Saturday, 21 January 2017

Thoughts on wargame scenarios for modern (2001-2011) Afghanistan

Now that I have enough terrain and figures to run games inspired by current and recent events in Afghanistan, I'm now giving some thought as to what sorts of scenarios I want to put on.  Looking at various wargame scenarios posted on the web or otherwise published, I get the takeaway that almost every battle is between Taliban and/or Al Qaeda forces versus western forces (US/UK/Australians or other OEF/ISAF forces).  More specifically, there is a tendency to present a very large number of fanatical insurgents (who operate with little concern for their own casualties) taking on a very small number of western soldiers.  I don't think I've found any scenarios where local Afghan forces take the lead.  For example, I've got a copy of the Force on Force Enduring Freedom source book, and while it looks like a detailed and comprehensive set of scenarios, I think there is maybe one scenario where US special forces work in conjunction with local Afghan forces.

However when I look at the conflict, I see much more complexity, and a lot of factions that fall out of this simple NATO versus Islamist equation.  I'd like to come up with a scenario or maybe a small campaign that includes at least these factions:
  • Taliban
    • Need to distinguish between hardcore/fulltime Talibs and short-term local recruits (experienced, highly motivated versus inexperienced, in the fight for some quick cash).  Both types are in their native land and can expect to shelter in the local population
  • Al Qaeda and other foreigners (Arabs, Chechens etc) fighting to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan:  highly motivated, to the point of fanaticism, experience/skill level varies, may be unpopular with locals (so cannot hide as easily among local populace)
  • Afghan National Army (ANA):  decent but variable skill level, tend to be popular with local populace, morale decent but local factors may bring it down (being subordinated to foreign forces may be a bonus or penalty depending on circumstances)
  • Afghan National Police (ANP) and the Border Police (ANBP).
    • ANP tend to be low morale, low skill level, corrupt, poorly paid and unpopular with local populace.  This is due to a number of factors (conscripts from various parts of the country, often illiterates who are sent to serve in a part of the country where they may not even speak the language, pay is often months in arrears, so they shake down the locals just to get food)
    • ANBP tend to be tribally based and serve or close to their own communities, so cohesion and morale is better
  • Western forces (US/UK etc) operating as part of ISAF or OEF.
    • Depending on the country of origin, may have restrictions on rules of engagement or terms of service. 
    • Wherever they are from, they tend to have top-notch equipment and good training/skills, good morale. 
    • Access to air support, artillery and other off-board assets (eg drones)
  • Private security forces, which could range from the low-grade rentacops through the most expensive Blackwater types
  • Criminal organisations, running protection rackets, construction rackets or involved in the drug trade or other smuggling (and who are likely to be in competition with other criminals...).  May be allied to or opposed to Taliban and/or local government officials
  • Local government officials who may be working for self-advancement in a way that does not conform to the plans of the central government (diverting taxes for their own purposes, may or may not be allied to one or more criminal groups or with Taliban depending on the way the wind is blowing)
  • Local militias, who might be pro-government or they might not - as with local government officials!
Each group has their own motivations, goals and ambitions, which will likely be in conflict with those of other groups.  Criminals will use the conflict to hide or mask their activities, blaming murders on the Taliban or the government.  Taliban may take credit for criminal actions if it suits their purpose.  ANP are corrupt and generally despised, so no one likes them.  And as their pay is often stolen or in arrears, they will shake down local civilians for money or food, adding to the general dislike they experience.

There's a great opportunity here to create a multi-party conflict.  Most players will not know for sure who is on their side and who is not.  Western forces won't know if that armed civilian is a local government militia member or a Talib, so will need some means to confirm identity before engaging.  Killing an ally will likely have greater (negative) impact on victory conditions than allowing a Talib or AQ to escape.

So I'm considering setting up a multi-faction scenario, give each player a different set of goals and seeing what happens.  I'm sure a mini-campaign would be even better but there's no way I think I could pull that off (I don't have time for multiple games).  I'll probably go with Osprey Games Black Ops, create custom card deck that allows activation cards for each player.  And no player will be told who the other player is, they'll have to figure that out based on the actions of the figures (although anyone uniformed should be pretty obvious).

I'll need different rules for civilian reactions for each faction - the civvies will know everything but won't share that info with anyone they don't like!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

TMWWBK AAR the sequel!

On Friday I had my second go at The Men Who Would Be Kings.  Once again, I tried for a three-way battle.  It went a bit better this time, but that was mostly due to Doug Hamm's enthusiasm for playing the Afghans as they were squeezed between two Imperial powers.  My biggest lesson learned was that I should probably try some two-way battles before playing any more three-ways!

The scenario this time was Scenario A from the book, Just Passing By.  The British and the Russians were each required to cross the table in opposite directions.  As a spoiler to this, I added some Afghans to slow down the Imperials.  The Imperial forces were almost the same as in the last game, except that I took away the field guns as this scenario requires near constant movement for the Imperials, so the guns would only slow them down.  The Afghans, on the other hand, ended up more powerful than before, as I added one unit of Afghan regular infantry to the force.

First thing we did was roll for leader attributes.  The three British units were pretty much textbook, stiff upper lip chaps.  The Highlanders were led by a sportsman, the Sikhs by the General's favourite nephew and the Gurkhas by an expert marksman.  The Russians were less fortunate, with a couple of solid, dependable infantry units but the Cossacks found themselves with a bulletproof bumbler (resulting in the comment, "you mean my leadership will actually improve if my officer gets killed?").

However the real fun came when we rolled for the Afghans.  Of the two units of Ghazis (primarily equipped for hand to hand), one was led by a cad who would retreat faster than he attacked, the other (even better!) by a coward who would never close into melee.  The jezail men (irregular infantry) included a hapless leader (10+), a drunk (which we reinterpreted as an opium addict) whose leadership needed to be tested every turn and one more who was simply inept.  The regulars were led by an idiot, requiring a test every turn to see if his opponent could move his men (we made a bit of an exception for this unit:  the test would only be required if he attempted to issue an order, so he could avoid the test by not doing anything).  Once Doug saw these results, he insisted on playing the Afghans.

Here are a couple of shots of initial deployment.  Afghans set themselves up in various bits of cover around the battlefield as the Imperials form up at each end of the table.

Russians check to see if they can be hit by long range fire.  Only the Highlanders have modern rifles (Martinis); everyone else has obsolete rifles or worse (carbines for the Cossacks, various sticks and blunt instruments for the Ghazis).  This went poorly for the Cossacks.  They took one hit from the Afghan jezailmen, failed their pinned roll, failed to rally and retreated off the board in the first turn.

Tribal infantry are shot to pieces by the Sikhs.

Russian infantry climb the hill.  This went on a bit through the game:  Russians could barely pass a test for orders, so spent the game fidgeting around their end of the board either standing around or just barely peeking past the rocks.  Peter was a good sport but I think ended up somewhat bored at the lack of movement from his troops.

Here you can see the Afghans holding the middle of the table.  Regulars are still drinking chai in their barracks while the tribesmen are watching as the Russians remain out of sight.

More action was happening in the south.  The Afghan horse were moving around, maintaining a threatening appearance to keep the Sikhs in place.  Meanwhile, the Gurkhas advanced to threaten the Ghazis (not knowing that the Ghazis were never going to fight anyway).

Still drinking chai...

Ghazis reposition as the Gurkhas advance.  Highlanders are ready to support either the Sikhs or the Gurkhas as needed, and the Sikhs form close order to repel cavalry.

More Chai.

Ghazis have pulled back, but look!  Sikhs are pinned by jezail fire from the pomegranate grove, then charged and wiped out by the Afghan horse!

Alas, the follow on charge into the Highlanders is repulsed.

Elsewhere, Russian infantry chase off another charge.

Finally, the Regulars emerge from their barracks, and promptly walk out into the open...

Where they are shot down by the Russians.

I didn't take photos from the last few turns of the game.  The Russians ended up basically pinned in place by jezail fire, but the Gurkhas and Highlanders ended up dashing along the side of the table, ignoring what little jezail fire that the Afghans were able to send their way.  The Regulars were reduced to almost nothing (I think they had two figures left at the end of the game).  We called the game for time before the Gurkhas reached the Russian end of the board, but there were almost no troops left to stop them at that point - just the remnants of a Russian infantry unit.  The Afghans did brilliantly to keep the Imperials at bay, fighting a war on two fronts and holding both sides close to their start lines for most of the game.  Especially impressive as the leadership was mostly incompetent!

Monday, 16 January 2017

Trumpeter on Friday the 13th

On Friday the 13th I made it to the Trumpeter Society's January game night.  I put on another Men Who Would Be Kings game (after action report here) but I also had a chance to wander the hall and look at a couple of the other games.  There was some great looking action!

The table next to us had a game of Dragon Rampant played with Lego minifigs. Looked like great fun!

This is one of the reasons I don't play WWII naval games.

Another table had some Age of Sail gaming.

Aerial warfare on two different tables:  Cover Your 6 for WWII and Canvas Eagles for WWI

Cam had some beautiful 15mm Cross and Crescent saga action

ECW at another table.  I've been tempted to get into ECW but have so far managed to resist!

And of course there were big stompy robot wars as well!