Tuesday, 4 August 2015

I was born in a crossfire hurricane

So this weekend was the forty-fifth anniversary of my being dragged, kicking and screaming into this world.  Attempts to organise a true Big Birthday Bash fell apart as one friend after another made their excuses until we were left with an expected attendance of just four of us.  So on the day I decided to just throw down the green sheet, lay out a Paradiso terrain and just have at it with the new toys I'd been collecting over the past two years using the FUBAR one-page rules.

The result looked a little something like this..

The scenario was a relatively simple one - Driven by their recent failures, the Paradisan Revolutionary Farmers had taken control of a fuel supply depot.  The local Army commander had decided to make a show of force and sent in a full platoon in APCs to clear them out.  Unfortunately El Capitan was in for a surprise.  In addition to their ramshackle technicals, one with a 50 cal, one with a recoilless rifle, the guerillas had managed to acquire a battered old T55 along with a crew of "advisors" to drive it.

The second surprise, and a major escalation of the situation in Paradiso, was that the leaders of neighbouring commnist state Culo Raton had decided to support the rebel farmers and had sent an infantry platoon reinforced with two more T55s across the border to take advantage of the confusion and secure the fuel depot for themselves.  In turn, the Paradisan Army was able to call for reinforcements in the form of a couple of M60 tanks.

Due to the jungle terrain being largely impassable to vehicles, most of the action was focussed along the road on one side of the field.  The rebels kicked things off with an ambush on one of the Paradisan APCs that knocked out its 30mm cannon.  But sadly due to a failed activation roll they were unable to pull back and relocate before the infantry piled out and assaulted the ambush position, killing the whole squad.

Meanwhile the other two army APCs entered the small built-up area (well... there was a diner and a garage, at least) and the remaining infantry debussed and cleared the area, setting up a command post in the diner.  The army plan was for a "hammer and anvil", with one squad engaging the rebels from one side while the other two squads swept in from the flank.  It was a great plan, except the "anvil" was delayed by the ambush just described, while the "hammer" just managed to get the buildings secured when they found themselves outflanked by the arriving Culo Raton APCs.

Things got a little confusing from there.  The guerillas' T55 trundled into action but had its weapons knocked out by cannon fire from an APC.  They then made good use of the weaponless hulk by parking it across the road, blocking the advance of the army's M60s. The arriving Culo Raton forces took out one of the Paradisan APCs with a shot to the rear, debussed their own infantry, then spent several turns brassing up the diner with their cannons, turning it into a smoking ruin and driving the occupants out.  The "hammer" suddenly found themselves under serious threat from the rear and started pulling back towards the facility (ironcally retreating *towards* their original objective.).

By the end of the game, the original rebel farmers had pretty much been wiped out apart from one technical that fled after scoring a mobility kill on one of the M60s.  The Culo Raton forces had gotten one squad to the edge of the fuel depot, along with one T55 that had managed to find a path through the jungle.  The Paradisan Army had managed to get a squad and a half of infantry to the edge of the depot, but its armoured support was cut off and unable to reach them and the rest of the platoon was falling back in disarray.

So let's see, Here we have the guerilla's T55 (a chinese die cast - £6.99 from Ebay) blocking the road for a Paradisan APC (an Old Crow sci-fi model, pretending to be an M113 like real-world APC) and two M60s (Academy 1/48 kits).  Side by side with the T55, the Academy kits are all way overscale, being closer to 1/41, but on the table they don't look too bad.  Since Paradiso is an imaginary nation, I have no qualms about using toys or fictional sci-fi wheeled and tracked vehicles to represent "real world" vehicles, as long as they look the part.
The Culo Raton APCs are the old Marbeth Designs "Hann'Mag" SF APCS that I bought about 20 years ago and have *finally* gotten on the wargames table :-).  They're lacking in details, but they were cheap at the time and do for a sort of BMP/BTR hybrid.  The turrets were an interesting find - on Amazon.co.uk I saw a "Combat Mission" set of 8 vehicle kits and 30 toy soldiers for the princely sum of £2.80.  When I bought one just to see what it was like, the soldiers turned out to be the worst examples of "green army men" I'd ever seen, and the vehicle kits turned out to be tiny cartoonish "pull back and go" toys, the sort of thing you might get with a Happy Meal.  But the turrets!  The turrets for the "M1 tank" kit were perfect for the Hann-Mags, and even buying six whole sets and just using the one turret from each, it still worked out cheaper than getting a similar turret sculpted and 3d printed by Shapeways.  Plus the rest of those kits make great Bits Box fodder (I've already got plans to use some of the other turrets on other APC models I have)


This was the debut for the Culo Raton army, which I originally bought a couple of years ago.  Looking for a fairly generic set of figures with Warsaw Pact equipment, I went for the Iraqi army from the Assault Group.  As I explained to the other players, I'd grown up on a steady diet of WWII movies, so naturally in my mind, bad guys wear grey uniforms.  So it was a natural choice when I came to paint my "OPFOR" for Paradiso.

All in all I was very happy with the look of the game.  As I've said before on an individual basis nothing is particularly well painted or modelled, but put together as a whole the effect is quite attractive and "realistic".  I think I've even won over Mi Hermano Philestino Jonesy, who has been known to argue at length against wargaming aesthetics in favour of pure practicality.  I like to think we're walking a sensible middle ground and still managing to end up with an attractive looking tabletop.

Ruleswise, FUBAR worked incredibly well.  Apart from the farmers who were largely wiped out, there were very few casualties in the game, but overall things felt right.  It was noted that concentration of fire was required to overload a units capacity for suppressions in order to cause significant casualties.  Simply trading fire between two squads/fireteams would likely just result in suppressions on both sides and a stalemate.  As an aside, we also found it best to break the 9 man Paradisan squads (modelled after US Army) into 2 fireteams for activations, while keeping the 6 man Culo Raton squads (modelled after Warsaw Pact) as single units.  I think that reflects the differences between Western and ex-Soviet infantry doctrines quite well.  You could argue that splitting the 9 man squad into two seperate units allows them to absorb twice as many suppressions as if they were a single unit, but I think things balance out overall.

The vehicle rules, always a bit of an afterthought for a primarily infantry based game like FUBAR,  were OK but felt a little lacking.  I'm looking at some of the many FUBAR variants for inspiration, and we're either going to wind up adopting one of them, or otherwise simply lifting out the vehicle combat rules from another wargame to give us the right flavour.

This was basically the sort of wargame I've been wanting to play for a long time - modernish equipment, lots of toys on the tabletop and a fun battle game with a nod to realism but not excessively constrained by it.  The Flying Lead/Pulp Alley/7TV "warband" type skirmish games are all good fun, but sometimes a chap has a need to command more men than he has fingers (and toes), sending armoured columns swooshing up the table, and occasionally stretching to reach a far corner of the tabletop.

As for the final result of the battle.... weeeeeeeeeel everyone on the day agreed that the point where we were forced to finish the game would almost make a good start for another wargame, with both sides having troops arriving adjacent to the objective.  But although the sides are still relatively equal, looking at the table in the cold light of day the Culo Raton forces are much better positioned for an attack on the depot from two sides, while the Paradisans don't have a solid defensive position and will be struggling to bring their supporting tanks to bear on the enemy.  So reluctantly, as I was the commander of the Paradisan "Anvil", I'd have to call this battle a victory for Culo Raton (if not the rebel farmers).

Putting this into the perspective of the ongoing mini campaign that I've documented on this blog previously, the Culo Raton intervention has threatened the Army's control of Secure supply of food and materiel.  A role of 5 on D6 means that campaign resource is sent back to the "uncontrolled" pool, leaving the campaign status as follows.

Farmers - Control of the Foothills of Monto Blanko. The Bridge at El Humber. The Goodwill Of The People.

Army - Secure base of operations at Verdaville. The Airfield at Los Anillcamino. The Sunrise Corp Processing Plant

Uncontrolled - Foreign media interest. The fertile Piso River valley. Support from the Church.  Secure supply of food and materiel.

Since this breaks the Army's winning streak, they've lost the ability to declare a raid on a specific campaign target.  So the next battle is totally up for grabs.  I have an idea to try something very different for a change. 


  1. A belated happy Birthday from all at the Duchy of Tradgardland!

    1. The Office of El Presidente de la Republico del San Paradiso issues a press release thanking the Ducal Envoy for the kind message, and expressing our wish that closer diplomatic ties between our two nations were possible, were it not for the pesky matter of the 250 year time difference.

  2. Many happy returns! I too attained the grand age of 45 this year, a few months back now. Welcome to aching bones and failing eyesight! ;-) This year was the first I have had to get prescription glasses... I've made do with hobby-specs for painting work for a couple of years now...