Scouts Out!

Scouts Out!
C Troop musters for action

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Battle of Centerville Pt. 2: What a fight!

Well I've finished up my last game and what a fight it was!  It really was a good one and Ultra-Fubar really delivered on the action.  I have to say this was probably my favorite solo game of all time.  It was a hard fought battle that really wasn't totally resolved until the last turn of the game.  I'm still in the process of figuring out the actual victory results from the game, but it was close

I intended for this game to be a test of the basic Ultra-Fubar engine:  I wanted to see if it could handle a large number of AFVs and I wanted to get a feel for how armored combat would work in the game.  In that regards I saw a lot that pleased me and a lot that left me wanting more.  FUBAR can handle armored actions but it lacks something... I'm not sure what.

Anyway, I also wanted to try out a more open battlefield too.  Most of my games are pretty close in infantry affairs with lots of woods, buildings, hills, and other LOS blocking/cover terrain.  Here's a look of the basic set-up:

Basically you have a small two-lane road running down the center of the board with the ruins of four buildings sitting along it.  The LRL force enters from the far end and has to:
1.  Occupy all four buildings,
2.  Exit 5 vehicles off the opposite side of the board,
3.  And inflict 50% losses on the Americans.  
A pretty tall order to me but I was game for the challenge.  To keep me on my toes I created an activation card for each of my units.  That way I couldn't just activate any unit I wanted to. I had to activate the unit that came up.  The Americans were ran with a set of basic orders:

1.  Hold the far two buildings until at least turn 6,
2.  Withdraw on turn six and try to get 50% of the starting units off the board,
3.  Try to inflict 50% losses on the enemy.

I defined a loss as an infantry unit with less than 50% of its starting troops or a vehicle that is a mobility kill.  

As per my background, I selected a force of mechanized infantry supported by tanks and technical weapon carriers:

I split my four squads up into two sections with one section being mounted in the old, but still powerful, Bradley AFV.  My other section loaded up in the much more modern AMX-60 hover APCs.  The Bradleys packed a more powerful punch with their ATGMs while the AMX-60 GEVs were faster.  My rifles squads each had six troopers and one soldat in each squad carried either a LMG or a RPG.  My tanks were different models but I used my stats for the Abrams MBT for both.  The technicals were civilian trucks mounting a HMG.  Finally I took two cells of insurgent guerrillas   My regulars were all seasoned troops and my insurgents were veterans.  Normally that would be a problem in FUBAR, but Ultra-Fubar allows units which fail activation rolls to take a single action anyway before initiative switches to the other side.  That allowed me to field a pretty average force and still be able to maneuver aggressively, something that was nearly impossible in the earlier editions of the game.  

This force's strengths were sheer numbers, ATGMs, and the heavy cannons on the MBTs.  This force had plenty of firepower and even more staying power.

Going up against them was a small, but powerful, platoon of US Cavalry:

The core of this force was its two mecha:  two light Valkyries and a powerful Ares MBS.  The Ares is a powerhouse with 4+ armour, a large cannon, and a HMG.  The Valkyries were much lighter armed, a rocket launcher and HMG, but much more mobile and sported jump jets!  Backing the mecha up was a full section of US infantry split into two four man squads armed with pulse rifles with UGLs and a LMG.  To increase their punch the grunts were mounted into two armoured HUMVEEs mounting light plasma cannons (useable against both AFVs and infantry) and four drones (two stationary HMGs and to mobile sensors).  The cav troops were a much more experienced force with an activation of 4+ but an expertise of 4+.  Adding to their already formidable skill each soldier's pulse rifle or smart gun was equipped with a SUSAT sight (+1 FP if the unit doesn't move).  To keep things from getting ridiculous I placed a restriction that only one soldier per fire action could use their grenade launcher.   However that still left each US rifle squad with a very impressive FP total:  8FP if the unit moved, 11 FP if they didn't move, 13FP if the enemy was within 12"!!! In comparison my average LRL rifle squad, with a SAW, only could throw 9 FP moving and 13 FP within 12"!!!!  Worse still, all of the squad, drones, and vehicles could observe for the Valkyries so they could hide out of LOS and shoot their rockets... that was very ugly!

One final thing I added to the Ultra-Fubar game were my "Murphy" cards.  I created a deck of 8 cards that you could play in the enemy and it would cause them all sorts of problems.  To get them you have to roll a "1" on your initiative die roll.  The cards tell you when to play them and what effect they have on the enemy unit.  Oddly enough, the US got one during the first turn and promptly played it on the first LRL tank to come out.  That totally save the Ares mech because I placed it in full view of the road... and the it was a fire control failure which prevented the tank from firing!! Ouch!!
Anyway, the game opened with the LRL winning initiative and moving onto the board.  The US launched some missiles and took some long range shots at the LRL vehicles.  That's when I got my first taste for how vehicle damage is done on FUBAR.  It's pretty different from what I'm use to.  In fact, it almost has an OGRE feel to it.  It's almost impossible to kill any AFV with a frontal shot, no matter how many dice you toss at a target.  The reason is when you hit you roll two dice and the defender takes the least damaging effect.  That means that the odds are really great that you'll just suffer a stun result!  However the chart has a built in rule that allows damage to stack over a turn.  That is if you have already stunned a unit this turn and you roll another stun result that the target takes the next effect down the chart.  So shots slowly build up damage over a turn with the target getting stunned, losing weapons, becoming immobile, then, FINALLY, a kill result.  I say that reminds me of Steve Jackson's OGRE because that's what happens to the cybertank as the game goes along:  you knock off guns, equipment, and treads long before you finally disable the OGRE.  And that's what happened in the game.  Both sides threw out huge amounts of firepower at each other and slowly chipped away at each other's vehicles.  

While the LRL's armor moved down the road, insurgents started showing up and taking pot shots at the US positions.  This RPG unit showed itself to be particularly dangerous because it had a great line of fire on the American right flank squad.  They actually hit the US HUMVEE here a couple of times and managed to knock off its plasma cannon.  That really helped me maneuver my forces because that one gun was the only anti-tank weapon on this flank.  I took advantage of this by rushing a full infantry section over there to set-up a base of fire.

At the same time I tried to mass the technical platoon around the AMX tank to set-up a base of fire that could suppress both American positions.  All that wound up happening was the Valkyries started raining missiles down on my lightly armed technicals and stunned them left and right.  The Ares popped out a time or two and tossed rail cannon rounds at my AMX tank.  This tactic just wasn't working and the Americans were actually gaining fire superiority  Even my attempts to call in artillery failed miserably... not a single fire mission came in.  So I did everything I could to move up the left flank infantry section.  You can see them at the far end of the woods in that last picture.

So... I did something rather stupid.  I rushed my technicals up to suppress the American strongpoint while my APC dumped out their infantry to rush in and take the ruin.  It didn't work out well at all.  My technicals just couldn't suppress the Americans!  Their cover forced me to roll "6s" to hit, and as you can see, my die rolling just wasn't there!! And to add insult to injury the yanks seemed to make every armor save too!  And it got worse.  These troops were On Guard when my infantry dismounted!  They activated and threw a storm of lead at my poor LRL grunts and tore them up.  Red squad instantly took 50% losses in one shot!  Then the Americans won initiative and activated the same unit which then proceeded to cream my other dismounted squad.  In just one turn almost a third of my regular infantry strength was gone and I had yet to inflict even a single loss on the American cavalry.  These Philippine Scouts are some tough hombres!!

However, as the saying goes, God favors the biggest battalions.  Despite my infantry being clobbered I still had more vehicles and troops.  I rushed one of my AMX APCs behind the right flank strong hold and was able to get some flank shots in on the HUMVEE and even the mecha.  That hurt the Americans.  It hurt them bad.  I started to gain fire superiority over them and they began to fall back.  And then I did another stupid thing.  I tried to rush a pair of technicals past the strongpoint to rake the troopers from the rear.  It didn't work.  One of the Valkyries activated with two actions.  The nasty lil bugger jumped out of its wooded sanctuary, landed behind the two technicals, and in a spectacular display of gunnery brewed-up both of my technicals.  Worse still the Ares finally zeroed in on my right flank Abrams and nailed it with a rail cannon shot.  It wasn't a true kill, but it was a mobility kill.  And as if that wasn't enough the other Valkyrie found the range to another of my APCs and mobility killed it.  In one turn a lone I lost 4 vehicles.  All of a sudden the odds of an LRL victory became very slim.  

Honestly at this time I really considered calling the game as an American win.  My LRL troops were in disarray and had suffered heavy losses.  I had lost four of my vehicles- two hard kills and two mobility kills.  Worst still two of my remaining vehicles had lost weapons and were looking rather shaky.  Things were just plain falling apart for my Yanquis of the 23eme RI.  But i just refused to give up.  I activated my AMX tank and ordered it to CHARGE!  The AMX raced down the road, flanked the dismounted troopers, and blasted them with its main gun and HMG.  That finally suppressed the yankee cavalry.  Then everything started to come together!  My infantry rallied and rushed forward and were joined en route by the spunky band of insurgents!  My troops overran the farmhouse strongpoint and captured the abandoned HUMVEE.  The troops then took up firing positions and started pouring a murderous fire on the retreating cav.  Suddenly the American body count started to grow.  However the Americans still had an ace up their sleeve: a sniper!  This stone cold killer zeroed in on my squad leaders and weapons troopers and started dropping them like files!  He even caused one wavering squad to fell apart and ran away... I HAD to shut this guy down.  That's when I rolled a "1" for initiative and drew the "are these critter poisonous?" card!!  As soon as the sniper activated in turn 6 I hit him with this card.  It didn't kill him but it shut him down for a turn (he was suppressed).  Then the Americans made a fatal mistake...

On turn 6 the US ordered the Ares to fall back and retreat off the board.  It was this hidden mech that really kept me from controlling the left side of the road!  He retreated and left himself open to my Abrams tank.  I took the shot with my mobility killed tank and HIT!  It wasn't an instant kill, it was a mobility kill.  But it set up my next activation!

My Bradley, which just occupied the last building, drew a line on the Ares, and nailed him with an ATGM!  That single shot produced one of the two "hard kills" that the LRL scored all game!  The road was now open for my AMX tank which activated with two actions!  He shot forward and poured fire on the retreating US squad and he drilled one of the evil Valkyries with a main gun shot! A second "hard" kill!  The LRL was on a roll now!

My AMX tank now totally ruled the road and the American defense, which seemed so unassailable just a couple of turns before, was totally broken!  The American cavalry fled  like a kicked dog!  Victory and the conquest of Centerville seemed right in my sights!!! Vive la liberté!  

But alas!!! It was turn 8 and the Americans weren't fleeing cowards.  They were "running" for a reason!

The GIs of the 26th Cavalry were under orders:  delay the enemy as long as possible, inflict as much damage as possible, and then BUG OUT!!! And that's what they did!  The surviving Valkyrie, an intact rifle squad, their HUMVEE, the crew of the other HUMVEE, and that %^M* sniper slipped off the board and into the shattered city of Centerville leaving me master of a blasted field.  But the losses..

Only this paltry group of LRL troops were able to move off the board by turn 8.  The rest of my forces were in sorry shape.  Six vehicles were burning wreckage or were piles of immobile junk waiting for the grease monkeys to try to spit and tape them back together.  Two of my rifle squads were at 50% or less and one squad, along with the insurgents, were plodding along on foot because they had no rides. I still had most of my troops, but I lost more than half of my vehicles!  I was able to secure all of the buildings, but more than half of the American force was able to flee!  And worse still, only three... THREE of my vehicles were able to pursue   

A solid win for the Americans!

What a game!  It was a real hoot despite the fact that I lost.  Up until now I've always viewed the LRL as a straw man, a target meant to be shot to pieces.  But this time I took the part of the "bad guys" and I really enjoyed the experience.  The LRL troopers really showed great courage and determination in this action and they really fought their hearts out for me.  Even 'dead' vehicles like my Abrams were able to show they they were down, but not out by drilling the Ares MBS.  But alas, courage and dogged determination just wasn't enough.  The Americans fought a brilliant rear guard action and showed their professionalism and training in every encounter in this action.  The Scouts of the 26th Cavalry showed me that they are a force to be reckoned with.   

On the whole I am very pleased with this game!  Ultra-Fubar really is a great engine and overall it gave me a very satisfying game.  There were a few warts though!  First I still haven't really decided how I'm going to use drones in the game.  I want them to be important but I haven't figured out how to work them.  Right now I assign them to squads and activate them with the squad in question   However I allow them to move and operate on their own.  That's good.  However I'm not sure how to use them from a mechinacal point-of-view.  Should they count as regular casualities?  Should they have their own armor?  Should they be counted for suppression?  All of these are things that I need to think about.  Second, how should vehicle weapons be treated in Ultra-Fubar?  Should I be able to fire every weapon on a vehicle with one action, even if it moves?  What if a vehicle get only one action, should it be able to shoot every weapon?  Finally I have to say that I'm not happy with my spotting rules! Most of the time I completely forgot about them... it that's the case then why do I have them in the first place?  I might try to pull them into another game, but honestly what do they add to my game other than complication?  I want some sort of rule that allows units to be hidden so I can get some fog of war into my games.  But what should it be?

Anyway it really was a great game!  I really enjoyed it from beginning to end.  Ultra-Fubar really has a lot going for it.  It's simple, it's fun, it gives you a better game than I-GO U-GO games.  And it does it in such a flavorful way.  I'm really hooked on this little engine.  

So on to the next!  Now the LRL's remaining battalion must face off with elements of the 4th Marines and my Marines get to use their Jackson light tanks for once!  This should be a hoot!  And if i play my cards right and get some work done then the Americans will soon see evidence of a growing alliance between the Republic of Liberty and the Neo-Soviet Union!  More later!

Semper fi, carry on!!