Thursday, 13 February 2014

Fall of Keren Jaghur

Last night's board was too pretty to put away immediately, so I decided to do a second playtest, this time pitting the Royal Marines against hardcore locals in the initial strike on Keren Jaghur back in 2002.

March 13th, 2002. 41 Commando has been tasked with an assault on Keren Jaghur to seize the local Emir's compound and break the local Ansari al-Mawt's control over the community. The Emir, of course, will resist, as will his Ansari. Luckily, thanks to a daring heliborne insertion, the Royal Marines have started very near the town – maybe near enough to seize a battle-winning advantage in the battle for what will, six years later, be the Royal Sherwood's platoon house.
41 Commando's objective, bottom right corner.

View of Keren Jaghur from the north.

A Royal Marine platoon includes three sections of two fireteams with quite high firepower (8 and 12 dice respectively), supported by a sniper team, mortar and two Senior Leaders. They are Elite +9.

The Emir's local veterans have four squads of eight men (10 dice), 2 Junior Leaders, a Superior Junior Leader and the Emir himself, a Senior Leader. They are Green -7.

Despite the Royal Marines' 9pts of support, the Emir's men will have 20 points to oppose them with. The RM choose an unmanned UAV (3), a Medic (1), Air Support (4) and an Adjutant (1). They plan to identify the enemy as soon as possible, and then deploy to destroy before seizing the objective. Their Force Morale of 10 means they have a good chance of pushing through casualties to a successful conclusion.

The Emir's men choose a squad of Tier One Shadow Brigade veterans (6), a 60mm mortar team (3), two snipers (4), two squads of Green insurgents (6), and 6” of barbed wire (1). With over fifty men, they hope to force the RM to deploy unfavourably, and shock them enough to keep them away from the objective. Their Force Morale of 8 means that they are quite brittle, and cannot afford to use the usual suicidal Ansari tactics.

Patrol Phase
Making full use of their five free moves, 41 Commando penetrated halfway into Keren Jaghur from their start line in the western fields before the Ansari had any idea they were there. By awkward coincidence, they were actually alerted by a caravan of cattle herders coming over the central bridge.

The RM jump-offs were located in the two western compounds, and in the green zone to the north. Hopefully the threat of an outflanking manoeuvre and the loss of a jumpoff point would force a splintering of the insurgent mass.

The Ansari al-Mawt (AaM) jump off points in the greenzone, the mosque, the objective and in the fields to the east. This layered defence was designed to give multiple chances to beat the RM off the objective.

Turn One: Royal Marine Phase 64332
Resisting the urge to deploy his manoeuvre sections en masse, Lieutenant Cairn-Wilkes first set up his support section under Corporal Applewell, who put both teams on Overwatch. Corporal Fasil led his section down the southern side of town, leaving one fireteam on Overwatch facing the mosque.
Applewell's support section.

Corporal Fasil's section, Fasil front in the street.

Ansari Phase 66421
A mortar team deployed behind the compound, and further into town appeared Umar Haqqim (SJL) and a squad of fighters. Those behind the mosque were safe, but those on the roof were caught in an Overwatch crossfire which left a man bleeding against the golden dome.

Ansari Phase 64331
The mortar roared into life, spraying chips of masonry into Corporal Fasil's fire group. The Shadow Brigade appeared within the compound under Jallaluddin's command, and Haqqim rallied his men into pouring covering fire at Fasil's fire group.
The Shadow Brigade defend the compound gates.

RM Phase 64211
Sergeant Taggart deployed in the northern greenzone, and began calling in Air Support for the advance. Fasil's team rushed behind the next house as Corporal Anderson's blocking section deployed in the central buildings and fields. Finally, the mortar opened up on the roof of the mosque to no avail.

Ansari Phase 66652
Hussein's fighters opened fire, but they had misjudged the range, and the RM's skills and drills kept them safe.

Turn Two – Ansari Phase 55322
Haqqim rallied his men. The Shadow Brigade had found the range now, and raked Anderson's men with a frightening hail of fire. Haqqim's men, full of new heart, poured fire into Fasil's fire group again.

RM Phase 66653
Anderson rallies his men

Turn Three – RM Phase 43211
Sergeant Taggart continues his directions to Bastion. The UAV finally flies in overhead and immediately spots armed men in the greenzone. Bastion replies: an AH-64A Apache is inbound. The support section pours fire into the target compound. The mortar kills a man, and Lance-Corporal Masters, the sniper, actually scores a hit on Jallaluddin Hussein himself, spinning him to the floor with a 7.62 round. Anderson's men advance with fire through the field, trying to put a building between them and the Shadow Brigade. Fasil's men keep going down the south road, still using buildings for cover.
The UAV-eye's view of the battlefield.

The spotted insurgents.

Fasil's men reach the T-junction.

Ansari Phase 44331
Seeing Fasil's advance, Haqqim orders the men in the street into the fields, and returns his concentration to Anderson's fireteam. Fasil's men skid to a halt as a mortar shell bursts in front of them.

RM Phase 65432
Fasil leads his men into the house and opens up on the insurgents opposite. Anderson's section are much more effective, knocking out Haqqim and one of his compatriots (This was the second time a -2 was rolled for a Junior Leader injury, putting the Ansari at FM4 after only a few phases). Sergeant Taggart began easing his way forward.

Ansari Phase 4322
Dragging their wounded leader, Haqqim's men on the mosque roof disappear inside. The Shadow Brigade fired ineffectually at Fasil's flanking team, and the Emir finally appeared, directing even more fire at them.

RM Phase 64431
Fasil's men fired at the fields, injuring the Neta leading the enemy and killing the man who went to help him. The mortar he called in did not do any appreciable damage. Taggart moved to a roadside hut.

Ansari Phase 6544
The Emir screamed, cursed and pleaded, but all his efforts were in vain. His men shot worse than they day they first picked up a rifle.

RM Phase 62222
With the mosque suspiciously quiet, Anderson's men turned their attention the objective and fired at the Shadow Brigade, appropriately supported by the support section. Masters claimed another victim. Cairn-Wilkes then deployed to rally Fasil's fire group and direct their attention to the men shooting at their corporal. In what men of their grandfather's generation would have called a serenade of fire, they killed two and routed the rest from the battlespace.

Ansari Phase 4211
Two snipers opened up from the greenzone, pinning Anderson's fireteam. Seeing this, the compound defenders opened up on them as well, nearly breaking them. The men in the greenzone began working their way forward, toward Taggart's position...

RM Phase 66421
The support section kept up its fire against the compound. Fasil's men ran to seize the enemy jump-off point in the field. The lieutenant led the firegroup deeper into Keren Jaghur.
Fasil's men lay charges on the drainage ditch that led Ansari to the field.

RM Phase 66633
Fasil and Anderson rallied their men. Fasil's daring rush paid dividends and really shook the enemy morale.

Turn Four – RM Phase 66221
Anderson rallied his men, and the whole section moves 9” to seize the mosque.

RM Phase 42211
The promised Apache finally arrives and gives the compound a desultory spray of minigun fire. Anderson's fire group seizes the roof of the mosque, while he rallies the manoeuvre group inside. The final section finally appears, Corporal Vincennes leading them in Cairn-Wilkes' rush through town.
The Apache fires into the compound.
The rush down "Main Street".

Ansari Phase 534
Back on his feet, Jalalluddin seizes the reluctant Emir and disappears with his surviving veterans, to the puzzlement of the circling air assets.
Anderson's men control the mosque - the compound is empty.

RM Phase 53211
Anderson and Fasil both send their men hurtling pell-mell for the compound gate. Vincennes' section leap-frogs the Lieutenant.

Ansari Phase 614
The mortarmen fire at Anderson's team trailing in the open and fail miserably.

RM Phase 65321
Fasil leads his men to capture the jump-off objective. Anderson's men move into the cover of the compound walls, and Vincennes' section rounds the corner of the mosque.

Ansari Phase 525 – CoC Die unlocked!
In the very moment of defeat, a large team of callow youths leap from the fields to ambush Vincennes' men. Before they flee again, they shock them and critically injure Marine “Coffee” Coughlin. Another group reveals itself in the greenzone and opens fire of Anderson's sudden exposed fireteam. Luckily his pointman sees them coming, and they suffer no serious casualties.
Anderson's assailants.

RM Phase 65331
Anderson rallies his men and directs their return fire, killing four and pinning the rest. Vincennes rallies his section, and Coughlin's comrades drag him back around the corner of the mosque.
Vincennes in the street, firegroup Anderson on the roof.

Ansari Phase 116
The snipers open up on Anderson's beleaguered fireteam, but succeed only in chipping the wall above them.

RM Phase 66541
The Apache turns its predatory gaze on the men beneath it. In seconds the few survivors flee, giving Anderson's men the breathing space to duck inside the compound.
Anderson's men cram in with Fasil's.

Ansari Phase 22
In view of their shattered morale, the seeming invulnerability of the Royal Marines, and their terrible 3C, the Emir's men ruefully quit the field, singing songs of older days, when courage alone could still bring victory.

Butcher's Bill
British: Marine Martin “Coffee” Coughlin, critically wounded.
Ansari al-Mawt: 15 confirmed KIA, believed 40.

First off, Man of the Match definitely goes to Corporal Fasil. What a wunderkind! Right from the beginning, his forwards elan opened up the Ansari defence line, forcing them to divide their attention. Following that up with seizing TWO jump-off points with no casualties makes him a definite MiD in my book – maybe even a military medal?

Otherwise, this played very historically (I usually lose too many men). The British managed to keep their enemy on the back foot the whole game, largely through effective choice of assets. The problem with the Ansari list was that there were too many Teams clamouring for 1s, and not enough leaders to adequately redress the shortage, particularly once Lance-Corporal Masters and the others started knocking them out willy-nilly. I was amazed at how few casualties the Marines took, but then I have never really played with Elites before – they hug their terrain like no-one's business. Despite that, there was a palpable tension while they were moving forward. The chance of a critical casualty was always there, and only my masses of 3s and 4s allowed my sterling NCO cadre to keep their men going under the rain of unnerving fire thrown out by the enemy. In the end, the Royal Marines did not lose a single Force Morale point, though they never got a CoC die either.

Really, the Shadow Brigade should have used their 9” deployment radius to set up a crossfire from the greenzone, setting up an L-shaped fireforce dominating the town and making any advance a lethal proposition. Any unit could have set up inside the Heavy Cover of the compound – I should have sent the few elite troops at my command out on a wing. The other huge error I made was not using the local Taliban's On Our Ground special rule to go Tactical whenever they don't move.

So, while Keren Jaghur has fallen, the Emir is safe. His righthand man Haqqim is wounded, but alive – as is the merciless Jallaluddin Hussein. There will be no peace in the district until the leaders of the Alephstani resistance are dealt with, either in a shura or in a firefight.


  1. Nice Job,

    The run of play has a definite historical feel to it all and it shows in your AAR. Looking forward to future reports, nice work.

    I am running a similar COIN based concept game for my Rhodesian stuff.

    Good stuff!

    Happy Wanderer

    1. Nice job yourself! How do I follow your blog? There doesn't seem to be a button.

  2. An enjoyable read, and nice terrain. What scale are the minis?

    I also sent you an email about the notes, hope i got the address right!

    1. Hi Max,

      I did, and have sent them. They are 15mm, as is the terrain.

  3. Brilliantly written and, as you say, a real lesson in what a difference troop quality can make. Thanks for this great post.

    1. Thank you Michael. It really was! Elite vs Green makes for something of a slaughterhouse - and a one-sided one at that! I wonder what Green-on-Green would be like...