Initial Impressions: Knights of Dice Tabula Rasa

 

In my overview earlier this year looking at Adobe buildings, I briefly talked about Knights of Dice and their MDF buildings. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of range and I’m now ready to talk about all the various buildings you can purchase from the Tabula Rasa desert range. In this post, I’m going to look over the basics shells, point out some features and then quickly talk about what I intend to next with them.

First up, let’s talk about the common features. All the buildings are designed as shells, only contained key structural features and with none of the detailing many other buildings would have (such as exposed brick textures or doors). The shells are made of MDF and arrive on a sprue ready to be pushed out. They are held in tightly enough so they are not accidentally pushed out during transit. This does require some pushing to get them out but I’ve yet to break a piece while extracting them. In addition, most sprues include a crowbar piece that can be used to help get the pieces ready for use. All the MDF is well cut (needing only a tiny bit of trimming on the connectors) and fit together perfectly during assembly. As always, do a dry fit before gluing together.

In all cases, the buildings have removable roofs and easy access to both floors. All the buildings also have logical access to each room via both internal or external doors, windows or via staircases. I’m not a huge fan of the staircases; assembled by default and they are way too small to fit figures on bases onto the stairs, instead acting more like a ramp. There are alternative ways to assemble them so that they are more usable but by default you won’t be placing figures on them.

Crooked Dice, Spectre, Empress, Eureka

In terms of scaling, the doorways are a tiny bit small for 25mm bases to fit through but perfect for 20mm. Heightwise, figures from Spectre and Empress fit them perfectly, although again I recommend 2mm deep bases rather than the 3mm slotta style bases.


The first two buildings are referred to as Compounds and are the biggest buildings in the range. Both have two floors as well as multiple internal rooms making them a battleground in their own right.

Compound 1 is a huge arrangement, spreading six rooms across two floors. Features of note include a covered exterior area on the ground floor, staircase up to an open roof and two upstairs rooms.

This building is obviously on the more stylish end of the range, perfect for a target building. The ground floor in particular is perfect for some CQB; the wall between the covered area and the rear room is asking for a breaching charge.


Compound 2 is a slightly smaller footprint but equally detailed. Again spread over two floors, this building has three rooms on the ground floor (the long one is split in half) and an upstairs room that leads onto the roof of the long room. The upstairs room is actually a frame that fits inside the outer shell, making it easy to lift out and be used in-game. 

As a note, the metal details are not part of the kit. They are from Empress as part of their builder’s yard. Expect some details on them as the project goes along.

Being a larger building, Compound Two presents some interesting tactical decisions. Multiple rooms will need clearing and the upstairs could be an interesting target location.


The bulk of the range is the small Desert Residences. These buildings have a smaller footprint than the compounds but should still be interesting to play though.

Residence One is a simple two room building but also include a flat outside area with a low wall around it.

Again, the metal details are from Empress.


Residence 2 use the same idea but in a slightly different arrangement to give some variation to your town.


Residence 3 is really cool. It uses the same footprint as Compound 2 but only on one floor. It’s a clever reuse of the same pieces but it works – the slightly larger layout makers the rooms great for scuffle.


The final building is something different. Labelled as a Storage Building, this would be great filled with ammo boxes and fuel cans. The arches are sadly too small for vehicles so it can’t be used as a garage/workshop without modification but there is still plenty of space to fill with things that might go boom.

If the compounds were not tempting enough, then this is perfect for scenario use. Fuel, ammo or a weapon cache, the multiple entrances will making this building an interesting position to take.


So what do I think of these buildings? The first thing I stress is that these things are shells – If you’re a game developer, these things are grey boxes, geometry designed to give you the mechanically feel for a place but not the actual look. They are the perfect starting point to make them feel how you want them while having much of the heavy lifting (such as rooms or multi-storey buildings) already done. You could but them on the table after a spray of paint but they would look a little plain. This lack of detail also means they are slightly cheaper than many other MDF buildings.The quality level is great and they don’t feel too small, even with based figures, that can be an issue with some other MDF set ups.

Once you put some extra bits on them and painted them up, you can get some really cool looking stuff. Spectre have used them on their demo board at Crisis and in the UK (I got to run a game on them at the Spectre Ops day back in July). In fact, Knights of Dice have released a new range using these Tabula Rasa buildings as a base but with some sci-fi elements ready to make your own den of scum and villany.

As a useful starting point, there are plenty of accessory packs as part of the Tabula Rasa range. These add useful elements like antennas and vents, as well as some walkways and ladders to improve access to the buildings.

If you’re interested in them, where is it best to pick them up? For most people, and if you want the latest stuff, you’ll want to grab them directly from Knights of Dice via their online store. In fact, the website says if you are in the area (Victoria in Australia), feel free to drop in for a visit. Being Australian based, this can lead to some long delivery times and expensive postage. Luckily, Shiny Games in the UK also stocks them (with only a slight delay between release on the KoD site and being in the UK). I have bought a fair amount of stuff from them and they are a fantastic shop. Great pricing, prompt delivery and even have a loyalty scheme ready to knock some money off your orders.


I now have these boxes, it’s time to make them look pretty. This article officially kicks Project Compound, which will take these buildings and make them look ready for battle. The idea is to make them look like an urban area somewhere in Bazistan in the early days of a conflict. Some limited damage but not completely wiped out. As well as the texturing and painting needed, I also want to add some more walls and street furniture. I’m going to update the blog with a new post once I work out which parts are going where. I still have a few Empress bits to use up (both air conditioning units and TV dishes) so I now need to work out which buildings are getting them.

I’m looking forward to getting these buildings done. This should be a great chance to make some buildings ready to sit on my boards as well as theming them to my theatre of operation – I’ll be going all out with posters and advertising.

If you’re wanting to keep an eye on this project, I recommend following the facebook page where I’ll be putting some WIP photos up.

Tactics: Razors on the Battlefield

Photo from Spectre Miniatures

So now you’ve got your Razor, built it up to how you want and found the rules for your system of choice, how should you actually use them on the tabletop? I’m going to primarily look at their use in Spectre Operations, in particular, analysing the rules that the team at Spectre have released. However, many of the concepts are applicable across multiple games.

Fast Attack

The first thing about the Razor is it’s really, REALLY fast – a move value of 16″ means it’s almost the fastest thing on the board (just in behind the motorbike). In addition, it’s also All Terrain so rough ground barely slows it down. It also has the rule Agile, making it able to turn on a dime; great for getting out of harm’s way in cramped and crowded streets. Finally on the positives, the rule Muffled Engine let’s the Razor get even closer before the alarm is raised, a great addition for stealth games.

The downside is that it has no armour with one of the lowest  DC values in the game. This isn’t an AFV, it’s a taxi designed to get you from A to B quickly and over rough terrain.

So as a high-speed, all terrain vehicle it can be great when you need to make a quick getaway or extract a VIP from the hot zone. Just remember you can only board a stationary vehicle and it can’t move in the same turn passengers embark. On the plus side, it’s open-topped nature means the rear passengers can easily put down fire as you race away.

Fire Support

Photo from Spectre Miniatures

By default, the Razor’s only weapon is the commander’s machine gun. This arm mounted weapon can be a compact LMG up to a 7.62 firing minigun (the current kit and crew come with a MMG with scope and suppressor). If the Razor only has this, then it’s mainly in place for self-defence or suppressing the bad guys during the final run into the drop off/exfil – the range of these weapons is going to put you right under the nose of the bad guys and you are in danger of biting off more than you can chew. Additionally, the arm only has a limited field of fire, so it can’t engage targets on the other side of the vehicle or behind it – this is where your passengers come in handy.

The Razor can also take a roll bar mounted weapon system. The weapon in this slot is limited by being Move or Fire (something the unarmoured but quick vehicle would probably prefer not to have) but the options for this slot are much more destructive, including HMGs and auto grenade launchers. Having both slots filled with weapons turns the Razor into something similar to a WMIK, perfect for forming a fast-moving base of fire for your main assault. Take advantage of the range of these systems to stay away from incoming fire and keep moving to the best locations, bearing in mind a vehicle mounted HMG doesn’t need to pack and then unpack when relocating.

Supply Point

Photo from Spectre Miniatures

The Razor also has another bonus to it – the fact it can carry additional gear. I can see this ability being underestimated by many players but it could actually be something very important for a small force. If you max out each character with multiple weapon systems (using the rules in the book for max equipment carried), then additional launchers and items for specific uses can be stored in a moving supply point. It’s conceivable that when a team of operators assaults a town, a character could use a sniper rifle outside the town to take advantage of the large range intervals before swapping it out for a shotgun as the fight gets up close and personal.

Stowing kit in a vehicle also means weapons that include the encumbering rule (such as MMGs) can be stowed until close to the fighting, removing that modifier to agility and allowing them to move at the same speed as their team (when sprinting or tactically moving) before grabbing a bigger gun when needing to form a fire position. The other items (long-range comns and medical gear) let you have access to this important kit with a certain character being stuck in the role as the game begins. Instead, as soon as the first casualty happens, any figure close to the Razor can grab what’s needed and then rush to begin triage.

The Razor 4 also has the ability to transport a crew served missile launcher, making the Razor a great vehicle to carry a tank hunter team when fighting armoured opposition. Just remember to shoot and scoot, seeing as your armour is not particularly thick.

Conclusion

Overall the Razor provides some new capabilities on the Spectre battlefields. When all of its functionality is being used, it provides a unique vehicle with multiple benefits. There are some roles it should not be used in (frontal assaults across minefields for example) but for the ones it’s suitable in I can’t see it disappointing the player in charge.

The main thing to remember is to play to its strengths : keep moving, don’t get pinned in place, think about your loadout carefully before the game begins. Apart from that, it’s a cool model to have on the tabletop and I look forward to seeing them crop up in battle reports.

Additional Rules: Razor In Other Games

Spectre have released their Razor model and alongside it brought out some rather cool rules to include it in their Spectre Operations game.

The Razor has a few key characteristics that separate it from other vehicles. These are

  1. High speed even over rough terrain
  2. Small size, light weight and lacking in armour
  3. Carrying capacity
  4. Weapon carrying

Using this set of ideas as a starting point, I donned the writing helmet and delved into my pile of rules (covered in great detail here). The first issue that came up was OSC and Danger Close. Both these rule sets currently lack rules for vehicles (although OSC is getting its rules in the next update). In those games, a Razor would be sited just off the board to act as a resupply or MG position and provide support. This left three rulesets to take a look at. Spectre’s rules does include the Razor 4 variant, different to the model that is released, but for now we will focus on the smaller Razor 2.

These rules are in their very early stages and so may be slightly unbalanced. If in doubt, talk them through with your opponents and tweak if needed. Think of these as guidelines.

Black Ops

Black Ops is a cool system that is super easy to get into and great fun to play. It’s rare that you will bring your own vehicles to the party (relying on stealth and all that) but for the Razor we can make an exception.

Razor 2 Stats

NameFrontSideRearCardEquipmentCrew (Passengers)Points
Razor 2000KingLMG (commander's)Driver, Commander (2)6

Rules

  • Razors count as man-sized targets when shooting at them (like bikes). When hit, they use the car row in the hit location table.
  • The Razor, as you can see in the stats, has no armour. You’ll want to drive very quickly.
  • Razors are fast: Cautious Move is 7″, Advance is 14″ and Run is 22″
  • The front machine gun always counts as stationary (so you always gain the additional shot)
  • The Razor has a quiet engine. It does not immediately raise the alarm, instead it generates a noise counter every turn it moves. This is increased to two noise counters if it Advances or three if it Runs

Options

  • The commander LMG can be upgraded to a GPMG for 1pt or a minigun for 4pts
  • The roof slot can be fitted with a heavy weapon. This turns one of the passengers into a gunner. The weapons available are: LMG 2pts, GPMG 3pts, HMG 4pts, AGL 5pts
  • The vehicle can carry two additional weapons (bought from those available to its faction) that can be used by character. Additionally, including a Razor allows the squad to take an additional squad upgrade for the usual points cost.

 

Force on Force

So Force on Force isn’t my favourite game and I haven’t used a ton of vehicles in it. However, looking around, it seems like many of the stat lines are standardised and anything on the small side will look pretty similar. I’m basing this off the Chenworth DPV with a few small tweaks. I was tempted by Deathtrap as an attribute but I think it would be a negative too far. Instead Technical makes it a less effective gun platform.

For weapon stats, check the rulebook.

NameClassTypeFirepowerGun RatingMGsFrontSideRearDeckCrewAttributes
Razor 2SW (Optional)
M2HB
or
Mk19
or
M240
(optional)M240 (3D)1d61d61d61d62+2Technical

Skirmish Sangin

Skirmish Sangin provides me with a problem as there are two ways to implement the Razor – treat it as a vehicle or use something similar to the motorcycle rules covered in Dispatches 2. I prefer the second option due to its increased detail but in case you don’t have a copy of Dispatches 2 I’ll present both options.

The Vehicle Option

The Razor 2 in Skirmish Sangin is generated the standard way depending on the crew experience level. The important information is the following:

VehicleArmourIED ProtectionPrimary WeaponSecondary WeaponCrewCost Morale ModCapacity
Razor 200None (Can be replaced with MMG, HMG, GMG)MMG (can be replaced with LMG)2 + 2
(3+1 if primary weapon is bought)
100 (not including weapons)04

The Razor can be used to carry additional gear. Players before the game can pay points values to store weapons and hand grenades in the vehicle. It takes 2AP to collect an item from the vehicle. I recommend limiting it to a small number of grenades and between 2 and 4 long arms. Mention your loadout to your opponent before the game starts and keep track of which character has which weapon by using a token. 

 

THE BIKE-ISH OPTION

The other way of showing off the Razor is to treat it like the motorbikes in Dispatches 2 (page 61) but with some minor tweaks due to it being a slightly larger and more stable platform. I’d use the following changes:

  • A Razor is bought as a vehicle using the profile above but without crew. It is instead crewed by four other figures bought as normal. These use their Drive skill. As ISAF troops would be more used to driving motorised vehicles, they get the skill for free. It is generated the same way – BODY x experience level.
  • A Razor has 4 crew positions – Driver, Commander and two rear passengers.
    • The Driver’s Drive skill is used for all tests involving the vehicle moving.
    • The Commander uses the commander seat’s weapon (their own weapon has been stashed away) and using their heavy weapon skill. The firing arc is from the forward position to the 4 o’clock position
    • The rear passengers can only shoot backwards and use their own weapons. They can only fire pistols, SMGs, Assault Rifles, Shotguns, grenade launchers, LMGs or MMGs while in that seat and only in the rear arc.
    • If a heavy weapon has been purchased it is mounted on the roll bars. One of the rear passengers is now the gunner. They can only fire in a forward arc, must use their heavy weapon skill and only shoot when the vehicle is stationary.
  • If a Razor collides with a character, it does not inflict damage on the crew. However, it does force a morale test.
  • If the Razor crashes, the crew take 1D10 damage. However, the vehicle can then move on after the crew members take a morale test.
  • If you attempt to ram a vehicle with the Razor, the other vehicle takes 1D10 damage. The crew of the Razor take 2D10 and must then take a morale test.
  • The team on board operates as a fireteam, with all crew members using the driver’s activation phases. They each get 3AP to use on the table on page 61 of Dispatches 2 but act in a random order.
  • When shooting, the crew take the modifier for shooting on the move. The driver does not shoot – his hands are on the wheel.
  • The Razor moves the full distance of 40 metres no matter how many crew it is carrying.
  • If a crewman is hit, they do not need to take a drive test to remain in the vehicle. However if the driver is hit while moving, the vehicle will move forward half its move distance in the next turn. If it impacts difficult terrain, it crashes.
  • The Razor provides light cover to anyone on foot behind it.
  • When disembarked, the Razor’s commander weapon can be used by a model standing close to it. It takes 1AP to begin using the weapon and 1AP to disengage from it. The firing arc is from the front of the vehicle to the rear of the vehicle as long as it does not clip through the Razor’s body.
  • The Razor can still carry gear using the rule mentioned above in the vehicle section.

That’s it for now. I hope more people will take a look at these cool vehicles and see that can be used everywhere, providing a new set of capabilities in any fire fight. Try out the rules, see what works and I look forward to your feedback!

Impressions: Spectre’s Razor Part 2

Before you read this impression, I really recommend going back and reading the original impressions on the Razor. I only intend to cover the new stuff and most of what I talk about in the previous post covers building the Razor now.

It’s taken a while but the Razor is now available from the Spectre website! Although it’s currently out of stock due to everyone buying them, they are now actually on the site. In addition, there are now crew and stowage available so you can make your vehicle look even more operator. We’re going to take a look through these new arrivals, and then have a quick update on my own Razors.

Razor 2

Building the Razor that arrived in the post was almost exactly the same as in my original post. I had to do a little clean up on the parts (you can still see the flash in the picture above) and I had to fix a cracked mud guard. Apart from that, the various pieces assembled easily. It was helped by the instructions now being online which mostly matched up to my procedures

There were a few things I tweaked but these were mainly due to the other releases that came out the same day. Primarily, I left off the seats, roll cage, steering wheel and GPMG. The other thing I left off is what sits in front of the passenger to make it match up with my pre-built one. I think it’s a handle (something to hold onto as the driver guns it) but I think the original part went missing somewhere between the Salute showfloor and my flat.

Razor Stowage

Image from Spectre Miniatures as someone forgot to snap photos when the models turned up

The first new addition is the Razor Stowage pack. The pack contains three items (two jerry cans in storage racks and a spare tire on frame). Both objects come with mounting brackets designed for specific places; the spare tire clips onto the top of the roll cage while the storage racks slot into the slits on either side of the cargo frame. However, you can easily trim them down if you want to place them somewhere else, such as cutting the supports off the racks so they can be placed on the rear gate of the cargo bed.

As for the looks, it really makes the Razor look a lot more suited for the off-road life and less civilian. The design features of the elements (in order to help place the items) is really smart and helps a lot with placement without giving a hard and fast “ITEMS MUST BE PLACED IN THIS LOCATION”.

Razor Crew

The other major addition is the crew. Unlike the technicals, the Razor is open to the elements and so really requires crew figures for use on the tabletop (it’s a bit strange rolling an empty buggy around the world). The two crew packs give you four figures in total; Alfa with the front crew (Driver and Gunner) and Bravo with the two guys sat in the cargo bed. Splitting the crew into two packs let you easily pick the crew you want, especially if you want to fill the rear cargo section with some form of cargo without having spare figures left over. The figures have the same shapes on the bottom of them that match up with the seats so that the crew fit in the correct place. The crew designs fit with the rest of the Spectre range, looking closest to the Task Force Operators or Rangers collections.

Now, the crew do come moulded into the seats and this was a minor annoyance as someone who built up their vehicle before they were available. However, after having seen the final product, there is no way I’d have wanted the figures separately as you would not have been able to get the same level of posing as these guys have. It’s cool how the crew members actually feel part of the vehicle (such as the driver with one foot on the outside of the buggy) rather than just resting on top of it. Also the guys in the back do not look massively

Fitting the steering is a pain in the neck and the getting the GPMG into location required some careful balancing of three separate pieces. But overall, these guys are a must buy if you have a Razor that you intend to have rolling round the battlefield

My Razors

So that’s cool for everyone else but what am I doing with mine?

So first thing – I made my first Razor before the crew were available and so it’s fitted with the seats. This means that without serious surgery (not something I want to try on resin) I can’t mount crew on it. But this gave me a plan. Razor 1 would become the dismounted version, ready for use as an objective or when the team dismounts. Razor 2, the brand new one, would get the crew figures. I would then make sure both had the same arrangement of gear and spare tires and paint them up in the same way.

This did throw up a minor issue. On Razor 1, the GPMG is stowed against the side of the cargo deck (primarily to make sure there isn’t a fragile piece of metal sticking out at a right angle). On Razor 2,this GPMG is now in an active position as the gunner starts hammering away. This leaves a giant empty space on the side of the vehicle where I can’t mount a rack as it wouldn’t match. However, the other release of the week came to the rescue. I stuck a bag over the space on Razor 2 – the thinking is that the team has grabbed their assault pack after dismounting (hence why it’s missing on Razor 1). It’s a cool little thing that no one apart from me will notice.

The next step was painting. Both the vehicles got a black undercoat and then followed by a desert tan spray. I then painted the details. I also painted up the crew using the new multicam pattern separately from the vehicles so the shadows on them would still be black. I then got the joy of assembling them onto a mostly finished buggy. This is a painting method I hate but in this case I think it was the best option.

As you can see in the photo above, I didn’t quite finish them before going to press. However, I should have them done for Monday’s Wargaming Week.

Conclusion Part 2

The Razor is an exciting kit to build and looks great when finished. However, I think the additional packs really make it. The stowage gives them a cooler feel while the crew is basically vital. Total cost for a fully equipped Razor (buggy + both crew packs + razor specific stowage) is around £33 which is quite expensive for such a small vehicle. However, it is packed full of detail and makes a nice centerpiece/tactical option for an elite force of operators.

Looking ahead, I hope we get more stowage and alternative crew poses. The rules page has some interesting points on it (such as a mount for heavy weapons on the roll cage which seems nuts) and even mentions some more variations on the Razor design. As I said in the first impressions piece, the Razor shows off a super exciting and interesting direction of releases that Spectre can go in.

If you are wanting your own Razor and accessories, you can all the bits over at https://www.spectreminiatures.com/collections/vehicles

Impressions: Spectre’s Vehicle Stowage Alfa

Alongside the release of the Razor, Spectre also released a set of vehicle stowage. Designed to let you personalise and add detail to any form of hobby project, the stowage kit comes with a pile of things to weigh down your vehicle of choice. It also hopefully points to future plans from Spectre which are exciting for anyone with a pile of Humvees or objectives that need some extra detail to them.

So for your £7.50, what do you get? According to the site description:

  • 1 each of large, medium and small cooler/storage box
  • 1 x long gun Pelican case.
  • 2 x mid-size Pelican cases.
  • 1  x laptop Pelican case.
  • 2 x ammo boxes
  • 4 x NATO Jerry cans
  • 1 x SatCom Antenna
  • 2 x Sand Boards
  • 2 x Multi-Barrelled Smoke Grenade Dischargers (MBSGD)
  • 1 x AT-4
  • 4 x Light Antitank Weapon (LAW)
  • 4 x packs

The models arrive in a small plastic bag and, apart from a quick trim of some flash, are good to go. Most things are pretty obvious, the only sticking point being the ammo boxes – for a while I couldn’t work out the second one but it’s a smaller one (more designed for grenades) as opposed to the more common design.

For highlights, I really like the AT-4 and the LAW; they are a really simple way of adding some AT firepower to any squad while still looking really cool. The MBSGDs are also really clever with the perfect shape to fit under the bull bars of an SUV. There are also some nice variations in the rucksacks, giving you everything from a daysack up to something bergen sized. Finally, there are the pelican cases – not great for your militia forces but that long gun case might have a nasty surprise in it when on the back of an SF Pickup.

So what did I use them for? Well, the first order of the day was fixing a mistake I made way back in the early days of my collection. I picked up the SAS Recce Patrol support back when the Spectre webstore started (consisting of a LMG gunner and a marksman) and then didn’t use their bergens. This was so the figures could pull double duties with the SAS Low Profile team (the packs themselves ended up in the hands of several British squaddies). Having just stripped the early paint job, now seemed a great time to give them an upgrade.

The LMG gunner took the biggest pack while the marksman  got a smaller pack put a pair of LAWs ready to knock out tanks (and to cover the joins). The packs have two parts of the strap at the top and, although they don’t fit as well as the original, they do look pretty effective. Even better, they work well with the rest of the squad making them look as heavily laden as their buddies.

The other first use is adding some detail to my 2nd Razor. I cover this in the second Razor post but it went into place very easily, requiring almost no clean up while making it look like it latched over the top of the frame.

For the future? Some of the boxes will be going on my existing weapon teams to give them somewhere to store the ammo while others will be saved to really laden down a few upcoming releases. I’m also looking at getting the plasticard out and making some fillers for the truck bed covered in gear – perfect for supply vehicles or objectives.

In the end, I think this stowage pack is one of the best on the market. There are lots of bits you would end up using and its a worthwhile purchase for anyone wanting to add a little extra to their vehicles, soldiers or terrain. When combined with the ammo boxes already out, it will be easy to give everything the right level of clutter.

If you’re wanting some stowage for yourself, you can find it on the Spectre Webstore at https://www.spectreminiatures.com/products/stowage-alfa for £7.50

Technicals – Heavy Ammunition

As mentioned in my previous post on the Spectre technicals, I hadn’t picked up all the weapons. As part of my cartel order, I put on two more weapons ready to give the bad guys something else to handle my Challenger 2 or other armoured vehicles.

The common thing between these two is the base. Simply, the base is plasticard with slots cut out for the wheel arches. Main tweak is cutting the gap slightly longer so the base can be put in either way, allowing for some adjustment.

TOW

The TOW is a wire guided missile, used worldwide as tank killer as well as hammering bunkers when the gunners run out of targets. As dangerous as it is, the wire guided nature put the crew at risk until it impacts unless they cut the guidance wire early.

The Spectre kit is in three pieces – the launcher and sight, the base and two tripod legs and the third leg. Construction is simple – attach tripod leg, add launcher. The only tweak I ended up doing was I trimmed down two of the feet on the tripod so I could fit it easily onto the base.

As for crew, I added Crew Charlie and Crew Delta. Charlie is designed for the launcher while delta is intended for the SPG9. However, I think he works well as the loader. Now just to assemble a round to reload…

M40

The M40 is a heavy recoilless rifle, launching a 105mm projectile to smash armour and the predecessor to the TOW. It lacks the guidance and doesn’t have the penetration of a TOW but it still packs a punch.

The Spectre model comes in four pieces – the main tube, the elevation wheel, the tripod and the wheel. Again, super simple assembly.

To crew it, I picked up the set designed for the weapon (Crew Foxtrot) and set them in place. I’m a big fan of the guy holding the next round.

Conclusion

As with the previous weapons, Spectre has done a great job making these systems. Both are packed full of detail and the crew are great additions to them.  It was also super easy to mount them on quick swap bases with only minor alterations. I still have a few more systems to look at but at least now the Militia have some heavy support on the field.

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