"What are they doing?" asked his comrade idly.
"Preparing defences I think," replied the other between chews.
The first soldier stood up and looked around at the uninviting landscape.
"Why? Who'd want to defend this place?"
"Come to think of it who'd want to attack it?"
"West Africans, from the Gold Coast I think."
"Somebody should tell them this isn't the coast and we don't have any gold."
"Look at that guy, he's gesticulating like crazy."
"Well, look who swallowed a fucking dictionary. Maybe he's having a fit."
"No I think he wants us to help cut up the bushes."
"Can we pretend we haven't seen him?"
"Please, they can probably see him on the moon."
So in an attempt to gain revenge for his recent defeat Mike Sexton suggested we play scenario FT229, A Push in the Bush. Here a somewhat seedy bunch of "Italian" defenders backed by a couple of creaking armoured cars attempt to defend a not particularly desirable part of Somalia (and I just described the entire country) from the British (as represented by the Ghanaians of the Gold Coast Regiment) who for reasons not entirely clear have evinced a burning desire to evict the Italians from the least desirable colony in Africa.
As the Italian defender I have half a dozen first line squads which, by special rule, count as partisans. These heroes are equipped with precisely one light machine gun and are led by a single 7-0 who must have drawn the short straw when unit postings were handed out. To support this self evidently inadequate force on turn two a pair of Fiat 611 armoured cars arrive to bolster the resistance. One of the cars carries an 8FP machine gun in the turret and the other a 37mm gun. Both of them have a pair of machine guns sticking out of the rear.
By comparison with my infantry Mike's force are virtual supermen. On the first turn he gets six squads of second line British (easily a match for my first line Italians) equipped with an lmg and led by an 8-1 sent out to pester the natives. On turn two he gets another six squads these ones equipped with an anti tank rifle and led by an 8-0 (he was also sent out to pester the natives but they're less inclined to listen). Mike's objective is to exit twelve VP off the north end of the board, collectively his force is worth twenty seven.
Again by special rule the terrain is counted as steppe (all hamada becomes brush) and there are four sand overlays doing service as particularly enthusiastic brush. We had to place the overlays alternately, me first. I set up one near the north edge to provide a slight barrier at the very end and another forward to provide some cover for my forces. I weighted the brush to the east trying to channel Mike's forces west where I intended to bring on my armoured cars.
|My at start position. A pair of squads with the lmg in the east (top). A couple of squads plus dummies in the west.|
As mentioned my plan was to hopefully channel Mike's force to the west edge of the board where they would be targets for my armoured cars. In the east I had four squads (including a two squad/lmg/7-0 "kill" stack) to hopefully ward off any direct attack while the centre was mainly dummies. A pair of squads in the west served as speed bumps.
This plan lasted all of one turn. Mike obediently brought his troops on towards the western edge of the board. My kill stack (really a mild injury stack at best) managed to break one squad but the remainder ploughed forwards towards the brush.
|Mike's turn one. My plan seems to be working.|
With the exception of my mild injury stack I decided skulking was the better part of valour and return fire was minimal. I wanted to keep Mike doubtful as to which were my real squads for as long as possible. My intention was to fall back gradually in the east and hopefully have a fire base up there to fire west as Mike's troops conveniently trotted towards my armoured cars. Unfortunately my plan barely survived the first turn. Having decided he had enough forces in the west (true) he brought his reinforcements on the challenge me in the east and my fall back plan rapidly became a fall apart plan. I didn't help matters by jumping into a close combat in the west but it seemed like a good idea at the time. My guys were stealthy and concealed and his were CX. I ambushed him fine but couldn't hurt him in the melee.
|Mike is starting to move forward while my ACs lurk discreetly in the wings waiting their cue|
My armoured cars arrived just as the rest of my force was essentially obliterated. Mike reinforced the melee and wiped out my squad without taking any casualties himself whereas my guys (even the noble 7-0) proved incapable of passing morale checks. I brought on one car where it could cover the open approach in the west and the other where it would have some decent shots at the more easterly of Mike's forces. It also meant that it was staring directly at his squad with the atr but fortunately my sniper evinced a pathological hatred of those guys, pinning them twice and then breaking them and essentially putting them out of the game. In the west my armoured car's first shot broke his lmg team and with his anti tank assets, at least temporarily out of the game I dared to feel a trickle of hope.
|Two armoured cars, a squad and a dummy stack stand between me and defeat|
That trickle of hope ran increasingly dry over the next couple of turns. A broken halfsquad in the east actually went berserk on a rally attempt (being partisan helped) but unfortunately it was killed before it could do any good. Continual morale checks whittled my force down until my mild injury stack consisted of a single, broken 7-0 looking for a hole to hide in. Along with the morale checks it was obvious that my infantry had left their rifles at home that day as they proved incapable of harming the Ghanaians as they pushed forward. It was the armoured cars alone that held the line. They did so boldly at first, breaking those of Mike's squads brave enough to take the van as he headed for the exit, then the machine gun armoured car broke its MA and I thought I was doomed. I had a single 37mm gun pointing towards the enemy and Mike cheerfully started pushing forces past the emasculated car in the west.
|A single armoured car is my sole weapon but time is running out and Mike has a way to go.|
Did I mention that these armoured cars have a pair of rear facing machine guns? As the final turn approached it became obvious that the only way I would stand a chance of victory was if I showed him my rear. That sentence becomes more disturbing every time I reread it. I manoeuvred my armoured cars to where their rear machine guns could sweep the exit area. I couldn't stop some forces getting off and by the time Mike's last movement phase arrived he already had three exit VP.
|Mike is getting ready to leave. Somehow I have to stop him|
He had a squad and a half plus his 8-1 in the west and four squads in the east with the movement capacity to leave the scene. I let his half squad go (four points) and concentrated the machine gun fire of my busted AC on the squad and 8-1 leader. I broke the leader and pinned the squad, good enough now it was all up to the other car. Mike needed eight exit points so he had to exit off all four squads in the east. My 37mm had acquisition on one squad so I let two others and his 8-0 leader go (nine points) and took my shot when the acquired squad made its move. I hit it, gained no result but kept rate. I hit it again with a critical hit but Mike's squad shrugged off the ensuing 1MC and exited (eleven points). Now his last squad made it's run. I had one weapon left, the rear, bow machine gun of my armoured car. He had to run straight past it in order to get off. I took the shot and rolled...
Snake eyes! Mike's hopes vanished in a crimson spray as he came up one VP short.
|It's all over. Pretty much everyone is dead or fled|
It really doesn't get much closer than that. We had a lot of fun playing this game, thanks to Mike for the game and good humour when fate robbed him at the last.
A hush drifted over the battlefield. Suddenly there was a rustling in the brush and a soldier peered out, still chewing his qat.
"I think it's over," he announced.
His comrade joined him and looked at the body strewn field.
"That looks nasty, glad we weren't involved. You got any more qat?"
"No," lied his fellow, "Do you think we won?"
"It's a bit hard to tell. Everybody seems to be dead. It's tragic, African killing African at the command of our colonial masters."
"Yeah, tragic. Wanna loot 'em?"