Designing Your Own Campaigns

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One complaint levelled against AB is that it lacks a ‘Campaign’ feature. However the nature of the large scale maps and the ease of designing your own scenarios mean that players can have fun designing their own campaigns. This may not be what people mean by having a campaign, but the process adds fresh dimensions to the game. If I am designing a ‘one off’ scenario I will usually try to design it so that both sides have a reasonable chance of winning so it can be enjoyed when played both ways. It is actually quite difficult to achieve this and it is often the case that one player will have a much more difficult mission than the other. A consequence of ensuring balance though, is that it restricts the variety of certain parameters such as weather, night/day or balance of air power. When designing a campaign there is an over-arching narrative which justifies the exploration of more unbalanced of various scenarios. Below is a fictional narrative based on a recent campaign designed and played by myself, illustrating just one of the many ways the campaign could play out:

CAMPAIGN: UK 1st Armoured Division Versus Soviet 10th Guards Tank Division, North German Plain, 6 – 8 June 1989, “Death on Highway 75”.

09:00 Hours 6/6/89 (D+2) “The Battle of Wistedt” Following border battles the advancing 10 GTD finally hit the main defences of German 3rd Armoured Division at Hollenstedt. Facing strong resistance to its advance along Autobahn 1, the Soviets made the surprise move of turning south along Highway 75 into UK 1AD’s sector. With just one mechanised battalion strength battlegroup approaching the western outskirts of Wistedt only a hasty defence could be adopted to block the path of the lead elements consisting of an entire Soviet tank regiment with one battalion of BMP-2 motor-rifle troops substituting for a tank battalion. To make things worse, weather was good, making the going quicker for the attacker, and NATO was still struggling to get the upper hand in the air leaving control of the air in the hands of the Warsaw Pact.

12:00 Hours 6/6/89 “Collision on Highway 75” Inevitably, exposed defensive positions, the difference in numbers, and intensive Soviet air bombardment meant a Soviet breakthrough, though only at the price of a shattered and wrecked tank regiment reduced to half its original strength. In keeping with Soviet doctrine fresh follow on forces were fed through the gap to race deep into 1AD’s rear. Careering west along Highway 75 two battalions of T-80U tanks ran into a 1AD Challenger I tank battalion heading the other way, intended as reinforcements for the battle at Wistedt. Both forces had run ahead of their infantry and artillery support, but the Soviets were assured of air support and were accompanied by helicopter gunships. Air support materialised in the form of an entire squadron of Mig-27 FGA. There ensued a short and violent skirmish in which both forces were mauled, but in which the Soviets ultimately pushed through. This delayed their advance by little more than an hour.

23:30 Hours 6/6/89 “Soviet Coup at Wohlsdorf” As darkness set in that night a battalion of security troops whose job it was to guard a road block at Wohlsdorf, lacking armoured support but for one platoon of Scimitar armoured reconnaissance vehicles, were surprised by an entire brigade of Soviet airbourne troops. Worse, these were fully equipped with light, air portable BMD armoured fighting vehicles. The Soviets had exploited their command of the air to strike the rear of UK 1AD’s defences. The road block consisted of extensive obstacles in the form of anti-tank ditches, extensive mine fields and wire. The infantry positions were well dug-in and fortified so fighting continued till nearly dawn when the position was finally overrun by elite Soviet paratroopers. As the sun rose revealing the wreckage of countless BMDs picked off by the British Milan teams, Soviet engineers were clearing mines and blowing anti-tank ditches. At the same time just a few kilometres to the east the main body of their heavy forces was preparing to strike along Highway 75.

04:30 Hours 7/6/89 (D+3) “Dawn Attack at Scheesel” Just as the sun began to rise, security troops at Scheesel on Highway 75 could hear the distant noise of engines as a Motor-Rifle Regiment dispatched from 10GTA ground into position on its start lines. A massive barrage of heavy artillery was striking on and near the suspected British positions before anyone could react. The town itself was just defended by a battalion of lightly armed security troops. The defence of Scheesel would have to depend on the mechanised battalion spread out in the countryside on the North West outskirts of the town. A hasty defence was again all that could be mustered. By now at least due to successes in the air war NATO was able to offer significant air support in the form of Harrier jets armed with cluster bombs and rockets. Also light rain was making visibility and going less favourable to the attacker. The ‘’Thermal Observation and Gunnery Sight” of the Challenger I would give them a dramatic range advantage over the Soviets as they crouched in depressions hull down to adopt hasty fighting positions. Inevitably the town fell and lead Soviet elements raced forwards to link up with the surviving paratroopers at Wohlsdorf. However this time the damage inflicted on the Soviets would cause them to lick their wounds for a full twenty-four hours as they recovered damaged vehicles and regrouped and reorganised their shattered units. This gave UK 1AD the vital time it needed to prepare a strong deliberate defence at a small, unremarkable town called Waffensen.

12:00 Hours 8/6/89 (D+4) “They Shall Not Pass” During the intervening time dramatic NATO successes in the air war with the arrival of massive air reinforcements from the USA had temporarily established NATO air supremacy over the theatre. How long it would last no one could tell, but for now the Soviet air menace could be ignored. Leading forces from 10GTA had seized control of a local air field on the outskirts of Rotenburg and were now dangerously close to the defences at Waffensen which they overlooked. Here for over three days UK 1AD had been constructing an elaborate deliberate defence with extensive minefields, anti-tank ditches and wire obstacles. Work had been facilitated by the British commandeering earth moving plant from the depot of a local construction company. In addition civilian volunteers from the local population helped with the work. This time the odds favoured NATO. The weather had now turned bad with prolonged heavy rain. Visibility was poor favouring those with thermal sights, and the fields would churn under tracks into slippery mud, slowing the advance. Today the British would be fighting from well prepared, properly dug-in positions with top cover, well camouflaged and practically impossible to see till you were upon them. Massed heavy artillery had been allocated by DIV MAIN who regarded the battle as 1AD’s last chance before Bremen. In addition two entire squadrons of RAF Jaguars and some flights of Harriers were on call for the final showdown. It was a case of stand now or a race to Bremen. This time the Soviets were for once outnumbered as a Soviet tank regiment including one battalion of motor-rifle troops blundered into an entire UK mechanised brigade. Crawling through heavy artillery kill zones and cowering under massed air attacks including horrifying cluster bomb attacks by British Harriers, the landscape around Waffensen was soon littered with burning T-80U tanks, once the pride of the Red Army. The Soviets had to soon depart and retreat to the friendly territory behind Rotenburg airfield. Now the stage was set for a counter-strike.

23:00 Hours 8/6/89 “Night Attack” NATO would now make the most of its advantages in night fighting. The thermal sights on the Challenger I gave the British troops eyes at night which enabled them to see much more and much further than the Soviets. Just a single mechanised battalion strength battlegroup, with two companies of Challenger I tanks, two companies of Warrior infantry and supplemented by Striker with Swingfire batteries would be sent out as soon as darkness fell to take back Rotenburg Airfield. The Strikers were also equipped with thermal sights and could take out enemy armoured vehicles at up to 4000m in all weathers, day and night. Divisional G2 was uncertain as to the strength of the armoured forces around the airfield, they were mostly believed to be hiding in the woods to the north of and immediately adjacent to the airfield. Whatever their numbers, given the recent mauling they should be a good target for NATO’s night shooting. The airfield itself was guarded by an infantry battalion of security troops with plenty of heavy and anti-tank weapons. ZSU-23-4 anti-aircraft quad cannon used to defend the air base would also add to their fire power. As the attack force set off the weather had not improved. Half an hour later a thunder storm broke and the rain became even heavier. Lighting actually struck among one enemy BMP company. The portents were not good for the Soviets. Heavy air strikes and heavy artillery barrages served to reduce the defences before armoured companies became fully engaged. Standing off at a distance the Challengers and Strikers could pick off enemy vehicles as they emerged to seek the enemy. Colonel Petrov their CO, had been ordered to hold the air field at all costs and the result was the Soviet armour stood and fought only to be picked off by an enemy they could not find. As infantry, supported by tanks finally overran the airfield a blood bath of close in battle resulted. This was when the British took their worst casualties. However long before sun rise the whole base was in British hands with the remainder of the Soviets fleeing to safe lines. This was the beginning of the fight back. With the battlefield in British hands dozens of valuable immobilised or damaged T-80U tanks had to be abandoned, and Col. Petrov was to face a court of inquiry into the incident.