This is an after action report of the two turn introductory scenario provided in the game.
This is my first AAR on BGG, I've read several in the story style and liked 'em enough to use it myself. Hope it provides some of the flavor of the game.
Reports to the Politburo in Moscow state that the situation is becoming untenable for the USSR's erstwhile Socialist Allies who rule the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan. Aware of their southern neighbour's strategic importance to USSR influence in Pakistan and Iran, and eager to prevent any Islamic based resistance spreading to the southern Republics of the USSR, the Politburo authorises intervention by a limited force of 80,000-100,000 soldier.
As this force is readied in the southern reaches of the USSR, reports that infighting is leading to divisions within the Afghan Socialist Party. Eager to have the upcoming Soviet intervention met with a welcoming Afghan government, the Politburo authorises a purge of the Afghan government to remove those whose sympathies are suspect.
Reports of the Soviet intervention and the purge of the government sent many Afghan's into the ranks of Mujahidin fighting units, eager to defend their nation from another foreign invader (Mujahidin roll a 6 to add to the starting morale of 6, for a level of 12 maximum possible, of "fanatic"). Despite increasing the garrison in the strategic eastern city of Jalabad with a security division, the infantry division stationed there deserted, vanishing to home villages or across the border into Pakistan. Infantry in Herat in the far west, Mazar-i-Sharif all deserted en masse, and in a body blow to the DRA army, the 1st Infantry and 3rd Guards Armoured also deserted from within the capital Kabul, highlighting a military force riddled with divided loyalties. The remaining forces still loyal to the DRA government found themselves facing resistance on multiple fronts outside Jalalabad, Khandahar and increased fighting in Kabul itself. Mujahidin forces also loudly took control of Zaranj on the Iranian border, no doubt hoping to provoke a government-Soviet reaction and in turn have the new Iranian Revolutionary Islamic State intervene on the side of the resistance.
Reports of Mujahidin units taking control of villages and towns across the country spooked the Soviets who decided that Kabul had to be secured at all costs, along with the strategic highway linking the Afghan capital to the Uzbekistan Soviet Republic through Kunduz. Moving decisively the 40th Army consisting of 4 mechanized infantry divisions, supported by Engineers, and two security divisions deployed rapidly south to secure the Soviet base at Baglan and paused to secure this city and root out a reported Mujahidin unit operating there.
With morale sky high the Mujahidin decide to meet this new Soviet Force head on in the open country to the east of the city. The Soviets are surprised to find two Mujahidin bases along with a collection of local militia, backed only by a powerful Jihadi unit commanded by Ahmad Shah Massud. The Mujahidin initial attacks surprised the Soviet forces, leading them to call in airstrikes, targeting the Jihadis and Massud units. The Soviets were ebullient at reports that Massud's force had been destroyed, despite lacking tactical superiority (Soviet's rolled a 1, with +4 modifiers for a total of 5, V Massud's roll of 4, with +5 modifiers giving them a 9). The Jihadi force, which survived the airstrike directed against that, attacked causing heavy casualties in the security division first assigned to track down and eliminate the local militia forces. But with the Army commander on the spot, the full weight of the Soviet mechanised infantry came into play and the entire resistance force, including their bases was destroyed. Despite the victory, the positive effect of the victory on Communist morale was tempered by the heavy losses to the security division (reduced). Mujahidin morale was dampened (-1 for HQ loss) but still remained in the upper reaches of fanatical.
Having secured Baglan, the commander of the 40th launched his second major operation (not wanting to impact on his side's morale level). Leaving the 3rd security brigade and the 357th mechanized infantry behind to garrison the city and guard the base, the remainder of the force drove unopposed through the Salang Tunnel and into Kabul. Buoyed by his decisive victory in the north, the Commander ordered the 40th Army, along with the DRA garrison of Kabul to flush out those Mujahidin units operating within the Afghan capital. Expecting to be confronted with a collection of ragtag militia, the Soviets found themselves quickly engaged by local guerrillas already battle hardened during their earlier struggles with the DRA. Worse still, reports of the arrival of the Soviet forces had drawn in fighters from the surrounding regions, leaving the 40th facing a much larger and more capable force. Compounding this news was that the reports of Massud's death at Baglan had been greatly exaggerated. Concerned at the threat posed by Massud and the Jihadi unit (both have high Guerrilla factors), the commander authorised more airstrikes. This time the airstrikes proved ineffective with their targets hidden in maze of buildings in the fringes of the capital.
Massud moved first, grabbing the tactical superiority once again (Soviet rolled 1 +5 for 6, Massud rolled 6, + 5 for 11). Massud's forces cut the Soviets to ribbons (4 losses from a possible 7), and the streets of Kabul were littered with burning armoured vehicles and the bodies of Soviet soldiers. Those units assigned to battle from the DRA simply didn't turn up as a result of the ongoing purge making commanders, even those loyal to the DRA, unwilling to take initiative and engage in the fighting. All three Soviet mechanised infantry divisions suffered major losses (reduced) along with the highly capable 1st Special Forces Regiment that had been pre-deployed to Kabul and was involved in the heaviest fighting. After regrouping his battered forces for a counter attack, the Soviet commander found his opponents had gone to ground and he was unable to inflict any losses (not one Soviet unit hit a target).
Battle for Kabul - note DRA units inactive due purge.
With a large Mujahidin force still present in the capital, his own forces battered, minimal air support available and with Communist morale teetering (4), and faced with a fanatical resistance (morale 11), the Commander of the 40th decided to hunker down and call for reinforcements, satisfied that at least the strategic highway to the north was in secure hands. Snow was falling on the city, winter was coming.
The new year saw Communist rule in Afghanistan on shaky ground. The purge of the Afghan socialists was complete, but this had left almost no DRA army to speak of, with not one functional regular unit in the capital. Soviet forces had been battered, but not one to wait, the Commander of the 40th spent winter preparing a massive Soviet base from which to launch operations.
Despite not controlling the capital in their own right, the Communists did control Herat, Khandahar, Gardez, Bagram, Jalalabad and Baghlan. (Total of 20 points for +3 morale to 7 total.)
On the other side, the Mujahidin either controlled, or had forced into neutrality, vast swathes of the countryside (total of 36 for +6 morale. Given their morale ended the year on 11, they were again on the maximum of 12).
Despite the losses in men and materiel, the Politburo were largely happy with the Afghan venture so far, limiting further support (3 capability chits). The Soviets pulled the ceasefire chit (to be saved for later), and Intelligence agencies received a breakthrough to identify guerilla units in Banian, while forces in Asadabad threatening Jalalabd and Shah-i-Khot near Gardez turned out to be low capability militia. The politburo did offer increased airborne forces for the return of a mechanised division (Soviet Upgrade chit), but the commander of the 40th refused the offer, recognising that the coming year would be one of consolidation of gains and that meant firepower over strategic mobility.
Replacement men and equipment saw all Soviet forces in Kabul refitted to full strength, with additional air support units brought online (total of 5 Soviet and 1 DRA).
The Mujahidin, their morale high, found themselves with an abundance of support. The Pakistan Intelligence service (ISI) opened up their border regions to support the Mujahidin efforts, and deployed special forces and training advisors (Intervention Pakistan). Senior clerics declared their struggle to be a Jihad against the Godless Communist Infidels and new units were formed in the Panshir Valley (2 units) as well as reinforcing existing elements in the Khyber Pass to protect the new Pakistan staging areas (Jihad!). In a blow to the government, many of the men, along with much of the equipment of the recently deserted infantry division from Fayzabad were seen parading alongside the new Mujahidin forces operating around the town.
The Jamiat and Sazman factions declared themselves for the Mujahidin and forces were sent to reinforce the units that Soviet Intel had unmasked in Asadabad and Bamian, as well as into Kabul itself. Kandahar itself shaping up as a battleground while the expansion on the Iranian border continued into Farah (Factions: Jamiat and Sazman).
The only downside for the Mujahidin were reports from Baghlan in the north of infighting between elements that had survived the previous year's Soviet attacks and were trying to consolidate their power. But overall, this had little impact on Mujahidin preparations for the coming fighting season (morale still at 11) (Resistance Infighting).
Eager to try and reduce his opponent's capabilities, the commander of the 40th ordered extensive psyops in an attempt to undermine resistance morale. (Two subversion markers, needed a roll of two or less). Despite their best efforts there was no discernable effect on the Mujahidin. Undeterred, the newly refitted 40th launched a massive clearing operation in Kabul as the snows melted.
Second Battle for Kabul.
Led by the 40th HQ and supported by Engineers, artillery from the new Soviet base, the three Mechanised divisions were supported by two air assault brigades and an airmobile mechanised division all deployed by air from Uzbekistan to achieve operational surprise. Mujahidin reinforcements were also raced in and the Soviets found themselves confronting 3 Jihadi, and 3 guerrilla units, backed by militia, Massud's fighting force, a second HQ and the Pakistani supported SSG commando brigade.
Calling in massive airstrikes (4 of 5 available) including the small DRA airforce, the 40th discovered that their own air had learnt little about operating in the urban environment, though notably Massud's forces were broken up with heavy losses, though reports of Massud's fate were uncertain. In order to secure a tactical edge, the Soviets employed terror tactics to flush the Mujahidin from their hiding places amongst the populace (a narrow 9 to 8 win for tactical surprise with the terror +1 the difference, Mujahidin morale +1 to 12). The Soviet ground forces pounced (7 hits from 10 possible) destroying all guerrilla and jihadi ground forces along with the sole remaining HQ. Despite massive losses, the fanatical defence by the Mujahidin survivors caused heavy losses (2 hits from 3), with both Special Forces brigades taking the brunt of casualties as they spearheaded the street by street fighting.
With Communist morale weakened further by the operation and any gains through destruction of Mujahidin offset by their own losses, (morale at 3), the Commander of the 40th decided to sit tight and see if the expected counter offensive could be used to destroy his opponent in detail. In the north, negotiations with local warlords near Baghlan allowed the 357th Soviet Mechanized division to redeploy from Baghlan to Kunduz to take control of that vital city. (Using the ceasefire chit allows a move to end without triggering a Mujahidin reaction).
The counteroffensive came as expected, with DRA units in Khandahar coming under sustained attack from a Mujahidin HQ. The 2nd Armoured Division, support by security elements of the DRA with fire support from the Khandahar garrison drove the attackers off with minimal losses to both sides. (No hits).
In Kabul the surviving Mujahidin, perhaps over confident after their ferocious defence, launched an all out attack. Seizing tactical superiority they attacked what turned out to be well prepared Soviet defences, never the less inflicting heavy casualties on the air assault brigade near the Afghan Presidential Palace, before well coordinated mechanized infantry divisions counter attacked, trapping the Mujahidin and destroying them completely.
Despite the precarious position the Soviet Commander had found himself in at the start of 1980, the year ended with him firmly in control of the Afghan capital, along with the strategic northern highway and the major cities of Jalalabad, Kunduz, Baghlan and Herat, thus meeting the scenario victory conditions. (see end of game photo - noting that the DRA SF unit moved from the Selang Tunnel location when I slid the map for photo lighting improvements!).
Looking further into the future, the low communist morale (2!) V high Mujahidin morale (fanatical 10) bodes poorly for the ability of the communist forces to build up their own side while striking at the Mujahidin. Never the less I was a little surprised at winning the game after the disastrous first turn, but the luck of a chit (Ceasefire) and using the game mechanics (the Mujahidin counter offensive in Kabul) allowed me to meet my objectives.
End of Game. Apologies for the poor lighting. Note the many Mujahidin units across the map, the next few turns look difficult. But Kabul and the road to the USSR, along with most Afghan cities are in control. The Proletariat has triumphed!
Nice AAR. However, I'm curious as to what your overall assessment of the game is:
= Did you enjoy it?
= Did you feel that it presented you with "meaningful" decisions to make as the player?
= Did you feel that it provided a credible narrative (as opposed to delving too deeply into the mine of "alternate history")?
= Was there anything you felt was missing from the game?
= Is it something you'd want to play again?
- Last edited Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:30 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:29 pm
Yes, I did like the game and will have a crack at the campaign game once I have more time to dedicate to it. I had plenty of meaningful decisions to make, despite it only being a two turn scenario. Typically the issues that will be faced is building up local DRA V adding more capable Soviet units. The narrative was great, but even better was that I'd thought I'd lost the scenario only to have a lucky chit pull (the ceasefire chit) that allowed me to manipulate the situation to pull a win out of my....hat. I have some concern that if the insurgent morale gets high quickly, that it may be impossible to defeat them and that there is too much chance of that happening at the start of the game. It seems difficult to reduce the insurgent morale significantly. But a few play throughs will work out if that is the case. The game system is simple but effective and gives enough choices to make it a good strategic game in trying to balance conquer and hold.
Thanks for your insightful comments, David.