So after months of me painting models I finally managed to find some guys to go up against using the Spectre rules. Thanks to their speed, I managed to play two games pretty quickly. If you want to go straight to my thoughts on the rules, head down and look for the big “The Rules” sign.
In both games saw two professional armies going up against each other. Both were around 500 points and apart from a few tweaked weapons (assault rifles swapped out for compact carbines, an LMG replaced with a DMR) both sides shared similar gear. In addition, both sides also were fully kitted up with gear, carrying pistols, body armour, radio comms and frag/smoke grenades. Both matches were all out brawls until we ran out of turns (around 5 each game).
Game one saw me playing as the Brits up against the SAS. My opponent managed to dig in a sniper team who could over watch most of the approaches and then really took hold of the buildings. Ignoring a poorly thrown smoke grenade, the sniper traded shots with my own marksman and a SAW gunner but the stone bridge they were crouching on were pretty good at stopping round. I managed to get a breaching team to blast through a window and into a large house near the centre, planning to defend it to the last.
However, I failed realise just how horrifying grenades can be. My opponent stacked up, threw in three frags and wiped out two out of the three brits who made it into the building. However, the grizzled sarge managed to hold his own against the attackers beating them down in close combat. Outside, the enemy DMR and sniper picked off my long range guys. However, hero of the match was the LMG gunner of the assault team, who go caught outside, dove into a haystack and then kicked ass. He injured the sniper at long range, downed the lead of an assault team and then forced them back with a frag grenade.
End result: 5 kills on each side, the SAS had gained more ground pushing right across the board.
Game two saw the SAS replaced with a set of Empress’s rather good looking Australians. This time the Brits started in the town, quickly moving to hold the courtyard and take positions in the ruins. The Aussies pushed up into a good set of firing positions in the scrubs and the building corner directly across from dug in Brits. While the last game saw a lot of movement and special tactics, the second game was an intense firefight, with the medics on both sides keeping busy. In fact one of the injured Brits managed to down a Aussie with his pistol. The game ended with a last push by the Anzacs, only just being held back by the remaining Brits.
End result: 4 British Casualties, 5 Australians Casualties.
Overall results – a good time had and some cunning plans laid.
So the rules. This was my first set of games with them and so there was a fair bit of learning to do. However, they are simple enough to learn yet still contain a reasonable amount of detail to make cool stuff happen. I do need to make a quick reference sheet for it though as flipping back and forth through the PDF did start to slow things down.
The first major change from my previous games (mainly 40k and a bit of Flames of War) was the fact the turns take place at the same time. The player with initiative does their moves, then the other player moves and so on and so forth. This gives it a much faster pace and also makes getting initiative a lot more important than I have found previously (for example you can only assault someone who hasn’t moved so the first player gets to pick and choose who gets into the speedy death of CQB). I also like the addition of the command phase, where cool and unique orders (such as going into Overwatch or choosing to move tactically in order to be super operator) can be deployed. The command test was kind of simple for both sides (probably because everyone was wired up with radios) so I would like to see how it is with less professional teams. Overwatch played a pretty key part but wasn’t too overwhelming – stopping the character from shooting in their own phase really makes it a risk to use rather than a guarantee of success.
Movement is simple and easy to learn (6″ move or 6″ + agility sprint), with a nice set of rules for the use of buildings and gear. It was odd to be throwing smoke grenades in a movement phase but it makes sense seeing as it directly affects what happens next. Breaching is also cool – I look forward to making my own terrain so I can have alternative walls with breaching points already made up. It’s also cool how the game lets you drag and move casualties and captives, letting you have that movie moment of a teammate dragging a colleague to cover while the rest of the team put down some fire.
Shooting is a barrel of very violent laughs. First up, it makes little sense not to shoot (unless you are sprinting or the mission demands it) as it adds to the number of suppression points the target is currently dealing with. This initially sounds slightly silly but it does make sense – on a 4×4 board, the ranges would be close quarters firefight rather than pot shots so constant suppression would be vital. Suppression didn’t turn the tide of either of the battles but it still made some encounters interesting. I think this might be down to both sides using professionals as militia might be a little more undone by suppressive fire. The roll off with modifiers used for shooting (shooters skill + modifiers vs defenders defence + modifiers) takes a little while to get used to but once you get the gist of it, it is pretty damn slick. We were able to chew through shooting actions very rapidly once the important numbers were in place.
Weapons also are not limited by range (apart from thrown ones) which is cool, letting you trade accurate fire for at least a slim chance of getting a guy. Shotguns suffer especially badly with the range intervals but I was constantly shooting LMGs at just over their 1st interval and simply suffering the penalty loss. I was also suffering from the use of automatic fire which lets you shoot multiple times (and at multiple targets) but with a modifier. The special rules for guns were many but were easy to learn with crew served being especially well used thanks to its +1 to hit. They do help to make different guns interesting and useful – seeing the compact weapons at close range was certainly an exciting setup.
As mentioned above, grenades are incredibly deadly. Their +1 to kill in buildings cost me most of a fire team. I do need to get some clarification on the scatter rules. Primarily, what happens when they are thrown inside a building and scatter to a position outside? Do they stop at the wall or are they assumed to bounce through a window. Similarly, what happens when they scatter into a building? Do I get a chance to roll my defence against a scattered grenade or am I just dead? I can see them being overused on very terrain dense maps which could be interesting.
Once the rounds start hitting then people start dropping – every hit is probably going to be a kill or at least a serious wound. Only on a roll of 1 does the target get away scot free. This makes shooting less of a chore than it could be. It does however include bleedout and this is another point I think I need some clarification on. You calculate how long it will take a soldier to bleed out by rolling a dice. It’s possible to get a one, meaning you have a turn to get someone who can stop the bleeding or a medic to heal them. However, the rules also say to iterate the countdown at the start of the turn. So its possible for someone to be downed with a one and then immediately die when the turn counter ticks over. In the end, we simply gave a turns grace on the bleedout and started it going the following turn but it would be interesting to hear what the designers intended.
If you thought the shooting phase was bad in terms of body count, the close combat phase is even more deadly. Close quarters combat is a little lightweight but to be honest I’m not that fussed – changing it to a simple roll off rather than 40k’s third edition table of combat resolution based horror makes it vital but not overwhelming in comparison to shooting phase. I was initially confused why suppression didn’t affect close combat but let’s be fair, a guy trying to club you to death with an AK is probably more worrying than the burst of fire flying over your head. Being able to choose between killing your opponents or taking them captive is a cool touch, as is the ability to stealth takedown guys if you use the tactical move mode. Its great if you want to try to do a stealthy HVT grab with your SAS guys before dragging him off past his buddies.
Gear and weapons are packed full of cool toys and useful things – its hard to think of items they have missed. Weapons range from the surprisingly deadly pistols up to thermobaric RPG rounds and vehicle mounted cannons. Gear includes climbing sets, body armour and more good stuff (and by more good stuff I mean RIOT SHIELDS). There are also vehicle rules but sadly we didn’t get to use them in this game – they seem interesting but a limited as they only include three types (technicals, motorbikes and a BMP1). Finally, the army lists are pretty good – I found it super easy to make up lists using other brand models without having to proxy which is always a good way to test out a ruleset. The gear remains constant in price across lists but its availability changes (only elite operators can take AA12 shotguns for example), which makes sense but does make the Elite list effectively a giant toybox. Commander Assets and warlord rules help to throw in some little perks – I could have really used the UAV’s ability to swap who has initiative and some of the warlord’s options lets you block off roads or bring in more guys to help level the metaphorical playing field (rather than the AC130 that literally levels the playing field).
Now there are a few things I find odd. First up, the current book is missing some of the advanced rules such as the air support rules and nightfighting which is a little unusual seeing as they are referenced elsewhere. There are also currently no scenarios so its down to players to make them up or adapt them from other rules sets. In terms of gameplay, I find it a little odd that suppression only affects one target in a group. I can see the balance reason but I’m pretty sure MG rounds flicking over your buddies head would give you pause for thought. Finally, it really needs a quick reference sheet. I’m more than happy to go off and make one but one styled up like the rules would be nice.
I did read up on Tiny Terain’s points and although I disagree a little, I do think his point about spotting is an important one (and you should go and read up on his views as he wrote them better than I could). Skirmish Sangin relies heavily on it and I think it does make for a much more tense battle. Part of me wonders if they are keeping the spotting rules back to be part of the night fighting set (where it obviously plays a bigger part) but I would like to hear their opinions on it.
So to wrap up, bullet points:
- The rules are awesome – fast paced, feels realistic yet also cinematic.
- Machine guns are great bases of fire and superb to suppress everyone. (I bet a .50 cal would be fun..)
- Grenades are terrifying and their rules need a little clarification when it comes to scatter
- Characters die super fast – if you are hit, good chance you are dead. However, they need a little more clarification when it comes to the bleedout counter.
- The book needs the advanced rules and scenarios and a quick reference sheet. I would also buy a nice paper version as well.
- They are really good and really free.
Overall I had a great time with these rules. They are perfect for a pickup game and I look forward to play some more, especially with all these VIPs and objectives I have in my army box. I look forward to playing against my dad at Easter seeing as a long time back he also tried to understand the 3rd edition combat resolution table and this should be a little more up his street.
So what’s next? Well, I did decide to get two more UKSF sets to round out my collection – the low profile and assault team were just too tempting. I also grabbed the tokens (something I am VERY glad about after today’s games) and a random chance box – really excited what cool models could be in it. I’ll also be going to Salute at the end of April for the first time to see if I can avoid the temptation of more Empress Brits and also to say hi to the Spectre team and see what’s coming next at their stall.
In current model news, I’ve got more painting to do. I’ve got some VIPs done and now I’m looking at doing the masses of mercs I have. I also am going to try doing some conversion work to turn my second dual purpose dog into everyone’s favourite helicopter killing pooch. It’s not a huge amount of work but I’ve never done anything so precise. Hopefully the SAS team will appreciated the heavily armoured friend. I’m also going to look at making some modular buildings for some CQB shenanigans, looking at a style seen in Somalia or East Africa.
Overall, tabletop wargaming is super fun and I am so glad I decided to get involved with it again.