Operation Oryx: Final Turn

Several feisty eleventh hour orders should guarantee Operation Oryx goes out with a bang rather than a whimper. When we parted company last Monday, three of our mortarmen were running the gauntlet, our Patton was scrutinising a small patch of trees for signs of an elusive T-80, and two of our ‘orphans’ were attempting to neutralise a pair of surprisingly doughty T-55 survivors.

(Operation Oryx is an open-to-all game of Combat Mission: Cold War set in 1981. The commenter-controlled Zendoran forces are attempting to ambush a column of Podrabian vehicles bound for Zečin, the Zendoran capital. Each turn covers one minute of WeGo action. For a scenario outline and summaries of earlier turns, click here).

As much as I love 2nd gen CM, attempting to orchestrate delicate infantry actions with it, can feel like knitting in boxing gloves.

The attempt by Bravo and BRDMan to bypass/neutralise the T-55 crewmen by the hotel junction, goes fairly well at first. Hosed by an M-16 and an AK-74, the Makarov clutchers fail to prevent our AC commander pushing on from the garage. Things start going wrong when the BRDMan picks a ‘hotspot’ dangerously close to the occupied building and Bravo chooses an inopportune moment to reload.

The Pod tankers take full advantage of their stroke of good fortune. Pistol shots ring out and BRDMan goes down like a sack of celeriac.

In a parallel universe, one of the killers then dashes outside, snatches the dropped AK, and starts making life extremely unpleasant for the prostrate Bravo. In ours – possibly realising they’re running short of ammo – the two foes drop their peashooters and raise their hands.

Sadly, Turn 30 also claims other Zen lives. Only one of our sprinting mortarmen reaches the relative safety of the M113.

Having watched his first shot fly over the map edge, the T-80 gunner aims lower for his second. This time, mud plumes and men fall.

The last significant action of this year’s co-op Combat Mission marathon involves the engagement’s two most modern and capable MBTs.

Unable to clock the T-80 from his current position, and conscious of the trouble an enemy tank on Strupnic’s south-western edge could cause to the withdrawing ambushers, the Patton commander decides that he has little choice but to advance in Turn 30.

Watched by the Dragoneers and the LMG team, the M60A1 rolls northward. The 80 metres of battlefield that separates the two heavyweights becomes 60 metres then 40 metres, and still the Patton crew can make out nothing man-made amidst the vegetation ahead.

At T+30, with its main gun shaded by the very trees that obscure its quarry, our tank reaches its final waypoint and halts. Is this how Operation Oryx is destined to end? With two apex predators rendered blind by dense foliage, parked within spitting distance of each other?

No. At T+36, CMCW’s complex LoS routines choose to reveal the T-80 to the Patton. A few seconds later the Zen gunner squeezes his trigger knowing he cannot miss.

Up in their breezy eyrie, our Forward Observers hear a thunderous detonation, and, looking to the NW, see a green T-80 turret hurtle skyward trailing fire. The jubilant Patton commander reaches fo…

Hang on a would-you-credit-it WEGO minute! That hit text says “HIT Armor Skirt” and no more. The bally thing isn’t dead, and its main gun is swinging in our direction! Oh crikey, this doesn’t look good.

But, luckily for the Blue Team, Fate isn’t quite that cruel. The enemy gunner might have revenge on his mind, but his driver has escape on his. The shaken T-80 reverses, disappearing from view.

Red contact icons show it crossing the small yard to its rear. In the final second of the turn, the extremely fortunate MBT comes to a stop, facing south, close to the wall of the agri merchant’s yard.

Because the T-55 that killed Muttley last turn didn’t advance this sixty, and the T-55 north of the highway, made no effort to cross the M2, Trajanov’s force should, in the unsimmable turns that follow, be able to head back the way they came without fear of 100mm surprises. Something I’ll bear in mind when I deliver my post-battle analysis on Friday.

Many thanks to everyone who issued orders, proffered advice, or cheered from the sidelines during the past five (!) months. Your enthusiasm, persistence, and good-humoured teamwork means this is unlikely to be THC’s last play-by-comment CM game.


  1. What a way to finish! It’s a shame we can’t play a few more turns if tank cat and mouse. My heart was in my mouth reading today’s after action report. Would have really like to finish with a T-80 kill. Still, our M60 did the job forcing it to retreat, leaving our exit road clear.

  2. Ah what a bizarre end to the run! I nearly thought the time would run out with the M60 poking the T-80 commander out of his hatch. Seems very strange the M60 couldn’t find time for another shot while the T-80 did a textbook reverse bay park, but it could have been a lot worse so I’m not complaining.

    Sorry I didn’t get that order in for Scrappy, Alison. Maybe that was for the best this time, as they can have a slightly more organised withdrawal now.

    Very sad about the mortar team, they deserved better. I hope at least one of the hypothetical ATGM team got to the M113 too.

    Thanks again Tim, I really enjoyed that. Looking forward to Friday!

  3. Congrats on another great game. Started very strongly but then luck started to run out. Impeccable story telling Tim.

  4. Sometimes all you have to do is walk up to a bully and punch em in the face. It makes me wonder if our gunnery decided to fire HEAT and so a skirt hit counts as a failed penetration.

    Sadly so little of our force lived to fight another day. I’m always surprised with how bloody CM battles are. But I imagine the Dragon and M60 can probably leapfrog back to our lines, each covering the other as we go.

    With 13+ armored vehicles and several soft skinned targets eliminated I imagine whatever force breaks through our lines won’t be the hammer our opponents expected it would be.

    And I’d like to say a little prayer for our irregulars who knocked out several of our foes’ most deadly units.

    @Tim: I’ve been reading these for something like 6 years now, and I always enjoy the different scenarios you get us into. This is only my second time personally participating, but I’m sure there were plenty of folks watching from the sidelines, popcorn in hand. Thanks for putting in the copious amount of time one of these takes.

  5. Popcorn in hand indeed, what a finish! I burst out laughing at the reveal of the T-80. Thank you Tim, it’s been a terrific serial once again.

  6. Fantastic work everyone, this years battle was a barrel of fun!

    I would have loved BDRMan to sweep and clear, but there’s something poetically appropriate about being plugged by another vehicle crew, they themselves caught up in a similarly hopeless situation. Clearly they haven’t the stomach for this sort of close quarters violence…

  7. Thank you so much, Tim, for a gripping, rollicking write up, and what I can only imagine to be 100+ hours of work actually running the campaign. It was so much fun.

    And thank you to all of my intelligent fellow Tally-Ho Cornerites who participated and made my first foray into comment commanding such a gentle, welcoming experience. It won’t be my last.

    Slava Zendora!

  8. Yup, I’ve been reading these for years, but have never felt able to contribute – lack of time mostly. But I’d like to add my congrats on yet another well run campaign. One of the highlights of the site.

  9. Ramming speed! Ehrm…*cough*… well.

    Thank you for yet another masterpiece of online gaming, Tim. These scraps are always an unique and diverse experience. Well thought out and superbly narrated. I can imagine how much work has to be put into each and every turn and I want to tell you that all that work has not been for nothing. You and my fellow comment commanders make this into something special each and every time. Thank you all.

  10. That BRDM Commander never caught a break, huh? At least Recon B will make a jammy escape.

    The tank showdown feels like it should’ve been set to Yakety Sax – what an absurd hunt! I’d write it off as a silly quirk of the game if I hadn’t seen a drone video of a couple tank crews in Ukraine getting into a similarly close quarters battle under the cover of trees. At least we came out on the winning side of this exchange.

    Looking forward to the after action report. I really enjoyed this scenario, it was cathartic with the real life news what it is and various other difficulties going on in my personal life. Thanks to all the other commanders who took part and thanks Tim for taking our sometimes foolish or conflicting orders and spinning them into a compelling yarn.

Comments are closed.