Scenario – meeting engagent.
“Buffalo 2-7, this is Buffalo Six, do you copy?”
The Lieutenant toggled his ARPANet receiver.
“Buffalo Six, Buffalo 2-7, we copy, over”
A burst of static and then the company commander's voice came back online.
“Buffalo 2-7, we have co-ordinates for a downed Oxcart beacon, your orders are to move and secure the area. Co-ordinates to follow”
The Lieutenant's transceiver flashed into life, bringing up co-ordinates roughly a mile south and three miles east of the platoon's current position.
“I need hardly remind you, Lieutenant, that the A-12 is highly classified technology, it cannot fall into Soviet hands. We have to assume Ivan has also picked up the signal and will be moving to investigate.”
“Copy that sir – we're on our way”
The platoon sergeant already hand the Humvee's engine running. With a howl, the Rocketeer squad ignited their boosters and erupted into the air, submachineguns scanning the ground for hostiles.
The Lieutenant keyed his transceiver again. “Buffalo 2-7 – Move out!”
This scenario is a simple meeting engagement relying on victory points to determine the winner. Victory points are gained by occupying objectives and breaking enemy forces – the higher points value of the broken unit, the more victory points received. The victory trigger (as noted in the rulebook) is when one side has accumulated victory points to the level of 10% of the battle points value. 1000 points – 100 victory points to trigger a win.
1000 points is a good level for a platoon sized engagement with added support and special units and can be wrapped up within the space of a couple of hours. For this battle report, we kept notes and used a cellphone camera to take basic snaps of key moments in the battle.
Setup and deployment
We used the studio folding three piece table for this battle (it's first!) and placed six objectives – two on each folding piece.
Objective 1 – Downed A-12
Objective 2 – Cliff top
Objective 3 – Ruined department store
Objective 4 – centre of woods
Objective 5 – low hill
Objective 6 – Ruined tenement block
Generally, the more terrain the better is the rule with Apocalypse: Earth games – using true model's-eye-view to track lines of sight means that battles on open fields very quickly degenerate into tedious slugfests, where as dense terrain really allows for skill in infiltration and manoeuvre.
Atlantic AllianceBuffalo 2-7
HQ – Platoon Command Element
Alpha Squad – Rifle squad
Bravo Squad – Rifle squad
Charlie Squad – Missile squad
Delta squad – Light machinegun squad
For this battle, the squads would split down into two man fireteams.
Humvee with Automatic Grenade Launcher
Fire Support – Copperhead Artillery Strike
Soviets – Battleforce Malenkoy
No.1 Squad – Rifles
No.2 Squad – Rifles
No.3 Squad – Rifles
No.4 Squad – Heavy Weapons
T-40 x 3
Holy Mystic – Telekinesis, Pyrogenesis, Mind Control, Level 2 Upgrade
Setup and deployment -
The Soviets won the initiative (someone was asleep on the job!) and opted to deploy on the north edge of the table.
Having fought the Atlantic Alliance many times before during testing, the critical thing for a Soviet commander is to not lose momentum – the AA ability to split into fire teams allows them to dance around a larger force, outmanoeuvring and chopping up the less wieldy Soviet formations. The crucial thing is mass and concentration of force – if you can pin down those dainty little fireteams and destroy them, you can very quickly overwhelm the numerically small and brittle AA battlegroups. They punch hard, but they can't absorb much themselves.
With this principle in mind (and having scored the unexpected bonus of deployment edge choice!) I had a quick look at the terrain and formulated a rough plan. My rifle infantry and HQ would mass in the woods on the centre-left with the goal of taking objectives 4 and if possible 5. The heavy weapons squad would lug their heavy machineguns and mortars up the steep hill to take objective 2 – the machineguns would deploy atop the hill in cover where they could pour fire down on the Alliance forces below, while the rifle elements would act as spotters for the mortars to fire indirectly.
The tanks would go in the centre, with the goal of securing objective 1 and at least denying objective 3 to the Alliance. On the far right, seeing the opposition had only deployed a squad of jet pack infantry, I decided to take advantage of the Holy Mystic's status as an independent unit and give him and his bodyguard the task of taking objective 6 and destroying the pesky Rocketeers.
With this plan, I was confident of crushing the puny, decadent Americans!
Atlantic Alliance strategy:
Lost the initiative to the Soviets! Someone back at 28th Infantry HQ was going to get a chewing out – in all seriousness, the high initiative of the Atlantic Alliance is one of the key factors that goes towards making up for their inevitable numerical inferiority. Losing this advantage was a blow. Still, no use crying over spilt milk.
The Atlantic Alliance is almost invariably outnumbered by it's opponents, and experience has shown the best way to handle them is to get your forces into good positions to use the “deploy” skill and cut the enemy to pieces before counterattacking.
With this in mind, the first priority was to find good positions for my anti-tank weaponry. The only real tank country looked to be in the centre in front of objective 1, so I had to assume the Holy Soviet Army would be placing their T-40s there. To counter this, I positioned the Humvee with it's thermite-capable grenade launcher in the woods on my right, where it could use it's small size to get into a good camouflaged firing position, getting the enfilade/ defilade fire combination. Charlie squad deployed onto the centre left with the idea of deploying into cover on the low hilltop and getting the same advantage.
As deployment progressed it became clear that most of the Soviet infantry would be pushing through the woods on the right, so Alpha, Bravo and Delta squads were tasked with deploying into cover, taking objective 5 and inflicting sufficient casualties on them to successfully counterattack in the later phases of the game. This necessitated the Platoon Command Element to be deployed centrally to maintain platoon coherency.
The Rocketeers went on the far left to take objective 6 and their jet packs would enable them to work as a “fire brigade” unit, moving quickly to support units that might otherwise be overwhelmed, and last but not least the Stealth squad was placed centre left on the reverse slope of the low hill, with the plan of moving up into cover and denying objectives 2 and 3 to Soviet infantry.
Buffalo 2-7 was ready for battle – bring it on, Ivan!
Having won the initiative, the Holy Soviet Army opted to move first.
With a roar of diesel engines, T-40 Cherno Alfa burst forward at full throttle, hoping to engage the Alliance Humvee and neutralise the heavy weapon it carried. Unfortunately the small vehicle was too well hidden, so Alfa turned it's guns on the exposed infantrymen of Alpha Squad, killing three of the four riflemen with well aimed blasts from it's machineguns.
In response, fireteam Charlie 1 dived forwards into cover, bringing their Stinger/TOW launcher to bear on the next Soviet tank in line but the missile plowed into the ground short of it's intended target.
Hefting their mortars and heavy machine guns onto their shoulders, the Soviet Heavy Weapons Squad scrambled up the steep slopes towards objective 2. A moment of doubt and dread washed over the soldiers as they were briefly afflicted by Battle Fatigue, but their nerve held. Settling into position on the bluff overlooking the battlefield, the squad opened up on Charlie Squad with mortars, rifles and machine guns, dropping three of the Americans including the missile launcher.
Soviet Heavy Weapons Squad gain a commanding view of the battlefield
Over toward the woods, fireteam Bravo 1 ducked forwards into cover of a hedgerow, firing into No. 1 Rifle Squad and inflicting one kill. However the hedge proved boobytrapped with an incendiary device and suddenly erupted in flames! Luck was clearly not with the Atlantic Alliance so far, six infantrymen down out of only twenty-six to start with, with only one kill to set against it - and the first turn wasn't over yet!
No. 1 Squad fired back as they moved into the woods, targeting the Humvee and Bravo 2, but the Alliance infantry were too well covered and the Humvee's Roswellium panel upgrade deflected the one round that struck.
Determined not to simply react to events, the Rocketeer squad on the western edge of the Alliance deployment zone went onto the offensive, boosting off with their jetpacks to capture objective 3 and hosed the cowering Holy Mystic and his bodyguard with submachinegun fire, killing two bodyguards and suppressing the unit. Perhaps a break?
The third Soviet tank, Cherno Troika, spied an opportunity and gunned its engine, clouds of blue smoke erupting behind it. The cunning commander moved forward around the front of objective 1 to gain an enfilade fir opportunity on Delta squad, wiping Delta 1 and suppressing Delta 2.
With one Soviet tank still to move, the Alliance's Platoon Command Element came into play, moving forward into covered positions. Three assault rifles opened up on the Heavy Weapons Squad, killing a machinegunner, while the Lieutenant toggled his ARPANet switch to request a priority Copperhead fire support mission onto Cherno Duo, the only Soviet tank not yet activated. A kilometer away, a single 155mm gun from the Canadian battery deployed in support of the sector fired almost instantaneously. The laser guided shell bore through the turret, blowing out the armament and scoring a weapon kill on the tank.
Over in the woods, No. 2 Rifle Squad elected not to try and exchange fire with their opponents and double-timed deeper into the woods looking for cover, while the Stealth sniper team dove forward into cover, drew a bead on the Soviet CO – and missed!
No. 3 Rifle Squad followed their comrades, double-timing into advantageous positions in the woods, while the Humvee crew dove forwards into cover of their own and pumped three thermite grenades toward Cherno Alfa, blowing off a track and causing the fast moving take to slew into the downed A-12. This left it in the unfortunate position of being stuck at a forty five degree angle, turret and hull weaponry stuck facing skywards! An “official” mobility kill therefore became an effective weapon kill too. Behind it, the Soviet Lieutenant thought better of being in full view of the Alliance Stealth Squad sniperscope and moved forward into the woods to add weight to the rifle infantry assault.
Finally, Bravo 2 moved up into the hedgerows to get a better field of fire into the worryingly numerous oncoming Soviet infantry, killing the sergeant of No. 2 Squad. The brave frontoviki held their nerve, however – no doubt helped by the inspiring presence of their nearby Commissar! Alongside them, fireteam Alpha 1 took up position on objective 5, firing into the Heavy Weapons squad on the bluffs above them but failing to score a hit.
End Phase:The hedgerow fire caused by the incendiary booby trap continued unabated, smoke and flames licking at the Bravo Squad troops using the hedgerow for cover. However it didn't spread and despite raw eyes and coughing, caused no more casualties amongst the hard pressed Americans.
Fireteam Delta 1 shook off their suppression, steadied by the booming, reassuring voice of their indomitable platoon sergeant. Over on the Soviet right flank, however, the highy strung Holy Mystic failed to recover his nerve, with him and his remaining bodyguard retreating right off the table edge!
Holy Soviet Army – 63
Holding objectives 1 & 2 (20pts), Alpha, Bravo, Charlie & Delta squads (53pts)
Atlantic Alliance – 50
Holding objectivcs 3 & 5 (20pts), broke Holy Mystic, plus mobility kill on Cherno Alfa and weapon kill on Cherno Duo (30pts)
After Cherno Alfa's rampaging opening move, Charlie Squad did not target it with their Stinger/TOW launcher, instead turning the weapon on the next tank in formation. This was because Alfa had already been activated – tempting though it is to wreak vengeance on a tank that has gunned down three of your precious infantrymen, it's more important to target a vehicle or unit that hasn't been activated yet and therefore poses a far graver threat. Apocalypse: Earth is all about taking the initiative, rather than simply passively responding to your opponent!
The Atlantic Alliance won the initiative and elected to move first.
Having effectively crippled Cherno Alfa in the first turn, the Humvee crew quickly reloaded their grenade launcher with fragmentation ammo and with a squeal of tyres executed a violent handbrake turn, pulling across cover to let rip into No. 2 rifle squad, killing half the remaining infantry and suppressing the rest. On the other side of the battlefield, Cherno Troika gunned it's engine and moved forward to collect objective 6 in a cloud of diesel fumes. The turret shook as the main cannon and coaxial machine gun opened up on the Stealth squad, but the dastardly optical camouflage suits saved the two men from harm.
Safe in their vantage point, the sniper took careful aim on one of the Soviet heavy machinegunners on the heights around objective 2 – this time his aim was true, and the man's head exploded in a puff of red mist. The other squad members were instantly suppressed by this, ducking back into cover and cowering out of sight of this unseen executioner!
Realising that although he was now effectively unarmed, he was still alive and his tank still functional, Cherno Duo's driver threw his vehicle into gear and advanced to collect objective 1, hopefully blocking any fields of fire.
In the woods behind the Humvee, Bravo 2 decided to find some cover that wasn't on fire, moving forward into the bushes throwing smoke and frag grenades towards No. 3 squad. On discovering that they had suffered zero casualties from this onslaught, the squad dusted themselves off and run fall tilt towards objective 3, securing it. Seeing his buddies now hopelessly outnumbered, the lone surviving Alpha squad trooper quickly deployed onto objective and fired a burst from his assault rifle, dropping one of No. 3 squad's riflemen. Behind them, No. 1 squad fired on Bravo 2, but were defeated by cover and the drifting haze from their smoke grenade and had to be content with moving forward in support of the attack on objective 4.
Near the Alliance centre, Charlie squad's sole survivor sought vengeance for his squadmates, opening up on the only targets he could see – the Soviet Heavy Weapons squad. Two burst from his assault rifle dropped their sergeant – that squad was STAYING down!
Meanwhile the Soviet HQ section moved up behind the assaulting riflemen, maintaining platoon coherency. The rifle-armed members fired ineffectively on Bravo 2, while Lieutenant Malenkoy and his radio operator called in a supporting fire strike on the Humvee's position. Their Alliance counterparts deployed into cover and fired, also ineffectively, on the Soviet HQ, while Delta 1 reinforced the single Alpha squad trooper on objective 5, again targeting the Soviet HQ but this time with rather more success- dropping Lt. Malenkoy himself!
The Rocketeer squad swooped in to steal objective 1 from under the noses of the Soviet tanks, firing into No. 2 squad and causing a further casualty to the already-mauled squad.
Despite their heavy casualties, the stubborn survivors of both No. 2 squad and the comrades in the Heavy Weapons squad rallied themselves to rejoin the assault, while a deadly accurate fire mission destroyed the Humvee. The Roswellium armour couldn't protect the vehicle from the heavy artillery barrage and the three 105m shells tore it to pieces.
Holy Soviet Army – 72
Holding objectives 1 & 5 (20pts), broke Alpha, Bravo, Charlie & Delta squads (43pts), destroyed Humvee (9pts)
Atlantic Alliance – 50
Holding objectivcs 1 & 5 (20pts), broke Holy Mystic, plus mobility kill on Cherno Alfa and weapon kill on Cherno Duo (30pts)
Tactical Notes: Fire Support
This game showed the difference in fire support doctrine and capabilities between the Atlantic Alliance and Holy Soviet Army. Due to the sophisticated ARPANet link, the Alliance lieutenant was able to instantly receive his Copperhead strike, whereas the Soviet gunners took until the end phase to respond. This means that AA fire support is much more usable, whereas a Soviet commander must target a unit or vehicle that has already moved in order to make sure that the target doesn't simply move out of the way!
The Holy Soviet Empire won the initiative and elected to move first.
The Heavy Weapons Squad yelled defiantly as they charged back up the hill to regain objective 2 – and were immediately hit by fire from the Alliance Stealth sniper and the sole survivor of Charlie Squad who had been waiting on overwatch for just such an eventuality! Despite losing a further two members to sniper and assault rifle fire, this time their morale refused to break, and regaining their heavy machineguns they brought a Rocketeer crashing to the ground. Meanwhile the mortar teams fired on both Charlie and the Stealth team. Charlie's sole remaining squad member was hit but his body armour saved him, the shell fragment lodging itself in his concealed hip flask. The trooper swore bitterly, seeing his precious home brew leaking out onto the earth.
Rather than responding to this threat, the Rocketeer squad engaged boosters and vaulted over the bluff, sailing over objective 2 and the amazed Heavy Weapon Squad and coming to rest directly behind Soviet HQ. “Surprise!” yelled the Rocketeer sergeant before he and his squad massacred the HQ to a man at point blank range. Somehow, despite the loss of first their officer but now their Commissar and the entire command team, the Soviet line held.
Seething with rage at what he had just seen, Cherno Troika's commander ordered the tank into action to roll up the Alliance flank, but the fortunes of war struck again and the tank's diesel engine sputtered and died. Enraged, the tank crew opened up on the Stealth squad with everything they had. This time, not even his sophisticated optical camouflage suits could save the sniper and the spotter could only watch as the hail of cannon and machinegun fire blew his comrade into dust.
The Alliance platoon command element decided to stick where they were, deploying into cover to maximise their safety and firepower. However, despite opening up on the Soviet Heavy Weapons Squad with everything they had, they scored no hits. Not so for No. 2 Rifle Squad who reacted to the sudden appearance of the Rocketeer squad by ducking into cover, wheeling around and managing to bring down one of the hovering infantrymen. This victory, however, was quickly punished by the sole remaining Alpha Squad trooper, who was now presented with an excellent enfilade shot into No. 2 squad and promptly dropped two of them.
However, in the woods around objective 4 the sheer weight of Soviet numerical superiority was starting to tell. No. 3 squad charged Bravo 2, losing a man to overwatch fire but still overwhelming the Alliance fireteam in close combat. Recovering from the slaughter, the squad was promptly hit by close range overwatch fire from Delta 1, losing all but one of its members in a hail of assault rifle and light machinegun fire. In the closing moments of the battle, No.1 squad got close enough to the heights to recapture objective two.
Bravo 2 is overrun in close combat
With practically nothing left of his platoon, the Alliance commander was left with no alternative but to retreat. His command had managed to inflict sufficient losses on the Soviets that they were unable to secure the downed A-12, and as the remains of Buffalo 2-7 pulled back from the field carrying their dead and wounded, an F-4 strike obliterated the precious airframe, preserving its secrets for another day.
Holy Soviet Army – 112
Holding objectives 1, 2, 4, & 6 (40pts), broke Alpha, Bravo, Charlie & Delta squads (43pts), the Rocketeers and Stealth squads (20pts), destroyed Humvee (9pts)
Atlantic Alliance – 66
Holding objective 5 (10pts), broke Holy Mystic, plus mobility kill on Cherno Alfa and weapon kill on Cherno Duo (30pts), broke or destroyed Soviet HQ, No. 1 and 3 squads (26pts)
Holy Soviet Empire debriefing:
A resounding Soviet victory then – but it was closer than it looked on paper. Two out of three tanks destroyed, the headquarters unit wiped out, Holy Mystic routed and my assaulting rifle infantry were down to nine men between the three squads. There was no way this was enough to secure the crash site, so we agreed that the Soviets were unable to take possession of the down ed A-12 and the retreating Alliance remnants called down an airstrike to destroy it.
Heavy losses are inevitable when you're a Soviet commander, so I'm fairly sanguine about the fate of my rifle squads – they did their jobs and died for their Emperor! What I should have done differently is kept to my own principle of force concentration – the Holy Mystic served no purpose out on the right flank on his own. Deployed in support of the assault through the woods he could really have sped things along. Still, no point crying over spilt milk – a new round of draft notices have already been issued, and we'll be back!
Atlantic Alliance debriefing:
Damn it! All those lives lost, and what did we gain? Nothing! Still, it's worth realising I had some appalling luck with the dice – who loses initiative twice with a rating of 4 to an opponent with a rating of 2? And it's worth noting that I suffered most of my casualties on that first catastrophic turn, when my force was at its most vulnerable and when an Alliance commander would normally expect to have the drop on his opponent.
My plan was largely sound, but one thing I would do differently is be more aggressive with the Rocketeers. They were the perfect antidote to the firepower of the Soviet Heavy Weapons Squad and should have been used to annihilate them, leaving the Humvee and Charlie Squad to hit the Soviet armour.
Still, every time I play the Atlantic Alliance, I learn something. There'll be a reckoning soon enough, Ivan!