Roadblock Roadblock

The Roadblock Mission was one of the Missions that was removed from the Version III Flames Of War rulebook. It makes for an interesting and fun game, but wasn’t always the best choice for tournament play. The outcomes of Road Block Mission games can be heavily influenced by the terrain and by the types of forces being used. The following article looks at some historical examples of the types of battles the Road Block Mission represents, introduces an updated Version III Flames Of War mission, and takes you through a couple of brief examples of games with the Road Block Mission.
Roadblocks and Ambushes
In war commanders have always looked for an advantage over the enemy on the field of battle. One of these advantages has always been surprise, bringing the enemy to battle when your forces are prepared, but the enemy’s are not. A sudden attack from concealed position is one of the best ways of achieving this. This is often done on the enemies route of march with an ambush where they are most vulnerable.

Finland 1939
During the Winter War (Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939) the Finns made great use of roadblock ambushes. Due to the dense terrain of the Finno-Soviet border and the limited number of roads, the Soviets would advance along the few roads in large columns of troops and vehicles. The Finns were able to take advantage of this by attacking the lead elements to bring the column to a halt then attacking the various parts of the Soviet force, causing chaos and confusion, before melting back into the forest.

The result of these hit and run tactics soon became known as a Motti, named after a measure of fire wood left in the forest to collect later. They were called this because a successful attack would leave the Soviet force cut off, surrounded, and halted in the middle of the Finnish wilderness. A small Finnish force would then keep up harassment to keep the Soviets in place, where they could cause little harm.

The Roadblock Mission is ideal for representing these sort of actions. A Soviet force might be made up of Strelkovy infantry and support T-26 tanks, while the Finns would attack with an infantry force containing some Sissi ski guerillas to initially bring a halt to the column. Close-defence teams would knock out tanks. A game played with thick forests and snow really brings out the character of the Winter War, where the Soviet tanks were often forced to stick to the roads or they would quickly become bogged down and easy prey to the Finnish infantry.

France 1944
During Operation Overlord (the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy) various roadblock and ambush actions took place. In southern France Free French forces with support British SAS troops engaged in a number of roadblocks and ambushes to slow the redeployment of units such as 9. Panzerdivision to Normandy.

In Normandy itself the tough fighting through the Bocage involved many ambushes and roadblocks, with the
Germans utilising all manner of tactics to try and halt the Allied breakout of the Normandy beachhead. During the various German counterattacks and counteroffensives the shoe was on the other foot, with the Allies taking advantage of the close terrain to halt and slow the Germans.

Games based on the actions in Normandy and France could take on all shapes and sizes, from Stan Hollis (see Overlord page 55) taking on the Germans holding the roads leading off the beach, to the US 30th Infantry Division holding off the spearhead of German Operation Lüttich. A typical game may consist of German Grenadiers or Panzergrenadiers defending a road through the Bocage, ambushing a US tank company spearheading the advance during Operation Cobra.

Italy 1944
During the Italian campaign throughout 1944 and 1945 the Germans would often engage in ambushes and delaying actions to cover the retreat of their forces to a new defensive line. The terrain of Italy heavily influenced the deployment of these roadblocks, where they were often placed on mountain passes and on the sole route through a particular area. These forces often consisted of motorised Panzergrenadiers with supporting guns and tanks or assault guns. However, the Allies were weary of such tactics and would probe forward with their reconnaissance units. An interesting game could be played with defending a German Panzergrenadierkompanie against a US reconnaissance force of some kind. Rough hilly terrain on either side of the road would be ideal for this type of game.

Eastern Germany 1945
In 1945 the Soviet Red Army began to penetrate Germany proper, fighting its way into the Reich. This led to some bitter and desperate fighting as the German attempted to hold off the advance of the Red Army on the German capital at Berlin. Timing and surprise were key elements to much of the defence. Concealed positions along ridge lines or hills played an important role in attempting to slow the march of the Red Army.

Vietnam was the site of many road ambushes as the Nationalists sought ways to inflict casualties on the Free World forces while limiting their losses. The scale of these ambushes ran from a few guerrillas ambushing a lone vehicle, though to attacks on convoys, right the way up to attacking firebases so that a company or battalion would rush to the rescue, straight into a large-scale ambush.

You can use the Roadblock mission as presented to represent one of the later types of battle, with elements of a Free World relief force being ambushed as they attempt to relieve a besieged fire base. If you do this, the Nationalist player places the ambushing platoon as normal, but holds the rest of their force in Guerrilla Reserves. The uncertainty as to the location of the rest of the ambushing force makes the job of the relieving force even more difficult as they strive to aid their comrades caught in the ambush, while avoiding walking into another themselves.

Another variant on the mission would be to have the Free World force escorting an artillery battery or two to a new fire base when the Nationalists spring an ambush. This is an opportunity that doesn’t come often for the Nationalists as the artillery spends most of its time secure in a fire base, so they need to make the most of the opportunity to destroy them while they can. In this version, the attacking force may place any of their artillery batteries on the road (along with the usual two platoons) at the start of the mission. Towed artillery gets a truck for each gun and one for the headquarters, and is mounted and limbered up when the ambush strikes.

First Lieutenant Harold Fritz
On 11 January 1969, First Lieutenant Harold ‘Hal’ Fritz was leading a seven-vehicle armoured column from Troop A along Highway 13 when it was subjected to intense fire from all directions. Fritz’s command vehicle was almost immediately hit and he was seriously injured.

Realizing that his platoon was surrounded by a reinforced company, Fritz leapt from his vehicle and positioned his platoon to create a defensible perimeter. Ignoring enemy fire, Fritz ran from vehicle to vehicle to provide ammunition, assist the wounded, and ensure his platoon was ideally positioned to hold out against an enemy assault.

When that assault came, Fritz manned a machine-gun and with the remainder of his platoon drove the first wave of the assault back. A second assault force seized the moment and attempted to overrun the beleaguered platoon, ultimately advancing to within two meters of the platoon’s position before their advance stalled. Lieutenant Fritz then did the unthinkable. Armed only with a pistol and a bayonet, he and a few members of his platoon charged the enemy positions inflicting heavy casualties.

A relief force soon arrived, but when Lieutenant Fritz realized it was not being deployed effectively, he refused medical attention, moved once again through heavy enemy fire and took charge of the deployment of the relief force. Under Fritz’s exemplary leadership, the enemy forces were forced to retire. Lieutenant Fritz refused medical attention until all of his wounded men had been treated and evacuated from the battlefield. Fritz was promoted to Captain and received the Medal of Honor for his actions. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel before retiring from the Army after 27 years of service.

Though the Roadblock Mission can be used freely with all types of forces, to get the most enjoyable games you should consider the terrain you will play on and what type of forces you are going to use. It works best when a less mobile force is the defender and a mobile force is attacking (being ambushed). If your forces are both Tank Companies for example, the choice of who is the attacker is down to a dice roll. Terrain plays an import part too, if you just play on a flat plain, or a flat plain with blobs of denser terrain that can simply be driven around by tanks and other vehicles, consider adding a bit more to the table. Remember the story, there must be a reason that the defender has picked this position to lay in wait for the attack, so think about why a commander would choose to surprise the enemy on the terrain on your table.

Surprise is one of the most powerful weapons in war. To achieve it a commander will camouflage his troops and have them hide in waiting for the enemy, their guns trained upon the path along which they expect the enemy to advance. At the critical moment the signal is given—Fire!

On the other hand, the worst position any force can find itself in is to only discover the presence of their enemy when they receive an ambuscade, a volley fired from ambush. Vehicles and weapons are caught in the open and on the march making them dangerously exposed to the unexpected fire.

In missions with the Ambuscade special rule, the defending player holds a platoon to deliver the ambuscade off the table when they deploy. After deployment, but before the game begins, the defender deploys that platoon in the specified area more than 4”/10cm from all enemy teams. The platoon delivering the ambuscade is deployed in Foxholes.

Immediately after deploying, the platoon fires its ambuscade. Every team in the platoon shoots at their full ROF using the normal shooting rules.

During this shooting all Armour Saves that would normally use the Front armour rating use the Side armour rating instead and Gun teams do not benefit from their Gun Shields as the troops are on the march and not ready for combat.

If a platoon receiving fire is a Recce Platoon, it may Disengage from this shooting as normal.

Remember that teams lost before the start of the first turn do not cause Platoon or Company Morale Checks and do not count for future Platoon or Company Morale Checks. Platoons that are Pinned Down and vehicles that are Bailed Out remain so at the start of the first turn, although they can Rally or Remount as normal.

Racing To The Rescue
Your force has been caught in an ambush. However, one of the advantages of travelling in columns is that the rest of your forces are on the road nearby and ready to race to the rescue of the platoons caught in the ambush.

At the start of each turn, the attacking player counts up the number of platoons still held off table.

If the number is four or more, then two platoons will arrive this turn, otherwise only one will.

The arriving platoons are placed on table as if arriving from Reserve along one of the attacker’s two table edges, within 16”/40cm of either end of the road at the attacking player’s choice.

Warrior and Independent teams arrive with any platoon racing to the rescue.

Download a PDF version of the Roadblock mission here...

Last Updated On Thursday, April 17, 2014 by Blake at Battlefront