Friday, May 26, 2017

Prelude - Angola 1980 Fight #1


It's 1045 on 4 May 1981.  The members of 2nd Platoon, 1st Company, 33rd People's Revolutionary Battalion arrived in Luanda, Angola a week ago.  They met with their outgoing counterparts, and were in turn introduced to their FAPLA (People's Armed Forces of Liberation of Angola, i.e., the Angolan Communists) brethren.  They conducted several patrols in the local area, but then were given word of a UNITA (The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, backed by the US and South Africa) offensives coming out of Southwest Africa (on the southern border of Angola, now known as Namibia).  The UNITA forces broke through the FAPLA lines at the frontier; 1st Company was swiftly loaded up and trucked south to head off the enemy spearhead.  As they arrived on scene, the Cuban/FAPLA counterattack was already occurring.  1st and 3rd Platoons pushed east and south, cutting off the enemy troops in the (fictional) village of Mutanga.  2nd Platoon followed in trace, then turned north to re-take the village.  Here is the plan for the operation to retake Mutanga:

North is up.  Here is my ConOps for the games; as in real life, this will get thrown off if (when) things go wrong.

1.  1st Squad assaults the tower and mortar position, taking the bridge over the Bulungtani River.
2.  2nd Squad crosses the foot bridge and assaults the bunker on Hill 29.
3.  3rd Squad begins crossing the open ground from the mortar position to the village, but is pinned by enemy fire from the palm grove.  1st Squad reorganizes and assaults the palm grove to clear it of enemy forces.
4.  3rd Squad continues its assault, securing the village of Mutanga.
5.  UNITA forces to the northeast counterattack the village, defended by 3rd Squad.
6.  2nd Squad leaves Hill 29 to mop up the enemy counterattack.

Well, that's the plan for Operation Lionheart, the counteroffensive to cut off and destroy UNITA forces north of the Bulungtani River and liberate the village of Mutanga.  Let's get to the first fight, where 1st Squad has crossed the line of departure and is closing in on the bridge/tower/mortar position.

Overview of map, with north being to top left.  The Cubans will enter from the southwest (bottom), moving up on either side of the road to the village of Mutanga (off camera to top).  At center is the bridge over the Bulungtani River, with UNITA forces entrenched on the opposite bank, where they have a watch tower at top center left and a sandbagged mortar position at top center right.  At top right is a civilian hut, one of several on the outskirts of the village.  The countryside is relatively flat grasslands, with intermittent patches of dense forest and long elephant grass (which blocks line of sight and slows down movement), and the river is fordable by men on foot.

The game is being played out solo on a 2' x 2' board using Ivan's "Five Men at Kursk," modified to make it a bit more modern (more firing dice, each troop in good fighting condition can act AND react in each turn, missed shots on troops in good fighting condition draws 'free' reaction fire), and I'm trying out the new "keep'em pinned" concept Ivan and I were discussing.

The opposing forces, with Cubans on the left and UNITA rebels on the right, ten verses six.  I was going to say good guys and bad guys, but...

The Cuban forces consists of a single squad of ten men, broken down into a squad leader, an assistant squad leader, two RPG men, two light machine gunners (with RPKs), and four riflemen with AK-74s.  The figures are Battlefront Team Yankee 15mm East German Mechanized Infantry.

The squad is broken into two teams:
Bottom is Team 1, from left to right: Sgt Colvasquez (Sqd Ldr), PFC Barnejesus (RPG), PFC Bronchovio (RPK), Pvt Cannastria, and Pvt Rolando.
Top is Team 2, from left to right: Cpl Lucastro (Asst Sqd Ldr), PFC Calderon (RPG), PFC Solar (RPK), Pvt Guerrerro, and Pvt Bustamante.

The UNITA rebels, consisting of a boss (center, yellow shirt), an RPG gunner, and four rifleman with AKs of various type and manufacture.  The figures are Rebel Minis' 15mm African Rebels.

Another look at the map, this time with all troops present.  The UNITA rebels have a guy in the tower at top left, three in the mortar position at top center right, and two more screwing around near the civilian hut at top right.  The Cubans have Team 2 at bottom left and Team 1 at bottom right. 

On the Cuban left, Cpl Lucastro is moving his team aggressively forward to the river.  The order of march is (from top): Pvt Guerrerro, Cpl Lucastro, PFC Solar (RPK), PFC Calderon (RPG), and Pvt Bustamante.  The road is barely visible at bottom right.

On the Cuban right, Sgt Colvasquez is a bit more cautious.  His team is moving up and around a large patch of grass, so that the front of his column is at far left, and the rear is at far right.  The order of march is: Pvt Cannastria, PFC Bronchovio (RPK), Sgt Colvasquez, PFC Barnejesus (RPG), and Pvt Rolando.

Another look at the Cuban starting positions, with Team 2 at bottom left and Team 1 at top right.  The Cubans would like to get Team 1 into position in the grass at top center/right, just below the river, to serve as a base of fire as Team 2 takes care of the tower (off camera to top left), fords the river (using the bridge as cover), then hooks around into the mortar position (off camera to top center).

A look at the UNITA line, from tower to mortar position to civvie hootch.

One AK-47 armed lunatic in the tower.

Three more, including the RPG gunner, chilling in the mortar emplacement.

While the Boss and another rifleman are up next to the civvie hootch, tossin' the mack at a local hottie (sure she's got a baby on her hip, but what of it?).

I've already rolled to see how far the Cubans get without being spotted; this occurred before the pictures, so what you're seeing are the results of those rolls.  Now I roll to see who gets the drop on who...

On the Cuban left, Pvt Guerrerro (bottom right) is creeping forward through the tall grass, eyes fixed on the UNITA rebel in the watch tower (top left).  The UNITA soldier is looking quite bored, taking a long drag on a cigarette, when his demeanor suddenly changes.  He opens his mouth to shout a warning to his compatriots, but Guerrerro has already shouldered his AK-74 and he cuts loose a long burst.

The enemy sentry is hit and, in true Hollywood fashion, falls forward out of the tower, landing at the base.

Well, that was easy.

Pvt Guerrerro (center right) lays down fire as Cpl Lucastro (center left) yells orders out to his team!

Cpl Lucastro (bottom center, with Guerrerro to his top left) points and the machine gunner, PFC Solar, takes off running to the right, looking to get his weapon into position at the road (far top right) in order to fire on the enemy mortar position.

You can see Solar at far right, as Cpl Lucastro dashes ahead (center), followed by Calderon and Bustamante (left, with Guerrerro firing).

On the right, Sgt Colvasquez (bottom right) orders his machine gunner, PFC Bronchovio (bottom center, with Pvt Cannastria at bottom left) to open fire on the enemy mortar position (top center, across the river).

Bronchovio's rounds slam into the sandbags (bottom right), but the UNITA troops are undeterred.  They scramble for their weapons, and even manage to return fire, though it's ineffective.  Cannastria, right next to Bronchovio (top left) adds his AK to the mix, and ends up trading ineffective fire with another bad guy in the mortar position.

While Cannastria and Bronchovio (bottom left) blaze away, Rolando moves up (right) and Sgt Colvasquez and Barnejesus pop through to the other side of the patch of crass (center top).

Across the river, the UNITA troops have recovered from the initial shock of gunfire.  The two rifleman in the mortar position (bottom center, with RPG gunner there as well) slap fresh magazines in their weapons and go cyclic, dramatically increasing their weight of fire on Team 1 (top center).

And the effects are telling: Bronchovio is hit and goes down, while Rolando is pinned (yellow bead) and Cannastria is suppressed (red bead).

FOR IVAN: So, here's what I've come up with.  I place a marker down (the orange 'tracer' at center, which is just laid on the table, not on the little platform I usually use).  I choose one bad guy in the mortar position (top left); if he keeps firing at Cannastria and Rolando each turn, they will remain suppressed/pinned.  Now, the bad guy can choose to NOT fire at them, but then in their phase they will use their activation to attempt self rally as per normal rules.  While they are pinned/suppressed they don't roll for activation; a suppressed guy can't do anything, while a pinned guy automatically gets to fire (during his phase, cannot react), though I'm only giving them shock dice (a rifle is 1S, an LMG 2S, etc...).   

The bad guy doesn't roll for activation unless he changes his mind and decides to do something other than shoot at the guys he has pinned/suppressed.  If he was shooting only at suppressed enemies, I'd say he doesn't need to roll anything, unless I thought there was a chance they could be forced to run, then I'd roll 1S per suppressed target, and they run if you roll a 1 or 6 (and you should let people shoot at them if they don't have a covered means of escape, though I would be very judicious with this as most guys without a covered route of escape would simply go prone).  If the bad guy is shooting at pinned troops, or troops within his field of fire not yet affected, he should get normal firing dice, probably bumped up for targets being grouped.  It's not possible to hit a suppressed guy (unless you're right on top of him), but guys not affected but in the field of fire, and pinned guys can be hit. 

You can use more than one troop to 'keep' an enemy pinned/suppressed.  This does three things:
1) if enemy troops in the target zone are unaffected or only pinned, it adds more shooting dice to the auto-fire during your phase.
2) this adds more shooting dice to react fire if a leader/buddy tries to move into the field of fire to rally folks.
3) this keeps more guns on target in case the enemy manages effective return fire, or to bring other troops into the fight, to hit/pin/suppress the guy(s) you had keeping someone pinned/suppressed.

I think pinned and suppressed troops can be rallied, not sure if it should be leader only, or a buddy, but they have to move into base contact.  When they do so they are subject to react fire by every enemy soldier that is firing in that field of fire.  For example, if the Cubans had suppressed all three bad guys in the mortar position, they could have one rifleman keeping the three UNITA guys suppressed.  The enemy Boss moves into the mortar position to rally his troops; he is subjected to 1K 1S from the Cuban rifleman keeping the UNITA guys suppressed.  But let's say the Cubans have two rifleman and an RPK keeping the mortar position suppressed; I don't have exact numbers figure out (that's your job!!!), but I'd probably give the Cubans 1K 3S to fire at the Boss when he moves into the mortar position (assuming they've got LOS to him before he reaches the cover of the mortar position itself).  If the Boss makes it, he can roll to rally all three of his suppressed dudes.

So, back on track with how keeping pinned/suppressed guys pinned/suppressed, above I've got one pinned and one suppressed.  I'm not worried about the suppressed guy as he's not going anywhere, so no shooting dice at him, but the pinned guy gets 1K 2S (one kill because the pinned guy is still presenting himself as a target in order to return fire, and two shock because the shooter is kind of already zeroed in on the pinned guy, and because it should be easier to push the pinned guy to suppressed than a guy so far unaffected by fire).  If there were unaffected targets in the field of fire, I'd add 1K 1S for them, too.  If you look at the pic, you can see Sgt Colvasquez and PFC Barnejesus are just to the right of the field of fire; you've got to figure out how wide the field of fire can be for various weapons (I ruled they were outside a single UNITA rifleman's capability), but if I thought they were in I'd make it very deadly, adding 1 or 2 more Kill dice and definitely two more Shock.  So, during his next phased fire, the single bad guy rifleman would get either 2K 4S or 3K 4S by those calculations.  Being that it's a rifle (AK), I can tell you I'd probably give him 2K 3S, or 2K 4S if it's a really good shot (targets easily seen, really bunched up).

I'm trying to figure out if 'man down' is still relevant; in this game I just treated it as suppressed, until the very end when I decided to create a couple wounded guys, just for fun.  And I didn't do it, but I was thinking about a pinned guy getting pinned again becoming suppressed.

Sorry if my explanation is all over the place, hope that makes sense.  This is exactly what I was describing in the "suppression" thread on TMP.  For what it's worth, the modes added some time to the game, but it felt pretty damn good, and should port straight over to 5Core Company Command.

The two UNITA rifleman in the mortar position lay down fire as the RPG gunner dashes right (top right), across the road.

Meanwhile, the enemy Boss dashes to the mortar position, while his debonair rifleman sneaks forward through the brush, getting into a firing position unseen (far right, between grass and trees).  The target of their romancin' talk (top right) dashes away from the gunfire, into her hut.

Back on the Cuban left, Cpl Lucastro (bottom center) spots the enemy RPG gunner (top left) in the grass and opens fire, suppressing him!

On the far right, Team 1's RPG gunner, PFC Barnejesus, pops through the brush (far right, with Sgt Colvasquez at bottom right).  The enemy rifleman across the river spots him, and the two trade ineffectual fire.

Things don't sound like they're going the way they were supposed to, so Sgt Colvasquez himself pops through the brush, next to Barnejesus.  An enemy rifleman in the mortar position shifts his fire onto them, but the rounds go high.

Sgt Colvasquez involuntarily flinches, but then immediately shoulders his weapon and returns fire, suppressing one of the UNITA riflemen in the mortar position.

On the left, Cpl Lucastro (center) continues laying down fire to keep the enemy RPG gunner pinned, as Calderon, Guerrerro, and Bustamante move up into the bush on the far left.  Solar (bottom right) is still moving right, trying to get into the fight.

And he does.  He reaches the road (bottom center) and immediately cuts loose with his RPK on the enemy mortar position (top center).  But he totally misses (I gave him 3S; the Cubans are only getting Shock dice when firing at the sandbagged mortar position, but I bumped him up 1S as I figured the UNITA guys had their attention focused elsewhere)...

The enemy Boss (yellow shirt in the mortar position, bottom left) spots Cannastria, Bustamante, and Calderon (top right) and fires, but he misses.

While the rifleman on the UNITA far left (bottom left) continues pouring fire at Sgt Colvasquez and PFC Barnejesus, though Barnejesus is suppressed this time.

A quick look at what's going on from the perspective of the new mods: at left center I've got Cpl Lucastro marked to keep firing on the suppressed enemy RPG gunner at top center left.  I've got one UNITA rifleman in the mortar position marked to keep firing to keep Cannastria suppressed and Rolando pinned (bottom center right).  On the right I've got Sgt Colvasquez marked to keep firing to keep a UNITA rifleman in the mortar position suppressed, and I've got a UNITA rifleman in the trees (top right) marked to keep firing to keep Barnejesus suppressed.  As with real life, the outnumbered defenders are quickly running out of people to maneuver, though they can keep up a deadly effective fire from their covered positions, and the Cuban attackers have their right tied down in the gunfight and their unengaged left able to maneuver.  Pretty cool.

Speaking of the unengaged guys on their far left, the Cubans have an ace up their sleeve...

Being unengaged means PFC Calderon (bottom left) can pop up and launch a rocket at the enemy mortar position...

The RPG slams into the sandbagged emplacement!  The enemy Boss and a rifleman are suppressed, while the previously suppressed rifleman bolts for safety (red bead at top right.  I didn't let Sgt Colvasquez take a react shot at him as I figured 1) he would probably have been a bit surprised by the explosion, and 2) he doesn't really have much of a look at the runner's route of escape).

The enemy mortar position (top right) abruptly goes silent (this means Canastria and Rolando, on the right, can self rally during their phase).  Guerrerro (bottom left) begins firing on the enemy RPG gunner (top center), keeping him suppressed, and Calderon (next to Guerrerro) fires his rifle at the mortar position to keep it suppressed, while Cpl Lucastro and Bustamante move up to the river at the bridge (center).

I allowed Cpl Lucastro to order Guerrerro to take over firing on his suppressed target in order to free Cpl Lucastro up to begin maneuvering again.  It made sense to me as he's the team leader.

Off camera on the Cuban right, Cannastria and Rolando both successfully self rally and are back in the fight.

On the UNITA far left, the rifleman in the bush (center left) continues firing across the river.  He's unable to affect Sgt Colvasquez, but he keeps the other RPG gunner, PFC Barnejesus, suppressed.  The enemy runner (red bead at bottom left) finds himself finally out of the Cuban line of fire and is able to rally himself back into the fight.

Calderon (next to Guerrerro at bottom left) has to cease firing at the enemy mortar position (top right) as Bustamante moves up to the corner of the bridge (center right, with Cpl Lucastro right behind him) and peers around.

The just-rallied runner (bottom center) spots Bustamante (top center) and the two exchange fire harmlessly.

Calderon (bottom left) takes over keeping the enemy RPG gunner (top center) suppressed, while Guerrerro goes splashing across the shallow river (far left).

With Calderon (bottom left) keeping him suppressed, Cpl Lucastro dashes forward (center top, just above Bustamante, at far right), looking to get at the suppressed enemy RPG gunner.

Cpl Lucastro cautiously peers through the grass, spotting the prone enemy soldier.  He rattles off a long burst from his AK, wounding him.

FOR IVAN: I rolled another man down; it didn't make sense to me just have him stay suppressed, but I didn't roll a kill, so I counted him as wounded.  During his next phase he can roll to try and get back in the fight.  But if he did, wouldn't he just remain suppressed?  Or would the reaction of an enemy so close trigger him to act?  I dunno, it's getting squirrelly now...

So, when the RPG hit the mortar position earlier, I actually rolled one suppression and two 'man down' results, but counted the two 'man down' results as suppressions, where the enemy Boss and a rifleman were suppressed, and a previously suppressed rifleman fled the emplacement.  At this point I decided to leave the Boss suppressed, but retroactively made the rifleman in the mortar position wounded.

In any case, the Cubans on the right were finally able to make the plan work: they built up a base of fire on the right side, to allow Team 2 to maneuver on the left.

And with that, the writing was on the wall.  The enemy Boss fled the scene with two of his riflemen.

Allowing the Cubans to seize their objective, capturing the wounded RPG gunner (top left), a wounded rifleman (in the mortar position), the body of the KIA watch tower sentry three AKs, a 60mm mortar, and a number of 60mm mortar rounds.

Sgt Colvasquez personally checked on PFC Bronchovio: the lad was hit in the shoulder and would be out for a bit.  The squad provided first aid, then loaded him on a truck for the hospital in Luanda, expecting him back sometime around 2 June 1981.  Corporal Lucastro was awarded the Revolutionary Star, 1st Class, for leading the envelopment of the enemy's right flank.

FOR IVAN: So, a pretty fun fight, relatively quick (though longer than my normal 5MAK fights), and very successful as a playtest.  Everything worked out very well, and I was able to figure out some things I was previously unsure of, though I'm still not sure how to handle the 'man down' result.  Another question would be, do you allow a suppressed individual to make a 'free' retreat move if he has a covered avenue of escape?  I don't mind a compulsory retreat, even if it's an uncovered avenue of escape, so long as there is a very large perceived threat forcing it (something to overcome his fear of running out into enemy fire in order to get some distance between it and himself).

Next up we have 2nd Squad creeping across the foot bridge and assaulting the enemy bunker on Hill 29 so that 3rd Squad can assault the village, so stay tuned.



  1. Hello Jack,

    I have finally got time to finish reading it. And a good AAR. I did read the description of the revised pinned/suppression rules. Note that the following comments are how I implemented pinned/suppressed in my own skirmish rules (the ones I did in Comic Style), and how I would would interpret these for ythe 5MaK tyoe rolls (5MaK rather than 5MiN as the results on the K and S dice are slightly different). And I have not read the next fight where you may discuss it more!

    Pinned is the same as 1 on the Shock dice. If not in cover will retreat. -1 to the die roll (in my rules, in 5MaK need to peek to fire).
    Suppressed is the same a 6 on the Shock die. No fire. Move into cover if not in cover; retreat if suppressed again or enemy in 6".
    Man down (a 6 on the kill die) to me is suppressed but you are not going anywhere except to eat the dirt with a chance to run away (rout) if you roll a 6 or a 1 on the kill die again when rallying. I think it may be fine in 5MaK to treat man down as another version of suppression. In my rules I don't though - just pinned and suppressed.

    Good stuff by the way on implementing the pinned,/suppressed discussion into the rules, I think it does go well. Continuing to pin/suppress soldiers I can see does make the game a bit more complex though.

    1. Shaun,

      Thanks man, glad you liked it. The pinned/suppressed thing grew out of an interesting discussion on TMP, and Rod complaining about the lack of realism in my Hollywood-style reports ;)

      So I kinda just did these to show what I thought they should look like, or at least a step in the direction of a more 'realistic' tabletop game. Next I need to do it on a much larger table, for longer ranged engagements. I really want to get my 10mm stuff out and do it for 5Core Company Command.

      I agree with you on the rules explanations, though I'll say mostly I had guys caught in the open simply going prone, unless there was cover very close nearby, then they could dash/dive to it.

      It's pretty cool, but makes the games less dramatic and longer. I prefer dramatic ;)