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