Battle Report: The House On The Corner – Spectre Operations

So here we go, the direct follow on to the last game.

After the events during the attempted hand over of two Aden citizens, Captain Amari and her rescuing SAS team have fallen back to an Aden External Security Agency (AESA) safehouse on the outskirts of Bazi City. The team has decided to go to ground, waiting for a security gap to allow them to escape back across the southern border.

Meanwhile, the rebel leader has taken the intelligence gained from the captured local fixer and used it to locate the enemy safehouse. Rather than risking his own forces, the leader has instead sold the information to the Internal Security Forces of Bazistan (ISFB). 

After all, when you find a criminal den, you call the police.

The Forces

Limping away from their firefight in the badlands, the forces of the AESA and SAS were limited to a small number of operators. Six Elite operators, mostly using carbines but supported by an LMG would be the main force. Along with the Elite Captain Amari, three other Trained AESA staff members were on-site and armed with assault rifles which would provide some extra guns.

The BLUFOR objectives were to prevent any opposing forces from capturing evidence of illicit activity taking place on Bazi soil by the Aden Government. This would mean holding off the opposing force long enough to destroy the pair of servers holding operations data, demoing the supplies in the garage building and then extracting as much of the personel as possible, including the unarmed civilian AESA station chief.


Prompted by details of the safe house, the Bazi Ministry of the Interior assembled a large force to deal with the security threat. To provide the training core, the Bazi Army hired six Professional Argo Contractors, each armed with modern CQB small arms and grenades, body armour and NVGs. These troops could be parcelled out, either mentoring the lower skill Bazi units or acting as a close-quarters assault force.

And speaking of the Bazi Army, they are providing two units. The elite(ish) Bazi Special Forces would be taking part in the assault. Although only Trained, the 6 man Bazi SF team were equipped with CQB weapon systems. They are also arriving in a Tigr armour vehicle, mounting an MMG (the automatic grenade launcher being banned due to the ROE). A much larger presence was the regular Trained Bazi Army, bringing an 8 man squad in body armour and carrying an MMG and an RPG (just in case). They also arrive on the board in a BTR-80A – despite having its main claws trimmed by the ROE, it can still help the assault through using the armour and its Medium Machine Gun. Finally, a Technical from the Bazi Army would provide MMG support.

OPFOR objectives are simple – capture as much evidence of insidious actions against the Bazi Royal Family and Government taking place on Bazi soil. Ideally, the Interior Ministry would love to have some captives to parade on TV and so capturing the opposing force is a priority.

The Setup

First of all, let’s take an overview of the setup. Taking place in the suburbs of Bazi City, strict ROE is in place regarding the use of explosive weaponry such as the RPGs or autocannons. The mission also takes place at night. (Although this may have been forgotten once the action kicked off)

(As an aside, I really want to get some more of my buildings painted up and ready for play. As much as I like the layout, a few more buildings would have really set the suburban scenes)

The AESA compound in the photo above is located south of the road and focused on the main safehouse, with two other smaller buildings acting as annex’s, including a garage. Several concrete walls and barriers provide cover. On the other side of the road, a multi-level construction as well as several smaller buildings filled with non-combatants.

The Special Forces in the Tigr slowly rumbled down the side road. Pausing only to let three of the team disembark, the vehicle prepared to push on into the main compound. Upfront, an Argo contractor kept an eye on the gentleman in the orange outdoors coat, listed as a possible AESA agent.

On the other side, a technical from the Bazi Army rolls up, MMG swinging to focus on the target building.

Inside the safehouse, the BLUFOR operators were unalert but at risk of a future assault. For this reason, they were checking entrances. Upstairs, the SAS were taking positions at the windows and doors, trying to cover all the angles.

On the ground floor, the AESA statin chief, a SAS operator and Captain Amari were in discussion. Two AESA agents were also on this floor, one in the makeshift server room and the other checking keeping watch.

Events

As the night rolls on, the Bazi Army makes it’s assault.

Three of the Bazi SF operators setup on and then breach into the garage building, the sound of boots on wood echoing through the night. Inside, they find a stockpile of supplies destined for anti-government rebels – in other words, jackpot.

With the sound of vehicles moving the raised voices, the inhabitants inside the building start to setup. Table are flipped, guns checked and made ready to go.

Making a tight turn, the Tigr bursts into the compound, causing the AESA agent to make a break for the annexe. The civilian he was talking to, after adopting a surrendering gesture then attempted to run. Twigged by this movement, the Tigr’s gunner opened up with a burst of fire, dropping a suspect to the dirt. The first casualty had taken place.

The Tigr also ended up being a bit of bullet magnet, with SAS troopers both inside the main building and the annexe engaging it and piling on suppression.

On the other side, a fireteam of the Bazi Army troops were moving alongside the BTR and getting ready to stack up on the back door. However, with a smash, a frag grenade thrown by one of the SAS came flying out, landing in the middle of the attackers and shredding most of the force.

Hearing the gun battle outside rising, Captain Amari snatched thermite grenades off the AESA agents and got to work, placing them on the server racks to destroy the lists of operations inside Bazistan.

At this point, the three man infiltration set of contractors were getting ready to rush the building, sprinting across the road. The squad leader suddenly looked to his left when, with a roar of an engine, the BTR came flying down the road, turning the corner and then…

BOOM

It collided with the building, it’s prow smashing through the wall, the driver’s head coming flying forward and breaking his neck. The rest of the crew and passengers were stunned, leaving the three operators outside to keep pushing.

Inside the room, as the dust settled, the room was a mess. After talking it through, we decided that everyone in the room would be stunned, the cloud of dust and rubble smashing things aside.

On the other side, the Bazi SF split up, starting to assault the two buildings. Unfortunately, they ended up being caught in the cross of the SAS LMG and a riflemen, eliminating the trio on the ground floor.

The PKM gunner, his ears ringing, hit the deck and got ready to open up while his Argo buddy got ready to move up. However, a quick burst of assault rifle fire and the MMG went silent. The contractor hower brought his SMG up and trained it on the window when…

BOOM

A thunderous blast of from the upstairs, accompanied by a pile of shrapnel, and suddenly the fire from the upstairs windows slowed. The SAS team leader was preparing to drop a grenade on the assault for below when he fluffed his throw. Landing on the window sill in front of him, the blast took him out, the concussion echoing around the roof the room and stunning his teammates.

The operator, who had taken out almost a whole team by himself, was caught standing in the window stunned by a burst from the Argo contractor. He dropped dead, leaving only two SAS operators standing upstairs.

In the Annexe, the SAS operator and AESA agent looked at each other and decided to make a move, busting out the window and getting ready to make a run for it.

After a short scuffle, one of the Argo Contractors managed to tackle and drag the AESA Station chief back outside of the ruined front room, letting the main Bazi Army push inside. Another contractor around this time also attempted to knock unconscious one of the SAS operatives. After a short scuffle hower, the SAS operative was killed in the fighting.

Outside, the last of the Bazi SF were taken down, the SAW in the SAS gunner’s hands hammering away and shredding what was left of the door.

This is a bad photo of the event, sorry

As a final push, the last rifle operator upstairs attempted to rush down and rescue the AESA station chief. However, the Contractor holding the captive simply swung around and clocked him around the face with his rifle, knocking the operator unconscious and adding him to the captive pile.

Inside, the Bazi Army and Argo contractors burst into the server room, finding Captain Amari slowly raising her hands and kneeling down.

On the other side, the servers gently smoulded, useless to anyone. Amari was still smirking when the rifle butt came down on her face from an irate Bazi Army trooper.

The last AESA agent, crying out for updates from the explosion behind him while still keeping an eye on the Bazi SF before they were cut down, was very surprised when an Argo Corporation merc grabbed him by the neck and slammed him into the door. And with that, resistance at the compound was ended.

AFTERMATH

Although missing out on the data, the Bazi force did manage to take four inhabitants of the compound hostage. Three AESA agents, including the famed Captain, and a single British citizen should be a handy group to show on Al-Jeezra as proof Aden is not to be trusted. The stockpile of material in the garage would help with this, providing shocking evidence.

Of course, three BLUFOR operators did manage to get away. Perhaps they may return in future missions?


Overall, it was one hell of a game. I did not expect the BTR to be used as a battering ram, nor for just the sheer number of grenade fails. I did lose my cool a little (I blame the heatwave we’re in) when it came to keeping the game flowing and also forgot a rule or two (such as sidearms in CQB). On the other hand, the Spectre rules still play fast and feel brutal.

But this is setting up the next mission in the campaign. With Captain Amari in chains, I think it’s time for someone to build a prison (I’m thinking a few of the Knights of Dice apartment buildings) and prepare a rescue. The question is… who will be doing the rescuing?

Battle Report – Operation Monte Carlo – Spectre Operations

Well it’s finally time. Spectre Operations V2 has finally arrived on my desk and it pushed me to go get a game of it together down at the wargames club. And having just watched Triple Frontier, the idea of contractors doing bad things for gold was sat on my mind. And then I found the gold marker from my demo game and an idea was formed.


Background

Due to the announcement of ISAF-AP’s intention to reduce the number of troops currently involved in direct ground operations in Bazistan, the recently formed democratic government of The Bazi Republic has decided to contract the Argo Corporation to run and assist it’s internal counter-insurgency programs.

Using a core of trained contractors, (veterans of operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan), accompanied with locally hired fighters (many former insurgents or ex-regime military), Project Final Hand has been a strategic success, clearing several areas of rebel activity entirely as well as making strides in others. Their success has been a key feature in the Argo Corporation’s PR documents for the next year.

However, Argo has a history for mismanagement of projects like these and so payment for those involved has been somewhat delayed. This has led to some unsavoury activities – contractors moonlighting for private militias or selling high-end equipment on the open market. Additionally, the use of former insurgents has led to some concerns of information leaks and backroom deals between unit commanders and the remaining insurgent cells.

And then rumours started to spread. Rumours about a C130 that crashed into the Bazi desert over a year ago. About how it was carrying a shipment of the Bazi Family’s gold reserve. Something that was never recovered but some say was found by a rebel band and carried away. Perfect for the taking, if only someone knew where it was…

Situation Brief

The Players

BLUFOR – The Argo Corporation

BLUFOR was comprised of two groups of Argo Corporation Contractors and locally hired help.

Group 1 was the Quick Reaction Force. 6 Professionals, including a squad leader, all armed with carbines (and the usual extra tricks), pistols, and frag and stun grenades. The team also carries first aid kits and wear body armour. They are mounted in an LTV, an armoured patrol vehicle mounting an HMG in a remote weapon station with an MMG on the flexible rear mount.

Group 2 was a squad of local trained troops in body armour and totting a PKM and an RPG alongside the assault rifles. They were also led by a single Professional trooper to act as their mentor (bringing their skills up to a higher level) while also giving him frags and smokes alongside his carbine to act as a force multiplier.

OPFOR – Local Bazistan Militia

The OPFOR was a bit more random. To represent this being an insurgent stronghold with hordes of bad guys being woken and pulled into the fight, I just kept adding more and more fighters each turn. These were randomly selected but mostly armed with assault rifles, representing the rank and file arriving.

Additionally, the rebel commander could call for reinforcement using a command test. If successful, the player could then request specific weapon selections like RPGs or machine gunners.

They also had two IEDs which could be placed to along the route and could be set off via two triggermen (portrayed on the board as civilians).


The Battlefield

The gallery above shows the layout of the board. As you can see, it’s a real street fight, a mixture of large and small buildings around the main road. The new walls I painted up helped to improve the feel slightly as well as adding some cover. And I FINALLY got to put that pylon on a gaming board.


Recap

As the game begins, BLUFOR started to roll into town.

The QRF remained in the vehicle, while the local force broke down into two groups.

With the rumbling of the LTV echoing through the streets, an insurgent group breaks cover and starts to setup an RPG-29.

A local peers out of the doorway as the armoured vehicle rumbles past.

Despite rumbling forward, the LTV’s remote weapon system managed to come to bear on the insurgent that had popped out from behind the concrete barricades. A quick burst and the threat was downed.

The sound of gun fire draws in another group of insurgents.

BLUFOR continues to advance, the locals sticking close behind the vehicle as it advances.

Another shot as the LTV crew suddenly spots the barricade blocking the way toward the objective.

A successful command test brings out a fighter with an anti-material rifle. He sets up watching the road, lining up his scope on the driver’s windscreen. His first shot simply cracks the glass, causing the gunner to change his target.

More fighters start to spill out out into the streets, ready to ambush the approaching BLUFOR. Above, another civilian pulls out their phone, his fingers hovering over a special contact…

A civilian narrowly avoids a grizzly end when they step into the street in front of the towering armoured patrol vehicle.

One of the insurgent groups decide to engage more directly and take up firing positions on the ground floor of the corner building. These guys actually managed to put some fire down and take out two local force soldiers before the LTV blocked them from view.

The LTV suddenly now enters a target rich environment – the marksman down the road or the squad of hostiles in cover.

He picks the marksman, the hail of .50cal round tearing the rooftop apart and suppressing the threat easily.

The next turn, as the insurgents start to take up ambush positions, another burst of .50cal fire takes out the anti-material threat, the impacts kicking up a plume of dust.

With the way forward blocked, the LTV turns and begins to head down the side road. Inside, the QRF start to get a little concerned about the occupants of the buildings around them.

All the while, the local forces had been moving to take up positions to support the LTV’s advance. After taking fire from a two storey building ahead of them, one fireteam from the local forces hunker behind the road barriers and return fire.

However, the insurgents began to move forward in force, taking up ambush positions.

As the LTV rounds the corner, the action hots up. The two operators in the back (only one pictured), looking up at the rooftop above them suddenly spotted movement. With reactions created by long hours of training, the carbines come up and hammer the low wall the enemy were crouching behind, ready to ambush. This fire successfully suppressed the insurgents above, making them far less effective.

The RWS system then dropped elevation and hammered through the wall, each shot taking out more of the insurgents and pinning down the last squad member.

The local forces were also in contact. After taking out the group on the rooftop that had initially slowed them, they soon received a reversal of fate when an RPG went off in their midst, vaporising their squad leader and sending two others into bleeding out states.

Things soon turned from bad to worse as the insurgents above managed to pop their heads up and mag dump into the rear portion of the LTV. When the dust cleared, one of the QRF had fallen backwards off the cargo bay, immediately KIA by the hail of shots.

With time running out at the club (not helped by me messing around before the game started after leaving a few things at home), the BLUFOR player decided to push on through the streets. And then this happened – a car bomb IED went off, stunning the crew and bringing the vehicle a halt. Just in time for an RPG to be spent spinning into the back of the crew compartment and injuring everyone inside.

As the LTV sat smoking on the street corner (and the hours having ticked by), we called it there. The contractors had tried their hardest to get into the town but with multiple casualties and an immobilised vehicle, they would have to concede.


Analysis

Overall the game was pretty fun for me to setup and run (and it looked impressive) but something was quite right. BLUFOR struggled to get off the starting line and then bogged down at the second corner.

Now, this was our first game in a while playing Spectre Operations and the rules played beautifully. Anyone in the open got taken out very quickly, shooting was quick to work out and it was simple to perform some cool manevoures. It was also a nice change of pace to plan – I love Skirmish Sangin’s character depth but just being able to use a standard chart helped.

After having a few days to think about it, I think the issues/tweaks fall into two areas:

Scenario Tweaks

Photo from SESWC

So I designed the scenario after only a very quick initial read and vague remembering of my time testing version 2. For this reason, there were a few things I was worried about (such as vehicles being basically invulnerable and professionals running rings around everyone else) and may have ended up correcting a little too far.

First of all, the masses of reinforcements the insurgent player was given. This did a really good job of making the BLUFOR player realise how much trouble he was in as AK totting gunmen just sort of appeared on the board every turn. On the other hand, it did also mean that there was an awful lot of OPFOR on the table and they were able to set up ambush points far too easily. I think rather than just offering free reinforcements every turn, I should have required the command roll AND let the player pick between 5 goons or support weapons.

I also think I didn’t provide enough forces for BLUFOR. An additional unit, probably some more trained forces to represent local friendly militia, would have given the player another option, a set of troops to move down one of the flanks and help keep their offensive moving while also giving another set of rifles to engage targets with.

Finally, the route. I set up the barricades to really force the LTV down a specific route (I blame designing for video games) and so placed the barricades up at the first junction. However, when combining this with the building arrangements, the LTV had no options at all. What I should have done is to move the barricade down a single junction, forcing the LTV to choose between the long sightlines and exposure of the main road

Tactical Tweaks


Photo from SESWC

However, at the same time, I think there were a few tactical decisions that I should have been advising with. Ultramodern gaming is quite a niche period and requires a slight adjustment in tactics thanks to the sheer power of modern firepower. As the guy running the game, it should fall to me to help guide newer players in the tactics to use.

First of all, staying in the vehicle. The QRF really wasted an opportunity by staying in the LTV as it bimbled along slowly at walking pace so it could continue engaging with the .50cal. Instead, four of the six operators should have disembarked to escort it, letting them use their carbines to add an additional 8 shots every turn. This would have helped to put the fir down more, letting them take down the opposition to more manageable number.

In addition, the BLUFOR guys had some toys they didn’t use. The QRF guys had stun grenades and frags, perfect for busting in and clearing buildings filled with bad guys (such as the corner building). In addition, the professional mentor had smokes which could have been useful when manevouring into the buildings.

After both of these facts, I think BLUFOR should have pushed harder. Using combat sprint to bust into the corner building and secure a multi-storey fire position for the local force’s RPG and MMG to start engaging the enemy forces. Additionally, setting up in there would have meant the LTV could have sped up and moved faster.

Finally, civilians. I should have made it more obvious about letting the BLUFOR player arrest civilians to prevent them from being used as triggermen. This would have encouraged them to perform actions that might have neutralised IEDs before they turned the LTV to broken chunks of metal.

Overall though, the idea of the mission is good, my plan is to illustrate the tactics more and make people aware of the special points that Spectre brings over other modern games.

Spectre Operations: Building A Force – Irregular Support

In the first two posts in this series, we took a look at the basics of building a force, with posts looking at both task specific teams for infantry and the basics of vehicle use. In this part, we’re going to continue the theme of irregular forces (that we looked in post 3). As with previous parts, this article is designed primarily for Spectre Operations but many of the tactics are valid in all modern skirmish games.

(Delving into the archives for this week’s photos – it’s been a busy week)


In the last article we looked at the core of any irregular force, the infantry. Having had you’re greens, we’re now going to talk about the dessert of playing Irregular troops – support options! We’re going to save details of Off Tablet Assets for the next post so for now it’s all the things that will be on the board.

Nothing beats a lack of training like a mass of firepower

Support options are where the irregulars can really level the playing field (often literally).  This is where most of your killing power is going to be, able to get through the Regulars advantages and make life for your infantry easier. Thanks to the relatively low points cost of your core forces, you can often bring a great variety of support to table with a larger selection of options.

Scenario/Setting Bonuses

Before we go into stuff you can buy in the rulebook, lets talk about how the scenario writer should be helping you out. With a few exceptions, irregular forces are not going to be going to pitched battles against regular forces. Irregular forces will use other types of engagements, ofter where they have the chance to prepare the ground or force the opposing force to act in certain ways. These elements are the responsibility of the scenario writer and, while they can be incredibly effective at murdering the balance of a scenario, they are fantastic at helping to set the scene.

There are two types of force multiplier irregular forces can get from the scenario special rules – Bonuses to the Irregulars and Negatives to their opponents:

Bonuses

An Afghan sniper uses the ratline to get into position for the perfect shot

Bonuses are rules that give an advantage to the irregular player. It might be something as simple as having the first turn or starting with the initiative but more characterful mission writers will give you a tool that matches your force.

An example of a bonus is the existence of ratlines (also described as Hot Spots in Force on Force). Representing either tunnels or access to other routes, these give the insurgents a mobility advantage. Dpeending on the scenario, this advantage can either be at  initial deployment (letting teams appear where they can gain the most effect) or during the game itself (letting your troops perform hit and run attacks more easily). Having to clear ratlines also slows enemy units down, especially if they require specialist gear that has to be brought into position. OTAs can help to reduce the effectiveness of ratlines (it’s hard to get away from an eye in the sky) but they can still be a powerful force multiplier.

Another bonus is allowing the recycling of KIA troops to represent overwhelming reinforcements rushing into battle. As well as reducing the number of figures you need paint, reinforcements will allow you to keep the pressure on for longer. Rather than having to worry about winning a firefight as your troops diminish, you get to keep pushing bodies at the opponent. This often won’t

If we look outside of Spectre Operations, Skirmish Sangin includes some characterful bonuses designed for the irregular Afghan forces. Disguising your dickers alongside other civilians requires regular troops to get close before engaging. Adding some goats to the table will make it more likely ambushing troops are discovered. Even the ability for a fighter to ditch their kit and merge with the population will prevent that fighter from being a potential intelligence source or addition to a kill count at the end of the game.

Negatives

Marketplace full of civilians or possible hostiles? Break out the PID checks

Negatives is effectively when you grab the opposing forces’s hand and stop them from being able to use their troops exactly how they want to. Although you can choose to do this physically (your opponent will object, especially if it stops them going for their beverage of choice), I really mean implementing Rules of Engagement and requiring PID. Both of these elements are a part of any modern counter-insurgency and can be incredibly frustrating for the regular troops constrained by them.

Rules of Engagement can vary depending on the situation. It might be limiting the use of certain weapon systems (I.e. don’t engage key buildings with heavy weapons) or restricting actions of your troops (don’t engage targets unless they are already engaging you) but no matter what happens it’s going to force a change in play style. As the irregular player, use this. Enemy can’t engage civilian buildings? Start taking pot shots out of them. Depending on how much you know about the enemy’s ROE, you can really use it to your advantage.

Within this is the concept of PID or Positive Identification. This is how regular troops can actually work out who the bad guys are. This is normally a dice roll that, if successful, reveals the enemy and lifts elements of the ROE. This is has the potential to cause a real issue to you, requiring you to stay out of sight to prevent being rumbled before you are ready. But it also slows down the regulars, and a failed test might cost them the turn needed to prevent you getting a grenade or shot off.

Unconventional Systems

A key part of running an irregular force is releasing they you are not going to play the game in the same way as a regular force. You’ll have much less capable troops,  often much less in the way of direct fire superiority and will probably lack in off table assets. Unless you have a massive advantage in man-power, you’re going to have to look for advantages elsewhere.

The mere mention of IEDs can slow down Regular forces

If the situation makes sense, IEDs and land mines can be a very useful tool. They can be either vehicle or infantry killers and set up to detonate via different method but at the end of the day it’s a way of suddenly striking your opponent without having to expose the bulk of your force (other than maybe a spotter). The bigger devices are a cheap way of knocking out armoured vehicles but don’t dismiss the smaller stuff – an injured soldier is going to affect the rest of the squad.

Even a small device can cause havoc

Finally the mere idea that IEDs are there can also affect how your opponent plays. Every bit of scatter terrain becomes a possible marker for a device. Use this to your advantage!

Now, this final option isn’t for every player, and some people may find it a distasteful element to include. Suicide activated IEDs give you another method of getting explosives into an enemy force without needing to be on the defence. One figure in the right place can cause massive damage, while a vehicle based system is an extreme threat to

Heavy Weapons

Right, lets talk about the big guns. Emplaced weapons are a quite attractive prospect for an irregular player. Most have either high rates of fire or large blast areas, which go a long way to negating the shooter’s low shooting skill. They also normally have several special rules like armour piercing or tank killer that can help get killing blows where other weapons fail.

A DsHK can really ruin an elite operator’s day

Now, they do come with several disadvantages. They are not quite as effective on the attack as on the defence (unless you can find a good position early in the game to cover the entire battlefield). They are very vulnerable to return fire and have a severe mobility issue, requiring the gun to be assembled and disassembled. However, when brought to bear, these weapons can. Especially on defence, assembling these heavy weapon teams in supporting positions and forming a crossfire will let you easily pin down a more professional force.

Of course, if you want to avoid the mobility disadvantages, there is a couple of ways you can get around it…

Vehicles

TECHNICALS

You guessed it, technicals. As I’ve covered in the past, these pickups with heavy weapons give you the firepower of an emplaced weapon while mounted on a much more mobile chassis. On the other hand, they do provide much less protection so you don’t want to get caught in the open. Treat them like a more mobile heavy weapon team rather than an armoured vehicle, putting a few round down range and then relocating.

The arrival of an armed APC can cause serious havoc

Of course, there are plenty of cases where rebel forces get their hands on actual armoured vehicles and bring them into play. In most cases, the crew are more enthusiastic than well trained but fundamentally they act in a similar way to other vehicles on the board. For more hints, take a look at the second article in this series.

Bringing in the Professionals

A small group of militia come under fire but are steadied by the presence of a professional contractor

If you’re getting bored of just having a bunch of poorly trained militia in your force, the situation may allow for the addition of a few Elite or Professional soldiers. There are multiple occasions in modern war where regular and irregular forces have worked alongside each other, such as in Syria where both sides have had Special Operations troops working with militia. On the wargames table, the addition of a small group of elite operators can help to give you a few more options. Fundmentally, there are two ways to use them.

Option 1 is to include a Professional or Elite mixed in with your less well trained groups. This utilises the Mentoring rule and can be handy to keep the irregulars in the fight, both with the physical presence and with the equipment they can bring. For example, battlefield trauma kits (unavailable to anyone below professional) will prevent unnecessary casualties. Alternatively, certain weapons will be very helpful alongside irregular groups, such as a marksman with a high shooting skill or a weapon system unavailable to most forces such as the airburst grenade launcher. At the simplest level, an operator with this ties them into a radio net with characters with much higher command values, making recovery from suppression much easier.

Option 2 is to keep the Professionals or Elites in a separate squad. This focuses the power in one place, letting them keep moving thanks to their superior training and get their skill set onto the target. This prevents their skills from being diluted (you have a squad guaranteed to get most of their shots on target) but can leave them vulnerable if the irregulars decide to pack it in.

Conclusion 

As you can see from this post and the last, there are a lot of options for players to use when operating as an Irregular force. Depending on what style of force, you will be bombarded with the different ways of getting the job done. Think carefully about what you’re trying to do and then pick what fits the situation. The only main difference between you and the regular player? Just expect more of you guys only wearing t-shirts.

Next time, we’re going to return to the land of Regular troops to talk about Off Table Assets and air power. What is the best way to use these game changers? How do you make sure you don’t have to change your mission to Blackhawk Down? And finally, how much OTA is too much OTA?

Spectre Operations: Building A Force – Irregular Forces

In the last two posts in this series, we took a look at the basics of building a force, with posts looking at both task specific teams for infantry and the basics of vehicle use. In this part, we’re going to be taking a look at some of the points relating to more irregular groups. As with previous parts, this article is designed primarily for Spectre Operations but many of the tactics are valid in all modern skirmish games.

Irregular forces, by their definition, vary massively in style. They can be anything from untrained groups of fighters armed with nothing more than an AK and the shirts on their back up to well equipped groups that rival (and in some cases beat) the more traditional forces in terms of capabilities. However at a fundamental level, building an irregular force still relies on the commander identifying the goal and picking what is needed to fulfil the task.

So why am I writing a separate post for these less well trained forces? Why am I not just reposting the first article but changing the pictures? Well, Irregular troops normally don’t have all the benefits of national forces and so there are several points they need to think about.

Manpower

The first point to realise is that in most cases, your forces are going to be much less effective on a one to one scale than the regular forces you’ll normally find yourself up against. In Spectre Operations (and in most games), this will mean you’ll have a lower chance of hitting when shooting, be more likely to become suppressed (as there is no cap on your and will lose in a close quarters fight in one to one combat. Put simply, the bulk of your guys are a bit shit.

However, it’s not all bad news – after all, quantity has a quality all of it’s own. If you play with points based forces, your militia and trained soldiers will be much cheaper, meaning you can more easily flood the board with forces. If instead you play scenarios, most of the time the writer will give the irregular forces a significant numerical advantage, either through just have more guys on the board or letting casualties be recycled back into place (perhaps representing militia fighters finally getting into position before joining the battle). As many of the battles wargamers play will feature teams of SF operators assaulting locations, the irregulars will often be on the defensive, often letting you setup in positions and dare the enemy come towards you.

Having a numerical advantage doesn’t guarantee a victory but it can certainly help. Especially when you consider the next point.

Redundancy

Put simply – you’re gonna need a bigger squad. Seeing as the . If you were working from some of the teams from the first article, I’d probably add two or four more guys armed with assault rifles to add some extra firepower or “ablative armour”. An alternative way to keep your force moving is to take additional smaller squads armed simply, without machine guns or explosives, and use them as supporting units to your task orientated squads. This lets you leverage your greater numbers, protecting your main force by engaging first with lighter elements or by outflanking the professionals.

Special Weapons

At the same time, you get some useful weapons. The stereotypical irregular group (seen everywhere from Afghanistan to Sub-Saharan Africa) has two aces up their sleeves – the RPG-7 and the PKM Medium Machine gun. Both of these weapons are encumbering so you’ll be slowed slightly while using them. On the other hand, they do provide a massive benefit. The MMG has a longer range than the SAWs most modern forces are armed with, has a greater lethality and can also cut through body armour and light vehicles thanks to the armour piercing rule. Sustained Fire also lets you spread the fire across multiple troops, useful when fighting Professionals and Elites who can only take a certain amount of suppression. The RPG on the other hand is all about causing damage. Although it can’t fire indirectly like a UGL, it’s more than capable of putting suppression down on a large group. Additionally, it can also help when engaging enemy vehicles depending on which warhead you use.

By combining these two weapons together, your basic squads will be able to kick out a lot more firepower than your enemy might be expecting. There are also other weapons that might be handy to include in an irregular force. A common trait for many of these is Armour Piercing, helping to make your guys more effective against enemies wearing body armour or vehicles. Adding Light AT Weapons or Sniper Rifles help up your ability to take out more heavily equipped opponents while also allowing for more flexibility in your deployment.

Body Armour

To many, using body armour in a wargame helps to differentiate the better equipped and trained forces from their irregular opponents. However, body armour is increasingly available to the general population and in certain situations, it’s not inconceivable that some insurgents or militiamen might end up wearing kevlar.

So how best to use it in your own forces? Body Armour helps to reduce the lethality of shots that hit and so can help to keep your guys alive for a little longer. However, it is quite expensive for what it does so it might not be worth equipping your entire force with it, especially if your forces are mostly in the lower end of the training spectrum. Instead, outfitting your best trained and armed teams with body armour will help to keep them safe while moving up to their objectives. The rest of your force will just have to focus on sticking to cover and moving quickly.

Other Equipment

As well as body armour, there other items that are worth thinking about taking:

  • Radio Comms: A key deficiency in most irregular force is the relatively low command rating. This can make recovering from incoming fire or performing orders a little hard. Unless of course, you’re not using your own command value. Setting up a radio network between your commander and the rest of the force can really add some back bone to it, keeping them active for longer than you’d first expect.
  • Personal Medkits: Insurgents are normally pretty squishy. Being able to affect the lethality of incoming fire can help turn an instant kill into a light wound
  • Tactical Ladders: When double checking the equipment list, I noticed that Militia and Trained soldiers can actually take Tactical Ladders. Not the first thing that springs to mind, but being able to get your support weapons up to elevated positions and keeping off the streets will help to
  • Grenades: As with RPGs, explosives are the great leveller when it comes to taking people out. As well as the usual Frag Grenades, a neat alternative is the Molotov Cocktail. Causes area damage, puts up a small smoke cloud and can block off locations by putting fire in the way. Just don’t drop it.
  • MANPAD: When the operators arrive, they’ll be up to their eyeballs in aerial fire support platforms located just off map. However, a trooper with a Stinger will potentially throw a wrench into your opponents plan when they attempt to call in helicopter support.
  • Dogs: Something else that you’d normally associate with the Operators, but then you’d forget the humble Guard Dog. While the opposing team is trying to sneak around, the dogs will help to reveal hidden units. Once the alarms goes off, your canine friend can rush off to bite the bad man.

We’ll discuss some other bits of equipment and support (mostly the stuff that goes bang) for the irregulars forces in the next instalment.

Conclusion

Overall, irregular forces present a slightly different challenge to the better trained and equipped regular troops. You’ll need to organise your forces carefully, rely on any advantages the situation gives you and be aware of your limitations. If you are aware of all these tweaks, you can easily outfox and out fight your better trained opponents.

In the next article, we’ll take a look at the heavier weapons an insurgent force can bring to the field, including emplacements, technicals, off map resources and even the sneakier tricks of modern warfare.

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.

Battle Report – Big Bird Down – Spectre Operations

This week’s battle report saw me finally bringing the downed C130 down to the club. Rather than the infantry heavy Skirmish Sangin scenario that is being used for the demo game, we instead brought out the big guns and went for some vehicle action in Spectre Operations.


While flying a routine transport operation between Bazi City and Abu Dhabi, a C130 Hercules belonging to a civilian contractor suddenly reported incoming fire. The aircraft managed to attempt evasive action but contact with the aircraft was swiftly lost.

Due to the nature of the cargo on board the aircraft, the contractor was quick to report the loss citing safety reasons and the potential issues if the various militia groups in the region were to secure it. Coalition forces have attempted to find it but a massive sandstorm in the region has forced a delay.

Now the sandstorm has cleared up, intelligence has now found the crash site and spotted movement around it. JSOC has now been ordered to prepare an operation. It’s objectives are to deploy to the crash site and secure all sensitive material.

Due to the number of enemy in the area and reinforcements approaching it, US Special Forces are attacking at speed. The plan is to snatch and grab the key objectives, utilising two armed SF pickup trucks.


Forces for this engagement were as follows:

BLUFOR:

V1 – SF Technical with .50cal

Team 1 – 5 professional with the usual operator kit such as body armour, comms and personal medkits. Also a mix of weapons from carbines to compact LMGs and light AT weapons

V2 – SF Technical with minigun

Team 2 – same as team 1 but with one less LAW available.

OPFOR:

6 Trained but well equipped soldiers with body armour, assault rifles fitted with scopes and red dots and comms

2 Trained soldiers working as a sniper team with a DMR

Two groups of trained fighters (each between 5 and 10) with a mix of assault rifles and at least one MMG and RPG

2 Technicals with HMG

Technical with light recoilless rifle


The US forces start at the bottom of the board and would need to work up it. The three objectives were:

  1. Recover the black box
  2. Recover intel documents from the white SUV in the central cargo compartment
  3. Destroy the flight deck in the nose
  4. (Optional) Destroy enemy assets (such as the technicals)

OPFOR’s role was to prevent these from happening – any objectives left standing at the end would count as being under control of the bad guys.

The board layout before deployment. Lots of open areas for both sides to cross while under fire. From here you can see the objectives stretching from the black box next to the tail section up to the flight deck at the top of the board.

The game begun by both of the US vehicles rolling on the board and getting ready to fire. Vehicle 2, complete with its minigun, rolled slowly onto the board and spotted the enemy. With the characteristic “brrrt”, the minigun opened up.

In no time at all the target squad, hunkering down behind a section of wing, were taking serious hits. Each of the minigun’s six shots took out their target, causing some a chunk of suppression. However, it wasn’t all going the operator’s way. In response to this hail of gunfire, the leftover bits of the target squad (as well as the marksman team on the two storey building) opened up at their oppressor. With the hail of PKM bursts and a carefully aimed marksman shot, OPFOR managed to knock out vehicle 2’s driver, gunner and then engine block in rapid succession.

Vehicle 1, having just seen its buddy get lit up, decided to take a slightly less dangerous route. It pulled in behind the wreck of the tail section, just in range to collect the black box. It also was the perfect position to engage one of the smaller insurgent groups hiding under the wing with the .50cal.

Having seen the lead BLUFOR vehicle go down, the rest of the OPFOR vehicles moved in for a better shot. These technicals moved at full speed, giving up a round of shooting in order to get closer next turn.

Springing from their death trap of a vehicle, Team 2 moved into cover and started acting as a base of fire team for the rest of the attack. Despite coming under long-range sniper fire, the team’s biggest concerns were the approaching technicals and the left over medium machine guns that had chewed up their ride. Unfortunately, the response to the technicals missed (although did cause some suppression) at the cost of their single use AT4 rocket.

On the other hand the LMG caused merry havoc on the infantry behind the wing. After another hail took out the squad leader and a medium machine gunner, the leftover trio would have to spend time regrouping and recovering from the suppression.

On the other flank, Team 1 and their vehicle were doing well. Most of the team had disembarked,leaving only the top gunner still in the vehicle. However he swiftly got to work, the HMG cutting down the small 5 man squad over the course of two turns of fire. On the ground, the rest of the team was getting ready to deploy. The team leader disembarked, spotting the left over bits of the main enemy squad and radioed to his buddy with the 40mm grenade launcher.

One carefully aimed indirect shot later and the leftovers had been taken out.

On the other side of the board though, Team 2 were in dire straits. Although the machine gun fire had been effective, they had been exposed for just a little too long. First, the light recoilless rifle fired taking out one operator with a direct hit but missing his buddy on the luck of a dice roll. Then the HMG on the other technical fired, kill the exposed LMG gunner. Finally, in the following turn, the recoilless rifle fired again, blowing the immobile technical to pieces to prevent anyone using its minigun.

Seeing it all going to hell, the BLUFOR commander decided to cut his loses and focus on grabbing some of the objectives. To grab the black box he popped smoke, sprinted a guy out to the box and dragged it back while the rest of the team put down supporting fire. Marking the flight deck off as a lost cause, he them formulated a simple plan to solve the issue of the intelligence documents in the white SUV. Using another light anti-tank weapon, he blew the target sky-high. If BLUFOR can’t have it, no one can.

Loading the black box onto the remaining vehicle, squad 1 mounted up (apart from two escorts) and made a sprint for the edge of the board. Despite the rest of the enemy being hot on their heels, BLUFOR managed to escape unharmed.


That was a really fun game. Trying to roll the unarmoured SF pickups directly into the line of fire might have been a bad move to begin with but the fact that the operators managed to hold the bad guys (mostly). I think this game does show how vulnerable the highly trained operators can be while they are still mounted as they can’t rely on their improved skills as much.

Next time though, I’d give BLUFOR something a little more armoured like so they could actually be more likely to thunder run up the board.

Battle Report – A Brush With The Law – Spectre Operations

This week’s battle report sees us return to the ongoing campaign in Bazistan. Following the kidnapping of the Geordiestan Ambassador from the Petramco/NZDF force back in September, it’s time to go to the next stage of the operation.


The Geordiestan Ambassador has been missing for two weeks. After being kidnapped en route from the airport by an unknown group of militia, intelligence has been working day and night to recover him. Unfortunately, the whims of the Bazistan government has caused this process to be delayed as only Bazi SF can act on any intelligence partner nations provide. A Special Forces team from Geordiestan did arrive in country but was turned round at the airport. Other nations have also been held off, with American, British and Russians all barred from operating legally on Bazi soil.

However, a new piece of information has come to light. Multiple sources point to a group in the badlands bordering Aden which is preparing to move two high value targets out of the country. This compound has attracted the attention of the Bazistan army as well as British Intelligence. Two teams from the SAS (codenamed SABRE and WANDERER) have been deployed to extract the hostages before the Bazistan Army does.


The game takes place in a frontier town in the Badlands of Bazistan, close to the border with the Aden Republic and only a short drive to the Red Sea. Intel had found two target buildings, (the tan coloured ones in the photo above) that were militia strongholds and could be the location of the two hostages. Both buildings would need to be checked. As the game began, the militia were completely unalert – the town is in safe territory and the police hadn’t tipped them off to any possible attackers. The Bazistan Army wouldn’t arrive until later – Bazi SF arriving on turn 2 and the bulk of the force arriving on turn 3.

The forces were simple:

SAS

  • SABRE – 6 Elite operators with usual direct action kit, including a LAW, LMG, UGL and DMR
  • WANDERER – 6 Elite operators in local clothing. Designed for stealth, they also had a SMG, Auto Shotgun and a Airburst grenade launcher

Bazi Army

  • Bazi SF – 6 professionals with modified assault rifles and the usual support items like body armour and medical kits
  • Bazi Motorised – 8 Trained soldiers with Assault Rifles, a MMG and an RPG accompanied by an Elite Special Forces mentor

Militia

  • Three technicals – two with HMG and one with a recoilless rifle
  • Multiple small groups of trained fighters, armed with the usual mix of Assault Rifles, RPGs and MMGs

The SAS came on from the Western board edge, seeking the shortest route to one of the buildings that avoided the patrolling guards. SABRE headed for one of the ruined buildings, aiming to set up a base of fire to assist an assault on Objective Bravo.

WANDERER headed for Objective Alpha, stacking up on the door before breaching into the empty interior. Carefully sneaking around, they headed upstairs. Due to the buildings not including staircases, we added two in opposite corners of the building. Next time I’ll add some markers

Upstairs, they found themselves in the midst of a small collection of insurgents. Taking advantage of their silenced pistols and SMGs, the team took the first shots of the game easily dropping the two fighters inside the main room. After disposing of them and the two RPG gunners on the balcony, only three militiamen knew something was up.

Unfortunately, their intel was faulty – this building was completely clear of hostages. Time to dig in and start covering

Instead, time to focus on Objective Bravo. SABRE moved into an assault position, with the LMG, DMR and UGL gunner digging into the damaged building while the rest of the team prepared to sprint across the road.

Interestingly, they spotted a white SUV moving away from the target building. It seemed to be forming up into a convoy with one of the other technicals.

As turn two began, the first sign of real trouble turned up. Six operatives of the Bazi Special Forces had appeared, moving through the ruins of the African Quarter. They managed to stay relatively quiet, not alerting the militia as they crept into position.

Turn two was pretty uneventful – WANDERER dug in to the building by setting up positions covering the staircases and aiming to cover any assault on Objective Bravo. At the same time, SABRE moved into final positions, with the assault team going into cover behind one of the pickups by the side of the road. By now these actions were starting to concern some of the civilians and it was only a matter of time before the militia was entirely on alert.

Of course, elements of the Bazi 12th Motorised Division have no concept of stealth and rolled onto the board in their BTR80A. This could be a major game changer – the armour would be hard to penetrate while the heavy autocannon would easily cut a swathe through tightly packed squads.

This was the battlefield as the engagement shifted from a stealthy operation into a more kinetic experience. A few other things happened very quickly:

First up, the technical leading the convoy about to escort the SUV away swung round at the sight of the enemy. The M40 recoilless rifle it carried on the back would be one of the main weapons against the enemy AFV.

Two of the local Bazistan police ran forward to see what on earth this military unit was doing here. Once in cohesion range, these two police changed from being ambient civilians to working alongside the military.

As for the militia, they quickly started moving some more assets around. One of the technicals with HMG moved into an ambush position, ready to spring out with the .50cal. Of more immediate danger, a fighter with a RPG-29 moved into position on the balcony and prepared to engage.

Across the road, SABRE waited.

Rolling forward, the BTR was quick to drop the ramp and send deploys its squad of Bazi soldiers. Of note was the fact that they had been joined by an Elite mentor to give them a bit more sticking power in the fight.

Thanks to the massed fire from three separate squads, the Bazistan army quickly started taking a toll on the smaller militia units, pinning them down under massed suppression of simply taking them out.

Meanwhile, SABRE bust into the target building and came face to face with a few surviving militiamen. Ever the professionals, they quick dropped them before pushing forward. From upstairs, they could hear the steady sound of gunfire as the insurgents engaged the oncoming army. The fire managed to down the two policemen and suppress the oncoming soldiers but did distract them from the team of killers slowly climbing the stairs.

At the same time, WANDERER got involved and pulled a cool piece of kit out of the toolbox. Rather than engaging an isolated militia group with carbines, the airburst grenade launcher took aim and sent a single shot flying out across the roof tops.

Safe to say, it was quite effective.

An interesting side diversion was the two police at the end of the map. Rather than meeting up with the Bazi army to begin operations, they instead got stuck in a fight while trying to defend themselves from the militia trying to restrain them.

Back in the fray, the militia were taking a beating with huge numbers of suppression markers. It wasn’t just the Bazi Army – WANDERER were assisting the assault on Objective Bravo by eliminating incoming militia units thanks to sitting on overwatch – the -1 modifier was easily nullified by the optics and high shooting skill.

Meanwhile in the building SABRE rushed up the stairs to be confronted by a stack of insurgents. However, they were ready for this. In went the flashbang.

After a blinding flash and a hail of gunfire, three insurgents lay dead – the other two were to follow in the next turn.

At this stage, the photos dry up but there were a few great events

  • SABRE’s base of fire started engaging the Bazi Army, kill several with a mix of 40mm, LMG fire and DMR shots. However, many more were saved thanks the body armour and personal medkits
  • The BTR and technicals started trading rounds, leading to both parties ending up with no drivers.

However, the big thing was unmasking of the hostage in Objective Bravo revealing the ambassador’s aide. Finally being told that the ambassador was in the quickly escaping white SUV, two members of WANDERER decided to engage. And for the first time this game they actually rolled pretty high on their armour penetration roll leading to this.

The aimed precise shots were a little too effective, with a carbine killing all three passengers in the vehicle with a single burst.

Good job everyone.


Henry Mitchell reports on the situation in Bazistan after the dust has settled

Seeing as the Ambassador is no longer with us, Geordiestan must be furious with everyone involved in this affair from Petramco and the Kiwis to the Bazistan government and the rumoured involvement of British troops. We shall have to see what happens next!

Slightly more concerning is what the rescued aide recounted to the SIS when being debriefed. He overheard his kidnapper mention a safe house they were to be taken to… in the city of St. Davide in Zaiweibo!

The next game will pick up this trail, possibly going for a slightly stealthy mission as intelligence forces seek to discover more information in the land across the Red Sea.


Hope you guys enjoyed the battle report! It was a really good game, where I got to put a lot of toys on the table, hiding the militia in amongst civilians. The most important thing however was that everyone left the table smiling having had one hell of a battle.

Next week we’ll take a closer look at those SAS chaps, along with their more urban focused buddies. There might even be an additional impressions based on another set of figures I’ve recently painted…

Spectre Operations: Building a Force – Task Orientated Teams

Despite this being a hobby blog, I do keep an eye on what seems to be doing well for me in terms of stats. My Starting Lists for Spectre Operations have done really well but I now want to expand it and provide something a little more useful than just “here am list”. Simple lists are good to begin with but there comes a time when you want to feel less like an accountant moving numbers of points around and more like a military commander, analysing problems and finding solutions with what meager forces your supplies (and wallet) allow.

To get you on your way, welcome to Building a Force! This series will be in multiple parts and cover some hints and tips when it comes to building your forces. In future installments, we’ll look at vehicles, Off Table Assets and getting your rabble together when playing the OPFOR.

This time however, we’re going to look at building a force for more well trained and organised armies (including Special Forces teams). In particular, we’re going to work on how you can pick your force more easily by selecting for the right tools for the job.

Using TOEs

“But Charge”, I hear you say “Why not just use the written down Tables of Organisation and Equipment?”

Okay, lets talk about TOEs.

TOE’s are a great tool when understanding history and tactics, writing rules or building a collection. Its much easier to balance a preset force or know how many figures you may need when making a platoon. However, from my understanding, when it comes to day by day operations the times when a unit deploys exactly to TOE is not 100%. Soldiers fall ill and aren’t replaced in time, squads are formed into multiples for specific missions and specialists are attached.

For this reason I suggest treating TOEs as a guideline. Start from them but when writing a scenario or preparing a force for a possible operation there is nothing stopping you from tweaking and adjusting the composition. Obviously this needs to be within reason – a squad made entirely of M249 LMGs and LAWs would be powerful but in reality they would have some ammo consumption issues and be a bit clunky to move round.

Basic Advice

Instead I recommend building your team around the objective given to you. Look at the goal, plan out what you think you need and pick from the example teams below. After a few games, I’d even suggest making up your own teams that you find effective. I look forward to seeing what everyone comes up with

Here are a few other bits of advice when picking your force:

  • Take attachments – red dots, lasers and scopes really help to improve your chances in ranged combat while different ammo types and suppressors can quickly change your role on the battlefield.
  • Suppressors and Subsonic ammo can be combined for ultimate efficiency in stealth but even just using the suppressor with regular ammo will give you a considerable benefit.
  • If you’re using Trained soldiers, adding a few additional riflemen to each team will increase your firepower and surviability.
  • Body Armour and Personal Med-kits will save your soldier’s lives. By affecting lethality and potentially reducing the damage from a hit, combining both is recommended.
  • Grenade choices are important – frag and smokes are good generic choices to expand your tactics while the other grenades are better in specific situations such as close quarters or asset destruction.
  • There are several weapons that can be added to the teams to give them additional edges in combat but don’t necessarily require a full additional team.
    • A Light Anti-Tank weapon to a team gives you a multi-role explosive device that lets you cause massive damage on a group of enemies or a vehicle/strongpoint.
    • A UGL can easily be swapped for a Multiple Grenade Launcher or a Airburst Grenade Launcher depending on your needs – the MGL is good for large numbers of enemies while the Airburst is perfect for when you are fighting enemies that are entrenched.
    • The humble RPG is actually a pretty tempting prospect – the multiple warheads (AT, HE and Thermobaric) gives you access to a range of effects for a reasonable points cost.
    • Shotguns are useful upgrades. Combat and Auto Shotguns may steal the headlines with Rapid and Auto fire but don’t underestimate the Under Barrel/Sawn Off Shotgun; It’s a cheap way to up your breaching skill and provide a nasty kick in close quarters when combined with the various ammo options.
    • Tasers can make capturing OPFOR alive much easier, reducing the need to get into close quarters.
  • Extra equipment like tactical ladders and climbing gear is very situational but can be the difference between success and failure. This is especially important when using the small Elite forces.

The Teams

The nine teams I’ve developed are below. Each will explain their task, show off the composition and then be accompanied by several notes explaining the idea behind them and how best to use them.

I’m going to use the term Service Rifle when describing the various teams. This can, depending on your forces nationality and skill level, be a carbine, an assault rifle or a battle rifle. There are only minor differences between them (the carbine has less range but gains bonuses in RI 1, the assault rifle is the default and the battle rifle is less effective at suppression but longer range and better lethality) so we shall be treating them as generic in the lists.

For people interested in points values, we’ll be covering that in the final part when we start building forces.

1. Basic Fireteam

Task: General Purpose – Provide a good mix of firepower at various ranges.

  1. Team Leader: Service Rifle
  2. Grenadier: Service Rifle + UGL
  3. Gunner: LMG
  4. Assistant: Service Rifle

Notes:

  • A common variation is to swap out the Service rifle on number 4 for a DMR or sniper rifle. This reduces your number of shots but does help you when engaging an enemy at long range.
  • This is a core building block – applying minor tweaks (such as those listed in the Basic Advice section) can massively improve the effectiveness of it

2. Assault Team

Task: Advancing and clearing a fixed position

  1. Team Leader: Service Rifle + UGL
  2. Pointman: Service Rifle + Combat Shotgun
  3. Breacher: Service Rifle + Breaching Gear
  4. Gunner: LMG

Notes:

  • The idea with this is a Basic Fireteam but more focused on the “Manoeuvre” part of the Fire and Manoeuvre Idea.
  • Pair these guys with a Base of Fire Team – it’s less flexible than two of the Standard Fireteams but more effective at their chosen job.
  • Close with the enemy to get to within RI1 and gain the most bonuses
  • The Pointman and Breacher are perfect to work together when assaulting a position – one can perform the breach allowing the other to enter and clear using the advantage of the shotgun in the same turn.

3. Base of Fire Team

Task: Providing suppressing fire on a position/covering the advance of another team.

  1. Gunner: MMG
  2. Assistant: Service Rifle
  3. Marksman: DMR
  4. Gunner: LMG

Notes:

  • The idea with this is a Basic Fireteam but more focused on the “Fire” part of the Fire and Manoeuvre Idea.
  • If you hadn’t guessed, pair these guys with an Assault team. See the assault team for more details
  • This team should find a good piece of cover with good line of sight across the place you intend to assault and then sit there
  • The Gunner and their MMG is the main focus of this team. That needs to keep up and running, putting suppression on enemy forces moving against your assault team.
  • The Assistant should be helping out the MMG gunner unless the enemy start to get too close to the Base of Fire team.
  • While the Gunners spread the suppression around, the Marksman lets you focus in on specific characters such as enemy weapon teams.
  • The LMG gunner’s main job is extra suppression but is also useful for close protection on your Base of Fireteam. Alternatively, this trooper’s gear could be enhanced with an explosive weapon if you want to add that capability to your force.

4. Scout Team

Task: Find and engage the enemy

  1. Lead Scout: Service Rifle
  2. Scout: Service Rifle and Combat Shotgun

Notes:

  • The inspiration for the scouting pair comes from the American WW2 squad.
  • Number 1 could alternatively equipped with a SMG alongside his service rifle for additional close quarters firepower.
  • This team would do especially well if equipped with suppressors and subsonic ammo. The idea with this squad is to close with the enemy and so benefits from avoiding detection.
  • Additionally, equipping this team with Ghille Suits would let them sniper stalk and reduce their chance of being detected even more

5. Command Team

Task: Command and provide support to the other teams

  1. Squad Leader/Commander: Service Rifle
  2. Medic: Service Rifle and Trauma Kit (Optional)

Notes:

  • Depending on your nationality and service branch, you might want to upgrade a team leader in one of your fireteams to be a squad leader rather than having a separate team.
  • In addition to two characters listed here, you could add another squad leader to act as a Forward Air Controller for an OTAs you may have access to.

6. CQB Team

Task: Clearing hostile area at extremely close range.

  1. Pointman: SMG
  2. Rifleman: Carbine
  3. Breacher: Carbine + Combat Shotgun + breaching gear
  4. Gunner: Compact LMG

Notes:

  • You’ll notice I explicitly mention carbines rather than Service Rifles. This is due to the Compact rule, something which gives you a real edge when inside range interval 1
  • To extend the above point, combining Compact weapons with Red Dots and Lasers gives you a +3 bonus in total which engaging targets inside RI1. This is perfect when combined with Rapid Fire or Automatic weapons as it removes the modifier for multiple shots
  • The Pointman and Breacher are designed to give you the edge in close quarters – in particular,
  • The Rifleman and Gunner will provide some longer range firepower which
  • For an additional edge, the Rifleman could be equipped with a Multi-Role dog. This is good for both detection and restraining enemy combatants. Also take a look at the various upgrade packages for your four legged friends

7. Anti-Tank team

Task: Destruction of enemy armoured assets

  1. Gunner: Service Rifle and AT weapon
  2. Assistant: Service rifle

Notes:

  • The AT weapon is generic – depending on your force and models it could be an RPG (with a variety of warheads), Light Anti-Tank weapon, Light Recoilless Rifle or a Guided Missile Launcher.
  • The Assistant, like in some of the other teams is going to either be providing security for the team or (if the weapon is crew served) providing the backup to the anti-tank weapon. They are also required by the Guided Missile Launcher in order to carry it.
  • The team has a lot of firepower but will need some

8. Sniper Team

Task: Long range precision elimination

  1. Sniper: Sniper Rifle (Light, Medium, Anti-Material)
  2. Spotter: DMR or Service Rifle

Notes:

  • Classic sniper team setup – one of the pair is the gun while the other is the eyes.
  • A worthwhile upgrade for this pair is some Ghillie suits, letting your avoid detection and sniper stalk. It also gives you cover bonuses.
  • If acting stealthily, suppressors are recommended for both. In addition, the spotter may want to consider subsonic ammo but the limitation to 2 range intervals of effectiveness may blunt the Sniper’s primary weapon. Alternatively, take a secondary such as a SMG.
  • Unless massed firepower is needed, the spotter should be crew serving in order to give your sniper the best chance of kill their target.

9. Heavy Weapon Team

Sadly I’m missing a photo for my heavy weapons – all of them belonging to the conventional forces are still in the painting queue

Task: Fire Support from a heavy platform

  1. Commander: Service Rifle
  2. Gunner: Service Rifle and Heavy Weapon
  3. Loader: Service Rifle

Notes:

  • One of simplest teams – long ranged firepower is your only mission
  • The heavy weapon could be any from the list but the most common will be either the Heavy Machine Gun, the Automatic Grenade Launcher or the Guided Missile Launcher.
  • Two men are needed to move a heavy weapon so including a third (or alternatively adding a few more) gives you a larger security element.
  • In an ideal world, a heavy weapon team should begin the game in a piece of cover with excellent sight lines. If that isn’t an option, your first priority should be to get this team into a position where it can cover the advance of the rest of your force. Until it’s setup, this team is not doing it’s job

With that we end Part 1 of Building a Force. The next few weeks are already planned out so there will not be any additional parts until the new year. However, once we are back I’ll be hammering through the other sections:

  1. Task Orientated Teams – Building the Core of a National Force
  2. Mobility and Firepower – Vehicles for a National Force
  3. “TBA” – Building The Core of an Irregular Forces
  4. “TBA” – Vehicles for Irregular Forces
  5. “TBA” – OTAs
  6. Problem to Solution – Assembling your force ready for the mission