Battle Report: Bad Day in Al-Khalas – Skirmish Sangin V2

Just around a year ago, the first playtest version of Skirmish Sangin V2 was put up on the facebook group to be tested. It has taken me this long to actually sit down and get it ready to play, mostly due to finally getting my mojo back to play some Ultramoderns.

With the first game of my newly planned monthly schedule against the Dastardly Regular Opponent coming up, what better time to jump back into Skirmish Sangin, one of our preferred rulesets for Ultramoderns, especially with the new Version 2 and all it’s changes. This is also the first game in the ChargeReal setting, using my fictional nation of Shyluz.


Republic of Shyluz, 10/09/2031 – a team of gunmen belonging to The International Janissaries PMC enter the Republic of Shyluz Air and Space Command building at 1300 hours, attempting to access the Rettung “Mirmir” network.

17 hours later, the gunmen are preparing to make a break for the border. Will they manage to escape the Airmobile Infantry?

We begin our mission on the outskirts of Al-Khalas, a small village in the south of Shyluz, close to the border with the Emirate of Bazistan. Last night, PMC operators from TIJ moved into the village and took cover for the night, the civilians fleeing into the hills. This alerted the forces pursuing them, elements from the 1st Airmobile Division of the Republic of Shyluz Army.

After deploying from their transport helicopters (a variant of the Mi-17) at a safe distance from the town, the platoon spread out out over the various hillsides. Our section moved into the main buildings, splitting into the three teams that form a Republic of Shyluz Infantry Squad.

The Scout Team, a pair of Veteran soldiers who had completed the Shyluz Ranger course, were the foremost element. The moved into town, unable to spot any of the hidden defenders.

On the right flank, the Gun group (based around the MG3) moves into an overwatch position to cover the rest of the village.

The main group, including the NCO, radio operator (required due to the outdated comms equipment the squad use), Light AT weapon team and combat lifesaver, started moving down the main road into town. Pictured here taking a pause before the advance.

Against them, the PMC force was comprised of 7 operators (a mix of Elite and Veterans). Four of them were armed with assault rifles, the machine gunner with a PKM and the team leader with a P90 SMG. The final member was an elite sniper, hidden under camo netting. All of them had body armour and several grenades each (which will come into use).

To lay an ambush, a team based around the machine gunner took up a hidden position on a compound roof, while the commander lead a three man team hidden in the marketplace. Overwatching both, the sniper took up position in the main compound. All of them started off as hidden, giving a pretty useful -75% to being spotted by the opposing force. They also had three claymore mines, hidden among six possible locations. These were treated as a hand grenade but only in one direction, set off after a demolitions check.

For the first few phases of the game, the Operators held their fire, waiting for opposition to get closer. The Scout team, despite having Gone Firm (the replacement for being prone) are quickly spotted by their sniper thanks to their impressive Spotting skill. Additionally, the operators are sharing information between each other, helping the others to spot targets.

The main Shyluz force is slow to move off, partially due to being lulled into false sense of security by the lack of contact. Or maybe it’s the squad leader trying to get orders through the limited radio network thats being hampered by the surrounding hills.

On the right, the base of fire team moved into their covering position, blissfully unaware of the possible danger in front of them. Again, the PMC team wait to open fire, instead spotting and reporting positions to the rest of the team.

Despite the NCO and radioman holding position to get orders from command, the rest of the team moved up to the field edge and went to ground.

These crop fields took advantage of the new cover rules – obstacles fall into three categories: Concealment, Cover and Buildings. For these troopers, the fields are concealment – good at blocking line of sight, bad at stopping bullets. A nice simplification that rapidly sped up playing the game.

Meanwhile in the square, the squad leader continued to hide while slowly cranking out Tempo points for the squad, passing out commands and keeping the squad updated as to the attackers movements.

Tempo is a brand new mechanic that both myself and my Dastardly Regular Opponent found REALLY changed how the game played. Tempo points represent a soldier understanding the flow of the battle and being able to push ahead. They can be gained through either command actions (assuming you are a character with that skill) or lucky rolls, and then can be spent to do actions that modify the usual flow of the game, such as interupting enemy actions, reacting to coming under fire in ways other than “hitting the deck” or even adding an additional action point for when you really need to move.

Speaking of which…

The NCO managed to lag behind the rest of the squad, keeping an eye on the village. While sprinting towards cover, the enemy sniper called an interrupt and sent a round downrange. A successful hit (elevated position, target in the open and using two AP to focus easily overcoming the penalty for targeting a moving target) only saved by the NCO’s body armour roll being especially lucky.

As an aside, the body armour and overall damage was perhaps a little bit swingy. Maybe not enough to cause a problem or ruin the game and it’s easy enough to rationalise it (sometimes the hit might be more of splinters or ricochets or maybe it just slams into the armour).

The next stage of the PMC ambush was for the group in the centre to prepare to fire. First up was someone attempting to spot a target when… A Fumble was rolled. Much like in V1, fumbles occur when you roll a “00-0” on the D100 and can lead to some bad things. They have changed since the first version, now giving the possibility of draining your Tempo, losing track of your spotted targets… or making yourself exposed for someone else to spot.

Obviously the movement of the PMC in the town centre drew just the wrong sort of attention. Naturally I selected him to be spotted by the machine gunner in the Base of Fire Team, already set up in a perfect flanking position. However, part of me was aware that I’d have to wait a little bit before actually being able to drop that 2″ burst of MG fire.

At a similar time, just as the fireworks kicked off, I decided to push my scout team up to the buildings. They would not be aware of the enemy forces above them, their spotting being unable to work out what the noise coming from above them was. Behind them, one of the Base of Fire team also attempted to spot but failed.

At this stage I unfortunately had a minor issue – all of the activations coming up were for the PMC force. And worse, my Dastardly Opponent was all ready to use them. First action?

Flipping over the claymore marker and rolling to detonate…

It went off successfully, the mine slinging a torrent of ball bearings at the two soldiers within the blast radius. Not even the protection of the rocks was able to reduce the damage to a manageable level. The Machine Gunner was killed outright, while the loader took enough points to permanently pin him, effectively taking him out of action.

The next thunderous explosion was a PMC operator posting a frag grenade off the room and into the scouts below. This time there was no cover to reduce the damage and again, both operators were severely injured.

This of course was made worse when the next PMC decided to finish the job with another frag grenade. This finished off both scouts, the deadly amount of damage (3d10 inside the kill zone) easily overcoming the armour protection.

Overall, this flank was starting to look like a nightmare. Two thirds of the total number of troops on that side taken out, leaving only the team leader and a rifleman still in action.

However, the fight wasn’t over yet. Despite some small arms injuries from the PMC machine gun, the team leader was able to slide into cover next to his subordinate and hand him a frag granade. The rifleman then activated, winding his arm up to fling the bomb…

And Nailing the guys on the roof with it. One PMC operator was taken out immediately, while the others all took damage and suppression from flying debris.

On the opposing flank, having spotted the gunfire from the elevated positions, the main team decided to attempt to flank around the compounds. Interestingly at this point they were unaware of the group still in them market.

Until they managed to work out a good flank onto the hidden bad guys. Looking through the gap behind the buildings, the pair of riflemen were able to spot the hidden enmies and start putting shots down, although none managed to cause damage.

In response to the advanacing enemies, the sniper fired a final shot down the road at the edge of the field and then relocated to cover the rear. Getting an additional AP via tempo points, the sniper went firm in cover, giving them a little more survivability.

Meanwhile, the Shyluz Infantry started moving up a little closer, working their way around the field to avoid being cut down by the machine gun fire. It should be noted that the NCO of the team lagged behind a touch, using most of his actions to attempt to get more tempo and interrupt some of the enemy movement. However, this was not as successful as the Elite PMC Commander, and much of the dice rolling was unsuccessful.

Unfortunately I managed to miss out on getting a photo of the action but the Infantry ran into a major issue when the PMC operators pulled out frag grenades and lobbed them over the cover. There was less immediate KIAs than on the other flank, but it was definitely spreading the suppression and wounds around.

At this point, the PMC team realised they could slowly start peeling out, having delivered a pretty destructive ambush on the pursuing force. The machine gun team on the building moved first, with one of the riflemen picking up the body of his teammate. The small group left the back door and kept moving.

However, their retreat left an opening on the right flank, meaning the two remaining members of the Base of Fire team could move up. The team leader reached the edge of the wall and fired a few shots at the retreating team in the marketplace, who had managed to disengage behind the thunderous explosions. However, being injured meant most of the shots whistled overhead.

Of course, shooting off the rifle caught the attention of the PMC Machine Gunner who managed to spot and then shoot through the field. The rounds shredded the foliage, removing the Shyluz team leader from play.

With a smoke grenade popped and most of the pursing force pinned down, the only obstacle between them and escaping was the enemy Radio operator, who had managed to find a gap in cover that neither the PMC riflemen or the sniper could engage. It was of course at this stage that the Dastardly Regular Opponent decided to try out the CQB rules. A quick combat move, a very high CQB skill + sidearm and the radio operator was in the dust.

With the entire Shyluz infantry squad in various stages of out of action, the International Janissaries managed to break contact and escape into the wild forest that covers the border between Shyluz and the Emirate of Bazistan. They had taken casualties and injuries but managed to get everyone out and to safety.


Overall, it was a really fun game to sit down and play. The new version of Skirmish Sangin keeps a lot of the stuff I loved from the original, slims down a lots of the bulk in the older systems and then adds some new twists.

In addition to the ingame tweaks I am also a big fan of the new character creation process. By breaking the link between activation order and skill level, you can now have much more varied soldier types at the different levels. Additionally, each character is built from a template, giving you some preset to values to then adjust to give them the specific feel. Building the two sides took a fraction of the time it used to.

In terms of the game, we both had a really good time, quickly getting back into the swing of it. I’m already planning out a new scenario in the setting, looking at some other operations in the ChargeReal. Maybe over the border in Emirate of Bazistan. There are a few little things I think I need to prep before next time – the character sheets have a lot going on on them (wounds, tempo and suppression especially) that need to be tracked during the game. I’m think of using some pins on a backing board so I can move them back and forth. But expect more games soon!

The Empress’s Hounds – Episode 1 Game 1

If you want more information on what’s going on, as well as the story so far, don’t forget to read the introduction page.

Scene 1 – Forest Clearing. Alistair Von Ferrumgard, leader of this band of Swordmasters watches stoically as his pupils form up in two groups of two and prepare for a mock duel

Introducing a player to a new game is tricky. You usually have to find a good scenario that is interesting yet not overwhelming, showing the game off without deluging them in details. Luckily, Open Combat is simple yet interesting enough that you can easily play it on a flat barren plain but see the ins and out of the combat system, enjoying the movement back and forth that comes from rolling a lot of 3’s and 4’s.

The Sister took the pair of Jochman and O’Dicca (who secretly are the main characters but don’t tell anyone), while I took the less teamwork focused (and less heroic) pair of Wolfgang and Zorros. All of them, as well as their master, use the Swashbuckler profile from the Sword Masters expansion to Open Combat, giving a pretty reasonable statline with a few of the special tricks that expansion added such as Lunging and Riposting (as you’d expect from a sword fighting expert). To add some variation, I tweaked each of the statlines for the heroes to play into the rough character archetypes I had scrawled down for them. Alaistair is the Old Leader (slower movement and increased mind to improve his use of Inspire), O’Dicca the Brash Youngster (increased attack), Jochman the Stotic Ally (increased fortitude) and Zorros as the the Cocky Bastard (increased mind to make him better at taunting opponents as well as some items to better suit the model).

Wolfgang did not receive any such additions – he is a mere swashbuckler. Take from that what you will.

One part of playing to tell a cool story rather than playing just to win is trying to play how best to suit the characters. I started off by not using Wolfgang and Zorros as a team – Zorros is more likely to push his junior assistant forward and wait for the moment to strike. Instead, I attempted to drag Jochman out of position, using the Taunt skill (which pulls a target model towards the character. Jochman however has no time for such childish behaviour.

Remember what I mentioned above about playing narratively? Well my sister managed to use her pair of characters exceptionally well. Despite Wolfgang getting up in both of their faces, the back and forth of Push Backs and Impasses went in her the pair’s favour. Eventually, Jochman was able to hold Wolfgang long enough for O’Dicca to flank around an deliver a strike from the rear arc, taking advantage of the massive reduction in character defence included in the Open Combat rules.

However, despite outflanking Wolfgang, it did not stop Lacele in turn being attacked from the rear (a move befitting a slippery character such as Zorros). In fact, he was able to land two good attacks, definitely a danger when you only have a fortitude of 4. Open Combat actually lets you land multiple hits depending on how many dice match the target result, so having a character with high ATK means you might end up with a maximum of 6 damage per turn (assuming you roll perfectly).

O’Dicca was easily able to turn around and fight back against her attacker (you can already hear the witty dialogue between the pair of them) using a combination of knock backs followed by lunges. Lunge is an interesting move in Open Combat, letting you attack with your speed rather than your attack state as well as giving you the ability to attack from 1″ away. The downside, rolling a 1 means you end up stepping into the fray, a mistimed lunge leaving you vulnerable. Rolling a 1 also means that you lose the initiative, leaving other characters on you team without an activation and at the mercy of your opponent.

Inevitable, with the fall of Wolfgang letting the pair gang up on Zorros, he soon lost the last of his Fortitude and the mock battle was over. Not even the use of his fine hat or cloak as a distraction would save him.


A good intro to the rules, as well as a fine start to the story of this group. The ruleset was really easy to teach a new player, with only a few core fundamentals to learn so you can focus on the actual gameplay. We forgot a few of the minor abilities (only remembering them part way through) but overall a success.

In the next game, I’ll be taking control of the bad guys, letting The Sister take control of the entire party and taking the first steps into The Estate of Vorpass!

The Empress’s Hounds

An advantage of moving back to Leeds was bringing me closer to friends and family which brings with it the advantage that I have a much wider base of people to see and play games with. One of which is my Sister, who runs her own blog covering her hobbies. She is not really a wargamer, having only had the classic experience of being dragged through a game of Warhammer or two and collecting a few of the old Bretonnian figures. However, she is a keen board gamer and a fan of all things fantasy.

One day last year while we were hanging out (thanks to me being a single-person household I was able to bubble with family), she expressed an interest in giving my hobby a go. And as you might have seen, I have been lacking in wargames in the last 18 months. Because of this, the idea of running a game ever two weeks sounded pretty damn great.

However, the eternal question is what to play?

After a few weekends of thinking about it, as well as watching some classic swashbuckling films and trying out a ruleset, we finally decided we’d play some Fantasy skirmish (and not just due to the pile of models I’ve been collecting for it).

Part of this was also down to the rules – Open Combat is a system with plenty of potential for including a whole variety of troops (everything from hordes of rats up to large beasts), easy to expand with a collection of house rules and most importantly – it was simple. There isn’t 101 moving parts that need to be pulled together, there isn’t a host of cards that each player must learn. Instead, all you need is a few D6s, a few models, a small board and the 1 page quick reference guide.

The other part was down to the story telling element of wargaming. Neither my sister and I are rushing into games for the competitive side – it’s much more interesting to use them as ways of creating an exciting plot. For this reason, we both got especially excited about the idea of using our games as the starting point for content for both our websites – I’d be writing the game focused side (as well as detailing the scenarios) while The Sister on her blog (https://wolfishwritten.wordpress.com/) will provide the ongoing narrative written in universe.

However, we’d need a setting. And luckily I had one in mind…

The Setting

(map coming soon)

Midgard is a fantasy setting that I’ve been writing over the past few years as an excuse to let me use all the wonderful fantasy figures out there. It is a setting that contains elements of many other fantasy settings (such as the Old World from Warhammer, the Continent of the Witcher, Westeros, etc). At some point, I’ll write more about it but it’s a merging of low fantasy mud and grime while still containing elements of high fantasy and legends (such as encountering gods and there being other races without going too hard on the “humans are big racists”).

The main characters of the story so far are a group of the Swordmasters. These are the key agents of the main ruler in the world of Midgard, The Empress. At her command, they crisscross the realm to solve issues and protect her rule. It’s best to describe them as diplomats, spies and assassins all rolled into one, occupying the same slot as famous characters such as the Musketeers of the Guard in The Three Musketeers.

Going forward, we may encounter other groups working through the empire. There are a wide number of groups that go about their trade throughout the Imperial Lands and it’s kingdoms and into the unclaimed Marches, from the usual Mercenaries and Templars to Vampire Knights, Garou Scouts and Elven monks from secret temples hidden away where the average citizen would not expect to find them.

The Episodes

Of course, you can have all the setting you want but there must be a story within them. When writing the campaign, I’ve worked out that I want it to feel a bit like a premium TV show crossed with a little bit of the feel of the old Sharpe TV Movies. Each episode will contain a number of a scenarios (often using similar or the same terrain) while the actual plotlines may cross over between episodes, assuming the required dramatic cliffhanger is reached.

The Core cast will naturally move between Episodes and storylines (as well as having some bonuses to keep them around for longer), but you will see other characters join in for a few battles depending on how the fates go. Depending on how long we play, certain reoccurring characters might crop up, for good or for ill.

Prologue

In the Prologue, a group of the Empress’s Swordmasters went up against some death cultists that had captured a member of the Siccarian Nobility.


Episode 1: The Estate of Vorpass

In Episode 1, the group of Swordmasters headed out into the Marches (accompanied by another trainee) on a brand new quest:

Game 1 saw an intro game, explaining the basics of Open Combat in the form of a training fight.

– Game 2 took them to the ruins of the Estate of Vorpass, where they came upon a servant of the Emperess in distress. (Link coming soon)

– Game 3 followed up on the events of Game 2, the party being ambushed as they prepared for a trip into the vaults of the Vorpass Estate. (Link coming soon)

The account of this episode from the scribes of the Swordmasters can be found at Wolfish Written

Episode 2

Episode 2 continues the adventures at the Estate of Vorpass.

COMING SOON

– ???

– ???

– ???


Adventures in Midgard – “Prologue”

Well it’s been quite a while – I started talking about Fantasy Skirmish way back in August 2018, with the purchase of Open Combat and the Frostgrave sprue. Fast forward almost 3 years and I FINALLY have put some fantasty figures on the table and played a game of them using Open Combat by Second Thunder

The idea behind this game was something a little simple, to get myself and my Dastardly Regular Opponent up to speed with the system and have fun over a couple of hours on a sunny day. Combine this with the Sword Masters expansion sitting on my desk and having been planning some Swashbuckling games with The Sister to introduce her to wargaming, well it was time to actually play something. And for the first time since September, actually rolling dice against someone else!


As you can see from the handy paper prepared by a friend of mine, The Swordmasters of the Empire (think a combination of diplomat, spy and assassin) have been sent off into the wilds to hunt down a group of cultists that have captured a nobleman from one of the Empire’s client states. These Cultists are from a group worshipping the undead, seeking to summon various undead creatures to go forward and attack the Empire itself.

The team of Swordmasters have managed to catch up with the Cultists just as they prepare their ritual to summon a Shadow Knight from behind the curtain of unlife. The ruined Chapel amongst the trees is a suitable place for such a ritual, and the cultists have gathered in numbers.

Here we have our group of Swordmaster, their horses left further up the road for purposes of sneaking up on their opponents. All of them were made using the Swashbucklers profile in the Sword Masters addon book, but I tweaked each to fit their characters better with a profile adjustment and a new ability.

From left to right

  • Benfrey Jochman – The oldest of the three Initiates into the ways of being a Swordmaster. He’s the tankiest of the three, used to taking hits in a bar brawl.
  • Alastair von Ferrumgard – One of the leaders of the Swordsmasters, an inspiring Tutor to the Juinior initiates. He has trained the other three and, although age has slowed him, he is still able to inspire his students.
  • Lacelle O’Dicca – A rising star within the Swordmaster, Lacelle has proven herself to be deadly with the blade and quick on her feet.
  • Zorros Colvieri – The son of another Swordmaster, Zorros is… an asshole. Delighting in taunting his rivals, he also wears a suitable extravagant hat and cloak (and yes, these are items in the rule set).

All of them also have sword fighting skills like Lunge, Parry and Riposte which lets them do all sorts of things you’d expect from a group of heroes ala The Musketeers.

Zorros start off the plan by doing what he does best – distracting the enemy by making a lot of noise and standing out in the open, Taunting his opponent to lure them out of positions. However, as good as his skills were, the cultists were still wary.

Of course, Zorros hadn’t expected one of the cultists to step forward and pull his hood back to reveal a grinning skull! Turns out the cultists already had two undead servants, able to Intimidate our heroes to reduce their courage. This reveal may have shocked Zorros for a moment but he quickly continued his part of the plan, calling out the cultists and luring the guardians towards him.

Meanwhile, the other Swordmasters crept into position nearby, ready to sneak into try and disturb the ritual.

Of course, the Swordmasters hadn’t expect the cultists to have brought bows with them. As Zorros continued to heckle the guardians closer, one of the archers pulled his bow string and let loose. The arrow struck home, wounding the flamboyant Swordmaster.

Who responded by leaping upon the nearest piece of cover, insulting the cultists and dragging them closer to him.

Eager for the fight, the cultists joined in.

On the other side, Lacelle crept forward, planning to outflank the archers. However, the other skeleton warrior spotted her, revealing his frightening facade to her and causing a sense of dread in her. No one had mentioned there would be skeletons!

Despite their personal difference, Jochman considers it unwise to leave Zorros alone, and so creeps into position.

Pushing past her fear, and leaving Alastair to deal with the Skeleton, Lacelle instead climbed the wall, preparing to sneak up on one of the archers too focused on their ally.

Speaking of which, Jochman decided to take a more direct approach to assist Zorros. While the fight stood atop the barrels lunging forward to land strikes on his opponents, Jochman came barrelling in, trapping the Cultist Guardian between his and Zorro’s assaults

(Rules note: Landing a solid hit pushes a figure backwards, but if they can’t actually move the full distance they take an extra wound)

Very quickly, the skill of the two fighters took out the first of the cultists.

With a shout, Lavelle also managed to land a solid hit. As well as stabbing the archer, the battle pushed him off the top of the ruins and, with a cry, he fell to the floor, sustain almost enough damage to kill him. Almost.

While his younger colleagues got into the main fight, Alastair squared up against the skeleton… and entered into a multi-turn duel that had them moving back and forth like it was a fencing match.

With a cry, Zorros lept down from his cover and quickly finished off the other skeleton with a fancy set of sword fighting moves that pulled the undead creature apart.

In contrast, Jochman simply took a single strike to bring down his foe, before turning to hunt down a new target.

One of the archers, having just recovered from a fall off the ruins and starting to dust himself off, was surprised to see a very angry Swordmaster in black sprinting across the field towards him.

Meanwhile, Lacelle, seeing that the ritual was reaching a high point, decided that enough was enough and now was the time for drastic action. Running to the edge of the ruins, she dived towards to the Cult Leader…

Failed. Terribly. Landing short, she managed to attract the attention of the cult leader who turned around and, as all swashbuckling films tell us villains do, began to monologue.

Alastair, after several turns of back and forth with his skeletal rival, finally managed to land a killing blow.

Meanwhile, filled with revenge for the arrow that pierced his cloak, Zorros proceeded to run towards the archer. Sadly, an attempt to throw his hat (to distract the archer) ended with it fluttering gently towards the ground.

At the same time, Jochman also finished off the downed archer, knocking him down with a shoulder charge before rushing past to….

Come to the aid of Lacelle! Jochman interrupted the crazed rambling of the cult leader, giving time for O’Dicca to quickly recover and leap to her feet.

Now outnumbered, and with Alastair joining the fight too, the Cult Leader did the only thing sensible. Turning around to the captive and finishing the ritual, he slayed the Siccarian noble.

With a terrifying hiss and a sudden fog, the crumpled corpse of the nobleman was replaced with a Shadow Knight, a terrifying creature of undead bones and metal. With more attack, defence and fortitude than any other figures on the board, this would be a challenge.

Now, what the cult leader hadn’t realised it that Shadow Knight obeys no masters. So, when he attempted to order it around, it instead went and knocked a chunk out of his fortitude.

Facing such a betrayal, and unwilling to hang around to see who won between the Swordmasters and the horrible creature, he instead managed to disengage and flee the battlefield. Perhaps we’ll see him again?

Back in the centre of the battlefield, the three Swordmasters now engaged the horror from beyond space and time. Despite losing some mind to the Intimation of a such a monster, and wounds from it’s sweeping sword strikes, the Swordmasters managed to get in a good few hits…

And eventually, with one final rasping hiss, the Shadow Knight was defeated!

With only one model left, Zorros decided to end the battle with a final taunt. Finally, after a game of partial successes, he managed to fully succeed drawing the evil archer forward. In his rage, he failed to see that the platform ended where he stepped, leaving him to fall down and lose his final point of fortitude.


Well that was a pretty awesome game! I think Open Combat is a really great little system – it’s a quite simple core setup, using only D6s with a very small number of modifiers. In terms of play, it’s light enough that you can pick it up quickly but not too light that it feels simply like an excuse to roll dice with a beer or two – there are still plenty of tactical challenges and actions to consider. There is also so much you can play around with in the system, making it perfect for setting up a wide variety of characters to play around with, with various abilities, skills and weapons to let you create anything, especially with the Sword Masters add-on to include that final few touches.

You will be seeing a lot more of Open Combat in the future. I still want to try out Warcry properly (as well as other games) but Open Combat has (after this first game) definitely fit the niche I was want of some rules sit behind the narrative I’m wanting to write with my games. Not sure when the next game I play will be, but you’ll know for sure when it goes up!

Battle Report: Operation Odeysus – Spectre Operations

Well… it’s been a while since I last did these. Like literally 18 months (18 months and 19 days to be exact) since the last time I planned, wrote and played an Ultramodern game set in Bazistan. A lot has happened in that time – “losing my cool” during that last game was the sign of something a little worse, I move 200 miles south and then we got stuck inside for almost a year.

But now? Well, I had the hankering to roll a dice or two. So why not take a step back to the fictional nation of Bazistan and carry on the story.

Background

It has been almost two years since the events that lead to the capture of Captain Amari of the AESA by elements of the Bazi Interior forces on the outskirts of Bazi City (see The House on the Corner). Alongside her and two of her Adenese colleagues, the capture of SAS Trooper Robert Chalk proved to be a political bomb, leading to the resignation of the Minister of Defence and (among other things), the collapse of the British government at the time. 

After being paraded on Bazi Television as spies, Amari, Chalk and others have been disappeared into a series of Military Prisons that the Bazi regime maintains. Bazistan has refused to return any of the prisoners while they are still alive. In the past year, the bodies of the two other AESA agents have been returned to the Republic of Aden’s government but there has been no sign of Amari or Chalk.

At the same time, counter-government forces in Bazistan have shifted to small scale open combat, especially around the second city of Alriyah. As the combat has increased in intensity, Bazi security forces have begun extracting important assets from the region. This has included the last two prisoners held in a secret prison. Thanks to dissidents in the Alriyah Police, British and Aden governments have been told that these prisoners are Captain Amari and Trooper Chalk.

In case you didn’t know, my games are set in an alternative universe where Yemen is actually split into two nations – the West leaning Aden and the monarchy ruled Bazistan (you can find. If you want more ways to tell it’s a fictional universe, the fact a scandal involving the parading of a British operative on TV actually causes the British Government to collapse.

Also yep, it’s time for a time skip. Last time the country was definitely at the tipping point but not quite into open warfare, mostly because most of the games I was playing were much more focused on small scale sneaky stuff or gradual skirmishing in the hills between Aden and Bazistan. This was mostly due to how my collection was themed, with larger forces not really existing.

Bazistan now, however, is in the early stages of collapse, mainly because having checked through my collection I realise I have plenty of figures that would be suitable for a larger set of games, possibly using Ultramodern or Chain of Command. With this larger size, it was time to turn the heat up a touch. Hopefully, we’ll be breaking out a few more insurgents and platoons of infantry to get into the fight.

Mission Briefing

UK Special Forces Command has drafted up a recovery plan. Taking advantage of the current insurrection taking place in Bazistan, UKSF has managed to infiltrate a small number of SAS operative into the region. As well as assisting the opposition forces, these SAS operatives have been on standby to attempt a rescue operation when Chalk and Amari were located.

Chalk and Amari are being extracted in a pair of Interior Ministry SUVs, accompanied by humvees belonging to Bazi Special Forces and regular Bazi Army forces. The convoy will be escorted by a Mi-35 Hind gunship. However, due to the current security situation, the gunship will only join the convoy once they have cleared the outskirts of the city.

This leaves a window of opportunity for the SAS to take advantage of. The element has discovered a possible ambush site in one of the city’s suburbs along the vehicle’s exit route. The goal will be to strike the convoy, recover the two passengers and then exfil the target area before any back up arrives.

I gave my Dastardly Regular Opponent the option to decide exactly how the SAS would recover the two targets and he chose a vehicle interdiction (the other option being a prison break). After a little bit of setup, and remembering the ramming rules in Spectre operations, it was time to break out the uprated vehicles and commit a traffic accident.

Forces

BLUFOR (the SAS) are rolling with a pretty stocked team of operators (as you’d expect for them planning an operation). The Ambush team (dressed in the desert robes) comprised of six Elite operators, armed with a mix of Carbines, suppressed MP7s and a combat shotgun. Knowing they would be up against vehicles and needing rapid armour penetration, the Carbines and shotgunner decided to use Armour Piercing ammo.

The BLUFOR support team of five Elite operators would take up overwatch positions. The key elements to this would be a heavy sniper rifle and medium machine gun (with an assistant), both set up on rooftops to create a killzone. For additional support, the team also has a medical specialist (to make sure the recovered objectives can be treated) as well as a UAV co-ordinator for overwatch. He also has access to a loitering glide munition just in case they need to blow the crap out of something. The team is definitely lacking in AT weapons, so having a contingency may be handy.

Finally were the BLUFOR vehicles. To create the traffic block, the shotgunner of the Ambush team would be driving an uprated civilian pickup, with improved engine and brakes, as well as a toughened front end (counting as a bullbar in the Spectre Operations rules). The extraction vehicle would be a white minivan, which would take the core team away quickly while the rest moved offboard to nearby transport.

On the other side, OPFOR were split into several groups. The main force was a convoy, comprised of two light humvees and two unarmoured SUVs. Both Humvees are armed with HMGs, but differ in their crew – the lead vehicle with Trained Bazi Army forces (with Assault Rifles and a MMG) while the rear vehicle was crewed by the Professional Bazi Special Forces.

Each SUV has four occupants – a hostage (either Chalk or Amari), a professional Operative from the Bazi Interior Ministry, a Professional Bazi Special Forces Operator and a Trained Bazi Army driver.

If the convoy runs into trouble, there are three tiers of response. The lowest level is a pair of Bazistan police in a civilian vehicle. These two are only militia fighters, but do come with G3 battle rifles stored in the car. The next level is a Bazi Army technical with four Bazi Army soldiers that is waiting to link up with the convoy. If it’s late, they will come looking for their objective. And if the SAS really cocks it up, well then a BTR-80a is following the convoy as a rearguard, complete with a squad of Bazi Republican guard.

SOP for the Bazi Army is to attempt to escape any ambush by pushing through. If held in place, the Bazi Interior Ministry operatives are ordered to eliminate the hostages. However, due to the situation in the Bazi government, not all Interior Ministry operatives are as loyal as they should be. A command roll may be required to see if their will holds…

Play-by-Play

We begin with the Bazi convoy speeding through the suburbs of Alriyah, bumping through the empty streets as the distant sound of gunfire fills the air, the sound of the dissidents being crushed by the Bazi Army.

The convoy keeps close together, turret gunners rotating left and right to cover the rooftops.

In a side street, the driver of a heavily armoured pickup truck pulls the shemagh over his face as the British voice in his ear counts down. “5… 4… 3… 2…”

Before the driver of the lead humvee can respond, the roar of a high powered engine fills the air, followed by a sickening “CRONCH” of metal on metal.

The impact of the armoured front onto the humvee knocks it off the road, the driver jarred by the impact until they slam into the jersey barrier at the side of the road. With a hiss, the engine stops working as the crew slump forward in their seats.

In contrast, the driver of the vehicle shrugs off the impact, pulls the Origin 12 shotgun off the dashboard and climbs out, leveling at the oncoming SUV.

With this impact, the rest of the SF operators appear out of cover. Covering the killzone, the marksman shifts his Heavy Sniper Rifle into position.

On another rooftop, the rest of the Overwatch team also setup, the MMG resting on the cover as his asistant prepares the belt.

Additionally, the rest of the Ambush team move out of the nearby buildings, taking up positions in cover to aim at the oncoming vehicles.

At the same time, two final Ambush operators move into cover beside an abandoned vehuicle and open up on the rear humvee with Armour Piercing rounds. These rounds shred the vehicle causing a mobility kill and killing the driver and gunner,

The Medium Machine gunner then opens up on the damaged lead humvee, the heavy 7.62mm rounds shredding the light armour and bouncing around the interior. Both the driver and passenger go down, taking the Bazi Army squad leader out of commission.

The first SUV continues driving attempting to smash through the now immobilised vehicles, the radio screaming “PUSH PUSH PUSH”. The SUV however is not an upgraded vehicle. It slams and comes to a halt, the engine softly smoking.

Before anyone in the car can react, the SAS shotgunner (having just moved out of the road as the SUV kept coming) runs up to the front passenger window, levels the shotgun at them and fills the front seats with multiple slugs, killing the driver instantly.

The other SUV decides to risk going off road and turns off into the desert. As it hits a divot in the ground, it bounces slightly.

Seeing the gunfight starting, and not wanting to be trapped in a light humvee against an opposition with serious firepower, the Bazi Army regulars disembark from the lead vehicle and into cover.

The cover however is not good enough. The MMG gunner shifts fire and hammers another burst, taking down the two regulars.

At the rear of the convoy, the two remaining Bazi SF guys manage to pull themselves out of the vehicle, taking cover behind the vehicle while frantically calling for reinforcements.

However, a few moments later the heavy sniper rifle hammers and takes out the Bazi SF trooper, leaving only the team leader alive.

SUV 2, unable to take the corner fully to escape, slams into the building, resulting in a mobility kill and knocking the crew out for a moment. However, in SUV 1, the survivors have disembarked. Their ears ringing, the Bazi SF trooper and Interior Ministry start trying to get the SAS to back off, holding a gun to the female hostage.

The SAS, fully aware of the upper hand they have in the situation, move closer keeping their guns trained on the Bazis.

At the rear of the convoy, the Ambush Team Leader and two members move forward towards where the Bazi SF had gone to ground, ready to take out the survivors

Still stunned, the crew of SUV 2 falls out of the vehicle leaving the male hostage inside. The Bazi Army trooper attempts to engage one of the SAS in the open but is rewarded with a burst of MP7 fire that takes them down.

Into this scene drives… The Police

Luckily a cross map heavy sniper rifle shot hits the civilian vehicle before it can get too close, hitting the engine block before it coasts to a stop.

The policemen dive into cover behind their car, pulling out their battle rifles from the back seat while demanding reinforcements at their location. They attempt to engage the SAS troopers, who are too busy dealing with the last remaining Bazi SF operator.

Coming under (Semi-)accurate battle rifle fire, the operator dealing with the Bazi SF team leader ends up simply smacking him around the face before turning round to deal with the threat.

After managing to suppress them with multiple Rapid Fire bursts from their carbines, the trio began to peel back towards the rest of the team.

Around the two damaged SUVs, the SAS team moved in to clean up.

Taking advantage of maintaining the initiative, the operators managed to move and clean up the bad guys, with a mix of close combat and close-range shooting.

And just in time, as the main Bazi army began to arrive. The technical, pausing at the end of the road start trading MMG fire with the team on the roof.

With the action about to hot up, the Ambush team leader reached into SUV 2 and dragged Trooper Chalk out before hoisting him over his shoulder

Trooper Chalk was reported to have hissed “You took your bloody time didn’t you?”.

And speaking of hotting up, the sound of grumbling engines announced the arrival of a BTR-80A and it’s troops. Heavy armour, an autocannon and a full belly of troops means this is not something to stick around and fight.

With very little able to actually deal with the BTR (and both hostages in their hands), the SAS beat a quick retreat. Bundling the two hostages into the minivan and driving off, the rest of the operators disappearing into the suburbs.

Wrap-Up

The Bazi Army inspecting the killzone

So, as you’d hope from a crack team of special forces, they successfully managed to extract the hostages and escape. Elite troops in Spectre Operations are exceedingly effective at their job and, in a situation like this, can rip the enemy apart. By getting the drop on the enemy, they were able to achieve the objectives.

Of course, this does leave them trying to evac a pair of hostages out of a hostile country in the opening stages of armed revolt. Not the simplest task, but it should be possible. On the other hand, the Bazi Army is not going to let themselves be made fools of.


Man, it felt good to be back rolling dice. And as much as I love Skirmish Sangin and all it’s details, Spectre has a lovely level of detail to it while still not requiring quite so much paperwork. It has lots of fun toys to play around with and a simple core that keeps it exciting. I’m looking forward to playing a few more games (even in solo) but hopefully we’ll be back to some multi-player games soon.

Battle Report: “OPERATION CHlSEL” – Chain of Command

Christmas is the time I return home to Leeds. As well as family events, I usually end up using it to encounter my Regular Opponent and get a game of something in. This year, myself and Regular Opponent got invited up North to partake in some Chain of Command, my favourite set of WW2 rules (and one that I dearly wish was still coming to modern-day). With three of us ready to play, we decided to play Big Coc and, in between chuckling, started looking up all the tank rules we had not got round to ever using before.


As the only player who didn’t have a painted army (my Brits still sat waiting for me to get my act together), I took control of one of The Host’s armies. Seeing as the three of us are very interested in Operation Market Garden, The Host decided we’d be working our way up Hell’s Highway and he’d be the one blocking us with “old men and boys” (Translated from Intel: a Panzergrenadier platoon and a Panzer 4 platoon). My Regular Opponent was in charge of the Paras while I would be taking charge of XXX Corps.

While the other two rolled up support choices, I ( Lt. Michael Mather-Charge II of the Grenadier Guards) was presented with a simple force – A Sherman V with Senior Leader, two Sherman V’s with Junior Leaders and a Sherman Vc Firefly with Junior Leader. To provide support, a pair of Universal Carriers transported a section of Motor Infantry.

The other side of the game was the scenario. Rather than simply running a standard setup from the rule book, The Host instead decided to expand and make it a little more interesting. Each player received a different briefing, meaning that myself and My Regular Opponent actually had different goals despite being on the same team. Worse, we actually had different information as well, with our maps having different key locations on them.

Put simply, my goal was to capture the central plaza of Elst, before pushing north to continue on the road to Arnhem. However, I couldn’t actually get onto the board until the Paras had captured a foothold in the town referred to as HIGH TOP. Until they popped smoke, I was forced to sit on the sidelines (with my CO making sure I didn’t try any funny business). If I gained enough COC dice through lucky dice rolls, I could start off early – this task would be made easier if enemy armour was spotted from my Jumping Off Position or enemy infantry started to advance on the bridge.


Here we have the town of Elst, as it was established on our arrival at Our Host’s residence. Shown here is the bulk of the village, the bridge in the south and the road to Arnhem in the north.

As well as the road signs, this image captures three vital locations – the tall building known as HIGH TOP on the left, the leafy town plaza I was ordered to secure and the local town hall, which the German would have inevitably fortified.

The view from the bridge shows XXX Corps route of arrival. On the left, the first house in that row is also the bridge control building – it would be vital to secure this to prevent the Germans from cutting off the main advance.


Patrol Phase

Before the Patrol Phase had actually begun, The Host showed off his wonderful patrol markers, detailed with kettenkrads and scouts.

As the rest of the XXX Corps boys wait for the signal, a lone rifleman sneaks forward to spot the Germans moving into location.

Sadly, I failed to capture the useful photos of how the patrol phase actually went. The Para’s were able to get their markers relatively far forward, but the Germans stormed across the plaza and lockdown was achieved relatively quickly. German JOPs ran from the comms hut in the north down to the plaza, while the Paras managed to get one very close to HIGHTOP target building.


Combat

The Allies grabbed the first action… and thus began my dice rolling/waiting. However, the Paras were much faster. The third sections deployed into the roof of the northern farmhouse, setting up their pair of brens and marksman team.

In the Windmill, an Airborne sniper gently opened up the shutters and set up, his scope covering the road outside the church.

The other two sections of the Platoon also deployed and began their advance onto the objectives. The section at HIGHTOP moved relatively quickly, getting into the small back garden while the Bridge section moved through the cover alongside the road.

And not a moment too soon as the ripping paper sound of dual MG42s announced the arrival of a PanzerGren squad in the inn beside the bridge.

As the rifle team advanced, the MG team (pausing to cover 1st Section’s advance on the objective HIGHTOP) suddenly found itself under inaccurate light mortar fire.

Yep, the Germans had turned up with the 5cm mortar, digging in close to the church.

At this point, there was some discussion of how annoying it is the German mortar doesn’t come with smoke. My Regular Opponent is a big fan dropping all the smoke hey possibly can, influenced no doubt by the events of our first game of Spectre.

The Germans had snatched a double turn and immediately took advantage of it, opening up another hail of MG fire that put shock down Paras, forcing them to hit the dirt even while trying to move tactically.

The team at HIGHTOP also noticed more Germans advancing out of the Town Hall and again started wondering who thought this lot counted as “old men and boys”

The Paras also spotted a German officer come racing out of the Town Hall. This was Hans von Gruber, recently arrived leader of a new Kampfgruppe. Although not able to activate other units (the veterans are not going to listen to this unknown officer who showed up), his survival was a German objective.

And as a way of supporting that objective, the Panzer 4 platoon sprung into life, deploying the platoon leader and one of the other tanks onto the board. Despite the Paras reporting their arrival over the radio, a lack of line of sight to my JOP at the bridge meant we couldn’t deploy just yet, despite the rumble echoing between the buildings.

However, the tanks immediately got to work, hammering main gun rounds into the British secured farmhouse. The Paras didn’t take any damage, simply hitting the deck and waiting for the enemy gunners to realise they were just increasing the airflow rather than causing damage.

Meanwhile, at HIGHTOP, the Paras finally burst into the objective (vaulting through a downstairs window. At this point, the Airborne realised they would need to pop smoke from the top floor window and just how many stars would need to be climbed.

Of course, the plight of the Paras wasn’t helped as a burst of fire shredding the windows announced the setup of a tripod-mounted MG42 in the building across the square.

Of course, the MG wasn’t the only thing attempting to slow them down. As the team of elite soldiers pounded up the stairs, an explosion from the main gun managed to cut down two Paras. However, the section kept pushing, eventually reaching the top floor.

Not part of the action, just a good image of My Regular Opponent’s bugler in a pumpkin patch. Perhaps telling XXX Corps to stand ready?

The Panzer IV Platoon Leader decided now was the time to roll forward and continue engaging the Paras sat in the farmhouse.

The Germans continued to move forward, the camouflaged Panzer IV moving out to allow one of its comrades to join them in the AO. Additionally, Hans von Gruber’s staff car arrived, disembarking another squad of Panzer Grenadiers and allow the senior commander to prepare for this daring escape.


The Tanks Arrive!

Finally, even as the Germans prepared a force to retake HIGHTOP, they finally popped green smoke. Immediately upon seeing it, Galahad (one of my Shermans) was the first one over the bridge, spotting enemies dead ahead and preparing the machine guns.

Close behind Galahad was Arthur, the lead vehicle (and technically my command tank), storming across the bridge and preparing to flank around and meet up with the rest of the Paras. As they drove past the infantry in the row of houses, cries of “took your time didn’t you?” rang out.

Of course, this is where my inexperience with tanks showed up. After unleashing a literal mountain of dice to brass up the squad near the town square, the German player pulled out a CoC dice and shoved a Panzerschrek round up the rear of Galahad, immediately knocking it out.

Even as the first tank across started burning, the rest of my force appeared. Gaiwan (another Sherman V) moved past the burning wreck of its teammate while Lancelot (the Firefly) moved to link up with the command element and prepare to knock out the pile of tanks in the main square.

Additionally, the motor infantry arrived, preparing to support the tanks and secure the inn.

Speaking of killing tanks, the Airborne PIATs claimed the first Allied tank kill, the bomb lazily arching in to destroy a Panzer IV.

Inside HIGHTOP, The Paras began a desperate close-quarters battle. Leaving the Bren team upstairs, the Section Leader and his rifle team bust downstairs to secure the building. Grenades were thrown, killing some of the Germans before closing to contact. The end result? Even as the few remaining Germans fled outside, the only Para survivor was the Junior Leader, staggering back up the stairs covered in dust.

With the battle advancing, the Para Senior Leader hit the board, ready to take control of the Airlanding Section that had joined the assault.

At the northern end of the board, the British Paras attempt to fight across to the comms shack but ends up taking fire from the Panzer IV.

In another shock, the dreaded Ambush popped up again with the second round from the Panzerschreck team carved through the front armour of my command tank. Not only was it entirely knocked out, but the ammo cooked off, putting shock onto the Airlanding teams.

Due to the turn ordering, the Germans managed to box my armoured units in at the Bridge, kicking my Command Dice down a dangerous amount. Worse, the German armour platoon pulled in a Panther. Myself and The Regular Opponent started to get a little concerned…

…Until the Panther’s attempted shortcut through HIGHTOP simply ended up putting it into the cellar (we used a modified version of What A Tanker’s smashing through buildings). Worse, the damage to the building would mean it was about to collapse at the turn end.

And then the turn ended. Meaning the four Paras who had just survived so much now had to dig themselves out of the rubble and fall back.

Cruising past the wreck of their boss’s tank, the crew of Lancelot were ready to get some payback. Spotting a Panzer IV rolling forward, the 17pdr blew the tank to pieces, burning pieces of tank shredding the vegetation around it.

Time was rapidly moving on, and having spent the whole game fighting off the Allies, The Host suddenly remembered his objectives. Hans Von Gruber’s staff car, with the support of the Panzer IV platoon leader, put the pedal to the metal and raced down the board. Brushing off fire like it was nothing (including multiple sniper hits) the halftrack actually reached the very end of the board…

At which point we had to break out the “grenades on open-topped vehicle” rules as the Paras did a last chance rush on the vehicle as it slowed slightly at the gate. Despite one grenade bouncing back and causing shock, the Paras did manage to stop the vehicle in its tracks before dragging Von Gruber out.


After 5 hours of non-stop play/rules checking, we finally called it here. Looking at the various objectives, we decided that the Allies had won a pyrrhic victory – they had prevented Von Gruber from reaching his forces to the north and the bridge was secure but the Germans were still contesting the town plaza, the German Comms broadcast had been uninterrupted and a tank wreck just off the bridge would take some time to actually move it and open the road for the rest of XXX Corps to advance.

Once again, Chain of Command is a great game to play. Even just this one game has got me very excited about playing more, and was the kick in the backside to get a move on with my own platoon of Brits. Going to need some tanks of my own as well – having them in-game was glorious fun but definitely something I’ll have to practise with (and get more infantry co-operation).

Battle Report: The House On The Corner – Spectre Operations

So here we go, the direct follow on to the last game.

After the events during the attempted hand over of two Aden citizens, Captain Amari and her rescuing SAS team have fallen back to an Aden External Security Agency (AESA) safehouse on the outskirts of Bazi City. The team has decided to go to ground, waiting for a security gap to allow them to escape back across the southern border.

Meanwhile, the rebel leader has taken the intelligence gained from the captured local fixer and used it to locate the enemy safehouse. Rather than risking his own forces, the leader has instead sold the information to the Internal Security Forces of Bazistan (ISFB). 

After all, when you find a criminal den, you call the police.

The Forces

Limping away from their firefight in the badlands, the forces of the AESA and SAS were limited to a small number of operators. Six Elite operators, mostly using carbines but supported by an LMG would be the main force. Along with the Elite Captain Amari, three other Trained AESA staff members were on-site and armed with assault rifles which would provide some extra guns.

The BLUFOR objectives were to prevent any opposing forces from capturing evidence of illicit activity taking place on Bazi soil by the Aden Government. This would mean holding off the opposing force long enough to destroy the pair of servers holding operations data, demoing the supplies in the garage building and then extracting as much of the personel as possible, including the unarmed civilian AESA station chief.


Prompted by details of the safe house, the Bazi Ministry of the Interior assembled a large force to deal with the security threat. To provide the training core, the Bazi Army hired six Professional Argo Contractors, each armed with modern CQB small arms and grenades, body armour and NVGs. These troops could be parcelled out, either mentoring the lower skill Bazi units or acting as a close-quarters assault force.

And speaking of the Bazi Army, they are providing two units. The elite(ish) Bazi Special Forces would be taking part in the assault. Although only Trained, the 6 man Bazi SF team were equipped with CQB weapon systems. They are also arriving in a Tigr armour vehicle, mounting an MMG (the automatic grenade launcher being banned due to the ROE). A much larger presence was the regular Trained Bazi Army, bringing an 8 man squad in body armour and carrying an MMG and an RPG (just in case). They also arrive on the board in a BTR-80A – despite having its main claws trimmed by the ROE, it can still help the assault through using the armour and its Medium Machine Gun. Finally, a Technical from the Bazi Army would provide MMG support.

OPFOR objectives are simple – capture as much evidence of insidious actions against the Bazi Royal Family and Government taking place on Bazi soil. Ideally, the Interior Ministry would love to have some captives to parade on TV and so capturing the opposing force is a priority.

The Setup

First of all, let’s take an overview of the setup. Taking place in the suburbs of Bazi City, strict ROE is in place regarding the use of explosive weaponry such as the RPGs or autocannons. The mission also takes place at night. (Although this may have been forgotten once the action kicked off)

(As an aside, I really want to get some more of my buildings painted up and ready for play. As much as I like the layout, a few more buildings would have really set the suburban scenes)

The AESA compound in the photo above is located south of the road and focused on the main safehouse, with two other smaller buildings acting as annex’s, including a garage. Several concrete walls and barriers provide cover. On the other side of the road, a multi-level construction as well as several smaller buildings filled with non-combatants.

The Special Forces in the Tigr slowly rumbled down the side road. Pausing only to let three of the team disembark, the vehicle prepared to push on into the main compound. Upfront, an Argo contractor kept an eye on the gentleman in the orange outdoors coat, listed as a possible AESA agent.

On the other side, a technical from the Bazi Army rolls up, MMG swinging to focus on the target building.

Inside the safehouse, the BLUFOR operators were unalert but at risk of a future assault. For this reason, they were checking entrances. Upstairs, the SAS were taking positions at the windows and doors, trying to cover all the angles.

On the ground floor, the AESA statin chief, a SAS operator and Captain Amari were in discussion. Two AESA agents were also on this floor, one in the makeshift server room and the other checking keeping watch.

Events

As the night rolls on, the Bazi Army makes it’s assault.

Three of the Bazi SF operators setup on and then breach into the garage building, the sound of boots on wood echoing through the night. Inside, they find a stockpile of supplies destined for anti-government rebels – in other words, jackpot.

With the sound of vehicles moving the raised voices, the inhabitants inside the building start to setup. Table are flipped, guns checked and made ready to go.

Making a tight turn, the Tigr bursts into the compound, causing the AESA agent to make a break for the annexe. The civilian he was talking to, after adopting a surrendering gesture then attempted to run. Twigged by this movement, the Tigr’s gunner opened up with a burst of fire, dropping a suspect to the dirt. The first casualty had taken place.

The Tigr also ended up being a bit of bullet magnet, with SAS troopers both inside the main building and the annexe engaging it and piling on suppression.

On the other side, a fireteam of the Bazi Army troops were moving alongside the BTR and getting ready to stack up on the back door. However, with a smash, a frag grenade thrown by one of the SAS came flying out, landing in the middle of the attackers and shredding most of the force.

Hearing the gun battle outside rising, Captain Amari snatched thermite grenades off the AESA agents and got to work, placing them on the server racks to destroy the lists of operations inside Bazistan.

At this point, the three man infiltration set of contractors were getting ready to rush the building, sprinting across the road. The squad leader suddenly looked to his left when, with a roar of an engine, the BTR came flying down the road, turning the corner and then…

BOOM

It collided with the building, it’s prow smashing through the wall, the driver’s head coming flying forward and breaking his neck. The rest of the crew and passengers were stunned, leaving the three operators outside to keep pushing.

Inside the room, as the dust settled, the room was a mess. After talking it through, we decided that everyone in the room would be stunned, the cloud of dust and rubble smashing things aside.

On the other side, the Bazi SF split up, starting to assault the two buildings. Unfortunately, they ended up being caught in the cross of the SAS LMG and a riflemen, eliminating the trio on the ground floor.

The PKM gunner, his ears ringing, hit the deck and got ready to open up while his Argo buddy got ready to move up. However, a quick burst of assault rifle fire and the MMG went silent. The contractor hower brought his SMG up and trained it on the window when…

BOOM

A thunderous blast of from the upstairs, accompanied by a pile of shrapnel, and suddenly the fire from the upstairs windows slowed. The SAS team leader was preparing to drop a grenade on the assault for below when he fluffed his throw. Landing on the window sill in front of him, the blast took him out, the concussion echoing around the roof the room and stunning his teammates.

The operator, who had taken out almost a whole team by himself, was caught standing in the window stunned by a burst from the Argo contractor. He dropped dead, leaving only two SAS operators standing upstairs.

In the Annexe, the SAS operator and AESA agent looked at each other and decided to make a move, busting out the window and getting ready to make a run for it.

After a short scuffle, one of the Argo Contractors managed to tackle and drag the AESA Station chief back outside of the ruined front room, letting the main Bazi Army push inside. Another contractor around this time also attempted to knock unconscious one of the SAS operatives. After a short scuffle hower, the SAS operative was killed in the fighting.

Outside, the last of the Bazi SF were taken down, the SAW in the SAS gunner’s hands hammering away and shredding what was left of the door.

This is a bad photo of the event, sorry

As a final push, the last rifle operator upstairs attempted to rush down and rescue the AESA station chief. However, the Contractor holding the captive simply swung around and clocked him around the face with his rifle, knocking the operator unconscious and adding him to the captive pile.

Inside, the Bazi Army and Argo contractors burst into the server room, finding Captain Amari slowly raising her hands and kneeling down.

On the other side, the servers gently smoulded, useless to anyone. Amari was still smirking when the rifle butt came down on her face from an irate Bazi Army trooper.

The last AESA agent, crying out for updates from the explosion behind him while still keeping an eye on the Bazi SF before they were cut down, was very surprised when an Argo Corporation merc grabbed him by the neck and slammed him into the door. And with that, resistance at the compound was ended.

AFTERMATH

Although missing out on the data, the Bazi force did manage to take four inhabitants of the compound hostage. Three AESA agents, including the famed Captain, and a single British citizen should be a handy group to show on Al-Jeezra as proof Aden is not to be trusted. The stockpile of material in the garage would help with this, providing shocking evidence.

Of course, three BLUFOR operators did manage to get away. Perhaps they may return in future missions?


Overall, it was one hell of a game. I did not expect the BTR to be used as a battering ram, nor for just the sheer number of grenade fails. I did lose my cool a little (I blame the heatwave we’re in) when it came to keeping the game flowing and also forgot a rule or two (such as sidearms in CQB). On the other hand, the Spectre rules still play fast and feel brutal.

But this is setting up the next mission in the campaign. With Captain Amari in chains, I think it’s time for someone to build a prison (I’m thinking a few of the Knights of Dice apartment buildings) and prepare a rescue. The question is… who will be doing the rescuing?

Battle Report: The Trading Floor – Spectre Operations

I’m back from the States – I didn’t have any time to get this stuff written until I got back so after much delay, here it is!

The last few games of Spectre have been focused on the all-out battles, vehicles and gun battles from the very first moment. However, modern war isn’t all the overt stuff and Spectre’s rules include a rather good section covering stealth.

In addition, I had been watching a lot of Strike Back and I really wanted to do some tense encounters. So this week, we fly back to Bazistan, coming upon a prisoner exchange deep in the uplands on the Aden border.

Contrary to the standing policy of the US and British governments, the Aden Civilian Administration does have a system of negotiating with various groups inside the disputed zone on the Aden/Bazistan when Aden civilians are snatched.

This system is partially run by the Aden External Security Agency (AESA) and as well as recovering the civilians, the contacts and arrangements made can be useful when supplying covert operations in the northern kingdom. However, this can also lead to issues when the insurgents realise the possible value of the negotiators.

Communication between the British and Aden Governments has led to a team of SAS Operators covering the latest prisoner exchange. This particular exchange is being run by a rising star in the AESA, someone the Bazistan Government is very interested in.

The Forces

BLUFOR for this operation was split into two teams:

The AESA team comprised of three figures. Captain Amari, an Elite intelligence agent, was accompanied by a Professional contractor (Gregor) with the usual carbine setup to make them perfect for CQB actions. The final member of the team is a Trained local fixer, driving a white minivan and wielding a folding stock AK.

Assisting them was a six-man team of Elite SAS operators that have trekked in and set up ambush positions. Two of them were set up as a sniper pair in ghillie suits, with medium rifle and DMR. The rest were equipped as Long Range Patrol troops, an LMG and UGL supporting the carbines. In addition, the team carried demolition charges capable of busting through some of the weakened fort walls surrounding the meeting site.

Arrayed against them was the OPFOR. These were mostly Trained fighters, local militiamen from the city who had moved into the borders for the lucrative cross border opportunities. As well as a mix of weapons from ARs to RPGs and MMGs, there were also several aces. The first was a pair of technicals, each armed with an HMG. The second was a team of professional fighters spread out among the different teams. This allowed them to take advantage of the mentorship rule, boosting the stats of the squad they are assigned to. More importantly, there is a lot of them – even though they start unalerted, they might be able to bring enough firepower to bear to cause serious issues on the smaller BLUFOR forces.

The Setup

Before we get started, I need to call out the rather fantastic fort that Michael of Supreme Littleness Designs brought along to use as a centrepiece in the game. It’s going to be coming out soon so keep an eye on the site for more details.

The white minivan belonging to the AESA forces begun pulling onto the board having just driven through the local village. The locals look on with mild disinterest.

On the edge of town, one of the insurgent technical was engaged in “hearts and minds” with a local around their car. The gunner was looking off into the distance, attempting to keep some situational awareness despite the ongoing row.

At the other end of the board, a group of militiamen and the other technical were dealing with a group of locals less than happy about the random gunfire and the rough city inhabitants disturbing the peaceful farming community. This distraction drew several patrols away from their routes, letting the SAS sneak far closer to the fort than normally possible.

Inside the fort, the local warlord, accompanied by two of his professional advisers, prepared the hostages for the exchange. Around the wall, small groups of sentries patrolled, keep their eyes open.

Deep in the scrubby woodland that had grown up around the cleared zone of the fort, four of the SAS team started to move from their infiltration point and head towards a position to set up on a weakened part of the wall, ready to make a quick move to assist.

Moments before the arrival of the AESA team, a small quad-copter drone recced the area, sending back a data link to both elements. Both BLUFOR elements are well aware of the enemy positions in the area.

Events

The SAS forces mobe up, making use of the cover and moving tactically through the undergrowth (we didn’t have any litchen to represent the entire area being covered in the rough shrubs to break up line of sight). The Elite fighters with their higher agility are perfect for moving tactically

Two locals eyeball the approaching mini-van, one swinging his keys around his finger and moving back towards the driver’s seat.

The Minivan continued on, rolling past the shouts and cries of the argument. The DsHK on the back tracked the vehicle warily, the gunner watching the woman in the back staring back.

TIn a show of force, and growing bored of the uppity civilians, the DSHK gunner raised the HMG and fired off a burst scattering the crowd.

At the same time, the white car’s driver turned the engine on, still watching the vehicle roll past him.

On the other side of the fort, and with the guards distracted by minivan’s arrival, the SAS watched the top of the wall while the breachers started to assemble their charges, getting ready to stack up if the situations.

As the AESA team disembarks, Captain Amari leading the way to the door, a local civilian opens the door of the foot, beckoning them in and gesturing to the warlord standing across from them.

As the local drive Ahmed disembarked for a smoke break, he could see the group of insurgents (fresh from their scuffle with the locals) starting to advance on them.

As the team entered, this is how the fort was setup. You can see the two SAS teams sat in cover outside, the marksman team at the top of the centre (watching the enemy outside) while the assaulters hiding close to the damaged wall.

In the fort itself, there were multiple groups of insurgents taking up positions around the centre. Due to the lack of action, all of these teams were using overwatch, ready to interrupt BLUFOR’s activation if required.

With the insurgents on the wall top distracted, the SAS continued preparation. With the squad leader and machine gunner providing cover, the two other assaulters setup explosive charges ready to break in if the situation required.

And now things started to go a little bit wrong. The white car roared into reverse, boxing in the AESA’s escape vehicle. Ahmed pulled his AK from the cab and started to rant at the terrified looking driver but then was interrupted by the approach of several militia fighters with unpleasant smiles on their faces.

After a brief but positive discussion inside, Ahmed was called over with the money, passing it off to one of the professional looking fighters inside while Amari requested to see the hostages.

Ahmed headed back to his van, “assisted” by the small crowd of insurgents starting to enter the main compound. Gregor, the Swedish soldier now working for the AESA as a close protection officer, could now start to see the situation potentially about to go very wrong.

An RPG totting insurgent pushed the two poor hostages forward, bringing them out and moving them down the stairs. Eventually, they reached Gregor and, for a moment, I thought we might get through a Spectre Operations game without a single shot being fired.

At this point, the insurgent player closed the door on the fort and turned to me to offer an ultimatum. If Captain Amari (a highly placed AESA agent) was to stay, the militia would let the two hostages go. Obviously, the warlord was wanting to trade up, swapping two civilians for a more interesting proposition to serve up to the Internal Security Forces of Bazistan. Militia fighters started to advanced, all ready to apply some pressure.

And then it all kicked off. With a nod to his commander, Gregor opened up with the carbine, two rounds into one of the insurgents. Amari, seeing she was about to be trapped, sprinted to find somewhere she could hunker down and hold up. Ducking into a side room, she ran for cover.

And then, perfectly timed for the camera that would have been following her if this was an action movie, the SAS set off the charges and two operators advanced through the wall, using the smoke for cover.

Once inside, the pair quickly moved up to the columns and settled in. They swiftly moved to engage the stunned fighters nearby while frantically motioning for Amari to run through the gap in the wall and get back out to where the rest of the team was waiting.

The SAS advance set off the overwatch of several insurgents, including the marksman in the tower. However, thanks to the Elite operators use of cover and skill, all they ended up suffering from was some suppression, easily shrugged off in the next turn.

Out front, Ahmed saw the closed doors, the insurgents approaching, the debris from an explosion and decided to act before someone else did. Pressing the AK barrel to the door next to him, he put a burst into the approaching militia leader dropping him while sliding out of his seat and exiting the vehicle.

Inside, Gregor had his hands full, swiftly engaging the enemies while trying to get the hostages out of the firing line. He swiftly dropped an approaching enemy, the first shot hitting the body armour before the second dropping them entirely.

Unfortunately, this valiant attempt was not fated to end well and the sheer weight of assault rifle fire cut him down before he could find effective cover.

Outside, the two man sniper team started to earn their keep, engaging the enemy technical with a .338 round to take out the gunner before he could cause some havoc. The spotter was useful in assisting him, the re-roll being incredibly useful in this case.

The SAS continued dropping bodies to cover their escape, considering rushing the courtyard to grab either the money or the enemy commander. However, despite several kills (including the RPG gunner tumbling down the stairs) the weight of incoming fire started to push them back.

The pair of operators outside the walls were also engaged, one of the other insurgent patrols moving to attempt to cut off escape. While the assault rifle traded fire with the foot mobiles, the LMG gunner brought the weapon to bear on the technical and ran a burst from driver to the crew bay taking out both and causing the vehicle to come to a juddering halt.

As Amari and the operators inside finally fell back, the marksmen and other SAS covered them, clearing the enemies from their positions on top of the wall and making the enemy think twice about attempting to follow.

Seeing the insurgents outside of the front gate were distracted by reacting to incoming sniper fire, Ahmed decided to make a break for it, sprinting at full speed to get away from the insurgents. However, they ended up getting the initiative and caught the fixer before he could get away, knocking him to the dirt and taking him prisoner.

Aftermath

As the game ended due to running out of time, we took stock of the situation. OPFOR had managed to keep hold of the money, the hostages and captured a fixer of the AESA. On the other hand, BLUFOR had managed to keep control of Captain Amari, making sure a valuable intelligent agent was kept out of Bazistani hands. Silver linings and all that but still worth it.


I got to admit, that game was incredibly tense. It took 90 minutes before anyone even fired a shot, with BLUFOR creeping around while the OPFOR player just kept making cutting remarks about his plan. Honestly, I was just waiting for him to let it play out fully and do an actual exchange, no shenanigans. When the action kicked off, my number 1 priority was getting the captain out of there which may have been the wrong choice.

In the next scenario, we’re going to continue this story-line. The SAS team, along with Captain Amari, is stuck deep inside Bazistan. The border region is filled with groups looking for them, the insurgents are a few thousands of dollars richer and also know where the team will probably go to ground. Next time, we’ll get to see the SAS, outmanned and trying to escape…