Packer Big Lunch - Border War: Angola Raiders18 May 2016 2
Time to Ratel some sabres in Southern Africa, pongos. Timely as I am, it has taken thirty-two years to break out the physical chits and spread the map. What better way to pop the boardgaming cherry than with a whirlwind entry-level lunge across the north Namibian border in Decision Games' 2012 Border War: Angola Raiders. Cue Bok van Blerk and tree aan!
Part of the Bakersfield workshop's Mini games series, Border War runs on the Commando! rules framework; a punchy node-based romp that has good replay value for a solo offering. Forty chits, one map and eighteen cards make up the contents of this compact offering, all tucked into the glove-boxable A5 ziplock bag. No dice in the mix, but armed with the very free and very good Great Dice DnD iOS, I was more mobile than a Transall.
Reindeer, Protea, Askari and a condensed Moduler-Hooper-Packer make up the missions, each denoting their specificities in number of objectives, required kills and recruitment budget for each game. Requisite objective markers are hidden at various locations on the map; to be scouted, captured and returned to any SADF bases south of the Angolan border. It's a fast and fierce game, where once the rules are understood - both the base Commando! ruleset and the Border War expansion - you'll be smelling Parejos in the Angolan scrub in no time.
The following is a partial recount of the Moduler-Hooper-Packer mission, which gives a generous fifty recruitment points to play with. Rather than center the engagement entirely around the crucial township of contention, the Moduler-Hooper-Packer mission lets players put most of the motorpool and men on the table to forage and fight for five objectives.
Combined arms battalions were formed in border bases Buffalo, Oshakati, Ongandjera, Rundu and the Cuene Hydroelectric station. Most were a mix of recce infantry, Ratel-90s and Sapper variants, with a few wire-cars and paras. Mirages stood to attention deeper in the south, and during my yomp towards the Lomba, I kept forgetting the damn things were on call. There was one stonker Oliphant troop out of Cuene, backed by rangy Elands and a supply column to boost speed and firepower.
The SADF objectives were Chetequera, Peu Peu, Caconda, Cassinga and the equally infamous Cuita Cuanavale. Chetequera was a short trudge across the border, set upon by the Ongandjera lads. They were a tag-team of mechanised units and special forces, bolstered by engineers and a commander to put a little iron in the glove. It was an uneventful bush-bash, cleaving through to the township with a relief-filled UNITA event card flipped on arrival. Our pro-Western friends allowed for an objective reveal, whereby Chetequera turned out to laced with mines in place of an objective. Could have been SWAPO or FAPLA, or the damn Cubans. Perpetrators aside, the team passed their mine checks and the sappers Hurt Lockered the TS-50s littering the lanes.
Unchecked boldness had the Oshakati paras deploy into Cassinga, with two Alouette IIIs for little of the old one-two. Both parabat troops made their insertion checks, but the elation was short-lived. A flip of the event card and a roll of the digital die revealed OPFOR measured in a Cuban mechanised outfit and a clutch of FAPLA AA and regulars. Tactical superiority check won the Oshakati boys first hit, and an Alouette got the drop on the FAPLA Shilka. The Cuban mechanised unit rolled a disemboweling score and one of the Draadkars was perforated out of the Angolan sky. A parabat enacted tit-for-tat and the mechanised unit detonated in a flash of relief and magnesium. It cost another Alouette to take Cassinga, and I began to see how snappy the engagements in Angola Raiders truly are. Smarting from a small victory paid for in French transport-gunships, Cassinga also turned out to be a mine-ridden mess. With no sappers to clear the town, the weary parabats carefully picked their way to the Cassinga airfield and awaited an SAAF transfer to Peu Peu. Chicken or fish?
Meanwhile, the Rundu battalion made a hasty dash via Buffalo to Cuita Cuanavale, crashing through the undergrowth with extra gusto afforded by their supply column. They were jumped by an OPFOR ambush, spearheaded by a Cuban T-55, SWAPO guerrillas and the grizzled gaze of a Soviet advisor. On a tactical superiority roll without the need for officer encouragement, the patrol Ratel punched a 90mm hole through the Cuban heavy, though retribution came swiftly via a decisive SWAPO combat win and the Ratel sat burning alongside the crackling Communist wreck. The rest of the SADF column mopped up and were awarded an extra operation point to burn after the Russki officer was seen to.
The remnant Oshakati parabats were dropped in over Peu Peu, boots thudding into the scrub in an insertion described 'safe as houses' by the die rolls. Event turns up two SWAPO guerrillas, and the tactical superiority once again went to the red berets. A brief exchange withered our Namibian revolutionaries to farms bought, at the expense of a few Pretorian families receiving solemn visits and sombre news. The remaining paratrooper squad discovered, at long last, Objective Smokeshell and plans were afoot to drag it back along the track to Cuene via Xangango.
Did they make it? Were the other columns able to punch into Cuito Cuanavale and Caconda? Did Castro maintain his position as the great Post-Colonial Communist protector of Africa? Consider it a twelve-dollar cliffhanger.
Border War: Angola Raiders is obviously not a true representation of the protracted conflict, and none of the missions go beyond cursory nods to the military investment of each historical operation. But what it does highlight is the South African prowess in punching up into Angola, then withdrawing back across the kaplyn. Tenacious columns of MRAPs charging through the scrub, a logistical feat in itself, battling SWAPO, FAPLA and heavier Cuban armour. The menacing bulbs of the Draadkar Alouettes laced into fireforce formation over contacts, and if remembered on the behalf of this boardgame scrub, a flight of Buccaneers, Canberras and Mirages looming over the Lomba.
With its carefully balanced meter of operations expenditure and the creeping expense of losing friendly units, the concise nature of a run across the border feels thematically apt. And while the political tumult of the region isn't mechanically explored, the military encounter design is as brisk and lethal as you'd expect for a late Cold War conventional hotspot. As I wait with bated breath for ESS's Bush War game -- a project to follow the upcoming counter-insurgency frisson Afghanistan '11 -- Border War: Angola Raiders does a fine job to fill the void.
Roep jy my terug na die Kaplyn my vriend!