Sunday, May 20, 2007

Flight From Tashacklabad

I ran this scenario for Savage Sunday (my bi-weekly Savage Worlds game). I wanted to try out integrating Savage Worlds wildcards into a Contemptible Little Armies game so that I could, in the future, possibly use CLA as an even faster, more furious, and just as fun method for working out MASS COMBAT on the tabletop. I also wanted to try it out to potentially add characters to CLA Back of Beyond games that are a bit more interesting (and personally effective on the table top…) than the ones presented in the Back of Beyond book.

There are some notes on changes I made to the CLA rules as well as notes and special rules for the scenario following the report.

Flight From Tashacklabad

Darrin Morris as Oscar Carson, Mercenary Adventurer.
Lloyd Sisk as Derek Braun, ex-Foreign Legion Mercenary and Big Game Hunter

… and, as always, myself, Tim Brown, as General Wu Fang and the Chinese Horde.

Tashacklabad, August 1920.

Oscar Carson and Derek Braun hired on as “specialists” with some White Russians in the summer of 1920. They were escorting a prominent White Russian VIP, Baron Yuri Borrisov, and his family, along with a small force of two infantry companies, east along the Trans-Siberian Railway. In mid-August they found themselves stopped at Tashacklabad for a spell. Here they replenished supplies, tried and find some word of what is going on elsewhere, and perhaps do a bit of recruiting for the anti-Bolshevik cause.

Wu Fang, the notorious Chinese Warlord, had been informed of the presence of White Russian VIP and escort. Tashacklabad is very near the Chinese border and Wu Fang’s domain. Where there were soldiers, General Wu figured, there are supplies and the VIP could probably be sold to the Reds for a considerable ransom. They marched for Tashaklabad immediately.

Early in the morning the Russians received news of a large force of Chinese soldiers that had crossed the border and are approaching Tashacklabad. If the rumors were true the Chinese force vastly outnumbered the small force of Russians. Orders were issued to begin loading the train for a move further east. The two companies of infantry were dispatched to the nearby passes to see if they could find the Chinese and delay them as long as possible before retiring to the train and escaping with the rest of the Russians.

(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Local labourers loading up the train.

The train and the village of Tashaklabad.

Baron Borrisov and his family prepare to board the train.

Carson joined the first company, in the dunes south of town, watching the passes out of the mountains that led to the Chinese border. The second company was behind them and a machine-gun detachment, concealed by a hill lurked off to their left.

Braun decided to set up a firing position in the highest building in the town to snipe and cover the infantry’s retreat.

They waited.

…and waited…

Finally just before noon, when they were starting to wonder if there really was any Chinese coming this way, Columns of infantry were spotted coming down from the pass.

The Chinese advance out of the pass and form lines.

The Chinese advance towards the Russian positions.

As they came within range the Russians opened fire with rifle and machine-gun cutting swathes out of the dense formations of Chinese. One company of specialist assault troops was cut to pieces before they even got to the Russian lines.

Here you can clearly make out the three companies of Chinese regular infantry in close order formation. Advancing slightly ahead of and between the two companies on the left is the company of specialist assault troops. Facing them are two companies of Russian infantry, one in front of the other. Out of the picture off to the right is a detachment of Russian Maxim machine-guns secreted behind, and protected from immediate threat from the Chinese advance by a rocky spur of the mountains to the south and east. In the distance is Tashaklabad.

A second company of Chinese, the one on the extreme right, was shredded by fire as they charged into the left flank of the forward Russian company. The survivors that made it into the contact with the Russian positions were quickly swept away in a short sharp melee. The action at this point even got close enough that Carson drew his pistol and fired off a few rounds at the scattered Chinese.

The Chinese on the far left that charged the Russian company’s other flank faired a little better, not having the maxims to contend with.

The Russian company’s left wing didn’t have long to rest as a second company of Chinese charged in hard on the first company’s heels. It was also savaged by the Russian Machine-gunners but enough made it through the hail of fire to make and impression on the Russian infantry and cause more than a few casualties.

The second wave of Chinese attacks the forward Russian company’s right flank. Oscar Carson is there to witness the events and shoot a few Chinese.

The Russian maxims firing upon the advancing chinese

It was about this time that some supporting troops for the Chinese were spotted coming down out of the pass. A Rolls-Royce armoured car was slowly picking it’s way through the rocks and rubble. Machine-gun and Artillery detachments were also spotted.

The Chinese MGs and Armoured Car.

Though assaulted by three times it’s number the forward Russian company seemed to be holding it’s own. Runners were sent back and forth between the two company’s headquarters and there was some question as to whether the second company should retire to the town to load up into the train or move forward to drive off the Chinese infantry and deal with the Chinese artillery. If those howitzers got into a good firing position the train would be in grave danger.

The debate would soon become a moot point when a squadron of Chinese cavalry that traveled through an alternative pass further to the west and swept far around the flank swooped in out of the dunes and rolled up the right flank of the second Russian infantry company.

Carson, taking in the events around him, decided the situation was hopeless and hightailed it back towards the town to get on the train before they left leaving the soldiers to their fates. Though he had taken a number of horsemen down from his position in the town, Braun could not himself alone stem the tide of the Chinese onslaught and save the Russians from their doom. He too abandoned all hope and made for the train.

The Chinese cavalry arrive!

Chinese cavalry rolling up the Russian line.

Though the Cavalry had some initial success the Russians sold themselves dearly. Despite their stubbourn resistance the Russians were quickly swept from the field along with their commander in chief. Less than half of the Chinese cavalry squadron remained, however, when they wheeled around toward the town.

The drone of an airplane was heard overhead. It swept by the Russian machine-gunners strafing them briefly but causing no casualties. The plane then carried on towards Tashaklabad.

The Chinese SPAD (so recently purchased from a French surplus arms dealer that they hadn’t even had time to paint over the roundels….) heads toward Tashaklabad.

The epic battle between the forward Russian company and the Chinese broke down into a number of small pockets of confused melees. The Russian machine-guns, having little else to shoot at, exchanged some fire with the advancing armoured car then decided to retire towards the town. Unfortunately the armoured car swept past the crumbling Russian lines and cut down the Russian machine-gunners as they ran across the barren ground.

The Chinese Rolls-Royce chasing down the Russian machine-guns, the Chinese cavalry mopping up the last of the second Russian infantry company, and the grand melee between the Chinese infantry and the Russians of the forward company.

The Chinese SPAD made it to the village and made it’s first pass. It dropped a bomb barely missing the locomotive.

Word was sent down the line to get the train moving!

Braun had just leapt aboard the moving train and the plane made its second pass. It scored a direct hit on the second coach. Though it tore away a large chunk of the roof and blew out all the windows it caused no fatalities or serious harm to the train. Braun, however, being the sole occupant of the carriage, would for some days have difficulty hearing above the ringing in his ears.

The SPAD, being low on fuel now, made a third and pass, missing again.

The Chinese SPAD drops bombs on the train, the first one barely missing the locomotive.

By that time the Chinese cavalry and armoured car had arrived. The cavalry were riding along side the train trying to engage the engineers and stop the locomotive. The armoured car simply drove along side trying to shoot it up. Carson and Braun fired from the moving train taking down a few of the Chinese cavalry.

The Chinese howitzer finally got into position, however, and with it’s first shot scored a direct hit on the coal car blowing it to smithereens and derailing the train!

The passengers were thrown about in the carriage as it careened off the tracks. Though they were bumped and bruised no one was seriously injured.

The train is derailed by a direct hit on the coal car.

In the chaos and confusion following the train derailing Carson quickly bundled Borrisov and his family out of their turned-over coach hoping to disappear through the town and evade capture. Unfortunately when he followed them out he found they were completely surrounded by some fierce and angry looking Chinese cavalrymen…

What will happen to our dashing hero and his Russian patrons? What happened to Derrek Braun? Find out in two weeks in the next episode of my Savage Worlds Pulp Adventure Serial….!

Some notes on the scenario and adaptations/changes to the rules…

Forces used:

The White Russians

2 units of 18 Russian Infantrymen
1 C-in-C on horse
2 “wildcard” heroes
4 non-combatants (Borrisov and his family – to be loaded on the train)
9 crates of supplies ( also to be loaded on the train)

The Chinese

I unit of 11 Special Assult troops armed with “trench brooms”
3 units of 18 Regular Infantry
1 unit of 13 Regular Chinese Cavlary
1 Rolls-Royce Armoured Car
1 Field Gun
1 mounted C-in-C (the only shinese “wildcard” – I made him thus just to keep Braun from sniping him too easily…)
1 mounted Staff Officer
(I had also meant to bring on the executioner but forgot to…)

Changes to the CLA rules.

Ranges for weapons are doubled. The printed ranges in the book become “short range” and double this distance is “long range” – long range (i.e. over half the maximum range) incurs a -1 to hit penalty as per normal.

Savage Worlds wild cards will use their appropriate shooting or fighting die (and wild die!) when shooting or engaging in close combat. Wildcard’s dice can ace, but there is generally no bonus for raises – unless they are attacking another wildcard. Hits against non-wildcards are worked out as per the normal CLA rules using the CLA modifiers to score hits. If wild cards are hit the damage should be worked out for them as per the SW rules. Any penalties due to wounds should then also be used as modifiers when shooting or fighting in close combat.

Scenario Rules

This will be a regular Fighting Retreat scenario – with a few changes…

There are passengers (including a White Russian VIP) and baggage by the train. One can be loaded per turn. If any baggage are left behind or otherwise captured each one captured counts towards victory conditions as if they were individual soldiers. If any of the Russian VIPs family are captured or killed, they count double. If the Russian VIP is captured or killed the game is lost.

Any infantry starting the turn in contact with the train (as long as it remains still for the turn) may board it as their movement for the turn. Once the train starts no one can get on.

The train can travel at a max speed of 12” per turn but only accelerates at a rate of 2” per turn. The train moves before any regular movement takes place.

The train (as well as anyone else not on the train…!) must make it off the northeast corner of the table to be considered “escaped” for victory conditions. To win the Russians must exit at least half their force off the table (including the VIP, his family and baggage as noted before). The Chinese win when they make it impossible for the Russians to succeed in their victory conditions (i.e. kill or capture over half of the Russian force, or the VIP himself).

For Russian soldiers to board the train they must start their turn in contact with the train. They then board it as their movement. They can not board the train if it is moving.

Wild cards may attempt to jump aboard the moving train. To do this they must pass an agility roll with a -1 per inch of speed the train is currently moving at.

Hits on the train from fire
Small arms can fire on the train, targets within are counted as in hard cover (-2 to hit)
Artillery and aircraft may fire at the train. If the train is stationary firers may choose which car or shoot at the locomotive. Otherwise roll:
1-2 locomotive
3 coal car
4- 5 passenger car
6 baggage car

After determining which section of the train is hit roll on the appropriate table

1-2 Engine blows up/ train derailed if moving
3-5 Engine damaged half acceleration and max speed. If moving when hit dice again; engine derails on a 1-3
6 No appreciable damage.

Coal car.
1-2 Car destroyed, train can’t move, derails if moving.
3-4 Car damaged half acceleration and max speed.
5-6 No appreciable damage

Passenger coach/baggage car
1-2 Car destroyed, train can’t move, derails if moving.
3-5 Damaged dice for each occupant or piece of baggage; on 5+ it is destroyed.
6 No appreciable damage

Infantry can move into contact with the train if it is not moving. They are considered to have entered CC with the passengers on the train.

Cavalry can move into CC with the locomotive while it is moving until it gets off the table. They are assumed to be in CC with the engineers. The Cavalry get none of their regular bonuses for being cavalry. The train engineers (of which there are two) are considered to be defending an obstacle and are stubborn. If both are killed the cavalry may board the train with a skill test (dice less than their tactical rating).

This game was, according to the victory conditions, over around the seventh or eighth turn when the Chinese cavalry wiped out the rear Russian Infantry Company. WE played it out to the twelfth turn to see if the train, along with the “heroes”, could get away.

It is definitely is a TOUGH scenario. I think they could have made it if they started running from the get-go, perhaps sacrificing the MG – leaving it to cover their retreat. If they needed to buy time to load up more stuff on the train they could have started alternating moving and firing the two infantry units. When one ultimately got caught it could have stayed and held off the Chinese while the other unit bolted for the train… I don’t know… I think the indecision about when to leave, and even considering trying to stay and fight it out, was what did them in. To be fair they had no idea as to what was in my force or that they COULD potentially arrive from somewhere other than the far base edge…. I DID warn them that they were severely outnumbered (their thought, however, was that I was just going to bring on more infantry, from the same pass, as the initial ones got wiped out… ).

I will be running this scenario again, without the wildcard characters, at my next Friday Night Wargame. Then again maybe I will use a couple wild cards. I do think I’ll drop the ranges for firing back to normal…. Maybe not give the Chinese the howitzer and allow the Russians to load up one VIP passenger AND one crate each turn…. We shall see…

1 comment:

  1. Tim,

    Very nice! I think the homecasts are awesome!