A blog about miniatures, wargaming, and the people driven to ruin by them....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Falklands: Top Malo House After Action Report


My Iron Ivan Games compatriot, Keith Stine (you may know him as the author of This Very Ground and other assorted works), and I recently sat down with a couple of other club members to game the skirmish at Malo House.

Top Malo House was a serious fight that occurred on 31 May 1982 in a remote area of the Falklands, where 19 members of the British M&AW Cadre under Capt. Boswell stormed a tin shack occupied by 12 members of the Argentine 602 Commando Company under Capt. Vercesi (one of the twelve, 1st Sgt Helguero was attached to them from 601 Commando).  The Argentines did not deploy proper sentries, allowing the British to position themselves at will, prior to launching their assault shortly after dawn.

In the historical fight, the British launched six M72 LAWs into the Malo House, setting it on fire.  The Argentines fought back, despite their surprise (and being outnumbered, and outclassed, by their opponents), as best they could.  During the fight, 2 Argentines (Lt. Espinosa, and Sgt. Sbert) had been killed, and 6 more wounded (several seriously).  The remaining 4 uninjured commandos ran short of ammunition as they fell back, and surrendered.  The British suffered 3 wounded (2 of them serious).

Its an interesting action, featuring relatively small numbers of special forces type troops on both sides, in a fierce fight.

We decided to game this battle using Disposable Heroes: Point Blank.  I normally use Seek Out, Close With, and Destroy for platoon sized gaming (it includes the "War at the Bottom of the World" section specifically for the Falklands).  However, Malo House is really a small level engagement, and Point Blank worked beautifully for it.  We used a mix of 20mm Liberation, Combat Miniatures, and Platoon 20 miniatures (as previously blogged about here).

I have posted the Malo House Scenario here.

Here is the table set up....

The building itself was a fantastic hand built item from Keith, who was inspired by  Dougie's Wargaming Blog.   As far as other terrain, we placed low rises in appropriate spots (especially the rise that Capt Boswell used to cover his assault force's approach).  We did not place an actual fence line.  We placed a line of stones and low growth to represent the stream behind Malo House.  Finally, we placed a couple of patches of "irregular terrain" to represent peat diggings. 

Several gamers in the club called this the most depressing gaming table they had seen.  Comments included the likes of "the post-apocalyptic games look more inviting"  and "it hurts my gaming soul to play on a table with so little terrain" and the like.  We did not spread snow effects to represent the dusting that was actually there... maybe next time.

There is essentially no way the Argentines can win this battle conventionally, the battle is quite lopsided without changing forces around.  So, I wrote the scenario victory conditions to be based on comparing casualty ratios.  If the Argentine players achieved a casualty ratio significantly better than the 8:3 that actually happened, they could claim victory.  Likewise, if the British players achieved a casualty ratio more favorable to them, they could claim victory.  I wrote up a simple casualty result chart, to be determined for every model downed, at the end of the game.  The models could be declared killed, severely wounded, lightly wounded, or even stunned (meaning they would NOT be counted as casualties).

Prior to set up, the Argentine commander rolled for sentry deployment.  The default would be the historical sentry, Lt. Espinosa, in the upper floor window with his sniper rifle.  However, the Argentines had a small chance of having 1 or even 2 additional sentries deployed outside of Malo House, which could potentially affect the British deployment.  There was also a small chance that there would be no sentry deployed at all, allowing the British improved deployment.

In this game, the Argentine commander rolled the historical result.  Several Argentine troopers were marked "suppressed", while Espinosa watched from the upper window.  The British deployed as "normal"...
A close up of the British assault force cresting the low rise...

The British initiated the battle by the firing an assortment of small arms and M72 LAWs into the building.  MAG fire from the Fire Force chewed at the upper floor, while the first M72 slammed into the ground floor.  Against all probability, even with a relatively weak blast, the LAW took out 3 Argentine commandos on the ground floor, but failed to set the building on fire.  The remaining 5 LAWs fired, again against all probability, all MISSED!  A series of rolled 9's and 10's saw the rockets streaming across the table, presumably into the surrounding countryside.

Some Argentines were suppressed while others were roused by their commanders.  They quickly began returning fire, downing one British Marine in the Assault Force.  The Assault Force Bren team suffered a serious jam (rolled three 10s), as the rest fired with M16s, M203s, and SLRs.

The Argentines moved their FAP team to the doorway, trying to eliminate the British MAG team.  The entire game, the MAG team and the British Sniper continued to rain down fire upon Malo House, slowly eliminating the Argentines.  The FAP team were taken out, and only the 602 commander remained on the ground floor, stoutly defending his troops from a window with his FAL, until being downed towards the end of the game.
Meanwhile, the upper floor Argentines were beginning to make their way downstairs, trying to fall back towards the stony stream.

You will notice that we used a "footprint" card for the upper floor, placed to the side.  This looks a little disruptive, but it allowed us to model the action more effectively.

The British sniper brought down the Argentine commando closest to the stone run....
One Argentine leader rounded the corner of the building, downing one of the British in the peat diggings.  A third British Marine had been downed on the rise.

At the end of this turn, only the two Argentine commandos seen outside of Malo House were still standing.  The Argentines had suffered 10 potential casualties, and the British 3 potential casualties.  The game was halted as the surviving Argentine commandos surrendered.  We now began rolling for casualty results for each model.  With the assistance of the British medic, several models were found to have been "stunned" only.

Our final tally was 2 British casualties (1 KIA, 1 severe WIA), and 8 Argentine casualties (1 KIA, 3 severe WIA, and 4 light WIA).  This 2:8 casualty ratio was close to the historical ratio of 3:8.  The slight advantage in ratio for the British was offset a bit by the types of casualties suffered by both sides.  The scenario was a clear British victory, BUT for the players, this was almost a draw.

Post game discussions indicated that all 4 players were stressed in the scenario.  The British players (Dieter and I) were under pressure to avoid extra casualties before the Argentines were defeated.  Opposite us, the Argentine players (Keith and Josh) were doing everything they could to go out fighting, trying to take down even 1 or 2 more British models.  In fact, that near-last action of gunning down a Marine in the peat diggings almost tipped the balance (though that model recovered as stunned only).

It was a short but vicious little fight.  I felt with some of the scenario specific rules I wrote, the game played out in a believable manner.  The players on both sides had opportunity to win the game.  It was a good game.... we intend to game again, with me gaming on the Argentine side and Keith gaming on the British side, using the exact same scenario.  When we do that, I will post a write up for comparison.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the club.... there was a big 6mm game of The Battle of the Mons, 1914.  The table looked splendid, and all parties seemed appropriately distressed about it :)

Until next time.....


  1. Really like the idea of comparing casualty rates for victory conditions. Makes the scenario much more playable- the lack options for the Argentinians to win was kind of off putting....



    1. Thanks. It came to me as the best way to stick to the historical situation, while still allowing the Argentine players a way to "win" the game. Of course, there is a little bit of conversation at the end... but if, say, the game ended with 5 British casualties and 8 Argentine casualties, it would be pretty clear that the Argentine players had won. My blog post is pretty long winded already, but I can add that I was impressed with the tenacity of the Argentine players... even when they had lost 6 models (half their force) they were still hammering away at our British. They were trying to disperse from the house, looking to get some models into the stream to cover for the rest.... it didn't work, but I think because they understood the victory conditions for them, they didn't just give up.