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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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…
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.
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
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.
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?