20 August 2014

After Action Report: Ate Up - A Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm AAR

Scott *Splusmer* Udell sends us this Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm preview AAR to whet our appetites for this upcoming post WW2 game

Published on 3 OCT 2013 6:16am by Scott Udell
  1. cold war, air combat, ground combat, strategic, europe, simulation, introduction, intermediate, turn-based igougo, pc, english, yes, moddable data files, operational

0600, July 24, Day 5: Itís finally happenedóthe balloonís gone up, weíve seen the elephant, insanity reigns.  I was TDY at Graf, and it took me four days just to get back to the unit - no short hop by chopper, not with MiGs thick as flies, and not that the unit was even still in the same place.  I canít believe I even rode part of the way in the back of a produce truckÖ.  But Iím here, just in time for the planning for our entry into the fray.

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Iím playing the ďAte UpĒ scenario, a medium-length scenario best played as NATO.  I usually make my settings to max out fog-of-war.  I do like to let the AI task artillery fires that I havenít given specific orders to - itís pretty good at hitting where itís needed.

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The Soviet 8th Guards Army has crossed the Main and is now holding many un-blown bridges across the river.  We think they took a pretty good beating in doing so - our forces certainly did in defending against them! - and they arenít advancing any more.  The intel weenies say that message traffic indicates they were to open a hole for the 1st Guards Tank Army, and weíve been given the assignment to plug that hole.

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My orders are to advance on and take the Main river crossings away from the Soviets, destroying any 8th Guards forces I encounter along the way.  Normally Iíd try to rush to the river and blow the bridges (some start blown), but youíll notice that several objectives are *east* of the river, so Iím going to have to plan an active defense instead of just ďturtlingĒ behind blown bridges and defending against other bridge-building attemptsÖ that should make things interesting.

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Our recon elements are formed up on the western edge of our AO.  Itís going to be at least another 40 minutes before weíll get even supporting elements - choppers and artillery - and an hour before any of the ground pounders start to reach the area.  So for now itís time to scout towards the Main.  Sure wish we had some of those choppers already - I hate sending these light scouts out like this.

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At the start of the scenario Iíve got a whole two platoons of light recon - unless Iím very careful they will be destroyed almost immediately upon contact with the enemy, but in so doing theyíll still have helped perform their main role, which is to let me know where the enemy is. 

The gray shaded areas on the left of the map are my setup zones, places where I can place the units.  I can mix and match all I want, but it behooves me to keep related elements together as best I can.  Flashpoint helps with that by putting colored triangle in the upper right of each counter - like colors are related units.  Still, my resources are so limited Iíll likely have to put some recon elements a fair distance from their HQ units. 

Things are further complicated by the fact that thereíre no really direct route to my main objectives - if I want to move forces quickly Iíll have to go out of my way to the north or south, and there are still issues  in those directions: to the north the road Iíd follow heads north off the battlefield, so Iíd have to have forces cross-country (and several bridges, including one blown) to head back south towards the objectives.  To the south Iíd either face cross-country travel or a bridge crossing at Reichelsheim thatís likely to be contested.

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Iíve set 2 Recon to scouting the northern routes.  In this shot Iíve changed the color and line with of my movement route lines, and set the game to show all friendly routes, all to help illustrate the plan better.  Iím sending one section up the road towards Niedernhausen despite the blown bridgeóthereís probably nothing there, but I hate to leave that long a stretch of road un-scouted ďjust in case.Ē

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1 Recon has responsibility for scouting the southern approaches.  Iím sending 1/1/1 along the very southern edge of the battlefield.  Itís not a likely route for either my forces or the enemy but itís another possibility that I hate to leave unexamined.  2/1 and 3/1 are the scouts most likely to encounter Soviet forces first - sorry, guys!  1 Reconís HQ will set up shop in some woods across the fields to the west of the southern end of the objective area.

Note that Iíve given movement orders to absolutely everyone.  Setup is one time when you can be certain youíll be able to do this (at least if youíve got the ďLimited Staff RuleĒ in effect).  I feel thatís within the spirit of command friction - assume itís part of the initial plan, and we know what happens to those upon contact with the enemy.  Changing these orders will be difficult, especially for those elements starting out or moving out of their HQís command radius.  Iíve used ďhasty moveĒ for all the orders - the units will be more likely to retreat from enemy contact with hasty orders, just what I want recon units to do.

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After my first turnís execution (Iím going to call them ďturnsĒ even though the reality is much more fluid than that - ďturnsĒ vary in length, and one side can even get two or more ďturnsĒ in a row before the other side), my recon elements have just about completed their initial routes without any contact with Soviet forces.  Youíll note, though, that two objectives have turned red, indicating the presence of enemy ground units (helicopters canít take possession of objectives).  With the EW levels right now I only get one order this turn, so I tell 2/1/1/ to cross over into Reichelsheim, then back over the Main and on to Beerfurm.

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Contact!  First direct enemy encounters.  First though, an overview of the turn.  As you can see, the Soviets have captured more objectives, and Iíve gotten one - one thatís now behind enemy lines! My recon elements in the north havenít found anything - I suppose I shouldnít be surprised.  The first supporting combat elements have arrived on the battlefield, and Iím glad I set the option to let the staff handle artillery as it pressed the new arrivals into service right away (I wouldíve had to wait some 20 game minutes to even issue the orders, let alone have metal arrive on target).  2/13th Infantry also arrived, so with the Cobras and the artillery I now have some ďteethĒ available.

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You can see from this close-up the point of contact.  Note 1 Reconís position - I didnít order it there, but because of the hasty move orders it withdrew when it contacted the enemy, suffering no loses.

I get more orders capacity this turn, so Iím ordering the infantry forward, leaving one order that I use to send an OH 3R2 to scout the areas my ground recon hasnít reached.  That always makes me nervous as the AI makes very effective use of its air defense assets.

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You canít see it here but there was quite a bit of spotting at Reichelsheim - the Soviets are there in force.  I need to issue some deliberate movement orders to my heavier units just to keep them in closer contact with the enemy - as it is now the disposition of the enemy units is unclear.  OH 3R2 did encounter enemy to the north, just west of Wersau, but withdrew from direct contact.  That positioning is a tad worrisome - note the several paths through the woods heading west from there.  Units can move down these paths and appear behind your lines, so Iíve got to keep these under observation.  I may move a recon unit in there to act as a tripwire.

More combat units have arrived, in particular my ďheaviesĒ (M1A1s), so I need to focus on getting those into the battle.

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Now the pictureís coming clearer, and itís not good looking - look at all that red!  This time my helicopters maintained contact, to the point of advancing then retreating (the AI did this) to be safe.  Intel is implying that a lot of the units arenít that strong,  but Iíve learned thatís often not perfect intel, and sometimes is quite far off, so I donít know how easy itís going to be to deal with.  My staff was effective in targeting artillery during the turn, including identifying and hitting hard an enemy HQ. 

Iíve ordered the units of 1/13th to move east of Niedernhausen - if the Soviets donít move down that woods path, I might try it myself.  Iíve also ordered elements of 2/13th to execute deliberate moves eastward.  Iím hoping a deliberate move will balance out speed with determination - Assault orders may have been better but Iím afraid theyíd take too long for the units to execute.  Iíve also ordered by MLRS to drop area saturation fire on the large concentration just across the Main from Crumbach.

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Arrghh!  In plotting orders last turn I looked at my MLRS unit and apparently managed to cancel my saturation fire order, so none fell!  At least my staff continued to make good general use of the artillery, and my attack copters have delivered some hurt on Soviet units, including the apparent destruction of a mortar unit.  Iíve reissued the area saturation fire order, and it should kick off in a few minutes.  Otherwise this turn was pretty quiet as my main combat units are still moving up towards the sound of the guns.  Note that the enemy AI has been making good use of smokescreens.

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Now thatís more like it!  My MLRS dropped their area saturation fire and seemed to put a lot of hurt on that concentration of Soviets - from the secondary explosions I think I took out a lot of vehicles.  Definitely plan on another such order for that area, but I canít right now as itís in the middle of repositioning (ordered by the AI).

In the south Iíd ordered a stack with an M1A1 unit and Cobras to assault Reichelsheim, but I didnít take into account the different form up and movement rates - the cobras moved out quickly and hit the objective alone, but with artillery support (including support that landed on the hex they were in - I can imagine seeing that from a real helicopter! - they managed to clear out the whole area.  Just north of there though, Soviet artillery fire hit the advance elements of 2/13th infantry and 2/69th armor and caused a load of hurt, virtually destroying 1/2/13th and even taking out a tank or two.  I sure wish Iíd ordered some smoke in the open fields to the east of the advance!

So, thatís what I do now: Iíve ordered a screen from near their current positions up northeast towards Crumbach, and Iíve ordered the ground and helo units to assault Crumbach from behind that screen - weíll see if it works!  Iíve also ordered the 1/13th in the north through the woods towards the Main.

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Aw, man, this is a mess.  My ďassaultĒ was poorly conceived: the smoke dropped and dissipated quickly, the helos again moved out quickly while the ground units still have yet to get moving.  My small assault on Reichelsheim seems to have gotten cancelled, and the 1/13th has yet to even start moving down the sylvan lane.  I really need to pay more attention to the time delay to implement new orders, especially now that my ďturnsĒ are taking longer and longer, so I have fewer chances to give new orders or to modify existing ones.

Iím going to take this next turn to drop another MLRS attack on the big cluster of Soviets, although that canít be it if my ground units canít get across the Main to take objectives on the east side.  Iím going to reorder the assault on Reichelsheim, but this time have put one artillery unit in direct support of the lead armor unit.

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The MLRS did its job again, delivering further significant damage on the Soviets to the east of the river, but the ground units still arenít getting much of anywhere.  The 1/13th did start moving, but the units to the front where hit by artillery fire as soon as they emerged from the woods and suffered some serious losses.

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Success in the south, disaster in the north, meat grinder in the center.  I took Reichelsheim, finally capturing an objective, but my assault towards Frankisch is at best grinding forward.  In the north, thoughÖ

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Öin the north, disaster - those units of 1/13th hit last turn were wiped out this turn.  The rest of the unit is still west of the woods, and now I face a dilemma:  if I let the units continue they may suffer the fate of the rest of the 1/13th, but I doubt I have the time to redirect them before the scenario ends (assuming I can get them ordered off their current path before they hit the strong, Hind-supported force that took out their brethren.

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While worrying about the 1/13th, I didnít realize how close to destruction the 2/13th was getting.  The assault on Crumbach has been repulsed, with the loss of much of the 2/13th.  The only viable unit is 2/2/13th, which was actually accompanying the assault in the south.  Now that southern force is the only viable group ready at this time, and theyíre quite some distance across open terrain from the highest-value objectives.  Many units have gone to resupply mode, and I ordered the MLRS to do so as wellóright now they didnít even have barrage capability, let alone area suppression, and I badly need that to hit the main mass of Soviet forces (oh for a nuke!  The game does have nukes, but this scenario doesnít).

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Well, thatís it.  I looked at where I was at and knew things were headed south, so I played out the last couple of hours of gameplay, mostly watching the further unraveling of my force.  The last three shots show the results - abysmal!  You can see that the Soviets took a pounding, but the sheer number of their units was too much for my mis-managed forces - they could throw up layer after layer of defenses before the objectives for me to wash against, or to hold my units in place to suffer under some very effective artillery.

Obviously you wouldnít want me for a strategy article, but I hope youíve enjoyed this walk-through!