Street Snatch involved a night time raid down Cottingham Road in Hull by a BUF strike force which aimed to capture the notorious Communist leader Jack Chatterworth and his key Political Officer, Harry Snaps.
An informant had supplied the BUF command with the details of a planning meeting which was due to take place late evening in a terraced house in10 Hardy Street. Evelyn Potter was given the task of driving into the north of the city and snatching the two Communists so that they could be interrogated by High Command. Success in this mission would show the Communists that they were never safe from the BUF, and the loss of Command would give the BUF forces a strategic advantage in their drive on Hull.
The informant owned a shop on Cottingham Road which gave the BUF an access point into the warren of yards and back alleys behind the terraced houses. The plan was to place enough men in the street itself to distract the Communists, whilst a Veteran Section of assault troops made their way over the back walls to capture the Communist Command who would doubtless be trying to flee. Potter clambered into his Command vehicle and led the convoy of taxis and a bus south into Hull.
Communist sentries posted well to the North spotted the convoy and telephoned its position and direction of travel. There wasn’t time to organise reinforcements, but Jack decided to turn the tables on Potter and use his men to set an ambush. Killing Potter would send a clear message to the BUF that Hull was more than capable of giving the fascists a bloody nose and that they would end up skulking back to Bridlington. Two snipers were positioned with orders to assassinate Potter and the two sections of Communists were hidden in buildings which enfiladed the entrance to the street.
As the convoy appeared down Cottingham Road, the BUF split into two, the bus and one of the taxis screeching to a halt just inside Hardy Street, whilst the other two taxis carried on to pull up outside the shop. Potter positioned his car behind the bus, well out of range of the sniper who was at the top of St Nicholas’ church. Twenty five men leapt out of the bus, straight into a hail of bullets from the Communists in both buildings. The other sniper in the end terrace missed but the fire showed how vulnerable the BUF were out on the street. The BUF Militia ran towards the end shop and attempted to smash down the door but they were frustrated, so remaining horribly exposed. A BUF rifle section moved up to the house opposite and traded shots with the defenders whilst Potter managed to manoeuvre his car so that the machine gun could give covering fire.
Meanwhile, at the front of the shop on Cottingham Road, the taxis had pulled up and the Veterans charged through the shop into the yard beyond. The Communist section in the end shop switched their fire to the Veterans, but a combination of poor night time visibility and hard cover from the walls of the yard, meant that only one man was killed when he failed to jump over the wall.
Jack and his team decided to remove themselves to a place of safety, however they miscalculated and ran out of the back door, running across the path of the advancing Veterans. The BUF taxi in the street outside hurtled forward in front of number 10 in the hope of cutting off Jack’s retreat and forcing him into the snatch squad.
The Militia continued to batter futilely at the door of the shop, however they were less exposed as the other Rifle section decided to charge into the end terrace in the hope of clubbing some Commies to death. The communists decided that they were better off next door, so as the BUF came in the front door, they ran out the back and darted into the neighbouring house.
It was at this point that the BUF who were beginning to gain the upper hand, suffered from one of those quirks of battle that can prove devastating! The men had all been given a hearty meal before setting off, unfortunately the gristle and fat that the cook had passed off as meat had not been cooked properly and three BUF went down with food poisoning and had to return to the bus incapacitated. No doubt the stink of vomit and ordure spurred on the Militia, because they finally smashed down the door and made it into the safety of the shop. Unfortunately there was no target for them to fire upon! They spent the remainder of the encounter keeping their heads down and cursing the Battalion Cook!
Out on the front road, the sniper had made his way down from the tower and attempted to kill the driver of one of the taxis. Both taxis reversed back into Hardy Street and waited for the snatch squad to return.
Jack meanwhile had realised his mistake and done an about face, back into number 10. A new sense of urgency gripped both sides, as they realised that the next few moments were going to prove crucial. Men found they could run just that little bit further when the bullets were flying, and this was to prove absolutely vital: for the Communists in particular.
It didn’t prove much help to the Veteran BUF, who were struggling to maintain section cohesion as they leapt over walls on their way towards Jack. The other rifle section that had been split, now reformed in the side passage between two blocks of terraced houses, but they came under fire from enraged local residents, who hated their uniforms and everything they stood for. Pistol fire and shotgun blasts began to take their toll on the section who were penned in down the side of the house like pigs in a barrel.
Catching sight of their leader Jack’s peril as he made his way back into number 10, the Communists in the row of shops decided on a desperate charge out into the backyard. Hurling themselves over the boundary wall, the most agile fell upon a couple of hapless BUF Veterans who had failed to scramble over into the next yard. A vicious fist and knife fight took place resulting one communist and one BUF Veteran face down on the paving slabs. The next round meant that the brutal fight continued with the rest of both sections leaping over the wall and slugging it out.
The heroic charge by his men bought Jack a few precious moments to calculate his next move. If only he could dash across the street into the terrace opposite where his other section were holed up. The danger lay in Potter’s staff car which was at the top of the street with the MG ready to rake the road if Jack was spotted. It looked to Jack as if he could do it, but every yard was going to be vital. He knew it was only a matter of minutes before a BUF rifle section came crashing into the house, so he yelled encouragement to his lads, threw open the door and ran for his life.
At the very top of the street, the leading BUF taxi driver copped a bullet in the head from the sniper who had cautiously taken a position at the corner. It would be small comfort to the man that he died instead of Potter, who was just out of sight, screened behind the stationary bus. The sniper decided to jump into the taxi and either ram the other vehicles or block their exit from the road. Either way, it was a desperate gamble that might prove key to thwarting the BUF if they managed to capture Jack.
Two doors down from number 10 the night was filled with struggling shapes, as the Communists and Veteran BUF fought each other in deadly close combat. In spite of their brutality and training, the BUF lost three men to the Communist two, and promptly fled the backyard-back out into the side access from where they could shamefacedly excuse their poor performance and face Potter’s apoplectic rage from across the street. The other BUF rifle section managed to reach the back door of number 10 and thundered in, expecting to have Jack at their mercy.
They had captured an empty terraced house however, as Jack and his command had raced across the street in a truly herculean effort, spurred on no doubt by the threat of being riddled with MG fire if they didn’t manage to cover the distance and get inside.
Potter had now lost the slender initiative he’d had for the past couple of rounds. The Communists began to melt away into the familiar maze of backyards and alleyways. Whilst the Veterans regained their sense of purpose under his scornful stare, there was little they could do, as their prize had bolted out of the back door and left his section in the upper floors to cover his escape. The other Communist section had also decided that they were better off withdrawing to safe ground, where they could swap stories in the pub of how they flattened a Veteran BUF section, who turned tail and ran like a bunch of schoolboys. The sobering reality of burying their dead Comrades would sink in later.
The BUF militia hurriedly scrambled back onto the bus and the taxis picked up the survivors; the sniper having legged it once he knew Jack was safe. The mood on the journey back to Brid was bleak. There was very little to be salvaged from this defeat. The only positive note was that they had shown that the Communists were capable of mistakes and that Jack had been reckless in waiting for them to come for him. North East Command might be able to use this nugget of information to their advantage in the forthcoming campaign. For Potter, who sat stiff backed in his car, bristling with rage and disappointment, it was a humiliating failure, and he was struggling to focus on the best way to instil some backbone into his Veteran section, whilst imagining the humiliation he would face in delivering his mission report to Command.
Thoughts on the Engagement.
As is often the case when designing scenarios, it’s the balance of forces that is key. I decided to go with a 2:1 ratio in favour of the attackers but with some nasty surprises for both sides that I hoped would be interesting.
I made one of the BUF sections Veterans and balanced this a little by including a Militia section who were irregulars. The Communists were fighting on home ground and so were able to move in and out of buildings without penalty, whereas the BUF had to smash down doors. I also included local residents, rolling a D10 in round 2 to provide the number. These were irregular, armed with shotguns, pistols or rifles. Rather than being directly controlled by the Communist player, they appeared randomly in houses down the street and fired upon the BUF, if a target presented itself, but they would not leave their cover.
A key decision was over the effect of night time on visibility and shooting. We had a discussion about reducing range and applying a -1 modifier but in the end decided to halve ranges. This seemed a little harsh on the SMGs but in the end seemed to work well and meant that we avoided the stand off and fire situation. Both of us had to move in on the objective and for the Communists, it meant that they had to charge out of cover if they were going to stop the Veterans capturing Jack.
The hand to hand rules seem a little too drastic for the losing side who lose by one. Perhaps instead of running they move down to jumpy and fight the next round at -1? If they lose by two or more then they flee as at present.
It was an interesting game which posed many tactical challenges. The Communists had only limited resources and initial placement was key. For the BUF the access through the shop into the backyards gave them a reasonable chance of achieving their objective. With only one MG on the table, firepower was limited and the presence of two Communist snipers meant that Potter faced real peril. Assault weapons and hand to hand combat became vital in this engagement, those receiving a charge could decimate their attackers if they had the opportunity to fire as their opponents closed. In the event, the maze of walls and passages at the rear of the terraces proved to be a useful source of cover but a hindrance, as the BUF advanced on their objective. A whole section rolling to see if they are successful in clambering a wall means that men will be left behind and picked off by the pursuing enemy. The Communist decision to break cover and charge after the BUF over the backyards proved to be a game winner, as they were able to halt the pursuit and give their Command a chance to escape the closing pincer trap.
We decided to set aside the use of cards for unit activation and instead pull coloured dice from a bag. It’s taken me a while to grasp the strategic significance of the cards and I’ve felt that it has slowed the game down whilst we run down the card order. I used to think the advantage lay in moving a unit first but have come to realise it’s usually a case of leaving a vital unit until the end so that you can see where your opponent is going. In this game, Jack’s dash across the road all depended on whether Potter’s car would end up with a clear shot. If Potter had already moved his car out of line of sight earlier in the movement phase, then Jack can dash across the road without having to worry about being exposed. Tactically it seems astute to leave key units until the end, so that they can respond to what is happening and gain a strategic advantage. We decided that the side who drew the first die was the side which rolled for an event. As is often the case in VBCW games, event cards have a crucial impact. In this case sickness amongst the BUF and the dry weather card which added movement. Night time meant that we adjusted this to a growing sense of urgency on both sides that they had to crack on and get this finished so they moved a little further each turn after starting hesitantly because of the dark.
File comment: Leaving a section to cover their escape, the Communist command leg it off the board.
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File comment: Having made their way through the shop, the BUF assault squad hurdle the walls of the back yards, making their way towards No 10.
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File comment: As the BUF make their way into the building, the Communists relocate next door.
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File comment: The BUF coach disgorges the Militia and a rifle section whilst the Communists fire down on them from the two corner buildings.
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