Impressions: Spectre Operations Version 2

Disclaimer: I have been involved in the development of Spectre Operations Version 2 along with a group of other playtesters.

It’s finally here. Spectre Operations was released in 2016, the first rulebook the company had released. Now, after hundreds of games (at least) and all the experience that comes from that, Spectre have released a second edition. The plan was improve several areas that have been needing enhancement while still keeping the core mechanics everyone knows and loves in place.

And by god, I think they did it. Wasting no more time, lets dig in.

The Book

Before we go into the mechanics and their changes, let’s talk first about the book itself. Version 1 was the very first rulebook they had produced and, although very good, there were plenty of complaints by people about just finding the rules needed to play the game.

Version 2 is a much thicker book, packing in more stuff as well as some improvements to the rules explanations. There are now plan view diagrams for many sections to help explain the concepts, as well it still being packed full of colour photos of Spectre’s expansive range and lovely scenery (as well as making me jealous). Getting around is much easier too, with a handy index at the back and a well thought out contents page at the front.

As well as the actual rules there are plenty of other additions to help you get ready to play. A big chunk of the appendix is dedicated to a tactics guide, including some military terms to help make your scenarios sound exciting. There are also some other new additions that, as well as adding new rules, also help to really push the feel of doing some special operations shenanigans – things liked picking deployment options and it adjusting how many troops you can get out the door using that method. Additionally, every command level has some pages helping to describe the types of forces represented by each type.

Overall, this is a good book to settle down and read, worth more than just a quick once over.

The Rules

Of course, even if the book looks pretty, the actual rules are really what is important. Version 2 is very much an evolution of Version 1 rather than a total rewrite. The core ideas, things like the opposed dice rolls and fundamental interactions are still here. You’re still gaining the initiative, performing command actions, performing tactical tricks and movements before actually engaging. Weapons concepts are mostly the same, with range intervals providing modifications to hit that can be counteracted by a selection of factors. If you liked Version 1, all of that is still here.

Suppression

The first major change comes with Suppression. Now, this is a core mechanic of the game; I can understand that changing this would be a concern for everyone involved. But I think it was needed. If I may get a little deep, the suppression mechanic was one place where the ‘soul’ of the game felt a little split. Despite being focused on squads and teams, suppression effects were felt on the individuals which would lead to some events that just felt off while also requiring far too much bookkeeping. In addition, the fact Elites and Professionals were limited to only a few points meant they could run rings around their less well-trained opponents. Overall, the core ideas were there but it needed a second look.

So for Version 2, the system has been drastically changed. Rather than the number of suppression points on each individual affecting just them, each suppression point instead pushes the squad down as a whole, representing the rest of the squad reacting to the incoming fire. Once a squad has more points than the command value of the squad, then it’s time to test against the squad leader’s Command value. Pass, and you keep the points but remain in the fight. Fail, and you gain a suppression level. At the end of each turn, all unused suppression points are removed but the suppression levels are maintained.

Suppression levels start off with some pretty nasty effects on your shooting and movement but then gets more adverse as the fire keeps coming in. At the worst level, Routed, the squad must immediately fall back, seriously affecting your plans. In addition, the suppression levels reduce your initiative rolls as the start of each turn by different set amounts rather than totting up some ridiculous value (never forget 22 points of suppression on the lone marksman back in the beta testing days). The game also still gives your elite and professional forces a bonus, as they can’t be routed – if pinned down, they have enough training to weather the storm.

As you can probably tell, this makes the whole game much simpler while still maintaining the key idea that coming under fire is a bad time. The reduction in book keeping also helps to keep the game rolling, speeding up the modifier tests and improving the flow. I’m a big fan of it.

Vehicles

The second major change is vehicles. And as someone who was shouting about how broken the vehicle system was since the original beta, I am glad to see this change being made. The version in 1st Edition combined “to hit” and “to penetrate” into a single roll. Although fast-paced, it did lead to some very strange situations, especially with low-quality fighters engaging armoured vehicles. To be frank, this system really put me off using Spectre for anything vehicle based.

In Version 2, the system has been modified. Rolling to hit is done as with any other shooting action, the defender using their agility stat to represent their driving skill. If it hits, then it’s time to check for penetration. Otherwise, it’s just the usual suppression (depending on the vehicle’s attributes).

Weapon statlines now include a penetration value, showing you how effective they are at going through vehicle armour. Some weapons, like the RPG HEAT rounds, have variable penetration which makes them an interesting throw of the dice with every shot. No matter how the value is gained, penetration determines if the shot actually does anything interesting. Too low and it bounces off. Otherwise, it’s time to roll on the penetration table and then add extra to the roll depending on just how much overkill the shot was – an ATGM hitting a civilian car adds 11+D6 to the roll, almost guaranteeing the local saloon car is being turned into scrap metal. One element I do like is the fact that a weapon can’t roll higher on the table than it’s penetration value – a battle rifle isn’t going to cause a K-kill on any vehicle, despite what Hollywood may have told you.

The rest of the system remains the same – vehicles can have a selection of attributes that affect how they are used (including the addition of Remote Weapon Stations) and what incoming fire effects them. The examples list has been extended, including different eras of tanks and IFVs, letting T34s feel different to the latest Challenger 2.

So what does this do? Well, it makes vehicles actually interesting to fight with, rather than just almost invulnerable boxes. As you say in the last battle report, vehicles need to be very careful when coming under fire. Instead, they need to play to their strengths, using speed. I now have no real problems with getting my collection of vehicles on the board with Spectre.

New Stuff

In addition, there are a pile of new elements to the rules. Rather than going through exact details, here is a quick list of the new things.

  • More guns! – Spectre has added a pile of new guns. As an example, the SCAR-H can be used in a variety of roles, from CQB (a lower RI, perfect for suppressing) all the way up to dedicated DMR platform (coming in with a scope). There are also additional rules for some of these guns, including a rather interesting change to sniper weapons to increase their utility.
  • UAV rules – covering both Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Aerial vehicles, these rules let you add this brand new tech to the battlefield.
  • CBRNE Rules – Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive rules add a new edge to operations, forcing you to deal with having to wear specialist kit and adverse conditions. The EOD rules I can see being used a lot with counter-IED operations.
  • ECM Rules – Multiple Electronic Countermeasures now have rules, letting you model anything from backpack devices to vehicle-mounted systems and even an off-table asset. There are some really interesting ideas in this mechanic.
  • Campaign Rules – A whole section is devoted to the basics of a campaign system, including rough scenario generation and even details for mid-campaign advancement.
  • Insertation Methods – I really like this. There are now a few options about picking how your force has reached the battlefield. Many of these limit numbers or mean light vehicles start having to set up the weapon systems, letting you focus on the narrative behind this mission.
  • Specialists – A really small section but adding in a few example specialists (like hackers or NBC scientists) will help to add some more themed elements to certain scenarios. Now it’s even easier to reenact a few famous missions by having some lower overall skill guys coming along to do a specific task.

Points

Okay, let’s talk about a pretty major change which some may find controversial. The Version 2 rulebook does not contain any points values. From having talked to the team at Spectre and from posts the group, this is intended to really focus the game on the narrative play. Now I can see this is an issue for people wanting to do simple pickup games and new players trying to balance but there are plenty of starting scenarios to work from in the book. That said, the points values will be available on the Spectre website, letting them quickly update them if something is found to be unbalanced.

On a personal note, I think this is fine. Spectre has never been designed to a competitive game – it’s all about the scenario. Balance is something we strive too hard for in such a game focused on realism, as life just isn’t fair. Forcing players to have to deal with real-world situations (including many which are bull crap) and making them adapt to it is something I enjoy as a scenario writer as it breaks people out of trying to game the system rather than thinking tactically.

Minor changes

Finally, there are some minor changes. Little things like the removal of personal medkits help to speed up the game and reduce paperwork while the addition of Rapid Fire to the standard pistol will help to make small scale, low firepower games (like cops vs robbers) much more exciting. Weather and Night Fighting have both been extended, taking the core ideas and adding more detail to both.

There are so many of these tweaks that i’m sure I’ll spot more as I keep playing.


Overall, I really like what the Spectre team have done with Version 2. It’s taken the core that I loved, fixed my major issues and helped to expand the system out with new possibilities. I can’t wait to get this ruleset on the table even more, getting to grips with some of the interesting systems that Spectre includes.

If you didn’t like Version 1, there are just enough changes to make it worth a look again. If you loved Version 1, this is just more of what you love. Either way, I’d reccomend taking a look!

Impressions: Spectre LTV

The Humvee, despite being seen on the battlefield all over the world, was not designed for a combat role. It was a utility transport, unarmoured, suited for rushing around behind friendly lines. However, nothing goes to plan, and every since 1993, they have found themselves in the line of fire. Post 2001, they soon became upgraded and burdened down, the sheer weight of upgrades needed to survive the counter-insurgency world stressing power units and risking lives.

At the same time, to fight the rise in IEDs in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army developed the MRAP program. These Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles were easily able to survive strikes that would destroy humvees, carrying troops straight through hostile lands. However, these vehicles were huge to maximise protection, and their sheer size made them less appropriate for the modern battlefield against near-peer adversaries.

After another US Army run military procurement program, Oshkosh (the makers of the M-ATV) eventually won with a smaller vehicle that shared many of the features of it’s bigger brother but more suited for a wider range of combat operations. This vehicle is slowly being rolled out to full scale productions, but reports from troops in the field are very positive.


The Kit

Having made the Humvee, it was only a matter of time before Spectre would look at assembling it’s replacement, a vehicle they have called the LTV. Thanks to the common systems (such as stowage or turret packs), a whole host of options are ready for players wanting to build one. The LTV is a modular vehicle, the rear deck easily switched. For this initial release, Spectre chose to go with the vehicle most suited for support your SOF ground troops. Although it should be noted, the pieces for the rear deck came in a separate baggie to the rest of the vehicle. I’d be keeping my eyes on Spectre to see what else they have up their sleeve.

As you can see, the LTV is a multi-part resin kit. Much like the other Spectre kits, there is some clean up required, along with the usual washing. I only noticed one minor piece of protruding resin but it wasn’t anything that required more than a quick file down and a spot of green stuff. Assembly was relatively simple too – I recommend just taking it slow and looking at the website as a reference. The most troublesome thing was the rear access hatch, but that simply glued in place on the back of the cab.

Of course, you can’t have a vehicle without stowage and addons so I decided to break out a few pieces to make it looked lived in. A rear gun mount took one of Spectre’s upcoming resin M240 (a preview the team passed me to take a look at), ideal for covering your operators dismounting. In addition, a jamming antenna adds some vertical height while some packs make it feel like a home base. Finally, a Javelin tube lets the vehicle be used as a resupply when the operators need to grab a new ATGM.

And here it is assembled, in the bare resin. As you can see, lots of detail in the resin. I didn’t find any air bubbles in my vehicle and I’m really happy with the quality. There are a few barely visible print lines that came over from the master (mainly on the windows) but the undercoat and paint covered them.

And from behind, you can see the detail on rear section, especially on the outer edges of the cargo bay.

Painting

In terms of painting, it’s the usual tricks. Desert Tan spray from Humbrol over a black undercoat, touched up with some brush work. From there, blue on the windows, black on the tyres, etc. Drybrush grey over the black to give it a shine, drybrush Iraqi sand to show dust. Agrax Earthshade wash, dabbed off to make sure it doesn’t look odd. Then finally, Desert Tan and Iraqi Sand drybrushes to give it the sandy look.

Comparisons

So size comparisons, between the three SOF vehicles with heavy weapons you can pick up from Spectre. As you can see the LTV sits tall over the humvee and the technical, even with no weapon mounted. It isn’t that much wider either, making it still able to fit down most city streets.

Okay, the M-ATV continues to be stupidly sized. Not only is it taller, but it’s also longer and wider (making me very worried about the idea of some of the actual MRAPs in 28mm). The LTV presents a really nice compromise between the Humvee and the M-ATV, much like in real life. In addition, you can see that both vehicles tower over the operators that use them. They are all a sight to see on the field.


Conclusion

Overall, I’m really impressed with the LTV. It’s a lovely satisfying chunk of resin to assemble and put on the table, perfect for giving your operators a tactical edge. There will be nothing cooler than the sight of this rumbling down the table toward the bad guys, a few of your shooters using it for cover while it’s RWS hammers away to keep the enemies head down. Expect to see it on the field soon.

Also, I might just be looking at picking up a few more, letting me deploy an entire team to the field in mine resistant vehicles. Of course before that, I think I need a few more weapon options. Maybe something with a selection of options to blow enemies away.

Impressions: Spectre Miniatures Ember Team

To say I have an interest in Black Powder Red Earth is putting things mildly. I think it’s an incredible series that, despite having a few issues with the pacing sometimes, details the activities of a PMC named Cold Harbor operating in international hotspots, all detailed in a striking (and sometimes very unpleasant) art style. It feels unlike any other comic book, presenting a realistic take on the world packed full of action and operators operating operationally.

More importantly, I love the look of these operators. Equipped to the nines with the latest military kit, their faces covered by bandannas, these guys look operators. Hearing that Spectre had managed to sign an agreement with Echelon Software to bring these guys to the wargaming table made me very happy indeed.

The first pack represents several operators from Ember team, a force shown in the Black Powder Red Earth Yemen series. This set includes 6 operators, all equipped with heavily modified 5.56 carbines. As someone who has an interest in all the latest gear (such is the curse of the airsofter) it was easy to spot that these guys are covered in all the latest and greatest kit. The carbines are decked out with parts that you may recognise if you have been on the BCM website recently, including cool details like offset red dot sights alongside short dot scopes or upgraded stocks and rail kits. The operators themselves, over their civilian clothing, have Haley Strategic rigs and belts. Even their side arms, a tiny detail, are setup like they are in the comics, in custom holsters and with red dots on their slides.

It’s important to note that this pack includes the NOD sprue – you don’t need to buy additional packs unless you want to swap some of the two tubes out for the panoramic versions (maybe your operators got a particularly well paying client this time).

As with all these Spectre figures, the posing is one of the unique features that sets them out from other manufacturers. This pack has a neat variation in terms of poses with two in the firing pose, two in the rapid movement and the last two readying up. Out of all of them though, I really have to say I’m a fan of the guy using his backup optics (pictured here in his red shirt). However, all of them look as cool and dynamic as expected.

It’s well worth looking at the selection of operators currently available from Spectre and showing off the different options each of them provides.

From left to right:

  • US Rangers – Much more uniform look. Everyone wearing the same uniform with similar kit
  • Task Force Operators – Varied style of uniform and equipment. Everything from full-sized plate carriers down to low profile chest rigs. Also the widest selection of weapons and poses
  • Ember Team – Civilian clothing mixed with a very specific set of gear and weaponry
  • Tier 1 Operators – Military-style clothing (can be painted as camo or plain colours), a wide selection of modern weapon systems, chest rigs and soft headgear.
  • SWAT – Older style of kit and weapon however still pretty uniform.

Painting wise, I decided to set these guys up as the QRF for my other Tier 1 guys, having stopped long enough to grab their helmets and NODs before going out on the street. As part of this, these guys were once again treated to the irregular force painting scheme I’ve used before, By picking a small number of colours and making sure each is used in different locations on a few models, it helps to make the team look a little more unified. With these operators, there was also a third region (as well as the shirt and trousers) with the bandannas to populate and I’m pretty happy with the overall look.

So what do I think? Well, I think Spectre has done a fantastic job of capturing the style of the Ember team operators. These guys look exactly like the team from the comics, and if you go hard on the original scheme you could make some really impressive looking models.

If your warzone doesn’t include Cold Harbor, then these guys would still be ideal for any number of heavily armed and well trained groups, from private military contractors to special operations forces. And best of all, you get to put the very latest in gucci kit on the board

I’m also looking forward to what comes next from this partnership. Ember is from the Yemen books but there are other operators from the earlier books that are also pretty stylish looking, especially as someone who loves the baseball cap and ear defender look. This first pack also only includes troops armed with assault rifles – it would be handy to get some alternative weapons for different situations. Either way, I’ll be keeping a close eye on them.

So remember – All Kill No Capture.


As an aside, I also recently ordered the Ember team ID patch from Echelon Software itself. And when it arrived, this spilled out of the packaging (along with a few stickers).

Nice try Echelon, but I’m already hooked.

Range Impressions: Spectre Tier 1 Operators

A frequent question people have when starting to collect Spectre figures is which range to get first. For those wanting their own tiny Special Forces team, the Task Force Operators range is obviously the first stop. However, for sheer versatility, I really have to recommend the Tier 1 Operators.

The common identity to all these figures is for a set of operators in cutting edge gear while wearing practical clothing that makes them useful for a whole selection of paint schemes, from camo to the latest in Operator fashion, plaid. All of them are wearing modern chest rigs and belt kits, with retention holsters for their suppressed Glock. The weapons are all upgraded with the usual mix of attachments perfect for sweeping and clearing. I really like the variation in this range – the Task Force Operator guys are much more uniform while these figures look much more like they have chosen their kit based on personal preference.

Riflemen

The core of any force is your riflemen and in this range you have seven of them. Each pack is a different style of pose, from enaging the enemy to moving under fire. There is a nice mix of bare heads and caps, as well several figures equipped with shades.

With all these figures, the main assault rifle is the Sig Sauer MCX with all the trimmings – suppressor, laser, red dot and various sights. This makes them a pretty powerful rifle when clearing rooms. The MCX is also usable with the specialist .300 Blackout round, designed for superior performance while suppressed.

The final rifleman is actually a female operator, which is a neat addition and perfect for representing any number of characters in your special operations force.

Support

As cool as the riflemen are, the specialists are where the fun begins. There is a definitely feel of close range firepower to these guys and the first specialist, armed with a MPX SMG, is perfect for being a pointman. The SMG’s bonus in close quarters makes it perfect for popping sentries or being the first through the door.

Of course, you may want something a little more dramatic for room clear and there is where the two shotgun equipped figures come in. The first is armed with an Origin 12, a rapid fire shotgun that can be used as an automatic in Spectre Operations. If you need to put the suppression down at close range, this weapon is great.

The second figure, we covered in an impressions piece last year, is going a different approach with his shotgun. The Six12 is only a combat shotgun rather than an automatic but comes with a suppressor. This figure is also wielding a tomahawk perfect for breaking locks and busting heads.

A great bonus to both these guys is the fact they are still carrying their assault rifles, so they can easily join in the mid-range firefight while moving to the objective.

Of course, not every firefight will be at close range. So, you’re going to want some guys to bring the pain at longer rangers. First up is the LMG – every squad needs a base of fire and a suppressed LMG fills that slot. It also has a the usual optics upgrade, making it very useful went approaching the objective.

On the other hand, you might need to take out a few enemies in one go. To help with this, the Tier 1 range includes the ever useful MGL. As well as explosives, multiple smoke grenades can help to cover a rapid exfiltration. In addition, he still has his assault rifle when you need a little more precision.

Conclusions

As I said at the start, I really like the Tier 1 range. I’ve also loved how many different variations of them that people have painted on the Spectre Operations group – everything from guys in full camo to run as advisors down to the plaid look more commonly seen on competition shooters. For a new player, 12 figures is actually a pretty sensible amount and gives you plenty of options when building a mission.

In terms of who to use them as almost anything – Western Special Forces, highly trained PMCs or federal agents ready to steal some money from the cartel (if you’re a fan of Sabotage). What is really cool is putting these guys up against other Special Forces, meaning both players have to be much more careful when trying to fire and move as everyone is pretty effective.

Wishlist

Honestly, this range is pretty complete. It’s a nice mix of poses and equipment. So apart from the stock answer (give me more!), it would be cool to see some more variation, or maybe even someone with other futuristic SIG guns like the tiny MCX Rattler for some real close quarters action.

Impressions: Spectre S.W.A.T.

One thing that’s great about wargaming is just how broad you can be. From 54mm games where players control single figures, all the way down to tiny scales where you are basically playing with painted pins to represent your armies of soldiers, there is something for everyone. And even within relatively niche periods, such as Ultramodern wargaming, there can many different settings that let you play out the whole breadth of modern-day gunfighting.

One setting that Spectre provides for is the modern day cops and robbers, thanks to their range of both criminals and armed police. These are ideal for anyone interested in this setting and today, we’re going to take a look at their SWAT team.

The Spectre SWAT range at the moment consists of 6 figures. All of them are geared up, based on very latest kit US police departments are issuing. Every officer has body armour, FAST helmets, eye protection and more kit on them, including their trusty sidearm. The uniforms are a mixture, but there are plenty of trousers with built in kneepads to show the operators among the bunch. All of the figures are posed aiming or at the low ready, perfect for stacking up on each other.

The differences come with their equipment. The bulk of the force is armed with AR15 pattern rifles, covered in rails and mounting a selection of accessories. Some figures have magnifiers behind their red dots, while others are just using the EoTechs. 

The other two officers are your specialists, ideal for winning in a close-quarters firefight. One is carrying an MPX SMG, great for when you need manoeuvrability in tight spaces. The other carries a KSG shotgun, perfect for breaching and clearing. Both of these guns also have red dots, ideal for actions where close quarters combat is expected.

So, let’s talk about how I intend to use them. I have to admit, my focus when wargaming is really military or SF operations in MENA and Africa – partially because I have the terrain and figures for it and partially because that style of action is more interesting than drug cartels and police actions to me. So, how best to use these guys in a more militarised setting?

Well, the figures are definitely well equipped but are not quite as well armed as the Task Force Operator figures – these guys have standard M4s rather the 416s of their better funded/trained brothers. This means that the SWAT range is ideal if you need some local SF figures with western style equipment – similar to your main operators but still visually distinctive.

I’ve gone the contractor route with my guys. Thinking these are the QRF sat waiting to rescue the principal or drag their buddies (possible from the Tier 1 Operator Range) out of the fire when things go wrong. Alternatively, they may end up being the bad guys when the inevitable third act twist takes place and suddenly the operators have to fight against almost near-tier adversaries.

Now I just have to get them on the board…

Range Impressions: Spectre Deniable Operators

Although wargaming for most is focused more overt actions (complete with all the firepower you might want), for most of history covert action has played an important role. TV, films and games are filled with deeds of low profile agents fighting wars in other people’s countries where they are not supposed to go. The frequent refrain of “we’ll deny you even exist” is probably becoming a trope at this point. If you’re wanting to bring some low profile guys to your own tabletop, the Spectre Deniable Operators are perfect.

At the moment, Spectre has four packs available – two for the rifleman and two for each of the specialists. All of the operators are dressed in civilian outdoors clothing and are wearing rucksacks. If it wasn’t for the AKs in their hands, they could easily be hikers out for a day’s stroll. The chance to paint some civilian clothing means that you can add the odd touch of colour that you might not normally see when painting more regular troops

Riflemen

There are a total of four riflemen available, giving you a nice variety of poses. All four are armed with a rail-equipped, crane stocked 7.62mm AKs, complete with all the usual bits of kit that operators love to have when fighting in urban terrain.

The rucksacks are ideal for representing any number of kit, from grenades to medical equipment to laser guidance systems for bringing the rain.

Support

Of course, every squad needs special weapons. For the Deniable Operators, you don’t get quite the same heavy firepower as some other ranges. Instead, it’s a bit more of a scalpel (in relative terms). One operator has an M203 under his AK, ideal for taking out groups of hostiles or enemies in cover. The other is designed for reaching out and touching the bad guys at long range, the larger optic ideal for representing a DMR.

As much as you might want a machine gun, I think keeping the specialists with AK platforms make a lot of sense for operators working in small groups behind enemy lines.

Usage

The best thing about ranges like Deniable Operators is just flexible they are. These guys can represent anything, from heavily armed criminals up to special forces seeking to hide their origin. Mix them in with some irregulars and you have some advisers mentoring their more ill-equipped buddies.

Conclusions

The Deniable Operators are one of my favourite compact ranges. Small and sweet, these six operators are ideal for something new compared to the usual door kickers. If you’re looking for a small team with a fun playstyle, I recommend picking these guys up. You can find them on the Spectre store under Undercover Operators.

Wishlist

Like all of the compact ranges, the wishlist is just more. AK armed operators have a certain attraction, something different from the usual AR15s and FAST helmets. A few more figures, perhaps in some different poses, would be nice. Some guys pointing out enemy targets would be ideal when using them as advisors.

Project Humvee – Weapon Options

Last time we looked at Project Humvee, we’d just finished adding another chassis to our convoy. In this post, we’re going to add some more weapon options. When running scenarios, it’s nice to be able to pick from a selection of gear, so the hot-swappable turret system is perfect.


But first, I needed to add an upgrade to Humvee Alpha. Up until this point, the only variant that had space for a spare wheel was the SF upgrade. For anyone using the regular variants, there was no mounting point available. From reading the Haynes guide to the Humvee, this is actually a pretty common occurrence. However, seeing as I haven’t covered my vehicles in bags handing off the side, I was looking for a way to make these vehicles look a bit less factory fresh and more utilitarian.

I’ll admit, there isn’t much too it

As part of the last wave of releases, Spectre has released HMV Upgrade Delta, inspired by the tire carrier seen on military Humvees. This is a simple two-part kit, comprising of a one-piece frame and a spare tyre. This is actually a different style to the tyres included in the basic vehicle, with a much deeper central recess. The frame glues into a locator lug on the back of the vehicle and then rests on the rear of the bumper. Its position means you can easily mount the spare tire frame even if you have installed oversized aerials on either side.

I really like this upgrade, so much that I think I’ll be picking up another one to add to my other normal Humvee. The frame sits away from the back of the vehicle which had me a little worried about how much support it would have once assembled, especially once exposed to the rigours of the gaming table. However, the resin actually has some flex to it – not enough that it’s weighed down by the tyre but enough that catching it on a building edge or dropping it shouldn’t be a problem.

I should also point out that mounting the fuel cans onto the frame is not technically accurate. Although a perfect space, this would cause issues using the mechanical lifting system (needed due to the sheer weight of a Humvee tyre). On the other hand, it does look cool.


Right, that’s the utility out of the way, lets move on to the cool stuff.

Three generations of M2 mounts

As the War on Terror has rumbled on, a key element of modern vehicles that have come on leaps and bounds is the weapon mounting system. In 2001 Humvees were rolling around with ring mounts and no protection but after combat usage in Iraq, they were soon mounting armoured shield and turrets to protect the gunner from being shot.

Of course, the safest place for the gunner to be is inside the vehicle. Remote weapon stations (or RWS) remove any need for the gunner to stick their head out of the vehicle while also adding some additional features such as improved optics or smoke grenade launchers to assist in the role and improve survivability.

Spectre’s range of RWS comprises of a mix of weapon systems and mounting platform. The heavy variant comes with thermal optics and smoke dischargers and can mount the M2 HMG, M240 MMG and the MK47 AGL. If you’re wanting to mount them on a smaller platform (such as a technical or a modified SUV) there is also the light version – it’s currently only available with the M240 and lacks the smoke dischargers of it’s bigger brother. However, it is more suitable for less military roles.

Having two of the heavy mounts you can see the similarities. The turret ring is a modified version of the one that comes with every HMV, and so assembles the same way. The actual gun mount (complete with ammo box and mounting system) is actually similar but slightly different for each gun so I wouldn’t recommend trying to hot-swap them. The smoke dischargers are small, but not small enough to cause an issue with attaching them.

I currently leave all my turrets loose, letting me easily swap between them. By default, the RWS attaches with a pin and socket system. Although stable, I could see an issue with so many loose parts – to this end, I decided to magnetise it. Of course, being a man of limited patience and skill, I ended royally bungling the job leading to several slightly drunken looking guns when rotated too far. Luckily this was easily fixed with a bit of filing.

The M2 is sort of the classic weapon for an RWS system, easily able to engage a mix of targets from infantry to lightly armoured vehicles. The thermal cam and zoomable optics make it even more of a threat.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for the MMG. The AGL is a useful weapon system but I’m much more of a fan of the MK19 – the MK47 is slightly too snazzy for most forces using the Humvee. The M240, on the other hand, is a much more refined tool, easier to balance as a scenario writer and slightly less terrifying to go up against.


Speaking of things terrifying to go up against, let’s talk about the GAU-19. If you’ve followed this blog, you know I’m a fan of all things rotary, even modding the Empress Humvees to mount a M134. Combining rotary with .50cal, and you’re about to see something pretty nasty to go up against. I know for a fact that Spectre is currently still working out the stat line for the GAU-19 and looking at for Skirmish Sangin, I think it’s first burst is going to be an incredibly emotional event for anyone downrange of it.

Assembly is actually something worth covering. The pack comes with the weapon, a box of ammo and the basic mount. Unlike previous miniguns, the scope is actually part of the main body of the gun. Additionally, the pack doesn’t include the turret ring, which means it can be used on all the various turret styles if you’re willing to slightly widen some of the slots in the armoured plates.

More interesting is the change in material. Unlike previous weapons, this gun is actually resin. But more importantly, the belt is resin. This makes it much easier to shape and mould after a bath in hot water, especially compared to the metal one that came with the M134 Minigun.


Of course, it was also time to assemble something a little more basic, perfect for the MENA forces or those less well equipped. For this, I grabbed a simple M2, an unused turret ring and a small piece of the pylon that comes with the M2 gun. Trimming down the turret mount slightly to make the pole fit flat, this turret is a bit of a classic. Change the door design, and this vehicle would be ready to roll around Mogadishu. On the other hand, this version is better suited for internal security, either rolling around military bases or city streets.


These new additions help to open up the options I have for using these Humvees. With a good selection of weapons, a limited number of vehicle bodies can fulfil many roles. As you can see above, the same weapons also work pretty well on the Empress vehicles, although the new RWS will need some tweaks to fit the roof flush due to the box at the front. Perfect for upgrading an M-ATV to sling .50cal rounds down range.

Next time on Project Humvee I’ll be adding some personality to my Humvees with the addition of some turret gunners. In addition, the local forces will be getting their first turret, perfect to upgrade the MENA regulars with something more than just a pickup truck.

Force Protection – Finishing the Foxhounds

Wargamers like building themselves piles of lead. This is a known phenomenon. Of course, having a blog does like to remind you of these lead piles, especially when you start cleaning up your blog of old posts.

One of the first impressions pieces I wrote, way back in May 2017, was on the Evil Bear Foxhound. Now, over a year later, and after watching some Humvees being ripped to shreds by an explosive device, I’m finally inspired to get my act together and get these wonderful little vehicles painted up.

Preparation

The first step was getting the vehicles ready. As you can see, I’d already hit them with a tan spray colour sometime in the last year. However, there were a few things that needed tweaking before I could finish them. The first was redoing one of the magnet positions for the GPMGs pintles. I decided to magnetise them so I easily swap the vehicle between up-gunned British Army pattern and a less overt version if they were being used by a non-government organisation. My first attempt had got most of them okay except one mount was at a 45-degree angle. and looked broken. I popped it off, re-dug the hole and remounted it.

I also decided to modify the position of the boxes at the front to make sure they match and also popped off the tow bar from one vehicle. Technically, I’m not sure this is 100% accurate – most of the vehicles on operations have them. However, I wanted to make the two vehicles look visually distinctive.

Stowage

The next step was stowage. The large flat open top is great for covering in kit but I had to make sure to explain how they were being lashed down. I broke out the green stuck, assembled a few sausage shapes from it and gently laid it across the items in order to lash them down.

The stowage itself is a mixture. Most of the kit is from the Spectre stowage packs, with the various missile tubes being especially useful. I continue to be a fan of the rucksacks and so have liberally covered this vehicle in bits from packs.

Other bits were picked up from Empress’s range of kits. The side mounted fuel cans and a few of the rucksacks were pulled from the US Vehicle Stowage pack. The more exciting addition is the disassembled Desert Hawk drone. This was pulled from the British Army drone controller kit. It’s a small detail but it could signify a vehicle’s access to the UAV’s camera, handy in some rule sets.

Painting

Finally, time for painting. On the one hand, I’m never 100% happy with how painting vehicles turn out. It’s a different style of painting to figures and despite having hammered out plenty of transports in my time, I’m still getting used to it. However, the benefit is that I can get them done relatively quickly thanks to liberal use of spray paint, picking out key details and then covering in wash before dabbing it off.

Comparison

The original impressions were packed full of comparisons to the rest of Spectre’s range of civilian vehicles and trucks but I didn’t actually look at any of the equivalent vehicles. So above is a lineup of the usual suspects.

As you can see, the Foxhound sits right in the middle in terms of size, more easily able to match the roads that the Humvee can handle while still capable of protection of IEDs. It’s actually a step down in raw firepower compared to the less protected Humvee and the chunky M-ATV, mounting the pair GPMGs rather the heavier .50cals.

Also that M-ATV continues to be a ridiculous vehicle.

Conclusion

Aden Defence Force troopers set off on patrol

I am really glad I got these vehicles finished. They are a really nice model of a distinctive looking vehicle. Having spent the time to get them ready for operations, including adding the stowage and correcting my initial construction mistakes, I think they are now ready to see some action.

Fingers crossed next time the ADF go on patrol, these beauties will take the strain.