Friday, October 26, 2012

Operation Firefly - Mission 5: "The Mosque"

My friend visited me during the last few days, so we were able to play another game of our campaign, with more  coming up in the next few days. As mentioned in the last campaign update the attack on El Qualeed has begun. Many insurgents are in the area and this time, the fighting was brutal and conclusive, due to another catastrophic turn of events...


April 23 - 8:23.

After US Troops started their advance into El Qualeed in the early morning hours, fighting has started to bog down. The area is crowded with civilians and enemy combatants, but it is hard to determine who is friend and who is foe. Narrow alleys are turned into death traps in no-time and when reinforcements finally arrive on the spot, the enemy has already withdrawn. The further coalition troops advance, the stiffer the resistance gets. Snipers increasingly harass the Soldiers from elevated positions, trying to disrupt their advance. After one particularly devastating sniper attack on a Command-element of the Afghan National Army supporting the attack, Coalition HQ decides to launch an attack to secure the most dangerous sniper-positions.

While some positions - like the local radio tower - are taken out by Helicopters, one of the identified targets is the local mosque with its minarett towering above the city district. In order to win public support, the Command elements decide that an airstrike on the mosque is not feasable.
Instead, mechanized elements are ordered to advance towards the mosque and secure the position.


US Objectives: 
-Take the Mosque before the end of Turn 8
-Take the Mosque before the end of Turn 6
-Suffer no KIA

Your Forces:
1x US Infantry Squad
        - 1x Medic attached
1x US GPMG Team
1x Special Forces team divided into:
        - 1x Special Forces Fireteam (1 AR + 2x Lt. Supp.)
        - 1x Special Forces Sniper Team

Taliban Strength assessment:
Enemy elements in the area are mostly local militia who have gathered in large numbers to defend the capital and the mosque from the infidel invaders.

US elements enter the district - a multitude of unknown contacts lies ahead

The mosque is the white building to the top left. The way is blocked by a small walled garden. A breaching test is required to destroy these walls - alternatively, troops can try to climb from the house bordering the wall onto the roof of next compound. Both actions require a sucessfull TQ check.

Turn 1
US Fireteam spoils an ambush
 Under protection by their M1126 Stryker providing overwatch, a US Army unit (Team Blue) starts by hopping from one building to another, sucessfully spoiling an ambush by one of the two Insurgent groups visible above. Under fire by the Strykers Main Gun, the militia quickly looses its fighting strenght. During the shootout, one of the militiamen hits a US soldiers, but fortunately the body armor stops the bullet that could otherwise have been harmful.

"Glück im Unglück"
The appropriate german proverb is "Glück im Unglück" - though you probably can´t see the numbers on the dice in the above picture, you might be able to get the result: 
1,1,2,2,2,3 and 4,5   - barely blocking the incoming 5 (which was the only sucess I rolled...) 
Another sucess might have already caused a casualty. So, someone was fortunate despite the misfortune of rolling badly.

Keep this roll in mind for later, you´ll probably start seeing a pattern ;)

Man down!

Trying to advance into the building to their right, the second Fireteam (Red) stumbles into a vicious ambush as Taliban fighters open fire from the target towards which they are headed! Unable to react to the new menace in time, the stryker crew has to watch as two men go down. Aborting their movement, they start pouring fire into the house, supported by the Strykers HMG.
The Americans retaliation kills the majority of the Insurgent group and slowly undermines their morale.

Turn 2

After killing the majority of the group, Team Red checks their casualties. The attached Medic quickly realizes that no one is seriously wounded. One of the men is lightly wounded, but nothing some painkillers couldn´t fix - his mate is okay and ready to roll after recuperating from the shock of the unexpectedly close ambush.
At full strength again, the team decides to push the enemy out of his position by close assaulting.

Who´s calling?
After Team Red has taken the Taliban out - the militiamen where too shocked by the sight of the charging US troops to do anything and died on the spot - the GPMG-Team follows suit to establish a good overwatch-position. Unfortunately, they are heading directly into the next trap...

Knowing that this position would be crucial for the control of the battlefield - and presented with the opportunity to strike two teams at once, I activated my first Triggerman to detonate an IED in the house that was about to be occupied... 
Suceeding in his ambush-roll, there was no way to shoot the triggerman before the IED struck, but I allowed my opponent to make a spotting-roll to evade the explosion, forcing him out of the building again. Only the MG-team suceeded.  

The MG-crew, just entering the building, was able to spot the device that was hideously planted on the ceiling of the building. Yelling, they turn back and scramble to get out of the blast-area, while Team Red is not quick enough to react...

Er... seriously?!

As you can see above, the scene caused a funny moment, as I set out to roll a devastating effect for this ingenious strike, making the attack roll in the most theatrical manner, celebrating my ingenious sucess and the availability of D8... and failing the roll spectacularly!

Guess he wasn´t calling home
The blast of the IED causes confusion and panic among Team Red, but order is quickly restored - The blast  spent most of its energy blasting away the roof of the house. The triggerman is finally identified as enemy and swiftly killed. But one of the team members is missing... his companions start looking for their comrade.

On the other side of the street, Team Blue, now aided by the sniper-team, are still locked in a firefight with the defenders on the roof.

Turn 3

Overview at the beginning of Turn 3
After decimating the enemy at the roof next to them, the Special Forces sniper-team sets out to engage the remaining enemies (one of them got up after his first aid check) and jump from one roof to the other. In the resulting close-fight, a local militia leader is taken prisoner.

Handcuffed Militia Leader

In the bombed building, Team Red is meanwhile struggling to find their buddy in the dust of the explosion. Only when they hear the moaning of the wounded man, muffled by the debris that buried him, they realize that he was hit by the collapsing ceiling.
After removing the debris, the medic quickly starts assessing the wounds, but it looks bad. Though alive, the man is seriously wounded and unable to continue the fight.

Just as the MG-Team starts heading back into the building, a shot cracks through the alleys, sending one of its members to the ground. The sniper has struck! 


Dragging the downed man into the building, the team takes aim on the elusive sniper on the minarett and sucessfully lights up his position with a barrage of fire.

Meanwhile, the small special forces group unload from the stryker and prepares to breach the walls surrounding the orchard.

 Turn 4

US Troops have finally secured suitable overwatch-positions

After three rounds of fighting, the US troops have finally suceeded in securing two good overwatch-positions and are not able to dominate the battlefield. Setting both his MG-team and the sniperteam on overwatch, the US team can now control more than two third of the battlefield...

The casualty of the sniper-fire turns of to be fine, only stumbling and hitting the ground hard as the bullet struck very close to him.

"Man, this wall is stronger than it looks - get some more charges!"

The USSF-Team fails to breach the wall after assessing that more boom is needed. One of the team members heads back to the stryker to retrieve more breaching charges.

Ambush spoiled
In the meantime, the IFV advances carefully to investigate the contacts ahead, spoiling an ambush set up by a large group. Though unidentified contacts are in the Line of Fire, the stryker opens fire in violation of the Rules of Engagement.

Two ambushes spoiled!

While the stryker takes out the group on the right, the Overwatch-Sniperteam takes care of the two men in front of the vehicle. Unfortunately, both of the unknown contacts in the Line of Fire are hit (as both the Sniper team AND the stryker fail their TQ-Check.)

I know it is not allowed to fire while Civilians are in the LOF. As in all previous games, I still left the decision to the player - maybe I´ll have to add another victory condition named "Don´t violate the RoE", as my friend seems to ignore them constantly when given the choice ;-)  
You´ll see that his decision turns out to be a very bad one...

While the stryker is taking care of the RPG-gunners without getting hit, Team Blue finally makes its way over the wall, backing up the sniperteam.

Turn 5

Halfway through...

Spotting a multitude of unknown contacts (including a DShK HMG-Team in the Mosque) Team Blue and the snipers team up to clear the path to the mosque before Blue move out in order to approach the building.

TQ D10 Snipers on Overwatch...
Both the HMG-Team and the other enemy unit are quickly disposed off and Team Blue moves towards the gate in the orchard-wall.

Further back, Team Red is preparing to enter the next building in order to aid the fallen civilians. In another strike of misfortune, they are sucessfully engaged by a large Taliban-group behind a protective wall that prevents any Overwatch-intervention. Even after reaching the cover of the building, Team Red is too exposed to survive the barrage of fire...

Defense Roll
Out of 7 dice, only one was sucessfull, blocking my 5. The other results where 2x1, and 4x2. 4 Hits. 4 Casualties. Team Red wiped out.

"Omega 3-2, please copy.... Omega 3-2?"

After watching the demise of their comrades, the stryker sets out to finish his job by taking out the RPG that´s still threatening its flank...

"Confirmed Hit"

Relaxing somewhat, as the most obvious threats are dealt with, the Sniper Unit is promply engaged by another HMG-group. Barely avoiding another casualty, the Snipers return fire and kill most of the DShK-team, despite getting suppressed initially.

"We´re pinned down!"

Turn 6

No overview-picture for this one. As you can imagine, the situation was becoming tense and taking pictures lost priority.

Leaving the orchard to reach the mosque before the end of the turn, Team Blue stumbles into the next ambush. As the sniper-team failed its PID (or reaction test? I don´t remember - they didn´t interfere) and Blue is too slow to take out the triggerman, the bomb explodes right at the entry of the mosque. 

The team is hit with devastating effect - only the presence of the squad leader prevents another unit from being wiped out...

The USSF-Team swiftly moves towards their position in order to back them up, should another attack be made on them.

Team Red, still waiting for assistance, is meanwhile getting surrounded by Taliban. Though the stryker tries to engage one of the groups, it cannot aid the fallen team, being a vehicle. Dismounting driver or gunner would put them in jeopardy too, as two large groups of enemy close in...

Attempting to get a shot at the Taliban

The militiamen however chose to retreat behind the cover of the building, as they are not armed with RPGs and could not harm the vehicle.

Another large group of Taliban, moving into the building where Team Red is lying, is engaged by the US-Snipers, who manage to kill their leader. Unnerved by the loss of their commander, the insurgents take a break, but are able to initiate contact with the fallen team by finishing their declared action (As moving into contact with a wiped out team does not count as close-assault, a shaken-result should not cause an abortion of the activation. The Taliban are in cover and must thus not move towards it and the enemy unit is not combat active...  Well, we had some heated debate about that, as you can imagine.)

Turn 7

Overview Turn 7

Team Blue, aided by the USSF-team, is recovering from the IED-attack and sorting out the damage - only one incapacitating injury has occured, the other casualties are lightly wounded. Team Blue continues its advance into the mosque, finally securing it.

After the game, we were not sure if we had measured the distance to the mosque correctly in turn 6. It was a very close run and we decided to throw a die to resolve this conflict, and Team Blue failed. Later, my friend insisted that they should have been able to reach the mosque in the pior turn - however, as you will see, this discussion was moot because it doesn´t change the outcome of the game. 

Firing at the Taliban group that has captured Team Red, the Stryker hits one of his own but fails to prevent the Militia from retreating (as they passed their TQ-check). By getting out of the building they´re also leaving the LOS of the Sniper team,

Furthermore, it was getting late and our concentration faded, which might explain some of the inconsistencies that I have discovered just now, by writing the report. I somehow suspect that we played another turn somewhere without even realizing it. Otherwise I couldn´t explain how the large group of 7 enemies at the street at the white compound compare to the 4 casualties lying around in the picture below. Or how it was possible for one irregular unit to move and shoot into a building and shoot in the same turn (see two pictures below). Furthermore, having just received a serious wound, Team Blue wasn´t able to move for one turn. All this is strange and indicates that we somehow played another turn without even realizing...  Or am I just mixing up the pictures..?

In a frenzied rush, the USSF scramble to help the abducted team, cutting through any resistance like a warm knife through butter:

USSF clearing the way
MG Team moving out to help the POWs... running into crossfire

Turn 8/9/ whatever...

I´m lost in the dynamic events of my own scenario.

The mosque is secured, but the rush for the POWs is still on! 

Specialforces moving into position to help their comrades...

The Taliban try to react by moving the POWs off board...

The activation check is made - and it is sucessfull!

A reaction test is made...


and the Taliban win, moving another group of POWs off the board!

We made a final check for the wiped-out MG-team, of which one member was KIA. I´ll come back to it in the post-game discussion.

US Objectives: 
-Take the Mosque before the end of Turn 8 (5)
-Take the Mosque before the end of Turn 6 (5)
-Suffer no KIA (5)

- 4 VP for untreated Civilian Casualties on the Battlefield

Taliban Objectives:

-Hold the mosque! (5)
-Per enemy SF-member killed (5)
1x -per enemy KIA (3)
4x-per enemy POW (5)
1x-per enemy seriously wounded (2)

= Major Taliban Victory

As I indicated earlier in the report, the game resulted in quite some discussion, both about potentially reaching the mosque in turn 6 and the victory conditions of the Taliban. 

Even if I count the points for taking the mosque early (+5) we´re still reaching a score of just 6 VP for the US, while the Taliban has over 20 for the captured team alone. 
Suffering a KIA in the last turn of the battle is unfortunate, but bad luck - and even adding this would make the result a Major Taliban victory. 

We had some argument about the VP-distribution of this scenario, but I think it is the ideal representation of what you can do with victory conditions: The US has achieved a major tactical victory by taking the mosque and causing many casualties among the militiaman, but strategically they´ve been defeated in the most staggering manner: A whole team lost, two civilians killed and even some more americans wounded or dead. 

I have to agree though, that the victory conditions for future scenarios might have to be tweaked somewhat, as we are not playing this one-off. Casualties do affect the campaign outcome by raising war exhaustion and degrading the capabilities of US Squads on the campaign map. Contrary to my belief that drawing inspiration from the OEF scenario book is the best way to go, I was finally convinced that these conditions might favour the Taliban a bit too much in some scenarios. 

On the other hand, I´m still not quite sure how much this is true for this particular scenario - after all, if you assume that Team Red was not wiped out, the Taliban VP-score shrinks dramatically to a mere 7 points (assuming that Team red would have rolled the same first Aid-check). Without risking the MG-team in an unnessecary act of despair, the last KIA could have been avoided as well, which would water the score down to 10 (or 15 if allocating points to the disputed quicker mosque-capture) to 5 A strategic US victory wasn´t that far away for this scenario. For some other future scenarios, a careful analysis of the VP-allocation is certainly required, but I´m still of the opinion that this scenario was fine in this regard. 


  1. I love the cardboard boxes, pieces of wood, bits of lichen and a tree or two. It's simple, yet effective.

    I'll bet during the game, you don't even notice the lack of details. Brilliant.

    David G.

    1. Yep, as you can guess, most of the time you don´t even notice their shoddy nature, being too preoccupied with figuring out good positions and your next move. As stated in earlier articles, the Terrain is still being worked on, but I don´t want to miss the gaming part all the while, just because it´s not yet perfect ;)

      You either have the choice to spend a lot of money on good terrain from the start, or doing stuff yourself to save money - I´m with the latter doctrine.
      After I spent most of my crafting time during the last few weeks on improving my rural terrain (fields, another tree, low walls, a dirt road), the city still lacks some details - but I hope to change this in time.