Saturday, September 1, 2012

Operation Firefly - Mission 3: "Ominous Fields"

Welcome back again - this is mission 3, this time we head right into the greenzone. I´ve finally come around to buy some adequate bushes to build proper greenzone terrain. This time, we´ve chosen a shorter scenario to speed things up on the more remote locations of the campaign map. In this battle-report we´re fighting over the area south of El Qualeed (Area 6 on the campaign map - for more details, go take a look here.)

April 21, 09:04 Local Time.
Though Mul Qasr has fallen, the Taliban were able to take the Prisoners with them and moved them towards an unknown location - probably somewhere in the mountains near the Village. 
Meanwhile to the south, US Forces have advanced along the main road into the farming areas of the Greenzone.  The outskirts of El Qualeed are not far away, but before the advance can thrust into the town, business has to be done in the Greenzone.
Hesitant as always, the locals are only willing to speak about the Taliban if put under immense pressure and questioning the farmers has not yielded any satisfactory result. All the soldiers encounter in the area is hatred and mistrust from the populace - it seems like a lot of work lies ahead of the coalition forces. To prevent further deteroriation, the Rules of Engagements are tightened.
Then, on the morning of the 21st, a ragged villager stumbles onto the route of an american convoy, gesticulating wildly. He is brought to the local commander and questioned with the help of a translator, who has serious trouble to keep pace with the speed of the villagers´ report. He seems to have some urgent information.He claims he has seen something in the fields....
Now its the soldiers who mistrust the local villagers, but he keep pleading and seems to be very serious, telling them that the Taliban have killed his father and brother because they were accused of cooperation with the enemy.
Finally, the local commander gives in and despatches your troops to the area. You are to investigate the position described by the villager.
Intelligence reports are handed to you. The area seems to be infested with Taliban, but as of yet they avoided contact. The local population seems to be supportive of the Taliban and its probable that the insurgency movement has many followers among the locals. To prevent them from sliding away from the coalition cause, it is important to prevent any civilian casualties and avoid major disruption of local infrastructure and assets (buildings, fields, canals)
It is very likely that Civilians are in the area to tend to the crops. 


-Investigate the Location described by the Villager (The I-Marker)
-Cause no Civilian Casualties
-Destroy no fields or buildings
Aerial Recon Scan of the Area
 So, this is the setup. My adversary has wisely chosen an unarmed UAV to assist him in this operation. To keep things interesting, I´ve adjusted some of the basic FoF-rules to better suit this environment: Contacts that are trying to hide are not automatically spotted due to their intimate knowledge of the terrain and their well-conceiled positions in the field (and because I simply didn´t have enough markers to put on the table) - thus, I actually increased Taliban TQ for the spotting-check against the UAV instead of decreasing it. Furthermore, all neutral contacts are marked as well (Civilians, Goats). This is why a lot of units seemingly pop up from nowhere during the game. That´s no rampant reinforcement-table but gradual spotting on re-scans of the area or units being spotted due to moving out of hidden positions. 

First encounter on setup

Second encounter

As the soldiers enter the area, they spot movement ahead of them:
Up the pathway, three men are walking towards the Troops. At least one of them is definitely carrying an AK on his back.They´re moving at a steady pace, eyeing the US soldiers with suspicion and fear - or is it a glimpse of hatred? 

In front of the white house, an old man and three women are chatting - or are they carrying suicide vests, only waiting for the Americans to come closer
Turn 1

Orders for the first turn are given
White markers are unknown contacts, Blue hexagon marks suspicious but unidentified targets. Every unit makes a PID check on these targets, confirming their status on a sucess. To keep up the tension, I deliberately tried to cast doubt about the status of any contact.

While Red and Green go on Overwatch and keep an eye on any suspicious move.
While Team Red is not able to identify if the contacts ahead are friendly, Green can make certain that the small group ahead are indeed Civilians, as they carry no weapons and do not behave suspiciously. The old man seems to provide the women some opportunity to be in the open, which is not allowed without supervision of a close relative under Taliban rule. Another indication that trouble might lie ahead.
A terrifying new threat has been discovered: GOATS!
Cautiously, as the status of the three men ahead is not yet proven, Blue and Yellow advance around the corner of the enclosure. Nothing lies ahead, only the deserted small pathway. The wind whistles through the fields.
The three men seem unimpressed by the weaponry of the Soldiers and remain on their course as the Soldiers pass. Indeed, one of them has slung a kalashnikov around his shoulder and the second man is carrying his weapon conceiled under his cape. The third is a young man, carrying a basket. He keeps looking nervously at the Americans, as do the other men - their looks are not friendly and welcoming, but they don´t seem hostile either.
Blue and Yellow advancing
Turn 2

Orders for Turn 2
As Yellow advances around the corner to check the alley, they encounter a group of three men. One of those is definitely armed, another one is playing around with a cellphone... The soldiers cannot positively ID the contacts.
"Three men to the front - One with an AK, one with a cellphone - could be a Dicker or even a triggerman. Mike 2-1, Please advise." 
"Mike 2-1, this is Echo Leader. Your contacts are considered neutral until proven otherwise or posing an immediate danger."
Unknown contacts down the alley

Team Red advances to its position, running past the three civilians. They take cover behind the low enclosure of the fields and prepare to advance into the crops.

Green jumps over the low wall and makes their way into the thick underbrush of the field. Meanwhile, the three men - now definitely identified as Civilians -  move further down the alley, still under the watchful eyes of Blue and Green. Suddenly, Troopers of Team Green spot something in the field behind the civilians - somethings moving there! The troops spot multiple contacts moving towards the wall.

Contacts in the southern field!

At the same Time, more Movement is detected right next to red - a small group of four, who cannot be properly identified, and a large group of more than five, who are hardly visible through the this cornfield. Though Blue is able to spot the movement of the larger group, they are not able to fire, as Team Red might be endangered and the status of the contacts is still unknown.

More contacts to the left!

The next sensor-scan of Raven reveals that activity is increasing in the south-eastern field and on the flanks (Grid-C8 & K7), as the sensors reveal new signatures.

That UAV is a real hassle. My original plan was to stage an ambush on the coalition flank as soon as the front elements have advanced far enough. However, the US troops have formed a very compact group, being very close together. Add to this the very limited capabilities of my Insurgents...

Turn 3


While Green and Blue keep their eyes on the fields and cover the advance of the other units, Yellow and Red descend into the fields. Carefully scanning the area, knowing that a large group of people is waiting for them, the soldiers creep forward. Are the signatures shown by the UAV workers in the field, or armed resistance waiting for the right moment to surprise the US troops? 

Suddenly, shots crack through the silence. The soldiers scramble for cover, trying to assess the direction of the attack. The fire is sporadic but very close, coming from the front. Finally, someone is able to make out the position of the attackers. Fire is returned and the fighting intensifies. An RPG warhead whistles past the soldiers heads. During the next few minutes of chaotic, close firefight in the field, two confirmed kills are reported. Luckily, no friendlies are hit. 

Team Yellow engages the large group in the field
Red enters into the field while the enemy is distracted by yellow, covering the rear. The smaller group is immediately identified as enemy by both Blue and Red, and bullets are sent down into the field. Three men fall to the gunfire and one is up and running, losing his morale after experience the barrage of superior firepower.
Team Red hits the small Taliban Group hard
Unfortunately, Blue can not get a positive ID on the second, larger group in the same field as they are preparing to fire on red and things go terribly wrong: An RPG lands right in the position of the Americans in the field, causing two Casualties. Return fire is sent into the fields by Blue and Red, 
but one of the US-soldiers in the stricken Team has suffered terrible wounds.
One of his mates tries his best to keep him alive...
US Casualties!
 Again, incredible bad defense die are the only way for the Insurgents to get any kills on the regular. This time, we had an instance of 4 sucesses in the attack (out of 9 or 10 FP die) and a horrendous defense: 1,1,1,1,3,4 and 6.  Five misses!
Meanwhile, the three Civilians along the alley hurry to get out of the fight. White moves out of the house to cover the fields on the souther part of the battlefield and spots the thread immediately - while Green has trouble spotting the armed men through the thick vegetation to get a clear ID.
Machinegun-Fire rattles down the pathway, killing three enemy behind the walls. Return fire is weak and unaimed. Terrified by the Machine Gun, the second group hunkers down and waits for a better situation to hit the infidels. 

Taliban in the southern field under MG-fire.
More movement is spotted in the field, as a second group of Taliban moves up. Spotting them right away this time, Green opens fire and puts half of the group to rest. Again, the return fire is inefficient. 
Reinforcements flock towards the mauled group and get shot immediatey by OW-fire
As ordered, Raven zooms in onto the two Taliban-units to the north of the field. One of them had already started to take sporadic and unaimed shots at Red, obviously identifying them as hostile. The second group further north was identified as Taliban as well, as the men where carrying arms - including an RPG - openly.

Recon Footage from the UAV

Turn 4

Actually, due to the UAV, the bad Lines of Sight in this scenario are favouring the regulars more than the Taliban. My original plan to lure the teams into the fields to sweep them (like they did in the last scenario) where I could ambush them does not really work. He knows where he has to put his troops, my Taliban are no longer hidden on crucial places to utilize ambushes and no OOC-Movement is possible to quickly reinforce positions. I started to use the Afghan Hot Spot-Rule to move my troops around the battlefield, but I was definitely lacking flexibility in my setup. This terrain might have been really interesting if the US player had not chosen to buy a UAV as asset.

However, I managed to get two lucky hits - so let´s see whats up with them!
First Aid rolls
In the centre, Team Red struggles to stabilize the wounded soldiers. One of them is quickly patched up and ready to continue the fight after only suffering a light wound. The second casualty however, Private Ron Trishaw, is so seriously injured that he dies in the hands of his teammates. He would be the fourth fatality for the regiment in the first week of the operation, not accounting for the POWs whose fate was still unknown. 
Orders for Turn 4
Team White puts heavy fire on the southernmost group of insurgents at the wall. Caught in a devastating crossfire between White and Green who perform their overwatch-duty, the entire group is wiped out.
The effects of crossfire
  As Team Blue enters the field, one of the soldiers covering the approach down the alley spots a head popping up from a bush. A second look indicates that a man is hiding there, fumbling with his cellphone, but otherwise not armed...

Suspicious contact to the left!

He is quick to hide again as he notices the coalition soldier observing him.  The Teamleader hesitates for one moment, remembering the priority not to harm civilians, but decides that the suspicious behavior of this man makes him a threat. The Team is ordered to fire and bullets burst through his chest. However, as he falls down, he is still able to press the final button on his cellphone... 
A deafening explosion rips through the field and blows up dust, smoke and debris. With their ears ringing, the soldiers struggle to check for casualties.

 As a result from one of my bad reaction-tests last turn, I drew a FoW-card giving me an IED - quite a huge one in fact (AP: 6). So, I placed the triggerman as a reaction to Yellows advance - if sucessfully blasted, I would hit all three US Teams in the crop field, as they where within 4" of Yellow. The US player decided to shoot at the man though the troops where not sure if he was a threat (they failed their PID, but as we are taking more of a roleplaying-approach to our games, I decided to face my player with the hard decision to shoot and kill a potential civilian  - which would cost him his secondary objective -  or to expose his troops to the risks of such an attack) 
Having won the reaction test, the US troops pierced the man with bullets. Rolling a 6 on his detonation-roll, he was still able to explode the IED, though he died... 


"Is everyone allright?"
"I´m Fine"
"Check - that was one hell of an explosion!"
Relieved that the Team has no casualties, the American soldiers ascertain that Team Red and Yellow who where caught by the explosion as well are fine. Everyone is up and standing, though confusion is still reigning in the ranks of the coalition soldiers.

Overwatch-fire prevents any interruption of Team Yellow´s move

  After shrugging of the effects of the explosion and reorganizing, Team Yellow makes its way though the thick underbrush towards the Mission Objective.
"Contact left!" 
The Team opens fire on the Taliban group, taking out several men with aimed bursts of fire. One of the Talibs shoots his RPG at the team, but the rocket whistles past their position. Somethings lying in the dust, covered by some stones. While the rest of the Team keeps the heads of the Taliban down, one of the soldiers is sent to investigate. Cautiously, he checks the ominous discovery. Its small bag. After carefully checking for boobytraps or IEDs, the soldier finally removes the stone and checks the bag. It contains a pile of paper with arabic handwriting, maps, lists and scetches. Looks like it could be interesting for the intelligence staff.
Just at this moment, a horde of Taliban appears behind the high wall that protects Team Yellow. They´re dangerously close and armed to the teeth... 

Yellow at the Mission Objective - but suddenly, a large group appears behind the high wall...

 More Taliban appear at the bushes by the hill and prepare to engage.
Meanwhile, in the southern fields, more insurgents hurry towards the wall, but Team Green puts more rounds down the range and achieves some devastating effect.

Another wipe-out at the southern field

Unfortunately, my IED has not caused any more casualties. These regulars are tough! But I hope it teaches my friend to avoid placing the troops so close together (though it had its benefits to use these mutuall supporting positions)

Turn 5

Terrified by the encounter with the IED, the US player orders his troops to basically ignore the Rules of Engagement by stating: "New mission parameters: all ARMED contacts are considered hostile now, except for fleeing/retreating subjects. Open fire allowed on any target even if PID failed."

He can only hope that things don´t go terribly wrong and he his not court-martialed for this.

Orders for the Turn

Team White continues to fire on the group of Taliban, again reducing their numbers. The lonesome remainder to the south of the field tries to support his  friends in need, but is taken down by aimed reaction fire from one of the Assistant Gunners with his M4. After sucessfully suppressing the enemey, White grabs the Machine Gun and advances towards the corner of the enclosure. 
Meanwhile, Team Green advances to their position as ordered, firing on the remaining three men on the other side of the path. No survivors are reported and Green establishes its defensive position next to the wall. 
Covered by Red, Team Blue advances into the field and engages the armed contacts within the field who are quickly neutralized. Only two enemies remain who are not able to properly suppress the US soldiers. 
Blue Team engages the Taliban in close Firefight in the fields
Faced by the overwhelmingly large group that suddenly appeared behind the wall, Yellow is quick to retreat into the field and out of their line of sight. Behind them, they hear the screams and battlecries of the Taliban who charge towards their former position. Barely escaping from the close assault, Yellow focuses their fire on the small group thats still left in the field. The two Afghans quickly succumb to the crossfire from Red and Yellow. 
Yellow avoids Close Combat with the Horde by retreating into the Field and out of LOS
Further fire comes in on red as the Taliban try to put more pressure on the retreating US troops. However, the small group of 5 riflemen is easily suppressed by Red and poses no serious threat. 

Just as Team Green has established its position, something cracks trough the thick vegetation of the fields. Charging towards them is a man with a fanatical grimasse. He wears no weapon, but his battlecry praising Allah makes his intentions more then obvious. Green unleashes a barrage of fire. The first shots whistle past the man as he closes in...
Then, he is struck by several wounds and stumbles. Blood is spilling from his mouth, staining his tunic. His eyes roll upwards as he dies, collapsing into the underbrush. 
 Well, that was the second asset gained by a FoW-Card in this game: A suicide bomber. Unfortunately, he was sucessfully dispatched by Team Green before he could cause any harm.
At this point, I ended the game and assigned victory to the US. My Insurgent forces where depleted and in no position to prevent the retreat of the teams. I was pretty sure that another turn wound not make a difference. To prove my feeling, I took over and played the last round of organized retreat solo - and indeed, nothing of significance happened. More Talibs died and the Americans retreated. Here´s a picture of what the end situation after Turn 6 might look like:

End Situation


US - Mission Accomplished!
-Investigate the Location described by the Villager (The I-Marker)  (5 VP)
-Cause no Civilian Casualties (3 VP)
-Destroy no fields or buildings (2 VP)
Total: 10 VP
-Capture American Soldiers (5)
-1x  Kill American soldiers (3)
-Seriously wound American Soldiers (2)
Total: 3 VP

Score:  10:3
COIN generated:   11
COIN expended:  5 (UAV)
Net COIN Gain:  6
Total COIN score: 68+6  = 74
Bonus: The Team has recovered Intelligence about Taliban activities in the area. You may turn over 1 Guerilla-cell marker anywhere on the map on the beginning of the next campaign turn.
Taliban Activity in the Area has been severely disrupted. Heavy losses have forced the Taliban to leave the area and retreat to safer havens, but local support in the communities remains strong.