Battle Report: “Big Dave Must Die!” – Spectre Operations

Sometimes, pre-planning games don’t always go according to plan. On Monday, the game was a 7 person multiplayer game on a massive 6×8 table where every side had designs on Big Dave (mostly killing him). On Wednesday I had changed the sides. On Thursday morning, it was now going to be a much smaller game. When I got to the club, it had become a 1 vs 1 over a standard 6×4 board.

And honestly? It was a barrel of laughs that I enjoyed every minute of.


“Big Dave” was a Corporal in the Eritrean Army until he and his squad decided to cross the Red Sea and become a mercenary in the badlands of Bazistan. For the first few years he worked for the various factions before setting himself up as a pirate warlord. Due to his ongoing actions, his name and group quickly joined the list of targets of ISAF-AP seek to remove from the region.

Today, his number has come up. US Army Special Forces Command has dispatched an 8 man team (along with a US Army Security Element) to the small town where Big Dave holds sway. They seek to capture but if no other option is available, deadly force is authorised.

The American Force consisted of two parts: The team of 8 elites in a Razor and a SF Pickup and their Security Detail (a standard 9 person squad with a medic accompanying, all rated Professional) mounted in two up-armoured Humvees. The Americans had an advantage – as far as they knew, the defenders had no idea what they were doing in the region.

 

Against them were two groups. Big Dave had pulled back as many of his pirates as could, giving him a mob of African militia, 4 local militia and three technicals (two with HMGs and one mounting a BMP turret). In addition was his own squad, which were trained to a professional standard and had followed him over the sea from Eritrea. He had also paid off the local police force, giving him an additional 12 Trained fighters which included some heavy weapons. Most of the village was abandoned but a UAV had spotted two armoured SUVs arriving the previous day. The allegiance of the inhabitants of these vehicles were unknown – the Americans would have to be careful.

 As the game begins, the Americans moved into the Area of Operations from the north. In the centre of the board, outside the police station, a group of officers were milling around, chatting with some of the militia and generally standing guard. More officers sat inside doing the general tasks of a working police station, all while trying to not think too much about the most recent guests who had appeared in town. Importantly, all the heavy weapons (the RPGs and MMGs) were still in the station’s armoury.

Inside the compound, the 3 technicals (Red, Green and Blue) sat idling. One was preparing to set off on patrol, with the pirates waiting to help open the gates. However, Big Dave knew something was coming. A little bird had mentioned there could be trouble in the next few days and now dust clouds had appeared on the outskirts of town. He set off to start alerting his troops and getting everyone ready for the fight.

Entering the town, the two American units split. The grunts headed for the covering position, planning to take advantage of the long sight line of the main street. The SOF took the side streets, with the Razor zooming ahead of the upgraded pickup.

Despite the vehicles moving around, the bulk of the OPFOR hadn’t spotted the incoming threat. The green technical set off on patrol while the militia finished their discussion and moved to go back inside the compound.

However, the two most northern cops had spotted the bulky Humvees rolling around and became alert to the incoming threats.

 

As the next turn began the Americans moved even further into town. Both the Humvees finally rolled into their positions and prepared to set up an overwatch.

The two SF vehicles continued to speed along, heading straight for the compound wall and a possible assault position.

In the next turn, the pirates snatched the initiative. The alert police had grabbed the rest of their team and sprinted across the street in order to find a fighting position. However, this was a major tactical blunder. One of the Humvees had setup overwatch and the .50cals ripped a bloody hole in the team, piling on the suppression. The other Humvee fired past the police at the green technical just pulling out of the compound. However, all the rounds missed causing nothing more than suppression.

After having interrupted the enemy’s movement phase, the US Army deployed. Leaving the gunners in their seats, the rest of the team spread out. One fireteam setup on the roof to provide more fire while the other began checking nearby buildings for possible insurgent hotspots.

The SF had finally reached the corner and momentarily slowed in order to take it.

However the gunner on the pickup was itching for a fight. The grunts had reported two police heading for side road and the gunner was now ready. As they passed the gap, the M2 hammered between the buildings. This burst of fire dropped two more police, bringing that main squad down to one policeman hiding behind a car.

In the next turn, the SF vehicle came sliding round the corner, guns facing forward. This sudden appearance shocked the militia and the snarl you can see above appeared. Green had frantically reversed and turned to get away from a crossfire of .50cals while Blue had just moved through the gate as the main gunner frantically wheeled the turret around. The smaller gate had seen action, with all the militia pouring through as Big Dave started to move to join the fight.

Before Blue could hammer a round into the new attackers, the SF pickup sent a burst of .50cal rounds into it. No major damage was caused but it began a hail of rounds onto it.

The rest of the American forces began to send fire down towards Blue. Multiple hits caused damage, first immobilizing the vehicle and then sending .50cal rounds straight through the passenger compartment. The driver was instantly killed while the passenger was incapacitated.

Also at this time the Razor commander had swung its M240 round and lit up the squad of local militia. It’s four shots took down half the squad with the rest being removed by carbine and LMG fire from the grunts further up the map.

However, it wasn’t all going the Operator’s way. Green emptied a burst into the Razor. Only one round hit but it slammed into the driver. It only incapacitated him but the lack of action sent the Razor skidding towards the wall.

The following turn saw the SF disembarking from their rides. The team medic rushed to deal with the driver while the rest of the operators started engaging enemies.

A UGL blast was targeted at Green. However it missed and scattered onto the group of militia around the technical. Both the RPG gunners were vaporised and even one of Big Dave’s squad took a hit. At the same time, one of the operators had requested a missile strike to drop right on top of the wall next to the Green technical.

 

While all this had been going on, a small group of contractors had appeared from two buildings on the board. Initially it seemed like they intended to fight, with one team using the armoured SUV as a shield and advancing behind it. However, seeing the Americans at the compound gates, the rest of the mercs saw the way the wind was blowing. They quickly rushed to get in their vehicles, slinging kit into the boot and moving in a non-combat way. One of the contractors also radioed to the Americans, quoting the days authentication code for Private Military Companies in the region.

Checking the codes against the daily orders, the Humvee gunner did not engage the vehicles, instead letting them speed away from the battle raging behind them.

Around this time, the heavy weapon teams from the police had got their act together and moved to join the fight. However, they were still in the firing line and were taking rounds from the Americans.

Back at the main gate, a traffic accident appeared to have occurred. Blue had been immobilized right in front of the gate and so Red would have to ram the damaged vehicle in order to get into the fight. Luckily the ram didn’t destroy either vehicle but it did end up knocking Green (who had rolled forward to get out of the firing line. The militia decided to use these vehicles as cover and got ready to engage the attackers.

Despite this, the militia got pounded again. Rounds poured in knocking down fighters, killing the gunner on the back of Red and pinning everyone in place.

 

The Argo mercs reached the AO edge and swiftly drove off in the direction of the highway.

Big Dave saw the way things were going and started sprinting (along with his team) towards a parked pickup that could be used to escape. It was a slim chance but maybe the mess behind him would distract the Americans.

And just after everyone had cleared the target zone, a Maverick missile screamed out of the sky and blew a hole in the compound wall.

At this point the middle battle was basically over. The police had been annihilated (only one officer was left alive) while the militia were drowning in suppression or dead. Big Dave’s pride and joys (the technicals) were all combat ineffective, unable to do nothing more than act as a roadblock.

Big Dave kept running to his escape vehicle just as the two Humvees moved into position to block the main routes.

Big Dave reached the vehicle and, rather than wait for the rest of his team, slammed the car into reverse heading for the exit.

This move took him into the firing line of the Humvee. For this turn, he was safe as the Army wanted him alive.

Slamming into gear he skidded round the corner, sped past the two remaining members of his squad (one having been engaged by the Humvees) and began to make a break for it in the other direction.

However, he hadn’t taken into account the three operators that had crept into his compound. Before he even saw them, two carbine bursts and a hail of battle rifle rounds had slammed into the crew compartment. Everyone inside were injured, with Big Dave beginning to bleed out in his seat.

Having just seen their boss’s vehicle get shot up, and presented by a pair of .50cal barrels from the Humvees, the remaining Eritreans surrendered to the US Army.

A few minutes later the operators come to verify the casualty. Big Dave was now dead and the battle won. Not the best outcome but a victory for the US Forces.

But why were Argo in the village? And what had been in those containers inside of Big Dave’s compound? Maybe the interrogations of the remaining Eritreans can reveal who Big Dave was dealing with. 


Overall a really fun game. It came about due to some improvisation and would need a few tweaks if played again but both of us really enjoyed it. There were loads of cool moments, from the SOF sliding round the corner to see the crowd of technicals in front of them to Big Dave’s failed attempt to escape.

My big problem was forgetting two assets I’d been given. As this was pirate town, I should have been rolling for reinforcements every turn once I started taking casualties as the rest of the pirates started flocking to the fight. I also had a mortar strike that I should have dropped on the US Army base of fire and prevented the two 50cals from locking my guys down.

As the game was wrapping up, one of the other players at the club asked if I wanted to run a game next week so he can play with some of his toys. It’s only fair but I think I’m going to get all my insurgent toys out the cupboard. I’ve got some trucks to hunts down.

Briefing on Bazistan

You may have noticed the word “Bazistan” has been thrown around in several of the battle reports. So what on earth is it? Well, it’s an imagi-nation, a fake nation constructed for the simple purpose of providing a backdrop for my games. Rather than just including a random word in every battle, I thought I should actually explain what Bazistan is and why I use it.

Why an imagi-nation?

Despite playing “historical” rulesets, imagi-nations provide a powerful tool for gamers getting involved in ultramodern warfare. Here are the main reasons why I play in Bazistan rather Afghanistan or Iraq explicitly

  1. Avoiding difficult situations – One of the first things I learnt when I started trying to introduce people to ultramodern wargaming is that some people do not want to play in the modern day. Some people do not want to play anything past WW2. An imagination gives you a step back, letting you use the word “inspired by”. I have met a lot of people who would not play if I said the words “Kabul” rather than “Bazi City”.
  2. Total control over scenarios – In my opinion, playing in the real world requires you to be slightly more sensible and accurate with your missions – it would be strange to have Challenger 2s rolling around Afghanistan. In contrast, setting missions in Bazistan lets me play whatever I want. One week I could have a serious, military maneuver with British forces pushing through a village then the next have four thieves breaking into a warehouse used by a bunch of mercs, all using the same world. Similarly, I get reasons to use all sorts of forces. Pile of early ’90s US forces? Just found the forces for the local government. Collection includes Taliban and Iraqi insurgents? Bazistan has it’s tribal forces and urban militia.
  3. World Building – I come from a RPG playing background (one of the things that got me through my final project at uni was living with an excellent DM) and so writing worlds for me is fun. I’m also a huge Tom Clancy fan – following his lead using the real world as a starting point and tweaking a few factors is a great way to make something that feels real while also letting you mould it to your liking.

Overall, I can see both sides of the argument over imagi-nations. However, it’s a tool I like to pull from the box to make my games into something special.

Briefing on Bazistan

After WW1, when the British split the Arabian Peninsula, there was an additional kingdom that didn’t become part of Saudi Arabia. The Bazis are a proud tribe who managed to maintain control of their lands by acting as the middlemen to those who attempted to conquer them. To the Ottomans, the Bazi kept control of the lawless desert while providing their taxes on time. When the British arrived in Aden in 1838, the Bazis leased the land around Aden in perpetuity and provided access rights to the mines in the interior.

Post WW1, the Bazis established themselves as a kingdom  under King Bazhir the 1st. They appealed to the British and for a while became a protectorate, depending on the British for defence (particularly against their larger neighbour) and foreign policy. King Bazhir wanted to create a modern nation, welcoming in industrial concerns and assembling a modern defence force. WW2 saw Bazistan taking on the defence of the Bazi-Djibouti strait, allowing easy access for ships using the Suez Canal. Bazi troops also joined the Commonwealth forces in the Middle East, fighting in Iraq and forming part of the occupation force.

In the post war world, King Bazhir began in secret to foment a desire for Bazistan to no longer be under the British. Rather than seeking a violent break, Bazistan sorted out a deal and in the aftermath of Suez, Bazistan was diplomatically separated from Britain in 1958. Aden remained as a colony but after the announcement in 1968 that Britain was withdrawing from “east of Aden”, it also sought independence and became a tiny petrochemically funded state in 1970.

1970 also saw the death of King Bazhir the 1st, leaving the crown to his son who became King Bazhir the 2nd. The son was not as closely tied to the west as his father, having travelled to the Soviet Union as a student. This led to a shift in interior policies and a massive rearmament program that gave the CIA great concern. In November 1972 the Bazistani Army crossed into Aden in an attempt to seize the oilfields and mines. The local defence forces, assisted by the Royal Air Force and (it is rumoured) the SAS managed to stall the tanks in the mountains until a small British taskforce arrived. The Bazis eventually retreated after 40 days and the royal family (assisted by the Royal Guard) outsed Bazhir the 2nd, giving the throne to his cousin Ahmed.

Ahmed the 1st then decided to play a risky game. Rather than aligning with the East or West, Ahmed sat in the centre and proclaimed his country “The Switzerland of the Middle East”. Bazistan became a hotbed of espionage filled with spies from many nations while at the same time, taking advantage of anyone wishing to invest in the country. Around this time, King Ahmed opened the Royal Industrial area just outside Bazi City. The first occupant? The Argo Corporation, an American industrial conglomerate with multiple arms producing everything from farming machinery to weapon systems.

In the south, the Republic of Aden continued its growth as well, especially with the discovery of offshore oil in the Gulf of Aden. However, the democratic government became concerned about its security (especially after it’s discovery of oil and other resources) and so it signed a new agreement with the British. Rather than becoming a protectorate, Aden would give BP a first chance at all oil reserves and also provide Britain with a year round desert training area just outside of the city of Aden. This area has plenty of space for armoured units and fast jets to perform mock operations as well as fake neighborhoods for counter insurgency training. In return, the British would help train the local defence force and promise to guarantee independence.

As the Cold War ended, Bazistan was relatively stable and remarkably advanced for the region. King Ahmed however was growing old and frail. Seemingly to prevent the country imploding in a time that did not agree with monarchy, and cautious of the whispers of revolution on the wind, Ahmed setup a semi-constitutional system. The final buck stopped with the king but each district sent elected advisors to the court. Ahmed’s son, Bazhir the 3rd was to be the first king under this system and he took the throne in 1998 with the death of his father.

To put it mildly, the system proved to be terrible and Bashir the 3rd is a terrible king. As the 21st century began, much of the economic boom’s profit was spread out amongst the king and his advisors. Democratic elections failed almost entirely. As the price of oil began to plummet, Bazistan began to fall to pieces. To help break the camel’s back, an advisor managed to sneak in a law that allowed the forming of private militias for “self defence”. At the same time, the Argo Corporation have announced the expansion of their security department in order to protect their interests in the country.

South of the border, Aden became even more important as a partner to the British. The Aden Warm Weather Training Centre became a key facility for the British Army in the Middle East, providing acclimatisation training for troops heading to Iraq and as a testing ground for new equipment. Even after the withdrawal, Aden hosts a yearly desert warfare training exercise that brings in forces from around the world to share experience. Additionally, Private Military Companies have paid to use the training area before contracts in the triple states that now form Iraq or bodyguard duty in the Gulf States.

Current Situation

So that’s the basic situation in Bazistan, what is going on as the wargaming period (2014 onwards) begins?

Internally, Bazistan is beginning to crack. The mountain tribes are seeking a return to traditional ways. Rebellious acts are on the rise and the army has been deployed as part of policing actions. Images of BTRs and T72s fighting through mountain passes and Hinds flying down the valleys remind many defence journalists of the Russian intervention in Afghanistan. In the cities, there has been a rise in militias forming. These groups have now created no-go zones in key urban areas. Worse, these militias have been engaging the government security forces in battle and the attackers have included mercenaries from Eritrea (many still carrying their military ID cards). The worsening security situation, as well as the slowing economy, has led to a rise in PMCs hired by both the government and local interests.

Well the first thing is the worsening situation between Bazistan and its neighbours. In the south, factions seeking to overturn the Aden lease have been running cross border raids in an attempt to force the Republic into joining it’s larger brother. The most recent attack saw the involvement of British forces after a patrol discovered the insurgents setting up a resupply point and requested air support. Britain has warned Bazistan about these events and are deploying more troops to assist the Aden Security Force (ASF).

Bazistan is also the home of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Ever since it’s creation, Saudi Arabia has been very concerned about Bazistan’s border and it’s proximity to Mecca. During the 1980’s, Bazistan and Saudi Arabia had several border crossing incidents with fighter jets have several close encounters and a dangerous crash that led to a hot point. To prevent this happening again, Saudi Arabia began spending its money to arm sympathetic militias and keep key friendly government elements in power.

On the other side, Iran sees Bazistan as the perfect back door into Saudi Arabia. If the Bazistan government was to be friendlier to Iran, it would force Saudi Arabia to fight on two fronts. To help this, Iran has been funding militias, insurgent groups and politicians interested in regime change. They have also deployed QUDs Force, leading to the CIA descending on the area to hunt these troublemakers down before they can cause any major issues.

Finally, Russia sees Bazistan as a potential ally in the region. They have begun to increase investment and recently signed a bilateral deal to provide access to the Bazistan Desert Training Area in return for economic assistance. This has seen the arrival of small elements of the Russian armed forces in the country. In addition, a recent report leaked to the Guardian included mentions of a large Russian intelligence gathering and direct action base in Bazi City.

Moving on in the timeline there will be several events fixed in stone. At some point, following what has been labelled “The Bazistan Incident” in my notes, ISAF AP will cross from Aden into Bazistan as a peacekeeping force. Apart from that, I’m writing up more events as I play more games.

Factions

  • Bazistan – Bazistan’s army is a mixture of equipment – first line infantry and armour are equipped with western gear while the second line and reserves are armed with the old Soviet tanks and weapon systems. The army is still in a reasonable state in spite of the economic issues.
    • Royal Guard – A subset of the army, the Royal Guard has the best equipment and training. In addition, the Royal Guard have special forces units designed for covert operations in defence of the royal family.
    • Internal Security Force – Formerly known as the National Police of Bazistan, the ISF function as both police and as additional army units as and when required. To assist in this role, the ISF have several BTR 80s for military use
  • Aden Security Force (ASF) – South of the border, the ASF protect the Republic of Aden. A self defence force, the ASF is designed to police the civilian population and hold long enough in wartime for the West to intercede. Although not as well trained or as well equipped as the British, it is a professional force.
  • ISAF AP (International Security Assistance Force: Arabian Peninsula) – Encompassing all expeditionary forces in Arabia (including NATO forces stationed in Saudi Arabia)
    • UK – The British have a permanent force as part of the training centre in Aden and rotates other units through
    • US – Despite the US having a base in Djibouti, some units have been taking part in exercises in Aden. US Marines, US Army Rangers and a Stryker Combat Team have all rotated through. Additionally, an arrangement is in place to allow USSOCOM to operate from Aden when required.
    • Other nations – French, German, Australian and New Zealand forces have all attended exercises at the ranges in Aden.
  • PMC – There are multiple Private Military Companies operating in the region ranging from purely security forces to trainers working with the Bazistan government up to contractors providing special operations skills to the highest bidder.
    • The Argo Corporation – Argo has several divisions in Bazistan, including a large proportion of their armament industry. Because of this, Argo has expanded it’s security. Argo now has a wide range of capabilities from facility security up to pre-emptive strikes against possible threats to the company.
    • Commando Global Solutions – One of the smaller companies on the circuit, CGS offers capabilities to it’s clients that would be more usually seen in the SOF community. They are also the protagonists of the main series of games included in Weekend Warfare
  • Irregular Forces – As well as official regular forces, Bazistan is fast becoming home to a wide variety of irregular, non-governmental forces.
    • Urban Militias – Thanks to a change in the law, there has been an explosion in the rise of militias controlling various neighbourhoods in the major cities. These militias are armed in various ways
      • Local Defence – Most militias are being formed by a neighbourhood, wanting to protect it from criminal organisations and other forces that might threaten their life. BEcause of their lack of backing, the defence militias are primarily armed with assault rifles and using civilian vehicles to get around.
      • Iran Friendly – Several militias have gained patronage from the government of Iran. The Revolutionary Guard see these militias a way of implementing a change in regime in Bazistan and so have provided training, equipment and trained Quds force troops to act as advisers and leaders.
      • Saudi Friendly –  As an almost mirror image to the Iranian friendly groups, Saudi Arabia has been backing it’s own militias, particularly in Bazi City itself. The Saudis act primarily through middlemen who use the funding source to purchase vehicles and weapons for the militia fighters.
    • Criminal Organisations – With the worsening economic situation, criminal groups are becoming more common in Bazistan. These groups are often working for one of the king’s advisers, reclaiming debts, running rackets and fighting the Internal Security Force and militias.
    • Mountain Tribes – In the south of Bazistan is a maze of valleys and mountains. For thousands of years, several tribes have lived in these hills practising a traditional way of life. As Bazistan has changed, these tribes have proved to be very anti-government. As well as fighting Bazistan, mountain tribes had ended up clashing with the ASF when they cross the border.
    • Eritrean Mercs – Due to its close proximity across the straits and due to a separate crisis inside of Eritrea, members of the Eritrian Army have been leaving the country and moving to Bazistan to work as contractors. In particular, many militia groups have hired them due to their better level of training on support weapons and ability to procure them.
    • Pirates – The Red Sea is exceptionally busy thanks to the Suez canal. Pirates, both Eritrean and Bazistani, have begun to operate from the Bazistan coastline, using small fast boats and lots of firepower to capture ships and their crew. These are then ransomed back to the ship’s owners.

Conclusion

So that’s the first briefing on Bazistan. As I play more games I’ll keep expanding it, adding in more recent events.

I’ll admit, it’s a bit more Tom Clancy than real life but it has led to some great games already. I’m also looking forward to the hobby projects coming from this. I need to paint up some figures for the Bazistan army as well as more for the Aden Defence Force ready to run some counter-insurgent operations alongside their British trainers.