Demo Games Planning: Part 2 – Further Planning and Physical Things

So since last time, I’ve done a few things to get ready for building the demo board I have planned out.

  • Emails have been sent out to get the ball rolling on actually booking space to run the game at two shows. It might be a little early for some but better early than late.
  • Continued working on the scenario and forces. Looking at three way brawl, going to have to test/practise the scenario a few times.
  • Sat looking at Italeri C130s and mentally preparing to spend that much money on something I’ll be cutting to pieces. Plan is to cut into three (nose, centre of body + wings, tail + bit of fuselage) and then build up the broken support structs using plasticard.
  • Built my first two buildings to go on the board. Originally I just thought about only filling the board with shacks but a few larger buildings will set the scene better and a change in elevation will be more interesting to play over.

The buildings are from Knights of Dice (delivered by Shiny Games in the UK). I picked up Desert Compound 2 and Desert Residence 1.  The buildings went together super well, just had to pop them out of MDF frame (assisted by the MDF crowbar that came in one set), pop out any inner bits and then assemble together. A few of the guys on the Spectre Operations group came up with some nice advice about building them. The dry run went together really well so next step is gluing everything together and then break the primer/textured paint out.

I’m also going to look into getting some detail items to set the scene. Thinking fencing, tv aerials and air conditioning units to be attached permanently with some more situational stuff (like sandbags) to be left loose and added when needed.

In a few day’s I’ll be grabbing the bits I need for the board (as well as maybe a little extra) and finally pushing the button on the most expensive item that makes up this build.

Lead Mountain II – The Garage Is Open!

 

Well this week has been productive. Mostly this is down to finishing stuff that has been sat half painted for the a while.

On the vehicle side, the Brits have gained the Challenger 2 and the Warrior. Three technicals (including two .50cals) and a single SUV are now ready to go. I also managed to finish four spectre insurgents. Unfortunately one of them, the MENA leader, has a raised rifle that was just asking to be bent out of shape. Part way through painting, the rifle did break off. Trimming it down, he now looks like a mob leader, perfect for leading a group.

Battle Report: Skirmish Sangin 09/02/2017

Scenario 12 of the Bazistan Crisis – An RAF F35 Lightning II enforcing the no-fly zone has suffered an engine failure and has crashed somewhere in the rebel held zone. Unable to deploy conventional CSAR assets, British command has ordered an SAS team already in country to find and extract the downed pilot. Upon arriving in the area, the special forces troopers spot some mobile tangos also moving to find the pilot. It would now be a race to find where the pilot is hiding out

Coming back to Skirmish Sangin after a short break where I’ve spent most of my time writing scenarios rather than playing them, I decided to go all out. Big table, vehicles and everything. After dispensing with my original idea, I instead decided to send us off looking for a downed pilot. After lots of comments about “That’s a big board” (useful seeing as vehicles move rather quickly), we set down and started playing


The SAS begun in the village, getting ready for moving into the rest of the search area. In the fields, the rebel band was milling around next to an old watch tower, climbing aboard their technicals or setting up their machine gun to overwatch the area. One of the fighters moved north to scan through the crops but found nothing of use.

Across the board, the SAS drove north heading to the abandoned mosque. Coming to a stop nearby, the team leader disembarked and looked inside. With a whisper of a codeword, the pilot revealed himself. He was swiftly bundled into the SUV but the sight of potential pursuers caused the SAS to pause in place.

“Flying Officer Livingston I presume?”

Seeing the cloud of dust from a high speed vehicle, the rebel leader shouted for his band to roll out. Streaming across the desert, the two vehicles separated while the guard team (sat in the tower) started trying to accurately spot the target vehicle.

However, the SAS had easily drawn a bead on the pickup trucks. A second trooper disembarked, dropped to a knee and opened up on one of the approaching vehicles. A burst of fire ripped the vehicle to pieces blowing it up and immolating all the passengers except the rebel leader. This cunning veteran had dived out the vehicle just before and was now lying prone on the desert floor.

The other vehicle tried to spot the source of the gunfire but the gun crew were distracted watching the burning wreck of their comrade’s ride. This distraction was deadly – a second burst of fire (this time from the squad’s LMG gunner) shot up the crew compartment wrecking the vehicle and stopping it from functioning. The passengers bailed out, going to ground around it.

However, it wasn’t going all the SAS’s way. The guard team in its tower was putting fire down on the SUV, with the combined PKM and assault rifle pinning the troops inside down. In an attempt to respond, the JTAC in the squad started trying to call down a hellfire from an orbiting drone. Despite the visible threat, the drone operators were in a no go situation, requiring more details from the operators. The JTAC was happy to give them, in addition to a few choice words.

The rebel leader was, to bit it mildly, a little annoyed. He had been robbed of his prize to parade on TV, two expensive weapon platforms were destroyed and several soldiers were either dead or injured. Angry, the battle-worn fighter levelled his AK at the figure behind the bonnet of the SUV, took aim and fired a shot. He saw the target drop behind the vehicle but before his eyes the injured man crawled out of sight.

With an injured squad leader (mostly alive due to his body armour) and still under MG fire, the team was now all in cover behind the vehicle and trading shots with rebels. The UGL punched out a grenade that took two more rebels down, leaving 3 of the attacking force still alive. The second squad leader didn’t want to become stuck out in the wasteland so he and his buddy sprinted off towards the village in the hope of finding cover and a better angle.

Also around this time, another white SUV was seen off in the distance. This was the second team in the SAS element, having been alerted to the ongoing fight. The offroader bounced across the plains, pulling to a stop near the edge of the crops in the centre of the play area. The second team then started to disembark, providing a distraction to the guard team in the tower. The PKM swivelled to face the new threat.

The let up of incoming fire allowed the JTAC to do his job more easily. Transmitting the target co-ordinates to the help flying aboce,  nothing initially seemed to happen. Nothing that is, until a titanic explosion ripped the tower apart as a hellfire missile found it’s mark. With the gunfire slackening off, the SAS started to prepare to leave.

The rebels were shaken but not yet out the game. The force’s leader became pinned down in a crossfire, lost his nerve and then left the field of conflict. However, the other squad leader sprinted up some stairs to a rooftop. Using this advantage, he and his partner in crime riddled SAS team 1’s SUV, causing the pilot to bail out and potentially giving them a long walk home. However, before they could finish the job, Team 2 landed a 40mm round on their position putting them out of action.

The AO now clear of enemies, the SAS were victorious. Now they just have to fix their holey vehicle and get out the hinterlands and back to civilisation. I’m sure this is one story the pilot will be telling for a while.


Overall we both had a fun time. It was great to get back into playing Sangin after a break and it’s still my favourite system to play.

Learning Points

  • Vehicles look tough but actually technicals and humvees (whose profile the SUVs were using) are still vulnerable to small arms fire.
  • JTACs and UCAVs are very fun to use as a player, even if they take up a massive points value.
  • Scenario still needs a little balancing. If I had all my vehicles painted, the insurgents would have received a third technical as well as a team to go with it as reinforcement for the OPFOR.

Wargames Show: Vapnartak

I haven’t been going to wargames show very long but Vapnartak will always the start of it. Normally this is due to going to see my wargaming buddies in York but this year my buddies were busy.

Vapa is huge, taking place in the stands at York Racecourse. Spread over three floors, it features a good mix of participation games and sellers. It also includes a bring and buy sale.

I really like these shows as it’s a chance to see what people are up to. For example, I managed to catchup with one of the guys from Empress and hear what’s coming up next. As a Brit, hearing some of the stuff has me really excited for their plans. Now just to get everything painted…

As with all wargames shows, it’s hard to leave without having picked up a few things. Seeing as the bad guys now have technicals, the Americans need some heavier fire power at their disposal. Empress makes some great vehicles and their Humvees look spot on. However, I am going to make a few tweaks to it. Rather than using the included HMG, I’m going to stick a magnet on the pivot for the gun. This means I can use the Spectre guns, allowing swapping between the American mode (using the M2 .50cal) and the Bazistany mode (using the DSHK)

I also picked up some of Crooked Dice’s Lawmen figures armed with pistols. These guys will either be used for local Bazistan police or local refinery guards employed by the Argo Corporation. I was really impressed with the SAS guys I bought and I look forward to getting more goons for the board.

Spectre Technical Review

As if summoned by my last post about them , my Spectre technical order turned up.  I know some people in the Kickstarter have been waiting a long time for these but don’t worry, I think they were worth the wait. I’m going to do a quick overview of them and the weapon systems I’ve picked up in my first order.

Before I start I just wanted to comment on the service. This order arrived via 1st class delivery and was wrapped in protective bags for all the components. Larger weapons with longer barrels were wrapped in such a way to prevent major components from bending or breaking which can be a frequent worry when purchasing models.

The Vehicles

There are currently two models of chassis that can be chosen: Alpha and Beta.

Two Alpha Technical bodies

The Alpha chassis is the older version of the pickup, closer to what have been filling our TV screens from the early 2000’s onwards. It comprises of a resin basic model with resin wheels, bumper and tailgate. The frame behind the cab and the wing mirrors are metal.

 

I have to hand it to the guys at Spectre, the Alpha was a dream to put together. The main body of the vehicle is incredibly crisp with lots of detail, the slot fit the metal details great and even the wheels went on with no wobble.

The Beta is a more modern vehicle with a larger cab and small transport bay at the back. Unlike the Alpha, all the details are resin. There was a bit more work to be done to prepare this model and I noticed the resin had an oily sheen to it that needed washing off. In addition, the rear tailgate on mine had some very thin sections which had almost been broken through – annoying but should be easily covered up when painting. Despite the issues it’s cool to have a two styles of vehicle available at launch.

Size comparison with Spectre MENA Squad Leader and Empress Insurgent
Size comparison with other 28mm vehicles From left to right: Empress Challenger 2, Evil Bear Wargames Panther, Spectre SUV, Spectre Technical Bravo, Spectre Technical Alpha

The Guns and Crew

There are a massive range of weapons currently available. However, wanting to keep under my hobby budget for the month, I only picked up a smaller selection. As a basic rule, all of the weapons can be mounted in both chassis types or on a separate base as a static heavy weapon emplacement. Weapons and crew are bought separately from the chassis on the Spectre website making it easier to increase your options when building forces without requiring you to buy a load of the vehicles.

HMGs

There are two types of HMG available, the Russian DSHK and the American M2. As they are the most commonly used guns in most of the scenarios I own, I picked up one HMG for each vehicle.

The M2 is mounted on a high pole which has a rectangular base for sitting on the truck bed (the pattern on it matches the pattern on the bed so it sits properly). There is a slot in the top of pole, letting you elevate the gun when mounting. There is a minor downside – the M2 doesn’t have spade grips on the back of it.

The DHSK is on its usual high mount. The tripod come with two legs already attached requiring only the final one and the gun to glued on. The gun itself fits onto a point, while the gun itself has the elevation dial meaning it will look right no matter what angle you put it at.

I’ll also mention the crew figures for these guns. As you can see there are two available, one in a firing pose and one resting on the weapon (or some other surface). I struggled to get the crew man resting on the guns to balance properly but I think part of this was my own lack of skill. You’ll need to trim the DSHK slightly for the firing gunners hands to fit in the right place.

As I’m wanting to hot swap the various weapons, I’m going to mount the gunner and the MGs on a small rectangular base to just give them a bit more strength and stability and also to prevent any bipod legs from bending.

The Big Guns

Although the HMGs will be the most commonly used weapons, it’s the bigger end of the scale where the real fun begins.

ZU-23

ZU-23 in pieces for assembly

The heavier AA gun requires a bit of assembly and I ended up using a fair amount of force to get it into place. However, once assembled it sticks together, forming a nice weighty gun that looks great when on the vehicle. The separate crew member means you can build it empty if you want it to decorate the battlefield.

 

ZPU-4

The ZPU-4 uses the same base as it’s bigger brother. However, the assembly process require far less faf. Instead it’s just placing the four barrels onto the central pillar, adding the ammo boxes and bracing strut. The crewman is moulded onto the central pillar but looks fantastic

BMP Turret

So mixed bag with this as it comes out the wrapping. It’s a wonderful and characterful gun, perfect for making your force look rather ragged and good to go. It’s also easy to assemble. However, once assembled it seems to be a system that is designed for gluing in place. The turret has some rings to prevent the turret from sliding laterally but nothing holds it in place from falling off if tilted. I’ve also found the frame itself doesn’t sit particularly well. Worse news is that the crew member underneath doesn’t seem to fit when you place the frame in and rest if on the wheel arches. None of these are problems if your glue it in place but I’m going to do a few tweaks (adding a base, extending the struts) to make it swappable.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Spectre technicals are a great start to a new range. Apart from the minor issues, all the models are beautiful to behold and will be fantastic additions to anyone’s collection.

In terms of economics, £18 for the chassis works out fine (the closest equivalent is Empress’s bare-bones technical at £15 but with less detail to it). Weapons and crew are priced sensibly, with the £1.99 .50cals being perfectly priced for use in conversion jobs.

I’ll add a second article once I pick up the remaining weapons which will be soon based on my first experiences. I’m also very excited for what comes next. Some stowage items and passenger figures would be awesome but we shall see what Spectre come up with. As always, I’m praying for miniguns.

Technical Notes: A Primer

Intro

With the recent release of Spectre’s comprehensive range of Technicals and weapon systems, it’s never been a better time to be a militia warlord on the tabletop. This primer is designed to fill you in on these increasingly common vehicles and their role on the tabletop. I’ll cover some tactics for using them, some weapon suggestions, how best to kill them and then finally where you can get your grubby paws on your own.

But first what is a technical? Put simply, it’s an improvised weapon platform built off the back of a pickup truck or similar vehicle. The name comes from Somalia in the 1990’s, where “technical assistance grants” was a euphemism for hiring local gunmen in their up-armed pickup trucks due to laws regarding private security. However, technicals have been in use for a long time before that. As long as their have been cars, there has been someone looking at it and thinking “I bet I could put a gun on that”. The first major use is in North Africa, with the Long Range Desert Group and the SAS outfitting striped down unarmoured trucks with more firepower than they really should have. Interestingly, North Africa also saw the “Technical War”. In this conflict in the 1980’s, forces from Chad using weapons equipped Toyotas were able to hold off Libya’s armoured forces, thanks in no small part to their high-speed and MILAN launchers from France.

 

As well as militias, technicals have also been used by security contractors and SOF teams. These vehicles are often better equipped with armoured plating, run flat tires and other tools of the trade. The common theme with the cheapie versions is that these modifications are not factory standard.

Most people still link them to the conflict in Somalia but they are a common sight on the modern battlefield when one party can’t afford proper AFVs.

Basic Tactics

Image from IMFDB

Technicals have two things going for them. They are motorised and they carry a heavy weapon. Using technicals effectively requires you to use both of these facts and to not forget them. Utilising shoot and scoot tactics will let you hit the enemy with a lot of firepower just when the enemy least expects it.

Additionally, technicals in most systems allow for some limited transporting capacity. Use this to slam a small group down the flanks if you need to grab a better position or contest an objective.

One idea that someone suggested to me was technicals should be used like light cavalry – a fast-moving screen designed to use the flanks, hit hard and then fall back. Technicals normally move faster than their more heavily armoured equivalents which can be handy to get out of a sticky situation.

Finally, technicals are cheap, especially in comparison to proper AFVs. This means you can normally outnumber your enemy in both troops and vehicles and buy vehicles than can (in the right circumstances) punch far above their weight. Get in a good position and (in Spectre) your 50pt truck crewed by guys in football tops can knock out a 150pt MBT

There is however a major downside to technicals – they are unarmoured meaning everything is a threat. Rifle fire, squad machine guns and GPMGs can cause damage to you. Heavier weapons (such as grenade launcher or anti-tank launchers) will probably knock you out in a single hit. To counter this, lie in ambush and then once spotted keep moving until you can escape the enemy fire.

You may be carrying a heavy weapon but do remember – tanks and IFVs will easily knock you out. So unless you are totting weapons on the heavier end of the scale, run a mile when the armour appears.

Weapons

One of the great points about the technical is that, when it comes to weapons, anything goes! If you want inspiration, YouTube is a fantastic source of evidence of bizarre weapon setups on the most improbable frames.

HMG (M2 /DSHK)

Probably the default weapon when people think of technicals, a heavy machine gun is cheap but can be very dangerous. It will mince infantry, ignore body armour and cause a threat to light vehicles such as snatch landrovers. If you want a good all-rounder, a HMG is a safe bet.

Light Recoilless Guns (SPG-9 / M20)

On the lower end of explosive weapons, the light recoilless rifle is still cheap. It will knock out light vehicles with ease and the splash damage will worry groups of enemy. I wouldn’t want to go up against tanks with this but it’s a nice way of hammering suppression downrange.

If you want to channel some of the weird that comes with technicals, you could strip the turret off a BMP-1, bolt it to a frame and stick it on the back of your vehicle. The reason I’ve classed it as a light recoilless gun is that it fires the same round as the SPG-9 (with less propellant). Same effects but talk to your opponent about maybe giving your technical a little extra protection.

Heavy Recoilless Rifle (M40 / Wombat / B-11)

So this is where the humble Recoilless Rifle starts to be more of a threat. These rounds will obliterate light vehicles, easily penetrate armour on APCs like the M113 and might have a chance of causing damage to modern armour. These weapons will also be more lethal against infantry. The downside? Well they cost more and that’s about it. If you can’t get a TOW but you think your opponent has armour in their figure case or they are eyeing up the hard cover on the board, get this.

Guided Missile/ATGMs (TOW / Milian / Kornet)

Do you need to kill tanks? You need an ATGM. The combination of high-speed launch platform and a devastating anti-tank weapon wrecked tank designer’s plans in the Cold War and now you have a chance to do it on the tabletop. It’s not designed for infantry but will nail buildings and entrenched positions.

ZPU Series

The ZPU-1 is an AA 14.5mm heavy machine gun which is bad enough in its single form. The main thing it’s known for however is the fact it turns up in double (ZPU-2) and quad (ZPU-4) versions as well.

In game, I’d use this as a heavy machine gun, adding any rules for double or quad mounts on top of the HMG profile. Either way, it will rip infantry to pieces if it catches them in the open or at the very least pile on the suppression. If the game you’re playing also support helicopters, these things will be your go-to anti-aircraft gun.

ZSU-23

The ZSU is a 23mm autocannon. It does come in a quad version, the main weaponry of a Shilka AA vehicle, but seeing as YouTube has clips of technicals carrying the double version flipping over, it makes sense that Spectre has only released the more common version.

In game, it’s basically a ZPU on steroids.  It will wreck infantry, shred light vehicles and cause armoured vehicles some concern. If your opponent has deployed an AH-64 or a Hind over the board, this will make them think twice.

Rocket Pods (MLRS)

So talking about improvisation, this is a simple way of making a Multiple Launch Rocket System without spending money. Take rocket pod from an aircraft, bolt it to a frame on the cargo bed, point it downrange and hope that the force of it launching doesn’t flip the vehicle or rip itself off its mount

This setup will be many things but accurate is not one of them. It’s basically a long-range explosive shotgun. It will cause a bad day if it lands on you. As the user, also be aware it is unlikely you’ll be able to reload this ingame.

That’s all the weapons released for technicals are the moment but there are some other options if you are willing to custom fit them.

MMG (PKM/M240)

Mounting nothing more than an MMG is a pretty common sight on transport vehicles or vehicles not designed for frontline combat (such as Afghan police vehicles or PMC escort cars). An MMG is still an effective threat even if it lacks the power of it’s bigger brothers. The other point is that being smaller means it occupies less space, leaving more room for your fighters to pile on.

Mortars

With mortars already being a core part of a militia force, why not mount one on a vehicle? The recoil of the round is going straight into the shocks but it makes sense as a shoot and scoot vehicle. A mount I have seen is a ghetto mortar made of tubing weld together in banks. Once all the tubes are loaded, a single button press sends 6 or so mortar rounds off down range. Not sure how you would do this in-game but give me a week.

Auto Grenade Launcher (MK19/AGS)

I haven’t seen many pictures of this but everywhere the HMG goes, it’s 40mm slinging cousin isn’t far behind. This is a nice halfway between the HMG and the rocket pod – lots of explosions down range but you won’t be killing tanks with it.

Counter Tactics

Photo from IMFDB
Other tactic – steal them

This is all good if you are using the technicals, but how do you deal with them?

Fundamentally, engaging with all weapon system will cause at least some damage. Grenade launchers and anti-tank weapons will be the most efficient but don’t be afraid to put some MMG bursts at them – at the very least it will suppress them.

The main way to defeat them is to work out how your opponent intends to use them. If they are close to the flanks, expect a rush from them. If they set up in cover, expect an ambush. Once you know how they will be used you can easily avoid or neutralise them. Similarly, look at what they armed with – if they only have anti-personal weapons, use your own vehicles or air support to knock them out.

Otherwise, engage them as you would fight a heavy weapon team. Smoke to blind them, fire to pin them down and then finish them.

Buying Technicals

So now you know how to use them, where best to buy from? I’m assuming you are wanting them in 28mm as that is what most readers of this blog play moderns in.

Photo from Spectre Miniatures website

Well the article was inspired by the releases from Spectre. They have two base chassis to choose from, the classic Toyota and a more modern frame. Then you can pick your weapons from a huge list and any crew (only MENA/Insurgent at the moment) you need for them. Spectre also say you can swap out the system easily. I’ll be doing some writing about them once I have a big box of them in my hands. I’m also expecting to see another wave of releases at some point in the future based on the contents of the kickstarter.

Photo from Empress Miniatures website

For a long time, Empress was the only game in town for 28mm technicals. Their chassis is a Toyota pickup. As for weapons, you can pick from an M2 .50cal, an SPG-9, a heavy recoilless rifle and the ZSU-23. A big advantage to Empress is that they have crew figures to match their superb ranges, including Taliban figures.

Photo from Evil Bear Wargames

EDIT: Another alternative is Evil Bear Wargames, who make a rather nice SUV styles pickup just asking to to turned into a technical. It doesn’t come with any weapons but Empress weapon systems fit in the back. The SUVs are available in either individually or as three pack in a deal.

Photo from Radio DishDash’s website

Your final option is Radio Dishdash. One thing I like about their range is that rather than being Toyata based, the technicals are Land Rover based instead. Both types have crew figures to match their Day of the Ranger range. You can also get a triple pack with two heavy machine gun trucks and one recoilless rifle carrier.

The Ending

I hope this article has grabbed some interest in using some technicals in your own games. They are a worthwhile investment for a militia player, giving you some back bone and a few toys to play with. Good luck on the table!

If it’s good enough for the cookie monster, it’s good enough for you