The Polar Bears

The Polar Bears
4th Battalion, 31st Infantry

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Building my first company part 2a: Platoon TO&E

Okay, so here's the second part of my assembling my Colonial Marine Company thread.  My post from earlier today was a bit of a dry run using the Colonial Marine TO&E in a game and I was pretty pleased with how it went.  

However I'm still scratching about and thinking things over about how I want to organize this force.  So maybe I should start by looking at the movie itself. I've watched the movie several times and I was personally confused about how this group was organized.  I heard team and squad thrown around... which was weird.  To me a squad is a very small unit that is made up of teams.  However this small unit, a squad to me, seemed to have smaller teams and squads in it.  For a while I just assumed that it was Hollywierd and didn't give it much though.  The LEG products that I got seemed to confirm that suspicion.  That changed when I got the Colonial Marine Tech Manual.  More on that later.

Anyway, I've never taken the time to look closely at the movie but apparently others have.  And some of the things I've seen on-line are real eye openers.  The article below is one such gem that I've found very helpful in my mulling over building my USCMC company.  I didn't write the stuff below though.  I grabbed it off the web a while ago and I have no real clue where I found it.  I know it was on a board that was discussing the movie.  Anyway, this person has some great thoughts that I would like to share.  It definitely has me thinking about how a Marine section works.  So without any further ado...

"In the movie they weren’t at full capacity. They only had one section, maybe because the higher ups in the chain of command didn’t really believe Ripley’s story, so didn’t want to waste resources?

They were also down an APC driver for some reason, causing Bishop to fulfil that role.

As for the TO&E in the movie, I did a bit of research and came up with the following. (Though I haven’t studied the rank insignia on the marines uniforms yet, so some of these guesses might be a bit off. Also I’m not certain I put everyone in the correct squads so a little help would be appreciated here.)

Anyway in the movie the platoon basically looked like this:-

Platoon Commander
2Lt. Gorman. S.

Platoon Support and Non Military
Exo. Bishop (341-B) - Synthetic (non command role)
Burke. Carter J. - Company Advisor.
FltLt. Ripley. Ellen. - Mission Advisor. (Holds non military warrant officer rank)

Marine Aerospace Wing Attachment - MAW (Dropship Crew)
Cpl. Ferro. C. - Pilot
Pfc. Spunkmeyer. D. - Weapons Operator

Section Sergeant
Msg. Apone. A. - Platoon Sergeant / 1st squad's leader.

1st Squad
Pfc. Hudson. W. - Com-tech/Rifleman.
Pfc. Vasquez. J. - Smartgunner.
Pvt. Wierzbowski. T. - Rifleman.
Pvt. Crowe. T. - Rifleman.

2nd Squad
Cpl. Hicks. D - 2nd squad’s leader.
Cpl. Dietrich. S. - Medic/Rifleman
Pvt. Drake. M. - Smartgunner.
Pvt. Frost. R. - Rifleman.

In the movie, Hudson and Vasquez are one of the Gun Team, and I noticed Drake and Hicks forming a Gun Team as well after the "order and search by twos" command is given. And Hicks tells Dietrich and Frost "your up", so that's a rifle team, so that only leaves Wierzbowski and Crowe for the remaining Rifle team.

Fire Teams
Gun team 1 = Vasquez + Hudson
Rifle team 1 = Wierzbowski + Crowe
Gun team 2 = Hicks + Drake
Rifle team 2 = Dietrich + Frost

As for the rank & insignia I found out that the USCM is similar to the US army insignia. Though its not exact, there are differences in title and insignia. Also found out that most of the marines don't wear insignia on their BDU's, only Apone and Ferro on her flightsuit. Not sure about Spunkmeyer.

Ranks (Abbreviation)
2nd Lieutenant (2Lt)
Master Sergeant (Msg)
Corporal (Cpl)
Lance Corporal (Lcpl)
Private First Class (Pfc)
Private (Pvt)

Non Military Ranks
Executive Officer (Exo)
Flight Lieutenant (FltLt)"

Anyway, some pretty detailed stuff and a lot to chew on.  My next post will have my conclusions in this and information I've gleaned from other sources.

Semper Fi!  Carry on...

First Battle Report: 5150 Grab and Run!

I decided to try out a few of my 'new' toys this weekend.  These miniatures aren't really new because I purchased them a couple of years ago at Historicon. However I painted them up only a few weeks ago and this is their first outing.  Needless to say, I was rather pleased with them.

I also have to say that I've never played 5150 before.  I'm familiar with THW's newer games like NUTS 2.0, ATZ, and CR3, however I've always stayed away from 5150 because of its ties to the older CR 2.0.  I once tried to play FNG (another CR 2.0 derived game) and was rather frustrated by the rules.  So after doing some research on 5150 I decided to give it a try.  After all, it seems to be the basis for CR 3.0 and I've had a lot of fun with these newer rules.

I decided to keep this game pretty simple so that I could get learn the rules.  I assembled a pretty basic USCMC rifle section (9 marines with 3 Rep 5 NCOS, 6 Rep 4 EMs, 2 smart guns, 2 flamers, and 5 pulse rifles) and elected to use only the Basic and Military Operations rules.  In addition I wanted to try out the "Bugs" rules.  After reading the rules I decided to set the Bug Rating at 3 thinking that would make for a really easy game... boy was I wrong!  Here is the map layout.

 I only took a few minutes to plan out the scenario since this was going to be a one off battle.  After looking over the 'scenarios' in the Military Operations section I decided on a modified Reconnaissance Patrol.  The section's objective was to travel along the central road and check out each of the building ruins for survivors.  To check the building a marine would have to come into contact with the building and use his 'fire' action to search the ruin.  The searching figure would roll 2d6 and find survivors on a roll of 7.  If the 7 came up then another 1d6 would be rolled to see just how many survivors were there.  The civilians would be unarmed and REP 3.  Boy was this a bad, bad idea...

On last important scenario rule was for the creek which ran across the board.  I decided that the creek's sides were very steep and the creek was a fast flowing on making it a bit hazardous to cross without care.  So to cross the creek the model would move up to the edge and roll against their Rep.  2 successes means that the figure spends 1" to cross the creek and could continue moving.  1 success means that the figure can cross the bridge but had to stop on the other side because it took so much effort to cross.  Finally 0 successes means that the figure would have to stop at the edge and try again the next turn. .

Here is the set-up.  I place the squads parallel to each other with the gunny in the center  While I was setting up my son, Jeremy, decided to check out what 'daddy' was doing and then insisted that he be allowed to play.  Being an old, experienced gamer I jumped at the chance to bring in some new blood.  Besides, young kids have the best luck!  I learned that Jeremy's luck cut both ways!

The first turn was pretty easy.  I don't remember the iniative roll exactly but it was good enough.  No bugs on the board means that we can just cruse along and check out the building at our leisure.  In fact I was wondering if I had the bug rating up high enough!  After all, Mr. Bug doesn't come out to play until a 7 is rolled for iniative.

Any how, we split the section up along squad lines.  I moved 2d squad (along with the gunny) up to the ruin next to the bridge while Jeremy investigated the ruin that was in our deployment area.  My search came up empty but Jeremy found 5 survivors!  Great job Jer!  At least that is what I thought at the time...

It was second turn when things get interesting!  Jeremy tossed a 7! (Ignore the die roll above, this was taken later!)  It was a Bug 5, Marine 2!

Okay, I thought, no big deal.  So we rolled for the bug hole placement... a 6....

A Puker??? You've got to be joking!  The follow-up roll placed him roughly 14" in front of us BUT his 5 iniative roll pinned him in place.  Time to get shooting!

I thought this would be easy, after all, we had a full USCMC section between us.  So I opened up first and scored several hits.  But that critter was tough!  He soaked up my whole squad's small arms bombardment.  So I pulled up the heavy artillery.  Flamer anyone?????

So what did Private Jordan roll for his shot? I measly 1.  I'm serious.  How do you miss a target larger than a building and nearly empty your flamer to boot???  I was seriously sweating now.  This puker has a serious ranged weapon!  I just knew that he would zap half the section next turn.

Only, Jeremy got his turn first!  Jeremy moved his marines (and civilian charges) up into LOS and opened up on that nightmare in our way.  He had the same luck with his pulse rifles and smart gun: a lot of ineffective hits!    I'll tell you what, exo-armor is really tough!  So it finally all came down to Jeremy's flamer.  Can you believe it?  My little boy tossed a 6 to hit AND a 1 on the Ranged Combat Damage Table!  Good lord, the kid OD'd a puker!!  HIGH FIVE little guy!  8D

Just one problem though.  We fired two flamers down the road AND across the bridge!!  I think we should have read the rules on flamers a little closer before we set-up those shots.  Now we had this ugly 5 turn flame trail running down the road AND across the bridge.  Talk about a roadblock...

We didn't have much choice.  Our iniative roll, sooner or later, would bring up yet another bug hole so we had little choice but to cross the creek itself.  For the most part we got lucky.  All of the marines made their rolls to cross the treacherous little nightmare, but that wasn't true for the civilians.  One of them lost his nerve and refused to cross it.  Big mistake buddy... big mistake!

So what does Jeremy roll... again??? Another 7.  A few more dice rolls quickly show us that we made the right call about not waiting for the flames to die down.  That new bug hole appeared 14" right behind us and vomited a teeming brood of 42 bugs!! We were both left dumbfounded.

That's it man... game over man...

The bugs won the iniative and surged forward 6" before we could get in-sight tests.  I guess our marines were just as shocked.  Not one of the marines passed their insight test... not even one!

The hoard swarmed forward again and the poor, terrified man left on the south side of the creek died horribly under the claws of this nightmarish host.  Luckly, the other civilians kept their heads and passed their "gruesome death" rolls.

It was our turn... everything depended on this next couple of activations!

Private Jordan's ears were probably burning from the gunny's stinging rebuke!  He coolly aimed his nearly depleted flamer at the chittering swarm  and squeezed the trigger!  A wave of flamed "whooshed" across the creek and blasted through the serried ranks of the bugs.  It was a terrifying display of sheer power!  Bug after bug was consumed.  Some were just pushed back by the searing heat but more were cremated by the flame thrower's steady stream.

The bugs must have been shock as well.  Our next iniative roll produced a 6 for the bugs!!  I didn't waste any time ordering my marines and the civilians to double time it down the side of the road.  The civilians didn't need any coaxing.  All of them passed their fast move roll and sprinted 16" toward the other side of the board. some of the marines joined them to keep them moving.  Me and Jeremy ordered a few marines to fall back and lay down covering fire.  In an act of amazing courage, Jeremy's corporal rushed the southern swarm (the heavy woods near the bug hole forced the bugs to divide into two swarms) and took aim with his flamer.  Jeremy's corporal took a steady aim and blazed the lead bugs killing several.

Maybe we could make it out of here yet!  Once again, everything came down to the next iniative check!.   

Lady luck smiled down on us yet again.  No 7 and we once again beat the bugs.  I sent one team racing toward the remaining buildings to check them out, the civilians and their escorts again fast moved to the edge, while a very brave few hung back a bit and laid down covering fire... and picked off the front rank of the ravening swarms.  The bugs closed the gap, but not quickly enough.  It would be a foot race to the finish, but we had the edge!

Again, lady luck despised the bugs!  Iniative was ours again and everyone took fast move rolls to cross the finish line.  Most of the section made it across with the four surviving civilians.  However there were still marines on the board and Gunny Anderson wasn't going to leave until all of his marines got away.  So the stubborn old marine took up a firing stance and poured pulse rifle fire into the buggers while yelling through the tac net at his remaining leathernecks to get the F&*K out of dodge!  The bugs race forward but the distance was too much now.

The last iniative roll was the final nail in the bugs coffin.  Gunny Anderson squeezed off a few more bursts and dropped another bug and watched with satisfaction as Jeremy's corporal sprinted off the board.  The gunny turned away from the frustrated bugs, lit his cigar, and jogged off the board to catch-up with his men.

Jeremy burst into little boy cheers and gave me a high-five.  We made it out of that ugly trap.  But it was close!

Wow!  What a game!  I have few illusions though.  This wasn't all skill.  We had a serious dose of luck.  First off was the great shooting that took out the puker.before that beast could get off a single shoot.  Better still was that awesome 1-2 stroke of luck with the flamers wiping out nearly half of the bug swarms.. all in two shots!!!  Worse still for the bugs was the next activation that blew up in their faces.  That was just tough luck for them to roll higher than their reputation and being pinned in place while the civilians and marines beat feet across the board.  It didn't hurt that during that turn everyone who rolled for a fast move succeeded!  I guess seeing that vast swarm was enough to motivate even the slowest poke!

Amazingly the butcher's bill was only one civilian and that poor bloke would have make it through it he hadn't blown his roll to cross the creek.

All in all, a great game made even better because I got some quality fun time with my 7 year old AND we didn't get our butts kicked like we normally do with zombies!  So yeah, 5150 is definitely going to see use with my Colonial Marines.

Semper Fi!  Carry on....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Building my first company part 1a: So what's this?

Now my plan was to move on to the second post about what sorts of gear would be in the company and figuring out what minis I need... and this I found this:

I put a copy of this jpg below.

So what's this???  I know that the web has tons of 'clip art' that has been pulled from the original Colonial Marine Technical Manual but this is something new to say the least.  And it does detail the organization of a colonial marine company:  1 HQ squad and 3 Rifle Platoons for a total of 6 M577 apcs and 75 marines.  A lot more robust company than I've planned out.  But this organization seems more in tune with the current Marine Corps (which is triangular) than with what the Technical Manual suggests.

"The abandonment of the 'triangular' system of organization, and the adoption of a 'pair' or 'buddy' system was one of the most radical decisions Marine 70 (the doctrine used by the USCM- much like the old Army Air-Land battle doctrine) made.  Traditional doctrine was based on the principle of 'two up and one back', with two covering elements supported in attack or defense by a third element in reserve.  While such an approach was sound, it was incompatible with the need to increase the speed of operations.  Since two elements are more easily maneuvered than three, ti made common sense to organize this way on the new fast-track non-linear battlefield.  At every level of mobile operations, the 'buddy' system is far more flexible; the commander can operate 'one up, one back' both in the attack and defense; or he can operate 'two up', with one element over-watching the other, or both piling in together at the 'schwerpunkt'."

So to me a three platoon company seems to go against this 'buddy' doctrine.  But on the other hand the Marine MAU can have 2-4 companies as needed so having more elements than two isn't unheard of. Also a three platoon company is a much more robust formation that can take on larger missions and absorb more punishment and remain combat effective.

Another issue is the command 'squad'.  If this unit follows the USCM squad organization then we're taking about 4 men: the CO, XO, PS, and one add on.  So where do these guys ride?  With out their own vehicle they are forced to ride with one of the line platoons.  That would work, but it would force the company command element to be up front with a platoon.  While leading from the front is a good thing, it isn't always the best thing.  Sometimes the CO needs the ability to go where he needs to get things 'going', and in this case he would have to drag a full section, that's HALF of a platoon or 1/6th of his company's combat power, with him.  Not a very satisfactory state of affairs.

Well, I guess that's another thing to puzzle over.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Building my first company part 1: the concept.

My first major project is going to be an old favorite of mine: the Colonial Marines of Aliens fame.  You just got to love this bunch of "ultimate bad-asses"!  After all, they have everything a gamer could want: assault rifles, mortars, RPGs, knives, pointy sticks...  Plus they are a visually striking force.  They are high-tech to be interesting to the sci-fi gamer (drop ships and smart guns!), but retro enough for to be 'realistic' and appealing to gamers who do 'real-world' gaming.

Now this is my second attempt to assemble this army.  Over 10 years ago I started a similar force with the old LEG 25mm figures and models and discovered that it was just too costly.  The LEG figures regularly run $3+ per casting and the APCs $50+!  I don't even want to think about the drop ship..... In short I wanted an 'army' of company strength that I could play with and not have to get a major bank loan to assemble.

15mm seems to be the trick.  Over the years I've found the right mix of vehicles and figures in 15mm to make this little dream of mine a reality.  However before I start putting the pieces together I needed to get my information strait on the TO&E for the Colonial Marines AND I need a decent rules set to put them on the board.

So what is a Colonial Marine company?  Great question and there isn't a good answer for it.  Now the TO&E for a Colonial Marine Platoon is easy enough to get, thanks to Lee Brimmicombe-Wood.  Figure 2.1 on page 12 has all the info you need to put together a basic platoon. Without the dropships you need 21 marines:  1 Officer, 2 Section Sergeants, 2 Drivers, and 16 jr. ncos and ems. Vehicle wise the platoon needs 2 M 577 APCs.  I've posted a copy of this illustration below.

So what's a company?  That's the question.  Brimmicombe-Wood's is silent on that.  He does tell you how many companies make up Marine Assault Unit: 2-4.  Well, that's a bit helpful, I guess.  From what I can see, the USCM is 'binary' in its organization: 2 marines to a fire team, 2 fire teams to a squad, 2 squads to a section, and 2 sections to a platoon.  So why not 2 platoons to a company?  This isn't unheard of in the USMC.  For example, the 4th Marine Regiment which was stationed in China in the early 1940s was organized in a similar manner.  Due to a number of factors the regiment found itself reduced to 2 battalions with 2 companies that each had 2 platoons. (check out Osprey Publishing's Battle Order 1 page 60 for details).

So here is the model that I'm considering:  Note that this basic list is just of the organic personnel and vehicles.  It doesn't detail the equipment.

Colonial Marine Rifle Company

HQ section with:  Company Commander, 1st Sergeant (Gunnery Sergeant?), Company XO, Synthetic Person, and 5 enlisted marines to serve in support roles.  1 M 577 APC to serve as the company TOC.

1st Platoon with: 1 Officer, 2 Section Sergeants (one also serves as platoon sergeant), 2 Drivers, and 16 JR NCOs (buck sergeants, corporals, and lance corporals) and  Enlisted Marines (PFC and lower).  Each section is assigned a M577 APC  with the Platoon leader riding with 1st Section.  The platoon may have a Synthetic Person attached depending on the mission (if the platoon is operating independently and needs the expertise. 

2d Platoon with: 1 Officer, 2 Section Sergeants (one also serves as platoon sergeant), 2 Drivers, and 16 JR NCOs (buck sergeants, corporals, and lance corporals) and  Enlisted Marines (PFC and lower).  Each section is assigned a M577 APC  with the Platoon leader riding with 1st Section.  The platoon may have a Synthetic Person attached depending on the mission (if the platoon is operating independently and needs the expertise.

So the tally for this basic company is 5 M577 APCs, 4 Officers, 1-3 Synthetic People, 5 Drivers (for the apcs), 5 senior NCOs, and 37 jr NCOs/EMs.  That would give my rifle company a total of 54 'infantry' models and 5 AFVs.

In my next post I'm going to take a closer look at the basic organization of the platoon so I can determine what sorts of models that I'll need to build this unit.