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.

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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

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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.

Continue reading “The Hunt For Ali Suleiman”