Operation Yodel, Sep 1966 – Zambesi Valley

In this game we are taking a different tack to the full platoon level action which is typical of many Rhodesian War engagements. In the early years of the Zambesi Insurgency, many of the actions were quite small, virtually skirmishes in the scheme of things to come. In fact many of these engagements are best represented by squad level actions and rules aimed at that level of game. To that end, the use of Chain of Command would ‘wash away’ some aspects of this squad approach as those rules do not really allow for individual figure actions in a game of only 10-15 figures. Simply put, they are not suited to squad level games. Whilst not usually a game size I would normally play the opportunity to try to represent these small level action using the Ganesha Games system ‘Flying Lead’ seemed like a good idea. 

To my surprise, these rules and the level of action portrayed generated an excellent scenario and in fact these rules fill a niche for these ‘sub platoon level’ games so it all worked out rather well….on to the action.

In 1966 The Rhodesian security forces launched Operation Yodel in response to an insurgent incursion across the Zambesi. One group, led by Comrade Mpofu, crossed at Chete island near Kariba into the Lupane Tribal Trust Lands, his mission, to train and subvert the local populace and lead attacks on any white farms he encountered.

This scenario is based on a ZANLA incursion and the Rhodesian response to the operation centred on a small grazing property, Walker Farm……

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Walker Farm, a small wooden building surrounded by a wooden fence, worked with the help of local tribesmen and supporting open grazing livestock. Following a tip-off the family have locked themselves in the building awaiting the arrival of the local defence forces, who have been notified of the terrorists/insurgents in the area.

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..shaking out into line, the patrol commander decides to use his Gun Group as a base of fire sending them through the scrub parallel to the road under the command of his corporal. He will move with the Rifle group further into the scrub and flank the insurgents to relieve the civilians in the farm. His two troopies will form a local reserve to be used as the situation demands…

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Comrade Mpofu has a plan of his own. Moving from the small gomo (hill) near the farm he will send his RPG gunner to destroy the building, set up his RPD machine gunner along the road nestled into the hard cover of the rocks and push the rest of his insurgents along the road using and interdict any Security Force that tries to relieve the farmstead from the gomo above…

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…as it turns out the patrol commander took a good deal of time to get his orders understood and the insurgents were able to get something of the ‘the jump’ on the Rhodesians. For a while it seems that the opportunity to catch the insurgents before they were able to attack the farm would pass. Comrade Mpofu pushed his men up into position and the the plan was set. …
…once his orders were issued, the Rhodies moved out. After an initial slow start the Rifle Group pushed up in to a small series low rise mounds and through the scrub to set up a fire position subsequent to a sweep line to drive of the guerrillas…

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…as can be seen, the RPG is positioning for the shot on the farmstead, the RPD machine gun, though having gone to ground still covers the road approach and the insurgent CTs are well placed to bring fire on the Rhodesian Security Forces…

….the Rhodesian rifle group has moved quickly and is now well placed to prevent the RPG insurgent from taking his shot, if they can fire in time. The Gun group is a little slow but still able to bring fire onto the group of CTs on the gomo and the HQ rifle group is nicely ensconced behind some heard cover….

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…this insurgent has gone to ground having taken some rifle fire from the Rhodies behind the rocks…

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…as Mpofu had hoped, his RPG shooter is in position to take a close range shot and destroy the squatter’s home…

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…aim….

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…quickly boys, push forward….

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“…here they come, safety to full auto!…”

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“there they are!…contact, contact, contact!..”

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…the insurgent rifle squad on the gomo starts peppering the Rhodies taking cover behind the rocks down near the road….causing one casualty, he hits the ground out of action….

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“…fire!!!!!”

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…the RPG cadre, at Comrade Mpofu’s command, fires and the missile goes hurtling toward the building. It hit directly on the door, such a perfect shot it goes through the door and out the other side of the building, exploding as it exits through the back wall!!!….the windows shatter but the structure is left intact…..a good shot but it does not destroy the building as planned. The occupants cower in side, shaken but alive…

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…thinking that they may be too late the Rhodie rifle group opens up on the RPG guerrilla before he can reload, and despite a good degree of cover, the Rhodesians find the mark and kill the RPG shooter outright….a good shot!

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P1070097a …a general firefight now breaks out…the insurgent forces fail to activate at a crucial time and the Rhodesian riflemen pour in accurate fire. They kill a couple of CTs outright, one as a gory death causing a morale check…in the exchange, Comrade Mpofu is hit and morale tests now come thick and fast for the insurgents…

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..on the gomo where the insurgent rifle group is positioned, they come under intense fire from the MAG machine gun and take several hits….this triggers a general morale test for all troop as their casualties have now hit more than half their force…..

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…with their leader down, and now no way to achieve any hope of fire superiority or further damage to the Rhodesian section, the insurgent forces pull back and break off the action leaving the field to the enemy….effectively bomb-shelling from the engagement….their mission somewhat incomplete…..
…so ending the battle…….

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Summary

A sharp, tense and swift little engagement!

Despite the low figure count in this action it proved a fluid and engaging encounter.

The game started off with a number of quick activations for the CT player and for a time it looked like he was on track for an easy victory…simply get close, fire the RPG, hit a few SF soldiers and get away…it was all looking so good!

Off course it didn’t end up like that. The higher quality of the SF forces ultimately allowed them to push up, despite their slow start, and get their troops into position and pour a good deal of firepower into the insurgent cadres as several failed activation rolls. Comrade Mpofu couldn’t be everywhere to control the action and with an activation quality die roll of 5+ this sort of thing was likely to occur.

The rules themselves worked quite well for this level of game as mentioned in the intro. The combat medic rule resulted in the two Rhodesian Out of Action soldiers recovering from their wounds so historical loss ratios and effects were modeled quite well. The inclusion of an in game CASEVAC option would add another layer of texture and provide for the inclusion of some nice ‘toys’ to be used in play. The opportunity for a small campaign system given the relatively quick games  bodes well for representing the Rhodesian War on his scale.

A point to bear in mind will be that players will need to be disciplined to ensure forces don’t creep up beyond the 10-15 figure mark. For the most part the game is driven by leaders with group moves of up to 5 figures per group being an efficient way to manoeuvre troops. Regardless of quality though the temptation to use figures on an individual activation basis is core to the game system, so limiting a player’s ‘pieces’ will keep the game moving along.

We allowed the Rhodesian Section to use the rule allowing NCOs to issue group orders within short range and this seemed appropriate given the command structure of a regular army unit. The CT organisation does not have this ability and rightly so.

Flying Lead (by Ganesha Games) is a ‘generic’ system and the supplement for Afghanistan and Iraq shows just how period focused they can become. I think a tailored supplement for specific periods will provide the best use of the rules and a Rhodesian War supplement would be a very good candidate for making them work best in Africa. The Hearts and Minds Iraq supplement has a number of event cards that easily fit in for use in the Bush War and we’ll be including them in any future games we play.,..it’s got a lot of very good info and as it uses Flying Lead in a Counter-Insurgency conflict many of the same factors apply to Rhodesia, so is worth getting even if you don’t want to game that conflict….both Flying Lead and H&M are very reasonably priced as downloadable PDFs.

The low level individual focus of the game makes their use for specific engagements of the Rhodesian War work better than a platoon level set as individual characteristics can be highlighted and in fact form part of the game. This type of gaming is just above role playing which is on the cusp of game/simulations I prefer, but by not over doing the individual characteristics play is smoothed out and flows nicely.

Small patrol level actions fought by Selous Scouts patrols for example would be handled well by this rule system I think. Similarly, the many cross border raids by Insurgent forces also provide focus from a different perspective that the game allows for with its many trait driven mechanics. The vehicle rules look a little more detailed but with only one or two vehicles on-table this shouldn’t overburden the system.

Larger operations of platoon level raids or actions fought by both sides would be better simulated using Chain of Command, so in this regard the two rule systems complement each other for the Bush War covering most if not all of the types of battles of the conflict.

 

….recommended.

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5 thoughts on “Operation Yodel, Sep 1966 – Zambesi Valley

  1. Dear HW,
    I stumbled into gaming the Rhodesian Bush War when I first saw and bought one of Eureka's G Cars at Historicon 2012. By the end of the convention I had bought reference books on the subject from Casemate and a lot more figures from Eureka. While work and other projects have robbed me of time to paint all the figures I am still plugging away at them and still looking on the net for more info……which resulted in getting notified of your communication with John Hopkins and your blog. WOW!!!! You have done an amazing job with everything!!!! You certainly have re-inspired me to work harder at getting my miniatures painted soon. Your use of the period civilian vehicles is a nice touch and I like the civilian figures you use as well. If I can ask, where did you get them and what other figure manufacturers have you used to supplement the Eureka line? Anyway, great job and good luck with your gaming in the future. Respectfully Yours, Vince

    Like

  2. Hi Vince!

    I stumbled into gaming the Rhodesian Bush War when I first saw and bought one of Eureka's G Cars at Historicon 2012. By the end of the convention I had bought reference books on the subject from Casemate and a lot more figures from Eureka.

    …There is in fact masses of stuff on the period. There is a bit of a paucity of details from the African Nationalists side, but wide reading does start to build up a picture of what’s going on form the end of an AK-47…

    While work and other projects have robbed me of time to paint all the figures I am still plugging away at them and still looking on the net for more info……which resulted in getting notified of your communication with John Hopkins and your blog. WOW!!!!

    🙂

    You have done an amazing job with everything!!!! You certainly have re-inspired me to work harder at getting my miniatures painted soon.

    …Well if it has done that then achieves one of its goals..to aid an inspire others 🙂 …

    Your use of the period civilian vehicles is a nice touch and I like the civilian figures you use as well. If I can ask, where did you get them and what other figure manufacturers have you used to supplement the Eureka line?

    …All the minis are Eureka IIRC. The Rhodie stuff certainly is and near all the insurgents, though there might be a few other makes in there as they are not mine…they’re a friend’s troops
    http://macslittlefriends.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/the-finished-buffel.html?showComment=1393908217916

    Anyway, great job and good luck with your gaming in the future. Respectfully Yours, Vince

    Thanks again!

    🙂

    Like

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