Testing Report: Skirmish Sangin 08/09/2016

The last few reports I wrote were done in a narrative fashion. I’m not abandoning that format, but as this is a special game I’m going back to a more descriptive style.

Rather than using a pre-made scenario, I instead decided to spring on them a brand new, beta version of a scenario I had been working on. Tentively named “House Call” the new scenario sees the ANP and British advisers entering a Afghan village to hunt down an insurgent leader. However, the insurgents have dug in hard and have a load of special items in the toybox to use. Additional, most of the OPFOR are in hiding, waiting for the opportune moment to pop out.

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Overview of the map for this scenario

As the game starts, a squad of Afghan National Police (along with a British NCO acting as an adviser) ready to start searching from house to house. In addition, a Panther CLV is heading into town carrying two engineers and a medic to assist the search.

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Board level view as the game begins. Civilians help to confuse the battlefield.

Testing Notes: Checking a house requires 6AP worth of action to be spent on it. The idea behind this is that a single soldier will take a while to search while a big group is more efficent. The downside to rushing in with a load of guys to clear is that after clearing you roll a D10. Roll high and you might find intel, reveal an enemy fighter or even bring the target VIP out of hiding. Roll lower and you’ll either find nothing or set off a booby trap. In the initial version of the scenario played, ISAF players gained 30VP per building cleared to incentive them to actually clear buildings. However, this is way too much. The plan is to increase VPs from finding intel and not give any if you search the buildings.

You can see in the above picture, the board is pretty scenery dense. You can also see there are a fairly large number of civilians milling around. In fact, the board above only has two hostiles on it – two spotters ready to set off IEDs and spot targets. The rest of the insurgent force is currently lurking in the ratlines waiting to deploy. The insurgent player also got to place three IEDs and (initially) 5 booby traps.

As the game began, civilians milled around as the ANP starting investigating buildings, primarily as a big group so the check only takes one combat phase. As one group cleared the white building with the courtyard, a second group (along with the British NCO) moved up to the street to investigate another building. Crossing an alleyway, there was a sudden boom as a booby trap was triggered.

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A booby trap detonates just as an ANP squad is about to clear a house throwing everyone to the ground

This booby trap was initially placed on the corner so the damage was less than it could have been – the lead guy and the NCO were both only knocked down. However, both machine gunners took damage through their paper thin body armour. One was still able to keep fighting but the other was knocked unconscious, a major blow.

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The Engineers get to work

Outside of the town, the approaching armoured vehicle decided to stop and start searching the route instead of possibly blundering into another IED. Disembarking the two engineers, the vehicle stopped and went into a covering position. After a few tests, the engineers eventually found a medium IED with a pressure plate and managed to disarm it, clearing the way for the Panther to move into town.

Testing Notes: When the scenario was written, the Medium IED had a booby trap placed with which went off when the engineer originally failed his IED test. This would have required a casulty evac, ending the mission pretty quickly. As accurate as this is to the potential situation and after careful investigation of the rules, we decided to roll this back in order to keep playing and reduce the number of booby traps for the insurgent player.

As ANP troops rushed to clear the building close to the booby trap, they quickly discovered an enemy fighter and dragged him outside. As this happened one of the players turned to me and asked “Can we start interrogating him?”. After a little bit of persuasion, I agreed and the leader of the ANP started doing activities that if the British were doing this and a Western news crew were nearby, they would be in serious trouble.

Testing Notes: Okay, so Skirmish Sangin doesn’t include rules for interrogating captured enemies. There are several probable reasons for this (including the issue we had that certain characters spent most of turn 1 kicking the snot out of an opponent in order to get any info from them. However, thanks to the RPG style system, it was super easy to throw in a morale check and then start providing information that a novice fighter would know whenever the poor devil was being interrogated. This is a potential rule I’m playing around with as part of some civilian interaction additions, but I will be making it an awful lot harder.

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ANP officers move through the shipping containers as they clear the town

The ANP continued to move around clearing buildings and as they checked they found some weapon caches but not much else (although they did cause both of the spotters to swiftly move off the street to prevent their arrest). However, clearing the buildings did reduce places I could make insurgents appear. In order to make the most of this situation, I popped up both a sniper and an RPG team on the outer edge of the town. However, the RPG gunner decided to duck back in the ratlines to avoid death at the hands of the Panther’s GPMG. His assistant moved to a position overlooking a group of ANP heading into an alleyway and managed to spot them. Bringing his AK up, he fired a burst and… hit nothing. Oh dear.

Testing Notes: Ratlines are a useful way of getting troops in place, breaking the frontlines that most players want to setup in any game. Sticking them in buildings is handy way to make the town seem like bad guys are everywhere and clearing buildings becomes a way of preventing them being outflanked.

The response was what you would expect – pretty much everyone who could see the shooter opened up, hitting him with 10 points of damage and knocking him unconscious. The ANP  moved on to start clearing the building the shooter had been on top of in order to prevent it being used as a ratline position. The other ANP group moved up to the final few buildings, sprinting past two IEDs which failed to detonate before running headfirst into a recently arrived machine gunner.

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The Casualty Collection/Holding Pen is setup on the edge of town

At this point the British had parked their vehicle at the town’s entrance and appeared to be setting up a casualty/prisoner collection point, administering aid to the various unconscious fighters.

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Finally, the Taliban fighters appear from the most bizarre of ratlines

The battle was starting to wrap up, and I was running out of time to cause some more damage to the (so far) successful BLUFOR forces. IEDs and booby traps had been failing so far so I decided to deploy my commander and a few other fighters down in the south (including an RPG popping out of the well). My plan was to get them close enough to attempt and arrest and then detonate my last IED. After, of course, I tried to knock out the Panther with an RPG. Sadly he was obviously not happy about having jsut climbed out of a wheel and the rocket spiralled off into the fields. As a response, the GPMG on the Panther swung around on it’s weapon mount and leveled the attacker with a burst of 7.62.

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The Fox appears again! And doesn’t die this time.

While the gunfire banged up and down the open square, the ANP 2IC decided to put pressure on my sniper. The sniper’s response was to dive off the building and make a run for it. Deciding to snapfire, the 2IC put a burst down and did nothing more than spook the guy as he ran past. This did expose the 2IC and left him locked in place, perfect for The Fox (newly arrived via the ratlines) to pop up and drop him with a single shot from his trusty G3.

Down the far end of the street though things were going horribly wrong for me. With one fighter down, another stuck in the street with five morale markers on him and several markers on the commander and his bodyguard, some of the ANP managed to get close and arrest them both (even if it took a while for the commander to actually get it). As the ANP mopped up, both of the snipers on the outskirts manged to merge with the population and disappear away.

At the points tally, BLUFOR wins, thanks to clearing every building and arresting quite a few of the insurgents. Part of the massive win was due to how the points had been awarded by – I was giving away 30pts per building which quick adds up on a dense urban map, in addition to points gained to taking out enemies and finding intel. Although that said, managing to actually arrest the commander was also a pretty big boon.

Final Thoughts:

This scenario has lots of little additional tweaks and really needed a good play. There are a few things I’m going to take away and work on before getting it finished off. Its a different style to many of the other scenarios, with BLUFOR having to react to the moves of the OPFOR while the OPFOR has lots of angles of attack to strike back against the .

As for playing the game, my opponents seemed to really enjoy it. This is kind of the most important thing when playing at the moment – as interesting as it is to be simulating a warzone, playing something that people loose interest in by phase 2 is a terrible thing and almost a waste of an evening’s play.

Looking at the board, I may occasionally be annoyed by all the models I’ve purchase/had to paint but it makes for some great shots. Civilians in particular help to set the scene, especially when you dot a few of the armed guys among them – Eureka have some wonderful sculpts for the Taliban in more static poses, perfect for matching with their civilians. Spectre’s

Also vehciles look cool on the tabletop so it was great to get Evil Bear’s Panther out on the streets of Afghanistan. I’m not 100% on the wash job but I was happy enough to get it on the tabletop. As I write this I have more vehicles ready to be painted, so expect a shift to an imagi-nation soon so I can get my Challenger 2 on to the streets of Bazistan or some other fictional warzone.

Additional Photos:

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“If you play Wonderwall again, I’m throwing you down the well young man”
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Two figures on the rooftop. Enemy fighters or just locals enjoying the view?

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Another view showing the start of the game. Thanks again to SESWC for the awesome terrain
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Some of Eureka’s fantastic ANP figures on the tabletop. Having painted these models specifically for this scenario, I’m really looking forward to getting to use them again!

Model Wishlist

Updated: Added The Squad from Special Forces

One of the joys of ultramodern military wargaming is the absolutely massive amount of reference material. Reality is obviously a starting point but modern and near future can pull from a huge number of different media sources, from games to movies to tv shows. There is also a huge range of manufacturers out there and most of them can fit together nicely in terms of scale (weapons and heads seem to be the main different points). Even so, there are a few holes in releases that need filling. In particular, there are a few things that I would love to have on the tabletop, most of these are from games and films seeing as history seems pretty decently covered.

So some of these might already exist, if so I have missed them I would love to be pointed to some cool figures.

I’ll keep this post updated as more items come to mind.

Strike Back

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There are five seasons of this show to pull from with missions ranging from fully uniformed UKSF raids in season 1 to deniable ops into foreign countries. Some of these are already covered by certain ranges but one of the big things about the show are more unusual bits of kit (most commonly from the crew filming in South Africa and the Czech Republic). Even better, they seem to go up against every possible OPFOR in the book so you can never struggle to find an opponent.

Overall, the series is great example of the sheer variety of special forces operators you could possibly do. And there is even the chance of tiny Robson Green running your ops!

The Modern Warfare Series – Almost Everything!

I wonder how many people have started collecting modern day miniatures after playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and the rest of the series. I know it played a big part in my interest in the hobby, wanting to re-enact the cool missions seen on the screen.

I could do a cop out and say that every faction should be represented on the top but a fair amount is already there – most of the US Army and Marines can be plucked from Empress’s excellent range and many of the Special Forces guys can come out of Spectre’s, the new Rangers basically matching some of the Delta Force from MW3. Opfor can be seen in Empress’s Insurgent range while the selection of PMC’s and plain clothes SF  available from everyone at the moment look close enough to the Loyalists and Inner Circle in MW3. So where does that leave us in terms of cool people needing models?

Shadow

  • Shadow Company: These guys only appear at the end of Modern Warfare 2 but they are my perhaps my favourite. Combine the extra protection kit on the body armour with the updated Pro-Tec helmets last seen on the Delta force in the Mog and you have a super cool, heavily armoured Special Forces guy. Add in a few of his friends and you have a team that would be spot on for doing some dastardly deeds behind enemy lines or kicking in the doors of a heavily defended compound. A mixture of heads (goggles on, goggles on head, no goggles), ACRs or SCARs as primaries (or M4s if you want to be more accurate to the present day) with a few special weapons like AA12s or SPAS12 shotguns or some M240s to mix it up. If you want something less traditional, a Shadow Company guy with a ballistic shield would be well suited for a team of guys ready to breach. Of course, a certain General with his magnum and cigar would be cool for a VIP character (even if he did end up being a close combat monster in the game).

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  • Black-suited SAS: It amazes me that I have to post this, but somehow there are not any manufacturers modern SAS in their traditional gear for counter terrorism operations. Black suits, gas masks and MP5s would give you a distinctive model but the additions that are made in the modern warfare games (variety of head details) would make them into a much more visually interesting set. And I’m sure the squad leader can have his mask rolled up, cigar in mouth and giant moustache.

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  • Juggernauts: Some characters are just so iconic that you need to have a tiny 28mm one sat on your desk or stomping his way around the board with a heavy machine gun at this. I am of course talking about the Juggernaut. Not realistic in any possible way but its the sort of thing that would be a great centrepiece like the Empress EOD team. Or maybe you need to have a nasty surprise for your regular opponent. MW2 and MW3 both have multiple designs to choose from and the possible equipment choices range from machine guns to riot shields.
  • Characters: There are lots of ranges that look close enough for the main troops. But who doesn’t want a tiny Gaz and Captain Price to add to your SAS troops, or have Metal Squad in their mix of helmets and baseball caps as part of your Delta Force group?

Army of Two – Mercs

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Speaking of heavy armour, I am a fan of the design of the characters from the Army of Two franchise. In particular, its the combination of a standard PMC loadout of civilian clothing and a vest combined with the ridiculous face masks that every merc in that game wears. Although not the most realistic, it would be the base for some very dynamic models. Also wouldn’t it be cool to have a squad of nutcases in brightly coloured masks fighting their way to extraction and utilising the old “base to base cover” system? Even better, there is a wide selection of looks to the Mercs in all three games.

Crossbones and his Mercs from opening scenes of Captain America: Civil War

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Probably the most up to date on this list, the opening scene of the latest Captain America film is just asking to be recreated on the various tabletops people have constructed for fighting in the heart of Africa. Even if a man with his shield doesn’t turn up, I’m sure Delta Force can do the job.

The gear is modern military, with MICH and Ops Core helmets (some with the mandible set), respirators, plate carriers and sidearms. Their guns are a selection of the more unusual black guns such as modern FALs and Micro Galils – they look similar enough to an untrained eye but still shows the mercenary side to the group.

And then of course there is Crossbones himself. True he is more sci-fi then modern but apart from the mask on his face and the gauntlets he is the same as his team. Of course, skirmish games are just asking for some larger than life characters.

Exoskeletons from Edge of Tomorrow/Elysium

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If the last one was a little bit sci-fi, this one is really pushing the boat out. The exoskeletons in the Tom Cruise film have a 5 minutes into the future look, thanks in part to various bit of modern kit on them (such as the SCAR mounted on the arm or the Ops Core helmet they all wear).

If you want a more ghetto version, why not look at the Elysium exoskeleton Matt Damon wears. Its a bit more ragged but still a cool looking piece of kit.

EDITS

Navy SEALs from Tears of the Sun

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(thanks to the Modern Miniatures group on Facebook for the reminder)

The guys in Tears of the Sun is a spot on way to make a characterful squad in a film while still making them look like they are part of the military. Each guy is visually different, from Bruce Willis’s easily recognised dome down to the mochican and shotgun combo of lead scout Lake and the medic with extra gear and stashed AK. They have early 2000’s military cool; No plate carriers, no molle, not even bump helmets and barely any RIS in sight on their guns. Every guy wields a cool gun and look the part, designed for stealth but easily able to hold down forces multiple times their number.

In terms of gameplay, they would be a terrifying prospect thanks to the sheer number of grenade launchers, machine guns and LAW tubes waiting for when the fight comes. So yes, I could very easily fit them into my collection.

The Squad from Special Forces

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I’m not sure how well Special Forces (or Forces Especiale) actually did. But its a fantastic French war film with some great action scenes and lots of cool gear. You get two versions of the squad, once while sneaking around with silenced pistols and MP5s and then later on wielding heavier gear as they trek through the mountains. In a similar way to Tears of the Sun, the French team have a selection of different weapons and gear that makes each distinct from the other while still looking like a single unit.

So with only a few minor tweaks, two units for the price of one!

Wargaming News

August has been a pretty quiet month for me – I spent most of it on holiday (either in Edinburgh or down in Leeds) or hard at work.

Some of the last few Taliban figures next to actual garbage
Some of the last few Taliban figures next to actual garbage

However, I did manage to get some more models painted up. Apart from some new weapon teams and their crews, all of my Afghan OPFOR are ready to go with a tidy 34 figures ready for larger engagements such as Fighting Season or Platoon+.  I have ordered some support weapons to give them some more punch, again from the excellent range at Eureka.

I’ve also made a start on my USMC with a test figure. The scheme is simpleish so I should be able to chew through them at a decent pace. By the time I’ve finished I’ll have a full squad + support weapons and teams ready for war. And them I just have to finish all those Russians.

On the Skirmish Sangin front, I’m running another game next week. Thanks to the guys at SEESWC, I’m managing to run a Skirmish Sangin game once every 4-5 weeks which is fantastic. We’re running through a loose campaign with me taking the events of the previous scenario and bringing it forward. Last game saw ISAF take out a chunk of the local insurgency’s forces but the main leader managed to escape. The next scenario will be the ANP and ISAF advisers sweeping an area, looking for where the leader has gone to ground. This should give a chance for the insurgent player to go into his box of tricks. Although I do need to paint my ANP figures first…

Preview of the ANP, hot off the painting desk
Preview of Eureka ANP, hot off the painting desk

I’ve also been told that another of my scenarios will be taken and polished up ready for a release as a free download. Its a fun scenario that I enjoyed writing and planning out so I’m looking forward to seeing the response to it.

I haven’t posted about this but one of my scenarios was actually in the latest Skirmish Sangin book, Afrika! I was excited to hear that Colin wanted to include it and its also my first published piece of work! My copy is in the post so I’m looking forward to having it in my hands.

More updates soon when I finish painting everything!

EDIT:

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The completed ANP force ready to go