After Action

Somalia Skirmish Action
-Andy Maloney

Here is a very interesting action using US Marines and Somalians

Capture the Commissar! [..scenario comming soon to downloads...]
-Chris Pringle

This was a scenario that I ran at my local club on a Monday night with no preparation, for two players who had never used the Arc of Fire rules before. It took me half an hour to plan it and to set up the terrain and sort out the troops. We played the game in just over an hour and a half. The scenario could readily be adapted for almost any skirmish setting. The basic scenario was simple: a wounded Russian commissar and his loyal bugler were stranded somewhere in a farm complex in the middle of the table; Russians wanted to retrieve the commissar; Germans wanted to stop them.

The farm comprised one farmhouse, three outhouses, a cattle mire (heavy going), some unfenced cornfields and small haystacks, with a couple of small woods by it. The rest of the table had scattered cover such as woods and small hills, a stream, a marsh. For games of this size it is a good idea to put some terrain items within 8" of each other so that a unit can cross the gaps between them with just two cards (though you still want some longer more open spaces as well).

A 9-man rifle squad, 6-man SMG squad and a GAZ jeep with 2 crew came on the southern table edge to rescue the commissar and take him off the opposite, northern edge. Meanwhile a German 8-man rifle squad with one LMG, a 6-man MG squad and a 6-man HQ team with 2 50mm mortars was arriving from the west to interfere.

The Russians were mostly Tac 7 and Good morale, with the exception of the Commissar who was Tac 6 and Excellent morale (but wounded, so could only act on his unit's first card). The commissar, the bugler, and the jeep were treated as one unit; only the two Russians in the jeep were capable of driving it. The Germans were a mixture: competent and motivated HQ (T5, M Good); rather raw but enthusiastic riflemen (T6, M Good); and some cautious veterans in the MG squad (T5, M Average). The German mortars had 6 HE and 6 smoke rounds each.

Everyone arrived on Turn 1 except the commissar and his bugler, who the Russian player was allowed to deploy concealed anywhere within the farm complex (in our game he opted for the outhouse next to the cattle mire - must have been a tight squeeze in there for the two of them ...). I made the Russian decide where his commissar was, then let the German player establish which table edges were north etc. The Germans could arrive anywhere on their (west) table edge, the Russians anywhere on the southern edge at least 12" from the western edge.

For a 5-point victory the Russians had to get the Commissar off the table; a decisive victory would have got him off in the jeep. The Germans won if the Commissar was killed; they got a decisive victory if he was captured (either defeated in hand to hand combat, or getting a unit morale result of Destroyed or individual morale result of Craven Coward).

All went disastrously wrong for the Russians in the first two turns as the turn of the cards and good German dice meant the two rifle squads got in a firefight which the Germans won unscathed, while they managed to blow up the jeep and wound both its crew with a mortar direct hit. The next few turns saw Germans mopping up Russian stragglers and wounded from the rifle squad and the jeep crew, while the Commissar bolted from his privy, and he and the SMG squad fled from one end of the farm to the farmhouse at the other end. The German MG teams had meanwhile moved up to block the exit.

A farcical firefight with almost no actual casualties but lots of Broken troops taking cover ensued. The last few mortar bombs wrecked the farmhouse and scared the Russian SMGs, who for their part had disrupted the German MGs, while catching crabs (as rolled on the random events table - we figured the farmhouse must be vermin-ridden!). Next turn the Russian luck turned as the bugler got a near miss on a cowering MG34 gunner, causing a unit test. No doubt influenced by the supporting one-man charge being carried out against them by the Russian rifle squad leader - the sole survivor from his squad and by now a Hero immune to morale tests and armed only with a pistol - the Germans failed their test disastrously and were destroyed.

Germans lost two wounded, Russians lost 11 dead but the commissar escaped for 5 points, and it was a pretty riotous game. The reactions from first-time players were interesting. Early on the German player said he "had issues with the morale system", as two or three Soviet riflemen fought on after most of their comrades in the rifle squad were killed, indeed one of them became a Hero. Meanwhile the Russian player got pretty depressed by his riflemens' deaths and just ran away for about 3 turns. All this changed when the game was turned on its head by the German machinegunners losing their nerve. It gave the German player a new perspective on the vagaries of the morale rules - and after all, even the Russians who passed their test still voluntarily withdrew - and the Russian player cheered up considerably!

This scenario was very loosely based on situations arising during the vast encirclement operations of 1941 and 1942, when the Soviets lost millions of men but were often able to extract their key headquarters staff from the pockets. It would be easy to run this scenario again in almost any theatre of war you like just by changing the VIP: a general, a special agent, a political figure, a downed pilot, someone's girlfriend, etc. I'm sure I will!