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Monday, December 7, 2015

Battle of Alma de Fresno, Part I: Militia

Why part I? Because I've had the rare opportunity for another playthrough of this scenario with my buddy Jamie, only this time trying my luck as the Moroccans. I'm hoping to learn a lot from playing both sides.

The Background:

In the wake of the army's attempted coup, Spain was split in two. In some areas, the army quickly and brutally took control, and in others it was labor unions and political groups whose militias took power, sometimes with loyal elements of the security forces or army supporting them. In rural Extremadura, a province in which most of the land was owned by rich, distant landowners there had been tremendous discontent for years. The peasants had demanded land reform and were resisted by the traditional landowners, the aristocracy, and the Catholic church. Now, with the election of the Popular Front government and with the rebellion of the army, a revolutionary fervor overtook much of the province.
         In the small town of Alma del Fresno, located just off the Seville-Badajoz road, the peasant laborers collectivized the local farms and arrested those aristocrats and fascist sympathizers that did not immediately flee.  The old order was overthrown, and in the heat of those days several landowners were executed without trial. When the local clergy tried to intervene, they too were arrested. The local security forces, outnumbered, stood aside while this happened, while some local army boys (home on leave when the coup happened) actively helped the reds in their purge.
            Meanwhile, the elite forces of the Army of Africa landed in force in Seville.  A mix of fanatic Spanish Foreign Legion and the dreaded Moroccan Regulares, they came to the mainland in German planes, ready for action. From their they struck north in order to link up with General Mola's distant forces.  As they advanced in their columns they brutally "purified" the villages through which they passed. Where a handful of fascists had been shot, hundreds of working class men were executed in retaliation. Even Nationalist sympathizers were not always safe from the African troops, and an officer was heard to say that the looting was a tax paid for the liberation of Spain.
            Now General Yague has ordered a detachment of Moroccan Regulares to divert from the main advance up the Extremadura road from Seville, and similarly cleanse the town of Alma del Fresno. Their orders are to rescue the local clergy (the local priest is the brother of an influential army Colonel), take the town, and cleanse its population of los Rojos. 
            The militia holding the village will try to blunt the advance, but if forced to retreat might execute the clergy.  They also may have equipment or even volunteers from the local Guardia Civil and possibly some inexperienced army troops with them. However, the revolutionaries, in their distrust of the army, can be expected to be in command.

Scenario is "Attack on an Objective" from the CoC book. The objective will be the walled graveyard in which the clergy have been locked under guard. The Nationalist victory condition is that this objective be taken and held until the militia break. If the militia are forced to flee before the graveyard is secure they will surely execute their captives on their way out and the officer in charge will have a very angry Colonel to deal with.

The clergy are under armed guard.

The graveyard is behind the church, with no line of sight from the attacker's table edge.

Fritz, playing the Moroccans, rolls and gets 4 free moves. He advances up the center in close formation for maximum speed.

My patrol markers start within the graveyard itself and will be significantly slower to deploy. Rolling for force morale, I once again roll well and end up with an 11, while Fritz rolls up a 10.

We lock down quick, too quick for me to get a good position. Fritz mentioned that he'd learned some lessons after the last game, and it showed clearly in his patrol moves. He moved up as quick as he could and kept his markers so close together that they all locked down against only two of mine, leaving my other two out of position (one never got off the objective).  You win this round Fritz!

Miltia jump off points are pretty far back, which isn't terrible, but isn't exactly where I hoped to be either. The militia's plan to hold the town involved making the approach as nasty as possible, but the rebel artillery seems to have completely disorganized them, forcing them to hide behind the church.

The Moroccans' jump off points. One on the left...

One on the right, far too close to the center of town for my comfort...

And one a bit farther back that neither of us expected him to use. With the Militia's jump off points so far back, the two lead rebel jump off points are far enough forward as to claim half the board before the first shot is fired.

Fritz rolled an 8 for support, giving me 4 to add to my starting 17 points for the quality difference. Fritz bought a preliminary barrage (very smart for this scenario), a sniper, and a Schneider Mountain Gun with crew.  The sniper team was one of the first on. He could have taken the bell tower, but he wanted a different angle and deployed far to the right.

This was going to be a battle of quality vs. quantity.  The Moroccans are regulars, but with 6 command dice and some great special abilities (like moving 2d6 and ending tactically). My militia are green, seriously lack leaders, and only have 4 command dice. But with 21 points of support, I had the opportunity to make the best of it. I chose:

LMGx3 (3), "El hombre" (1), Adjutant (1), MMG for a squad (2), Army officer advisor (2), Hardened militianos (4), Green Army Infantry Section w/junior leader (3), Bilbao Armored Car (2), and a Sniper (3).  I'd have preferred to taken more militia sections rather than the army infantry, but I sadly lack the militia figures (been waiting on the new Minairons set to fill out my ranks).  If you're not too familiar with CoC SCW, "El Hombre" allows you to activate a temporary junior leader among one of your leaderless sections each phase, the army advisor allows you to reroll one command die each phase, and Hardened militianos is an upgrade that does away with the worst of the militia penalties (like being too macho to take cover).

A section of Morocans followed the snipers on, deploying on the left, clearly looking to round the church towards the objective.

He also deployed a senior leader, placing the section on overwatch.

Preliminary barrage is a nasty support choice. You only have a 50% chance of deploying when it is in effect, and I had a difficult time getting my forces on the board (especially only having 4 command dice). My sniper was the only one with any luck, taking the bell tower, but with the Moroccans on overwatch I decided not to risk shooting with them.

The second section deployed, and immediately split up. The LMG team holed up the building near the jump off point, taking position at the windows (on overwatch), while the rest deployed at the rear of the building, ready to advance.

Meanwhile, the Moroccans move carefully forward on the left.

The platoon Teniente deploys on the right. All of the Moroccan force is now on the table, and I only have a sniper. The preliminary barrage was really messing up my already derailed plans (derailed by the patrol phase).  I was getting anxious due to how fast Fritz was moving up unopposed.

The Schneider field gun deploys behind the hedges, in position to shell anyone trying to defend the objective on the right.

The nearby infantry section begins advancing towards the square.

On the left, the Moroccans break into a run, taking a bit of shock for a few more inches.

Finally, a lucky break for the militia. Fritz rolls three 6s on his command dice, ending the turn. He gets a double phase first, but the barrage ends, allowing me to deploy when he's finished.

Taking advantage of the double phase, he pushes up on both sides, taking shock for additional speed.

His men round the corner of the church, the cemetery gate is in view!

Thankfully with the barrage over, the militia recover their wits.  They emerge from behind the graveyard with a tripod mounted machine gun set up in minimal cover, opening fire on the Moroccans rounding the corner of the church.

I have the dice to deploy another section that phase, and choose to bring on the army infantry to block the advance of the Moroccans on the right.

The firefight starts on that side as well, although the army takes some hits from the LMG on overwatch across the way.

Now that the enemy has appeared the Africanistas open fire with their field gun, pummeling the green army troops. I'd put them there expecting to take serious shock, and wanted a junior leader with them to do something about it. Unfortunately, he is immediately knocked unconscious from the artillery fire. My morale drops to a 10.

At this point, I'm very curious to see what Fritz will do on the left. The approach is horrible, and with a MMG covering it, hard to assail. Will he pull back, try to rush towards the light cover, move tactically forward to increase cover, lay down covering fire...?  Nope, Fritz is going to hunker down and try to win the firefight. He uses his leaders to reduce shock and opens fire with the whole section, to limited effect.

The return fire is focused entirely on his LMG team (possible as he's in the open), dropping them to 2 men and pinning them.

Meanwhile, the militia deploy the armored car. It slowly moves down the road, firing its machine gun at the partial section taking cover in the square.

The army boys are still taking fire, from the LMG team in the house, the field gun, and the riflemen across the way.

Meanwhile the milita bring up El Jefe, or is it La Jefe?

The Moroccans on the left meanwhile are being chewed up by the machine gun, but are stubbornly holding their ground.  Up until this point I felt like I was right at the edge of losing the battle at any moment, but when Fritz kept that section in place against the MMG, I felt like things were beginning to turn.

Fritz knew, however, that he wasn't going to be able to take the MMG position. Rather, he kept his men there in order to shoot into the rear of the army boys down the alley, softening them up for an assault from the right.

And they were nearing the point where they'd fold easily if charged. With no leader (or no conscious one anyway), there was nothing to be done about the shock.

Finally, the order comes for the charge. The Moroccans leap over the wall, charging the army boys with a fierce cry and rush... 2 inches.  Ouch. They don't make it to assault range.

Another section of militia rushes out of the church to cover the army's back. People's militia and Peninsular army, fighting back to back!

With the Moroccans on the left now in a crossfire, things deteriorate quickly.

The LMG squad is wiped out, and another team pinned!

With the armored car firing into them, the two teams preparing for an assault are not in the best condition to do so either.

They're only in marginally better shape than the men they're rushing.

Worse, on the left, the junior leader goes down, another morale hit for the fascists.

The senior leader remains, but can't manage to completely unpin his men. They stubbornly hug the ground.

The armored car advances, as I hope to block the assault with its bulk. I roll poorly, and don't quite make it. The MMG in the turret takes its usual toll however.

On the left, the senior leader takes a bullet in the head as he tries to rally his men.

The situation for the Moroccans has become critical. If they lose any more morale, they begin to lose command dice.

It happens soon after, with another team on the left breaking.

Meanwhile the green army boys start to crumble as well.

The charge finally comes, the Moroccans running out ahead of the armored car, almost oblivious to the danger. The forces are almost even, although the green infantry are pinned, and end up with the worst of it. The first round is a tie, sending us into two more brutal rounds of close combat before my infantry break and run.

The fleeing infantry interpenetrate the miltia behind them, instantly giving them 8 shock!  When the Moroccans claim the army position it immediately initiates another close combat, the second in this phase!  The militia, before getting all that shock, were almost entirely intact, but are getting hit in the rear.

However, the attacking Moroccans are down to 4 men, and break after losing their junior leader.

The make a run for it, running out into the road.

Only to be gunned down by the armored car's machine gun. With that, the Moroccan force breaks!

The pinned Moroccans on the left surrender to the overwhelming numbers of the milita. Believe it or not I still have 2 untouched sections that never deployed.

The field gun is abandoned as the Europeans supporting the Moroccan platoon flee.

And in the graveyard, La Jefe gives a hard order. "The Moroccans knew just where these people were being kept. Clearly they're finding ways to get information out to the fascists. They've betrayed the revolution and deserve what they get."

Lessoned learned: With the preliminary barrage making it difficult to deploy, I was on my heels for most of the early game, just reacting to Fritz's advance and trying to plug gaps. I got lucky that the turn ended when it did, but by that time I was fighting over the last 1/4 of the board.  It wasn't any grand strategy of mine that won this one, but a combination of luck at the right moment, and I think some impatience by Fritz.  I think that if he'd taken his time and not dug his heels in on the left that he might well have seized the objective.  Trying to win a firefight in the open without superior firepower won't work without some maneuvering (moving tactically, getting to better cover, and/or laying down covering fire with a team to reduce hits). In the end, I feel like Fritz lost this as much as I won it. And that's a lesson I'll be taking into the next game as the Moroccans.

Also, while I was happy with the bulk of my support choice, I find that three points for a sniper is too much. The unit just isn't worth it, especially if you only have 4 command dice. Even with 6, Fritz ended up in agreement with me on this unit. There are plenty of better buys to be had.


  1. Awesome AAR Prima,

    Great looking figures and terrain...very evocative and I liked your brief introduction to the battle setting the!

    Sounds like your Militia choices were prudent and useful to a man...even with some not needed in reserve. Quite a different outcome from other people's experience with Militia. The Patrol phase tactics of moving forward quickly and locking down YOUR markers to deny your opponent a manoeuvre advantage is a very useful tactic against a more nimble this is a clever way to limit an opponent who may have a patrol phase advantage be it through the scenario or their own special traits.

    The Sniper cost is a standard CoC cost and we didn't feel the need to change this. Perhaps it's just not the best option for a Militia force to have...perhaps reflecting that 'true' snipers for militia forces aren't as useful as military snipers in more command capable platoons ie the Moroccans with a sniper probably get better value out of a sniper support list choice.

    It is important to note that we did not rate support list item based on its 'cost' or 'effectiveness' relevant to each list. This is a base principal for all army lists and CoC list design in general. It's just that some armies will be better at utilising some assets more effectively due to their command dice allocation. I see this as perfectly historical with the overall PFR in essence 'subsidising' the cost of items that are less suited to some army it all depends on how you view it in its entirety not just as a one for one choice. Snipers I n some scenarios might be worthwhile whilst not so good in others.

    Very off to read the next AAR and see how you went with the Regulares...


    Sent from my iPad

    1. Glad you enjoyed! I'm really enjoying CoC Espana, and the challenge of the militia.

      As for snipers, my gaming buddy and I are both at a loss for how to use them most effectively. We've had them in a few games, and they just never seem to do much. Maybe that's just our perception (they always seem to miss!), but it just seems to us that you can usually find something more effective for 3 support points. Just started WW2 CoC this week, and I think with the smaller sections the sniper with it's double shock ability may be more useful.

      Enjoy the flipside of the scenario!