The Battle of Alfeld, Playing “Red Storm Rising” in Team Yankee

Guest writer Mike Everest returns to look at porting the land battles of the “Red Storm Rising” novel to “WW3:Team Yankee”

“You’re pretty exposed here,” the captain observed, crouching just behind the turret.
“True enough,” Sergeant Mackall agreed. His M-1 Abrams tank was dug into the reverse slope of a hill, its gun barely clear of the ground behind a row of shrubs. Mackall looked down a shallow valley to a treeline fifteen hundred meters away. The Russians were in there, surveying the ridges with powerful
field glasses, and he hoped that they could not make out the squat, ominous profile of the main battle tank. He was in one of three prepared firing positions, a sloped hole in the ground dug by the engineers’ bulldozers, helped over the last few days by local German farmers who had taken to the task with a will.
The bad news was that the next line of such positions required traversing five hundred meters of open fields. They’d been planted with something a bare six weeks before. Those crops would never amount to much, the sergeant knew. “Ivan must love this weather,” Mackall observed. There was an overcast at
about thirteen hundred feet. Whatever air support he could expect would have a bare five seconds to acquire and engage their targets before having to break clear of the battlefield.
“What can you give us, sir?”
“I can call four A-10s, maybe some German birds,” the Air Force captain replied. He surveyed the terrain himself from a slightly different perspective.
What was the best way to get the ground-attack fighters in and out? The first Russian attack on this position had been repulsed, but he could see the remains of two NATO aircraft that had died in the effort. “There should be three choppers, too.”
That surprised Mackall—and worried him. Just what sort of attack were they expecting here?
“Okay.” The captain stood and turned back to his armored command vehicle. “When you hear ‘Zulu, Zulu, Zulu,’ that means the air is less than five minutes out. If you see any SAM vehicles or antiair guns, for Christ’s sake take them out. The Warthogs have been hit real hard, Sarge.”

Chapter 26, Red Storm Rising, Tom Clancy

Having somehow reached the age of 38 (shut up, I know the grey hair, bags under the eyes and bristling moustache makes me look older but I once got mistaken for ‘a tough 30’ and I will take that with me to the grave) and not even picked up a copy of Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising let alone read it, it was time to rectify that. And god damn if that didn’t hit a moment too soon. Where has this book been all my life? The answer is of course right in front of me with people loudly shouting ‘Mike you should absolutely read this book’ and me listening to what amounts to the Magic Round About in my head and endless circuits of Ric Flair shouting ‘wooooo!’.

Well, that get’s this article’s wrestling mention out early – Lee

For those who don’t know, it’s Tom Clancy’s second book after Hunt For The Red October, and a standalone novel where the Cold War goes hot; so far so good for our game that we all enjoy and play. The Russians back themselves into a corner over an oil crisis and attempt an attack on NATO in Germany to knock it out so they can strike out at the Middle East’s oil fields. It’s discussed early in the book that Nukes are off the table as ‘no one wants the entire planet to be turned into ash’ and I’m broadly, with the exception of bits of the Kent coastline, in favour of this. The Soviets make initial gains at sea and on Iceland (this will come up later in the series of articles I hope to write) but quickly get locked into a grinding attritional war in Germany when they realise that eating TOW missiles for breakfast isn’t a fun way to fight a war.
The books great. Go read it. Or better yet, get it on audiobook with Michael Prichard reading it. It’s superb.

While reading the incredible actions written in the book, I thought ‘well god-damn if this isn’t the perfect stuff to do in Team Yankee’. Big crunchy battle actions, smaller engagements and believable combat for the period rather than the usual ‘we smashed the reds and they were all rubbish’ stuff.

Looking at you, Team Yankee

This got me thinking, how to represent this on the tabletop?

There are a bunch of engagements we can look at, but as a theatre I’m going to concentrate on the fighting withdrawal actions from the Elbe to Alfeld that NATO complete. This is mainly because I got a copy of HARPOON Version 5 to try one of the carrier group scenes and realised I was in fact preparing to sit an exam for Annapolis Naval College Maryland, and short of being able to bark quotes from Red October AT WILL, I do not in fact possess Bart Mancuso’s knowledge of Combat Tactics. (We’re through the Clancy looking glass here, people).

‘Combat tactics Dr Ryan, by not playing HARPOON, you wont have artificially aged by 20 years by the end of the game’

So, what’s in the engagement before Alfeld?
As far as the book tells us, on the Soviet side we have ‘20th Tanks’ and a Motor Rifle Brigade. At one point “50 armoured vehicles were cresting the hill-line”. Which sounds absolutely mental. Vast numbers of T80, T72 and BMP carriers, along with Shilka and Gopher AA Missile systems along with Hinds. Soviet stuff, all easy to get and already in the Barn’s collection, AND PAINTED!

This is my Ivan face. No smiles here. Serious wargames only.

NATO has:

  • Landwher Jaeger Infantary. Stout defenders of West Germany who are well motivated but lack the expert training their regular army brothers do. Lots of HOT Missiles, and ‘carriers’ are mentioned. Marders perhaps? Let’s go with that.
  • B Troop, 1st Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment who’s commanding officer is killed leaving Sgt Terry Mackall to get that most ominous of things: A Battlefield Promotion.
  • A10’s from the 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron. These get referred to as ‘The Devils Cross’
  • ‘Attack helicopters’ which are either PAH, Cobra or later Apaches. So we will be focusing on Cobras or PAH.

Mackall’s M1 Abrams

First things first, I wanted to get some Abrams anyway as they are such an iconic and spectacular looking machine. After some research with Lee and former serving officers and tank gunners who were stationed in Germany in the period, Guy Gormley and Jeffrey Schnakenberg revealed that as badass as MERDC camo is… it ain’t in Germany at that time. This meant flat Forest Green was on the cards for painting, which made things much easier.

An M1 of 1st Squadron 11th ACR in 1984

Lets look at the build:

In the book, Mackalls already depleted platoon is made up of four M1 Abrams.
I decided to model three as regular M1’s and one as the newer IPM1 to mix it up a little.
Stowage on them is important, so a trip to Lee’s Kitchen Sink Article on BTA gave me some great ideas about placement and what to actually put on the things. Tow cables, ammo crates, MRE boxes, Jerry cans of water etc. I put .50 calibre MG’s on some of the tanks’ loader positions in place of the M240 7.62mm AA MG to show that this far into the war, a degree of salvage and modification would be taking place for sure. This is purely a modelling flourish with no in game effect.

Next up was the base colour painting. With MERDC out the window and the higher likelyhood of them being just forest green, I started with a Camo Green spray from a Halford’s rattle can which worked well. I then did a heavy black wash over it, followed by a heavy drybrush of Vallejo Model Colour (VMC) German Camo Dark Green, then VMC US Dark Green, then VMC Russian Uniform. Finally, on the hard panel edges, I used ‘pastel green’ in a fine drybrush.

Next was to do all the twiddly details like stowage and Numbering.
Numbering is tricky on NATO stuff in Germany. The tanks with massive Blue squares and numbers on them you see online [in the period photo above, for example – Lee] are from exercises to denot blue and red force, so it’s not really likely they had them.
Chatting with Lee, Jeff and Guy with their combined knowledge and some pics, I settled on the very small ID numbers on the front and then larger ‘Rule of Cool’ style numbers on the side. Side numbers and chevrons are a bit more of a Desert Storm thing, but honestly, it makes it easier for tank recognition.
I also put tank names down the mantlets. BISON, DUKE, CONAN and MARILYN.

So we are ready for the initial defence!

Next up will be The Devils Cross! I’ll be doing two A10 Tank Busters from 91st Tactical Air.
After that, its some West Germans, then some other twiddly bits. I’ll throw in some curve balls about Aardvarks coming up as well.

I’ll also be trying to actually work out how to fit this in a legal list or if we have to make up something to make it work!


4 thoughts on “The Battle of Alfeld, Playing “Red Storm Rising” in Team Yankee

  1. Great article – following with interest – looking forward to seeing your lists and see how you transfer this to the table top…are you going with a existing Mission or are you going to do a bespoke scenario?

    1. Hi Sparker, likely a series of custom scenario but using Fighting Withdrawal as a basis for it, or a suitable one where the Germans execute their rolling ambush in the early Alfeld battles.

  2. Hi Mike,
    There are also decent outline for scenarios in Hacketts book on Third World War. You even have the B-52 for the Venlo carpet bombing . Mission that would involve deciding how many Salvos a B-52 drops in one move…

  3. Hi all, great article nice photos and awesome M1s.

    Kindly request from the community a clarification on the rules.
    We play the helicopters to arrive on a roll of 4+ same as for strike aircraft, however in the rule book it is stated to roll for strike aircraft to arrive (does not mention helis).
    Is this correct or the helicopters can be deployed without having to roll?

    Thanks for your kind reply

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