Conflict Dossier: Chernarus

Just another day in a Post-Soviet Republic…

Chernarus is a beautiful country, but one with some serious problems internally and externally.

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.

Flanked by Russia on 3 sides, and Takistan to its west, Chernarus finds itself in a sticky spot.

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.

A CDF patrol comes under attack by a Chedaki ambush.

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 Chedaki are well-armed with modern equipment, but continue to make use of old soviet stalwarts.

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.

The more things change…
The more things stay the same. Chernarussians enter Takistan at the same place their fathers and grandfathers left.

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.

A squad in Soviet style helmets. These are great sculpts!
And a squad in Panamanka hats. These fell out of use post-Afghanistan, but in my CDF backstory I’m having them keep it out of some odd nostalgia. Again, great sculpts with loads of character.

The models are really cool, and picking my favourite sculpts was hard. But here are some stand-outs!

A section leader, probably a junior Sergeant, beckons his men forward. A classic.
A good ole GP25 grenade launcher, to keep the Takistani’s honest.
Easily my favourite pose, and a multi-part model, this Chernarussian is running to keep up with his comrades.
An RPK-74, just the ticket for some sustained fire.
Armed with a disposable RPG, this Chernarussian is ready for anything.
The first of the ‘Panamanka’ models, this Chernarussian is reading a map and giving orders.
A simple, strong pose. Should be fun to paint!
An SVD for some long range work. The barrel here was the closest to breaking out of the box, and I’m scared for its long-term survival.
Another characterful pose. The facial details on the Eureka models are a highlight for me.
No post-Soviet army is complete without ton’s of RPG-7’s lying around. This RPG gunner has a spare round in his hands.
My second favourite pose! Hunched over and at the ready, this Chernarussian is ready for some close quarters fighting.

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!

Ripped from the Headlines: Wargaming the Modern Battlefield

Is it as tasteless as some claim? Just like the subject matter, that’s a matter of opinion.

The modern battlefield, while very interesting to wargame….is it too recent to be tasteful? -picture by Mikhail Evstafiev, 1996, of a boy in Grozny

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.

Islamabadian on Twitter: "#ZeroPoint in 1980's #Islamabad… "
1980’s Pakistan, specifically Islamabad, the Capital.

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.

With a homemade SMG that wouldn’t look out of place in Fallout, a Chechen rebel takes a quick smoke, and photo, break. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev-Chechnya, 1996.

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.

File:First Sting.jpg
Afghan Mujahedeen using Stinger Missiles on Soviet targets. Painting “The First Sting” by Stuart Brown
A Kiwi soldier and LAV on patrol in Afghanistan. Official photography by CPL Sam Shepherd, New Zealand Defense Force.

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.

File:2014-06-12. War in Donbass 13.JPG
A Ukrainian soldier in modern kit. The Ukrainians had to rapidly modernize their armed forces in response to the Russian annexation. Pictures of the Ukrainians pre-war are almost indistinguishable from Russians in the 2000’s period. -Unknown photo source, sourced from Wikicommons and presented with a creative commons license.
Meanwhile, their Russian adversaries started strong, and in modern equipment. This was not to be a repeat of the Chechen wars. This was a well motivated, and professional, Russian army. -Photo by Elizabeth Arrott / Voice of America

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!

Green Sea Region in relation to world - Imgur
The fictional Green Sea Region will be seeing a lot of use in my modern games.

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!

Spectre Operations: Extraction in Feruz Abad!

Our first real game of Spectre, and our “first” impressions! In short, bloody and quick.

A quiet street in Feruz Abad, Northern Takistan. This would be the stage for a clash between Russian Spetsnaz and Canadian Light Infantry.

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 Target Building…
…with HVT inside!
My Canadians moving onto the table. I play a lot of 40k, and this led to me keeping very tight cohesion. I would regret this.
At the top of the table you can see his Russian units preparing to enter the board from the north, with his Gaz just off table to be called in when needed for a pickup.
One group of Spetsnaz at their entry location. The other picture of the other team turned out very poorly.
And the table from Ty’s point of view.

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.

Russian forces reach the target building in record time. The two models on the left moved in, while the last remained outside to watch for hostiles.
The Canadians meanwhile advanced up the road, with one fireteam staying on it while the other moved left past the prayer tower.
My close cohesion would be problematic here.

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!

This guy, with his pump-action grenade launcher, would reap a terrible tally.
And BOOM! 3 Canadians fall immediately, reducing my firepower by a great deal.
Followed up next turn by another grenade launcher shot, to devastating effect.

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.

The Sergeant and his medic move up the right side of the table behind some shrubs(we decided as these are 15mm shrubs that they would be tall enough to count as cover).
On a 4+ a second Canadian squad arrives. They proved fairly ineffective, but they at least didn’t suffer near total losses now that I knew to spread out far more!

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.

A Spetsnaz operator takes up position inside the target building, covering the garage entrance.
While the Spetsnaz storm the target building.
On a building across the street, the Spetsnaz prepare to engage down the road.
And in position.
Another shot of the Spetsnaz in the target building’s garage.
HVT recovered, the Gaz moves in for a pickup.
A sneaky Spetsnaz moves from the roof across the street and quickly into a building, but misses his shot at my Canadians in the open!

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.

Knife fight! The medic lost…
And the Sergeant died the next turn.
Fire goes up and down the road. I lose one model…
And so does Ty.

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.

His remaining Spetsnaz Operator on the roof disengages, and moves to get picked up.

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.

Later suckers! The Gaz Tigr books it back across Takistani asphalt and off the table.

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.

It’s hard to see, but there is a lot of rain coming down. This kept us in Wargaming Shed for a while.

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!

The first 6! They actually look pretty good, modern miniatures can be difficult to print due to the small nature of their firearms and can be rather delicate.
The squad leader, calling for help from Coalition forces in the area. This is a really cool pose!
This was dumb, I should have known the other foot needed to be on the base as well for this pose to work. Oh well, everyone needs a derpy model from time to time!
These models are armed with the older Howa Type 89 rifles and are equipped with older pattern web gear and helmets. I suspect these were made with fans of the anime GATE in mind, as they perfectly replicate that shows depiction of the JGSDF.
The models are quite detailed! I am impressed at their quality.
Another brilliant pose. This will look great taking cover behind a truck!
And the Minimi machine gun provides some firepower for those sticky situations!

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!

https://www.cgtrader.com/3d-model-collections/jsdf-full-pack

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.