FT 273 Former Foes

Mike205

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Saigon. Shit, I’m still only in Saigon.


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For this past weekend’s scenario Doug and I decided to play Former Foes, from Franc Tireur’s Cellar Pack #9.

In this really interesting late war PTO scenario, a British expeditionary force led by Lord Mountbatten attempts to keep order in the suburbs of Saigon after the Japanese surrender. It’s one of two scenarios in the pack that examine the rise of the Viet Minh and underscores the fact that World War II didn’t neatly end in many parts of the world in 1945 and instead bled (literally and figuratively) into new conflicts that endured for decades.
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I love late war anything, and I like the fact more designers are looking at scenarios in which the Allies turned to former enemies to help them maintain or restore order against former compatriots.

Faced with mounting disorder in the form of kidnapping, ambushes, arson, and bombings, Mountbatten turned to the recently disarmed Japanese garrison of Saigon to help the Frontier Force Rifles regain control of the unruly northern suburbs. Although the scenario pits the Viet Minh against Mountbatten’s multi-national Gateforce, it hints, at least to me, that this might have been more of a police action, and gestures towards the thin line in colonial officials’ minds between insurgency and organized crime. Saigon was in a state of flux in fall 1945 and that power vacuum was being filled by not only anti-colonial movements but also by all kinds of ner’do wells. This reminds me of Afghanistan today- we are at war with the Taliban but at local level the ‘Taliban’ consist of all kinds of part-time fighters, local warlords that readily switch sides, narco traffickers, and ideologically driven foreign fighters. In other words, is an insurgency really cohesive?

At any rate, apologies for the intellectual digression- as T.E. Lawrence put it, fighting an insurgency is like eating soup with a knife. I’m not a fan of soup of begin with and by the end of the scenario I’d have a greater appreciation for the challenges of urban counterinsurgency.


Former Foes is 5 & ½ turns and takes place on boards 53 and 49, which comprises a mix of open areas, a few copses of trees, and widely spaced housing that gives way to a more urban core on the eastern edges. Mountbatten’s men will have to clear the 53P2 church VL of Viet Minh in order to win.

The dice gave me command of Gateforce, comprised on 4x 4-5-8s, 4x 4-5-7s, a 9-1, a 8-1, a mmg, 2 lmgs, and a 51 mtr backed up by a Humber AC. This group sets up on or west of hexrow Z on board 49.
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On turn 1 the IJA 2x 4-4-7s, 6x 3-4-7s, a 8-0 and a lmg would come in from the north. My goal was to envelope the VL from north and south, driving the Frontier Rifles through the suburbs and directly up to 53P3 to start the final assault no later than turn 4.
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My IJA force would press south into the dense urban terrain on the eastern edge of board 53. If the Frontier Rifles couldn’t get to 53P2, I figured I’d still have enough IJA left for a final assault. I counted on a much tougher fight in the north but the southern route was longer and might offer a bit more unpredictability. Either way, I felt good about my chances to conquer the church and win the game.

By SSR, the IJA and Brits could never be in the same hex and Banzai charges were NA. Multi-national fire groups were also not allowed.

My confidence was boosted by the Viet Minh OB, represented by Axis minors. Doug would have 1 4-4-7, 7 x 3-4-7s, 7x 3-3-6s, a 1-2-6 crew manning a Japanese 37 INF gun no doubt boosted from a local armory, 1 8-0, 2x 7-0s, and 3 lmgs and a DC, as well as 8 ? counters.
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Looking at the scenario card I figured that if I could start breaking squads, Doug might be in real trouble since it would be difficult for his men to spring back quickly.

Regardless, he still had some advantages. First, those stone buildings would mean that even conscripts had a decent chance of weathering fire. It might come down to my IJA in CC if I wanted to break through a line of defense. Second, two of his squads w/ SW could set up HIP. Tons of places to hide on boards 53 & 49. Third, by SSR, on a Viet Minh Sniper die roll of three, he would generate a random, HS, full squad, or dummies. The SAN was a 6 for the Viets, which meant I’d be likely clearing an area at some point, only to have new enemies popping up behind me. Worst case, I might be locked in CC with one of these units after the location was determined.

I set up my Frontier Rifles on row Z with the AC in motion, this force would sweep eastwards as quickly as possible covered by my mmg crew. Meanwhile the IJA would enter 53S10, R10, and U10 with the goal of clearing the R6 building of Viet Minh as the first phase of their movement south.

Things immediately went sideways. The INF gun HIP in 49 Y6 immobilized the AC and would kill it the following turn. Turn two the HIP 4-4-7, toting a DC charge popped up in 49W9 and broke my stack of 4-5-7s and their accompanying 8-1 leader in the U8 road hex. Everyone else went to ground, exchanging fire with a growing number of concealed VM forming a line of resistance along the northern half of the R8-X8 road.


My IJA were making better progress and outflanked the enemy in 53R6. My sniper also wounded Doug’s 8-0 and pinned a squad of conscripts.

Turn 3 saw my Punjabis from the Frontier Force Rifles bogged down in a fire fight all along the R8 road. One 4-5-8 managed to get across the road and pressure the enemy but they died in melee VM turn 3. The Viet sniper took out my 8-1 and broke another squad, adding insult to injury. Meanwhile, to the north, the IJA were exchanging prep fire with insurgents after clearing the R6 building. Other VM infiltrators started creeping in behind them, further slowing their advance.
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I was bogged down in urban terrain, trading shots with an entrenched and often elusive enemy. Doug kept skulking- pulling his men out of the firing line and generating concealment before advancing back in next turn. It was super annoying but also super smart. My mmg was never able to enter the fray since it was busy keeping the rallied 1-2-6 from regaining possession of the INF gun. My brokies were also having a hard time coming back, but then again, so were Doug’s. His situation was made worse when my sniper went on a tear and broke two more squads from his northern detachment. All in all though, Doug was playing really well, blocking my advance, keeping rout paths open, and making a good use of his randomly generated partisans to distract me. Most of these turned out to be fishwives banging pots and pans or schoolboys setting off firecrackers rather than real units but it took me precious time to figure this out and the farther forward I advanced, it seemed like more enemies were closing in on the flanks.

Turn four I scrambled into gear and drove my reluctant Rifles eastward and pushed my IJA across the 53P6-S9 street. Facing a wall of fire they step reduced into almost nothing but managed to get into CC, where roughly half of the surviving assault force went down in melee before clearing the row houses. Yikes! But hey, I couldn’t have done that with my 4-5-8s and 4-4-7s. I was finally closing in on 53P2.

His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready

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Turn 5 I was starting to lose it like a young Eminem at an open mic battle. I tried not to show it but I was nervous. My men could sense both victory and defeat as I moved within striking distance of 53P2 from both the north and the south.

Doug’s men kept me out though- my bren toting 4-5-8 pinned in the doorway of the church and a heroic squad of conscripts prevented a couple of IJA half-squads from climbing through the shattered stained glass windows. I’d run out of time.

Like a good insurgent, Doug mindf*cked me the first two turns when my AC got immobilized and then immolated and my 4-5-7s and leader broke and ran after being hit marching down the street. From then on, I moved too cautiously. Poor rally rolls also played a factor, as a quarter of the Frontier Force Rifles took almost three turns to return to the fight. In hindsight, I guess this was understandable- who’d want to die in Saigon after surviving Burma?

In contrast, the IJA adhered to the Code of Bushido and were more willing to take the risk. Still, crawling through fire on the 53P8 road sapped their strength and there wasn’t really much left of the main force by turn 5. Several other squads were busy chasing ghosts and making sure they weren’t outflanked by the Viet Minh.

I really felt the pressure in this one- Doug played his Viet Minh really well and I was constantly worried that as I pushed deeper into the city that I was going to get ambushed and cut up in those alley ways as new forces emerged thanks to that SAN 6. I now understand why Mountbatten wanted to pass Indochina off to France ASAP. Well played by Doug but the defeat was my own- I just wasn’t aggressive enough and fell to the time crunch.

This was a great scenario that due to the SSRs has plenty of replay value. I not only appreciated its design but also the subject matter which featured an early fight in the struggle for decolonization. I hope that more designers explore this part of the early postwar period in more detail. There are a couple of good Indochina scenarios in Critical Hit’s Dien Bien Phu module but Franc Tireur’s felt more ASLish in comparison and again, I really hope this is a sign of things to come. Now that we have the Forgotten War expansion, perhaps we can take a deeper dive into the French war in Indochina and maybe some of the smaller ‘police actions’ of decolonization- Malaya, Dutch Indonesia, the Philippines etc. as well.
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Roy

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👍👏

Man, I really miss our old smilies.

Well done sir. Enjoyed.
 

KhandidGamera

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I could see LFT doing a whole issue on Indo Chine'. Not familiar much with Algeria, but another candidate for treatment? Guessing LFT guys would have a leg up on others right off on research resources. Great review, makes me interested in playing this one.
 

Mike205

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I could see LFT doing a whole issue on Indo Chine'. Not familiar much with Algeria, but another candidate for treatment? Guessing LFT guys would have a leg up on others right off on research resources. Great review, makes me interested in playing this one.
Thanks for the kind words and definitely give the scenario a spin, it's great.

Also, I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope hope LFT will do an all Indochina or Indochina/Algeria split.
 

KhandidGamera

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Thanks for the kind words and definitely give the scenario a spin, it's great.

Also, I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope hope LFT will do an all Indochina or Indochina/Algeria split.
I suspect X. in his career travels might have paths to Viet Minh sources even. Be curious to know what French-Vietnamese rapport is like now. Might try to find the Osprey book on Algeria to see if it had standup ASL type battles.
 

JRKrejsa

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Thanks for the kind words and definitely give the scenario a spin, it's great.

Also, I hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope, hope hope LFT will do an all Indochina or Indochina/Algeria split.
I would second the vote for this.

Interesting period and combatants.
 

rdw5150

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Great AAR, thanks!

Roger
 

benj

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I could see LFT doing a whole issue on Indo Chine'. Not familiar much with Algeria, but another candidate for treatment? Guessing LFT guys would have a leg up on others right off on research resources. Great review, makes me interested in playing this one.
There is definitively something coming covering Indochina, but not on top of the priorities.
 
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