Wednesday, January 26, 2022

AAR The Siege of Tecate Day 3: The Conclusion

This weekend, we came together after a long Covid-related delay. The guys finally finished off the Scenario The Siege of Tecate, after our third day of battle. (Day 1) (Day 2)

At this point in the battle, both sides' units were battle reduced and all mixed up. We were testing out some new unit play sheets, redesigned to leave more room for writing. Thus, we began with Chris and John reorganizing their forces into new squads on the new sheets. Each had three squads or groups, numbered 1-3, conveniently faced off with each other, with the first squads by the river to the South, the second squads in the center of town, and the third squads on the North, by the border. Additionally, John had remnants of an Outpost squad on the south flank, and a Headquarters in a building in the center of town. John's First Machine-gun was attached to Squad Two, and his Second Machine-gun attached to Squad Three. Chris's Headquarters was his last mounted group, which remained by the river but behind the frontlines a ways, taking cover in the forest. John and Chris did their best to accurately transfer over ammunition levels from the previous squad, with John's forces beginning to run low, and Chris's desperately short on rounds, especially for his most advanced section, Group One. They also wrote new orders for their sections on the unit sheets.

This was to be our last playlets before releasing Sueños de Libertad as a full first-edition of three PDF documents, so we began by discussing the rules and making some final adjustments. After the previous day of playing, we clarified the order of play with the following formula: 
1. Roll for Round Initiative, 2. Movement of non-Engaged Forces, 3. Overwatch, 4. Ranged Attacks, 5. Local Initiative/Fighting skirmishes, 6. Regroup. This change cleans up the gameplay, clarifies what actions can be taken when, and eliminates the ability of units to move, fire, and then move again within the same turn (at John's suggestion), while the "Regroup" phase allows for units that fired, but hadn't move that round to move, to withdraw from their positions, which I found essential for guerrilla attacks. 

The next rule we changed added extra protection for a unit firing from behind the corner of a building, so that they would be treated like a unit firing from inside the window of a building. We also clarified that units which were crawling (at 4" per turn, remaining hidden and/or in cover), can pop up to fire, but are then subject to normal cover protection, or lack thereof.

Finally, we considered a rule change that would allow one squad or group to share its ammo with another group, though never quite settled on a conclusion. We thought perhaps a runner from a squad or group in need of ammo resupply could reach another group and collect 1 or 2 squad-rounds of ammo in one turn (movement allowance allowing), and then return to their own group and distribute the rounds in a subsequent turn. What do you think?

Satisfied with our rules, we turned to the game. On Sunday morning, Chris's rebels were bearing down on John's defending Federals. The insurrectos' ammo supply was running low, but they had three dynamiters left, who hurled their explosives every other turn upon the small buildings of Tecate. They had already burnt down most of the agricultural buildings on the edge of Tecate, and forces the loyal soldiers back to their lines of barricades in the towns streets. However, the defenders possessed all of the viable structures within the town, two working machine guns, and multiple lines of barricades, which together made up what I'd considered in the last AAR to be an advantage over the rebels.

Chris won the initiative roll for Round One, which was actually Round Eleven. He began reorganizing his forces a bit, and put his Second Group into action. The anarchists' Second Group broke cover behind the truck and tried to jump over the stone wall into the barn yard. John had a machine-gun and soldiers at the barricade on Overwatch, and was able to pause Chris's advance until the Overwatch phase.

On the North end of Tecate, Chris's PLM fighters crawled up the edge of the stone wall in small groups, remaining in cover while inching closer to the machine-gun nest.

John moved up a group from the Federal Second Squad, who leapt over the wooden fence and into the barn yard. 

Diaz's soldiers could not be condemned for their lack of bravery, as they came face to face with the rebel Second Group, with the PLM's First and Third insurrectos to the right and left. John's soldiers, even if they could get the jump on the rebels' Second, would be left exposed.

With movement wrapped up, next came the Overwatch Phase. Most of John's soldiers at the barricade in the intersection had been pinned by a stick of dynamite on the previous round, but the soldier who was not pinned rose to fire. He gunned down a rebel cavalry rider in the road. 

Next, the First MG opened fire on the rebels from Group Two attempting the jump over the stone wall. The first man fell, but his comrades leapt into the barnyard, running right into John's charging Federals. Next, came the Range Attacks Phase. This was the moment we'd all been waiting for--all, except for John--where the two advanced PLM dynamiters unleashed their mayhem upon the streets of Tecate. The first rebel lit his fuse, and made to toss the stick.

It exploded in his hand! Both of the dynamiters were ripped to shreds, and the blast pinned nearly the entire PLM First Group behind the burnt-down building.

Next, we moved on to the Skirmish phase. Chris chose the North end of the battlefield to begin. 

Seven insurrectos who had crept up the barnyard wall popped up to fire at the soldiers running in the open field.

John's Machine-gun interrupted them with Overwatch, killed the first and pinned the second. The remaining five rebels took out three of the soldiers. Next, Chris called for an initiative roll between the combatants in the barnyard, and won. The PLM Second Group blasted away the two surviving soldiers in the pasture.

Next, Chris's lone remaining dynamiter, attached to Group Two, successfully lit his projectile and lobbed it from behind the truck, over the Government lines. It sailed too far to cause any damage, though the machine-gunner and most of the First Federal Squad were pinned. 

Finally came the Regroupment Phase. Chris brought his Headquarters section up, setting up in the vegetable fields, which were already well-watered with the blood of left-libertarians. 

Chris won the Round Initiative roll again for Round Twelve. With the Federal First Squad pinned at the barricade, the PLM Second Group advanced on their position. The truck driver pulled into gear and drove at the machine gun.

On the North flank, Chris ordered more fighters over the fence, and they joined the comrades crawling up on the Second Machine-gun. John, playing defense and without much reason to move, looked on.

The Overwatch Phase began with John's only two soldiers by the intersection who weren't' pinned--a sharpshooter on the roof of the little house on the corner, and one man at the barricade below him,--firing on the advancing rebels. They killed one, but it was not enough to turn back the charge.  

When the Skirmish Phase began, the rebels responded in a barrage from members of Group One, Group Two, and the Headquarters. They kill three soldiers and suppress another, forcing a Morale Roll for Federal Squad Two, or the six survivors thereof. With perhaps his first lucky roll of the day, John's soldiers resisted the urge to flee and remained at their posts.

Next, eight rebels rose from behind the barn wall to shoot at the Second Machine-gun position.

The Machine-gun, and three other riflemen, used Overwatch to get the jump on the rebels, but their rounds sprayed uselessly past their targets. Only one PLMista was pinned, and the other seven return fire, killing one of the soldiers from Squad Three.

Next came the Regroupment Phase. Chris continued to bring Group Two over the eastern wall and having them crawl slowly up along the border. Elsewhere, he repositioned his units here and there, hoping to get them out of the way of any danger.

John, on the other hand, used this Regroupment Phase to pull most of his remaining forces up to the frontline. Short on men, an officer raced up to man the First Machine-gun. 

Even the Federal Headquarters Section was pressed into duty. They left their building at the center of town and moved to support the Third Group and Second Machine-gun. Only the Captain and other highest-ranking men remained behind.

Three of the Federal Soldiers raced into the small building to the right of Machine-Gun Two.

The farmer's livestock took the opportunity to make a break for safety, moving clear of the crossfire.

Round Thirteen began the same way the previous two rounds had: with Chris winning the roll for initiative. Next, Chris stood looking at his Third Group and wondering if they could make the run across the road up the North Flank.

On the other side of the stone wall, Porfirio Diaz's soldiers waited behind the windows and barricades of Tecate.

Chris, instead, brought up a few more men from Group Three to crouch with the comrades by the border. Across the barnyard, Group Two advanced on the mostly-pinned soldiers at the barricade. There was no-one in Overwatch to fire at the charging rebels. During the Ranged Attack Phase, their dynamiter could not light his fuse. But when Chris called for a Skirmish Initiative roll for the intersection between the two burnt-out buildings, John finally won! The Machine-gun, however, even in the officer's hands, only suppressed one of the PLMistas running in the open at close range, but five other soldiers leveled their rifles and brought down four of the rebels of Group One. The few survivors resists fleeing only because the entire PLM Headquarters section pressed up behind them.

The PLM responded, with the Headquarters getting into the action and killing one soldier at the barricade. A brave revolutionary from Group Two drove the truck forward at the Machine-gun position. Chris imagined his little anarchists could hide behind it and attack at close range. John's soldiers killed the driver, but the truck rolled forward anyway, stopping exactly where Chris had wanted it to. The vehicle blocked most combatants line of sight, ending the Skirmish Phase.

During the Regroupment Phase, the Federal's Captain mounted a horse, and the Rebels Headquarters rearranged themselves for better cover, near to the front-line as they were. They spread out behind Groups One and Two, attempting to keep them from routing as the PLM used these comrades as a battering ram against the South end of the Federal lines.

Then came the Fourteenth Round. Chris won the Round Initiative roll again. General Leyva commanded the remnants of Group One to break cover and attack the South flank. A group of cavalrymen from the HQ followed behind, and the rebels charged the southernmost barricade. 

John called Overwatch to halt the rebel charge so he could fire on them during Overwatch Phase. For John's movement turn, he brought most of Squad One and Two to the south-east corner of town to reinforce the Outpost group holding the position.

With the truck blocking its view of the road, the officer manning the first machine-gun turned the weapon 90 degrees, to defend against any rebel breakthrough to the South.

To begin the Skirmish Round, Chris chose the South flank to start. John won the initiative and gunned down three of the advancing anarchists.

Federal soldiers at the intersection barricade then fired on the rebels by the barnyard wall, killing another two from Group Two.

Two more of their comrades fell to John's riflemen in the little house on the corner. Meanwhile, Chris's Third Group, which was the largest and best-supplied of his remaining forces, continued their slow crawl up along the border.

The rebels on the South end of town unloaded a volley of lead, but wasted their rounds. The soldiers took cover behind their barricades and held their positions.

The lone dynamiter successfully lit his fuse, and hurled it at the Federal First Machine-gun. Unfortunately,  the throw fell short its mark, landing in a fiery ball just east of the barricade, blasting it apart. Though the barricade was destroyed, the machine-gun and soldiers in the vicinity were unscathed. The truck, however, caught fire, igniting a secondary explosion.

Smoke from the burning truck filled the intersection, but the blast did no further damage. The nearby buildings had already been burned.

Next, came the Regroupment Phase. Chris's rebels advanced carefully on all fronts, while John's soldiers adjusted their positions to cover weak points. 

The Federals covered the back end of the customs house to protect the flank of the Second Machine-gun.

The Captain, apparently nervous about the stubborn PLM fighters at the gates of Tecate, withdrew with his staff toward the West end of town. Round Fourteen ended.

To begin Round Fifteen, Chris won the initiative, and for the fifth straight time that day. In fact, John had not won a Round Initiative roll since Round Seven. Chris now began to set his true plan in motion. Leaving only few fighters, survivors of Group One and a small group of Headquarters cavalry on the south flank, the rebels hurried northward.

General Leyva and the core of the Headquarters section set up behind the destroyed hayloft. 

To their left, they ordered all but three fighters of Group Three to move up the north flank. The anarchists crawled after their comrades up ahead.

Recognizing the changing battlefield, John pulled his First Squad off the line on the South flank. They withdrew toward the center of town. 

Next, the Overwatch Phase began. Federal rifles at the windows and barricades of Tecate killed two of the three survivors of PLM Group Two.Unfortunately for the Government, however, the third was the dynamiter, who held his place behind the burnt-out green building. Chris decided to attach him to the Headquarters Section for the remainder of the game, ensuring the unit wouldn't flee and giving him access to more ammunition.

The Local Skirmish phase began, and Chris selected the southern sector as the first to play out. 

John won a rare initiative roll here, and his Outpost group killed the last three rebels from the First Group of the PLM's Army of Baja California, leaving only a few riders from the Headquarters section on the South side of the line. All of the rebels' hopes now rested with the Third Group of the Army of Baja California.

The Third Group, having patiently crept up along the stone wall for most of the day, took the opportunity to make a break for the next block. They faced the Overwatch attack from the Second Machine-gun and rifles from the Second and Third Squads of the Federal Army. 

The anarchists broke cover and sprinted across the open space, headed for the next building. The Federal lines fired, killing two of the rebels and suppressing a third, but ten fighters from PLM Group Three made it to the safety of the North wall of the Customs building.

The rear of this section peered around the corner of the building, and with a near-miraculous shot, the rebels took out the officer manning Machine-Gun One down at the intersection.

During the Regroupment Phase, Chris continued moving up the North flank. One of the Group Three rebels mounted a horse by the customs house and border crossing. 

General Leyva, his forces severely dwindled and his only hope of victory out of sight behind enemy lines and the huge plumes of smoke, ordered the riders of his Headquarters section to fan out to stretch the enemy line and ensure no rebels routed. Meanwhile, John found another poor bastard to run up and handle the machine-gun of doom.

Round Sixteen began and, you guessed it, Chris won the Round Initiative Roll. At this point I would have felt bad for John, had he not been playing as the Federals! Chris continued to drive his cavalry toward the North, and push his infantry group up the North Flank. On several occasions around this point in the game, the Federal soldiers were forced to refrain from firing on these rebels for fear of shooting across the border and creating an international incident.

The vanguard of the Third Group reached the second border crossing, this one on the West edge of town. The PLM suddenly controlled the entire border between Tecate and the United States, cutting off the Federals best escape route.

Peering around the corner of a truck, one of the anarchists could even see the Federal captain mounted on his horse just two blocks away.

The Federal Captain and his top officers wavered at the edge of town. During the Movement Phase, more of his forces left their posts on the South end of the line and headed toward the Customs House.

The Third Squad and Second Machine-gun were now well-reinforced, and facing off against the Rebel Third Group on the other side of the Customs house and the building to its west. Other rebels remained behind the barnyard wall.

The Federal lines of control were now reduced to a few blocks in the center and south-west of Tecate, with the bulk of them concentrated around the Third Squad's original position, at the machine-gun by the Customs house. The rebel dynamiter attempted to light his stick, hoping to end the Federal resistance with one well-placed toss amongst the uniformed bodies.

The fuse, however, failed to light. Moving on to the Skirmish Phase, Chris called for an initiative roll for the barn-yard area by the border. When the eight men behind the stone wall rose to fire, it triggered Overwatch, by which the Federal Second Machine-gun unloaded at their position. 

With another weak roll, the machine-gun could only surpass a single rebel. Six other soldiers, however, leveled their muzzles at the rebels and in an accurate volley, killed five.

The Rebel Third Group responded, killing the machine gunner again. Then, in the north-west corner of town, Chris attempted to kill the Federal Captain with a long-shot from behind the truck, but missed. The Skirmish Phase thus ended. The two players began to regroup their units which hadn't yet moved. Chris abandoned all pretenses of putting up a fight for the South part of the front line. All but two of the Headquarters riders galloped toward the North part of town, their vanguard joining the Third Infantry Group behind the customs house. John continued to respond to the rebels changing tactics, shifting northward with them and sending a new soldier to take up the machine-gun by the customs house.

Round Seventeen began the same way the previous ten rounds had: with Chris winning Round Initiative. Chris brought more of his Third Group crawling up the edge of the wall to join the bulk of his forces behind the buildings on the North edge of town. Next, he took the only two riders which hadn't rode to join the Third Group, and moved them into the burnt shell of the green house. They took up positions in the windows facing west. John used his movement turn to launch a counter attack across the line. It was a desperate final attempt to throw back the attackers. Three soldiers ran up to the green house, shrouded in smoke from the fire of the burning truck.

Three other soldiers, lead by an officer, charged the tip of the rebel spearpoint, contesting control of the border crossing.

Finally, John reinforced and repositioned the soldiers defending the machine-gun position at the Customs house.

During the Ranged Attack Phase, the lone dynamiter succeeded in igniting his fuse, and he tossed the explosive at the Second Machine-gun. The throw carried too far, but landed close enough to kill the gunner. The blast caused damage to the gun and the barricade, and set on fire the little building from which three soldiers had fired accurately for the last several rounds.

When the Skirmish Phase began, Chris called for a roll for the green house sector. John's charging soldiers won the roll, and with more lucky rolling, they finished off the cavalry attempting to fire through the widows.

At the back end of town, the officer charging the rebels by the second border crossing fired his pistol around the side of the grey truck. His bullet missed. The Skirmish Phase ended, and Regroupment began. With the little building on the corner burning, John pulled the men inside out and up the road. The corner of the Federal front line was collapsing, the rebels were outflanking their positions, and their commander was absent from the scene.

Round Eighteen began. When John could move, he removed his Captain from Tecate, his bugler blasting the order to retreat back at the forces in town. Learning that Chris intended to fight block by block and house by house until the last man, John surrendered Tecate.

The decision to withdraw likely saved some Federal Soldiers for future battles, and prevented the heart of Tecate from befalling the burning suffered by the buildings on the east edge of town.

Though the Government forces surrendered, they had nearly as many men left to fight as had the rebels, as well as more ammunition and access to more buildings to hold. The taking of the border crossing and the continual slaughter of any soldier brave enough to stand near the machine-guns, on top of some seriously tough luck rolling the die, likely contributed to breaking John's will to fight, or at least his will to come back another day and continue this particular scenario!

That said, I thought John and Chris both fought smart and hard. John used the rules effectively to maximize his ability to fire at the rebels, though bad luck rolling hindered the accuracy of his defenders, and the machine-guns especially. Had the dice rolled his way more often, it would have been difficult for Chris to prevail. Using the buildings at his disposal more frequently, causing Chris to advance further into town and catching him in crossfire from the relative safety of the taller buildings--as had worked so well early in this scenario--may also have increased John's chances of victory. Understandably, John became weary of garrisoning buildings because Chris kept burning them down, occasionally with John's forces inside.

Chris's game was characterized by his usual casual boldness, hurling explosives and charging into machine-gun positions on the South flank. His cunning, however, came through in even this tactic, as the southern flank turned out to be a distraction while he worked his main attack force up the North flank. His mad dash to capture the border was probably the turning point of Day Three.

This play-test helped us work through our final rules changes (at least until the Second Edition). The system of Phases helped us eliminate confusion and clarify the order of play, and worked very well. The new unit sheets were clearer and cleaner, and the guys actually kept track of their own numbers. I have some work ahead of me, editing the rules for one final time and getting everything ready to release for January 29th, the One Hundred and Eleventh anniversary of the Liberation of Mexicali! Chris, John, and I plan to continue our games, and are considering moving on to the Spanish Civil War for the next scenario. As I've mentioned elsewhere, I've also been developing a campaign game for the Durruti Column in the Spanish Civil War, and I have many rough scenarios for us to work through. Thank you to John and Chris for playing guinea pig, and thanks to all of you for reading these AARs and sharing your thoughts and suggestions. Until next time, Tierra y Libertad!

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