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!

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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 ๐Ÿ™‚

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.

Sicario: Part III

It’s been a while but I thought I’d write about our attempts to sort out the rules and the buildings which has been a bit of a journey to be honest.

Readers may recall back in Part One I was all over the Spectre Operations rules, mainly based on reading and looking at nice shiny photographs, not actually playing.


Well we had a couple of games using fairly generic terrain (mainly due to not having sorted out the planned barrio area I had promised to do a year ago!) and it didn’t go so well.

Continue reading “Sicario: Part III”