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The main group, including the NCO, radio operator (required due to the outdated comms equipment the squad use), Light AT weapon team and combat lifesaver, started moving down the main road into town.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

Sangin – What’s New?

Yes, as previously announced, the next version of Skirmish Sangin is coming. Titled simply Sangin, with an updated subtitle, this product is designed as an evolution of the first game – keeping some of the core concepts while making it play a little more smoothly. To begin the playtesting process, Dishdash Games have put up an alpha version of the rules, letting everyone start playing and take a look. You can find it on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/716296198947496/permalink/762611367649312

To play my part in this testing, I’m going to be putting up a few posts as I work through it, especially once my foray into the North African desert is over and my Regular Opponent is dragged into the uplands of Bazistan for some counter-insurgency patrols.

But before we begin the actual playing, lets talk through some of the major changes. All of these are using screenshots from Playtest Version 1.5.4. As a heads up, I’ll be using Skirmish Sangin and V1 for the original game, and Sangin and V2 for the playtest rules.


New Character Card

Image from Sangin V2 – version 1.5.4

This is going to be a brand new post to itself but the classic character sheet is gone. Instead, we have a much leaner, much more active character sheet. Damage is designed to be marked off as it’s taken, there are far fewer percentages to keep track of and the bar at the bottom and top of the sheet are described as best to be used with a pin or paperclip.

Even better, the character card is designed to fit 8 to a standard sized piece of paper so you only need to print out a page for a regular British Army section.

And yes, there are already changes afoot if you look close enough. We’ll get to them in a second.


Updated Force Creation Process

Image from Sangin V2 – version 1.5.4

Again this will be a full post by itself (once I’ve read through it more), but force creation has been tweaked to allow for a little bit more structure. There is a cool new mechanic about generating squad points to lets you spend on adding additional bits of kit.


Skills and Classes/Templates

In the original Skirmish Sangin, you picked your character’s rating (now expanded to include civilians), rolled up their body rating, rolled up their skills and then picked from a number of packages to fine-tune your soldiers. You had to break out the calculator to create ALL the skills on the character sheet and even then it was hard to theme soldiers quite as well.

In Sangin, there are now templates. These function to both give you starting values for a soldier and also define costs and skillsets. Certain templates will have additional skills (such as the NCO and the new Command skill) or including skews towards their specialisations, speeding up the creation process.

Additionally, the list of skills covers more than just shooting guns – two I especially find interesting are Interpreter and Combat Medicine. These are not covered in this specific version of the rules but I look forward to their arrival in the next update.


Initiative

Yep, the singular body value is gone, died before it had a chance to activate. Instead, the new Initiative value has come to the table, generated during character creation and affected by body armour. Functionally, it does a very similar task but is separated out from the basic skills. No need to worry about the person activating last being a complete chump.


Tempo

The big new addition is Tempo. Tempo is basically a new resource to represent your characters gaining momentum as they do well, allowing them to push themselves slightly further than most other soldiers. Either by starting the mission with it or by gaining it by rolling well, tempo points can then be spent on doing actions such as Reacting to Contact, Interrupting an opponent’s actions or even gaining an additional AP. It also lets your soldiers interact with each other, helping to clear friendly soldiers of suppression through Leadership or assist them by Mentoring them.

Tempo, I think, is huge. Tempo is going to let your characters become even more unique and even more powerful. You’re going to have a lot more of those dramatic moments, the stories you tell after the game is over – the NCO who rallied his squad-mate to fire the critical shot, the team who, surrounded by MGs, managed to react to contact so well that not a single one of them took a hit. I’m looking forward to taking another look at this mechanic, especially once I get it on the tabletop.


Command

Tied to Tempo is Command. With your NCOs and Leaders, characters with the Command skill can use it to generate Tempo, increasing the effectiveness of the force. This tempo can then be passed out to fellow soldiers nearby, helping to keep up the momentum of your operation.

Combining these two additions together, there is now a greater need for command characters to, rather than simply being a fighter with better morale, do what they should be doing in a combat action – commanding their soldiers!


New Action List

Image from Sangin V2 – version 1.5.4

The core of the game is still the 3AP per activation and the list of actions. All our old favourites are here (including a nice speed boost for anyone not wearing body armour) but there have been some tweaks.

  • You no longer pick between Crouching and going prone, instead just Going Firm instead.
  • All of the actions are now properly detailed, including specifics for tweaks (such as entering/exiting buildings)
  • Focus is the new name for the loose rule of “spend extra AP for a 10% boost”. And now it provides +20%!
  • Attack and Clear Jam/Reload are now variable cost – some weapons are going to need a bit more time to use effectively and then get back online
  • Suppression… I’ll cover this more later.

Shooting

Shooting is mostly the same routine as last time but with a few little tweaks. Spotting is still required but actually taking the shot depends on the weapon used – heavier infantry weapos

Image from Sangin V2 – version 1.5.4

Once you start shooting, the new combat modifiers table is much shorter than in V1, with much less maths needed. Cover and elevation has been simplified.

Then when you actually land the shot, the person on the other end now actually gets a chance to react (if they have the tempo) or simply hit the deck, take as much damage as is rolled based on a weapon’s firepower dice and roll for suppression.

Additionally, automatic and explosive weapons have had their rules clarified. Now, both have Templates, using the idea of Kill zone and Damage zone to let you spread out your attacks.


SUPPRESSION

So Suppression/Morale is a key part of wargaming and had a very particular feel in Skirmish Sangin, throwing down markers that stopped you playing properly until you solved them. This worked, but it was definitely an all or nothing approach – you’d have markers or you were fine.

V2 nows moves suppression to a floating value, using the chart on the character card. It still has an effect (-10% to each skill for every level of suppression) but now you can still keep fighting through it. At the same time, suppression is also much more varied – rather than a marker for each shot on you, you instead roll the number of dice from a weapon’s firepower rating and then see how many actually beat your experience modifier. This means that elites have a 50/50 chance of beating a firepower dice, showing their nature. This change also reduce the number of additional dice rolls – instead, as you gain suppression, you hit ratings that force behaviour, going firm and getting pinned.

Luckily, you have ways of recovering from suppression. From spending tempo to motivate another soldier to using an action point to get yourself together there are plenty of positive actions to take to get a trooper back online. However, you also slowly recover a little at the end of an activation. This is where sticking to cover and close to friendlies comes in handy.


Buildings and CQB

There seems to be a lot more details about fighting in and around buildings than I remember in V1. As well as detailing about moving in them and between the sections, there are now lots more details about causing havoc getting in there. Enter and Exit actions can now include adjustments for breaking through locked doors (with or without the correct tools).

There are also rules for stacking up on a CQB situation. Currently this is the only bit of rule that activates multiple soldiers at once and once again uses Tempo, keeping that theme of it giving your force more momentum.

The rest of the CQB rules seem pretty familiar (although the modifiers now give you a reason to use a SMG over an assault rifle) but there is a lot more details to them (helped by various example and edge cases being covered). I need to take another read but I think CQB actions will end up being much more interesting.


Target Reference Points

A neat addition, TRPs add to the mission planning of scenarios. You can mark out key locations where the enemy might be and then prepare your forces for possible contacts in that area by letting shooters ignore the spotting rules for targets in that area. The fact you place it during deployment and tell both sides means that it might actually let you put pressure on your opponent before the game even starts – pushing figures out of key overwatch positions based on careful placement and making key chokepoints even more dangerous.

I will need to take a look at this in several games to see how it works but I like it on first reading.


Fumble Chart

Image from Sangin V2 – version 1.5.4

Yep, its still here. Changed to the new rules and if you roll on it you end activation right away as well as the effect. Some of these are pretty nasty – losing all your tempo mid-mission is probably going

The D100 is still here!

Yep, the king of dice is still alive and part of the game. I think it plays a key part in the feel of the system and I’m glad it’s still here.


There are a lot of other smaller changes throughout but these are the big ones I noticed. The main thing is that everything feels a little smoother, a few less random dice rolls in strange places or unneeded maths. It’s definitely got the same tactical feel, but now with a better coat of paint.

I am very excited to get this on the table, and will probably try a few solo games before I put my opponent up against it. I’ll also be continuing this series, covering my findings as I play and detailing other additions as they are added.