The Hunt For Ali Suleiman

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A bit of a play on the ‘hunt for Osman Bin Laden’ this came out of a discussion around a modern middle east game we played recently where Syrian special forces and their Russian advisers attempted the capture or elimination of a noted terrorist/resistance fighter/legitimate opposition leader – delete as appropriate according to which news channel you’re watching, somewhere around Aleppo.

The game was one of several recently where we have been getting our heads around the Spectre V2 rules (which we think we now have, kind of!) and had the five Syrians classed as Trained mentored by the two Russians classed as Elite entering the outskirts with an intelligence report indicating that Suleiman was in one of three buildings; the compound, the barracks or the cafe (Sarissa cantina masquerading as a cafe) – turned out he was in fact in the well to do merchant’s villa behind the cafe, more of this later.

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The game unfolded better than we hoped and gave us a surprise ending – see below, but what it also did was make us think a bit about more about making our skirmish games a little more connected.

Now wargames campaigns have been around as long as the hobby itself (Hyboria anyone?) but the formality of creating a believable world along with rules for movement, recruitment, politics, income etc is a lot of work for a small group and can take up a lot of time – I’ve run an Italian Wars campaign and a Seven Years War campaign for a previous club and the effort is not worth the reward or lack of! We’ve noticed these days a number of groups creating alternative realities around world events where countries sounding very like real places play host to connected events and many newer sets of rules have campaign ideas based around that concept. Spectre being no exception to this, so we thought is that for us?

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The alternate reality didn’t quite appeal, it can get a little bit ‘Carry On ….’ but when we looked at the 10 year long (and counting) Syrian Civil War we thought hold on, here is an identifiable country with cities, towns, villages, roads, ancient ruins, hills, woods, everything you need to game in plus already functioning government forces and romping around it are more factions than you could possibly dream of; ISIL, Syrian Rebels (various), Kurds (including a female brigade), Turkish backed Rebels, Israeli’s on the Golan Heights and of course special forces from the US, Russia, GB and France who may or may not be there. In many ways a perfect setting for us to kick off with our very own enemy of the state and his group plus any other myriad of deniable actions we might want to come up with; the only house rules we gave ourselves was, no politics – everyone in this conflict has lied/is lying about what they have and have not done for the furtherance of democracy/preservation of legitimacy and no head chopping and similar acts of brutality – we can leave that to the real world thank you.

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So how went the mission? The Syrians opted to approach from the south west ruins, splitting their force into Alpha and Bravo teams; Alpha, comprising Vladimir Pushkin and two of the Syrians was going to approach the compound through the streets and create enough of a disturbance for Bravo under Marton Csokas to ghost around the outskirts and enter the cafe which was deemed the most likely hang out for a pseudo sophisticate like Ali and if that was a bust then the compound and the barracks were both close.

All went well for the first few turns, the two groups moved undetected and Alpha got itself within LOS of the compound – the insurgents guards were classed as Alert from a game point of view and the rest as Unalert.

Just as an aside, this is the bit I enjoy about skirmish games; the closeness of the gaming area, the cautious manoeuvring, deciding whether someone heard a noise or happened to look in the right direction at the wrong time; not everyone’s cup of tea but it can be a nice distraction from marching battalions of foot across the big table.

Being wargamers of course and not elite operatives someone had to start shooting didn’t they and that would be Alpha taking out the guard on the compound gate and the GPMG guy on the roof. Nice shooting but it did rather Alert the insurgents and the two lieutenants, Amir El Masry and Amer Soudani started to kick their men into shape. In the villa, Ali and his immediate guards were Alert but a couple of burst of automatic fire could be anything….

In the compound the technical was started up and crewed and the rest of the squad got ready to follow it out into the street while at the barracks the gates were opened. The various guys on the roofs scanned the streets but could see nothing, Bravo continued on its way hoping Alpha knew what it was doing – it didn’t…

Basically the insurgents now played hunt the special forces, heading towards where the shooting came from, in force, while Alpha tried to slide back through the streets with a plan of checking out the barracks for Ali while the insurgents searched for them; this was never going to work.

And it didn’t! We try and be fairly strict on ourselves as to what the figures can see/hear compared to what we can see which can be a little tense on occasion but in this game all worked well and Alpha duly bumped into some of the hunters. A quick gunfight took out one of the insurgents but Alpha needed cover now so into the nearest building for a Syrian version of The Alamo.

But what of Bravo I hear you ask? Well these guys were now at the rear of the cafe covertly gaining access but at no time did the player ask himself ‘what’s that big SUV doing parked outside the nearby building?’

In fact this was their game; they searched the cafe and found nothing, not even the owner – must do some civilians, while Ali was bundled into his SUV by his now rattled guards, who definitely didn’t like the intensity of the firing in the street, and drove off to safety. Bravo didn’t fire a shot.

Back at The Alamo the insurgents were pounding Alpha with rockets and heavy machine gun fire from the technical but no casualties and the Elite status of Pushkin kept them from succumbing to a morale failure while they managed to slowly whittle down the insurgent numbers.

Realising we could be faced with a long drawn out and potentially boring end game we decided on possible resolutions and diced for them. They all die 0-10%, they surrender 11-25%, Bravo rescues them but casualties are sustained 26-50%, they deploy smoke and escape 51-75%, Syrian air force intervenes and they and the insurgents die 76-90%, someone senior at the Russian mission unofficially deploys a helicopter rescue 91-100%. The dice god decided they surrendered which rather neatly left us with our next game – rescue the prisoners!

So quite by accident we’ve ended up with a kind of a campaign so we’ll keep you posted.

Many thanks for reading!

 

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