Street Fighting In Syria

This was a game of firsts. Our first for a couple of months due to Dave being laid up after his surgery, our first modern game for 18 months and our first game with the new terrain set up.

Originally we planned to use our go to modern set, Spectre V2, but when it came to it we thought “well seeing as we’ve completely forgotten Spectre and we know we’re going to spend loads of time chatting, let’s try a set we’ve never played, it couldn’t be any worse!” So out came Black Ops which we bought over two years ago and never played!

Our scenario was a Syrian army detachment has been left holding two political prisoners in a district police station somewhere in battle torn Aleppo and are awaiting a prisoner transport vehicle – to be randomly decided by a D6 for the turn and a D8 for the street it was arriving on, which actually turned out rather well, turn 3 for arrival and the street right next to the police station. To the north of the station, just beyond the hospital, two cells from Liwa al Tawhid were forming up to storm the station. Objectives were simple, for the army, get the prisoners into the transfer vehicle and off table, for the insurgents, capture the police station and eliminate the defenders, releasing the prisoners would be the icing on the cake. If things got hairy for either side random reinforcements were available, for the army, a Hezbollah detachment was active to the north and could be contacted, for the insurgents, further cells could be activated (or not).

The game started with a growing crowd of locals protesting outside the police station inconveniently being filmed by a western press crew so the usual government response was somewhat muted – the rules had civilian response and movement rules which we freestyled with until the shooting started and then had them running for the nearest cover; one of the civilian figures was depicted carrying a large holdall which we decided could be deadly if she got close to anything military but as it turned out, not this time 🙂

The insurgents opened the game with Amer Soudani’s cell moving east to attempt a junction with Etai Luskin’s cell who were themselves heading toward the hospital, aiming to use it as a secure location from which to fire on the police station.

Both cells dropped off their support weapons guys to act independently, Soudani sent Abu Bakr south with his RPG to target the parked up army BTR60 and Luskin sent his sniper, Ruslan Auchev, into one of the apartment blocks. The army contented themselves with trying to move on the civilians and intimidating the film crew while the BTR crew played cards inside the station.

The first serious action was when Luskin’s technical roared down the street, under the hospital entry balcony (right behind the film crew!) and let rip with the mounted mini gun at the soldiers in the street. Poor training meant the shots missed but it did send the soldiers, the news crew and the nearby civilians running for cover – most of the non combatants headed for the side door of the hospital and remained there for the rest of the game. The soldiers in the station who were at the windows fired back, mainly ineffectually but sheer volume of fire did drop the gunner seriously wounded and showered the driver in glass.

Unfortunately for the technical this was the arrival time for the BMP prisoner transfer vehicle (nothing but the best) which after a bit of a delay got off an equally poor shot …….

which set the technical on fire causing the driver, Rashid el Andouri to bail out and head for cover.

Inside the station a lot of shouting by Sgt Tariq Ahmed (and dice rolling by me) got the reluctant BTR crew up and into the vehicle to roll out onto the street in the direction of the firing which rather neatly presented their rear to Abu Bakr lurking in a store front.

Now things were getting serious. As the BMP pulled up outside for the prisoner transfer the station was rocked by an explosion, Bakr had missed the BTR and hit the building! On the street Cpl Imir Shah led a section out past the burning technical and across the intersection searching for insurgents, one half of whom (Luskin) were infiltrating the hospital while the other moved up with the second technical.

The 2nd technical and Soudani’s cell started exchanging fire with Shah’s unit which went on for several turns and ultimately led to the death of Shah and one of his team.

During the firing across the street the other RPG guy from Soudani’s team damaged the BMP enough for it to be unusable for troop transfer although he did lose a fighter to army automatic fire.

After its reluctant start the BTR60 proved its worth, shooting up the technical and then brewing it up completely.

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and the RPG guy from Luskin’s team in the hospital took out the BTR. Sgt Ahmed desperately got on the radio as his men exchanged fire across the street at the hospital windows covering the BTR crew as they fled inside, during which an RPG from the army blew out one of the hospital windows taking out the insurgent LMG.

Amazingly (good die roll!) the Hezbollah unit was just down the street and headed inbound with their trusty T72.

The arrival of Hezbollah turned the tide for the government and after a couple tank rounds down the street Soudani’s team failed their morale and disappeared into the ruined streets leaving Luskin to quietly exit the hospital from the west side away from the Hezbollah fighters.

As a bit of a random side note, as the Hezbollah fighters advanced toward the action in the first turn of their arrival Dave realised he had a lone insurgent who had fled to cover earlier and was now on his own with a line of sight on the Sgt. Can I? Why not. So the dice were rolled and down went the Hezbollah Sgt! It didn’t effect morale but I guess it does show that the random nature of war can be replicated on the tabletop whether we want it to or not.

So, how did the rules play? Well, pretty well actually, we probably didn’t get things quite right but seeing as we’d never played before, we managed to get a half decent game done which seemed about as good as anything else for representing the period. What was striking was that a set that is advertised as being all secret agent and commando like (Black Ops) translated very well into a bigger more open game and we reckoned with some local tweaks could cater for a multi player game quite easily whereas the set designed for combat operations (Spectre) actually works better in more confined scenarios mainly because of the more detailed weapons rollouts and the concentration on individuals within the group which makes it less adaptable to local rules. The upside for us is that we now have two sets we can mix and match depending on scenario and mood so win, win 🙂

Bad taste. For those who follow us on Twitter you may have noticed the tweet about the beginnings of this AAR being taken down by LAF for contravening their rules about acceptability on their Cold Wars forum which revolves around nothing being allowed which is post 2000 or maybe post 2010 – the cut off point is a little grey so games set in Iraq and Afghanistan have appeared and good luck to their authors. When I foolishly got into a (losing) debate about it the nub of the reasoning seemed to be that showing a hospital building and referring to political prisoners was in poor taste, now the rules are the rules and I have to accept them if I want to post or comment on the forum but I don’t think we can talk about taste and at the same time push metal figures around depicting less than savoury conflicts in less than savoury parts of the world whatever the time frame.

As always we hope you enjoyed the post and happy gaming wherever you are.

Syrian Street Fighting

Back in February of 2019 I gamed on Gareth Lane’s Chechen/Russian street landscape (see ‘Away Game With Welsh Chechens) and besides having a great time I also much admired the buildings – hand built by a guy he knew. Not long after the event the gang did our cartel game at Hammerhead in March (see Sicario Part VI: The End!) – still the last show game so far, and chatting with Dave afterward we thought it would be good to do a similar game with our ever growing modern middle east collection, which was becoming more and more Syrian oriented, but for it to be realistic it would need to be far more ‘distressed’ than our pristine cartel set up, although we could still use the boards with the roads.

At first I looked around for mdf kits and yes there are a few individual buildings (good old TTC) but not what I was really looking for, we could use our existing middle east building but they are really for villages or the outskirts of towns, or maybe I or one of the group could scratch build? But then I asked myself, but what am I really looking for? Well it doesn’t take much of a Google search to show what the streets of most Syrian cities look like and it’s pretty desperate although oddly iconic and very reminiscent of images of Stalingrad – cue Gareth and his builder.

Contact with Gareth revealed the guy was Chris at Task Force Terrain and in April our journey began.

At first it was all about what I really wanted and what could reasonably fit on the existing street grid so a steady stream of e mails back and forth slowly inched us towards a mutual understanding of where we were going. As an ex automotive industry project manager I have to say this was the most constructive project experience I have ever had and I cannot praise Chris enough for his energy and enthusiasm for the project tempered by what was practical to build and be usable on the table top.

The months April and May were spent exchanging ideas on what buildings would be best for the different parts of the street grid; single ruins at the corners, less damaged apartment style buildings for the double spaces and what to put in the centre as a feature building. Also, mundane stuff like what kind of base to put the buildings on (3mm hardboard eventually), whether there should be pavements around the buildings and should they be damaged, how high could we go and how much access could players get to the buildings and what colour should the buildings be? Strangely this all became increasingly important as we went along; the feature building entailed a lot of back and forth e mails accompanied by real life images for consideration and it was Chris’s idea to go for a hospital, very much a feature of news reports and a potential focal point for a game. The question of pavements was something I hadn’t considered even though they are staring you in the face in every image from the cities but of course space for pavement means less space for building and what size pavement anyway? The height of the buildings became an issue of practicality from a gaming point of view and a construction point of view; too tall and gamers can’t reach across the table and the more floors there are the more messing about taking floors off and on; in the end we opted for small apartment ruins at the corners only two stories high, then larger apartments/office blocks of three stories with removable roofs and top floor and then a straight drop to the ground floor and the centre piece hospital four stories in two halves with removable roof and floors.

The colour palette was decided by Chris doing swatches and sending me photos which worked surprisingly well as I think you’ll agree.

It was during this development that Chris found a picture of a Syrian police station and that became the prototype for one of our double sized buildings.

Into June and the serious work started, well for Chris anyway, I was thinking “I wonder if we could get this ready for The Other Partizan” – oh how we laughed!

As he progressed Chris sent me images of what the raw buildings would look like and the option for limited changes but as we’d discussed the look at length this was essentially a rubber stamp exercise.

Come October and the photos of the finished articles started flowing in and I was completely blown away by the level of detail and had one of those rare moments of experiencing a vision actually realised. Truly stunning.

All that I needed to do now was motor down to Chris and pick them all up. Easy! Well yes if we weren’t in tiers (I was in bloody tears!) and where I lived was different to where Chris lived and the rules kept changing and then no one could go anywhere! At first we just agreed Chris would hold onto the buildings for a while because we’d be able to travel soon……… Obviously it soon became apparent that no one was going anywhere and my project was cluttering up Chris’s workshop so reluctantly I agreed he’d courier them up to me.

Image

As you can see, 8 boxes arrived one day via DPD, who it must be said did a fine job of delivering in tact, ably assisted by Chris’s magnificent packaging skills.

Having duly unpacked and set them up on the the streets boards on the gaming table they just sat there for several weeks and I dreamt of us gaming on them someday but as that day seemed forever far off I decided to solo game a Spectre game the other week over several nights just to get some use before storing them away for the great gaming return! Hopefully this game will appear with a narrative on LAF in due course but in the meantime here are some shots of the action.

That’s all for this month next month we’ll have a look at the joint project born out of the ashes of lockdown – Successors.

Rescue At The Old Fort

IMG_20190917_194206

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.

IMG_20190917_194150

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.

IMG_20190917_224708

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

IMG_20190723_231342

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.

Continue reading “The Hunt For Ali Suleiman”