Impressions: Warhansa Spetsnaz

When I started looking for new companies to buy models from and write about, there were some that jumped out to me straight away. Others, including today’s manufacturer Warhansa, were ones I had looked at but never seen a set that screamed for me to take a look. Checking the site at the start of the year, my mind was swiftly changed upon spotting the Warhansa Spetsnaz pack appearing on their Facebook page.

Now, I have many weaknesses when it comes to figures. As previously mentioned, guys in bandanas and M4s are one (mainly down to how many places they can be used) while another is ultra-modern troops with near future sci-fi (think Chappie or Elysium). However, the biggest has to be figures in giant EOD style armour and totting machine guns. Be they military or police, I love this Juggernaut archetype. I guess you can blame Modern Warfare 2 for this. So upon spotting a team of four figures where one of them is a chunky looking fellow with a PKP, I just had to jump in and take a look

There are a couple of key points I’m going to mention first about Warhansa. Number 1, they are based in Russia. This is going to lead to some fun times with their postal system – for example, tracking on the parcel cut off as soon as the parcel left Russia and didn’t seem to pick up in the UK until it was delivered. However, the postage times were pretty great (taking only 3 weeks) so I’m not going to complain too much. The second point is that Warhansa figures are in Resin rather than metal. I find the old Resin vs Metal debate to one primarily of personal choice with resin providing a really nice level of detail but the cost of durability. I normally prefer metal to resin due to the difference in weight (especially as I base them on MDF disks) but it’s not a deal breaker for me.

Those points covered lets look at the figures!

The pack comprises of four figures. Two riflemen with AN94 assault rifles, an officer in beret and a PKP gunner wearing EOD gear. The figures are sculpted by Igor (who was also the sculptor behind the War in Chechnya kickstarter from Tiny Terrain as well as some upcoming releases from SASM) and is style is all over them. There is also a great level of detail to them from just the contours of the webbing to being able to identify the guns based on the muzzle break design. From looking closely I only found two minor issues (an air bubble in the PKM box mag and some unusual patterning on a shoulder piece) but both were easy to fix.

Aftergetting them out of the bag, I was really excited to get started painting and within a day of taking the first photo, they were done. A new record for me!

So, the paint scheme. When I ordered theses guys, I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to fit them into my ongoing Bazistan/Zaiweibo campaigns. The Empress Russians are filling in the role of modern Russian troops so these guys (in older gear) didn’t make sense to add to the elite Russian taskforce. However, I realised that one nation hadn’t received it’s well equipped frontline troops – Bazistan. By using these guys, as well as the Russians from the War in Chechnya Kickstarter, I’m able to show a force that may be a little bit less advanced than their foes, is still a threat. I’m particularly excited about using the gunner to smash through some doors and lay down the hurt when the dammed western operators are working a little too well.

Because of this, I had to work on the paint scheme. Although there are Russian desert camos, I wanted to make something different to what the actual Russians will be wearing (once I’ve painted them) and also be relatively easy to paint. For this reason I went with a simple scheme – Iraqi sand base with beige brown sponged on. This is designed to give the impression of a pixel based scheme in a similar colour to some of the older patterns. The only downside? I think I might have been a little heavy with my paint job and so obscured some of the detail.

As always, with new figures it’s time for a comparison picture.

From left to right

  • Under Fire Miniatures
  • Empress (older)
  • Empress (recent)
  • Warhansa
  • Spectre Miniatures
  • Eureka Miniatures
  • Crooked Dice
  • Hasslefree

And again from the rear

An extra comparison is to show off how chunky this PKP gunner is compared to his regular opponents, a Spectre Task Force Operator.


My overall opinion? If you hadn’t guessed above, I really like these guys. They are definitely more stylised compared to companies like Empress or Spectre but they still look pretty great on the tabletop. There is an incredible amount of detail on them if you are more interested in painting than playing. My only concern is how durable the resin is going to be, both for the weight (I like the feel of a metal figure in my hand and stops them being nudged) and for surviving the wear and tear of playing/going in and out of boxes. We’ll have to see that in the upcoming days. , If you are looking for some Russian characters to paint up, I heartily recommend this set.

Also I get to have a tiny Juggernaut sat on my desk. What’s not to like?

If you want a set of your own Spetsnaz, you can find them on the Warhansa website at http://www.warhansa.com/index.php/katalog/spetsnaz.html

Impressions: SASM Operator Juarez

A big push this year on the site is to expand the list of companies I cover, with the goal of providing the widest possible look into all the options available to an ultramodern gamer. One of the companies that had sat on my list for a while has been Special Artisan Service Miniatures based in the US. As well as their 3D printed vehicles, they also have a growing range of figures. After browsing through the range, I settled upon picking up one of the Operator Juarez packs for my invesitigation.

The CIA Juarez Operators pack is made up of six figures, all inspired by popular culture around the various agencies fighting the cartel in Mexico. There is a nice mix to these figures, giving you a set perfect for a whole host of scenarios. After ordering, the package with them in arrived on my desk after about a week after being sent out. They were securely packaged, with no damaged bits, and the hand written note wishing me well was a nice touch. Preparing was minimal, with the expected amount of of infill and mould lines to tidy up. The figures have a half pill shaped base, similar to many other ranges which almost melds into the base with no adjustment required.

Looking at the  figures, there are several different groups. The first consists of three guys perfect for contractors or low profile shooters. These guy are all wearing tactical gear and wielding AR15 pattern weapons. The “balaclava and baseball cap” look is one I particularly like (mainly because they can be used for all sorts of organisations). All three figures are moving forward cautiously, gripping either the magwell or the vert grip.

The next group are two characters designed to lead and support the rest of the team. One is holding his M4 in a low ready position while the other wields a silenced Mp5, holding his hand up while trying to calm the locals. These two are dressed the same way as the first, with civilian clothing and tac gear.

The final model is a little different from the rest. Rather than being one of the other characters ready to cross the border, this guy is dressed for a bit of black ops. Armed only with a pistol, the practical use of this one will mainly be for stealth missions and creeping around in the dark.

As this is a new company for me to look at, it’s time for for another figure comparison. From left to right:

  • Under Fire Miniatures
  • Empress (older)
  • Empress (recent)
  • SASM
  • Spectre Miniatures
  • Eureka Miniatures
  • Crooked Dice
  • Hasslefree

And again in rear view.

Okay, that’s all the basic information, showing off the painted figures. If you are interested in them, they can be found on the SASM site at http://www.kingshobbiesandgames.com/28mm-CIA-Juarez-Operators-p/28mmciaop.htm

Personal thoughts below the line.


To be honest, I have mixed personal feelings on this pack. I really love the concept and the ideas behind some of the figures but i’m less impressed with the style. The sculptor is very talented (all the characters were easily recognisable at first glance and they easily fit in with other ranges as part of a game) but there are one or two elements that don’t quite match my expectations. Although it’s not obvious, the figures seem incredibly slight and tall, almost like a 28mm figure from another company that has been grabbed at the top and pulled. I also have issues with some of the detailing – while the characters are packed full of it (such as molle loops and folds in the clothing), the weapons (especially on the three guys with bandanas) all seem a little flat sided. The suppressed MP5 also appears incredibly bulky compared to the other weapons, although I can see the practical reason for this adjustment. I would have also have liked to see a little more variation in the poses, particularly for the trio of shooters.

As always, this is just my opinions. Although they are not the ideal figures, they are certainly not the worst I’ve seen. Importantly they also spark the idea for plenty of scenarios to use the figures in. While I don’t necessarily recommend them, and as long as you like the style, they were certainly an interesting set to paint up and write an article on. As a final note, SASM seem to have a range of sculptors

Operation Dragon’s Hoard: Vapnartak, York

If you haven’t checked out the previous posts in the series on Operation Dragon’s Hoard, check out the page I’ve set up for it at http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog/demo-game-operation-dragons-hoard/

Last weekend was Vapnartak. This was a show I’ve been particularly looking forward to; Its one of my “local” shows (thanks to one of my buddies in the wargaming being based in York) and it’s also a massive event spread over three floors (and mezzanines). Its big enough to lure many of the southern companies (such as Empress) up to the frozen north. Getting to run a game has been on my wish list for a while and I was a little disheartened when they initially reported they had ran out of space. However, thanks to the guys at York we managed to squeeze in and we were off to the races.

PRE-GAME TWEAKS

So with the whole uncertainty around if I was running a game, I didn’t manage to do the main task of making the plane look a little less hacksawed by using my new airbrush and dremel. With only two weeks, the idea of having to repair it in the event of dremel related mishaps was too much to take. Instead, the focus shifted to improving the other elements on the table.

First stage was repairing the boards. This was pretty simple – reapply the filler, textured paint and the cover up with lashings of Zandri Dust. The repair work was mostly effective. However afterwards there were one or two places where I don’t think the filler had set properly before I painted it and so it wasn’t quite as hard-wearing as it should have been. However, between these tweaks and changing how I transported the boards (bubble wrap rather than foam spacers) meant there were no massive chunks of surface that had been knocked away.

The next step was to add some more terrain elements. Finishing off another RedVectors buildings gave the OPFOR some height (useful for the marksman) and make the board look a little less empty. As I mentioned in the impressions on them, this one is great but I did have one or two events where the rooftops dropped through the rest of the building. Luckily no figures were lost to the fall damage.

Another element I think that was missing from the board was debris. Even if you ignore the straight edges on the plane wreckage, it’s easy to notice the lack of material that a plane shredding itself in mid-air would eject. This would also add some more detail to the board and provide some difficult ground to cross. Building them was pretty simple – get more plasticard, cut out kidney shapes, add plastic elements from the C130 kit and then cover in filler. Some of the plastic elements were trimmed to be closer to the ground making them look like they have sunk into the sand.

Once assembled, the same process I used on the boards again came into place. The difference this time was that I added a rough spray of grey over the plane elements, oversprayed by the base colour and then finished off with some drybrushing grey and the old faithful, Iraqi Sand. Overall I think they worked out quite well – it helps to make the board look closer to the ideal.. The only issue was again due to the filler. It hadn’t set correctly and so, as you can see above, a few bits chipped off over the weekend. It’s easily fixable but if I had more time it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. Moral of the story – don’t try to rush things at the last-minute.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to upgrade my central objective from “white SUV” to something more suitable to the mission title of “Dragon’s Hoard”. After throwing a few ideas around, the idea of a big chunk of gold was just too tempting. I’d already bought the components I was going to use as part of Bank Accessories pack from TTCombat in 2017 and just hadn’t got round to building the actual objective. With time pressure adding focus, I built the pile of gold you see above. The three stacks were to act as the base, with one of the smaller piles placed on top for detail. The other smaller pile was chopped up into single bricks to be loosely scattered around the base.

After basic construction, the next stage was adding the tarp. This was the classic modelling standby – toilet paper with watered down PVA painted over the top. Once this was dried, painting began. Rather than painting up like terrain, this was closer to a figure – sand on the base, black undercoat, base colours, lashings of agrax and then drybrushing. The tarp was painted dark blue first before going over the top with a layer of light blue. Gold on black is always interesting and it took several coats to get the look I was after. Also Agrax is still my method of choice for fixing any issues with painting.

Something else I needed was smoke cloud, both for the operators to deploy and also to mark when explosions went off. Rather than cotton wool, one of my fellow SESWC members pointed me in the direction of teddy bear stuffing. After a Saturday where I couldn’t find any in Edinburgh I went to Amazon and ordered 1kg of the stuff. Now, I may not have anticipated just how much 1kg of stuffing is. The package was literally straining at the packaging when it arrived. To put it mildly, I don’t think I’ll be buying much more, even if I decided to model shooting lines for a Napoleonic battle.

Once I’d pulled lumps of smoke off the pile, it was painting time. Rather than just dropping lumps on the board, I used some old bases to keep the clumps anchored to the ground. Rather than just using the same colour for all of the smoke, I set up a few schemes. The white smoke had Mechanicus Grey spray for the lower portion with white spray paint for the top half. The black smoke was a little more involved. The bottom was black spray done relatively close to the clump for a dark colour. The next step was black again but further away. Finally, a light dusting of grey for the top of the cloud. For a first attempt, the smoke clouds worked fine – the only change I’d make would be to get a glue gun to stick the smoke to the base.

Some of the final prep was getting some more cards printed out. This was for a few reasons but primarily, it was because I repainted my insurgents. Along with finishing the other insurgents, I had I ended up with a fair number of cards left over to fill. This was a perfect excuse to keep working on the Task Force Operator pile, with a particular focus on some of the cool gear people may want to pick (such as the airburst grenade launcher). I also added the December releases to the list of guys I have on cards so pickup games of Skrimish Sangin will be even easier to arrange. Once again, personalised card creator knocked it out the park in terms of service. Downside: I didn’t do any post processing on the images so you can plainly see which cards are from which packs I made. However, they were once again a hit.

As I mentioned in my last post, the game at Fiasco ran well but it did feel like the operators, once on the objectives, were basically fated to win which is fine but not quite as exciting as it should be. Having managed to use two of the cards in the new pack for some Technicals, I decided that the operators going loud (be that by lots of gunfire or by blowing the cockpit) should prompt the arrival of some insurgents reinforcements. This basically moved the response squad from a building to a much larger threat, as a four man team of veterans were accompanied by two technicals with HMGs. The operators, thanks to the technicals lacking armour and BLUFOR having brought AT weapons, would find it relatively easy to destroy these reinforcements, as long as they react fast enough. This also makes the end game as exciting as the start, forcing the players to change-up the plan rather than getting all the time in the world to work out how best to approach the problem.

DETAILS OF THE DAY

After setting up the boards on Saturday afternoon (thanks to traders and game organisers being let in early), Sunday morning was a quite relaxed affair where we were able to turn up, get the figures out and then get ready for everyone turning up. Once again, we managed to run the mission three times, rotating players and observers each time.

Game 1 was the usual show started in that I get to play against my number 2. As well as making the game look busy while everyone is doing the early morning lap of the show, it’s also a chance to iron out issues and show off exciting gameplay. Game 1 had a nice mix of stealth and violent gunplay with BLUFOR achieving most of their objective before we called time.

Game 2 brought in some of the public to participate. I actually disappeared off for my lunch break during this battle so I didn’t see all of it but there was everything from awesome sniper shots, some clever tactics and a slightly explosive fumble that luckily didn’t cause any harm other than the need for some fresh pants.

Heading for the black box leads to some close quarters gun battles.

The final game of the day showed just how deadly Skirmish Sangin can be. Thanks to the operators picking a lot of explosive weapons (ranging from two AT4s to the multiple grenade launcher and airburst grenade launcher) the game was all action all the time. With both BLUFOR players ignoring stealth in favour of all action all the time, this was one game where the technicals were actually rolled out. The .50cal scared a few people, but the return fire was able to cut

The pickup takes an airburst round, shredding the insurgents near it
Later on, the MGL gunner engages the horde of technicals heading for the gold.

THOUGHTS ON VAPNARTAK

That was the game, how was the show? Well, apart from two evacuations after someone set the smoke alarm off twice, it was a fantastic show. Vapnartak does really well thanks to its timing at the start of the year, dragging in everyone looking to pickup new projects for a new year. The range of sellers is always great, and I was very excited to see both Spectre and Empress there. The combination of these two (plus people like Pig Iron Productions and Crooked Dice) is perfect for any ultramodern gamers.

Speaking of gamers, thanks to the size of York it’s perfect for meeting up with people you’ve only talked to online. Putting voices to names is always exciting and getting to talk about the hobby is one of my favourite things.

PLANS FOR NEXT TIME

So what’s next?

  • Work on the plane – change the edges of the cut to look less uniform, curl some of the panels, add some interior details (dangling wires and cargo nets) and then tweak the paint job
  • General repair work – make sure there are no chipped edges
  • Get the new buildings from Supreme Littleness Designs ready for action – I’m really excited to get these buildings into action. As I want to build and paint them up myself, there is going to be a little bit time to put aside to get these things built up but they should improve the look of the board and provide a nice tactical challenge for the players.
  • Tweak the battle – We’re almost there. The final gameplay tweak is going to be adding another two-man patrol to the OPFOR start. However, this patrol will be further back – they are not designed to be sentries, instead they will be backup once the action starts.

Something else I’m thinking about is future games. In the projects post for this year I’d mentioned my plan to do a second demo game, with its first run at Fiasco. As fun as this would be, one of the things I realised is that I kind of missed going to Vapa as a customer rather than as someone demoing. Chatting to the figure makers was limited to during a few small breaks. I also didn’t get to do as much browsing as I would like. Combining this with possible work schedules and I think I’ll be having a year off. Game 2 will be bumped back, giving me some more time to work on what exactly I want to do.

CONCLUSION

I’m so glad that we managed to show off at York. I’m even more glad that people really seemed to enjoy it. I had lots of great feedback from people (as always, a downed C130 draws the eye) and was really happy that lots of people totting cameras stopped to take proper photos. Seeing as the planned items is also much smaller, I think we are almost there with this game. Fingers crossed, the version shown at Hammerhead will be the definitive version, perfect for its final planned showing. So keep your eyes open for the final part of Operation Dragon’s Hoard at Hammerhead in March.

Spectre Operations: Building a Force – Mobility, Protection, Firepower

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)

Firepower

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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

Mobility is somewhere else we can split into two regarding what it offers:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.

Protection

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.

Wargaming Week 22/01/2018

Let’s start, covering the 15th through to the 21st of January.

BLOG STUFF

Last week’s post was looking at December’s release from Spectre. I really like this little set of releases – its exciting to see some new weapons for the older ranges, giving them more options on the battlefield. It will be cool to see just how much gear the Task Force Operators end up getting, especially as you’ll not be using a huge number of them.

NEWS

Last week was a little too quiet for news updates in the field of 28mm Modern. I’m thinking many of the big companies are getting ready for Vapnartak in early February.

GAMING

No gaming last week, too busy finishing off a few personal things.

However, slightly related to gaming is a new project I’ve started work on. I’m not quite ready to give out many details on it just yet, but the plan is to make something a little different that can be used to generate scenarios for any ultramodern game.

PURCHASES

The first part of “Look at all the companies” has arrived. A small order from SASM in the states arrived on my desk after about a week in transit which was pretty good. Inside was a pack of 3D printed plastic water bottles (which I’ll cover when I do an update on project technical) and the Operator Juarez pack. There will be more details in a week or two when I do the proper impressions but early impressions are mixed.

But that wasn’t the only model related thing this week. I’ve also put two orders in to some countries across the sea. There are currently packages heading my way from Warhansa in Russia and Eureka in Australia. More details when they arrive.

The final thing that arrived is a can adaptor for my airbrush. I still have a few propellant cans left over and, rather than simply putting them to one side, my plan is to use them up before getting a compressor. Unfortunately, the different hose size from my old adapter meant I had to get a new adaptor sent out. However, now I’m ready for airbrushing time!

HOBBY

Not a huge amount of hobby time this week sadly – did a few more block colours on the insurgents and got the SASM figures ready for painting. Too busy!


That’s it for this update, expect more updates next week!

Impressions: Spectre’s December Releases

After the massive pile of releases in November, December saw a bit more of a focused set. For all of those who didn’t make it to Crisis, this was our chance to get hold of a set of useful support options for some of the other ranges. I’m always a fan of them going back to add new figures to the current lines rather than just pushing forward – when playing a skirmish game, it’s nice to have multiples of each role so you never end up with duplicates when outfitting your squad.

Task Force Nomad Sniper – Alfa

Task Force Nomad has a nice mix of weapons but only has one long-range support (the airburst grenade launcher). Luckily, this guy comes equipped with a XM500 sniper rifle to deliver the killing blow. This bullpup anti-material rifle is an update of the classic M82 and (depending on the profile you choose for it) should be a monster against infantry and light vehicles. In addition to his rifle, he is also sat on his kit bag. Finally, like all Task Force Nomad figures, he’s wearing local clothing to blend in with the crowd.

Like the rest of the Task Force Nomad range, this guy is great for playing some more sneaky missions or adding to a militia force as some advisors trying to operate under cover. He is a wonderfully detailed but simple character and will probably be a nightmare for your opponent when he appears on the tabletop.

Tier 1 Operators Breacher – Alfa

The Tier 1 guys seem to get all the good stuff and I have to say that this model has my favourite combination of gear. As well as his SIG MCX, this guy is also carrying a SIX12 shotgun. This revolver fed shotgun is the newest thing, able to be reconfigured for underslung and standalone use as well as various barrels. This one has an integrally suppressed barrel which should be perfect for when you need to silently infiltrate someone. If you want to be a little louder, the operator also has an axe to hand. This is perfect for breaking through windows and shattering locks, as well as

I have to say, this is one of my favourite models that Spectre has done. I’m always a fan of breacher focused figures and the axe/shotgun combination just makes this guy a must buy. It also makes the Tier 1 range a rather useful one to pick up. It now has 12 figures, with a solid core of 7 AR equipped soldiers and everything from SMGs up to multiple grenade launchers. All it needs is a second LMG figure and it would be perfect for people not wanting to go all in with the Task Force Operator figures. The range also now has two shotgun equipped guys, perfect for fighting through urban spaces.

Task Force Operators SMG – Charlie

The MP5 is the classic SMG, associated in one of its various forms with possibly every Special Operations Force in the world. That said, the availability of compact carbines and the rise in body armour can mean that it’s a little underpowered, leaving many to upgrade to its younger cousin the MP7. The two packs of SMG figures for the Task Force Operator range have only been using the newest kit so I was a little surprised when I found out that this latest figure was armed with the iconic 9mm subgun.

The model is posed in a pretty dynamic way, gun tilted to a 45 degree angle as he moves forward. From looking closely it has a retractable stock, red dot, laser and what appears to be a combined torch/foregrip. The barrel is also long enough to spot that it’s a integrally suppressed version. Overall, a pretty fantastic setup for sweeping rooms quietly. He also has the rest of the required Task Force Operator gear (helmet, sidearm, plate carrier, shades) along with a small assault pack.

Task Force Operators AT4 – Alfa

I am a fan of Professionals and Elites taking a Light Anti-Tank weapon in each squad for games of Spectre. Being able to hit back at RPG teams with a taste of their own medicine or knock out vehicles in a single hit is a useful bit of kit in the toolbox.  We’ve already seen the AT4 in the vehicle stowage pack so it was only a matter of time before we actually saw a figure with one.

This figure has the AT4 out and ready to fire. He also has a 416 (with magnified red dot, PEQ box and suppressor) slung in front of him. As you’d expect, he is rolling with the required Task Force Operator kit but with a much more complete plate carrier than the SMG operator. Plenty of storage places to carry extra gear.

The other cool thing with this release was that Spectre have released some weapon profiles for two variants of the AT4 which can be found on the page for this item. You can now pick between the HEAT round for blasting tanks or the HE for infantry killing. The HE round loses the Tank Killer ability and drops in lethality but increases the frag distance by 2″ making it much better for groups. Seeing as it’s a single shot weapon, I’d force the player using it to pick the

Task Force Operators MG – Bravo

Finally, the last figure from the release is a new operator with a LMG. For anyone who didn’t get the US SOF machine gunners from the early days of Spectre, you’ve been stuck with two LMG models. This guy should help to extend your options when it comes to building your team. What’s really cool is that he isn’t using the usual Minimi derivative but instead the Ultimax Mk5. This gun is considered very accurate for a LMG, with handling closer to an assault rifle and the ability to use a 100 round drum for when things get hot or standard STANAG mags to work with the rest of his team.

As for the model, he’s got the drum mag attached as well as red dot/magnifier combination and PEQ for laser/light duty. He seems to be wearing a low profile chest rig but is also carrying a huge rucksack just in case the drum runs dry. As well as a pistol he has the most dangerous of weapons – the operator beard. This should make him stand out from the rest of your team. Overall I really like this model. That said, he does have one hell of an awkward painting angle when trying to the underside of his left arm.

Final Notes

So final notes:

  • Really happy to see Spectre going back and adding more to existing ranges.
  • There were one or two mould lines that needed cleaning up but it was only very minor
  • The big thing with this group was relearning how to paint colour schemes I’d done before. Luckily two of the three ranges were mostly block colours
  • I’m looking forward to getting this lot on the table!

Wargaming Week 15/01/2018

Let’s start, covering the 8th through to the 14th of January.

BLOG STUFF

This week on the blog, we took a look at a brand new ruleset Round of Fire. I was really excited to try it out and from the few games I got in over Christmas it’s definitely something I want to play more of. Hopefully I should get a few games in.

To everyone who just started reading based off being linked to my Round of Fire Impressions, welcome! I hope you enjoy all the content that’s going up over the next few weeks. We’ve got a nice mix of articles planned, from figures impressions to tactics articles to battle reports.

NEWS

Not a huge amount of news this week, but I’d recommend going over to Tiny Terrain’s Facebook page to look at some of the new models from their “War in Chechnya” campaign. Beautifully painted up by Andy Zeck, these figures look awesome. I’m struggling to work out where I can fit them in the Bazistan/Zaiweibo theatres but I’m looking forward to grabbing them once they are available.

GAMING

Nothing yet – however, there is a Spectre game on the books for the 25th so look forward to an upcoming battle report on the 26th!

PURCHASES

As it was my birthday on the monday, and it’s a dumb item I’ve been looking at for a while, I decided to spend some money on the Citadel Painting handles. Before I go further, I am sure you could get something similar for cheaper but work being 5 minutes from the nearest Warhammer shop was just too tempting. I think I’m going to do a bit more of a write-up on them after they get a bit more use but I’m currently a fan. I’m not probably going to use them for bigger batch painting jobs but for doing small numbers (where you don’t have to keep swapping out the models) they are invaluable.

HOBBY

I was busy writing the Round of Fire Impressions this week but I did manage to get some painting in. The first set of the week (and in fact the year) was finishing off the models for the December releases impressions planned for Friday. These three were more Task Force Operators so apart from some of the new gear it was a return to the usual methods of painting this lot – block out the main colours, do most of the detailing and then paint on the multicam scheme.

The next main thing I’ve been working on was repainting the Spectre insurgents. The original set was done very early on in my return to the hobby and so had a limited colour pallet of OD and tan. This was starting to look a bit tired, especially next to the militia, and so I decided that enough was enough and they were dumped into the iso. As these guys are used pretty frequently amongst my OPFOR choices, the turn around has to be pretty quickly. This is especially the case as many of the insurgents are to be used as part of the demo game and a new paint scheme means new cards are needing to be printed. I’ve only done the basic colours so far, but the plan is to paint the insurgents in a mix of camo and plain colours to make them look a little more military than their militia buddies.


That’s it for this update, expect more updates next week!

Impressions: Round Of Fire Universal Skirmish Rules

As someone who reads a lot of rules, I should really starting asking for money every time someone calls their ruleset “revolutionary” – it would probably make me more than my current Adsense performance. In most cases people trying something new end up combining elements seen elsewhere in new combinations which do play in a different way but don’t feel like a brand new game.

Round of Fire from The Lazy Games is something new. It throws the common activation systems you know and love (card based, IGO UGO) to one side, create a new concept and instead makes it the core of the game, requiring a different set of tactics to most other games. It’s also something new for this blog in that’s it’s not an ultramodern ruleset specifically – the subtitle is the “The Universal System for Skirmish Battles”. As you might expect, universal rules are a risky prospect – go too generic and its lacking in character; focus too much on one era and other time periods feel stretched to fit.

Before we start full disclosure: I was provided these rules in PDF format by the author to play and give an impression on.

First up, let’s take a look at the book. It’s currently only in PDF format (available from the Wargames Vault) although there are plans for a physical copy. Starting to flick through it, the first thing that really stands out is how it looks. 98 pages long and each page is in full colour, complete with a background that doesn’t make reading difficult but might make it rather taxing in terms of ink if you decide to print it (EDIT: The author has informed me that the Wargames Vault download includes a printer friendly version). It’s packed full of wonderful pictures and clean, useful diagrams that actually help to understand the rules rather than just act as decoration. One comment is that it is a little bit dense reading which is handy for explaining the rules but it can occasionally be a pain when flicking through to find a specific rule – there is definitely a need for a quick reference sheet. I also think the book could do with two other little elements to help with navigation – the PDF needs bookmarks added for each chapter and an index in the back would be handy.

In terms of main ideas, the game uses only simple D6s – no fancy extra dice. The core idea when rolling is that modifiers reduce or increase the number of dice you roll while successes are on a fixed value (mostly 5+). The game also does a good job being playable across different scales by using distance units for all of its ranges rather than specific inch distances. The table in the introduction chapter covers playing everything from 6mm up to 28mm and also covers both playing with a ruler/tape measure (how wargamers normally play) or using a grid system.

Image from Round of Fire

The biggest new idea has to be The Wheel. This is the core concept, the key foundation that the rest of the game is built on. Rather than IGO-UGO, the game takes place in rounds, represented by a complete rotation of the wheel. Each round is split into 8 steps, with units of both sides activating on different steps. Depending on the action a unit does in its step, its activation counter on the wheel is shifted by a certain number of steps depending on the longest action taken by a unit (more on those later). Apart from the initial location on the wheel for each unit, there is no random chance involved in future activation times – it’s all down to player choices. Because of this, tactics require some careful use of forward planning and the right actions at the right time in order to get the edge. For example, careful smaller movements take fewer steps than mad runs, giving you more time to react to the enemy at the risk that they will move into the best positions before you get there. Several other systems tie into the wheel, with suppression and shock pushing the affected units around the wheel and delaying their activation. Additionally, certain abilities reduce the cost of activations or allow you to move a unit around the wheel, giving you more options depending on your force. (if you are wanting more information on this system, the author of the rules has released the chapter on the Wheel as a free preview on the Wargames Vault)

Each counter you are moving around the wheel representing a unit and this concept is pretty cool. Units are made up from a number of elements. These can small fireteams, single specialists or a vehicle. A cool feature is that each element in a unit can be different so you could combine two fireteams and a squad leader to represent an infantry squad acting together or a vehicle and a fireteam to have some close dismounts. Units move at the same time but don’t have to do the same actions, letting two elements perform fire and maneuver very easily without worrying about not being in close activation steps to each other. On the other hand, because all elements in a unit are tied to the same activation counter, they are also more easily affected by suppression. The way to counter this is to use lots of smaller units made of single elements but that can be more expensive in terms of points and requires a little more careful planning. Each element is designed to be assigned to a card, which is a neat way of keeping track of the actions costs and vital stats.

In terms of actions, there are a few to cover. Alongside the usual movement (at one of three speeds), shooting and close combat actions there are a few other cool moves, many of which are focused on affecting the wheel. Units can choose to wait any number of steps (perfect for choosing your activation step) or go into overwatch. Overwatch is especially useful but can really slow down your units as the total cost of overwatching in terms of steps can be huge if you decide to sit and watch a gap for a long period of times. Certain units can also use a boost action, delaying their activation to speed up others units.

Two teams settle into a firefight, with the Rogue (bottom left) easily able to pick off important enemies

When it comes to engaging fire, there are a few facts to look at. Basic shooting sees you targeting the nearest enemy unit, rolling a number of dice depending on your weapons attack value and then modifying the number of dice based on cover. Target values of dice depend on ranges and once you have found out how many successes you have, your opponent gets to roll defence dice. The defence dice, made up of armour, toughness and the number of successful hits, will nearly always outnumber the attacking dice (although needing a 5 or more to block damage) so it never feels like the defender doesn’t have a chance to keep their units alive. Certain weapons affect this system such as sniper rifles (which remove a number of defence dice from the pool) making them feel more decisive than others. Successful hits also cause shock, which pushes that unit back in the wheel, reducing their effectiveness.

The other shooting options are to assault (moving and shooting in exchange for having less chance of causing damage) or to suppress. This ignores cover and armour but gives up the chance of causing damage. Instead any successful hit will push the suppressed unit back in the wheel, letting you maintain initiative. The is perfect when engaging elite armoured troops or those in cover, while also letting you move up your troops for the killing blow. You can also setup deadly crossfires (which allows for multiple units to shoot) or, if your units are about to be engaged when you are close enough on the wheel, use reaction fire.

Close combat occurs, bogging down both parties as the fire fight goes on over their heads

Finally there is close combat. Like shooting, the attacker rolls a number of dice depending on melee skills and weapons (which also affect the required score to succeed) and then the defenders rolls against them, with extra dice added for melee toughness and From my games, it really doesn’t feel like a focus of the game. It takes up a lot of steps to fight and the defender has a massive advantage so really, unless you’re packing big knives or want to bog down your opponent, the killing blow will be executed through shooting and assault actions. In more melee focused settings, I could see this defender advantage being a bit more dramatic but for ultramodern, its an action of last resort.

The core rules may be universal but you can’t really play a game without detailing some example forces. The book goes for a modern/near future sci-fi setting, giving you access to a range of elements from the regular soldiers and insurgents to combat droids and heroic specialists (including my favourite The Slab). All of these units can be picked by any of the factions (which range from the brown coated militia and regular army up to The Agency and a tech focused team made mostly of droids) but there is a system in place to help make your lists themed correctly.

Most of the element costs are expressed as both points and an icon to represent a token. Each type of token means something different, such as Speed token which is linked to upgrades and troops that give your force an edge in movement or the Tech icon for the more prototype kit. The points values of each token depends on the force – the militia would only pay 10 points for a speed token while the slower regular army pays 20. The creates a nice balance and stops every force being the same. The other thing that helps to theme forces is the rewards charts which detail how much VP you can gain or lose during a battle. As well as the usual actions like killing enemies or taking casualties, there are VP modifiers for faction specific tasks. The Agency, for example, gains lots of additional VP if an enemy specialist is captured but nothing for killing them – after all, their focus is on the intel, not the body count.

The Spearhead operator (just above the black SUV) is taking full advantage of the corner cover

Elements can also take upgrades to add new weapons and new abilities. Some of these also cost tokens (such as the common ability to take a run in your first action rather than being forced to walk) again helping to theme each of the forces. There are multiple pages of abilities for both weapons and troops, giving you plenty of starting points when building your own units for a custom time period. As well as the modern/near future setting, there is also some discussion on gunpowder and medieval weapons which should make creating some forces for less firearm focused time periods easier. I’d expect force lists (including new factions and elements) to be released as the game goes on. There are fillable PDFs available on the Wargames Vault for writing down the details of your force.

Finally at the back of the book there is a big section on scenarios. With some general guidance on different types of objectives and more details on victory points, the final chapter includes 9 scenarios for you to play. There is a nice mix of symmetrical and asymmetrical setups on offer, with situations such as rushing for extraction or fighting the other team for control of a crashed cargo plane. Each of the scenarios are packed full of detail, and often include additional rules to help make the battle feel a little more unique.

So what are my overall thoughts? I really recommend giving this game a go. The new initiative system and simple core mechanics make it very exciting to play, requiring some careful forward planning. By being a universal system, it also feels like a great sandbox (even more so than usual) just begging for you to dig through it and try out all the various scenarios. When playing with my usual opponent in York, it didn’t take long for us to big up the key ideas and start planning and (more importantly) pull off some really cool maneuvers. It might not match other games for getting the feel of Ultramodern gaming 100% but it is an incredibly fun way of getting the toys on the table and playing something that challenges your tactical brain. I’m also excited to see what the future brings – from talking to him, the author seems very keen to keep adding new scenarios, settings and more.

I’m planning a few more games of Round of Fire, as well as creating some addons to really theme the game to the Ultramodern setting. So keep your eyes on the blog for more details!

Oh you would prefer the impressions in Great Big Ultramodern Wargaming Rules Comparison titles? Okay, I can do that. Click read more to see them!

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