A Cowboy Conundrum

Many, many years ago I had the pleasure of getting to know the Skirmish Wargames Group and playing in their 54mm western gunfight and later mountain men games and they remain some of my fondest wargaming memories. In subsequent years the club I belonged to at that time got into the period and a campaign set around the fictional Dardenell County flourished for many years.

Like all good things, it came to an end and I sold off all my collection and haven’t really gamed the period for many years. Then, on a whim, I picked up some nicely painted gunfighters at Hammerhead (BC – Before Covid) and then acquired some buildings through my good friend Gareth Lane and the germ of a ‘side period’ was born.

Of course time has moved on and with it wargames rules styles, hence the title of this piece, should I dig out the old rules and try and remember how to play or embrace the ‘new world’?

Just a casual browse at a show or via Google and one can see there are a number of alternatives out there. Dead Man’s hand by Great Escape Games, Gunfighters Ball by Knuckleduster Miniatures, Fistful of Lead by Wiley Games, The Rules With No Name by Wargames Foundry, and Dracula’s America by Osprey to name but a few.

Through the agency of some local wargamers I’ve been able to play a number of games of Fistful of Lead and even done a re-write version for our own multi player cartel games. My kids bought me a copy of Dead Man’s Hand one birthday because I was waxing lyrical about what fun western gunfight games were and so Dave and I have been able to play several games of that.

In keeping with the modern trend, both sets utilise a deck of cards to activate figures which by default becomes quite a random affair; the deck in FoL is a standard deck, so easy and cheap to obtain, the deck in DMH is a custom deck available only from Great Escape Games, so not so cheap but it does have some cool special events on the cards. FoL uses D10 die, DMH uses D10 & D20 die.

The upside to both sets is that they are simple and easy to learn, which results in a fast play style of game – the first time Dave and I trialled DMH we got two games done and dusted in an evening. The mechanisms are straight forward so don’t require much thinking about and the random nature of drawing cards is very appealing to those who like the conceit of ‘friction’ in their games or to those who just want to ‘have a laugh’.

The downside is, that despite the very best of intentions, they don’t have any real western gunfight feel, not even a Hollywood one and as a game both are completely luck driven.

The lack of feel, for me at least, is the decision to just have generic weapons – pistol, rifle, shotgun, which means that the nuances of the period are lost; the difference between cap & ball revolvers and metal cartridge, the speed of reloading a Colt compared to a Smith & Wesson, why certain gunfighters preferred double action revolvers, the different ranges of carbines and rifles (repeaters and single shot). Also the wide variety of characters in the period, and, in fairness, in film, are reduced to a small selection of stereotypes all behaving in the same way which doesn’t do justice to some of the fantastic modern sculpts there are out there, you just end up with Team Blue v Team Red ๐Ÿ˜’.

The luck or random element is obviously apparent in any game, that’s why it’s a game, but when the random is the driving force and luck is the sole arbitrator the end result can tend to reduce the player to a spectator in his own game and negate any planning or playing skills he/she might have. In the several games I’ve played with both sets I’ve seen a guy with a shotgun miss the target at point blank range with both barrels (yes I’ve seen ‘Unforgiven’ but remember the first barrel hit), two gunfighters at close range both miss (remember, gunfighters, not random cowhands), characters move into and around buildings like they are ‘The Flash’ and so on.

Now I completely get why rule sets have developed in this way, players can get to grips with the mechanisms quickly, no period knowledge is required, the game cracks along, players have a laugh; and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had quite a laugh playing both sets (in a good way ๐Ÿ˜ƒ). But……..

Having acquired more figures and more buildings Dave and I recently asked ourselves the question, “is this it?” Not a good question for a wargamer to be asking himself ๐Ÿค”.

To try and move us forward I suggested to Dave we give the original Skirmish Wargames set a go, knowing full well a bit more effort would be required to play the game. The rules are late 70’s and reflect wargames rules thinking of the time; play is simultaneous based on each character having a written order for the next phase (by order I mean a couple of words – Draw, Walk, Turn & Draw), each character has a set of numeric abilities for pistol, rifle & hand to hand plus an overall experience (Professional, Average, Novice), shooting is based on a % roll against a calculated chance of success which gives a level of damage and everything else out of the ordinary has a % chance of success.

Given the extra effort required the game went remarkably well, we rattled through a lot of turns, a couple of characters were shot down, there was a panic when Dave ran out of ammo (shots are counted) and was messing about swapping guns, a character knocked himself out vaulting a fence and opening a window and crossing a room actually took time. It wasn’t perfect though, the movement was slow and the nuances of the shooting process meant that a lot of bullets were wasted but we still enjoyed the game.

So, we are still in a bit of a quandary. Do we go quick and dirty and to hell with the perceived ‘realism’ or do we go with a bit more detail and the ‘effort’ of doing stat cards so we know what each character is armed with and how good he is? With regards to detail, isn’t that what the hobby is all about? and I don’t have a problem with stat cards, I think it lends a level of player involvement to any game. I’m pretty sure the guys at Skirmish Wargames did an addendum that negated the orders aspect and streamlined the process a bit but dammed if I can find it ๐Ÿ˜’ keep looking I guess.

So that’s it. We’re going to give the Skirmish Wargames set another go and take a bit more care over the character stats – we randomly generated for the first game and it gave some very strange results which we thought skewed the game. Look out for our next attempt soon ๐Ÿ˜€

February 2022 Roundup

Well, we’ve managed to keep to a fairly regular schedule, managing to get 5 games in and complete some terrain items.

The month started with a multi player WWII skirmish set amongst our four foot square city scape, built for us quite a few years back by Dave Marshall of TM Terrain. Designed as a generic eastern Prussia/western Russia look, this game was set in the Caucasus a favourite theatre of operations for us.

The sides were a full platoon each of Soviets and Germans plus limited support, each side approached from the east and west of the town with different deployment options and variables on heavy support/transport.

The game split into the two halves of the board; on the main boulevard a bloody gunfight saw heavy casualties on both sides (mainly from deployed mmg’s & lmg’s) but by nightfall more real estate was in Soviet hands than Germans, in the suburbs both sides proceeded cautiously inflicting low level casualties and by nightfall neither had made significant progress.

Next up was another skirmish but this time just two of us trialling the Dead Mans Hand western gunfight rules. This was a project that had notionally started way back in 2020 when we got the buildings and a few figures but then sat dormant for the first year of Covid. A few more figures were added in 2021 and I got bought the rules as a birthday present so finally we got round to it!

Anyone who has gamed with me knows I’m not a huge fan of card driven games and excessive randomness which is exactly what the rules serve up but they are well produced and Dave and I recognised that for the occasional game we were going to need something fairly short, sharp and effective.

The plus side of being simple and effective was that we got through two games in the evening so that was a plus.

Next up was a ‘proper battle’ featuring Florentines and Venetians from our Italian wars collection and using our home grown rules.

It wasn’t our greatest outing, both sides were overly cautious and where they did get bold it was in isolated efforts. The challenge when using Italian states is the generally low morale of the troops and poor command ability of the generals and so the effort for the players is more demanding than commanding French or Spanish.

Ultimately it was a score draw but both sets of players enjoyed the game and swore to be a bit more aggressive next time!

The last game on home turf was another western gunfight, same rules, different terrain, less figures.

As a game this played better, maybe due to us knowing a bit more about the flow of the rules, maybe because we limited ourselves in terms of numbers, don’t know really.

Again we got through two games and for a knock about kind of game (what some would call “fun”) it was perfectly fine but the random element gives some really ridiculous results which did start to grate by the end of play. The upshot was that Dave and I are going to have a go with the rules we grew up on, the ‘Old West Skirmish Rules’, far more complex but certainly more realistic and have a another go with ‘Fistful of Lead’ which we gamed with a while back. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜

Final game of the month was an ‘away game’ with some long standing wargames buddies, near to us but not of us ๐Ÿ™‚.

The game was one of those glorious British colonial expeditions in the face of unruly Afghan depredations using a new set of rules ‘Beyond the Empire’ another set in the draw a card, roll a random dice to see if you do what you wanted to and then roll some more random dice to see if you are any good at shooting/fighting this turn.

Now we had great fun; the sun was out, the beer was flowing and much hilarity was had at each players expense but colonial warfare it most definitely wasn’t.

If the very luck driven, completely random course of events and frankly unbelievable combat outcomes are for you (and I know that for many players this is indeed what it’s all about) then these are as good a set as the many other of it’s type out there. For me, no thanks.

Earlier in the year I’d got myself a couple of the Grand manner buildings in their sale – couldn’t afford them full price ๐Ÿ˜‚ and so got them painted up. Although they are ‘Spanish’ I painted them in a more generic northern European style so we could use them for WWII skirmish.

Also got hold of a Blotz minaret to add to our individual middle east buildings.

That’s about it really. The Successors project trundles along, pikemen are being painted as we speak and Dave’s decision to do some Galatians has a unit nearly done – hopefully some photo’s in the March roundup, some vehicles to add to the modern middle east games are about to get started and more Carlists are underway.

So, until next time, be safe and get in as many games as you can ๐Ÿ˜

January 2022 Roundup

With the start of 2022 and our emergence from 2 years of grabbing a game when we could I thought I’d record each month’s activities for what looks like (fingers crossed) is going to be a more stable gaming year.

Gathering the group up to start gaming again at the beginning of the month was an emotional time and gave us cause to pause and reflect. We have been very fortunate, given our senior age span, not to have lost anyone permanently from this life as so many across the country have; that said we have slimmed down a bit, of the hard core group one of our number is still not comfortable about socialising so we have left it with him to choose his time, of the occasional players, none of them are coming back having essentially given the hobby up. That all said we did manage to get 4 games in and make some progress on some of the projects.

Our first game was a French Wars of Religion game, refighting the battle of Dreux.

Historically a Catholic victory we managed a reversal of history with a stunning Protestant victory that saw most of the Catholic army either dead or running away. It was good to start with a historical refight and we agreed we should try and do more, although that has not been the case so far ๐Ÿ˜.

Our next effort was a classic Prussian v Austrian Seven Years War bash with a considerable number of figures on the table – always good to see. Looking back we could easily have done one of the earlier historical battles but I got carried away with creating a challenging scenario for the game ๐Ÿ˜€.

The game was a points for objectives game, so high ground, bridges, villages. Some of the terrain units were already in Prussian/Austrian hands, a couple of which could be easily lost if players didn’t concentrate, the rest were there for the taking but most would involve fighting for them.

This was a hard fought game with several brigades being fought to exhaustion. The battle will be remembered however not for any great tactical insight but for the hilarity of the poor old Austrian cavalry commander receiving three sets of orders during the game that saw him canter from one part of the battlefield to another and not fight anyone ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚. In the end the Prussians just edged it on points.

Our third game was an eastern renaissance game featuring Ottomans invading southern Muscovy.

This was great fun, as both armies were principally cavalry, we had units attacking, retreating, returning and the air thick with arrows. Ultimately it was a narrow Ottoman victory and at the end of it we were knackered, lots of cavalry is fun but it can get to be a bit of a slog when trying to work out the stats for numerous units all shooting and fighting at the same time.

Last up was an inaugural game of our Successors project.

The project is still ongoing but I reckoned we had enough done to be able to put together a passable semblance of a Eumenid and an Antigonid army which indeed was the case.

The game played well and we were pleased with where we’ve got to with the rules; some tweaks still need to be made but overall a good run out of the figures and the rules.

As well as the games we’ve been slowly working through additions to the armies; some more Streltsy have been completed for the Muscovites – too late for the game though ๐Ÿ™, the Carlists have been expanded in preparation for Partizan, a whole load of gunfighters have been finished for the Wild West games we still haven’t played yet ๐Ÿ™„ and the Successor cavalry were finished in time for the game.

In terms of frequency of games we are well down on pre pandemic times, prior to the pandemic we were usually gaming twice a week, every week and occasionally squeezing in a third. Chatting the other day we recognised we’re never going to get back to that, the Covid years sapped our energy and drive and we are all two years older which for a couple of the guys is quite significant. So going forward we’re thinking once a week would be good, maybe the occasional second game, and seriously look at the joint collection and see if it can be slimmed down – but that’s probably a bit of a pipe dream ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

Stay safe everyone and enjoy your gaming.

The Successors Project: Part Four

So, we finally got to game the rules with real figures and a live opponent; just me and Dave to start, a group game will need us two to know what we’re talking about and to have fully fleshed armies.

At the moment we don’t have sufficient pike formations for a traditional battle, in fact we only have one, but we do have sufficient figures for something close enough to see what it looks and feels like.

Using the army lists I was able to create a Eumenid and Antigonid force at about 70% of my proposed typical army points value, so if the pikes and some more generals were available it looks like it might work.

Both armies had two blocks of mercenary hoplites each, four units of cavalry each, one of which was Xystophoroi and the others satrap units; the Antigonids had the one unit of pike, three elephants and sundry skirmishers, the Eumenids had only two elephants, three units of peltasts and also sundry skirmishers. Both sides had an Army General and two Commanders.

The Eumenids deployed with all their cavalry on the right wing under one of the commanders, satrap cavalry to the front and Xystophoroi behind, the hoplites were in the centre under the General covered by the skirmishers with the elephants on their left linking with the peltasts under the other commander.

The Antigonids deployed with the pikes in the centre, flanked either side by the hoplites and covered by the skirmishers, all commanded by the General, two elephants protected the right flank of the infantry block and one the left. On either flank were the cavalry, two units per command under a commander each, with the right wing being the stronger, quality wise, as it contained the Xystophoroi.

As it was our first game we were a bit slow; I thought I knew my own rules and I didn’t ๐Ÿคฃ, Dave obviously hadn’t played at all and despite me going through the concepts at the beginning and having QRef sheets to hand we still managed to lapse into the techniques of other sets we play which was a bit of a distraction to say the least ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

The arc of the action isn’t as important as is what we learnt but here it is.

On the Eumenid right the weight of horse didn’t prove as decisive as was hoped for. One unit of Cappadocian cavalry got stuck into the opposing Median horse and eventually routed it and pursued toward the Antigonid camp. The other failed to charge (although so did it’s opponent) which rather created a road block to the other two units which wasn’t resolved until late into the battle. Deployment issues apart, one problem that did surface was that because ‘attack cavalry’ have to go their full distance you get the problem of them getting so close to each other that the eventual ‘charge’ isn’t really a charge but more of a trot and so no visual ‘crash of horse’. I think I know how to fix this, just need to have a bit of a play on my own. The actual melee’s (yes the other unit did finally get stuck in ๐Ÿ˜„) worked fairly well, low casualty rates and results more to do with morale failure than dead men; both sides threw in their commanders on this flank which led to some tense moments of die rolling for risks to the leaders and in fact the Antigonid commander bit the dust and that was the end of that wing.

On the Antigonid right wing their cavalry did a lot better (and so they should have!) against the peltasts, pretty soon one of the peltasts was in rout and the other in retreat, which turned into a rout when the pursuing cavalry caught up with them. The peltasts did manage to hang on for a bit and even used the reinforcement rule to make one melee last just a little bit longer, but finally that flank was on it’s way to the camp. From a rules perspective this worked well and the problem of cavalry not getting their charge bonus didn’t come up as the infantry couldn’t close the distance down before the cavalry charged.

The infantry took some time to get at each other finally meeting as their respective left flanks were collapsing although the slow speed of their advance did mean that the skirmishers could have some effect, shooting at each other and the respective elephants. This was all good, typically in ancient battles the flank cavalry are over and done prior to the decisive blow in the centre and in our encounter the cavalry were either busy pursuing or vainly trying to rally.

How well elephants would perform was a worry when I was writing and play testing the rules solo and so I was keen to see how we got on here. Overall I was pretty pleased; on the Antigonid left the single elephant acted as a disordering deterrent long enough for the left hoplites to turn and face and the javelin skirmishers to screen them; this elephant could in fact have charged and caused a bit of a mess but the afore mentioned distraction of lapsing into another rule set sequence briefly meant that the opportunity was lost ๐Ÿ˜ฅ. On the Antigonid right the fun I wanted from the elephants paid off in full; both sides had an elephant go into panic due to the loss of the mahout from shooting, the Eumenid one careered about randomly as per the rules but the Antigonid one ran straight into it’s own hoplites who then spent the rest of the game trying to kill it – just what I wanted ๐Ÿ˜€. The other two elephants ended up in a melee when the Eumenid one charged home and they were still fighting when we called time.

Once the main infantry got stuck in we were at the end of our time but we did manage to see how well (or not) and infantry fight would go. The Antigonid phalanx charged home on the opposing mercenary hoplites who stood to receive but in two phases of melee they were undone and broke for the camp. This illustrated the advantage of impetus and ranks and from a rules perspective showed, more so than the cavalry, the advantage of gaining the initiative in the turn. If the hoplites had the initiative they could have stymied the advance of the phalanx and although the odds would be against them in the long term it would have slowed the Antigonid advance.

So our first real fight was over. How well did it go? As a game, an enjoyable session, mistakes were made, glory was had, a commander fell, worth continuing with. From a rules perspective, a bit of a relief, the game didn’t fall apart immediately, a novice player had got a grip by about half way through and most of the things I wanted to happen did so. The cavalry needs some work but not an insurmountable problem and some of the wording needs tightening up but again not a major issue. I think we’ve crossed the first hurdle so next step is get the pikes painted and on the table for a proper clash of the titans ๐Ÿ˜

Keep safe everyone and enjoy your gaming wherever and whenever you can.

Science Fiction Rules?

The last time we touched on the sci fi project I was busy constructing buildings but after a few more I got a bit bored so we had a chat and thought “well we’ve got painted figures, enough buildings and clutter for a set up, let’s try some rules”

Now this hasn’t been our most well thought out project so several rule sets have been bought over time and have just sat on the shelf staring back defiantly. We knew we didn’t want light sabres and lasers so given our experience with squad level WWII and modern wars we’ve opted for a ‘near future wars’ kind of vibe; guys in fire teams with pulse rifles (or whatever) bailing out of APC’s and blazing away at each other with minimal ‘alien’ interaction.

Best fit for this vibe seemed to be the ‘Tomorrow’s War’ set written as part of the Osprey/Ambush Alley Games collaboration back in 2011/2012 and carrying a lot of the tropes from the Ambush Alley sets like the magic 4+ roll for success. On the face of it the book (a weighty hardback) is quite daunting, 200+ pages of detailed script printed on the worst colour combination ever – I think they were trying to be ‘edgy’ but it’s a huge fail. However after taking a deep breath and wading through, two things become apparent, (1) the rules you need for a trial game and most follow on games are in the first few pages, (2) a good deal of the book is taken up with back story and I love back story because unlike the ‘real world’ where you know the setting of your game and can build a narrative around it a sci fi game lacks all of that and without some kind of grounding it can become like some of the more silly episodes of early Star Trek. So without further ado we jumped in.

Our game, such as it was, featured an attack by a rifle squad of the Democratic Peoples Army of Glory (Chinese deep space colony) on a Republic of Arden (France) position. As a game it went surprisingly well, a lot of time was spent flicking through the book to make sure we were doing things right (generally we were) and the downloadable quick ref’s aren’t the most intuitive of aids but we got through a game, got a result and the rules seemed to have a logical flow. We didn’t use any of the advanced rules and weren’t sure about the ‘fog of war’ cards – more reading required by me but came away pleased enough to get some more figures painted and maybe buy one of the expensive vehicles that are around ๐Ÿ™„. What did become apparent was the number of figures required, we were playing with essentially a rifle squad each, around a dozen figures, but the rules seem geared towards a platoon action which would mean multiplying by 3 or 4 and I’m not sure we want to do that.

Having finished the game in around 2 hours, Dave suggested we try ‘Black Ops’ the Osprey near future skirmish/secret agent game which we’d used once in a Syrian skirmish game as an experiment in a simple participation game mechanic idea we were contemplating. The game is based on the use of the court cards from a standard playing card deck divided into red and black with each card representing a certain troop type – Jacks are troopers, Kings are ‘heavies’ etc, so when their card turns up they get to do their thing.

We used basically the same scenario and the game played through quickly but because the rules are pretty generic the game felt generic and a little sterile although it was pretty bloody! At the end of it we felt a little ‘meh’ but if you want to just bang down some figures in either a modern or futuristic setting and blast away for an hour or so these will do the job.

We didn’t get to play Osprey’s ‘Rogue Stars’ but I’d already played this a couple of times with some other guys and my takeaway from the set is that for it to work it needs quite a detailed scenario and very few figures per side so that it is more like an RPG than the skirmish game it advertises itself as. That said we have a number of figures that have more of an RPG feel to them so Dave and I talked about the idea of having a ‘Tomorrow’s War’ set of ongoing actions between two of the factions on some contested planet and then maybe running alongside some more detailed personalised games that don’t progress the broader narrative; food for thought ๐Ÿ™‚.

Anyway, that was it. More buildings to construct in the new year and maybe some heavy weapons troops to get painted.

That’s it for the year I reckon so Happy Christmas!

Somewhere In Holland

Some time ago Dave made up and painted a squad of Polish paratroopers which have never seen the light of day so with the gang back together again we decided to do a multi player skirmish set in post Market Garden, Holland.

The basic scenario was, the para’s and a cell from the Dutch resistance have captured a fortified house guarding a crossroads on the route of XXX Corps, unfortunately the defending Germans managed to get a message out prior to being overpowered and a young resistance fighter has just cycled in to say German reinforcements are on their way!

The para’s were allowed to position themselves anywhere around the house and the Dutch anywhere around the windmill and ruined barn, so essentially covering the north south and east west road approaches. The Germans had 4 squads and 10 potential entry points so each squad diced for where they would randomly come on and if it was a road they had the option of using a truck. As it turned out 1 squad came from the north down the road by truck, 1 from the south by truck and 2 squads from the south east, emerging from the wooded terrain. The allies were outnumbered 2:1 but did have the advantage of extensive cover and in the case of the paras better training.

Because the Germans entered at different points and were commanded by different players there wasn’t too much co-ordination (no radios = no player chit chat) so probably best to describe each squad’s ‘journey’ as a whole.

The squad on the northern road (3rd squad) drove as far as the wrecked lorry blocking the way and then de-bussed to head for the windmill (no Dutch were visible at this point) with the aim of using it as the fire base to pin down the defenders of the house. This plan deteriorated quite early on when the para sniper picked off the lmg gunner as the squad crossed the hedge ๐Ÿ˜•

The squad were then involved in a race for cover as the para Bren also opened up and by the time they reached the windmill area they had several men down. At the windmill the Dutch started to open fire but their poorer training meant they weren’t so deadly (by now the para’s had other Germans to worry about) so they were soon dispatched. Once at the windmill the Germans were able to outflank the resistance fighters who were outflanking the Germans advancing from the south and gunned them down. By game end this squad was settled in the windmill but nursing 50% losses. The Dutch had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force and the survivors slipped away.

The Germans on the southern road (1st squad) drove about half way to the crossroads then debussed and crossed the hedge to their left to advance on the house, reckoning that to drive any closer would invite a Piat shot (actually the paras didn’t have a Piat but the Germans didn’t know that ๐Ÿ˜€). The corporal and one other stayed by the truck to engage in long range distraction of the paras now visible on the bunker roof- they eventually downed one para who was bandaged up by his mates.

It was a long slog up to the crossroads and at the corner they took an unexpected casualty from the firing slit in the bunker door which covered the break in the hedge – this was a pure accident of the terrain placement and despite a bit of debate we agreed it was a legal shot. Alerted now, most of the the squad scrambled over the hedge and advanced on the house using the burning Hanomag as a screen, things were looking good as 2nd & 4th squads were converging on the house.

Now out of angle of the bunker door the squad prepared for an assault…….

Boom! Unfortunately one of the resistance team hiding out in the barn was positioned at the window, hidden by the other burning wreck, and let fly with a panzerfaust which exploded against the Hanomag taking out 3 of the squad in the blast ๐Ÿ˜ฎ – the funny bit was that the Dutch player thought that the guy he had placed there was armed with a rifle ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The result of this debacle was that the sergeant died of his wounds and the resultant morale test saw that group ‘pinned’ and then ‘gone to ground’ which meant they crawled away from the action until rallied – they didn’t.

The remainder of the squad, a couple of guys the other side of the burning vehicles and the corporal and his mate, belatedly advancing up the road, pulled themselves together enough to kill off the Dutch in the barn (I wonder if it was a ‘Dutch barn’?) but that was them essentially done. A noteworthy postscript was that in the dying light of the day the corporal managed to place a charge against the bunker door and blow it in – the figure was equipped with a bunch of grenades bundled together for tank busting so we agreed that was a feasible outcome.

The German 4th squad emerged from the eastern woods into the sunlight and started out across the open field toward the house only to take rifle fire from the upper windows that downed the corporal, but the sergeant urged the men on, leaving behind a man to dress the corporal’s wound. They flung themselves into cover at some shell holes and returned fire supported by the lmg of 2nd squad behind them, after a couple of turns of no firing from the house (the para had been hit and was being treated by another) they rushed to the hedge in front of them and vaulted over and into the street.

Once in the street there was a ‘lobbing grenades into the house competition’ which saw grenades get through the window but land nowhere near those inside (as the Germans couldn’t mark their target the impact point was randomised) but the concussion from grenades going off in a small room were deemed to have concussed those inside. The main plan however was to rush to the rear of the house, storm into the yard and up the stairs.

However, as soon as the first soldier entered the yard a shot rang out from the bunker (this bloody bunker!) and down he went. This completely stuffed the plan and the squad was now stuck exchanging useless shots at a bunker slit knowing full well only a lucky hit would be enough – they never got lucky. One bright spot was a single soldier who had been sent crawling into the under house garage space, but more of him later.

The German 2nd squad emerged from the south east slightly behind 4th squad so when the 4th took fire the lmg team quickly deployed and opened up on the house – it was actually their fire that inflicted the casualty. While the lmg team remained deployed, the rest of the squad advanced, using the eastern hedge line as cover, arriving at the hedge to the south of the house just as 4th got set to advance round the corner.

Vaulting the hedge like their predecessors, the 2nd also went for the grenade lobbing trick but what a disaster ๐Ÿ™„, the grenade hit the windowsill, bounced back and exploded amongst the squad, killing the sergeant and one other! Despite the shock the corporal rallied the squad and led them up the road away from dangerous grenade throwing and into the hell that was the crossroads fighting.

The corporal firing his smg at the bunker firing slit this provided enough of a distraction for the lone private from 4th squad who’d crawled through the garage space to get to the side of the slit and post a grenade – boom!

In the fading light the rest of 2nd squad got round the side of the bunker but there was still no way of launching an effective assault. In desperation surrender terms were offered but the paras said they hadn’t got room for so many prisoners ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚ (if you’re going to steal, steal from the best), even the blowing in of the bunker door failed to convince them!

At that point we decided the Germans would fall back far enough to keep the paras bottled up and hope to starve them out before XXX Corps arrived, which was probably a vain hope.

Overall we had a great time, plenty of tactical decisions to be made; when do you run across open ground, how many men are you prepared to lose in a suicidal assault, remembering to fire and move, etc. We also got a sense of the frustration of close assault against prepared positions, especially when those positions are held by good quality troops, although the fortified house was a lot harder nut to crack than we envisaged,

Anyway, we played, we bantered, we had a good game, all you can ask for really.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your gaming.

Action At Cho Ra

Calm before the storm

So, after nearly two years apart, we managed to get most of the gang back together and thought we’d ease ourselves in with a multi player Indo China skirmish game. The rules were our WWII skirmish rules modified for jungle insurgency warfare and the figures a mix from The Assault Group, Empress and Britannia. The game was played on a 6×4 at the home base, movement phase was by randomly dealt cards (one per unit) but in this variant the Viet Minh could put their card back in the ‘pack’ (it’s only 6 cards!) once per unit so as to try and get the drop on the French – home court advantage and all that๐Ÿ˜ .

Peasants go about their business

Our scenario saw the peaceful village of Cho Ra going about it’s business under the benevolent/oppressive eye (delete as appropriate) of the French protective/occupation forces (delete ….) located in two nearby compounds. The village was located at the northern end of the table at the confluence of a river and stream, the stream could be crossed without any major difficulty but the river would have to be swum. The two compounds were located south of the village on either side of the stream, the eastern compound housed a single squad from 1/4 RTM (Moroccans) and the western compound housed a single squad from 1/2REI (Foreign Legionnaires); there was no support weapons or contact with artillery/air cover, and any reinforcements would be in response to flares or runners. The Legionnaires were Veteran & Cadres (averages in normal parlance), 12 men strong armed with rifles, smg’s and one lmg, the Moroccans had two Veteran sergeants (one Moroccan, one French) armed with smg’s and the rest Cadre with a couple of Recruits, 10 men with rifles and an lmg.

One of the compounds before deployment

The Viet Minh were a Bo Dai platoon from Regiment 120 operating in the area and consisted of, a small HQ element (3 men including an RPG), the 1st & 2nd Assault squads (around 12 men, mainly small arms) and one Support squad (essentially two lmg teams), team leaders were all Veteran and the rest varied from Cadre to Conscript representing the spread of experience.

Moroccans and Legionnaires

To start the game the French had to occupy the compounds but could also spread out across any the playing area and would deploy first. The Moroccans opted to place the lmg team in the edge of the jungle covering the footbridge over the stream near their compound and send a two man patrol out south from the bridge along the cleared ground, the remainder of the squad manned the compound including the all important watch tower. The Legionnaires deployed a three man patrol at the most southerly end of the track heading back toward the two Moroccans, the rest manned the compound. The Viet Minh had 6 jump off points placed around the gaming area by the umpire (visible to all) and 6 counters each marked with a squad designation or the designation ‘dummy’ which they could place at any of the jump off points, but only one per jump off, these would then be moved as play progressed until they revealed themselves or they were spotted. The Viet Minh players opted to have the two assault squads on the northerly jump off points in the jungle near the river on either side of the stream, the support squad was in the south west jungle and the HQ at one of the temple ruins in the western jungle. The Viet Minh plan was simple enough; in the east, the two full squads overwhelm the Moroccans by sheer weight of numbers and in the west the RPG prove enough of a distraction for the assault squad to penetrate the defences or at the very least prevent the legionnaires from helping the Moroccans.

Viet Minh HQ

The first couple of turns was the Viet Minh keeping the French guessing as they moved the markers through the jungle and keeping shy of the dead zone at the edge of the jungle where the observers in the towers could see them (3″ in from the edge). The Legionnaires and Moroccans met on patrol, the Legionnaires headed back to the compound and the Moroccans headed into the jungle, mainly in response to the 3 counters which were moving through this section, only one of which would be the enemy.

Moroccan patrol

First to open the ball was the 1st Assault Squad who didn’t wait for the RPG to hit the tower (what is that saying about plans and first contact?) and blazed away at the Legion compound to absolutely no effect ๐Ÿ˜’. Not to be outdone in the failure stakes the HQ section did indeed get off the RPG shot (after the shooting started๐Ÿ™„) but completely missed and then scuttled back into the jungle realising that they were few and the Legion were many. The 2nd Assault Squad were next to open fire and did a little better, downing Driss Menou in the compound necessitating first aid

1st Assault Squad

The two assault squads then went for the standard tactics of the time and surged out from the jungle hoping to swarm the defenders – we had discussed this prior to the game and all credit to the Viet Minh players for going for period immersion although I am probably going to have to write something into the rules sooner or later. As it turned out this was an utter disaster for the 1st squad as their sergeant was killed outright by the defenders fire and the resultant morale test saw them fail and become Pinned. The 2nd did better and despite their own losses forced the Moroccans to give up the northern edge of the compound losing corporal Belabiche in the process.

Moroccan compound under attack

The tale of woe that was the 1st squad got worse when their corporal was killed and their next morale failure saw them Go To Ground which essentially meant withdraw from the fighting until rallied, which they never did. They left about half their number dead or dying in front of the Legion positions and crawled back to the river behind them. They were later rounded up by a Legion fire team in the closing stages of the fight much to the embarrassment of the player.

The capture of 1st squad

The success of 2nd squad continued as they treated their wounded in the field and pressed on forcing Sgt Chef Antonin and privates Said & Ahmed to hop over the sandbags at the southern end of the compound and face north into the compound to try and contain the Viet Minh and provide enough cover fire for Sgt Ali Sahraoui, who was trapped by the stores shack, to get away.

The Support Squad arrives

Despite the breathing space the Moroccans had gained themselves they were in fact in bigger trouble because no sooner had they hopped over the sandbags than the Support Squad finally arrived – it was a longer slog from their jump off point, and opened fire from the edge of the jungle into the backs of Antonin and his men. This was one of those classic “I forgot about them” moments and from an umpiring point of view a satisfaction with the counters idea, there had been 3 counters in this part of the play area and one had been discovered to be a dummy by the two man patrol but then concentration was lost and the Moroccans paid the price. Both Said & Ahmed were seriously wounded in the initial fusillade and later died of their wounds but Antonin survived long enough to gun down Lam Binh, one of the lmg loaders and rifle fire from privates Oman & Mohammed in the tower killed the other loader, Van Nhien. Ultimately, however, sheer weight of fire killed Antonin and silenced the tower.

The Moroccan lmg team

All was not over yet in the Moroccan theatre, in a bizarre turn of events the Viet Minh advance had not revealed the lmg team that had been deployed by the bridge – this was partly a player thing, they simply forgot ๐Ÿคฃ but also a good rules thing because the distance we had allocated for vision within the jungle did indeed mean they had moved past without seeing and so the Moroccans redeployed and opened up. A couple of the Viet Minh went down in the initial burst and it did distract from some of the firing on Antonin and his men but quick thinking Corporal To Van Phu lobbed a well thrown grenade and the lmg was history. Just to complete the theatre of this mini battle the two man patrol of Amar & Haza emerged from the jungle to cut down one of the lmg gunners with rifle fire but they paid the price for their intervention and were cut down in return.

End of the Moroccan compound

The closing act to the Moroccan affair was the looting and firing of the compound by 2nd squad and the Support squad but not before Sgt Sahraoui got in a final burst from his smg, downing the last lmg gunner before slipping away east into the jungle, the only survivor of his squad.

Legion compound

While the Moroccan action was playing itself out the Legion compound was not completely quiet. While Sgt Wallisch had been directing the fire that drove back the 1st squad (some would say they got a lucky break ๐Ÿค”) Legionnaires Pflimlin & Echevary up in the tower had been playing cat and mouse with the HQ team who couldn’t work out why 1st squad weren’t pressing their attack. In a series of gunfights, as the HQ team tried to use the jungle to their best advantage, RPG gunner Tan Hoa and Lt Le Van Tien were both wounded but they did manage to kill Pflimlin, however, as the firing died down, Sgt Van Diem noticed Legionnaires Verzat & Molinier leading the lmg team forward to flush them out and hustled his comrades deep into the jungle and away.

Vet Minh victory

And that was it, an exciting action packed game with most of the group, rather than just me and Dave flying the flag, and all played in the right spirit with a feeling of historical accuracy. The final body count was, Moroccans wiped out except the sergeant, Foreign legion one dead and a couple of walking wounded, Viet Minh, 1st all dead or captured, 2nd two dead and some walking wounded, Support two dead and most wounded, HQ enough wounds to avoid censure ๐Ÿค.

Tranquillity returns

We hope you enjoyed reading as much as we enjoyed playing.

Aleppo Comes To Newark

Hind over Aleppo

Conventions are back! Much awaited and much anticipated we were back at The Other Partizan on Sunday October 10th and it was like we hadn’t been away ๐Ÿ˜Š Everyone was super excited and there were some excellent games on display although our chance to to view them was restricted by it being just the two of us this year and so our time was taken up with our own game.

Quiet before the storm

We took along our Syrian Civil War city streets game with the superb terrain from Task Force Terrain and had our streets populated by the crew of a downed Hind, Syrian Special Forces on a search & rescue mission, various representations of the numerous insurgent factions and Hezbollah units bolstering the government forces. The rules were Spectre Operations V2 which we are fairly confident with these days hence the numerous factions (9 different units in the end plus armour support) but as we were at a show and we knew we’d get distracted we didn’t deploy all in one go but rather fed them on as we went.

Syrian NDF deploy outside the police station

Elsewhere in the hall were some excellent games, none of which we managed to take a picture of, but from memory the outstanding ones for us were; a 28mm Plains Indians War game, excellent Indian village and what looked to be quite an innovative basing system – wish I could have stopped and chatted about this, a superb looking C18th game complete with star fort and two enormous galleons out to sea (I mean the size of the things you see in antique shops!), very visually arresting, an excellent looking El Cid game, although I couldn’t see Charlton Heston ๐Ÿ˜ and a quite extraordinary 60/70mm ancients Macedonian v Persian game – wow!

Insurgents take the high ground

On the trade front it did seem a bit thin; the stalwarts were there, Foundry, Warlord, Empress, Dave Thomas, and Warlord and Foundry occupied a significant amount of hall space but I did have a feeling of something missing. This could of course be just not enough time to look around properly or the fact that October is now brimming over with conventions, SELWG on the 17th and FIASCO on the 31st plus Battleground and Warfare in November so maybe traders are taking it steady in the post pandemic times.

Insurgents clash with Special Forces over the downed Hind

In terms of attendees the morning seemed very busy and we spent a lot of time chatting with interested gamers and meeting familiar faces who we literally hadn’t seen for 18 months! Certainly by the time I got home my voice was gone ๐Ÿ˜‚. The numbers were a bit worrying in these post mask times and some people were wearing and some were not, we wore ours to start but eventually abandoned them due to the difficulty in conversing and with so many people not wearing it all seemed a bit redundant. The fact that the weather was kind to us meant that the double doors could be open so there was plenty of air circulation. What was very noticeable was that by 2.00pm the show was largely depopulated, why I have no idea but it was far more acute than ‘normal’.

Insurgents occupying a building

What did strike me this year, from a display gamer point of view, was that the little extras (the coffee vouchers, the free figure, the raffle tickets, etc) were not on hand which was mildly disappointing; hey there’s no rule that says they have to be available it’s just one of those nice Partizan traditions. Maybe with no revenue from 3 cancelled shows some of the costs had to be throttled back and I get that, we also didn’t see anything of the organisers either which was unusual ๐Ÿค”.

Into the ruins

So, was it good to be back? Of course it was! Will we back next year? Obviously ๐Ÿ˜. So many thanks to Laurence, Richard and the the Irregulars, well done.

Holowczyn Refought

Swedish vanguard crosses the river

Many, many, years ago we fought Holowczyn as part of a convention tour, simulating the ‘tour’ of Russia by Charles XII, culminating in the battle of Poltava, so 3 battles, 3 conventions, but we’ve never played it since so we thought we’d roll out the collection and give it a go.

Bieltz’s Grenadiers

For those not in the know, Holowczyn was the opening battle in Charles XII’s campaign against Peter the Great’s Russia which kicked off in the summer of 1707. By the summer of 1708 the Swedes were well into Russia struggling to come to grips with an enemy that kept retreating and burning everything – that sounds familiar ๐Ÿ˜’ but on June 30th Charles and the Swedes found themselves facing a dug in Russian army over the river Vabitich.

The long line of the column

In what would become his signature approach to battle, Charles opted for the mad idea ๐Ÿ˜, so in the early hours of the morning of July 3rd 1708 he and his men waded across the river at an unguarded point, advanced through a marsh, deployed on the flank of the enemy and attacked. The Russians were slow to respond, not being sure whether it was a full attack or a diversion, and ended up conducting a fighting retreat in a confused and haphazard firefight. Further infantry reinforcements merely added to the confusion and when the Russians committed their cavalry the outclassed dragoons were swept away and the field was clearly in Swedish hands. It was however somewhat of a phyrric victory, Russian dead were 4x that of the Swedes but most of the Swedish wounded (around a thousand) would succumb to their wounds and the losses were mainly among the guard infantry, losses that would be felt at Poltava.

It took a while!

The reality of the battle was that Charles was attacking one division (Repnin’s – the biggest, comprising 2 brigades) of the three positioned along the Vabitch and was inserting himself between Repnin on the left and Sheremetiev in the centre while Hallart was out on the right; to the left of Repnin was Goltz’s substantial cavalry division of 3 brigades. The only other troops to get themselves involved was a brigade detached late in the day from Sheremetiev’s division. The Swedes comprised the vanguard foot brigade, commanded by Charles himself, featuring the 4 battalions of the Guard plus 2 other battalions, then a 2nd brigade of 6 battalions and finally a cavalry brigade featuring the Guard Cavalry & Guard Dragoons and 3 other cavalry regiments.

Charles XII

Looking at our collection we easily had the numbers (and we’d sold a third of it back in 2020!) and even had most of the named regiments/battalions, unfortunately only 3 Guard battalions but we reckoned it wouldn’t make much difference (it didn’t ๐Ÿ˜Š). Measuring up the space that would be occupied by the battalions representing the actual number of Russian battalions behind the earthworks we reckoned they would need about 5 foot, give or take, so the 8 foot x 6 foot standard table would allow us to deploy them, allow space for the marsh and give space on the table end for the later Russian reinforcements. Our trusty river section we positioned 2 foot in and used the section with a pontoon bridge on to represent the crossing point (the Swedes did have pontoons but abandoned them – why do it the easy way?) and at that crossing point we constructed a substantial marsh. Along the rear of the Russian table edge we put on plenty of trees and down part of the left flank; into these we placed Goltz’s cavalry division (on the left) and Renne’s reinforcing infantry from Sheremetiev (on the right) while in the centre behind Repnin’s division we put on the army camp.

Swedish field artillery

Our thinking with the Russians was that Repnin’s 2 big brigades would be positioned facing out across the river and wouldn’t start responding until the Swedes emerged from the marsh and then only the brigade that could see them (Schweden). The reinforcing cavalry and infantry could only be activated by Repnin finding out from Schweden that they were under attack and sending a message off to Goltz who would then roll a D6 for the number of turns after receipt for when he could start to emerge, said messenger would then carry on to Renne to release his infantry using the same process. The process was made deliberately slow (wargamers are very good at responding to things they can’t see unless you stop them ๐Ÿ˜‰) which is just as well because both reinforcement commands rolled a 1! Deploying the Swedes was more straight forward as they only had one route so we strung out the infantry battalions, led by the Guard, all the way from the table edge, across the pontoons and into the marsh with the 1st Guards on the edge of the marsh, somewhat disorganised, ready to go; this signalled the start of turn 1. As a side note, the Swedes, for once, out gunned the Russians so we placed some regimental guns next to the crossing point to fire in support and some big field guns on a low hill to pound the entrenched Russians, the Russians only had regimental guns strung out along the line.

Guards face off to the Grenadiers

Rather than go balls out, the Swedish commander decided to remain stationary with the 1st Guards to shake the accumulated disorder and wait for the 2nd Guards form up alongside and do the same, this gave the Russian grenadiers time to about face and wheel out of their entrenchments to face off and allow the Russian high command to panic and send for help.

Repnin and Schweden

With the grenadiers and Guards in range both opened up on each other at effective range, losses were even, so no morale failures and the rest of Schweden’s command started to turn about as more Swedes emerged from the marsh. Another volley and Charles decided it was time to force the issue so the 1st & 2nd Guards moved into close range and fired again forcing one of the grenadiers to rout and punching a hole in the the shaky Russian line.

1st Guards

First brigade morale test of the day (due to the grenadiers rout) and Schweden’s brigade failed spectacularly, hotfooting along the entrenchments and into the camp. Fortunately Repnin and Schweden were able to rally some of the units further back and start to restore order but they would now count as a failed brigade for any further tests which for Russian morale was always going to be a worry. The collapse enabled Dalcarian (2 battalions) and the 3rd Guards to get out of the marsh and form up with the 1st & 2nd into a fairly coherent line while Sparre and the other brigade marched on through the marsh to eventually emerge at the top end and march south on the other side of the camp.

Rallying the troops

As Repnin and Schweden tried to stem the flight Goltz received the request for help and rolled his 1 so Illfland’s brigade was first out of the woods and headed along the top edge of the camp in what would become a collision with Sparre. Back with the Guards, Charles went all out now and threw the 1st & 2nd into close combat with the rallied Russian foot, who of course had almost no losses at this point and managed to repulse the Guards, shouts of “huzzah”. Testing for losses the 1st Guards failed and routed but the subsequent brigade test was passed with ease (it helps having Charles XII as your brigade commander ๐Ÿ˜‚) and the 1st were rallied by him pronto but sat out the hard action for a while as they called in stragglers and tended to the wounded.

That’s a lot of cavalry!

While the infantry slogged it out on one side of the camp Illflands dragoons advanced on Sparre’s infantry, who due to the terrain could only deploy two battalions abreast, but non the less Vasterboten forced Narvski back and slowly ground forward – the dragoons were never going to charge the Swedish infantry so it became a shooting match which for a while the dragoons did ok in but eventually legged it for the woods.

Vasterboten v Narvski

Seeing how ‘well’ Illfland was doing Goltz realised that his other two brigades were going to be no use in the limited space so made the fateful decision to send them both into the woods to outflank Sparre and attack the rear of the Swedes; a bold plan which the Sparre player could realistically not respond to and was a calculated gamble by Goltz that he could be through and out before the Swedish cavalry under Creutz got through the marsh. An alternative plan could have been to dismount in the woods and fire on the flanks of Sparre’s command which might have forced him to stop and deal with the threat – we discussed this after the game and the Goltz player took the view that as the real Goltz didn’t do it neither would he!

If you go down to the woods today…..

Back at the real battle ๐Ÿคฃ Charles and his brigade were definitely in and amongst the entrenchments facing off to a hastily constructed second line by Schweden which Chambers was extending out to the right effectively forming behind Illfland’s withdrawing dragoons – the size of Chambers brigade (9 battalions) made cohesion quite difficult in the space available and we could see why in the real thing they just faded into the woods.

Guard cavalry

To force the issue in the main battle area Charles summoned the Guard Cavalry & Dragoons from Creutz along with Nyland to punch Schweden’s already weakened brigade; this was a risk, it weakened Creutz’s command and if the Guards didn’t do as well as envisaged they wouldn’t have their commander to rally on. Always willing to “roll the hard six” the Swedish cavalry blasted their way in and made some big holes although the Dragoon Guards did pay for a reckless pursuit and got themselves shot up ๐Ÿ˜’

Nyland

Unfortunately for the Russians the holes punched by the Swedes was in Chambers brigade and in the ensuing test for routing units and having Schweden’s failed brigade on their flank the big brigade failed and ran for the woods. Not surprisingly, Schweden’s already shaky brigade didn’t survive their test and they too duly headed for the woods.

“you’re going the wrong way!”

While all this was happening Heinsk’s dragoons emerged from the woods, somewhat disorganised, but all they needed was a bit of a breather and they could catch Sparre by surprise. Even better was the emergence of the lead battalions of Renne’s infantry from their wood. It could all be saved!

Oh dear

Unfortunately for Goltz and Heinsk, regiment Hielm of Creutz’s reduced command had other ideas and charged home smashing the lead dragoons off the table who routed through their brethren behind who were caught in the pursuit and equally smashed resulting in a brigade morale failure (surprise๐Ÿ˜) and the end of the flank move.

Goodbyeee

That was really it, both infantry brigades were on the run, Illfland’s & Heinsk’s cavalry were shattered and running, while Hesse Darmstadt cowered in the woods; the fact of Renne’s arrival was insignificant, yes it was a substantial brigade (6 battalions) but what was it going to do? Clearly a substantial Swedish victory.

It’s all ours

When we analysed the game the Russians initially did better than their historical counterparts – well they stood and fought! but low morale and poor command levels meant they were never going to last that long once things went wrong. I think it’s interesting that wargamers will stand and slug it out even when the odds are stacked against them unlike the historical prototypes who couldn’t get off the field quick enough – mind you it wouldn’t have been much of a game if the Russians had just turned round and retreated! For the Swedes bold play paid off, so very historical but the casualty tables also equated to history with the Guards showing the kind of casualty figures that would make a general think about amalgamating regiments, everyone else was pretty much insignificant.

Guards

It was nice to give the GNW collection a run out, good job we didn’t sell the whole lot! The rules were our own ‘Ga Pa’ – oh how original, we hope you enjoyed the write up, feel free to fire in any questions.

Ian & Dave.

Afghanistan Rescue

The quiet before the storm

This game was born out of wanting to use our new toy, a Cougar MRAP, and to get back into playing Spectre Operations again with a ‘small game’ to re learn the rules. We would have put it up on LAF but the archaic rules about post 2000 conflicts and our last interaction with the site put us off even trying.

3D print

Our basic scenario was an Afghan police station is under attack by increasing numbers of Taliban who have infiltrated the town disguised as civilians. The police are a small squad with their own leader but happen to have a senior leader in the building which will help with their command roles. The Taliban comprise three battle groups of around ten men each spread in a crescent through the town and already in small arms range.

The cop shop

Due to the presence of civilians senior command has rejected a danger close airstrike and opted for calling in two nearby SAS teams to effect a rescue.

The hard men

After dicing for random entry points for the SAS we got underway; Red team approached on foot from the east and immediately sent Trooper Winner off with the FN Minimi to find higher ground, Sgt Phillips, Cpl Firmin & Trooper Horsfall, headed for the rendezvous point at the central market, motioning civilians to go home (ironically); Blue team approached from the south in the Cougar with Cpl Curry manning the HK GMG.

Red team

The opening firing was solely between the police and Taliban; to the north of the town Hajji Barri’s group manoeuvred from the buildings they were occupying towards the hesco barriers, exchanging shots with Pvt Berri who was covering the side door and who managed to seriously wound Barri – realising their leader would bleed out the group left him to be with god and pressed their attack.

Barri’s group

Almost directly opposite the police, Rezza Jaffar Abbas and his fighters were getting themselves into better positions with a sniper and RPG on resident’s roofs as the citizenry cowered inside, covering this positioning with AK fire from the rest of the group.

Abbas’ team get into position

To the south west Ahmed Ali and his group moved out of the compound toward the market place, planning to flank west and around the side of the station – this didn’t go well.

Ahmed Ali urges his men out into the market place

Although the air was fairly thick with AK fire casualties were at a low level so far, the police station walls proved effective and Captain Gul urged the small police team on (in other words his command level prevented them becoming suppressed and rallied them if they did); all this changed however as the Cougar nudged its way into the open.

Cougar appears as Ahmed Ali’s group advances out of their compound

Seeing a group of armed insurgents at nine o’clock Cpl Curry let rip with the grenade machine gun (we’d never used one of these before – bloody hell!)

First salvo from the GMG

The firing wasn’t entirely accurate but the drift took out the sniper team on the roof of the compound (pure luck) and dropped a couple more fighters at the compound gates; Ali and several of his lieutenants took cover at the water trough by the market stalls and hoped their RPG guy would take out the metal monster.

RPG fighter gets ready just before the first salvo

Unnerved by the barrage the RPG fighter missed his shot and sent the rocket into the building behind the Cougar killing a man and his son with the falling masonry.

collateral damage

While mayhem reigned in the market place the other two groups pressed their attacks, avoiding losses from police RPG fire…

RPG miss

but not missing themselves when they put a shot into the room containing Sgt Alamyar, killing him outright.

death of Sgt Alamyar

Fighters from Ali’s group reached the south west corner of the police station giving a clear shot at the soldier defending the sandbagged front entrance…

flanked

and the fighters from Barri’s group had reached the hesco barriers, pouring more fire into the police station.

fighters closing in

The SAS teams were acutely aware that the battle was moving away from them so another salvo from the GMG went in on the market place with slightly better grouping, taking out Ali and his lieutenants behind the stone trough and effectively finishing off that group. At the same time Sgt Lane and Trooper got out to lend their small arms weight to Red Team.

death of Ali

With the soldier at the front entrance down, Captain Gul realised that every gun now counted so picking up the discarded weapon he joined the fight only to be picked off by Abbas’ sniper on the opposite roof.

Captain Gul

More pain for the police followed, their lmg man went down to concentrated AK fire and an RPG into the front entrance took out the police RPG guy just as he steadied himself for a shot.

Afghan fighter narrowly avoids becoming collateral damage

Cpl Curry now turned his attention to the Abbas group on the building ahead who also realised there was a big noise behind them they needed to do something about. However better training won out and Curry got his shot in first, raining death on the building.

“stop shooting at my house!”

Abbas, one other fighter and the sniper died in the barrage but Curry was out of effective targets now and the market place was more congested than aerial reconnaissance had suggested so it was over to the foot sloggers.

Red Team

Despite the loss of three leaders the Taliban were still very much in the fight and with the fire from the station ending (morale had collapsed and everyone was either dead, bleeding out or stunned) closed in on their prize.

victory in their grasp

In the town the wisdom of dispatching Winner to find higher ground paid off when a sneaky Taliban RPG fighter in a side alleyway revealed himself for a side shot on the Cougar but, again, superior training won out and Winner cut him half.

Winner

Despite the losses it couldn’t be denied that the Taliban had achieved their objective and the SAS had not. The police station was set on fire as the Taliban pulled out leaving behind a dead senior Afghan officer and a brave police section who had died fighting to a man. The SAS had barely fired a shot other than the mayhem wrought by the GMG and although the Taliban losses were around the 50% mark that didn’t matter in terms of the propaganda victory.

endgame

We had great fun with this game, we got back into the rules a lot quicker and easier than we thought we would and managed to operate 6 different ‘factions’ with relative ease. The GMG is a monster and in a different game we would need to beef up the Taliban with more serious firepower – recoilless rifles etc.

Looking back over the game we didn’t actually play that many turns but in the average Spectre turn a lot can happen in the phases and each ‘faction’ gets a full go so there’s more going on than you think. Overall it seemed to capture the kinetic energy of up close modern contact without too much bookwork so we came away happy.

We hope you enjoyed our AAR, please feel free to comment. Thanks. Ian & Dave.