Sunday, 10 October 2010

"Les Affreux"

Today I have been to North Africa ... well, the wargame I played was set there, so I suppose that is where I have been in my imagination!

Over the past few years, a group of us has tried to have a wargame every month or so. Work and other things have conspired to make this difficult sometimes, but today was one of the occasions when everything seemed to come together, and we managed to stage a wargame ... and what an interesting one it was!

The game was set during the late 1960s, when mercenaries were both a dirty word and a (deniable) instrument of some countries' international policies. The scenario concerned the attempt by a group of mainly French mercenaries (almost all ex-Foreign Legion Paratroops) to release a kidnapped and imprisoned African leader. The leader had been taken by his kidnappers to a 'friendly' North African country, where he was 'housed' in a well-protected barrack block in a small town some twenty miles from the coast.

I was one of the French ex-Foreign Legion Paratroops, and it was a pleasure to meet so many of my old comrades in as bar in Marseilles, especially my old boss Colonel D*****d. Over a glass or three of 'pinard', we reminisced about our time in Indo-China, Algeria, and the Congo, and when the Colonel announced that there was a 'job' in the offing, we all jumped at the chance to serve together again, especially as it involved the release of our old political paymaster.

After scouring Europe and the Near East for weapons and equipment (well, Lisbon, Split, and Beirut), we had the men and equipment necessary for the task ahead. But before the mission could be mounted, we needed up-to-date information about the target, and the leader of the British mercenaries (a Greek Cypriot) volunteered for the task.

His report indicated that the town had an airstrip which was used by the country's Air Force, and that at least four MIG-17s were based there. The airstrip was also protected by two 57mm anti-aircraft guns. He saw at least two platoons of troops guarding the barracks where the African leader was 'housed', but saw no other defenders. It was on this intelligence that we based our plan of attack.

The target, looking north west from the south east corner of the town. The barracks block is the brown building with the two watchtowers, gatehouse, and barbed wire.
Another view of the town.
The airstrip, with the MIG-17s parked in dispersal areas along the edge of the runway.
A view of the airstrip taken from the window of a light aircraft.
Having assembled in Corsica, our party sailed to the North African coast in a fishing vessel hired from a group of smugglers. During the early evening we went ashore unseen and embarked in a lorry and van that were also hired from the smugglers. We then drove the twenty miles to the target, arriving just after dusk. One party was left to set up an ambush position on the edge of town, supported by the group's mortar, whilst the rest of the French mercenaries, assisted by a group of Belgians, moved towards the barracks. The British mercenaries went separately along the edge of the airstrip to put the 57mm anti-aircraft guns out of action.

My task was to assist in the main assault on the barrack block by guarding the perimeter whilst the assault group went in, and then to assist in the exfiltration of the rescued African leader.

My team of men. All expert fighters and men I could rely on ... which was probably just as well in view of how things turned out!
Everything went according to plan until the main assault group reached the barbed wire around the barracks ... and then all hell let lose!

The assault team managed to get through the wire, and blew a hole in the wall of the barracks. They then threw in stun grenades, which they followed up with a barrage of automatic fire. In response, the defenders fought back with an unexpected level of ferocity, and several of the mercenaries were wounded.

The assault on the barracks.
My own group had pressed on to cover the southern flank of the assault ... and ran into murderous fire from the airstrip's control tower. Two of my men were lightly wounded, but we eventually managed to bypass the control tower and press on towards the 57mm anti-aircraft gun at the southern end of the runway. This had now become our objective as the British mercenary contingent had its hands full on the other side of the runway.

We managed to get close to the 57mm anti-aircraft gun in a 'liberated' car, but its capture resulted in three of my group suffering more serious wounds, and we were pinned down by fire from a nearby building.

Both 57mm anti-aircraft guns are now under the control of the mercenaries.
Using the captured 57mm anti-aircraft gun we managed to winkle out the enemy troops in the nearby building and the control tower, but whilst this was going on, things had taken a turn for the worse at the north end of the town.

Unknown to us, the assault on the barracks had not gone well, and the leader of the Belgian mercenaries managed to kill the African leader during the firefight in the barracks. In addition, reinforcements, that included light armoured vehicles, had arrived and had been ambushed as they tried to enter the town. The fighting was very intense, and the enemy suffered large numbers of casualties and lost several vehicles. In the end, however, numbers began to prevail, and the ambush party and the mortar team were forced southwards towards the remnants of the assault group.

At this point a light aircraft that had been hired to exfiltrate the African leader arrived, and his body and those of the mercenaries wounded in the fighting in the north were loaded aboard. There was a very unpleasant moment when the leader of the Belgian mercenaries was 'escorted' from the plane and forced to remain behind to continue the fight.

The light aircraft has taxied to a halt and the dead and wounded have been loaded aboard.
My troops were too far away to give any assistance to our colleagues fighting at the northern end of the runway.
During the fighting in the northern part of the town, the leader of the Belgian mercenaries was killed ... which saved me having to undertake the task later.

The enemy press forward warily, as they know that the mercenaries will fight to the last round and the last man ... unless, of course, they can get away!
Bang on time, the C47 that was supposed to exfiltrate us landed on the airstrip and taxied up to the north end, where the remnants of the assault group, the ambush team, and the mortar crews boarded unmolested by the enemy troops. My group attempted to reach the plane before it took off, but loading our wounded onto the truck took longer than expected, and it became apparent that we were not going to make it. We therefore drove south, and after a considerable journey managed to get away from our pursuers. The British mercenaries were in a similar position, and they went westwards in their truck and managed to make it back to the coast, where they sailed back to Corsica in the smuggler's fishing boat.

Was the mission a success? We did not manage to exfiltrate the African leader alive ... but we had his body, and it would serve as a rallying point for his people in the future. We also dealt a stinging blow on the enemy, and killed and wounded over one hundred of his troops for minimal losses. And finally, the traitorous Belgian was dead ... and his death was no loss to anyone except the CIA!

All-in-all it was a rattling good game, and everyone enjoyed themselves tremendously. I look forward to further games of this ilk ... now where did I put my beret, flack jacket, and FN rifle?


  1. An interesting and entertaining report!

  2. Looks a good game! Shame I couldn't be there but it was my only clear weekend for a while.


  3. Ross Mac,

    It was great game. A scenario based on real-life events, simple rules and good companions; what more could you ask for?

    All the best,


  4. Tim Gow,

    It is a pity that you were unable to make it, but there is always next time!

    I hope that John B will put on something similar at COW2011.

    All the best,


  5. The Eindeker made me smile! I had a mental view of the Belgian merc clinging to the wing.... :o))

  6. Bob, what rules did you use - an existing set or something cooked up for the scenario?


  7. Itmurnau,

    The rules were written by chap who organised this particular session for the group. They have never been officially published (although I think that they have appeared in THE NUGGET at some stage).

    The basics of the rules are quite simple. From what I can remember:
    1. Movement is by area. The larger areas are marked out on the tabletop with Sellotape, and smaller areas (e.g. buildings, aircraft parking bays) are marked out with templates.
    2. Men move 2 areas orthogonally if unwounded, 1 if wounded or dragging someone who is wounded.
    3. Vehicles move 3 areas in normal terrain, 2 cross-country.
    4. Each squad member is allocated a named card with any specialist details on it (e.g. Comms, Weapons Operator) and is then ‘given’ equipment from whatever is available (e.g. M60 & 3 belts of ammo, Flak Jacket, Medical Kit).
    5. Each squad throws a number of D6 dice when they fire, with automatic weapons ‘throwing’ more D6s than normal rifles and pistols. Squads fire as a unit at the same target.
    6. All hits count as wounds; men survive on a simple saving throw, with those with flak jackets having a better chance of survival.
    7. Wounded can be ‘treated’ by specialist squad members if they have a medical kit. Medical kits are given back to the umpire after they have been used.

    I hope this gives you some idea how they worked.

    All the best,