Ty and myself cover the Spectre Operations ruleset in this installment of the podcast. It is a really fun game, and we talk about what we like about it!
Just another day in a Post-Soviet Republic…
So in my last Conflict Dossier, I covered the Arma nation of Takistan, my go-to for a Middle Eastern-inspired fictitious nation. Today I’m covering its unlikely neighbor; The Republic of Chernarus!
The Green Sea region from Arma 2 is the gift that keeps on giving for Modern wargamers who want to add some fictional nations to their tabletops. A country with a political situation similar to many post-soviet states, Chernarus allows you to refight familiar scenarios inside an entirely fictional country. The only major alteration I’m making is that instead of the inexplicable ‘Chernarussian’ language being Czech I’m making it an offshoot of Russian.
The Republic has a problem that many post-soviet states contend with; Pro-Russian rebels who want to break away and either join the Russian Federation as a member or join it outright. South Zagoria, in the country’s north-east, is the hotbed for such unrest. While the Chernarussian Defense Force does its best, the ‘Chedaki’ as the rebels are known are persistant, dug-in, and hard to dislodge. Supported ‘off the books’ by Russian arms and equipment, these rebels pose a serious threat to the countries overall stability.
Now in Arma 2, the campaign resolves such events. Being a tabletop gamer, I’m using the beginning situation but altering it to suit my tabletop. Therefore, my backstory involves a Russian annexation of South Zagoria in 2017, with the CDF having to contend with well armed ‘Polite People’ as well as a seriously beefed up Chedaki force. NATO cannot officially intervene, and so far the annexation has stopped in South Zagoria itself, where an uneasy and constant low-intensity conflict smolders.
Unofficially, NATO forces have worked to destabilize the Chedaki forces, and such efforts are showing results as formerly Chedaki areas fall into local revolt between Chernarussian nationals and Chedaki supporters. The ‘Russian’ forces, there themselves ‘off the books’ cannot formally complain, but firefights between Russian forces and NATO forces have occurred. Both sides try to keep such engagements from being leaked to the news, for fear of further escalation.
The border with Takistan has also been a concern. In the 1980’s a Soviet invasion of Takistan used Chernarus as one of its main supply routes, and a certain grudge is held by the Takistanis toward the Chernarussians because of this. Chernarussians were part of that invasion force as well, adding further fuel to the fire.
Cross-border attacks by militant Takistani groups means the border is constantly, but not always effectively, guarded. During the NATO intervention in Takistan, Chernarus decided to not take part initially, despite their NATO aligned government. Instead, a few years later, the Republic of Chernarus formally committed peacekeepers as part of a UN backed initiative. While unpopular both at home and among the Takistanis, who view Chernarussian Peacekeepers with an air of suspicion, the good conduct of most of the CDF forces involved are slowly mending fences.
Now that is all well and good, but this is a wargaming blog. So besides my lovely Arma screenshots(I work way, way too hard on them!) I also got some models to use as Chernarussians on the tabletop.
They aren’t 1/1 recreations of the Arma 2 originals; they lack the kevlar, NATO styled, K-pot helmets. But surprisingly little has changed from Afghan era Soviet models and most Post-Soviet republic’s uniforms.
With that in mind, I decided to go with Eureka Miniature’s Afghan-era Soviets. They are well cast(barring one absolute pig of a model) and have loads of detail. I also find the metal particularly good to work with. Modern models have a problem with bent and broken barrels, and Eureka’s models are made of a metal that is both reasonably strong and pliant enough to bend back into place. Eureka also slightly, and I do not mean by much, exaggerate the size of weapons, just enough so that I find them much more durable then say Spectre Miniatures.
The models are really cool, and picking my favourite sculpts was hard. But here are some stand-outs!
My paint order should be arriving this week, so hopefully these Chernarussians don’t have to wait long for their coat of Russian Uniform. I’m torn on what camouflage pattern to use on them. I’m thinking Flora, but KLMK and a homebrew Chernarussian woodland pattern are all coming to mind. I like the idea that they have deployed to Takistan in green as the country can’t afford to have two sets of uniforms for just that occasion.
I’m quite pleased with the models, I have to say. I’ve ordered from Eureka US in this instance, but I also have placed an order with Eureka UK to see what would arrive faster. The US postal service has won in this case! The UK order has US Marines and Afghan National Police(to be used as Takistani National Army). I’m excited to get them!
But for now, that is all I have got for you fine people. Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and I wish you all a Calm Night. прощание!
Is it as tasteless as some claim? Just like the subject matter, that’s a matter of opinion.
So those of you following my blog may know I’m on a bit of a modern wargaming kick. Spectre Operations, and to a lesser extent, Team Yankee, are both extremely fun and well thought-out gaming systems. But, a nagging thought has been with me for a while, and somewhat reinforced by recent events around the world, outside of wargaming.
This post is not meant to discourage someone from wargaming the modern period. I certainly still will. But sometimes the best way to get a thought out of your head is to write it down.
I should disclose something else that might be relevant; I’m a Pakistani-born Canadian. My parents regularly tell me stories of the mother country, and while they try to tell only the good ones, the bad ones slip through. Pakistan in the 1980’s was an interesting place. Sometimes, my dad will comment on some of the models I’m working on with a unique angle, like how when I was working on my Afghan’s he mentioned working with Pashtun tribesmen during his time with the British Trade Commission. Or my mom will express some distaste at the sight of Kalashnikovs. This experience does colour my gaming somewhat, as most of my friends and wargaming group are, well, white dudes whose background lies in Canada for several generations, and who sometimes fail to understand what a different upbringing my folks must have had compared to their parents.
It was my friend Ty who suggested Spectre Operations to me, and he has a few campaigns he wants to cover specifically. Firstly, Chechnya. This was a war I remember seeing on the television as a young kid in the 90’s, and defined my view of Russians, and Chechens, well into my teenage years, but I was too young to remember the details.
And boy, are there details. The war was utterly savage, utterly without remorse on both sides. There is no clear “good guy” in Chechnya, only shades of very dark grey. Modern jihadists can trace a lot of their tactics to that war, and Afghanistan, which I will cover later. Grozny was an example of Post-Soviet Russian tactics, which lacked subtlety and went for shock and awe, practically leveling the city.
Despite that, or perhaps, because of it, it is a very interesting war to study and play in. Ambushes share the time with large armour movements. Rugged urban fighting contrasts with mountainside warfare. But this is certainly not your average insurgency, as the Chechens were very well armed, and extremely motivated, whereas the Russians were suffering from the Post-Soviet malaise they were just shaking off, and tended to be heavy handed because of it, as well as unmotivated to be fighting a war in general.
This leads well into Afghanistan. One could indeed wargame the Soviet Invasion just as easily as the Coalitions turn later, and both can be problematic. Canadians fought and died there, as did many other nations. And the news coming out of there recently is depressing; Many fought in that region to oust the Taliban, only for them to make sweeping advances as soon as the NATO forces leave. One could make the argument that it was pointless. And NATO is on a whole leaving behind the interpreters and civilians who helped them, and they most certainly will die because of it. Wargaming Afghanistan used to be something I wanted to do, badly, but recent news has taken the wind-out of those sails.
Still, as a wargaming setting, it is perfect; asymmetric warfare at longer then normal engagement ranges, against a tough and determined local populace is great for scenarios. Clearing insurgent weapon caches and ambushes are also interesting things to do in the setting. Going back to the 80’s also allows for some Cold-War proxy fighting goodness, like delivering Stinger missiles to the Mujahedeen.
The final period discussed between myself and Ty was much more modern then both previous examples. That is, the Crimean Conflict, or War in the Donbas. Polite People vs Ukrainian Army. An extremely compelling, modern war, that lacks the insurgency both previous examples exemplified. This was very much an undeclared shooting war, although one with the gloves clearly still on by both sides for fear of escalation.
This is a war that I have some inside knowledge on. My Russian friend has family in the contested region, and the region is ethnically mostly Russian…however it was still annexed through pretty nefarious means, and the Ukrainians are right to defend their territory. It’s messy. The Ukrainians were so desperate for manpower they raised militias, and some of these militias have less then savory connections, including Neo-Nazi elements. And the Russian raised militia units are just as problematic. And, unlike both previous examples, this war is ongoing. Both sides have proved to be motivated and dogged, and the war doesn’t have an end in sight.
This was probably the most problematic wargaming scenario I could do, and honestly despite Empress making modern Russians in polite people kit(the new Ratnik soldier suite), I still can’t see myself fighting it on my tables in good conscious.
So where does that leave the modern wargamer? I didn’t cover Iraq, but that is another popular place to wargame, and equally contentious. Let me explain what I’ve decided to do.
Chechnya, despite its ugliness, is in. It’s by no means a modern conflict anymore, and given a gentle and understanding hand, can be wargamed pretty well! The setting offers a lot, and the ‘just on the cusp of being fully modern’ equipment allows for a lot of variety.
Afghanistan is a more interesting take. Had you asked me a week or two ago, I would have been all for it. But now? It leaves a sour taste in my mouth, and I can’t say I can personally stomach gaming “Afghanistan” itself. But the Arma 2 Imagi-nation of Takistan on the other hand….that I will happily wargame. And I can use the models from Afghanistan just as easily in that setting.
The War in the Donbas is definitely out; It’s simply too new for me to cover in any way that doesn’t make me a little uneasy. However, I have referenced the conflict in my Zona Alfa games, as of course the Zone is in the Ukraine, and will continue to do so. The setting lends itself well to the extrapolation. I will probably resort to using another Arma 2 Imagi-nation, the Republic of Chernarus, for any Army on Army conflict. This fictional post-soviet state has much in common with the Ukraine, and while the uniforms differ quite a lot, that is a plus in my book. A fictional military allows you to go hog-wild with the equipment and look, and I will easily use real-life influence to fight the very not real-life setting. No neo-nazi militia for me please!
Now I’ll address this now; some people might call me an ‘SJW’ for these kinds of views. That is okay, they are allowed that opinion. Personally, I won’t push this thinking on anyone else. They are just my opinions about the Modern wargaming period. But just like any historical period, some nuance is needed if you want to sell the system on others. And these ‘ultramodern’ settings can easily alienate people. Personally, my solution of Imagi-nations allows me some serious lee-way to tell my own stories, and without some of the ugliness(although you can’t get rid of all of it).
Team Yankee sidesteps this neatly; there was no ‘Cold War Gone Hot’ in real life, and thank goodness for that! The setting in that case is inherently fictional. I have heard, however, some complaints leveled at the Oil War expansion. That I can understand, but the timeline is far enough in the past that I personally don’t see the issue on a personal level. Any game that tries to be overly serious and have Anzacs fighting in Europe in the 1980’s can’t really be taken all that seriously, and more the better for it! That being said…I do want to try A Fistful of Tows one of these days.
At the end of the day, as they say in the new Modern Warfare game, you “Draw the Line” where you need to. I have chosen to draw it this way. How might your games differ in that regard? I’d love to know! So leave me a comment.
That is all I have for today. I hope you enjoyed this post, and there will be more hobby oriented stuff as the Postman delivers the goods. For now, Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and до свида́ния comrades!
Our first real game of Spectre, and our “first” impressions! In short, bloody and quick.
Almost 2 years ago, myself and Ty played a quick demo of Spectre Operations first edition at his place. We were in a rush, and the game was…confusing to say the least. We hadn’t had time to fully digest the rules, and our terrain setup was nowhere near suitable for a game that requires dense, realistic terrain. It didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth, but neither did it wow me.
Fast forward to this weekend. We wanted to play a game of something with fully painted models to feature on our respective blogs, but while Very British Civil War was our original plan, we had no terrain for it yet and we want to give that setting the justice it deserves. Instead, on a lark, I suggested Spectre Operations as Ty had a smorgasbord of Blacksite Studio “War Zone Arabia” terrain and lot of special forces models. Ty liked the idea, and with the addition of some roof shingles cut down into roads, we quickly made a fairly decent looking table.
The scenario we made up called for Russian Spetsnaz to extract an HVT from a building in the centre of the table, and then use his Gaz Tigr(a Russian light vehicle roughly equivalent to a Humvee) to make a quick getaway. My Canadian foot patrol would be in the area on the same objective. He had 6 elite operators to my 10 professional soldiers. This would prove problematic.
The game started off pretty alright. I advanced the Canadians at a sprint right up the road, as the Gaz hadn’t arrived and the Russians didn’t have a shot yet. Ty moved up from his northwest deployment area and reached the target building in 2 turns, ready to enter.
This is where things started to go badly wrong for the Canadians. I was very concerned about keeping cohesion, so my models were fairly close together…
Ty had on one of his models a pump-action grenade launcher! I knew these would be strong as I had read up on them on the unofficial Facebook group. But holy cow did it pack a wallop. He placed a grenade right in the middle of the left fireteam and BOOM!
Two grenade launcher shots later and almost my entire force was dead or bleeding out. This was very, very bad. My Sergeant and Medic were still alive, and quickly moved away from the scary Russian man and his boomstick.
It was at this point that Ty suggested we get lunch. While we were out, he had a good idea to allow me to roll for reinforcements. While these would be unpainted models(to my shame) it would at least let me try and level the playing field.
It was at this point that Ty had begun to extract the HVT. Having climbed the stairs and taking the HVT into custody, he began to move the Gaz up to pickup his team, with the Spetsnaz taking overwatch positions, but not yet taking the action to overwatch, having moved to get there.
My Canadians finally got some much needed revenge at this point.
It was at this point that a small miracle happened for my Canadians. I won initiative. I was able to shoot back at the Spetsnaz who had fired on my Sergeant, and I downed the Russian.
His other Spetsnaz in the garage moved to kill my sergeant in close combat, encountering the Medic first. In the ensuing melee, my medic was killed. My Sergeant moved behind a truck to get better cover, but was also killed by the blood-crazed Russian maniac on a melee binge.
The HVT was moved into the Gaz, and the Spetsnaz began to retreat.
His forces had lost 2 Spetsnaz so far, but his damage to me was far greater. I didn’t want to make it easy for him.
But, by now, it was too late for the Canadians to make a difference. the Spetsnaz move into the Gaz, and make a quick getaway. I did attempt to fire a LAW at the outgoing Gaz(which would have killed the HVT, but I was getting bloodthirsty myself). I missed however, and they made good their escape.
It was a fun learning game, and I learned to not bunch up nearly as much. 40k muscle memory cost me a lot of lives, and I’m sure the news would murder the poor Canadian commander who sent the patrol in. It was a black day for the Canadian forces.
We learned a valuable lesson that the points system is a guideline for helping to make a scenario, and doesn’t always lead to balanced games. The Elites are just that much better then the lower tiers that they often keep up the initiative and shoot before my Professionals(who are no slouch themselves…), which leads to heavy casualties. The addition of the additional squad could have made a difference, or the addition of a vehicle(Come on payday! I Daddy needs a LAV III!) might have also tipped the balance.
We did play another game, after hiding in the house for a bit due to a tornado warning in the area. This game was much closer, but unfortunately I took no photos as I was so focused. We also added hilariously the “Baba Yaga” rules for John Wick, which Ty has a model for. Mr. Wick silently killed an entire house of models, but the Spetsnaz faired much worse as my Canadians were able to steal initiative enough to force casualties as the Spetsnaz moved to take the compound. The addition of a Russian sniper team was fun, and I definitely want one of my own.
In short, I am very impressed by the Second Edition of Spectre Operations. It takes some nuance to create good asymmetric scenarios that are still fun for both parties to play, and the points don’t work on their own to properly “balance” the game. But the layout and wording of the rules is far superior; after a night studying the game I was able to play with very few errors!
Our next gaming day is in a couple weeks, and Ty and myself want to do some more traditionally insurgent style scenarios, such as searching for Takistani militia weapon caches while avoiding ambushes and IEDS. The game system is perfect for that sort of warfare. I’m considering looking into Force on Force for more platoon on platoon modern warfare for Ukrainian vs Russian fighting, but otherwise Spectre will remain our “go to” for modern, asymmetric warfare.
While this was going on, Ty also had a request for my 3D printers; he had purchased an STL pack of “modern” Japanese Ground Self Defense Force miniatures. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to support them properly on the first try, but I got very lucky. He left that day with 18 of them! They look really fun, and we will be using them for Japanese forces in Takistan, where they are meant solely for humanitarian relief, but will shoot back if ambushed while on the job. Lets take a peek at a few of them!
I also printed him a sniper and two rifle-grenadiers, which in total leaves him with 18 JGSDF soldiers. Ty’s contemplating painting them with blue helmets. Let me know what you think of that idea and I’ll forward it to him!
The rainstorm kept us inside the shed most of the day. It was a great day of wargaming fun! I should be able to get another Spectre “battle report” in the next couple of weeks! Lots of painting to get done in the meantime; If I need more professional forces I might as well finish my Canadians!
But that is all I have for you today. Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and stay frosty. Bravo Six, Going Dark.
I talk about myself and Ty’s chosen Spectre Operations setting, the country of Takistan!
When Ty got me into Spectre Operations, it was met with a mixed response from me. It’s a slick, well written game with loads of rules for almost every conceivable situation when might encounter on a modern battlefield. But I’m a classic old Grognard, preferring my games set further in the past or in a fictional setting.
Ty was relentless though, and a after a few days binging on some modern war-movies I was sold. He got the rulebook, which we are currently sharing, and a smattering of elite, special forces types and Russian regular army. I on the other hand went with a horde of Afghani’s and some Iraqi style insurgents. This was years ago at this point, and we got distracted by a lot of other games.
It was simply chance when looking for a game to play this weekend, that Spectre got a chance again. We have a good amount of pre-painted Middle East terrain from Black Site Studios, and I had started painting some Canadian infantry for my Zona Alfa projects. I suggested we play it since we had almost everything ready. Ty is working on getting his ‘Deniable Ops’ Russians completed for the weekend. We should be able to feature a fully written and fully painted Battle Report for this weekend!
Now in terms of setting, we could have easily done Afghanistan, Iraq, or one of many other real Middle Eastern locations. But then we would be hamstringed by what is actually happening there, and using their real life history. I suggested a fictional location, using ArmA(a great PC military sim series) and adapting their fictional country of Takistan.
Takistan is great since it’s an Afghanistan influenced country with some serious Iraqi flair the further south you get. It has the best of both worlds in terms of wargaming. We aren’t using the game’s depiction as gospel, but rather using the geography and history to tell our own story. We are setting our game in 2022, after Covid-19 has receded and countries are left picking up the pieces.
Takistan in 2022 has been occupied by NATO forces for almost 10 years, and the local insurrection has not gone the way it has in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having learned their mistakes elsewhere, the occupying forces have instead opted for a ‘firm but gentle’ hand in keeping the peace. The Monarchy has been reinstated with the addition of a democratic parliament beneath him. Since this government was popular, the insurgency is manageable and is mainly split between radical islamists and hardline tribals who refuse to acknowledge the official Government. Funding for both groups has dwindled as has recruitment, as Covid-19 vaccine hubs and an accompanying cease-fire to halt the spread has lessened tensions quite a bit.
Still, the NATO controlled zones must watch for IEDS, ambushes, and suicide bombers. Many nations maintain troop levels, happy that this was has not developed into a quagmire much like Iraq and Afghanistan has. Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and more have troops ranging from Canada’s and the US’s rather large commitments to smaller elite forces or medical aid. The UK administers the southern oil-fields, a particularly valuable area to maintain control over. Canada, Germany, France, and a host of smaller nations help administer the North. The Chernarus(another fictional country) border is administered by the US. Finally, a large northern region was annexed by the Russians during the old regimes fall, but were prevented from advancing further by the appearance of western troops. This northern border is now a dangerous powder keg, with NATO forces being deployed to guard it.
The rest of the country is administered by the Takistani National Army, who have been heavily trained by the NATO forces involved. While not the best soldiers around, they have maintained good control of the country, with only a few missteps. They do have a problem with local insurgents infiltrating their ranks, and absconding with gear or causing chaos internally, but more stringent requirements to join have helped matters.
Takistan is actually not that dangerous, and most countries are reducing their combat presence. This has been noticed by the Russians, who have had attacks launched from their occupied territories by soldiers in unmarked gear. While Russia denies all official involvement, it is clear that these attacks are not insurgent in nature. Tensions begin to rise again, and the Green Sea Region prays for peace, but prepares for war.
I am really quite excited for this game! I enjoyed my brief trial game of Spectre, and with a setting locked in we can expand with terrain and figures to really go nuts. I have a lot of Afghani tribal infantry I can repurpose as Takistani hillmen, and some Iraqi looking types for urban Insurgents. I would like to grab some Takistani National Army, which could be easily represented by Afghan National Army models, or really any generic middle eastern models!
My Canadians are slowing getting done, and I got 5 more painted today! While bases for Zona Alfa, they should fare just fine for Spectre. I will be grabbing an LAV-III on payday for them to ride in. Lets take a peek at what I got done!
These Canadians will be fighting a force of Russian Special Forces on an HVT retrieval mission, the first instance of Russian on NATO violence in our new campaign. Of course, the Russians aren’t wearing flags or anything to identify them as Russians, so it’ll be a fun little narrative thing to write up once we are done.
My buddy Ty over at Hussars and Handgrenades will be posting his Russian forces tomorrow, or I will heckle him a second time. So feel free to go see his models! I’m amazed at how good his camo is, so it’ll be worth your time.
But anyways, that is all I have for you today. Feel free to join me tomorrow as I crack on with more Canadian infantry! Happy War-gaming wherever you are, and keep your head on a swivel eh!