Thursday, December 15, 2016

Cuba Libre - Cronstria Fight #25


AKA Operation Cro-Wings #3, AKA The Death of Team Three

It's 1825 on 29 June 1990 and Team 3 of Lt Trojas' ODA 626 is sitting atop Hill 825, and they're in a bad way.  They had been performing surveillance, from Hill 781 to the northeast, on a nearby road networks, serving as a tripwire to warn TF Galban mechanized forces of enemy counterattack.  They spotted enemy armor moving in, reported it to TF HQ, and coordinated air strikes (some enemy forces still got through; that's actually TF Aguilera fighting off the enemy counterattack near Pisa).

However, enemy radio direction finding efforts triangulated the team's position and vectored Communist militia into the area.  Team 3 was able to get the drop on the bad guys, but there were simply too many, and so the Cubans abandoned their positions and moved to Hill 850 in a running firefight.  The team suffered one man seriously wounded and three lightly wounded.

Upon reaching the crest of Hill 850 the team made comms with TF HQ.  They were informed Battlegroup Elias was standing by as QRF to get them out, but the team needed to continue moving southeast to Hill 825, with a Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ) just east of it.  The radioman informed the team leader, GySgt "Turk" Dos Santos of this development.  "Uhh, fellas, I got bad news."  Everyone turned to look as Turk showed them the problem: the team's back was to a 30 foot cliff; with enemy troops coming from the north, northeast, and southwest, the only avenue of escape was down the cliff, across a draw, and up Hill 825 to the southeast.

Turk led Team 3 down the cliff and up the slope of Hill 815.  The fighting was ferocious, and while the Communists were dropping like flies, Team 3 reached the crest with three seriously wounded men and two lightly wounded.  But tragedy struck as Turk radioed for extraction; a Cuban CH-47 carrying five crewmen and 18 soldiers from Battlegroup Elias swooped into the valley between Hill 850 and Hill 815.  Turk had just established communications with the pilot when a rocket streaked up from Hill 850; the Cuban helicopter was struck and fell at the foot of Hill 850, with no survivors.

Turk informed TF Galban headquarters, which ordered the recon team to descend Hill 815 to the south, heading for the Cronistrian town of Tulm, where a convoy from Battlegroup Elias was currently moving to effect extraction.  Turk looked at his team, half of whom could not even walk, and got them ready to move.

Overview of map, north is left.  Hill 815 is at bottom left (northwest), Tulm is at top right (southeast).  There is a shallow stream running east-west at the center of the table.  Hill 535 is at bottom right, and the foot of Hill 618 is at top left.

The opposing forces, with Cubans on the left and Communists on the right.  The troops are all 15mm, with the Cubans being Battlefront Vietnam-era SEALs (the casualty figures are from Peter Pig), the Communists are Chechens from Eureka.

The Cubans, from top left: Sgt "Goss" Gallegos, SSgt "Chick" Alfaro, and GySgt "Turk" Dos Santos.
The seriously wounded troops on the bottom are: SSgt "Bear" Duarte, Sgt "Bolt" Echevarria, and Sgt "Badger" Canales.  The seriously wounded cannot move under their own power, each will need to be carried to the extraction point.

I'm using Ivan Sorensen's "Five Men At Kursk" rules, modified a bit.  For my purposes, each man in good fighting order can act and react each turn.  The three seriously wounded men are unconscious, cannot act or react.  A Cuban carrying a wounded comrade cannot shoot, but he can move and drop or pickup a wounded comrade, then shoot at penalty (can't pickup and drop in the same activation, one or the other).  A Cuban carrying a wounded comrade can react fire, at substantial penalty, IF the enemy troop moves or fires from the Cuban's forward 90 degrees.

Also, troops and vehicles from Battlegroup Elias are on the way to Tulm to extract the recon team.  They are not pictured, but for game purposes the relief force consists of one HMMWV with .50 cal HMG and eight troops.  I roll at the end of each turn to determine when the Battlegroup Elias troops arrive on table.  Once they arrive they will be incorporated in the fight.

On a game note, with already half the recon team WIA and unable to move, I foresee the QRF having to push across the stream on foot, move up Hill 815, secure the wounded, and move back to Tulm.

The bad guys, consisting of six riflemen, two PK machine guns, and two RPGs.  I am putting the bad guys on blinds, one for each soldier, and there is one dummy blind for each soldier.  I am putting the ten 'real' blinds and the ten 'dummy' blinds in a stack (shuffled, of course), and at the beginning of each turn I will roll a D6, grab that many blinds (real and dummy determined randomly), place them on the table, then flip them over and place any enemy troops on the table.   This will happen at the beginning of each enemy turn and any troops placed will be immediately available for activation.

Keeping in mind the Cubans at this point only have three fighting men available for the game, I will use the blinds to determine how many bad guys enter the table each turn.  The enemy only has those ten men to work with until the QRF arrives on table.  That is not to say the enemy will have all ten men on the table versus the three Cubans (that will be determined by the real and dummy blinds), simply there are ten bad guys available for the fight, and they will not be replaced until the QRF arrives.  For example, in let's say in turn 1 three bad guys come on table via the D6 roll and blinds.  The Cubans activate and kill all three; the bad guys don't activate in turn 1, but in turn 2 they roll 1D6, grab that many blinds, and place the figures on the table.  If the Cuban recon team kills all ten bad guys before the QRF arrives, the fight is over, the Cubans can just pick up their wounded and stroll across the creek to the pickup point.

However, once the QRF arrives I will be going back to the way I've played the last two games: the bad guys will constantly replenish, having ten men on the table every turn.

I hope that makes sense.

Another look at the table, this time with the Cuban recon team atop Hill 815 (bottom left).  I rolled a five on 1D6 for the bad guys, grabbed five blinds, placed them on the table, then flipped them over.  There were three dummies and two real bad guys; one is at right center bottom on Hill 535, the other is at center top, behind the stone wall on the road.

The Cubans on Hill 815's crest: Goss is at left, with Bear.  Chick is at center, with Bolt, and Turk is at right, with Badger.

I just realized I forgot the damn goat!!!

The two bad guys, on the right (southern) side of the board.

The Cubans being hustling down Hill 815, with Turk in the lead, three shooters, each carrying a wounded man.  Turk knows there are bad guys out there somewhere, but he fails to spot any.

But they're out there.  The bad guy in Tulm hears the Cubans comin' down the mountain; exhausted, beat to crap, and carrying wounded, they're making a hell of a racket.  The bad guy moves left (down) to get a look at where all that noise is coming from.

The Commie (top right) spots Turk's band of gypsies (bottom left) and opens fire, AK rattling.

Turk dives forward, hitting the deck behind a bush, suppressed.

On Hill 535, the bad man with the RPG moves up to get a look.

Turk (top left) has his nose in the dirt and doesn't spot the bad guy (bottom right), while Chick sees the Communist just as a rocket-propelled grenade leaves the tube...

Luckily, the rocket strikes a little higher up the hill.

Chick (bottom left, with Turk at right) drops Bolt and returns fire.

The rocketeer is forced to fall back down Hill 535.

I roll it up: Cuban QRF does not arrive, but four (4!!!) new bad guys show up!!!

There are two new bad guys in the northeast, near Hill 618.  The Cubans are off camera to bottom.

Another shows up in Tulm (top center), and the last shows up at the base of Hill 815 (bottom left).  The Cubans are off camera to left.

Damn, that's a lot of bad guys (six, though one is suppressed).

Chick (bottom left) spots the newcomer in Tulm (top right) and fires.

The bad guy hops the wall at center and takes cover, suppressed.

Goss, carrying Bear, charges down the hill (bottom center), pushing past Chick (left) and up near Turk (top right).

A bad guy across the creek (top right, the same one that pinned Turk) spots him (bottom left) and fires.

The enemy rounds miss and Goss is able to reach Turk, where he drops Bear next to the wounded Badger.  Goss rallies Turk.

With Goss trying to look after Bear and Badger, and find a good firing position (left), Turk moves up (center), but he draws fire from the previously unspotted bad guy at the base of Hill 815 (bottom right).  Turk is knocked down.

Two bad guys try to self rally: the guy at top left rallies 'up' to pinned, but the RPG gunner on Hill 535 (bottom right) fails and falls back!

The bad guy rifleman across the creek (top right) sights in on Goss (bottom left, with the wounded, and Turk knocked down to his right) and fires...

Goss falls next to Badger and Bear (left).

So, for those keeping score, the only guy I have left in the fight is Chick.  If I can get to Turk I can try to rally him back into the fight (a 66% chance, 16% chance he stays down, 16% chance he goes out of the fight).  If I can get to Goss I can roll on the casualty table to see if he can get back in the fight (about a 35% chance he's KIA or wounded so bad he can't fight).  If Turk goes out of the fight I need to have a guy move into base contact again then roll on the casualty table, where he's in the same boat as Goss.  Chick needs to get busy...

Seeing two Cubans go down, the bad guy hops the wall and moves into the creek.

While the bad guy at the base of HIll 815 begins moving up (center bottom), very near Turk, Goss, Bear, and Badger, none of whom can fight right now.

In the northeast, a bad guy begins climbing up Hill 815 (bottom center, with another bad guy at top right).  The Cubans are off camera to bottom right.

Chick (bottom center) spots the bad guy and opens fire...

...dropping the Communist in his tracks.  One bad guy down, nine more to go!

His buddy moves up (center right).

I roll'em up again: QRF still not here (really could use some help, fellas), but no new bad guys show up this turn (I rolled a 1, grabbed a blind, it was a dummy).

Chick (bottom left) tosses a frag down the hill (blue bead), then picks up Bolt.

The grenade goes off (right), killing the enemy soldier, as Chick moves to Goss, Bear, and Badger, setting down Bolt.  Chick shuffles to Goss and rolls him over; he's dead.

Good grief!  Goss is out of the fight, now all I've got is Turk and Chick, and Turk is still knocked down.

Two bad guys again try to self rally: again the top left guy stays pinned, but the RPG gunner at bottom right is good to go.

The bad guy in the northeast (left) moves up to the base of Hill 815.

Chick (bottom left) spots him (top left) and fires...

Chick (bottom left) totally misses!!!  The bad guy (top right) returns fire.

Chick goes down (left)!!!!

So, Chick is down, needing to be checked by a buddy to get back in the fight.  But Turk is also down (white bead at right), also needing to be checked by a buddy to get back in the fight.  As the QRF is not here, there are not buddies to do any checking, thus the game should be over.  But I ain't goin' out like that, time to cheat!  I will let Turk roll to get back up, and if he succeeds, I will try to get him over to check on Chick to see if I can get him back in the fight too.  Maybe then we can go Alamo and try to hold out at the current position until the QRF arrives, or maybe even make a run for it?

The bad guy gets out of the stream at the base of Hill 815 (center bottom, with Turk at bottom left and the bad guy that shot Chick at top left).

But Turk miraculously comes to (bottom center) and opens fire on the encroaching enemy soldier.

I rolled for Turk to recover and he passed.  Normally recovering from 'man down' means you're not able to act, but I need all the help I can get.

Forcing him to fall back.

Damn blurry pictures...

But the bad guy that shot Chick (top left) returns fire, pinning Turk (bottom right).

I roll it up: QRF, where are you???!!!  Who knows, they're not arriving this turn...

But three more bad guys join the fight, all on or near Hill 815 (bottom left, top left, and top center).
The Cubans are at bottom center (yellow bead is Turk, the rest are casualty figures just to his left), and there are 'old' bad guys at bottom right (red bead), center (the guy that dropped Chick), pinned at top right, and an RPG off camera to far bottom right.

The enemy tries its usual two self rallies; the guy at top right rolls 'pinned' for a third consecutive turn!  The guy at bottom left fails...

Forced to fall back, he dashes back into the stream (right), where Turk (left) guns him down.

But one of the newly arrived bad guys, the one that came on the table on the crest of Hill 815 (bottom left) spots Turk firing at the bad guy in the creek and opens fire.

Knocking Turk down (white bead at bottom right).  The bad guy moves up (bottom left).

I roll to see if Turk can get back in the fight, then shoot this asshole, then go check on Chick and get him back in the fight, and hold off the Communists until the QRF arrives.

Uh-ohhhh.  You see, in all the 5Core rules, 1s and 6s are important, and if you're trying to rally or recover, they are definitively NOT good for business.

This '1' means that Turk has failed and remains 'man down' for the rest of this turn, which means the bad guys...

Are in position this turn to move up and finish off the Cuban recon team.  The enemy soldiers were looking to take prisoners, but the Cuban bodies at their feet were so bloody and broken the Communists simply made sure to put their enemies out of their misery before collecting up the radios, weapons, and documents and heading back to their base of operations.

Not long afterwards (I'll let you, gentle reader, decide how much time has passed), troops and vehicles of Battlegroup Elias arrive in the town of Tulm.  The point element is worried, they've been unable to raise Team 3 on comms.

The QRF moves up, the HMMWV taking up an overwatch position while the grunts fan out.  The squad leader notices smoke rising from a point part way up Hill 815 and dispatches a team to check it out.

The team sets out across the stream, eyes peeled for signs of the enemy and Team 3.

"Sarge, we got something here..."

The team leader calls it in: "Red Dog 3, Red Dog 3, we've located Rattrap 3.  We've got six Kool-Aids, say again, six Kool-Aids.  We're going to need help to carry them out, over."

Well, that sucked, and absolutely not how I expected things to end.  This was exactly the opposite of the last fight, where Battlegroup Aguilera skull-drug the Communist counterattack at Pisa, largely due to great vs terrible die rolls.  Yes, the Cuban troops were often firing with penalties (for being wounded and or carrying wounded), but I couldn't hit a damn thing, while the bad guys were often rolling only 1K or 1S and continued to hit or pin/suppress my guys.  And the blinds continued to bring bad guys while the QRF was busy eating cake (damn Army guys!).  I tried, believe me, I tried, even cheating to allow Turk an opportunity to get back in the fight.  I really couldn't believe when Chick spotted the bad guy moving up Hill 815, fired with full dice, and totally missed, and the bad guy returned fire with 1K 1S and put him out of the fight.  That fight felt like the turning point, and so I wasn't really surprised when Turk got 'man down' again and, with bad guys closing in from all sides, I bunged the roll and he stayed 'man down.'

It did occur to me to try to have Chick and Turk run for it, but the truth is that bad guys were everywhere, and they'd have had to cross that damn stream (great idea for terrain layout, eh?).  They'd have never made it.  So, it ends with the following men receiving the Corazon Purpura, posthumously:

GySgt "Turk" Dos Santos
SSgt "Bear" Duarte
SSgt "Chick" Alfaro
Sgt "Goss" Gallegos
Sgt "Bolt' Echevarria
Sgt "Badger" Canales

And let us not forget the five crewmen and 18 soldiers aboard the downed CH-47 helicopter (after recovering Team 3, more troops were brought up and the 23 Cubans from the downed helo were recovered as well).  In the three fights the Communists lost a total of 45 men, though the bulk of those were in the first two fights of Operation Cro-Wings.  Only three bad guys were killed in this fight.

Incidentally, ODA 626 has quite a rough time.  Involved in near constant combat for three months, the detachment arrived in Cronistria with 20 men.  At the conclusion of Operation Cro-Wings, nine of its members have been killed in action and three more were wounded seriously enough to warrant evacuation to Cuba.  That leaves only eight men still fit for duty, and four of them have been wounded but stayed with the unit (one man has been wounded twice).

As I mentioned previously, I'm not sure where I'm going from here.  I've got plenty of options, and don't worry, this weekend I'll definitely be gaming again, I'm just not sure who, where, and when.  But I'll show you something I haven't seen in years:

My table!  It's been at least two years since I've seen the whole thing; usually there's crap piled up on it everywhere, and I'm playing just on the bottom right portion of it.  I really need to invest in some storage so I can better organize my toys, and keep my table looking like this more often.

I hope you enjoyed Operation Chokehold, and this one Operation Cro-Wings, even though it wasn't exactly a Hallmark ending.



  1. Bummer. Definitely unexpected, you usually make sure your side wins in the end! You should have cheated more :-) I did think it was going to go bad when the QRF had not arrived by about the third turn.

    I have said it before that I am surprised you have a large table but only play with a small section of it. If I had a table like that always set up, I would only be playing with my 20mm WW2 and ignoring most of everything else I have.

    1. Shaun,

      Yeah, that sucked a bit. I was going to reply "I was cheating," but appreciate your admonishment to cheat more ;)

      Yeah, for me having a large table mostly means having more storage space. Every once in awhile I like playing a big game, but those games end up taking me 6-8 hours to play. I don't have that kind of time to play and type up. I prefer the 2 x 2 and 3 x 3!!!