Tuesday, 14 January 2020

1985: Deadly Northern Lights - "The Gates of Fire" AAR

What follow is an After Action Report of a playtest session for 1985: Deadly Northern Lights Scenario One, titled "The Gates of Fire"I will not enter in detailed explanations of rules or combat mechanics, as I would like to keep the narration flowing and short.

The scenario covers the Soviet offensive in Northern Norway during the first 10 days of war. Both NATO and Warsaw Pact have only a fraction of the ground forces normally available in Central Europe, and similar problems for moving them where needed. The real fight is in the sky and at sea.

More detailed info on 1985:DNL can be found at the TRLGames official page.

Note: Click on the pictures to see them full-size!

The Gates Of Fire

Time: July 24, 1985
Location: Northern Norway

For the second time during the century, Norway finds itself at the margins of a conflict for the control of Europe. Once again, ports and airfields along its never-ending coast are a primary strategic objective, allowing to cut or protect NATO's jugular vein: the North Atlantic line of communication.

Orders for Soviet Northern Fleet and Murmansk Front are to take control of Norwegian airfields and ports and use them whenever possible to move forward the supplies needed by 6th Combined Army, the ground element of the offensive. 

NATO Commander of Allied Forces North Norway (NON) has very limited resources available. His main expected reinforcements are the United Kingdom / Netherlands Amphibious Force, its escort task force centered on HMS Invincible, and a US CV Battlegroup around D+6.

D+0 - WP Turn

The weak Sør-Varanger Garrison Battalion is no match for Soviet 6th Combined Army and it's easily overran. Despite that, its main tasks are accomplished: slow down enemy advance and destroy key bridges near the border.

 More than 20 Soviet submarines of Foxtrot, Kilo and Tango classes enter Norwegian Sea. 

Submarines are followed by part of Soviet Northern Fleet, transporting 61st Marine Brigade and several days of combat supply.
Two RAF Buccaneer Squadrons take off from Northern Scotland to attack the Soviet Task Force. They are intercepted by Soviet Su27 supported by ECM, but the attack is fended off by Norwegian F-16 patrolling the area.

RAF Buccaneers launch a Stand-Off attack on the Soviet Fleet, inflicting some losses to the transport ships and to the Marines embarked.

D+1 - NATO Turn

Despite this success, the situation at dawn of D+1 is not good for NATO. Banak Airfield has been captured by a Soviet Paratroops Battalion, and Soviet 61st Marine Brigade debarked 30km North of Bardufoss Airfield.

With time running out, NATO Commander takes a risky decision. The UK/NL Amhibious Force is not going to wait for its Dutch component, but will sail immediately for Tromsø in three different Task Forces.

Soviet Naval Aviation was hoping for this chance. Two Regiments of Tu22 Backfire and Tu16 Bear with heavy escort successfully intercept the Transport Task Force, and the weak NATO air cover is not able to drove them off.
The resulting Stand-Off attack is a carnage for the British transports, with hundreds of Marines drowned in the icy waters.

Emboldened by the result, Soviets launch a second attack wave of Tu16 Bears against the Britons, sinking more troops transport and damaging HMS Liverpool and HMS Hermione.

 D+2 - WP Turn

The following day, RAF seeks revenge against the Soviet Task Force and successfully intercepts before it leaves the area. The ensuing Stand-Off attack damages two Soviet Destroyers of Krivak and Kotlin class.

Taking advantage from the absence of NATO Air Superiority, worn out by previous combats, a Soviet Paratroops Battalion is airdropped East of Tromsø.

Having reorganized after debarking, Soviet 61st Marine Brigade assaults Bardufoss Airfield. A preliminary SEAD Mission successfully suppress most of NATO AA batteries, and is followed by a full strength attack with heavy air support. After 20 hours of combat, NATO garrison is forced to surrender.

At nightfall of D+2, NATO situation is further deteriorated.

D+3 - WP Turn

Warsaw Pact reorganizes its naval forces, while 6th Combined Army struggles to advance due to supply problems.

D+4: NATO Turn

The arrival of US CVBG Forrestal is more than welcomed by NATO. US  and UK Squadrons immediately launch a strike against a Soviet Task Force that finished unloading supplies at Banak Airfield. F-14 squadrons inflict heavy losses to the Soviet interceptors, and the combined Strike sinks more enemy merchant ships.

At the end of D+4, Warsaw Pact partially reactivates Banak Airfield.

D+5: WP Turn

Soviet Il-76s begin landing at Banak Airfield, bringing in an SA-6 AA Battalion and more supply.

Banak Airfield also allows to deploy Soviet helicopters forward, and to transport a Spetsnaz Battalion just South of the town of Alta. In the ensuing assault, supported by Mi-24 helicopters and Mig-27 Fighter-Bombers, Soviet special forces capture the town.

The situation at the end of D+6:


I've called it a day at the end of Turn 4, as NATO has no more chances to change the final verdict: Warsaw Pact Substantial Victory. 

NATO made several critical errors right from the start, culminating in the disastrous deployment of UK/NL Amphibious Force. Warsaw Pact had his share of mistakes too, but differently from NATO he can afford some, at least in this scenario.

Next AAR: The Prize, Warsaw Pact surprise attack on Stockholm!

Thursday, 14 November 2019

"1985: Deadly Northern Lights" Official Box Art!

At last, the pieces of Warsaw Pact's Northern offensive are falling into place....
Here's the official box art! More to come in the next few days.

Friday, 26 July 2019

1985: Deadly Northern Lights - Map 1

The Soviet offensive against Scandinavian Peninsula is getting ready.....This is a first, low-res draft of 1985: Deadly Northern Lights Map 1.

A lot of things are still missing, but our glorious cartographers are working without pause! The whole theater of operations will be covered by 5 maps (3 95x56cm, 2 smaller maps).

War is hell. In this case, a frozen one.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

"Less Than 60 Miles", countersheets

Here they are! A couple of complete countersheets, possible production version, in medium resolution. You'll find 6 of them in the box, with 5/8" counters.

More info on the Official Game Page. Also, you may reserve a copy by sending an email to info@TRLGames.com or by reporting for duty on this BoardGameGeek thread.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Less Than 60 Miles - Playtest Session 15

After Action Report for Less Than 60 Miles playtest session 15, playing "Steps of our Fathers" scenario. Once again, I'm in command of NATO forces.

Here's the scenario background:

As the old saying goes, “No plan survives the first contact with the enemy”. A few hours after the beginning of World War Three, it’s going to be clear that OPLAN 33001 – the operational directives for defending Frankfurt – will be no exception.

With Soviet 8th Guards Army keeping US V Corps busy on a broad front, Warsaw Pact’s main offensive is carried out by Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army and East German III Military District in Bundeswehr’s 5 PanzerDivision sector.

Orders for Soviet 1st Guards Tank Army are to attack resolutely toward Wetzlar and break the connections between US V Corps and WG III Corps, making any attempt to send reinforcements to NORTHAG problematic.

West German 5 PanzerDivision must quickly change its plans from a role of support to being the primary target of Warsaw Pact’s offensive in CENTAG area. US reinforcements are expected, but the Division will be alone in the first, critical hours.

For the second time in a Century, German soldiers are called to defend their homeland from the countless Soviet Hordes.

You may find more details on Less Than 60 Miles at the following links:

And now, down to business :)

D+0 0300 ZT - SITREP, July 24 1985

Only the Northern section of the map is used, down to Bad Hersfeld (Pictures are actually including a little more for sizing purpose). 

Warsaw Pact will throw the full might of 1st Guards Tank Army against West German 5th Panzer Division. US 3/3AD Armored Brigade should arrive from South in 6 - 9 hours, but in the meantime 5th Panzer Division will have to face three Soviet and two East German Divisions, supported by two Missile Brigade, two Attack Helicopter Regiments and one Air Assault Brigade. 

Victory locations for Warsaw Pact heavily suggest the main axis of advance for 1st GTA. 
NATO gets VPs  by inflicting Attrition to WP Combat Units, so my plan is quite simple: inflict as much losses as possible, as stopping a full-strength Soviet Army is probably out of question.

Initial Deployment and WP Victory Point Locations

D+0 0600 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact immediately plays Action Card 01 - Air Strikes and proceeds to bomb NATO covering forces and WG 5Pz HQ, inflicting damage and decreasing targets' mobility.

WP also plays Action Card 04 - Rote Armee Fraktion: the attack is successful and a truck bomb destroys US V Corps HQ building, killing most of the top Commanding Officers. This will impose a considerable delay on NATO reaction time. 

To complete the bleak picture,  Soviet 35th Guards Air Assault Brigade takes control of all bridges on river Ohm, cutting out the fastest route for assembling 5 PanzerDivision units.
East German 4th Motorized Rifle and Soviet 11th Guards Tank Divisions, first echelon of 1st GTA, cross the Inner German Border at 0600ZT.

D+0 0600 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO must already handle several crisis. 14/5Pz Bde is tasked with forming a first defense line right behind the covering forces, while 13/5Pz Bde will retake at least one bridge from Soviet Paratroopers.

D+0 0900 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact advances using Hasty Assault. WG covering forces inflict some losses and are able to disengage thanks to Close Air Support.

D+0 0900 ZT - NATO Phase

WG 13/5Pz Bde repeatedly attacks Soviet Airmobile Infantry Battalion defending Marburg. The Paratroopers try to hold ground against the first assaults. When they finally decide to disengage it's too late and their position is overran.The few survivors surrender to WG 134 Panzer Battalion.

D+0 1200 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

1st Guards Tank Army first echelon Divisions keeps advancing, with West German covering forces doing their best to slow them down without being decisively engaged. NATO air interdiction and support is decisive to this end, but still desperately scarce.

D+0 1200 ZT - NATO Phase

WG 13/5 Panzer Bde continues hammering Soviet Paratroopers. The price in time and attrition is starting to worry me, but NATO needs those roads cleaned up to keep the supply lines opened.

D+0 1500 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Covering forces weren't able to blow up key bridges on Fulda river, so several vital NATO aircraft must be used to destroy them with air strikes. Warsaw Pact finally succeeds into engaging West German retreating forces, forcing them to execute a couple of difficult disengagements.

D+0 1500 ZT - NATO Phase

US V Corps HQ destruction during the first hours of war is slowing down all the operations, particularly the preparation of an advanced FARP for 5th Panzer Attack Helicopters Battalion. Without them, the Division does not have sufficient fire support. 

More attacks against Soviet Paratroopers entrenched near Marburg, now nearing the breaking point...finally. Despite this, Soviet control of the bridges forces WG 15/5Pz Bde to take the Southern route along Autobahn 5 to get into position.

D+0 1800 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Soviet 11th Guards Tank Division succeeds in moving past covering forces and breaks free. Trying to avoid complete disaster, NATO air strikes interdict the bridges built by Soviet engineers over Fulda river, slowing down first echelon's advance.

West German covering forces are in real trouble as combat attrition is reaching the limit. 

D+0 1800 ZT - NATO Phase

Survivors of WG 154/15/5Pz Battalion are killed by a violent artillery bombardment, putting an end to their  vital covering action. Luckily, 14/5Pz Brigade is almost ready to take their place, even though there's no time to organize troops properly. I'll have to stay in Tactical Posture, as changing to Defense would require more troops screening the battalions during deployment.

WG 13/5Pz Brigade renews the assault against Paratroopers holding the bridge on Ohm river. One Soviet Battalion doesn't want to give up.

D+0 2100 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

NATO plays Action Card 01 - AWACS, giving a good advantage in AA fire against Pact's aircraft.

Engineers unavailability and NATO opposition slow down East German 4th Motorized Rifle Division crossing of Fulda river. As the unit already incurred in heavy losses and has too few self-propelled guns, Warsaw Pact is probably going to replace it with second-echelon EG 7th Panzer Division.

To the South, Soviet 11th Guards Tank Division change its advance axis to North-West, with Schwamlstadt as probable objective.

D+0 2100 ZT - NATO Phase

More NATO attacks against Soviet 35th Guards Airborne Assault Brigade. Damned Bolshevist fanatics. They have no more artillery ammo, half of their men are dead but they're still fighting.

The good news are that US 3rd Brigade, 3rd Armored Division finally arrived and took charge of the Alsfeld area defense. This should allow me to keep 13/5Pz Brigade as operational reserve, of course when it will finish the mop-up operations on river Ohm.

D+1 0000 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact uses the first night hours for some rest / refit, particularly for artillery units which kept firing uninterruptedly for the last 18 hours. 

Soviet air strike against WG 14/5Pz Bde HQ, causing severe damage.

D+1 0000 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO plays Action Cards 01 - Wild Weasel and 06 - Air Strikes. This should lower WP Anti-Air effectiveness and allow me a couple of surgical air strikes.

The first air strike, against Soviet 11th Guards Tank Division HQ, is a success as the HQ is destroyed. This should slow down the whole enemy Division considerably. Second air strike targets Soviet 2/841 SP Artillery Battalion, inflicting some losses.

WG 13/5Pz Bde finally crushes the last resistance from Soviet paratroopers and gains control of the bridge.

D+1 0300 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Again, Warsaw Pact uses the night hours for resting / refitting several units. Moreover, East German 7th Panzer is brought forward to replace the tired 4th Motorized Rifle Division.

D+1 0300 ZT - NATO Phase

Last units of Soviet 35th Guards Air Assault Brigade are finally destroyed. 

D+1 0600 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Soviet 11th Guards Tank Division, having reconstructed its HQ, launches heavy attacks against WG 15/5Pz Bde. Also, 20th Guards Motorized Rifle Division moves forward, possibly to take its place as Army's spearhead. 

D+1 0600 ZT - NATO Phase

An air strike against Soviet 3/841G Rocket Artillery is successful, destroying the Battalion.

NATO retreats the whole front line 5 - 10 km to the West, hoping to gain enough time to better organize the defense.

D+1 0900 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact fill the gap left by NATO retreating units, and brings 20th Guards MRD forward.

D+1 0900 ZT - NATO Phase

Further disengagement of NATO forces. I need some time to recover, too many combat units are reaching the breaking point. Unfortunately, a couple of units failed to disengage or are forced to hold their position to cover the retreat.

D+1 1200 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact renews full-scale assaults against NATO front line, with fresh 20th Guards and 7th Panzer Divisions taking the lead role. Overall situation quite critical.

D+1 1200 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO must commit 13/5Pz Brigade, its only reserve formation, as both WG 15/5Pz Bde and US 3/3AD Bde are reaching the breaking point.

D+1 1500 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

Warsaw Pact all-out assaults along the whole front line, with Soviet 20th Guards MRD breaking  through WG 15/5Pz Bde defenses. Fresh, second-echelon forces are proving too much to handle for NATO. 

D+1 1500 ZT - NATO Phase

NATO tries to districate its defense line, with mixed success. Anyway, I've not much space left to trade for time.

D+1 1800 ZT - Warsaw Pact Phase

More breakthroughs from Soviet 20th Guards MRD and EG 7th Panzer put WG 14/5Pz Bde in a very dangerous situation.

Let's Call It A Day

Final result: Warsaw Pact Marginal Victory, on the verge of Substantial Victory.

As NATO Commander, I've made several critical errors.

The worst error has been not giving the right priority to the preparation of FARP bases for West German Attack Helicopters, already delayed by the destruction of US V Corps HQ. Attack Helicopters were able to give support to 5th Panzer Division only starting from D+1, 0300 - definitely too late.

The second error is probably a consequence of the first: I overestimated the defense capabilities of West German brigades and tried to establish a defensive line too forward. With few artillery and no helicopter support, the line was quickly pushed back leaving me no time for deploying units in Defense mode. 

In the end, I've spent most of time trying to catch up emergency situations, and I was never able to organize a solid defense with a decent artillery and reserve units support.

Luckily, in my opinion Warsaw Pact made some errors too:

  • Soviet 35th Guards Air Assault Brigade landing zones were too far West. Instead, taking control of the West bank of river Fulda would have prevented NATO from establishing a decent defense line and probably allowed Warsaw Pact to advance almost unopposed to Homberg.
  • Probe attacks to engage the defender and open up the way for the main assault worked well, but increased Warsaw Pact losses considerably and gave NATO extra Victory Points.
Now, time to step out from the soap-box and move to the next playtest session for Scenario nr. 3 - Spearhead.