A small settlement of traditional Claive homes enclosed within low walls along the Jrinn-Harl road, Halfway borders extensive woodland that the settlers manage, providing good cover for retreating Guard.
Knowing the only route north to Harl was the track that ran right past Halfway, the Claive had decided to set up an ambush there. The population of the settlement were removed this time to avoid inevitable casualties from what was probably likely to be an intense and close range action. The Southern Shield Commander intended for his Guards to hit the ROF hard at extreme close range with everything they had and then melt away quickly into the woodland before the superior firepower of the invaders could be fully utilised. He wanted to keep his own casualties to a minimum and he knew that the timing of withdrawal of the Guard units would be critical. The Guard units themselves had been issued with Flak jackets as additional protection. Whilst morale was still good, confidence had dropped from high to normal, following the drubbing and high casualty rates of their fellow Guards at Jrinn.
Three Guard units and the Commanders own HQ team were deployed in Halfway itself, all prone behind the walls and buildings of the settlement. No. 6 Guard occupied the blue house, No. 8 Guard the red house, No. 9 Guard the yellow house with HQ Guard in the green house. To anchor his flanks, No. 7 Guard occupied the tree line on the left flank of Halfway where the track led off to the lumber works where most of Halfway's inhabitants worked. No. 10 Guard were deployed within the trees on the right flank of the settlement covering the road to Harl. Each team member had strict instructions to stay behind trees, walls and buildings until ordered to fire so that with luck there would be no heat signatures for the ROF to spot. The plan was to open up on their targets right at the point of the T-junction at the corner of blue house; point blank range.
Having secured the area around Jrinn, TCT Bravo, ROF had assisted in setting up the forward operating base there before climbing into their vehicles and heading out for Harl, closely followed by TCT Charlie. Several small farms and hamlets along the route had been searched and secured without further incident although one of the Ranger scout vehicles had cracked a drive shaft on some hidden rocks whilst running off road. Lt Flode decided to leave them to await the flying mechanics and press on in the hopes of catching the remains of the Southern Shield before it made the safety of Harl, or at least get to Harl before the Shield could dig in. Morale was good and confidence high, and the news from the field hospital was that trooper Prean, badly wounded at Jrinn, was off the danger list.
"Gauntlet" advancing on the road to Harl with Halfway in the distance.
The game was set for a maximum of eight turns as when planning the scenario I envisaged a number of rounds of fighting in alleys.
"Gauntlet" was on point; the Guardian class APC of One Section. It's auto-defence MG's were disabled because of the fear of civilian casualties, but as it approached the settlement it's sensors seemed to indicate that there was no one home. A quick check with the boss reaffirmed that the guns would remain on manual fire only.
The Claive were operating on strict "silent routine" until it's commander ordered the ambush sprung. His plan got off to a premature start however when an RPG armed sister from No. 6 Guard let her excitement get the better of her and she fired off a rocket. Seconds later, the RPG's, Assault rifles and SAW's of four Guard units opened up on the APC. Four rockets exploded on "Gauntlet" but it took no damage. Inside it's metal skin, Sergeant Gohl checked his magazine and spoke over the com.
One section exited smartly with the four trooper right flank team looking to engage the tree line ahead of them and the three trooper left flank team trying to suppress the fire coming in from the buildings.
The volume of fire hitting the APC and the two fire teams was intense and by the start of Turn Three and the arrival of "Gorget" - Three Sections APC, Trooper Zender had been killed and the remaining Troopers of One Section had all taken wounds, with Trooper Hok seriously wounded.
Three Section disgorged from their APC and deployed to their left flank. They discovered the same problem facing One Section: no cover and hard hitting accurate fire from close range. But both sections remain calm, getting wounded away into the back of "Gauntlet" and engaging multiple targets. Fire against No. 7 Guard seriously wounded their commander and 2 others with lighter wounds; the cover of the woodland and the flak jackets helping. Looking vulnerable now, they gathered their wounded and start to withdraw into the deeper tree line. Right flank of One Section attempt to pin them down but failed, although they did hit another Guard before they slipped beyond sight.
Three Section had also taken several wounds at this stage, with Trooper Strat seriously so. Whilst the section medic tries to stabilise her, the rest of Three Section hit No. 8 Guard hard and began to cause casualties. With the fire from the ROF beginning to cause problems, the Claive commander ordered their withdrawal from the red house.
ROF under fire and fighting back
No. 6 Guard moving off the blue house still covered by No. 9 Guard.
Turns 4 and 5 saw the arrival of "Hauberk" with Two section who deployed quickly in front of the stationary "Gauntlet". No. 9 Guard were ordered back from the yellow house and as the fire visibly slackened off, "Gorget's" commander risked a rapid drive forward to park right outside the now empty yellow house. "Hauberk" also charged forward to cover the approach by it's infantry and got a LOS on the retreating No. 6 Guard heading through the alley between the houses. With it's auto defences disabled under orders, the commander lost the initial reaction test. In the fire that followed I think I got the dice rolls wrong but stuck with the outcome which was an RPG round managing to find a weak point in the armour of "Hauberk" which began to brew up. The driver took some shrapnel which pierced his armoured vest, but both he and the APC commander bailed successfully.
"Hauberk" brewing in the background. To it's right flank One Section can be seen reaching the tree line of the Claive left flank positions.
Turns 6 & 7 saw the Claive pretty much get clean away with all their wounded. The Commander and his HQ team were the last to leave Halfway, having failed to find any targets of their own. However, he had seen with grim satisfaction a number of the ROF infantry go down under his Shield's fire and of course, the sight of one of their APC's pouring smoke was most pleasing. Just as he and his team were scrabbling over the back wall of the green house, Three Section were storming the blue and yellow house compounds and Two Section were breaking into the alley between the compounds themselves. No.10 Guard, itching to get involved but under strict orders covered the fall back along the track towards Harl itself.
By the time the ROF had secured Halfway and knew it was empty, the Claive were deep in the woodland. With one vehicle disabled and it's crew attempting to put out the fire and multiple casualties the ROF did not pursue but set up a perimeter defence whilst the CASE-VAC team rushed to their aid.
After their first bloody mauling at the hands of the ROF, the Claive militia forces at Halfway performed very well indeed. Their commander stuck to the "quick hit ambush and run" plan that he had conceived and pulled back his Guard units just when they needed to. There was a great temptation to leave them in place for one more round to see if they could cause the ROF even more problems but that would almost certainly have allowed the enemy to cause greater harm to his formation, and perhaps even his forces destruction. They managed to pull back before the superior fire power of the ROF could pin them into position.
For the ROF, it was a costly engagement. After the initial two rounds however, they quickly took the initiative and never panicked. Certainly having to debouch from their APC's under intense fire at close range meant that they could do no more than attempt to use suppression fire - all of which failed and it was in these rounds that they took their casualties.
Because it was an encounter engagement without the benefits of their data net support which would under normal circumstances have picked up the deployment of their enemy, they had to overcome the ambush the old-fashioned way. Strung out on the road as they were, they also lacked the fire support that a set piece assault would have given them.
It was not a defeat for the ROF since they had quickly occupied another Claive settlement, but the points and the glory definitely went to the Claive this time round. In addition, the Southern Shield remains a viable force that will be able to add it's strength to the defence of Harl - the first substantial Claive settlement in the valley. The successful ambush of the ROF will also give all Claive forces a real morale boost.