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AAR: Operation Black Bag
By Thomas Barclay

This Page: Who, When and Where   After Action Report   Post-Battle Analysis

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Who, Where and When Back to Top

Players involved in this Stargrunt game were: Gary Kett, Thomas Barclay, and Derek McQuay. The game was played in Kingston at Gary's place on a 10' x 6' table. The game took about three hours to run. Gary and Derek ran the surprisingly effective Militia, Tom ran the UNSIA Special Operations Detachment. The game was played during summer 2001.

To give the game a historical context, it would have been performed on a colony world with two competing ethnic groups involved in a bloody conflict replete with "ethnic cleansing" and other attrocities. One of the powers (or an NGO) calls in the UN to investigate and the UN authorities in turn call in the UNSIA to execute a snatch-and-grab (black bag operation!) and return the worst criminals, the enemy leaders, to face trial in from of the appropriate court. This would likely have been conducted prior to the Kra'Vak menace being identified, so probably the early 2180s.

After Action Report Back to Top

UNSIA Special Operations Group Saphhire
After-Action Report
Operation Black Bag
[DELETED], 2182
[DELETED]

As reported by Sgt. [DELETED], Engineer for SOG Saphhire:

The narrative picks up after the team has breached the enemy frontier, moved to the objective, captured the target, and is in the process of extracting from enemy territory

Our team, lead by Lt. Malakai and Sgt. Peshwari, had so far met little resistance. We'd captured the belligerent officers who were the target of the operation, and fully expected to return them successfully to friendly territory in custody for transfer to the custody of the United Nations Plenipotentiary Court for trial. It appeared to us quite likely they would be delivered without incident, and that they would be tried for violations of the UN Accords on Human Rights, the UN Articles of Warfare and the New Geneva Conventions on Warfare.

We were exfiltrating from the belligerent colony exactly as we had entered - reversing our steps. To enter, we had disabled part of the electronic frontier and accompanying minefields. On our return, we were heading back to the disabled part of the minefield frontier. Our goal was to cross through the forested region near the border, pass through the enemy minefield, cross the demarkation river, pass through the friendly minefield, and deliver our guests into the hands of the authorities.

We had split into two diamonds of four men each - one under Sgt. Peshwari, one under Lt. Malakai. Each took a prisoner. Sgt. Peshwari had Miroslav Krycic, a local police commandant reknowned for torturing and killing prisoners and for shooting surrendering enemies. Lt. Malakai had Adrianna Kinova, a local paramilitary commander guilty of "ethnic cleansings". Each team took a different route to the extraction point. The idea was to minimize the chances of being caught, and to allow at least one team to get away if the situation went bad.

Things went from seemingly smooth to quite problematic very soon after we departed the target's home area with the prisoners. Pursuit was joined by a sizeable body of armed men - estimated to be 30-35 men in size - a platoon of enemy regulars.

Both of our squads made good progress through the woods towards our extraction points, while we were feeling fresh. However, the enemy began pursuit very quickly after our departure from the target point and were very close on our heels.

About 250 meters short of the river, Lt. Malakai's squad was surprised by an enemy formation. They were taken under fire before they could react from very close range. In the first exchange of fire, the team marksman was killed, the prisoner was killed, and the team SAW gunner (the other engineer) was wounded. Only the Lt. Malakai and the team medic remained standing. They attempted to return fire, but their fire was ineffectual.

We continued moving towards the objective, but as soon as we had opportunity due to a clearing in the tree cover, Sgt. Peshwari ordered our marksman to begin engaging the enemy unit pinning our squad. Despite the enemy squad being within 40 meters of our command squad, and our squad being over 400 meters away, our marksman began to engage the enemy squad. Sgt. Peshwari obviously intended to break the enemy squad with sniper fire and thus allow the command squad to escape.

During this period, several other enemy squads began to be heard crashing through the bush in hot pursuit of our squad.

Our marksman found at least one target in the enemy squad, but we seemed unable to sufficiently suppress them such that the command squad could extricate themselves. We kept moving, but we ran into some very thick thickets and moved slowly. The squads pursuing us seemed to be gaining but we could not see them nor they see us yet.

Sgt. Peshwari unfortunately lost sight of the mission objectives in attempting to free Lt. Malakai's squad. Perhaps if luck had been better, his strategy would have played out differently. As it was, our squad moved too slowly, and the enemy was upon us. They appeared from the woods 60 meters away, and began cutting down our squad members with very effective rifle fire from two squads. At least 15 rifles engaged our position with burst and grenades. Sgt. Peshwari and our medic were killed instantly, and I saw our marksman fall and be captured. Being the only member of the squad left standing, I immediately thought to try to get to the wounded man and extract himself and myself.

The enemy were to wise to give us an opportunity to regroup. Both squads assaulted our position. I'll admit that twenty to one odds seemed like sure suicide to me, so I withdrew from the position and I was unable to rescue my comrade.

Lt. Malakai's squad had remained pinned and continued to take casualties (the medic was slain as was the wounded engineer). Realizing what a hash had been made of the mission, his last transmission to me was "Get the Hell home! Someone's got to tell them how badly I f*(&^d up. Screw the prisoner, just get out if you can. I'm done. I just took a hit in the leg. Godspeed."

With Lt. Malakai's words ringing in my ears, I pulled executed an emergency breakaway and dropped my pack, my extra ammo, and I ran for the river. Fortunately, my physical conditioning was good and I made it through the compromised part of the frontier, and down the bank into the river.

The two enemy squads pursued me through the forest. I could hear them crashing behind me, and imagined them like wolves at my heels.

I must have walked on water to cross the river, so much haste was I in. Unfortunately, my haste to flee from the impending enemy forces (due to my fear they'd fire into my back as I crossed the river or climbed the far bank), I became disoriented.

In my confused (and unknowing) state, I proceeded to what I thought was the disabled part of the friendly minefield. Much to my chagrin, this part of the minefield was live and I set off an AP mine. The mine injured me and the blast knocked me unconscious.

When I became conscious again, a patrol of friendly troops was standing around me and their medic was treating me. They told me I'd missed my target point on their side of the river by about 75 meters. They bandaged me and treated my wounds and then I was medevac'd to a nearby hospital.

End of recorded testimony

Post-Battle Analysis Back to Top

The defeat of the Special Ops troops was probably avoidable. If the Spec Ops commander had thought more clearly and had a little luck, he could have achieved at least a draw with relative ease. If said same commander had a bit more luck and his plan had worked out, he might have managed a minor or even a decisive victory. Instead, he got served the classic dish known as "Defeat in Detail".

Militia Tactics:

The militia started out in a stern chase situation. They were chasing troops that moved as fast as they did, had to spot the enemy to engage them, and started a turn or two behind with a bit of a staggered entry. The Militia were unlucky that their first entry unit was a Green unit, but their aggressive movement (and some good rolls for same) really made the difference.

This aggressive movement by the first squad on the board allowed them to pin the Spec Ops command unit (whose movement rolls can only be declared "stinky") by point-blank range volley fire, and allowed their trailing units to catch up. It also presented the Spec Ops commander with the opportunity to make a rather large mistake in not taking his second unit off board with its prisoner. Instead, this action by the Militia gave the Spec Ops commander a chance to become mired in combat and open up his entire unit to destruction by the pursuing force.

Secondly, the Militia players were canny because they moved in very close to give their Green unit good direct-fire dice, but wisely neglected to enter close assault with the far more lethal Spec Ops forces. This close range fire pinned the Spec Ops command unit in place until it could be destroyed and blocked effective command transfers.

Lastly, when the forces (2 Militia squads) caught up with the unpinned Spec Ops force (a rude surprise a turn sooner than estimated), they promptly applied fire then declared a joint close assault the following turn. This combination allowed them to do some substantial damage to the assaulted unit with weapons' fire, then to overrun said small unit with a vast weight of numbers. This allowed even Regular troopers to wipe the floor with Spec Ops. (see this article on making numbers weigh in close assault).

Spec Ops Tactics:

On the Spec Ops side, it was a decidedly poor series of choices on the behalf of the Spec Ops commander (the author of this critique) that allowed the enemy to obliterate his unit. His faults happened at a variety of points, from the initial on-board deployment through the later combats right up to one final "insult to injury" mistake at the last turn of the game.

The first mistake that was made was allowing the two elements to scatter far enough to make mutual support problematic. Initially, it was felt that the presence of Marksmen would allow mutual support across the board, and the advantages of not allowing the enemy to concentrate (or denying him half the prize if he chose to) were key, whereas in retrospect, mutual support would have been more useful.

The second mistake was in not rolling better. The movement rolls were mediocre, allowing the enemy to catch up. The suppression removal rolls were consistently 1, thus failing to remove suppression from the command squad. Sniper fire, despite being in the second or third range band, was ineffectual. Armour checks were failed with alarming frequency given the small force size. All in all, Murphy was in a Black Mood and chose to share his displeasure with Spec Ops that day.

The third mistake was the decision on behalf of the second Spec Ops fireteam to attempt to rescue the first fireteam. It was reached with a couple of underlying assumptions which proved false: The assumption that the sniper fire would be effective and would relieve the pressure on the command unit (how hard can it be to break the morale of a Green unit with fire in RB3? Apparently impossible with bad dice), the assumption that the other enemy forces were too far away to arrive expediently (they arrived a turn sooner than predicted with disasterous results), and the assumption that rescuing the command team was more important than getting one prisoner across the border (a laudible personal sentiment, disasterous in a commander). This mistake turned the mission from a bit of a mess into an outright drubbing of the Spec Ops side.

The last mistake, to add insult to injury, was having the lone surviving Spec Ops soldier forget where the safe lane through the two minefields was and end up detonating a CDM on the "friendly" side and getting wounded as he ran for his life....all in all, a pretty bad day for Spec Ops and a pretty poor day for clear tactical thinking period.

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