First, the response to the blog has been simply, well, phenomenal. I want to thank everyone who has commented here, on Facebook and elsewhere. It's really inspired me, not just to write more about something that has been my gaming obsession since 1985, but to get painting again (now if I can find the time, with my upcoming nuptials in October). This alone was a great thing with this blog.
In short, thank you everyone.
Cantonments and the Logistics of Broken Backed War
Now onto our subject at hand, Cantonments.
Cantonments are the revival of an older concept. To quote the definition from wikipedia:
The word cantonment derives from the French word canton meaning corner or district. and describes a place during a military campaign, such as winter quarters, where units of an army may be encamped for longer periods than they are during advances and retreats. The term shares an etymological origin with the Swiss Cantons though the meaning has widely diverged.
Cantonments in Twilight: 2000 fit the French definition to a "T". They are the encampments (mostly temporary, but just as often, permanent) of the remains of the various divisions and brigades (in name only in many cases), that are still in action.
"Action" in a large, conventional sense in Twilight: 2000 is a bit of a misnomer. Considering most military units have their hands full with their own logistical concerns (often growing their own food, and locating a source of potable water)..the fact remains, many forces in Twilight: 2000 have a very short window in which to campaign, before they must get their crops planted, or harvested. It's all very reminiscent of warfare before the 19th Century.
Consider something? In the adventure Ruins of Warsaw, the community of Silece could only put 300 men into the field. And they were pretty well armed by contemporary standards, and that was only for a short time, because the crops needed to be brought in. And they were still outnumbered...and outgunned by the Baron Czarny, who had 1000 under arms..but not enough food to feed all the mouths in his confederation of cutthroats. He had to take the city before the first snows. And he had to resort to some pretty desperate means to do so (including getting chemical weapons, or trying to).
In short, the big push in this adventure? The onset of winter. Winter in Twilight: 2000 isn't sitting by the fire and enjoying the holidays..It's praying you don't either freeze or starve to death.
So how does this matter for the tabletop?
Because for most armies, cantonments are their homes, their encampments, and their winter quarters, and other groups of all kinds, if they are desperate, or well armed enough, are going to want them for themselves. Smaller scenarios also lend themselves well to this, foraging and scrounging parties might be ambushed by marauders. Deals between cantonments (even in the same army) might go bad, the possibilities are endless.
But what does the average Cantonment look like?
Glimpse of a Cantonment (taken from Krypton Radio site and IP is GDW/FFE)
In short, imagine a cross between a Vietnam-era firebase, and a shanty town. The shanty town is populated by a mix of camp followers and what we would call independent local contractors who serve the various needs of the unit in the cantonment (brass re-loaders, machinists, etc.) These people are there to serve the unit, and often follow it on campaign, in return, the unit protects them.
Defenses are a mix of improvised (dug in tanks that no longer run, punji stakes, abatis, homemade land mines, fougass barrels, etc.) and piles and piles of sandbags, trenches and sheet metal. There is often a ring wall around the camp, where there is all the buildings such as barracks, garages, warehouses and all the other sundries a unit of a given size needs to run.
Sentries on the walls are often given what little night vision equipment that the unit still possesses, the sentries are often the only warning a unit is given that there is something wrong before there is an attack on the cantonment.
Farms should surround the cantonment, and should be walled off with either rubble or barbed wire fence walls. Again, these are mostly tended by the civilians, but the unit will place a high priority on the protection of these farms, though they won't defend them to the death, it would be a foolhardy extension of the perimeter.
To show one on the tabletop, you could start with the myriad of Vietnam-era firebase terrain out there in 15 and 20mm. Most of the buildings in the interior would be of the post-apocalyptic "franken-build" variety, or issue tents that have somehow survived that long. The motor pool, still farm, and grain storage areas, not to mention the armory will all be as heavily guarded as possible, but the main emphasis will be to make sure no attacker gets past the wall in the first place.
The shanty town will be close to the wall, but there will be a cleared area between it and the wall, as the unit commander will want good fields of fire, and as such, has probably burned down/tore down with an AFV a few shanties to make his point to the unit followers.
In short, think Roman Castrum, but with automatic weapons and the deviousness of 5000 years of warfare behind it to develop all sorts of nastier surprises.
Scenario Ideas for the Tabletop
- A full out attack on the cantonment, it's either a raid in force by a smaller marauder band meant to snatch and grab what they can, or a larger band meant to take the cantonment for themselves.
- A small foraging/scrounging party is in an abandoned village when it is hit either by a marauder band, or by the former inhabitants.
- A coup is launched by a dissatisfied officer for control of the unit. Various elements of the unit must now decide whether or not they back the coup, or remain loyal. This scenario can have elements of roleplaying, and should also reflect what happens to the camp followers.