We decided to step into Lebanon again with our second session of “Rock the Casbah”. This time we traded in the scenic fruit orchards of the countryside for the concrete jungle of Lebanon’s urban areas. Dan and John would be running the Zionist pigs, while Brad and I would be running the plucky freedom fighters.
With long delays on the main roads due to ambush, a platoon of Merkava tanks had attempted to reach their forward position by taking a slight off-road shortcut. Unfortunately, the unit ended up completely out of position on the wrong flank, leaving a noticeable hole in the Israeli advance. To rectify this command sent out a mechanized platoon who, despite multiple ambushes, had arrived near their objective: A crossroad which would allow fast transit for the Merkava unit to speed through. The PLO, as per usual, knew only that the Israelis were advancing on their positions and that they must hold against the Israeli assault no matter the cost.
Due to the nature of urban settings, the PLO would be particularly difficult to spot: as long as they were in a building, hidden units would not be placed as a blind on a table. This meant that the Israelis could not simply advance forwards and ferret out PLO cells by proximity: instead, methodical spotting and clearing of areas would be necessary. There were also rumors of a media crew in the area, and that they should watch their actions lest they get caught on tape.
The PLO, on the other hand, had set forward units damage and slow the Israelis advance. However, none of these units contained leaders and would be difficult to pull away; their job was to cause casualties and die where they stood. The heavier units with leaders set-up along the corners of the crossroads, unknowingly guarding the Israeli objective. The Recoilless Rifle and T-34 were set-up at opposite ends of the table, each guarding over one of the long inroads to destroy any fast armored advances along the roads. Finally, a single cell was attached to a civilian group; depending on how well the Israelis rolled on their spotting roll, they may see both the civilians and the terrorists or only the civilians.
The initial Israeli advanced showed that this unit was obviously more experienced than the ones which had been halted by the ambushes earlier in the day: Instead of standing in the road they immediately moved their transports into the orchard, attempting to avoid any long-range shots. Meanwhile, their supporting Magach 6 sat in the road, confident that its Blazer ERA would protect it.
As the Israelis moved forward their second wave swept through the orchard behind them, concealed by blinds and looking to take the right flank. The first Israeli fire team pulled up to the wall and looked over, revealing the first blind: A bunch of men auctioning off a camel.
While this was a relief, the cell overlooking the Magach 6 had gotten antsy. The Magach had refused to advance further, and the RPG man decided to take his shot. The first RPG round hit, covering the tank in smoke, while the second RPG round went off to the side. When the smoke cleared, though, the tank was still standing… and would remain there, being de-tracked by the rocket attack.
The tank commander, panicking under the sudden rocket assault, decided that his tank crew was more important than adhering to the “rules of war”. He ordered his loader to put in a white phosphorus and fire it into the building. The cannon fired, and the ringing in the ears of the nearby troops thankfully drowned out the screams of the PLO nearby.
With the sudden burst of fighting, Israeli units began advancing into better cover. With the assistance of a giant hand, the Israelis managed to clear out the nearby civilians as they advanced towards the nearby houses.
Once there, they began looking to see if anything was across the street. While the troops saw nothing, the corporal wasn’t convinced and continued to spot out the windows. Lucky for him, he was able to notice the RPG setting up at the last second, allowing his troops to take cover and minimize the casualties to a single soldier. Their own RPG fired back as both sides opened up with small arms fire, civilians hitting the deck in the middle of the street
In all the chaos and confusion, yet another explosion occurred. IED? Stray artillery round? Inopportune gas leak? Either way, it caught both a PLO and an IDF blind, causing a wound to the latter and obscuring the street. This allowed the Israelis on the right flank to move up, searching houses before retreating as they came under fire from the T-34/85 down the street. The crew would attempt to advance, but the machine would not as it refused to shift into gear. It would remain on the corner, hull down for the rest of the battle.
With all this going on, the crew of the recoilless rifle spat out a dozen different curses; a civilian group had walked out into the middle of the street, obscuring their shot of the immobilized Magach. The civilians would eventually flee towards the Mosque, like the rest of the civilians would seem to do.
The Israelis, knowing that they had little time to sit around, took on the offensive. One of the Zeldas moved forwards on the left flank, zipping around before the recoilless rifle team could get off a proper shot. The Zelda would provide a base of fire for the other Israeli units moving up, while the recoilless rifle would get into an extended duel with the Magach. Neither side, however, would do much to damage the other.
Near the Mosque, however, the smoke had cleared and given the IDF team across the street a clear view of the people in the Mosque. At first, it seemed as though it was just a mass of civilians… but the appearance of an RPG quickly changed their mind. Ducking for cover, they managed to avoid the worst of the fire, shrugging off most of the damage. The right flank, though, was looking rather clear as they moved through the scattered buildings.
The left flank was more difficult. The Zelda, along with a second Magach, had advanced up the street, falling into MG and RPG fire. Sadly, this only managed to track the Zelda, whose occupants decided to turn it into a firebase, blazing away with its machine guns. The sudden ambush melted away as PLO casualties mounted quickly. This, along with the advance through the recently cleared green building had just about secured the left flank.
On the right flank, though, the PLO leader had been more wily. Rather than revealing themselves too early, he had waited calmly as the cautious Israelis began to get frustrated with their inability to find new enemies. Realizing that the Merkava unit could arrive at any second, the commander ordered one of his fire teams advance across the street… and the results were disastrous, with almost the entire fireteam being lost. However, the second Magach, having view of these new enemies and hearing about the situation over the radio, decided to fatefully to fire a white phosphorus round at the building, killing most of the cell inside.
At this point, the last group, waiting on the roof, decided to reveal itself and fire down. But it was too late; the battle was won and the PLO was falling back. They had managed to cause 5 casualties as well as immobilizing 2 vehicles at the cost of over 30 men and a technical. The tipping point, though? The building across the street contained the media crew, which had full view of the illegal use of force. The Israelis may have plugged the hole in their line, but they likely lost an officer and gained a media firestorm.
After Action Report: PLO
A few things I learned from this:
1) Don't be afraid to use your Big Men more actively. We were told this after the game that we could have probably saved a few units by revealing our Big Men individually and having them run around. I thought they would be more vulnerable, but since they have an 18" range, they can stay out of view while doing these things. This hasn't been an issue in most games, but this one it probably hurt my own stuff a bit.
2) The Israelis, when played properly, are hard are hell. John and Dan used their support a lot better than the IDF did in the previous game, even with the watering down of the Zelda. When used in concert, Israeli squads and their Zeldas can quickly take care of anything, as my MMG found out.
3) Since the Israelis are hard as hell, you have to let them make the mistakes. At times I did reveal a bit earlier than I probably should have. The PLO is very hard to spot in buildings, so letting the Israelis get frustrated with poor spotting rolls (like John did at the end, which cost him a fireteam) and try to rush forwards is paramount. My MMG and Terrorist cell on the left side of the Crossroads could have benefited from a bit more patience.
Overall a great (if rough) game made even better by a smashing Palestinian victory!