managed to escape - I don´t know how much of this is down to sheer luck and how much was earned by the brutal but effective delaying tactics (meatshields) employed. 
As you can see on the VP, I didn´t really expect the Taliban to evacuate the Prisoners - but they pulled it off, and thus they were rewarded greatly. Those POWs will make for a nice trophy and the incompetency of the Western Armies was again demonstrated by this feat of our holy warriors! 

Campaign Implications:
Taliban Victory earns them more Guerilla-Markers for their Force-Pool. However, due to the heavy losses they suffered during the fight, their cell level in Mul Qasr is reduced by 4 and Mul-Qasr is now guerilla-free.  For now.  
The US-Forces were able to secure the village, and as they managed to achieve one objective, some massive 3 COIN-Points where awarded to them (They were lucky to pull some COIN-points out of this at all, but 3 Points isn´t that much compared to the Taliban gain. But certainly better than nothing!)

Alternative Ending: 

I cannot comprehend how close this thing was, I can only say that I almost played the last turn wrongly, as I forgot that Blue fell off overwatch. I want to share that alternative end with you, to show you just how close things were: 
Team Blue hits the retreating Taliban with fire, as they try to move away and from the table. The remaining two guardsmen go down and the POWs are on their own. 
Team Yellow moves forward to secure the group and takes over the dependents. 

 I even made a 1st-Aid-Test to see what happened to the POW - and he was fine...

But then I realized that Blue had actually failed its test and could not react... And thus, it was a Taliban Victory! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

News from the Workbench

Hey guys,

sorry for the recent inactivity to all lurkers ;)  I´ve been away during the last week and no progress was made in regards to wargaming. Now that I´ve returned, the Battle for Mul Qasr continues (we´re halfway through) and painting has also commenced.

Since my return, a new batch of minis has arrived: When I came home, a new package of Afghan Civilians from Britannia Miniatures was waiting for me in the mailbox when I checked it in the morning.
To my surprise, another package arrived the same day - after only 4 days delivery from England, including a weekend, which is really, really quick!
So, what about the content of the mysterious, quick package?


Right - Renaissance ;)
I´ve just finished the first unit of Curassiers for my Renaissance Army. The package came from Pendraken and contains an army of 10mm units. Though the standard scale for this period in my region seems to be 15mm, I´ve decided to go for 10s for my new Pike & Shot-Army. The reasoning is simple: 15mm-minis cost a lot more per Figure (2-4 times as much). So even if I put more soldiers on my bases (about 2,5x for Pike and 1,5x for shot - cavalry is 1:1) I can build a larger army for the same money.

As the number of Shotte-Bases is roughly double the number of Pike-stands, I need about 1,8 times more minis than with 15mm. If you count cavalry as well, the ratio declines.

Thus, I can build TWO armies for the same price, which makes me completely independent from finding opponents with suitable armies. I can play with everyone who is interested without paying more.
Furthermore, the larger number of minis looks much better in the dense infantry-formations. Formations of 20 Pikemen look much cooler than 8 minis. You´ll see for yourself very soon ;)

That means: Only advantages for 10mm! Even the need to paint more minis is somewhat appealing, as you get to spend more time without running out of minis to paint (though I have to admit after painting the Curassiers, that it can be cumbersome to paint such numbers of identical minis - I guess I´ll have to optimize my strategy to avoid the feel of repetitiveness)


The sudden and unexpectedly early arrival of the Renaissance-minis meant that only little progress was made with the Afghan Civilians. However, I already primed them and four of them have gotten a treatment with Medium Grey. I´ll paint some of the women soon, as I need them as pseudo-POWs in the ongoing Mul Qasr-Battle.

Civilians and Goats

The campaign has not progressed since the last update, as fighting the battle via Mail takes so much time - even with 1 turn per day it would take more than a week for 8 turns to play.And sometimes we don´t even manage to get daily turns done. If anyone is interested, I might be willing to do some outsourcing of smaller, less decisive engagements to other players... 

So far, so good!
Until next time ;)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Operation Firefly - The Campaign continues

After the Mortars in Mayasaf have been disabled, US troops thrust deeper into the valley as they advance along the main road. More Reinforcements arrive at Mayasaf.

Situation after Campaign-Turn 1
 While several elements take up blocking- and backup positions at the crossroads, a contigent of forces is dispatched to take Mul Qasr, while the rest of the forces prepare their advance into El Qualeed.

Campaign Turn 2 - Northern Units moved

The newly arrived reinforcements spread out to secure the southern area and control the vital supply route towards the central districts of the area.

Situation at the End of Turn 2 - Insurgents in Mul Qasr are attacked,  while several cells move into US-controlled areas

So how does this work? 

Well, its my small campaign system, designed to create setups for the battles we fight on the tabletop. As you can see, I decided to use an area-control map for simplicity of use. Crossed areas are guerilla infiltration-routes. Those may be raided, but not permanently occupied by the regular units.Normal areas can be permanently occupied by units and guerilla markers (insurgency cells - the flames ;)  ).
Connections are eithe thin lines (dust roads, farm trails, pathways and small alleys) or thick connections (roads). Regardless of unit type, a unit can move along 1 normal connection, or make a double-move when using a road. Vehicles travel at the same speed as infantry, as most infantry is considered motorized for means of transport anyway. Guerillas know the area and can exploit their knowledge and local resources to travel as fast as regular forces.

Units represent Squads or Teams (actually it doesn´t matter how big these formations are, but for ease of bookkeeping and administration I decided to use squads instead of platoons, so there is more room to split the scarce resources of the regular forces).
The Insurgents don´t use actual units, but establish Guerilla-cells on the map. Those can move as well and represent the strength of the various anti-coalition movements in the area. These cells/markers have a value between 0 (Dummy) and 3 (large cell) - this creates some fog of war for the regular forces.
The actual Tabletop-setup is then dependent on the ratio of Insurgency Strength to Regular Units present. ou don´t need to fight the entire battle with 6 Squads or so - its sufficient to depict smaller engagements that represent the key actions that determine success of failure in the area.

Now here´s the tricky part: Guerilla cells are not destroyed by combat alone. They may suffer from a defeat and lose some strength, but most often they will simply melt away and wage another kind of war. If too many troops are in the area, ambushes, IED-attacks, etc. will become much more likely than with a better balance of power, where Insurgents will try to attack the troops more directly.

To represent the multitude of challenges in Counter-Insurgency(COIN-) Operations, the Regular player must take action apart from pure conquest of the area: Securing the occupied region and winning local support is key. This is depicted by special options that can be activated by Coin-Points. These points are won by successful scenarios and can be spent on things like reinforcements, fire support, and several options to remove Guerilla cells from the board or prevent their establishment. 

Similarly, the Insurgent gets new markers for his forcepool if he wins engagements and thus becomes stronger with the successes he has. It still has to show if I got the balancing right from the start - probably not, but the most severe problems will probably be ironed out sooner or later.

I´m still in the process of developing and finetuning the exact rules, but the core elements are finished. If you are interested, I could put the rules online once they are in a decent and presentable state. For now, we have to find out how well they achieve my design goals ;)

If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

More OPFOR finished

So, today I finished another batch of 12 Taliban. Another 10 minis are still in the works and need some more love to get their details finished. But soon enough, all my Taliban are battle-ready and I can focus on painting more Americans (I´ve put the Machinegun-Team on the picture as well, they´re almost finished)

More battle-ready Taliban and MG-Team in their pre-detail stage.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Operation Firefly - Mission 1: "Mortars in Mayasaf"

 [Hey guys - this is the first part of one of the play-by-Mail Force-on-Force games I´m guiding. Some note beforehand: The setting is fictional and not based on actual events. I´ve planned this as a small campaign (Operation Firefly) that depicts the battle for dominance over a remote valley in Afghanistan. We´ll see how far we come with this campaign, I do not guarantee completion. 

The game was played blind by the US-player. I sent him a blank map of the area and the pictures you are about to see and he had to act without knowing where the enemy was until they came into his LOS. I playtested the scenario with my brother and it was a close run, so I decided to make no major changes to the setup. It might be necessary to adjust the scenario somewhat in favour of the US-Player should you try to replay it.

We didn´t play with Fog of War-Cards in this scenario, as we wanted to create 2 separate card-decks for each party - such that the first draw makes sense already. Please also note that the Terrain is still Work in Progress and while it might not look as refined as other tables, it certainly did its job ;)  ]

April 2011, Lagashkar Valley, South-East Afghanistan.

After taking over the Combat Duties from ISAF-Troops in late 2010, US Army forces have established a foothold in the area around the Lagashkar Valley, following the troops surge authorized by the Obama Government.  After winter has loosened its firm grip on the mountain passes, US Forces now advance into the remote Lagashkar-Valley, where Taliban Fighters have set up a stronghold.
First target of Operation Firefly is the reconquest of a Village named Mayasaf in to the south of the valley. Attacks will then commence along the river Ualeed and the Greenzone towards the town of  El Q´Ualeed, securing the town and the dam with its electrical powerplant to the south. Finally, the villages of Mul Qass and Mursaba are to be secured before the last Taliban hideouts in the Mountains are going to he cleared.
Operation Firefly commences on April 18, 0700 Local Time.
April 18, 2012, 1426 Local Time
The assault into Mayasaf has started in the morning and triggered hours of long and hard fighting as the Army tries to overcome the determined defence of the Taliban. Time and Time again, friendly forces come under fire from Mortar Batteries and the advance stalls. Finally, in the early midday hours, the mortar batteries are identified. A Squad is dispatched to neutralize one of the Mortars on the edge of the village, destroying the weapon and its ammunition before joining the main assault into Masayaf. 
- Secure and Destroy the Mortar battery [remain one full Turn in base-contact;  Note: Only ONE mortar is present, marked locations are possible mortar sites]
- Avoid losses and retain combat strength for the flanking assault
Enemy presence in the area has been confirmed. Numbers unknown, probably light to medium resistance from trained Taliban Fighters.
Turn 1
US Fireteams advance
 The US-Player decides to move straight forward to establish a position in the centre of the battlefield. His overall plan is to set up Team Blue on Overwatch in the central building (which he cannot enter yet as tactical movement is required to get into buildings) and move Team Green towards the outer right objective behind the ridgeline. Nothing happens.

A depressing silence lies over the village as your squad arrives, only disrupted by the regular thumming of the Mortar Battery ahead. The sound echoes on the hills and walls of buildings, making it impossible to identify its location by its noise. Cautiously, Team Green advances into the nearby building. An uneasy feeling besets the soldiers - they feel like they are being watched, like trouble is coming.
As soon as Fireteam Green has established its new position, Team Blue begins its dash to the next house, getting into cover by the wall in front of it, while the men prepare their entry into the building. 
Turn 2

Team Green goes on overwatch while Team Blue enters the central building and prepares to cover the next move.

Team Green on overwatch while  Team Blue enters building
Hidden Taliban are spotted as US Troops move into Optimal Range. A reaction test is made (see below) and the US get to fire first after making a sucessfull PID. The Overwatch-Unit fails its test and must act after the Taliban.
 Team Green establishes and overwatch-position and prepares to give covering fire for their buddys. Cautiously Team Blue enters the Building. Upon reaching the northern side of the building Private Vicks spots a humanlike shadow in the house ahead. With his heart beating, he restrains himself and silently warns his teammates of the potential danger. Quickly the Team checks the house in front of them. Harris, the Grenadier, spots the barrel of a Gun that rests almost invisibly in a small crack of the wall. An Ambush-Position.
Hidden Taliban are spotted!
 A Shout of warning drives everyone to cover and fire is opened on the hidden enemy in the house. Harris´ Grenade immediately takes out one of the Taliban, gunfire sends another down. Hectic comm-chatter starts between the two US-teams as Blue advises the overwatch-unit of the enemy position while trying to keep the enemies heads down. 

The result of Team Blue´s fire.
Green verifies the enemy position,  spotting several individuals hopping up from their cover with raised weapons. Gunfire rains down on the building, sending more Taliban into the dust. The remaining enemies keep their heads down and hope to survive the storm of bullets. 
Team Green takes out all but one Taliban.
 The fight is on...
Turn 3

The Taliban has seized the Initiative. Team Green suddenly comes under fire from ambushing Taliban to their right. They suffer an unlucky defense roll and things go south...

Team Green comes under fire from the right

Only seconds after the first eruption of fire has ceased, gunfire hits the southern Building from the right. Taliban troops have sucessfully sprung and ambush from their conceiled position in the bushes between the rock outcroppings. To make things worse, another Taliban group appears along the rocks of the ridgeline, directly north of the ambushing troops. In the confusion of the ambush and with their positions still aligned to combat the threat in the northern house, the US Soldiers are hit hard by the incoming gunfire. 
The incredible bad defense roll!

...and its effect
 Two guys are hit and go down, making the planned move suddenly becomes a difficult task.
Taken by surprise and on the verge of losing men, Team Green decides to stay in cover until the situation allows for much safer movement. The soldiers hit by gunfire have to be assessed and taken care of if necessary. Orders are to return fire on ambush positions and stay safe as much as possible.
At this point, the US-Player decides to keep team Green safe and in place, while Blue close-assaults the remaining Taliban to their front. The second, smaller Taliban unit at the rocks fires at Team Green, causing another casualty for the Americans - who roll bad defense again (1,2,3,4,6 against 5,6 and two non-sucesses).
While still returning ineffective fire on the ambushing Taliban in the Bushes, the other group joins the party and opens up on the US Team as well. Another casualty is caused by the crossfire. Fire is returned on the second group of Taliban once a positive ID is established, sending one enemy to Allah.
With Baker, Francis and Dickon hit, Team Green fortifies its position in the house and the remaining two Team Members make haste to check their comrades for injuries.
Team Blue makes a sucessfull roll for close-Assault after withstanding fire from the 2 Taliban and wipe them out. 

Close Assault sucessful!

Meanwhile, Blue-Team prepares their charge into the northern building. While under heavy fire Corporal Hanson instructs his men. Luckily, nobody is hit by the incoming RPG- and Automatic Rifle fire.
As the Taliban take their time to reload, Harris supresses the Mujs while the rest of the team charges with fixed bayonets. A Frag Grenade into the window of the building quickly disposes of the two Taliban. Team Blue established their position in the house. Once the dust settles and the view becomes clear, they realize that they´ve just stumbled into the mortar position which lies in the small backyard in front of them. Only the three crewman and a lone team of two Taliban on the hill close by guard the weapon that caused all this mayhem. 
Look! Shiny! The Mortar has been discovered!  
The Mortar! And two lonely Taliban to the left...
The Situation after Turn 3 (only visible Taliban Elements)
 Turn 4

First Aid ends bad as one Soldier is determined to be KIA and one badly wounded. Only one gets back up with a light wound.
US Troops again get unlucky as substential Taliban Reinforcements arrive just where the troubled Green-Team is located.

While the survivors of Team Green are busy checking their casualties and not getting hit by sustained fire from the two Taliban positions, the situation becomes dire as a large group of Taliban emerges from a ratline at the compound wall...
Bad Guys!
 The Taliban charge the building and make as sucessfull TQ-roll. The US-Player decides to withdraw to the central house to the north and avoid confrontation. He wins the reaction test and moves first, but comes under fire from the small group at the rocks while moving through the gap. 
Chaos and hectic reactions have taken over.
As the large Taliban group emerges from the dust in the close vicinity of their position, Sgt. Lester immediately realizes that Team Green can´t stay where it is. As the Taliban charge the compound with furious determination to kill the infidels, Lester and his troops evacuate to the nearby house. Unfortunately, the approach towards the secure position is slower than expected, as their wounded encumbers the soldiers. While crossing the open ground between the houses they come under fire by the smaller Taliban group behind the rocks, but chose to continue their advance without returning fire in order to reach a secure position.

Team Green hastily leaves their position to avoid close combat
The Taliban fire on the moving Soldiers but hit nothing
Now, the larger of the two Taliban-groups move from their conceiled position to reestablish a line of Fire to the Americans. They lose their reaction test and half of the group goes down. The resulting morale-test is a failure and forces the group to retreat behind the rocks they came from. 
Just as they thought they made it, the larger second Taliban group advances from their cover to open fire on them, but the quick reflexes and good aim of the soldiers save the day as half of the group goes down and the survivors are forced to retreat to the covered position they emerged from. 

Taliban group moves towards a firing position...

...and is hit by incoming fire.
To the North, Team Blue prepares to close assault the mortar. Another Taliban group emerges from the fields and enters a building to shoot at Team Blue,  but Blue wins all reaction tests and charges the mortar team.

Meanwhile to the North, Cpl Hanson again orders to fix bayonets and the Team prepares to take out the mortar. Just as they exit the building, a group of Taliban appears in the House near the Fields, but their fire erupts just after Team Blue left their positions to charge the enemy and the bullets harmlessly hit the walls of the building.
Shocked by the determined assault of the Americans, the Mortar Crew sends a few bullets down the range, but noone is hit and their Bayonets quickly dispose of the Crew. Just as the position is secured, sniper fire whizzled past the heads of the soldiers. Fortunately, the Sniper and his Spotter are easily killed by the heavy fire the Team puts down the range. 
US acts first! The Mortar Team fails its Def. Fire TQ-Check and is too shocked to act decisively.

The Mortar Crew is sent to Allah. No survivors, no American casualties.
As the Rest of the Team secures the position in the backyard, Private Vicks prepares to disable the Mortar.
Now, Team Blue has to spend 1 Turn in Contact with the Mortar to disable it. It can only move again in Turn 6 if it wants to complete the main objective. 
 Turn 5

The Taliban group with the Machine Gunner move to the white round compound and open fire on the battered Team Green. Another casualty is caused by this fire, the Fireteam fails its Morale Check, becomes "Pinned" and retreats to better cover (I decided this would make more sense than remaining in place, as they were also under threat from the south and the Players orders where to join the building anyway).

Situation at beginning of Turn 5

Taliban fire on Team Green
The Taliban force to the south fails their TQ-Check to close Assault Team Green and forfeits its activation. The other Taliiban-groups are out of sight. 
Being too focussed on the Enemy to the south, where the Group Leader of the enemy is angrily shouting at his men who seem to refuse his orders, the Team realizes the new threat split-seconds to late. Heavy fire from small-arms and some heavier PKM-Rounds whistle around their head, while they duck against the wall and try to return fire. During the process Cpl Helling is hit by a ricocheting bullet, bringing the teams effort to return fire in disarray. Under heavy fire they scramble for better cover inside the building and return some unaimed shots at the Taliban group, taking down only one enemy.
Meanwhile to the south, the angry leader slaps one of his younger and cowardly soldiers in the face and again explains his troop that their own lives are worthless and Allah demands their martyrdom - all the while, precious seconds pass...
At the mortar, Private Vicks has sucessfully planted the small charge on the mortar and finally disables the weapon by blasting it.
Cpl. Hanson sends a short update to Lester, who contacts HQ, advising them that the Mission has been accomplished.
Turn 6
"Good Job, Team. Bravo Company will now start its advance. Flanking attack is canceled due to heavy casualties. Repeat: Flanking attack is canceled. Your Evac is on the way and will arrive in 5. Hold out ´til they arrive. A mortar battery has been tasked to support you, Callsign Firestorm 1. Feel free to use their tubes, but avoid targeting buildings, civilians might still be present on the battlefield."  [New Mission objective: Hold out until Turn 8  ;  New Asset: Light Mortar Support]
As the Mission was supposed to end in Turn 8 and we are playing part of a scenario, thus more role-playing the game than actually playing competitively, I decided that giving the US more assets now was justified, especially as the Taliban got extremely lucky in their reinforcement rolls. If a squad would stumble into a similar situation in real life, I believe they would probably get more than just Light Mortar Support...

Team Greens Casualty Check determines that another soldier is seriously wounded and reduces effective fighting strength to only 2 men. 
Taliban MG  continues to put fire on Green - they win the Reaction Test as they have Initiative
... and wipe out the team
Team Green is wiped out by heavy enemy fire. The Southern Group now move towards their position which they failed to charge last turn and take the survivors prisoner.
Team Green is now POW

Team Green, still shellshocked by the heavy fire from the enemy MMG, tries to lay down supressive fire on the Taliban. Being only two combat effective soldiers, Lester and Baker face some difficulties in the process and both are hit. The last distress call from the team sends the members of Team Blue into a state of shock...
"Hurry up guys! We could need some help over here...." kchchhhh... "I´m hit! They´re coming for us - they´re too many! We´re being overrun!..."  "الله أكبرالله أكبر"

Still shocked by the Radio Message, Cpl. Hanson hesitates - his buddys are out there, captured by the Taliban. But all odds are against them. Should they try to rescue the men in peril? Or should they retreat to safety and hope that they can be freed later?

More Taliban appear over the Hilltop

Still shocked by the Radio Message, Cpl. Hanson hesitates - his buddys are out there, captured by the Taliban. But all odds are against them. Should they try to rescue the men in peril? Or should they retreat to safety and hope that they can be freed later?
He grits his teeth and tries to keep a cool head while his hands are still shaking. There´s no way he could rescue his buddies without endangering his own team. Not against this overwhelming horde. His actions would probably make things worse - Team Green would have to be rescued later. But it feels so wrong...
Hanson orders his men into the building at the mortar site to take a defensive position and hold out until the reinforcements arrive. He´s covering his men while they´re moving into the compound and just as he wants to move in himself, he´s knocked off his feet by a bullet. His vision blurs for a moment as pain and surprise shock him and for a moment he is unable to breathe. Then, hands grab him and drag him into the safety of cover. Slowly, his vision returns, while Vicks examines his wounds. "You´ll be alright, boss, it´s only a scratch!"
As he locks down his body, Hanson testifies that its more than just a scratch. A huge black-blue bruise had formed on his chest. But nothing had penetrated. He praised his body-armour for stopping the bullet.
Meanwhile, the remaining gunners shoot down two Taliban despite being pinned.
Hanson is hit

But the return fire fells two Taliban

Turn 7

Orders from the US-Player (Quote:) `SHOOT ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And order mortar fire on enemies in open ground! I want these ratholes smoking!
"Firestorm", come in!"  ` 
Team Blue is under fire from several directions. To the south, the Machine Gun has started to take aim on the besieged house. The US Soldiers, knowing about this danger, do their best to keep the Machine Gun from shooting them. They manage to take out another Taliban but fail to keep the Gunners head down - luckily, noone gets hit by the incoming bursts of fire. 
Shoot anything - said and done. 1 Talib down.
Taliban retreat with POW
This time, the US lost the reaction test and were unable to shoot at the retreating Taliban or call any further fire support from the mortars. Wouldn´t have made sense anyway at this stage - the light mortars have a firepower of 3 dice, while the Fireteam could fire with 7 (4 men + 2 support + 1 Supplies) - mortars would only make sense if they could target several enemy groups at once.

At the same time, the Taliban group at the central house decide to leave with the POWs - the leader doesn´t want to take any chances of losing this valuable trophy of his sucess. Team Blue try to shoot at anything, as ordered, but three groups that surround them are simply too much to get a clear shot at the withdrawing enemy. Instead, the Team focuses on the more immediate danger and takes out another two enemy of the smaller group at the hill. Everyone it too occupied to even think about acquiring coordinates for the mortars...
More Taliban swamp the area!
Just as the men stumble and fall, more Mujahideen appear from behind the wall and take aim. The Soldiers swiftly acquire the new targets and open fire. One enemy stumbles and hits the dirt, the others remain unscathed. Luckily, their fire is poorly aimed and noone is hit.
Cpl. Hanson takes a split-second to risk a look at his watch. Approximately two more minutes... They still have to hold out!
Turn 8

With 2 enemy groups now in the effective area of fire, mortar support actually made sense. So the first reaction of the US player was spent trying to call in mortar support. Unfortunately, he rolled a 3 and failed, even without accounting for the -1 modifier for squad-leader or below. 
"Firestorm 1, this is... this is Omega 1", Cpl. Hanson screamed in his mike as the Taliban poured towards his house like waves roll ashore. He had some trouble to get the coordinates for the firemission while trying to keep shooting. The MG still heavily pounded the position.
"We need fire support at grid 027087, repeat, fire support at 027, 087!"
"Omega 1, this is Firestorm 1. Checking your coordinates, please stand by."
"Got two of those bastards!", Harris screamed. Vicks grinned, while he changed the magazine. Just as he continued shooting, another enemy fell under his fire. "Another down!"
Taliban fire is ineffective, US fire is not.
"Omega 1, this is Firestorm 1. Grid 027087 is not in your OA. Repeat, Grid 027087 is no valid target! Please advise." 
Harris cursed while he tried to get another clear look at the map. Finally, he threw it away, cursing his damn job. He was not supposed to do such stuff! He decided to better keep shooting, while the small group of 3 Taliban advanced towards the house, grenades in their hands.
Taliban try to move into Optimum Range but have to withdraw

"They´re coming for us! Focus your fire!", Hanson shouted and pulled the trigger. One enemy was thrown off his feet by the rounds whistling past his head, but he quickly scrambled back to his knees, shouting panickly at his collegues. Shaken by the hard reality of rounds zipping past them, they wavered and turned to retreat towards a safer position. 
They almost got into the crossfire, as the larger Taliban group tried to keep the pressure on the US Fireteam. This was to no avail, as they weren´t able to hit the well entrenched Soldiers and suffered three casualties. Their morale boosted by the arrival of more reinforcements that advanced over the hill, they decided to stay at their position. 
Actually, the Taliban again got reinforcements in Turn 8 - and just at the right place to turn the finale of this scenario into a very cinematic action :D 
"More Talibs"
"More Talibs!"
 Hanson pointed at the new men arriving. Team Blue kept shooting. One of the Taliban fell, his chest bursting in a red mist. They kept coming. Another enemy went down, but the gunfire didn´t cease.
Heavy Taliban losses
Then, suddenly, the noise of heavier gunfire mixed into the cacophonia with its dark sound.
Hanson looked at the direction the noise came from and a smile crept on his face. Strykers. The reinforcements had finally arrived!  
Team Blue kept shooting, while the Taliban retreated before the superior US firepower.
They had lost a mortar position, but captured an entire Team of 5 US soldiers. A bitter victory for the US - a pyrrhic victory...  a victory at all?

So, Team Blue actually survived. We´re about to do a short debriefing soon, before I´ll prepare the next mission. To give a clear out-of-character-answer:  This was not a US victory. Counting the potential VP for this Mission, I would assign 10 VP (Mortar disabled) to the US - as this was a blind game with 3 potential sites I go for more than the usual 5. 
Taliban would get:  3 per Soldier killed (3) + 5 per soldier POW (20)  
-> 23 : 10.  In campaign terms, this boosts the local support for the Taliban and their resources to establish more guerilla cells in the area, making life harder for the US. And you can be sure that one of the future missions will be the rescue of the POWs - or something else along these lines ;)