Monday, 2 July 2012

AAR Triumphant March of Socialism?

A small village in NE Angola, mid November 1975

I used the above table for this battle. The rules were an adapted version of Cold War 83. Instead of individual figures I had three or two man fireteams per base. Vehicles were mounted invidually. This means I can use my 15 mm figures as they are based for the AK 47 Reloaded rules.
Cold War 83 uses an ingenious mechanism to represent training, morale and fatigue called 'Bottle'. Simply put, a figure (or base in this case) is assigned a Bottle value and all actions and attempted actions are influenced by this value. Unusually, the player as to throw a score on 2D6 below a base's current Bottle value to succeed in movement or combat actions. So, the higher a base's Bottle, the more chance it has of actually doing what the player wants it to; whether that's moving, spotting, firing and hitting a target, unjamming a weapon or just about anything else you can think of. Bottle changes during a game, usually downwards, as your men respond to the stress of combat, are wounded or, in some cases, are inspired to bravery etc.
When their Bottle falls to below 2, they're assumed to rout, curl up in a ball, surrender or othrwise find a way of no longer taking part in combat.They can also be killed outright, most often when the firing enemy scores a 'critical success' - that is a successful 2D6 score that is a double.
In my game I assigned the FNLA's two mercenary stands, armed with a total of 6 G3 Rifles a Bottle value of 8 to reflect their training in the Foreign Legion or the Paras etc, as well as their experience as hard bitten dogs of war. Their Angolan FNLA comrades were only rated at 6, indicating they are conscripts with little experience but who have gained some appreciation of the dangers of war. They're armed with a total of 7 x AK47 Assault Rifles, 2 x PK LMGs and a couple of RPG 7 Grenade Launchers, presumably courtesy of the Chinese before they lost faith in Holden Roberto. Crucially the FNLA have one vehicle that's a runner, a Toyota pick up truck armed with a .50 cal HMG, and crewed by two Angolans also rated at 6. One item there is no shortage of is hand grenades.
I decided that the village was deserted, the locals having made themselves scarce when the soldiers showed up. All the built up area, rough ground and woods templates were assigned a 'clutter value' of 3, meaning that once contact is made then a stand has to subtract that number from its Bottle value if it wants to move anywhere or hit anything in the template. There are three gentle hills to the NW, NE and SW of the village that don't impede movement but block line of sight. Most of the area is light bush with a clutter value of 1. The roads are rated 0.
The mercenary Jean Langarotti set up as all round a defence as he could manage with the resources to hand. I decided the FNLA would deploy first and then the road entrance tthat he MPLA would enter on would be chosen randomly. This simulates the 'frontless nature of the fighting' (see the previous post). The MPLA would move without dicing for success against Bottle until contact.
The MPLA were represented by a full platoon of motorised infantry, transported in three newly aquired URAL trucks, with an 8 men squad per truck split into 3 fireteams with a total of 6 x AK47s, 1x PK LMG and an RPG 7. Like their FNLA opponents they were rated at 6 for Bottle.
Six Cuban Special Forces soldiers provided the leadership and expertise. Two were in a GAZ jeep mounting an HMG on point, and another five, including the force commander, Leiutenant Alonso, in the follwing GAZ jeep, also equipped with an HMG. These were given a Bottle rating of 9.
The MPLA attempted to get on table on turn 1. The point jeep was hit by the HMG mounted in the Toyota technical, obviously the Cubans weren't anticipating an ambush! So much for their training and experience. Although they suffered some damage, neither the vehicle or the crew were incapacitated by this first burst of fire. As their comrades followed them into he kill zone however, an FNLA fireteam, emboldened by the noise and the obvious power of the technical's HMG, opened up with everything they had, namely an LMG and two AK 47s.
The leading Cuban jeep was destroyed and the following one accelterated into the cover of the buildings south of the FNLA technical. Two URAL trucks followed, taking rounds on the way in. The third URAL didn't make it on to the table, the sound of the firefight obviously leading the driver to stamp on the brakes.
One brewed up Cuban jeep in the background, the FNLA technical and fireteam that did the damage in the foreground. Note that the FNLA firteam's bottle rating is inicated by the two small green dice. It's at 7 because of the proximity of Langarotti who can be see in botom of the picture

From this point on things went rapidly downhill for our heroic revolutionaries. Of the two URALs that drove towards the village, one copped a burst from the Toyota's .50 cal and the resulting mayhem led the hapless Alonso and his comrades to go to ground and become suppressd as they were within 7.5 cm of the truck that was hit. The second URAL truck came under fire from another FNLA fireteam before it reached the cover of the buildings and the crew were killed and the troops on board all suppressed. The only postive thing the MPLA managed to do was get the third truck on the table and under cover in the woods to the north of their entry point.

By  the end of turn three more and more fire was being poured into the MPLA and Cubans either in, or just outside, the buildings and casualties were mounting. The squad in the third truck disembarked and moved forward to engage Langarotti and his men from the cover of the woods but by then it was all too little, too late. The rest of the MPLA's force was either suppressed and/or had a Bottle rating of 2, meaning there was nothing they could do about their predicament.

Here you can see the MPLA & the Cubans with their rapidly dwindling Bottle scores

At this point I decided to end my little experiment. What have I learned? Firstly, I really like the rules and especially the Bottle mechanism. At last I can see what others rave about. This is a fast play rule set that gives a flavour of how I imagine the chaos of a firefight to play out. As the player, you can see the danger your litte men are in, but getting them do do what you want to get out of it is another matter. With a little thought I think I can come up with plenty of scenarios involving all sorts of pressure on the protagonists - not shooting at civilians in the war zone, securing the merchandise from Mr Arms Dealer, avoiding being filmed by a news crew as your men go on the rampage/break and run/loot and pillage - are a few that have just come to mind. Secondly, get out off your trucks and spread out as soon as you hear incoming fire...


  1. Very nice! I look forward to seeing more of it in the near future.

  2. I'm really enjoying your coverage of this John. I may not always comment, but I always read it. Keep it up!

  3. Thanks - much appreciated.