Away Game With Welsh Chechins

This game came about thanks to an invite from Gareth Lane, fellow twitterite, who suggested I came down to south wales for a game on his excellent Russian terrain of Russian Federation v Chechins using the Bolt Action Modern rules. So leaving the rest of the gang behind, mainly due to shift patterns and ‘real life’, I battled through the torrential rain to fly the Westbury flag in far off Wales.

I took on the role of the Russian Federation fielding a force of regulars – 3 infantry sections plus HMG, Grenade Launcher & Sniper support mainly of Inexperienced morale with a range of transport  – BRDM, BYT80, BMP2 & ZSU23-24 all of Regular morale. On top of this was the good stuff being a Spetsnaz section plus Light Mortar & MMG support with an Mi17 transport helicopter and HIND gunship. Both had a dog team assigned to sniff out booby traps (of which Gareth kept telling me there would be many and deadly – psychological warfare!) – more of the dog teams later.

Gareth took the Chechins fielding a mixed force of Veteran Mujahadeen & their warlord Arbi Barayev, Regular Chechin Wolf Pack infantry sections and Inexperienced Chechin rebels plus HMG, Grenade Launcher & Sniper support and a captured BMP2. Also an array of anti personnel & anti tank mines that would be positioned prior to game start.

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Federation objectives were to seize both ends of the tram line and hold at the end of the game thus denying the rebels a vital supply life line and as a bonus kill the warlord Arbi Barayev. The Chechins had the rather simpler objective of protecting the supply line and bloodying the Russians.

The rules were new to me. Gareth had advised me to watch some YouTube play through videos, which I duly did, and to be frank wasn’t too impressed but my golden rule is ‘your house, you rules’ so decided to go with the flow and rely on Gareth to walk me through what could and could not be done.

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The Federation troops were deployed on the eastern edge of the board having three possible entry points at which at least half of the troops must start the game. The Spetsnaz were air mobile and couldn’t enter until turn 3 in what was a 7 turn game (with a random option for an extra single turn). With an abundance of caution (inspired by fear of mines and ambush) I deployed one infantry section plus the the HMG and the ZSU at the northern most entry point – a mistake in a limited turn game as they couldn’t cover enough ground. At the centre point I deployed (over two turns) the other two infantry sections one in a BTR80, one in the BMP2 – the right tactics I think but see later rookie error. At the southern entry point was the BRDM containing the command element leading the way followed by the other BTR80 holding the Grenade Launcher team, the Sniper team and the dog team. The  Chechins were all unseen until Gareth deployed them at pre configured positions and some were in Ambush – a rules mechanism thing.

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The initial moves naturally belonged to the Federation. The northern team moved at Advance speed to start but realising this was too slow I had them Run and to hell with booby traps! Their objective was the northern end of the tram line where a unit of Chechins had materialised but desultory firing didn’t have much effect, the ZSU however which had moved down a parallel street was much more effective – 4 x turret mounted auto cannons at 3 dice a piece are great fun, definitely getting one of these for our Syrian games!  The centre forces moved into the broken terrain and the BMP2 disgorged it’s section and gave covering fire as they crossed the street under fire from Chechins further down, the BTR80 however didn’t deploy it’s troops (oops!) and so when a Chechin RPG came whizzing up the street it brewed up pretty quickly taking half the section with it. The southern force managed to deploy into some buildings to flank the Chechins at the end of the street opposite them with the dog sniffing out a booby trap, the sniper team getting up high and the Grenade Launcher team setting up nicely. The BTR80 got itself in an alley between two buildings which meant that though it couldn’t get hit it was no use in providing fire support so this role went to the BRDM once the commander had debussed.  At this point I was thinking ‘well I’ve drawn him out so I know where most of his stuff is but I’m not winning the fire fight and the tram line is a ways off’

Turn 4 saw the arrival of the good stuff. The HIND deployed to hover over the main street to support the Federation regulars – I didn’t quite get the hang of this to start with and the Mi17 hovered over the northern end of the tram line for the Spetsnaz to rappel down relatively safely due to the ZSU chewing up the Chechins at this end. The plan was now for the Spetsnaz to mop up so the regulars could secure this end and then proceed down the tram lines to the other objective but in the way were a Wolf Pack section in the adjacent street and the veteran Mujahedeen cunningly using the ruined factory as cover. It was going to be a race to the finish!

The HIND wasn’t as deadly as I thought it was going to be and I did have some heart stopping moments when the ambush HMG & Grenade Launcher revealed themselves on the roof top of a large apartment building and tried to bring it down – I could see the markers but couldn’t do anything until Gareth revealed them which is a bit of a clumsy rules mechanism as it could lead players avoiding a spot they wouldn’t necessarily avoid, however mutual good spirit avoided any problem. The plus of the volume of fire the HIND could deliver did however did ensure some judicious pin markers on the Chechins which prevented them overwhelming the Federation regulars at the southern end of the street who had by now lost their BRDM to an RPG and were holding on rather than advancing although this did mean the sniper team could get off some effective kills on the HMG and Grenade Launcher teams on the roof opposite.

In the centre of the action we had an exchange of BPM2 losses; the Chechin vehicle took out the Federation vehicle when I foolishly deployed side on which left the infantry sections there a bit in the air but a turn or two later, the ZSU, having run out of infantry to chew up poked its head round a corner and tore up the Chechin vehicle – love this vehicle!

At the northern end of the table the on foot regulars had got themselves into a bit of a firefight with a sniper they couldn’t hit and couldn’t really move due to the rebel BPM2 (soon to be brewed up) and the HMG team had triggered a booby trap and lost half their team. Spetsnaz to the rescue! They finished off the opposition using the MMG & infantry section while the Mortar team started lobbing shells into the ruined factory and the dog team used the available cover to loosen off a couple of shots which took out Arbi Baryev – spectacular! Now it all came together as the Spetsnaz raced against time; the Chechins advancing up the street alongside the tram lines were taken out and the HIND now hovered over the factory (narrowly avoiding a SAM missile fired on the last turn) raining fire on the Mujahedeen who although not all killed were so pinned they were going nowhere.

Time was called and a minor Russian victory declared having seized one end of the tram line and killed the Chechin warlord. I of course claimed that with the HIND hovering over the other end of the tram line and with most of the Chechins being eliminated – we counted around 40 dead, it was a Federation victory. What it was, was a victory for the hobby, two people who had never met, playing in the right spirit, no rule mongering but equally no silliness and having a thoroughly great day. Thank you Gareth for being a great host I hope we can have a repeat performance sometime soon in the Midlands.

A note on the rules. I’d never played them before but after a few turns they were surprisingly easy to pick up and despite my misgivings played well. Are they perfect? Well no, but what rule set is? They are not as nuanced as say Spectre but for a squad based game where you are effectively ignoring the individuals and concentrating on the whole they give a good game. Would I play them again? Yes.

Rescue At The Old Fort

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This was the 2nd of our ‘Adventures In Syria’ campaign (more of a collection of loosely connected events) and followed on from the ‘Hunt For Ali Suliman’ game where 2 Syrian special forces troopers and their Russian adviser were captured. The rules are Spectre Operations V2.

Fast forward a couple of months and Damascus Mission have negotiated with the insurgent group and agreed a hand over of cash for the captured soldiers and their adviser at the old Ottoman fort some miles west of Aleppo, although unfortunately one soldier has died of his wounds in captivity. Of course nobody negotiates with terrorists, especially Bashar al-Assad, and so a rescue team headed by Marton Csokas are approaching the fort through the eastern cactus field maintaining comms contact with Dmitri Davidovich a seconded sniper on overwatch in the high dunes to the south west. The insurgents are the Azaz Command headed by Amir El Masry one of Suliman’s lieutenants.

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Most of the insurgents are positioned in and around the fort with a couple of men in an outlying shelter and another in rocks to the west scanning the road. A variety of small arms are carried by the group supplemented by two RPG’s, an M249 and a PKM plus a technical with a mounted machine gun, an armoured technical and a truck; all are on Alert and the prisoners are under the watchful eye of Abu Nazir.

The first few moves nothing happened, the Syrians moved cautiously and the insurgents got impatient resulting in El Masry finally sending off El Adouari & Boussalet down the road in the armoured technical to see where the hell the money men were. However once the Syrians were at the wall they were heard and Sleiman & Sheik turned from their positions on the walls to see the Syrians at the breach but the Syrians had the initiative and opened fire killing Sleiman and Nazir (useful) but missing Sheik (not so useful) who let go with his RPG, missing the target but still hitting the wall and killing private Tahir al-Malik in the AOE.

Out on the desert road Adouari reacts to the firing and hauls the technical around and comes roaring back up the road which activates Davidovitch up on the dunes who calmly picks off Boussalet in the back of the vehicle and then picks off Hamza who is manning the machine gun on the other technical.

 

Back at the chaos of the fort El Masry lines up for a shot down at the rescuers from the tower but is gutshot by private Hamza who was left behind in the cactus on overwatch, Masry dies in 3 turns.

 

Csokas and his men are into the fort now, eliminating Sheik before he can let go with another RPG but before they can get the prisoners freed the two guys from the shack, Marhyar & al-Malik make a belated appearance and in the gunfight that follows, Csokas & private Hamdouch kill Marhyar but don’t kill al-Malik before he can spray the area from his M249, missing them but killing prisoner Pushkin (not in the plan at all!). Csokas downs al-Malik before he can do anymore damage and the one remaining insurgent in the fort (Hammoud)is grabbed for questioning (not nice).

Making their way outside with the prisoner, the rescued, and two dead team members, the section are witness to the bizarre sight of Adouari trying to shoot from the window of his moving vehicle with his AK74 and not surprisingly failing while private Hamza calmly suppresses him.

With the sun now high in the sky the team move off to the extraction point leaving behind the shattered remnants of El Masry’s cell and a weakened Ali Suliman.

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Postscript: The parents of Corporal Vladimir Pushkin received the news of their son’s tragic death in a motor vehicle accident on the outskirts of Damascus several weeks later.

 

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.

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Madonna Dell’ Partizan

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It’s been a little while since we’ve attended ‘The Other Partizan’, the early date clashes with holidays and shift patterns are more difficult to negotiate, but this year it all came together so we thought we’d do a ‘classic wargame’ and wheeled out the C18th collection, but with a twist; War of the Austrian Succession in Italy. This period and theatre has always fascinated me ever since I read Spencer Wilkinson’s ‘The Defence of Piedmont’ which in turn was recommended in a Peter Wilson article in Wargames Illustrated years (and years!) ago. We decided we would do a battle from the campaign on the way back from the first Partizan, we just needed to decide which one, which in turn meant which one do we have most of the troops for? The best fit was Madonna Dell’ Olmo, a set piece battle fought on September 30th 1744 and featuring all the main protagonists; French, Spanish, Piedmontese, and Austrian but did we have enough? The French were easy, our long standing collection had all we needed, Spanish we had a semblance of a force but cavalry we had nothing 😦 , Piedmontese we had a significant force from when I first got into the period and Austrians we had a plenty. Undeterred we sent off the forms and then quietly panicked!

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