As a modern wargamer bogged down in endless tiny conflicts in the Middle East, it can occasionally be difficult to find suitable buildings to fight through. Many I’ve covered here, but otherwise, you’re stuck picking up a whole host of generic adobes that don’t quite have the same feeling as the built-up and developed areas of key cities in the MENA region.
One key element of the more well-to-do areas in many of these places are walled compounds, either around public buildings and richer families. Differing from the adobe walls of the rural region (mostly through the visual side), these walls provide a very interesting set of challenges for a wargaming commander, forcing troops into killzones or requiring the use of tactical equipment to cross them.
In partnership with Footsore North America (formerly SASM), Sarissa Precision has released a range inspired certain compounds in Libya. To nitpick, technically the design on the buildings is closer to the CIA annex rather the main Ambassador’s compound immortalised in 13 Hours. However, no matter what the inspiration is, they do provide an easily purchased way to build up your own modern-day compound to storm/defend.
The key feature of any walled compound is, of course, the walls! Comprised of three pieces of MDF and two slices of greyboard, assembly on these sets are super easy. Wide piece at the base, thin piece at the top, place greyboard on each side. Done in literally 2 minutes. The wall segments are each 8 inches long and you get four of them in the separate packs (although only two of this smaller size are included in the Walled Ambassador’s Residence Set).
The main comment about these walls is the height. These are not minor obstacles, there are taller than a man and would require teamwork to cross. They would definitely do the job for marking out a protected building or just catching the eye when setting the table up.
I could also see them being easily modified with a few additional touches. Treadheadz on facebook has done some breached walls (something I may do with one of my additional sets) but there are plenty of other little tweaks. For example, some razor wire could easily be strung along the top if you really don’t want any visitors.
Of course, the wall panels above may look sturdy, but without proper support they will fall over to even the most minor explosive or errant arm. for this reason, most of the kits in the range include a common post design. The other elements have a pair of hooks on each side, that in turn slot into the posts for stability. The elements are also designed to match the base of the posts, removing any unwanted gaps in the base.
The vertical component of the post are actually four matching pieces. Two of them have slits cut to take the element hooks, while the other two are bare. The slitted portions have a pin that goes into the base, while their counterparts protrude slightly upwards, slotting into the top portion before being covered by a topping piece. By default, the posts are designed to be assembled as passthrough supports, connecting opposite sides to extend the walls.
However, it is important to note that the base has four slots that the bottom pins can fit into. This means that, if you wanted to add some variation to the look of your compounds, you could assemble the posts to make some right-angled turns or even create a T-shaped arrangement through the use of upright pieces from other posts. This does require a little modification, shaving down the top prong seeing as there is no longer a slot to slide into.
You could simply assemble the posts detailed above to create the corners of your compound, but the more visually pleasing (and more accurate) version is included in the kit. These curved walls are really clever in terms of construction, letting you have the curved shape, without losing the sturdiness of the rest of the MDF kits.
Rather being entirely MDF, only the core structure (the two end walls, the base and the roof) are made from wood. The actual curve is greyboard, with two interior pieces clamped between two exterior pieces. The design works really well – I’d also add the interior pieces can be put in either way around with no issues (the outer pieces covers any gaps).
Of course, every compound needs an entranceway. And with this being a secure compound, it needs the proper place to check over anyone who approaches. The entrance is actually made up of several pieces, all tied together with the same hook and lot posts used in the rest of the system.
The main focus is, of course, the gate. A baseboard with two pillars attached (with slots on both sides for alternative uses), the actual gates themselves can swing freely letting you open and close them as the game requires. They can also be easily removed for storage (or if someone decides to risk ramming them mid-game). The gate style is definitely wrought iron and simple, but you could easily replace them with something different thanks to the ease of removal.
As well as the main gates, there are also two corner pieces. One is a normal corner piece (as detailed above) but the other is an armoured gate house. This has an internal door and an external window beside the gate. Much like the other corner pieces, it’s a similar construction
Now you may notice, I made a bit of a mess with it. I hadn’t realised that the inset piece is supposed to be a locator piece for the roof. I, of course, didn’t realise this until I’d glued it all together and then realised there was no way to access the interior. So I had to take a claw hammer to it to break the super glue before assembling it the correct way around. Luckily my textured spray paint should help to cover up the mistakes.
The entrance pack also includes an extra-long wall piece to match the gate assemblies size. This means you can easily assemble a square compound, without needing strange sizes of MDF wall. Apart from the size, it’s exactly the same as the normal walls.
Of course, there is no point in assembling an enclosed compound if there is nothing to enclose. The compound comes the Ambassador’s Residence, a medium-sized open-plan building with plenty of room on the room for a last-ditch defence.
So this was the midpoint of assembly and honestly, it was a pig getting the basic frame together. Things snapped, slots didn’t align and in the end, I swore quite a lot. I assume most of it was down to my own cackhandedness rather a particular design flaw, but be aware when assembling just in case you end up with a few missing elements to the doorways.
On the other hand, I am a big fan of how the edge of the roof is assembled. This is made out of three pieces of MDF per straight section. A central structural piece goes in first, followed by an outer piece (using the extended pegs from the roof) before a final, interior detail piece is added. I really like the effect this has – the roof feels like it has some real depth to it.
In addition to the main building, there is also a small single-room building. As you can see in the picture, it’s designed to be placed on top of the main building, taking the role of some rooftop quarters or interior access. However, I personally think it looks a little cramped, especially once figures, details and scatter are placed on the roof. This shed will definitely end up being used as a separate annex building.
Finally, a few touches I just had to mention. Both roofs have a ventilation unit in place. Although super simple (5 pieces of MDF, 4 of which are the same) I think it really adds to the look of the rooftop. Similarly, there is also a solar panel setup included on the sprues. It’s free-standing, so feel free to place it anywhere.
So that’s all the pieces, what does the compound as a whole look like? Well, here it is, along with a WIP vehicle and civilian to get a sense of the scale.
Assembly of the final compound is super simple. Using the hook and slot system, you just need to clip each piece together until you’ve connected them all up. The slots can be a little tight but I’ve not yet felt like something is about to break while building. There is also a useful amount of flex/give in the pieces once all put together – not enough for players to notice, but still easy to actually get everything apart again at the end of the night.
Overall the basic compound rough fills a two foot square on the board. This size definitely feels a little snug in my opinion, ideal for a single focus building (like a medium-sized house) and maybe. It does not fit anything like the Knights of Dice apartment blocks in its current state but can still fit some of the larger buildings from Sarissa’s other ranges (such as the colonial buildings). With the items included in the box, I’d also say it’s a little on the small side if the compound is the sole extent of the playing area. Without much dead ground to fill with scatter, games will end up being very short or not particularly interesting. This, to me, feels like a compound that plays a part in a larger table, without overstaying it’s welcome – somewhere for the players to be fighting to, from or alongside rather than just through.
Of course, this is just a bundle. You can buy all the various pieces separately – the wall pack, gates and corners all include plenty of posts while more of the residences would let you add additional structures in this style to your game. I have two sets of walls, a set of corners and another entrance gate. By using all of these, I should be able to assemble two of the normal-sized compounds or simply extend one out to a larger size, allowing for fighting actually inside the walls. Expect another article soon, once I’ve assembled all the various bits of MDF lying around my flat and have made some giant compounds.
Final thoughts? I think this is a great kit for anyone looking to play modern wargaming in a more built-up area. Being able to buy a series of walls that can be easily re-arranged and stored is a great time saver. The style of the kit could fit into most places in the modern world, not just in the MENA region. So no matter if you’re assembling a drug lord’s palace in South America or building up an embassy to be defended, I think this is definitely a range worth taking a look at.