In the last post we took a look at the basics of building a force through role specific teams. In this post, we’ll look at how vehicles can be added to regular forces in order to augment their capabilities and provide new tactics. As in part 1, this article is designed primarily for Spectre Operations but many of the tactics are valid in all modern skirmish games.
Vehicles are one of those things that players love to get their hands on. Everyone likes rolling out the big guns, using overwhelming firepower to destroy enemy positions while rolling through small arms shots like it was nothing. As a national force, you’ll have access to the widest range of vehicles, covering everything from motorcycles and quad bikes up to main battle tanks. Depending on the situation, adding a vehicle to your force will give you a massive bonus on less well equipped opponents.
The problem is that vehicles, while certainly powerful, are also incredibly vulnerable on the modern battlefield. In WW2 there were limited number of AT weapons available but the advent of anti-tank rocket launchers and HEAT warheads has meant that every infantry fireteam can carry a light anti-tank weapon, often alongside its normal loadout. The RPG-7, the darling of every bad guy, can’t crack a MBT but is easily capable of damaging and destroying medium and light vehicles. Combined with IEDs, this makes approaching urban areas a massive danger. With limited routes, its hard to avoid enemy attacks while the varying elevations give bonuses to troops shooting down into the vehicles.
Another limiting factor is that troops cooped up in a vehicle are not able to act as efficiently as they can on foot. They can’t spread out to avoid frag weapons and (if enclosed) are less effective at helping out with their own weapons. After all, when you roll “passenger compartment takes lethality check” it doesn’t matter if you’re a militiaman or an elite SF operator.
Finally, the bigger vehicles often suffer in places where constricting ROEs are used. A MBT might be able to easily splat a possible enemy position but if it’s got civilians nearby than it’s unable to act effectively.
This is harder article to write than the infantry one as it’s one case where I think using points only rather than a scenario can really break down. It’s very possible for one player to pick a force that is incapable of taking out any of the other player’s force (for example a militia player vs someone who picks two MBTs) and it just turns into one player bugging out in the first turn. Vehicles, along with certain OTAs, makes it blatantly obvious that modern war is not “fair” or balanced. For this reason, setting up the right scenario is key. If player’s are picking their own force, give them the intel they would need to be able to combat each other. Setup objectives that can’t be done from the safety of an AFV – after all, it’s pretty hard to secure buildings while in one.
There are three major aspects to look at with the vehicles: Firepower (how much damage it can deal), Mobility (how fast it can move) and Protection (how it can stay alive)
Probably the one people rush to improve first, firepower is a big draw of all motorised platforms. Vehicles can offer two factors over infantry in this regards
- More firepower: Vehicles can carry weapon system that either require a team or are entirely impractical for foot mobiles. These weapon systems can be incredibly destructive (often with 1+ or 2+ lethality saves) and lay down massive amounts of suppression either through sheer rate of fire or fragmentation.
- More accurate firepower: Thanks to stabilisers and extra storage space for ammo, man portable systems become even more deadly. The classic GPMG on a vehicle is a perfectly sensible setup and doesn’t require someone to hoof it around. I’m also a fan of anti-material rifles mounting on vehicles – it’s one of those things that just looks cool.
One consideration is if the vehicle has the move or fire rule. Having to move slowly will let you keep for the suppression down but risks destruction at the hands of anything you don’t manage to kill.
The final point is firing arcs. Keeping the weapon on target while moving is obviously easier with a turret mount while limited fields of fire require more careful positioning. Technicals will especially struggle with this as many of the heavier systems (like the TOW or heavier recoilless rifles) can’t shoot forward on the current spectre pickups due to the crew cab.
Mobility is somewhere else we can split into two regarding what it offers:
- Vehicle Mobility: How agile is this vehicle? How far can it drive every turn and how much can it turn? Knowing what your vehicle can do will help when picking your actions. Key things to look for is Uprated Engine and Brakes (giving you additional movement and sharper turns) and All Terrain (faster movement through difficult terrain).
- Force Mobility: If this vehicle can carry passengers, how much of your force can it carry? Can it carry a whole squad or will you need to split them across multiple vehicles? Alternatively, could it be used for carry heavier armament like a crew served system or additional AT weapons? Vehicles acting as resupply are especially important when using the ammo loads included in the rulebook.
These two aspects combine together to affect how mobile your force is. Although rolling up and discharging troops directly onto the enemy is a bad idea, reducing how much time they spend foot slogging will help to keep them alive and make you more reactive to the enemies movement.
Finally, protection. Mobility can help with this ( after all you can’t hit what you can’t see) but having armour plate between the passenger compartment and the incoming fire helps. Fully armoured vehicles can almost ignore enemy small arms, making the dangers of being caught out in the open less than in an unarmoured vehicle. Even partial armour can help to prevent casualties. As for the poor guys in unarmoured vehicles, you need to either be going fast or sticking to cover.
Another part of protection is its subsystems. These elements can often be forgotten but can help many vehicles feel less like a civilian car and more like the platform they are supposed to represents. Key ones include Run Flats (ignoring M-Kills is a good way to stay alive), MBSGDs (for dropping smoke when under fire) and Gun Shield (excellent for protecting any top gunners).
So that’s all great, but what does that mean for picking a force?
The key principle (as I’ve tried to hammer into you so far) is to look at the mission you’re about to do. Do you need a high speed transport, a weapon platform to sit back and provide overwatch or armoured vehicle to carry the rest of your force onto the objective? What vehicles would your force have available? Would your SF team up in the foothills of the Hindu Kush really have access to a main battle tank or is it more likely it would be a mix of quad bikes, pickups and maybe a GMV?
Once the task is identified, selecting the actual elements will require matching the various archetypes available in the book to what you want to utilise. The various examples will help next to each archetype should help you choose.
Something to consider is looking at real missions and what vehicles are used. As an example, Osprey’s excellent Special Operations Patrol Vehicles includes mention of a four vehicle US ODA convoy arrangement used in 2002-2003 consisting of:
- M1114 Armoured Humvee – Better protection than the rest of the group and carrying a heavy weapon.
- GMV SF Humvee – Good performance, lots of firepower, plenty of space for storing supplies for the rest of the group
- Two Non-Standard Tactical Vehicles (Pickup trucks) – Able to go places the other vehicles can’t, lower profile, plenty of space for supplies
As you can see, this combination is mainly focused on a strategic level (outside the focus of a game of Spectre) but the variety of options can help when building your own team.
I have an additional few pointers to think about when setting vehicle elements up:
- The HMG is mounted on almost every vehicle for a reason. It’s a nice compromise, being able to hit out at both infantry (thanks to sustained fire) and light armoured vehicles (thanks to armoured piercing) equally well.
- Civilian vehicles might seem like nothing but trouble for a force, but for low profile teams they provide a quick way of getting out of danger. Covert vehicles are often equipped armour and uprated engines making them a nasty surprise.
- When rolling multiple vehicles in a convoy, mixing up the weapons is recommended. Different weapons are good at different things – the HMG is general purpose but a Grenade machine gun is perfect for flattening groups of enemy infantry. It does however lack the same level of precision you would gain from a machine gun so it’s not the best thing to use at close quarters. Instead, the minigun or GPMG is much more useful.
- When outfitting weapons, remember that you can mount optical systems to many heavy weapons. A HMG with a scope (such as the setup seen on my British Army Jackals) is perfect for any sort of overwatch fire support, being able to sit well outside the range of enemy return fire will still being able to hit back effectively.
- Once on the battlefield, there are a few things to consider:
- Avoid built up areas with your vehicles. These are just asking for you to be ambushed.
- Don’t waste your vehicles. Use them for their role.
- Play each vehicle to its strength. Don’t expect your Razors to be able to take hits like a tank – instead play to it’s high speed and all terrain features.
- Vehicles can also provide cover to troops on foot. This will continue even after its destroyed.
- Spectre has rules for ramming and shunting obstacles out of the way – use this when appropriate. Armoured vehicles are especially good at this.
That’s it for this article. Next time, we’ll cross the lines and start looking at how picking an OPFOR force is different, how quantity is a quality of it’s own and why you should look very carefully at what type of characters you are using.