Wednesday, 30 March 2022

A Target Of Opportunity

After the last mission, the squad needed a boost.

They acquired two new members:

Cpl Vikenti Novikoff has joined the army straight out of school, and was a fresh-faced youngster of 19. Despite this he'd already been in a few fights and was a corporal; his unwavering enthusiasm for Stalin had obviously made him a few friends in high places. Vikenti was armed with a rifle.

Pvt Vova Pavlov was another accountant, who had been called up recently. Lonely in his job, he saw the army as a chance to make friends and comrades. He was armed with an SMG.

A few days after the last mission, the squad were on patrol again. Sgt Petrov led the way, of course, along with Oleg and the two new members, Vikenti and Vova. It was Oleg, sent on ahead to scout for the enemy, who rushed back with exciting news. Just over the next rise was a road, and on the road was a broken-down German staff-car. There was an officer sat in it who was a colonel at the very least. And the escort was mostly nowhere to be see; they'd obviously rushed off to get help, leaving a coupleof soldiers on guard.

Quickly the Russians moved into position; killing a senior German officer would more than make up for the mess that was their last outing. 

Alexsei and Oleg approached the car along the cover of a wall. Meanwhile Vova and Vikenti moved into some trees on each side of the road. There was no time for a stealthy approach, and the Germans were quickly aware that they were in danger.

One of the sentries lost his nerve straight away and ducked into cover. But another soldier came running back along the road; obviously there were still some other Germans nearby.

Vova and Vikenti popped out of hiding, but the German response saw them both fall back in panic; for Vova this was the first time anyone had shot at him!

The Germans pressed forward aggressively, and even Alexsei found himself having to seek the protection of a wall.

Oleg wasn't having any of the Germans'  nonsense, though, and ignoring the bullets flying around him, he dropped the lead sentry. He them moved up to the car, providing covering fire which allowed Alexsei to move up as well.

In the background Vikenti was working his way back into the fight. The two sides exchanged fire over teh car, whose occupant wisely kept his head down.

(I treated the officer as a mostly non-combatant target, hidden in hard-cover in the car. If the Russians got within a couple of inches, or lobbed grenades, then they could attack him. But he would become an active fighter - armed with a pistol - if there were insufficient Germans to activate around the vehicle at any stage.)

Oleg threw a grenade towards the car, but misjudged the distance. It bounced past and instead took one of the sentries out of the fight.

Vikenti's fire caused the other sentry to seek better cover. The German officer, now basically unguarded, was forced to fight for his life, firing his pistol at Alexsei.

He got off a couple of rounds before Vikenti shot him in the back.

With the target killed Alexsei ordered the squad to fall back. This had been a good patrol and would help the squad's morale. Sadly Vova, who had cowered in fear through most of the action, departed the field somewhat faster than Alexsei would have liked. It would go into his report.

Vikenti crept away as the Germans fired a few half-hearted shots at him.

The squad has achieved their mission with no casualties, which gave them a welcome morale boost.

Vova's precipitous departure didn't attract any censure. And still down to four men the squad got the promise of two new members. Vikento acquired the Motivator skill, whilst the squad were given a freshly stocked medical kit. And it turned out that the officer they'd killed was very important indeed, and his death had severely dented German morale in this sector of the front. Finally, the day after the mission, Evgenii returned to the squad, recovered from his minor wound.

So all in all a good mission for our heroes. Who knows what adventures they will see next.

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Aggressive Patrol

The 'Five Men In Normandy' campaign continues. And I guess it's a real campaign if you manage to play at least two games.

After their losses, and one unexplained granting of leave, the squad acquired some new members. In Addition to Sgt Alexsei Petrov and Pvt Iosef Gurin, we now have:

Pvt Oleg Davidoff - Oleg is a career soldier and strong Party man. The latter had seen him mostly serving in a political role, but he'd recently been reassigned to front-line combat duties; maybe he upset someone higher up? Oleg is armed with a rifle.

Pvt Evgenii Ivanov - Evgenii was a tram-driver before the war. With his home town overrun by the Germans he found himself picking up a rifle to fight simply to stay alive. That said he hasn't seen a lot of action yet. He is also armed with a rifle.

Pvt Petya Chabin - Pvt Chabin is the son of a senior bureaucrat, and almost sees himself as royalty compared to the rest of the squad.. His parents were killed in Leningrad and he's now out for Nazi blood. Having seen a few fights he's certainly totted up a few kills, but is always looking to add more to his total. Petya is armed with an SMG.

So the squad has five men (Sgt Pavlov, Iosef, Oleg, Evgenii and Petya), and morale is good.

A couple of days after the action at the storehouse, Sgt Petrov's men are ordered on an aggressive patrol deep into enemy territory. They must press on across the board and at least a couple of them must exit the other side. However a German patrol is on a sweep in the opposite direction. Pavlov's men lurk ready to ambush them - in game terms this was a stealth mission, so the Germans had to spot the Soviets before any firing could take place.

Alexsei kept Iosef and Petya with him behind a small farm-building, whilst the two riflemen, Oleg and Evgenii lurked off to the left. The field of battle was very open; this would be a difficult mission.

I put the Germans in randomly determined positions but in a straight line. I also geared their random patrol movement so it emphasised them moving forward; if the Russians sat tight the Germans would eventually stumble onto them. The Germans had three riflemen, an NCO with an SMG and a sniper. The sniper set himself up behind a boulder to cover the advance of the rest of the patrol.

The Soviets sat tight. With the ground so open, any movement on their part would be spotted by multiple Germans. As it was the Germans moved forward far enough that they spotted the Russians first.

Initial wild fire from the German patrol saw Iosef and Petya seek better cover, briefly pinning them down.

The two rifleman popped up, and Oleg scored a kill, downing a German in the open.

Evgenii fell to the sniper, though.

Worse was to come. The German NCO threw a grenade towards the building, and Petya was caught in the blast. It was quite obvious that he was stone-dead.

Sgt Petrov's squad was already down by two men, and they'd yet to move forward. Iosef decided to rectify this; using the wall as cover he got himself in a position to hit the Germans advancing across the road. A spray of fire sent them scurrying for cover behind a wall.

He quickly followed up with a grenade, which seemed to quieten the Germans down. But maybe they were just stunned or wounded?

Oleg dropped another German, who quickly recovered but scuttled off to the cover of some trees.

Unfortunately the sniper then hit Oleg, putting him out of the fight. It was unclear how badly injured he was. This now left Iosef and Alexsei as the only active Soviets, so they both had to get across the table, or the mission would fail.

Iosef hopped over the wall and found the Germans there stunned, but alive. He didn't leave them that way. There would be two more notches on his kitchen-knife tonight.

Alexsei also moved along the wall, looking to engage the sniper, who was now currently the only active German.

He was forced to duck back from a near-miss.

But the sniper was so focused on Alexsei that he missed Iosef coming in from the flank. A burst of SMG fire stunned him.

The surviving German rifleman rejoined the fight, evening the odds, and allowing the sniper time to recover. This would be the final showdown.

Iosef fired his SMG again, and the sniper decided that he'd had enough and quit the field. Iosef followed up with a charge against the rifleman. He dodged the shot ...

... but not the German's bayonet. 

With Iosef out of the fight, Alexsei was on his own and had no way to complete the mission. He fell back, in a cat-and-mouse action with the surviving German. It was close, but he escaped.

So this mission was a total failure, and it showed up in the squad morale, which plummeted. 

What of the wounded members? 

Petya Chabin was obviously dead from the start. Fortunately Evgenii was only lightly wounded and would be back in action within a few days. And Oleg was simply stunned; reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated and he returned to camp tired and hungry but otherwise OK. He also brought back Iosef. He'd fared less well - he was badly wounded and the prognosis wasn't good. He'd live, but he'd be assigned to non-combat duties and would no longer be part of the squad.

Sgt Petrov picked up a new skill, the squad, such as it was, made sure they were even better equipped with grenades, and a few days passed during which they got some replacements. We'll hear about them in the next post.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Securing The Storehouse

With a game of 'Five Men In Normandy' under my belt to get the mechanisms clear (or at least consistent in my head), I thought that it would be fun to generate a squad according to the campaign rules and see what stories might drop out of it. Even if they were only good for a couple of game it would be worth the effort.

The rules allow you to randomly generate squads, and then add background and motivation to them. They then take part in a series of fights and you can plot the adventures of each member of the squad, seeing old members leave and new people join.

I decided to take a group of brave Soviets, and using the basic three rolls on the requisite table, got a four-man team -  obviously they were depleted by previous actions. I added in special equipment and backgrounds and got:

Sergeant Alexei Petrov - A former accountant, who now tallies up how many Germans he'd killed with his trusty revolver. He'd joined up for adventure, and had plenty of experience. Fighting at close range had made him an expert at ambush.

Corporal Nikolai Falin - A former factory worker who'd walked straight down to the recruiting office on the day that the Germans invaded and signed up for the glory of Mother Russia. In the few fights he'd been in he'd learned to keep his head down and avoid enemy fire (he has the Evasive Move skill). He was armed with a rifle.

Pvt Grigori Elin - Grigori had originally trained as a ballet-dancer, but like Nikolai had given it up in a burst of patriotic fervour. He'd only been in the army for a short time, though, and had yet to see any real action. He was also armed with a rifle.

Pvt Iosef Gurin - When you're an itinerant farm-worker and work is hard to come by the army offered food and security. That was the sole reason that Iosef was in uniform. All he wanted to do was stay safe and see the war out to the end. He was new to soldiering, but had somehow acquired an SMG for himself, and, much to his compatriots' amusement, carried a nasty looking kitchen-knife.

With two fervent patriots in the squad, morale was good.

Here's the squad before their first action - from left to right there's Nikolai, Grigori, Iosef and Alexsei. Yes, Alexsei does look more like an officer than a sergeant. It was the only pistol-armed figure I had (I must make some more).

They were soon in action, tasked with scouting out and securing a storehouse on a nearby farm to see if it would make a suitable forward command-post. Someone had to go inside and check that there were no booby-traps and that it was generally sound. The Germans in the area were active and aggressive, but the team would be followed up by a larger force, so once they'd secured the objective it was expected that the enemy would fall back to regroup.

I didn't get a photo of their initial position, but our heroes came in from the right. Nikolai took the right flank, ready to fend off any Germans coming from behind the low ride in that part of the battlefield. meanwhile Alexsei, who had decided that he would check the barn personally, led the two rookies Grigori and Iosef along a line of trees towards the objective. 

There were four Germans in the area. Two were behind the ridge and not visible to the team, whilst there were two soldiers behind rocks on the other side of the storehouse and orchard. Nikolai could just see them, but the rest of the team were invisible to them.

The first German moved out from behind the ridge. Nikolai dropped him with a single shot.

Alexsei had reached the end of the line of trees, and now needed to cut across a small area of open ground in order to reach the safety of the storehouse. But the Germans had reached the edge of the orchard, and a burst of SMG fire sent him scurrying for cover behind the orchard wall.

Grigori and Iosef moved up in support. So far the Germans had yet to spot Grigori.

Both sides spent a couple of turns moving into better positions (they both rolled a couple of  Scurry turns which allow movement but no firing). Iosef had both of the Germans on their side of the ridge in his sights now.

Whilst Iosef and Grigori kept the Germans busy, Alexsei moved to the storehouse. An easy win for the team was in sight.

But on the other flank a luger-armed officer had appeared. Grigori missed him, but the officer didn't miss Grigori, who fell, badly wounded and out of action.

Iosef forced the two Germans by the orchard to run for cover with some excellent (or lucky) suppressive fire). However this left his SMG jammed.

Undettered he pressed forward, dodging from cover to cover until he was within reach of the still startled Germans.

Then he went in with his knife. The first German didn't stand a chance.

The second charged over the ridge at him, but Iosef's trusty knife saw that one off as well.

Grigori had moved away from the storehouse door, in order to support Iosef. This allowed the sole surviving German - the officer - to creep round and surprise Alexsei, who was still attempting to secure the interior. Alexsei fired and missed, but the German didn't, and Alexsei was down.

On hearing the shots Grigori ran back and charged at the German with his bayonet, defeating him.

All was looking good for Iosef and Grigori, who could now complete the mission unopposed. However the Germans had reinforcements in the form of another rifleman. He trades shots with Iosef, whilst Grigori went into the storehouse to check on Alexsei and complete the mission.

Iosef kept the German at bay long enough, and Grigori secured the objective. The Germans, as expected, fell back as more Russians advanced.

Grigori and Iosef had survived, but what of Alexsei and Nikolai?

Nikolai was seriously wounded. So seriously that he would be invalided home - for him the war was over. Alexsei, though, had simply been stunned, and a swig of water and piece of black bread saw the wily sergeant back on his feet again, ready to lead his squad.

The squad has completed their mission with only two casualties, so that was a positive result. I then checked what happened in the period between this mission and the next. For some reason Grigori was granted two weeks' leave (despite only having recently arrived at the front), so we won't be seeing him for a while. However the squad also got some new members, who I will detail in the next post. Here they are, though.

In addition, Alexsei's friend in the quartermaster's stores, got them a few extra grenades, and the promise - only a promise, mind - of an LMG one day. 

Who knows what the next mission will be?

(The game flowed really well and I didn't have any real issues with the rules, although I think I'm gleefully interpreting a few things my own way. I tried random events and there were a few, although most didn't have that much effect on the game. I think the key one was towards the end, when Alexsei got a free action, allowing him to reach the storehouse door and get inside before the Germans could do much to stop him.)

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