Sunday, 26 February 2012

Chibia AAR

The battle at Chibia was fought using the AK47 Reloaded Rules and pitted a 416 point force of South Africans against 396 points of FAPLA troops led by a Cuban cadre.

The South African force (all regulars) consisted of:

Recon Company

3 x Eland Armoured Cars with 90mm (Standard) Guns
2 x Landrovers with HMGS
1 x Landrover with RCL

A Company

6 x stands Small Arms
3 x stands LAWS
Buffel APCs with HMGs as carrier allowance

B Company

4 x stands Small Arms
2 x stands LAWS
Unimog Trucks as carrier allowance

FAPLA had:

1st Company (Regular)

6 x Small Arms
3 x RPG

2nd Company (Regular)

6 x Small Arms

Anti Tank Platoon (Militia 'stiffened')

1 x Small Arms (Professional)
3 x RCL (Militia)

Cuban Mobile Detachment (Professional)

3 x GAZ Jeeps HMG
3 x Gaz Jeeps RCL 

We used the 'determined assault' rules for deployment and victory conditions. FAPLA started the battle with one understrength Company dug in in Chibia and the Cuban HQ deployed in dense bush outside the township. All South African troops were committed although some didn't arrive in time (this was the effect of the AK47 'reserves' system)

The most spectacular event was the successful ambush by the FAPLA anti tank platoon.

Burning landrovers can be seen in the left foreground. FAPLA infantry are dug in the buildings and the RCLs of the anti-tank platoon can be seen in the buildings across the road.

In the immediate foreground the remnants of the Cuban Mobile Detachment can be seen.

In the far background a burning Buffel is all that's left of 9 platoon.

The engagement ended in a decisive victory for FAPLA

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Agony at Chibia

'It was a nightmare! I've lost six of my mates - 9 Platoon is gone...'

Yesterday the spearhead battalion of Task Force Zulu attempted to seize the vital road junction at Chibia 'on the bounce' i.e. by way off a hasty attack off the march. The plan was to capture Chibia by midday and then drive hard to reach Lubango some 40 km away by nightfall. Lubango is a strategically important town on the road to Benguela, which in turn is the key to opening up the coast road to Luanda. Lubango has a functioning airfield and this is vital to the FNLA-SADF advance in our version of Operation Savannah. Because Task Force Zulu is larger in our alternative history than it was in reality it requires greater logistical support. The South Africans have committed a greater proportion of their air force to supporting our alternative Operation Savannah than they did in real life, both in terms of combat aircraft flying reconnaissance and interdiction and military and commandeered civilian aircraft airlifting in troops and supplies. Once Lubango's airfield is secure the South Africans plan to fly in reinforcements and supplies to support the advance on Benguela.

First though, the spearhead battalion, codenamed 'Streetgang', had to take Chibia.

Streetgang consisted of two motorised infantry companies, one in Unimogs and another in Buffels, and a composite squadron of Elland armoured cars and landrovers mounted with heavy machine guns and recoiless rifles. Lieutenant Colonel van Beer, Streetgang's commander, was ordered to attack at dawn and use speed and aggression to seize the township and clear the road north west to Lubango.

A combination of communication problems, navigational errors and vehicle breakdowns meant both infantry companies were under strength as zero hour approached. Colonel van Beer took the decision to attack anyway and Bravo Company quickly entered the township. Ominously, there was no sign of the civilian population and and as the troopies began to clear the houses they came under fire from FAPLA soldiers who were dug in in the buildings near the centre of town. 

Alpha Company, mounted in APCs, drove hard towards an area of dense bush to the east of Chibia and dismounted to clear the way for a short right hook that would seal the northern exit roads of the township. Here they ran into the headquarters of the FAPLA forces in the area- a platoon of Cuban instructors and the HQ staff of the Cuban-FAPLA battalion that was responsible for this sector. Committed piecemeal, the South Africans did not expect the ferocity of the response they received from the Cubans who were largely crack special forces troops. The firefight was at short range in thick scrub and 9 platoon, leading the South African attack was decimated. Alpha Company fell back in disorder.

Meanwhile van Beer's most mobile unit, the armoured car and technical squadron, had executed a wider envelopment across the savannah to the east of Chibia. As they drove across the rear of the FAPLA position they successfully engaged and destroyed a number of FAPLA vehicles seen approaching from the west along the Lubango road. Unknown to them, these were Cubans who had driven their technicals towards the sound of the guns as the fighting in Chibia broke out.

The FAPLA-Cuban commander, Major Jose Sanchez, was feeling under immense pressure. He only had an understrength company of regulars defending Chibia itself, supported by an anti tank platoon of barely trained recruits armed with recoiless rifles. He was short of ammunition, particularly rockets for the shoulder fired RPGs that his infantry were equipped with. An urgent appeal for assistance had resulted in assurances that mobile reserves were on the way but the sound of South African 90mm guns and a radio net clogged with panicking comrades led him to think the battle was lost.

He was unaware that his anti-tank platoon, led by Sergeant Torres, one of his best instructors, had sprung a successful ambush from concealed positions in the township. Half a dozen landrovers were brewed up by FAPLA rockets and Captain Grobelaar, leading the SADF armoured car and technical squadron, was forced to break off the engagement with the FAPLA reinforcements and seek cover.

By midday the South African attack had ground to a halt. Eight men were dead, six of them from the hapless 9 Platoon, and another 25 were wounded. Six landrovers and three APCs were destroyed or disabled.

Sanchez for his part, was hanging on grimly. His company had suffered on light casualties, none of them fatal, although the mobile column that was supposed to reinforce him had lost half of the armed jeeps that were its fighting strength together with 15 killed and wounded.

For the South Africans it was a clear tactical defeat - they had the means to maintain and apply more pressure but that meant more casualties and their timetable was in tatters. For FAPLA, the only question was how to extricate themselves: the South Africans may have been halted but it was only a question of time before the FAPLA postion was overrrun.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

23 October 1975 Somewhere in Southern Angola...

'The old man wants us in Lubango by tomorrow night. Now the kaffirs are out of the way he thinks we can push through easily'

'Those kaffirs at Cahama were no pushover- our kaffirs were shit'

'Cahama was defended by Cubans...but there aren't many of them and they don't have any armour'

'Says who? There wasn't supposed to any resistance on that bridge but look what happened...'

'They didn't stick around though eh?'

'Yeah, well you better be careful if you're on point...they didn't mess about'

'Come on, you know me...first sign of trouble I'll back off and hit them hard with the 90mm...let the troopies do the dirty work'

'So what's the first stop?'

'Here, this junction - Chibia. The photographs show it here...and here. Usual shithole of a place. The troopies can clear the houses - don't get caught in the backstreets eh?'

'Okay, get some sleep - I want you alert in the morning if you're on point'

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Havana 20 October 1975

'He's coming north....'

'Are you sure Comrade?'

'Of course I'm fucking sure...Sanchez is one of our best...he was mano a mano with them. They're there...they've got armour, regular troops the fucking works...'

'Calm down, the Chief wants to be sure...he's talked to Moscow, there's nothing doing - they won't give us any planes for an airlift.'

'Listen Comrade, my men are bleeding over there - they stopped the bastards and now it's time for us to show the world that means something...'

'What do you need?'

'Everything...rocket launchers, artillery, MiGs...we can do it, we can stop these bastards for good...'

'And our friends in Moscow?'

'Fuck them Comrade, they're old and scared...this is our time...'

'I'll do what I can, don't go away, I'll call you tonight.'

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Cahama 19 October 1975

The South African objectives were to secure the road entering the battlefield on the right, the crossroads over the bridge to the left and the road exiting the battlefield at the top of the picture.

A motorised company of FNLA militia was assigned to sieze the wooded area to the right of the river at the top of the picture and cross the river by the nearby ford; three FNLA technicals were ordered to drive over the bridge and take the crossroads in a coup de main; and an understrength company (two platoons) of SADF regulars were to secure the kraal in the right foreground. A full strength SADF infantry company, supported by six Elland armoured cars was in reserve. The accent was on speed and aggression: since crossing the border four days ago Task Force Zulu had not encountered any significant opposition from the MPLA or their Cuban allies.

The Bridge at Cahama

FNLA Technicals poised to charge over the bridge: the graffiti on the building on the right should have been a warning...

 The plan went wrong almost from the very beginning. The technicals drove across the bridge at high speed and ran into a well laid ambush at the crossroads. Cuban trained FAPLA troops, armed with recoiless rifles and dug in amongst the buildings, opened up on the softskinned FNLA column. Two thirds of the FNLA vehicles were knocked out immediately and as the remainder tried to retreat across the bridge they fell prey to pre-registered mortar fire.

The FNLA motorised infantry successfully approached the ford but were caught in withering fire from an understrength FAPLA militia company led by Cuban officers and instructors from their southern training camp. The FNLA retreated and went to ground.

The South African infantry approached the kraal with caution. Given the unexpected amount of firing and the confusion that was apparent from the radio traffic, their commander had decided a careful advance was called for. Once amongst the cover of the primitive dwellings, he was astonished to see half a dozen soviet built jeeps bristling with heavy machine guns drive at full speed over the bridge and take up position in the buildings where only half an hour ago the FNLA technical crews had eaten breakfast. He and his men spent the rest of the morning pinned down by machine gun fire. What he didn't know was that a Cuban special forces captain had commandeered the jeeps and, seizing the initiative, had driven straight through the FNLA position.

Securing the Kraal
The South African Commander acted decisively and committed his reserve. Fortunately for him Bravo Company had found the river to the south of Cahama to be easily forded and had outflanked the FAPLA position on its left. Even this good luck was limited however, as his troops entered dense bush and found themselves involved in close quarter combat with Angolan troops led by Cubans.

As night fell the South Africans counted the cost. All nine FNLA Technicals were destroyed, The FNLA infantry were refusing to move and his most successful unit had lost nine dead and over a dozen wounded. total casualties were 27 wounded and 14 dead. It was a disaster.

The Cuban commander made a quick appraisal of the situation. Astonishingly his men had suffered no fatal casualties although he had six wounded, one seriously. It was clear this was a large enemy force and the fighting in the bush by the river had left him in no doubt he was up against South African regulars with armoured support. Now wasn't the time for heroics.

As night fell the Cuban and FAPLA troops melted away and, under the cloak of darkness, headed north.

D minus 1: Cahama

18 October 1975 2100 hours

'Good evening gentlemen, at ease.

Tomorrow morning we're going to secure the bridge at Cahama, codename POOR MAN. Aerial reconnaisance indicates there is minmal FAPLA presence in the village itself, an understrength company, and they have no transport. The village is codename BEGGARMAN.

Speed and aggression will the key to taking the objective. Our FNLA mobile detachment will storm the bridge at first light. FNLA Zulu Company will outflank the village to the east via this ford here. The river is low and the ford shouldn't present any problem. Alpha Company will approach in support via the kraal to the west. Bravo Company is in reserve and they have a detachment of Ellands from the recon battalion to provide some firepower if we need it, which we won't.

This is a silent attack gentlemen, we want to hit them hard before they wake up.


Thank you, kickoff is at 0600. Andre, can I see you after this?'

Thursday, 16 February 2012


'Streetgang, this is Rhino One Zero, are you there over?'

'Rhino One Zero, this is Streetgang, copy over'

"Streetgang, we have a visual on RICH MAN over'

'Rhino One Zero, any trade? Over'

'Streetgang, no trade apparent over'

'Streetgang, this is Rhino Three Zero, we have at alpha zero one niner over'

'Rhino Three Zero, strength? over'

'Streetgang...we are taking fire...Jesus!'
'Rhino Three Zero, this is Streetgang, what is your status over?'

'Streetgang, this is Rhino One Zero, we have trade...'

'This is Streetgang, Rhino Three Zero do you copy over?'


'Rhino Three Zero, this is Streetgang, are you there over?'

'Streetgang, this is Rhino One Zero, trade in company strength at RICH MAN, fire from bravo zero two six, we have a flower, request MEDEVAC over....' 

Monday, 13 February 2012

D minus 6...

D Day for my first game is this coming Sunday...

I completed all the Peter Pig and Timecast buildings, nine in total, last weekend and spent an hour or two on Saturday making 15 Grass Huts using Paperterrain's card models. I bought 23 Woodland Scenic trees  ready made and some Battlefront desert escarpments. My local wargames supplier tells me the small desert hills I ordered are no longer available so I have a large and an extra large desert hill on the way. Together with the escarpments this should provide more than enough hilly terrain.

Before Sunday I have to buy a big enough piece of oatmeal coloured 'teddy bear fur' to provide my (long grass covered) battlefield, and enough sand coloured felt to allow me to make templates of area terrain - wooded and built up areas. I have plenty of roads and rivers, a  wooden bridge and a swamp/marsh.

I'm away with work later this week so I'll have ago at painting up a couple of objective markers before then, although I'm not overly worried if I don't manage them.

My thoughts for the first game are to pit a mixed South African/FNLA column against outnumbered MPLA troops 'stiffened' by Cuban intsructors defending a bridge. In other words, the sort of action that Task Force Zulu would have undertaken in my counter-factual Operation Savannah.

I'm not going to worry too much about points values or the AK 47 Assets system - it'll do to focus on movement, shooting, close assault and morale.

So, slot a banana clip in your AK 47 and climb aboard the Toyota...

Monday, 6 February 2012

Progress Report - Property Portfolio and Brainstorming

The buildings I ordered from Peter Pig, Timecast and Paperterrain all arrived during the last fortnight. I've had a busy couple of weeks travelling with work which makes it hard to get as much painting and modelling done as I'd like (not to mention blogging) but yesterday afternoon I sat down and had a good session with the Peter Pig and Timecast buildings. I got four finished and another two well on the way. Another couple are undercoated.

I've also undercoated a destroyed Peter Pig T34/85, T55 and Mercedes saloon. These will all eventually become objective markers.

I'm pleased with the building on the left with the 'MPLA' graffiti

I like the rubbish outside the back of the 'shop' on the right
I've also been giving some thought to army lists, and have made some notes to adapt the lists in AK47 Reloaded. After reading 'Winter of 79' I'm unsure if I'll stick to the format of AK 47 as far as army lists and victory conditions goes. The '15 Days to War' scenario generator is a bit superfluous given that one of the aims of 'War for Slow Readers' is to provide a background or framework for scenarios. And because I'm not playing a tournament style game a points system is also not really necessary. That's fine for solo games of course but the people I'm likely to press gang into playing a game are likely to ask 'how do we know whose won?', so I'll have to give some thought to victory conditions and some kind of mechanism to ensure that players don't feel like they've been shafted as far as play balance goes.

I'm on schedule to run a test game or two in a couple of weeks so will probably go for opposing forces that are relatively small and will leave out the asset system. I've had a couple of ideas about possible scenarios - battles don't have to be played out in the chronological order of my imaginary timeline either. There's nothing to stop me fast forwarding a few years to allow a scenario I'm partciularly interested in to be played out. My imaginary version of Operation Savannah is looking good though.

Possible battles include:
  • FNLA mercenary cored army tries to capture key crossroads north of Luanda against more numerous but less well trained MPLA
  • SADF/FNLA relief column tries to reach SADF Paras against uncoordinated but determined resistance from Cuban special forces and MPLA
  • Outnumbered Cubans ambush SADF/FNLA column
  • SADF mounts battalion level attack against MPLA forces trying to hold river crossing
  • Fighting withdrawal by MPLA as combined FNLA/SADF pile on the pressure
Plenty to think about over the next week or two

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Pretoria September 1975

'This gentleman, is what we plan to do in Angola'

'The aim is to put a friendly government in power in Luanda by 11 November, the day the Portuguese leave and when Angola is officially independent. Of the three factions fighting the Portuguese and one another Holden Roberto's FNLA will receive the full support of the South African Government and any and all military and political assistance we can furnish.'

'Operation Savannah will commence in mid October. Three brigade sized groups, codenamed Task Forces Zulu, Foxbat and Orange; will attack across the Namibian frontier on converging axes here, here and here. The objective is to reach Luanda by independence day. A fourth Task Force, codenamed Blue, and in similiar strength, will invade Angola from Zaire.Same objective'

'Each of the Southern Task Forces will comprise three motorised infantry battalions of the SADF, with appropriate reconnaisance, engineer and artillery support. Airborne troops in company strength will be responsible for seizing key bridges and airfields ahead of the ground troops. Each Task Force will have a battalion of FNLA troops made up of black soldiers and mainly Portuguese mercenaries. It is important we give the impression the SADF is assisting an indigenous Angolan liberation movement...'

'Task Force Blue will be made up of two battalions of FNLA troops and a battalion of Zairian motorised infantry. Artillery support will also be provided by Mobutu's army. This force wil be stiffened by a cadre of white mercenaries, again mainly Portuguese, although there will be British and French soldiers of fortune present.'

'We do not anticipate any serious resistance from either SWAPO or the MPLA. The biggest challenge will be the distance the southern task forces are required to advance and the associated supply problems. Each airfield will be a staging post for the next leap forward. The key is speed and aggression. The paras take the airfields, we follow through hard and the air force will fly in supplies.'

'The one potentially serious problem, apart from the distance we need to cover, is the presence of four Cuban training camps. We have yet to locate a single one of these although signals intelligence and aerial reconnaisance indicates that two of them may be across the projected lines of advance of Zulu, near Benguela, and Blue, to the north of Lunada, here and here.'

'At this stage it is unclear just how many Cuban troops are present and how heavily armed they are.'

'Z Day is currently set for 15 October. There's a pack here for each of you. I suggest you study it and we re-convene at 1400. Any immediate quesions?'