Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Firefly - Mission 6: "The Bazar"

Hey guys,

while we´ve gone back to a slower pace again, as my friend is back at work and playing another mission is again limited to PBEM, I´ll share the next report with you. It´s already some weeks old, but I kept it to fill the gap that would invariably come up as I am currently moving to a new place. 

The idea behind this scenario was to play something smaller again, after having a platoon-sized engagement in the last mission that failed miserably. Everything else would have included understrength-troops which would have increased the risk for the US player. And after his miserable defeat in the last scenario, I didn´t want to further undermine his morale :D


 April 28 - 11:27

Several days have passed since the insertion into the district capital and finally, after many delays in the operational plan, the situation seems to calm down. The main pockets of resistance are driven off or eliminated and the remaining Insurgents have retreated deeper into the city to reorganize and lick their wounds. However, the US troops still control only the eastern part of the city. Fighting in the area disrupts civil life and does not improve the opinion of the locals about the presence of the peacekeeping force.

Frequent ambushes are sprung in the streets and the coalition soldiers increasingly suffer from the psychological strain of this kind of warfare. But they know they cannot yield to the insurgents by reducing the number of patrols to avoid their inherent risks. Any step in that direction would mean a small victory for the Taliban.

This is the story of one of many similar patrols, on a day that would become known as a black day for the US troops: Patrolling a small basar in the eastern city district, a US Stryker Patrol is ambushed by Taliban fighters. The soldiers are ordered to repel the ambush and prepare to seek and destroy the enemy, now that he has chosen to fight...


US Objectives:
-Seek and destroy the Taliban ( = reduce them to half strength)
-Avoid Civilian Casualties
-Disrupt Taliban logistics in the area (neutralize Hotspot)

US Forces:
1x Infantry Squad
    - Attached Medic
1x Stryker M1126 ICV

Taliban Objectives
-Destroy the American Tank!
-Kill at least 1 soldier!
-per additional KIA after the first
-per seriously wounded

Taliban Forces
1x Small Cell (4w AK + Lt. Support)
1x Small Cell (4w AK)
1x Large Cell (8w AK)
1x RPG-Cell (3w AK + RPG)
1x Triggerman w Light IED

All Taliban are considered Tier 1/Hardcore (Regulars).
The Reinforcement/Insurgency-Level is 2. 


Some final notes on the scenario: as requested, I´m adding the Taliban OOB to give a complete overview on the scenario. However, I have to point out that this information was not available to my player. We played our usual blind game and my friend only knew that he was up against "hardcore Taliban" - which he - not completely familiar with the wording of the Enduring Freedom Book -  mistook for much better fighters than they actually are...
Maybe I made an error in scenario design, not sticking to the old guideline that FoF works best when shit hits the fan and action is forced on you. On the other hand, I wanted to recreate the feeling of an elusive enemy that could be anywhere, this is why there is no clear position from where the ambush starts.

The Alman Bazar is a small collection of market stands and traders that are offering their wares to the local customers. Located on a small plaza in the centre of the eastern district, its only a shadow of its former beauty, when the spot was crowded with people, all happily trading and bartering.
Today, only few people have gathered on the bazar. The air is thick with bad athmosphere, the locals shy away from the American soldiers who patrol the area and try to stay close to their Combat Vehicle. What was once a thriving place, bustling with activity all along the streets is reduced to a small collection of market stands right on the plaza itself.

The Alman Bazar
Turn 1

The US patrol from Charlie Company have taken over the combat duty in the area, relieving the stricken squads from their tasks. The soldiers who spent the last weeks guarding the relatively safe village of Mayasaf in the south now have the task to patrol one of the most hostile areas in the entire valley.
Just as they are about to enter the bazar, they pick up radio chatter from Taliban groups nearby who are tracking their movement. After reporting these disturbing news to their superior, they are immediately instructed to spoil the ambush by attacking it head on. The squad leaders complaints about the difficulties of conducting such an operation within the presence of civilians are dismissed. After all, civilians are everywhere in the city and the only option to avoid combat in their presence is to retreat from the city, which is not acceptable. Aggravated, the Squad leader orders his soldiers to pull back in order to secure their right flank while keeping the civilians on the market, who are not aware of the danger, out of the line of fire.

A weapon cache is discovered!

Turn 2

While turning back and clearing the buildings to their right flank, the soldiers discover a weapon-chache deployed by the insurgents. With the ICV and the other team covering the approach, one of the infantry teams move in to disable the storage.

Disabling the Weapon Cache
Turn 3

Under the cover of the Stryker and the second team, the group disables the weapon cache by remaining stationary next to it for one turn.

Turn 4

Moving under the cover of their teammates, the group continues its sweep by heading towards the bazar again, preparing to enter the next building in order to secure the right flank.

Approaching the Bazar again
The picture was actually taken at the beginning of turn 5, which is why there are no overwatch-markers.

Turn 5

Finally realizing that the American soldiers have caught wind of their trap, the Taliban begin moving to force the fight onto them. The large Taliban group moves out of their hiding and enganges the US troops in the open, who are caught napping...

A large Taliban group shooting from the orchard through a narrow gap

The Taliban won the initiative in Turn 5 and finally decide to take action. As the game is creeping ever closer towards its end and the US have already disabled a weapon cache, the Taliban needed to act if they wanted to turn the tide.  And the did, winning their reaction test and achieving a good result in the ensuing firefight. Do you recognize the pattern from the last games? ;)
More bad defense rolls...

With the rounds popping and zipping nearby, two soldiers go down while the rest scrambles to reach safety. One of the hit soldiers keeps calling for a medic, while he is dragged back towards the white house. The other has fallen into a frightening silence.

Medic! Medic!

Surprised by the intensity and accuracy of the attack, the team retreats into the white house to recover and take care of their wounded.

Turn 6

While the medic begins checking the casualties, the two teams set up overwatch positions to secure the perimeter. The triage of the wounded gives quick and certain results: While the screaming soldiers is perfectly fine apart from some bruises and a small shock from a ricocheting bullet that was stopped by his armour, his teammate was immediately killed by an aimed bullet.

Shocked by the sudden and tragic loss of their comrade, the operation is aborted and the troops retreat under the cover of the stryker, leaving the field to the Taliban.


US Objectives: 
-Seek and destroy the Taliban ( = reduce them to half strength) (5)
-Avoid Civilian Casualties (3)
1x Disrupt Taliban logistics in the area (neutralize Hotspot) (1)

= 4 VP

Taliban Objectives:

-Destroy the American Tank! (5)
-Kill at least 1 soldier! (5)
-per additional KIA after the first
-per seriously wounded

= 5 VP

Close Taliban Victory!

Of course, we again had some discussion on the VP allocation, which is one of the critical points in scenario design for this campain, as I have outlined in my recent post "The Delicacies of Balancing".

However, I am convinced that this scenario was easily winnable, had my friend used his troops in a more offensive manner. Instead, he shied away from taking decisive action and was caught pants down when I was finally able to make a surprising move. Of course, luck again played its part, but as I tried to explain in our debriefing, I think that retreating was a grave mistake.

In my opinion, he should have tried to secure the central buildings with one unit in order to set up an overwatch-position there and immediately PID the surrounding markers within Optimum Range from that position (XX, VI, X, XII and maybe also XIV). The other unit might have taken the large building to the right to enable the Stryker to advance in subsequent turns under the cover of overwatch.

Something like that:

Debriefing - More aggressive tactical options

However, my friend was not willing to take any more risks after his experience in the last scenario and with the fresh memory and a wrong interpretation of the term "hardcore Taliban" in his mind :D

But of course its easier to devise good tactics in hindsight and with the knowledge where actual troops are. Not knowing these factors is what makes these blind games interesting. You never know how much enemies are located somewhere - if at all. Playing these games has much more to do with psychology than with optimising your strategy. From a Taliban perspective, using the paranoia and terror of the fact that any blind marker might be an ambush is the key to force bad decisions onto the regular player. Not becoming terrified and distracted by all those potential enemy contacts is whats important for the regular player all the while. In the end, the firefights are decided by luck, but you can improve your chances by making the right choices before gambling.

Hope you enjoyed it, even if its short and not very spectacular ;)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Operation Firefly - Campaign Update 3

After playing the Battle for the Mosque in El Qualeed, we where back to the Campaign map again, as the number of engagements was limited to 2 areas. El Qualeed (where the battle was resolved) and the region to the east of Mayasaf. Here, the Taliban player (me) chose to melt away, denying combat to the US troops in exchange for some COIN, in order to prepare for a larger strike in the next turn.

Thus, the next turn came swiftly after one scenario, and here we go again, with turn 5.
(You might wonder why it is turn five, but only update 3. In fact, the first turn was the US-troops insertion into Mayasaf. From this on, the first real turn was turn 2, which is the first picture of the first campaign update. As nothing happened in this turn, the second picture of the same report shows turn 3, after which multiple scenarios where resolved. Turn 4 is shown in Campaign Update 2, which means we are now at turn 5)

To remind you of the situation, here is what the situation looked like after turn 4:
US War Exhaustion has is ranging around the 30%-mark, while the Taliban have benefited from the catastrophic failure of the US troops in El Qualeed by gaining massive reinforcements.

End of Turn 4
After the fight, five cells in El Qualeed where destroyed because of the tremendous losses incurred by the Coalition forces.

In Turn 5, the Taliban makes good use of the reinforcements by boosting the defense of the other parts of the city and preparing a broad offensive. On multiple fronts, new Cells are brought in to threaten the enemy supply-lines and bases that have already been established.

Turn 5 - Taliban incursions

The Coalition troops react by stiffening their defenses in the east. New militia units are recruited and trained to fulfil police duties and guard the rear perimeter. Furthermore, an Airborne-Operation is conducted to secure the dam with its electricity plant.
Intelligence assets from earlier exploits (the investigation mission & the captured militia leader from the last report) indicate that the facility is garrisoned by two cells of medium strength, which means that the Operation is likely to meet enemy resistance.

US Movement in Turn 5

So, we have some scenarios to play for this turn...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Simplified Multicam - A Tutorial

It has taken some time, but I´ve not forgotten the request about a tutorial on how I painted my American troops. They are supposed to be wearing multicam pattern, a fascinating camouflage that adapts to the background in different terrain features.

Its a very difficult task to paint a 20mm mini with this camo, not only due to the fact that it has 6 colors but also because the pattern itself is very hard to distinguish, with small splotches all over the place. This is why I decided to simplify it a little bit, due to the fact that I´m not a distinguishes painter and have reactivated my skills in this regard only recently after leaving them idle for a while ;)
This is why my version of multicam is not the most perfect interpretation I´ve seen, but the best that I was able to paint my minis with. It´s the quick and dirty-approach, able to get your minis painted up quickly for a decent result. In my opinion, they could be a bit more greenish (whenever I see multicam I am reminded of that fact - mine look more grey than green...)

If you are looking a more advanced tutorial, try this one:

For this small tutorial I took some photos while painting the next batch of minis - it´s not the most perfect outcome I´ve ever achieved, but its okay and you should get the idea.

To get things set up, we need 4 colors:
-Vallejo Medium Grey
-Vallejo German Camo Bright Green (or a similar greenish tone - feel free to experiment)
-Vallejo German Camo Black Brown
-White (either Citadel Skull White or Vallejo Dead White - I guess any other white will do as well)

First, we paint the mini in Medium grey after priming it black.

Base Color: Medium Grey

Next step is to add the skin color and some blacklining to the mini to highlight the shape.
This mini will get gloves, so no skintone to the hands.

Skintone & Blacklining

Next step is to add green splotches all over the uniform:

Add German Camo Bright Green

After finishing this step, you´ll have to add  German Camo Black Brown. This is where things start to become more difficult - try to get some overlay with the green parts, but don´t overdo it.

Apply German Camo Black Brown
After this step you should repeat the green phase if you want a better looking result. Just add some more green to reduce the regularity and disrupt the shape of the black splotches. If you are not too concerned with details but just want the mini to look good from a distance, you can also leave this step. 

 Finally, to finish the camo pattern, we need some white. This is probably the most difficult step of all - you have to be very careful with applying the white dots - its best to use a very fine brush for this task. Don´t add too much white, or your pattern is ruined! My example almost has too many white dots. Try to apply them on the Black Brown parts of the uniform - but again, not exclusively on those. 

Final Uniform
 If you´ve added too much white, you can try to correct it by using the other colors and reducing the strength of the dots. They should be very tiny and almost invisible (more like on the lower parts of my example).

After you´ve finished the uniform, you can add the remaining details. As you can see, my mini still needs some greyish highlighting on the rifle and probably on the knee protector as well.

 To give it the final touch and improve the look of the mini in a significant manner, you should simply paint the basing material, e.g. sands & stones in the appropriate uniform colors. Adding some areas of medium grey, black brown and small white grains on the base makes a tremendous improvement on the impression of the mini! I´ll show you the effect on my Machinegun-Team, as they have a bigger base and are thus better suited for demonstration purposes: 

Coloring the Bases

I hope you can see that they blend into the background much better after adding similar colors to the base. This actually makes the pattern stand out less, which improves the overall look.
However, I still believe it´s too much grey and not enough green... maybe I´ll have to experiment some more.

I hope this gives you a good impression on how I´ve done this and enables you to replicate my approach. It´s a quick and easy way to paint the pattern, but certainly not a perfect one. But thats the price of keeping it simple ;)

One final picture to show you how well the guys blend into terrain:



 If you have any questions, just ask!