Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Operation Pay-Off Batrep 1, Part I


It's 22 June 1990, and things are not well in Cuba.  Following the successful, lightning quick war which liberated Cuba and deposed the Castro regime elections were held, services restored, and the country was humming along nicely.  But in the ensuing months problems began to arise.  Mischief has been on the rise: there have not been many casualties, but there has been a steady stream of pinpricks, becoming an almost daily occurrence.  Pipe bombs in markets, sabotage of power transformers and rail lines, indiscriminate firing into futbol crowds, assassination of low-level government officials.

Cuban intelligence and security services immediately went to work, and their efforts bore fruit.  The attacks were not domestic, per se.  Everyone was aware there remained on Earth certain hardliners, holdovers of the Castro regime bent on retribution.  But they were without a state; intelligence information pointed to Venezuela, who, if you recall, intervened in the War of Liberation, and when it became apparent the war was lost, actually attempted to evacuate Fidel Castro.  So bad blood certainly existed between the governments of Free Cuba Venezuelan.  While it did not appear the Venezuelans were taking any direct action against Cuba, they were offering asylum to Castro supporters, helping them to organize, helping to train them, funding them, and assisting them logistically to infiltrate back into Cuba to carry out these attacks.  There were also rumors to the effect an as yet-unidentified Middle Eastern state was assisting this process, though it was not clear how exactly.

Upon receipt of this information, President Waraldonez called a National Security Meeting to discuss potential courses of action.  It goes without saying that General Estevante recommended war with Venezuela; El Preidente told him to put a cork in it, then turned to his diplomats, who immediately went to work, using political back channels, with the Venezuelan government.

President Waraldonez was extraordinarily concerned by these developments, and war with Venezuela was the last thing the still new Free Cuba could afford, on any front.  Economically the country was struggling to cast aside the decayed implements of Communism.  Diplomatically the country was still finding its way, seeking friends it could truly to depend on, always aware of its precarious situation as a new nation with a new government with a new mode of governance.  And militarily, where its standing National Guard was made up of conscripts raised under the Castro regime, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and its Expeditionary Force, the cream of its military crop, already becoming strained with the pace of  its deployments, and in no way of sufficient size to mount operations against Venezuela on the continent in any case.

It was a sad day when his diplomats returned to Havana to inform El Presidente that Venezuela's bottom line was 'reparations,' payment for upsetting the balance of power and peace amongst the peoples of the Caribbean.  President Waraldonez carefully weighed his options, seeking counsel wherever he might find it, to include hushed conversations with various heads of state of the Free World.  Despite howls of protest from from General Estevante, El Presidente ultimately decided that, if it could possibly portend peace for his people, he must accede to the demands of the Venezuelans.

The details were worked out in terms of how much, when, where, and how the payment would take place.  The transaction would take place on 22 June 1990 at 1200 local time at a cafe in a small village near the coastal town of Agadir, Morocco.  The Cuban delegation was to bring a diplomat, a small security detail, and an astounding amount of money in very large bills in several different currencies.

Thus the delegation was to consist of The Ambassador and a platoon of sixteen operators from Major Villanueva's A Squadron of Operational Detachment Phoenix (the Cuban Expeditionary Force's Tier 1 Special Operations Force).  Itineraries, schedules, loadouts, gear checks, bump plans, execution checklists, comm plans, everything had been worked out with contingency plans for the contingency plans; all was ready.  And as high noon approached on 22 June 1990 in Morocco, so did the three-vehicle convoy, pulling up and parking before the cafe.  The operators prepared to exit the vehicle and escort the Ambassador into the cafe to complete what was now being referred to as "Operation Pay-Off."

The table, 2' x 2', north is up, with the three-vehicle convoy already parked in front of the cafe at top left.

Operation Pay-Off is a series of three fights based on Ambush Alley Games' scenario book, "Lawyers, Guns, and Money."  Of course, in this fight the Ambassador and his escort is about to be ambushed, their vehicles disabled.  The mission of A Squadron is then to move the Ambassador to the hotel at bottom right, set up a secure perimeter, and attempt to establish comms with the outside world (a Quick Reaction Force).

The opposing forces, with bad guys on top, The Ambassador in the center, and the good guys on the bottom.  The good guys (A Squadron) have sixteen men in four teams to protect the Ambassador.  The bad guys start with four five-man teams on the table, and every time five of them are eliminated they are reconstituted as a team and re-enter the table at a random location (a 'hotspot' in Ambush Alley/Force on Force terminology).

The platoon from A Squadron, two eight-man squads broken town into four-man teams.  The boy is running the bottom squad and I am running the top squad.  They are in team order, 1-4, from top to bottom.  Okay, the pic is a little screwed up: Tm 1 is showing two SAWs and two rifles, while Tm 2 is two grenade launchers (UGL) and a sniper team.  It's supposed to be: Tm1 is two rifles, a SAW, and a UGL, while Tm2 is a SAW, a UGL, and a two-man sniper team.  Tm3 is two rifles, a UGL, and a SAW, and Tm4 is an M-240 machine gun team, a rifle, and a UGL.

The squadron is led by Major Villanueva, part of Operational Detachment Phoenix, which is Cuba's version of Delta Force/SAS.  These figures are all 15mm troops from Eureka's Modern Australians range, which I have painted up in a hodgepodge of different colored uniforms to look more SOF-y.

The bad guys, twenty of them.  Each team is four riflemen and an RPG gunner.

These are all 15mm Insurgents and Fedayeen from Rebel Minis.

And The Ambassador.  He's casual, chatting with the wife about their grocery list, carrying a few hundred million dollars in his briefcase.  Like I said, they're very big bills.

The three vehicle convoy pulls up to the Cafe and the Ambassador and his escort dismount.

The operators begin taking up positions as Maj Villanueva escorts the Ambassador towards the entrance...

When suddenly the still, hot air is pierced by a string of rapid explosions.  It appears three 155mm artillery rounds were daisy-chained and detonated in the pre-arranged parking spot...

And this is immediately followed by a large explosion in the Cafe itself!

It's a trap!!!  But the bad guys were off; either their trigger was a bit anxious, or the timing of the Cafe explosion was a little off.  In either case, the premature explosion shocks the Cubans, but no one is injured.

Immediately following the explosion, a horde of hostile irregulars (four five-man teams) shows itself.

Major Villanueva: "Well, Mr Ambassador, looks like the meeting has been cancelled, or at least postponed.  Get down."

From the east (bottom), a rocket-propelled grenade comes whooshing in towards Team 2's snipers.  But the rocket goes long, detonating in the blazing fire of the cafe, pinning the spotter.

The sniper (bottom left) immediately returns fire (top right)...

Ringing up our first terrorist of the day, and causing his buddy evacuate his bowels (red bead).

Though the RPG gunner has fallen, his buddies (bottom center) open up with their AKs...

And the Cuban sniper is out of the fight.

A SAW gunner (center left, black bead, with Maj Villaneuva and the Ambassador just below him) returns fire, ripping off a long burst of 5.56mm rounds...

Another terrorist falls, while one more is suppressed and one pinned.

But from the south (bottom right), another RPG comes in, right at the Major and the Ambassador...

It detonates in the courtyard nearby, pinning the Ambassador (yellow bead at bottom center).

Major Villanueva: "Alright, we need to lay down some fire and get off the 'x'.  Rally point is the hotel.  Let's go."

The Team 2 (that's the team with the sniper and spotter, and SAW that just fired) grenadier (top left) turns and fires a grenade (blue bead at bottom left).

Two terrorists are knocked down (white beads), one is suppressed (red bead), and the last two in that team are pinned (yellow beads).

Looking to clear a hole for Team 3 (far right) to push through), Team 4 (bottom right) gets it's M-240 machine gun into action, firing on the team that just got wrecked by the rifle grenade...

Dropping two bad guys and causing a third to leap off the house and cower (bottom left).

More members of Team 4 (bottom left) fire to the east (top right), on the bad guys that initiated the engagement.

Another terrorist falls, and the last two from that bad guy team run off the map!

*But that's not all good news; whenever five bad guys go down/leave the map, they reconstitute as a new team and come back on the table.

The current situation: Team 1 is at center left, with the Ambassador.  Team 2 is across the top, with one man down.  Team 3 is just below the Ambassador, with Team 4 just right of them.  Very bunched up and very exposed, need to get moving.

Major Villanueva leapfrogs Team 3 (left), leading his men and the Ambassador south (right).

Back with Team 2, the spotter (far right) gets back in the fight, grabbing the sniper rifle.

And then Team 2 sprints through the burning vehicles (top center, from center left).

But as Team 2 (top right) gets behind the wall they are spotted by another terrorist team in the east (bottom).  An AK rattles rounds at Team 2...

The remains of the other southern terrorist team is atop the building at far left.

The enemy rounds miss, and Team 3 (bottom right, with Team 1 above them) returns fire.

Another terrorist down, one suppressed.

A terrorist rallies the suppressed man and steps out from behind the wall to get a line of fire and cuts loose...

The bad guy successfully rallies, while the rounds knock down Team 3's RTO.  The remaining bad guys climb atop the roof (center).

The Cuban sniper (bottom right) spots the two bad guys climb onto the roof and fires...

But he only suppressed the RPG gunner!  The enemy rifleman next to the RPG fires on Team 1's point man (top center).

The rounds sail wide, and the point man (bottom right) returns fire, but he misses too.

At street level, with no line of sight to the enemy and a cacophony of inbound and outbound small arms fire buzzing overhead, the last unengaged terrorist team (center right) is unsure what to do.

Two teams (far left and top right) are pretty much wiped out, and a third is not in great shape (bottom left).

So they dash forward and climb atop the roof at left!

Team 4's M-240 (bottom left) begins pumping rounds at them (top right), hoping to protect Team 3 (center) and Team 1 (bottom center, only one man visible).

Unfortunately only one terrorist falls, and his buddies return fire...

Dropping one of Team 4's men (center right), pinning the team leader, and suppressing the A-gunner.  Team 2's SAW cuts loose (far left).

One bad guy is suppressed and one is pinned.

Major Villanueva: "Let's go boys, we need a bit better marksmanship here."

Team 3 (bottom right) checks their RTO and gets him back in the fight, just a little shook up.  Their SAW opens fire down the lane (top left).

Killing one bad guy and driving the other two to cower behind the house (Team 3 is off camera to top right).

But the nearby bad guys return fire...

Pinning the SAW gunner (yellow bad at bottom left).  A rifleman, "Mace," moves left (far left) and tosses a frag (blue bead) onto the roof...

The grenade puts down two bad guys.

While Mace hoists himself atop the roof.

Where he rapidly subdues the pinned terrorist...

Then his suppressed buddy (left), and takes up position in the south (right).

Meanwhile, just to his right (Mace is on the roof, off camera to bottom left center), Team 1's point man creeps forward (bottom left, from bottom right), peers around the corner, and fires on the cowering bad guy he spies there...

The bad guy goes down (bottom left), and the rest of Team 1 moves up (top center).

Major Villanueva: "We got anyone on the sniper rifle?"  "Aye."  "Go ahead and take care of the guy on the roof (far right, with red bead)."

The sniper (bottom right) acquiesces to his commander's request, dropping the bad guy (top left).

He then dashes across the street (far right), while  his two buddies take up his old position on the roof (top center), preparing their casualty to move.  Team 4 is at center and Team 3 is at bottom right.

In the south, the two cowering bad guys there both rally back into the fight, preparing to re-engage Team 1 (center) and 2 (top center).

A new bad guy team enters from the southwest (bottom left; the two guys that just rallied are at far right).

And another bad guy team comes on in the north (top center), where the Cuban sniper just dashed across the street (bottom right) and his buddies from Team 2 just went up on the house (left).

Team 3 (bottom center) finds itself with cover in all the wrong places as a result of the bad guy team coming on in the north; their grenadier fires a round (blue bead)...

But only one bad guy goes down.

And then one more bad guy team comes on the table in the southeast (bottom right).

Team 3 tries to rally but can't, while their machine gunner re-positions the gun to take on the enemy team up the street in the north (off camera to top center right)...

He gets the gun going (bottom left), but only manages to knock one bad guy down.

We are in a bad way.  We've got three new enemy rifle teams that just came on the board, all in places likely to do damage to our guys, and we've got two casualties already, men that have to be carried by shooters, taking them out of the fight.  And due to being so badly outnumbered, our movement is oh-so-slow, with men having to react every time new bad guys pop into view to try to defray the cost of their fire.  We can't afford to not engage with reaction fire as the numerically superior bad guys will rip us a new one if left alone, but the guys that react can't move.  So we're trying to each use one team to react and keep the other moving forward, then leapfrog the other one up.  But there's so many bad guys, we're just not getting very far, and now that the bad guys have popped up in new places we are really in big trouble.

Right now we are playing this Five Men in Normandy-style, and the game is moving super slow with so many guys on the board.  I've really grown to love Five Men at Kursk style for modern skirmish, but it would be even slower with so many guys on the table.  However, Ivan just put out some platoon-level mods, so we may go to that for Part II.

Oh, let me explain that.  We played all this two weeks ago; when I set it up I thought we'd have it done, but it took so long we had to quit.  I'm hoping we're about halfway through, but that may be a bit optimistic with so many good guys and reconstituting bad guys.  I didn't get anything wargaming done this past weekend due to time constraints: the kids are back in school, with plenty of homework, and it is once again baseball season, so practice and games are kicking my butt (we won our first game 17-3!).  I really, really, really want to play some games, but now more than ever they need to be small, quick games.  This is killing me!!!

Stay tuned.  This weekend we should be able to finish this game, and I'll get it posted as soon as I can.



  1. 2 1/2 hours! I can see why that is killing you - you could have played 3 games normally in that time, and you are not even finishd :-( 16 guys on one side, what were you thinking :-) I read on TMP you are using cards for activating the squads (exactly what I would do and no IABSM tea break as the 5Core limits the action enough already). And co-op - good stuff. This is what I am hoping to do with my two children on a 2'x3' (3 cards to match the expected 3 squads). I would use the 5MaK for each squad though - I think maybe it would go faster with 3 dice per squad rather than 5MiN style.

    Are you giving the Cubans any extra dice e.g. 1K2S like you have for elite forces in the past?

    The platoon rules speed up the game by combining 2-5 figures into a single group for firing (1K1S with some dice added with more figures) and as targets. Not sure it will help you here much as you tend not to play that way! You may be better off using the support rules and follow-me rules in 5Core skirmish to speed it up.

    1. Shaun,

      Yeah, the game is taking a lot of time. It's been tense and fun, but I'm just really short on time right now, and the sharp, quick fights are something I've grown accustomed to.

      I just read through the platoon rules. I believe I'll finish this game and play the next two using them. Right now the platoon rules call for alternating activations, but, now that you mention it, I may keep the cards just to mix it up even further. We'll see.

      So far I have not been giving the Cubans more firing dice, though I should start thinking about that, particularly given the numbers disparity between the forces. The Cubans have enjoyed a bit of a firing advantage due to the fact they started in cover and the enemy has been forced to move into the open. But now the Cubans are on the move.

      Oh, and react fire for both sides has been with full firing dice.


  2. Reaction fire will full dice is the way to go! I think we discussed this before, but that is how I played it for my first three games (due to playing NUTS! recently that has full fire reactions) and it sense (to me and you anyway), helps the game flow faster and it easier to remember. I cannot imagine playing Five core without full fire reactions - after 3 games it is entrenched in my psyche!

    1. I still like Company Command with 'regular' Guard and Snap fire, but for skirmish, particularly Modern (which I feel should be more deadly), I love full firing dice. I even let each guy act AND react once per turn.


    2. Yeah, I let a figure fire and react in the same turn after my first game. Mainly as I was too lazy to track who had fired or not - I could not be bothered with another marker!

    3. I don't mind the markers, I just like the feel of man to man combat for modern troops at close quarters being a bit more deadly.

      I don't do it in WWII games, which I prefer to be a little more deliberate.


  3. "and causing his buddy evacuate his bowels (red bead)." LMFAO !
    Great shoot-out . Great table . I have these Rebel minis figures also, but haven't painted them up yet, so completely enjoy seeing how you paint and mix ..I really like your painting style.
    hahaha ! funny what you get used to ... some of our games take 4+ hours , some bigger ones take longer ... but you know you've earned your pay grade by the end .

    1. Jimmi,

      Thanks man, and I do enjoy injecting a little humor into the batreps. The Rebel Minis' insurgents aren't the prettiest in the world, but they definitely get the job done.

      I've played quite a few 5-6 hour games in my time (Hell on Wheels and Team Whiskey had some real monsters), but these days I'm looking to get lots of games in to keep my campaigns moving along, so smaller and shorter is where it's at.