Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SAS / JTF2 Operators & Defender Series 1


A few more special forces operators to add to the collection, plus a venerable Land Rover Defender Series 1 for them to roll out in.


The figures are from the Empress Miniatures SAS range, though I think they'll stand in nicely for Canadian JTF2 as well. I've painted them in my (very rough) facsimile of the CADPAT AR (Arid Region) camo. 


I quite like these figures, especially the guys in the soft hats. The poses are perhaps not as dynamic as what Spectre offers, and their weapons are a bit beefy, but their overall look appeals to me. 

The Defender was a 3D print file that I found on Thingiverse (thanks UHStech3). I manipulated it slightly to get the scale closer to around 1/50. It still may be a touch big, but I'd rather that than having it too small.


After the print it was just a matter of a quick airbrush and some slapdash weathering to get it sorted for the tabletop.




Now it's ready for some hard-bitten mercs to pick up an arms shipment, or perhaps for a posh mom to get the dry cleaning and grab a quick cappuccino before collecting the kids from soccer.


Next up: Some more modern OPFOR

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Some Modern Vehicles & 'What a Tanker!'


I've been fairly busy with work, outdoor stuff and some home renos, but I've not entirely neglected the hobby desk and have managed to get a few more things added to my ACWII project.

I figured that if I'm going to build a modern miniature collection, I really needed to beef-up my vehicle park to help set the stage for more urban scenarios. Nonetheless, doing this using wargaming-designed resin models is a fairly costly proposal, so I put on my thinking cap to see what alternatives were out there.

Card vehicles were definitely an option, as many of the available kits look quite good and are inexpensive, but I gave them a miss as I thought the whole cut, fold and assemble thing spread over 20-odd vehicles would make me snap my crayons, and they might be more susceptible to wear and tear over the long term. 

Hmm, okay, diecast vehicles was another possibility. They come painted, have a nice heft  to them and generally look petty nice. Nonetheless, sourcing civilian vehicles that are close to 1/56 scale can be a bit tricky, and often the final cost is not that much different than resin once you factor in shipping. 






In the end, I came up with the idea of using railway models after looking at some attractive  layouts at a local model shop. After scurrying home and doing a bit of research, I discovered that O Gauge is a fairly close fit for 28mm figures. So I scanned through eBay and found several Chinese suppliers who will happily provide bulk lots of painted plastic vehicles at very reasonable prices. I ended up getting 15 cars for $30 including shipping - that's about the same cost of a single resin model.  Score!!  To be honest, there's an inordinate number of BMWs in the lot I received, so I may have to acquire a few diecast domestics to better round out the collection, but overall its turned out to be a very economical way of filling up a street or two with traffic. 



While I was in the eBay vortex, I also purchased a couple transport trucks which seem an ubiquitous feature on any North American road. 


These are Tonkin 1/53 diecast models. While they are quite nice, they can be a bit pricey. Nonetheless, if you're patient you can find some for reasonable money (around $25), especially if you're willing to take on ones that have open packaging, or have minor bits missing. 




Okay, that's the civilian stuff pretty much sorted, how about the military gear? Well, let's start with some paramilitary kit in the form of a couple of armed trucks, or 'technicals'. 

This light duty truck is a resin kit available through Empress Miniatures.


Its designed to fit a wide number of weapon loadouts, from rocket launchers to heavy machine guns. Here I have it armed with a nasty ZU-23 automatic cannon. 


To provide a more North American idea of a technical, I also did a light conversion on one of the larger police trucks from the excellent 'Walking Dead' scenery set. 



To mask the roof police lights I used a bit of putty to mock-up some tarped stowage I then made a few base inserts for the truck bed so I could drop in whatever heavy weapon I wanted them to roll out with. The first few pictures are of it with a 50 cal HMG and... 




... another(!) ZU-23 automatic cannon.


Finally, I finished painting a 1/48 scale BMP-2 that I picked up from Empress Miniatures a few years ago (originally an HLBS kit). I did it up in a relatively generic three-tone camo pattern. Fairly quick work with an airbrush - it looks okay, but I think I'll dirty it up some more to make it more of a battered old veteran. Still, a pretty scary vehicle for an infantry skirmish game. 




To close off, I just wanted to mention that this past weekend we played our first game of 'What a Tanker!' . 



I mashed together a simple game using my old 15mm FoW North African collection. Well, what a hoot! The rules are very easy to pick up and quick to dive into. The activation mechanic is reminiscent to Chain of Command, with a nice crew advancement system for follow-on games. I'd like to see it expand to include armoured cars, anti-tank guns and perhaps something that abstracts infantry support. It's a bit 'popcorn' perhaps, but I think it gives a great game. Highly recommended.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hellllo Ladies! Modern Female Operators


In the interest of equal opportunity, here are five female operators working towards gender-balancing my ACWII collection.


Similar to the Russians from my previous post, all of these figures are from Spectre Miniatures. 


I quite like the mix of both civilian and paramilitary gear on these figures as it allows them to fit in with a wide variation of settings. 



I also appreciate the sculptor's effort to model these women on realistic forms and poses, as opposed to some of the fantastical spotty-faced-boy-in-the-basement stuff you often see in the market.

They are armed with a variety of weapons including a Glock holdout pistol, PP-2000 SMG,  HK416 assault carbine, a Kriss Vector SMG and a Kel-Tec assault shotgun.  Yup, definitely NOT damsels in distress.



There is at least one more pack of female operatives I'd like to add to these, but they'll have to wait as future reinforcements.

Next up: Some vehicles!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Modern Russian Urban Assault Team


I needed some Russians for my ACWII storyline and found that this great range from Spectre Miniatures fit the bill nicely.



These are Spetsnaz (Russian Special Forces) in urban assault gear, ready to holiday in the Crimea, Syria or any other vulnerable locale. All of them are wearing heavy body armour with visored helmets. Three of the figures are equipped with ballistic shields for close quarter breaching. 



They are armed in a variety of weapons, ranging from machine pistols,  suppressed AKs to more exotic kit, such as the AS Val assault rifle. Yup, a nasty group of hard cases.



In order to easily pick them out on the tabletop, I've painted them up in the distinctive blue 'Smog' pattern urban camo.

This bunch will be making their debut in an upcoming scenario - so stay tuned for that.

Monday, May 14, 2018

ACWII - Prelude Scenario - Damascus, 2020

Damascus, Syria. December 2020.


The year is 2020 and the Second American Civil War has been raging for almost a year.
 
Ten months ago the POTUS declared martial law due to a crisis threatening the safety of the United States. 

The catalyst to the crisis was the unprecedented flood of chemically tampered heroin,  cannabis, opioids and methamphetamines onto the American street market. These poisoned drugs have caused tens of thousands of deaths within the most at-risk communities in America. A quick investigation by the DEA has asserted that these drugs can be traced back to various drug cartels based out of Mexico.  As a response to this ‘clear and present danger', the POTUS has declared martial law and authorised a military incursion into Mexican territory in an attempt to stem the flow of the drugs and 'bring law and order to that troubled nation'.  


The declaration of martial law immediately sparked a constitutional crisis within the United States, with many blue states rising in revolt. Many Americans considered this as an illegal overextension of federal military power and a thinly veiled plot to shield a corrupt presidency from its legal entanglements. Significant portions of the federal government, including the military, are riven between obeying the questionable orders of compromised presidency, or challenging the legality of martial law.  Accordingly, the governors of several insurgent states decided to meet in Seattle to discuss their political options. 

Tipped-off to an impeding covert strike by third-party POTUS forces (now simply called the 'MAGA Militia'), the governors fled across the Canadian border to Vancouver, requesting political amnesty. The Office of the President demanded that Canada turn over the ‘renegade' governors, but the Canadian parliament demurred, saying that they were merely providing temporary sanctuary to those fearing political repression. 

At this rebuff the POTUS lost his temper and within hours, an American heliborne strike force was sent across into British Columbia with the aim of seizing the rebel politicians by force. Tragically, a CF18 scrambled out of CFB Comox, without authorization, fired a missile at one of the Blackhawks, killing the Seal team and pilots on-board. In response, the increasingly isolated and unhinged POTUS ordered a seize-and-hold action of several major Canadian cities near the border. Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa and Montreal were quickly subdued and occupied. The Canadian Prime Minister and his cabinet have been arrested and the Canadian military has been ordered to stand-down


Isolated from the instructions of their government, Canadian military units have been struggling to determine what they should do. Several of these isolated commands have been overwhelmed and disarmed by American forces, but others have managed to slip away, or imbed themselves within other friendly forces in the regions they are operating in. 

One such rogue unit is a team from Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2), Canada's tier-one special forces, who until recently had been operating along the north-west Syrian border, training Iraqi Kurdish fighters in their struggle against ISIL.


_______________________________________________________

Three days ago, Al Jazeera reported that two Canadian diplomats who had been based at the consulate in Aleppo, had been kidnapped by forces unknown and taken to Damascus. The reason for their apprehension is unclear and strangely no demands have been issued to facilitate their release. (In reality they are Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents gathering information on the Assad regime.)






Since no channels of communication or negotiation have been opened, the commander of the JTF2 detachment fears that the diplomats are in mortal danger and so has determined to attempt a rescue.

Intelligence gained from Syrian rebel forces friendly to the Canadians have placed the two diplomats in a war-torn neighbourhood at the edge of the capital. A plan has been formulated and eight JTF2 'operators' have hired local guides to take them in three cars into Damascus, near the location of the prisoners.

The mission map


The tabletop reflects the Damascus neighbourhood where the Canadian diplomats are being held. It is late at night when the JTF2 operators have slowly crept into to the area just north of the target. As usual, I have the players cooperating together running the JTF2 force while I run the opposing side.


The street in question has the two diplomats in a fenced holding pen. Both have their hands and feet bound and their heads are covered in sacks. It looks like they are in the midst of being transferred to another location. While they look like they may have been roughed up, they otherwise seem intact. 


The JTF2 players formulating their rescue plan.
At each end of the long street are two technicals armed with twin 23mm ZU automatic cannons. Being a bit lax, as it is late at night, they only have one crewman serving each gun, along with their dozing drivers.

There are two foot patrols of two men each walking the length of the street while another detachment of four guards the prisoners in the holding pen. 


As mentioned previously, it is the middle of the night. Several of the buildings along the street have their interior lights on and the streetlights in this area are operating, with a dim light pools being cast intermittently down the street. These light pools play an important role in the game as figures close to them are illuminated to anyone in line of sight. Otherwise it is very difficult to see anyone past 12" in the dark. As can be imagined, this gives those equipped with night vision optics a huge tactical advantage.





The JTF2 assault group has been organized into four teams of two men each. Anticipating the worse, they are going in with heavy loadouts. As standard equipment they are all equipped with stereoscopic night vision optics, body armour, silenced C8SFW carbines with night scopes and laser sights. They also have a sidearm, a few grenades, a LAW rocket, personal comms and medical trauma kits. A few of the members are also hauling specialized weapons and gear, detailed below.


Team One is composed of the force commander with advanced comms. He is accompanied by a fellow operator who is kitted out with the stock task force arrangement.


Team Two has the 2IC who, in addition to his standard loadout, is sporting long-range coms and a 'Pirate Gun' (a cut-down 40mm grenade launcher named for it's outline which strikes a strong resemblance to a 18th century dragoon pistol). His wingman is equipped with the base setup.


Team Three is the sniper team. The spotter is equipped with long-range optics and range-finding gear. The sniper is armed with a suppressed light sniper rifle loaded with subsonic ammunition. He also caries clips of both amour piercing ammunition and standard rounds.



Team Four has an operator who, on top of his silenced carbine, is also armed with an unsilenced Minimi compact LMG for when things need to go 'loud and proud'. His partner is the team's boffin, who is carrying a laptop and a portable digital satellite uplink. The tech is the team's ace in the hole. He possesses a hack allowing him to gain access to one of the American UAVs loitering near Damascus. There's a hitch though, once he seizes access to the UAV he will only have control of it for a limited amount of time before the Americans will be onto them, so the team has to plan things accordingly. 



__________________________________________

The JTF2 operators deployed along the street, across from where the prisoners are located and towards the T junction immediately to the west. The sniper team established themselves on the roof of a two storey building overlooking the prisoner pen. The LMG gunner and the Boffin are on the roof of the garage nextdoor to the west. The gunner switches to his silenced carbine to maintain the element of surprise as long as possible. The commander and the rest of the group are on the ground on overwatch down the T junction.

The sniper took the first shot, killing the ZU-23-2 gunner on the easternmost technical. The  Canadians on the ground across the street tried to take out the driver, but only managed to wound him. Loosing consciousness, he slides down into the footwell of the truck. One of the teams on the roof killed the roving pair on patrol while they were returning from a light pool so their bodies remained hidden in the dark.

As the OPFOR is still unaware of the attack they continue their patrols.

The next turn sees the Canadians dispatch the patrol to the west, but the sniper botches his shot and only wounds the other ZU-23-2 gunner down that end of the street. The wounded gunner's shouting alerts the rest of the opposing force and so the jig is up.


The Canadians retain the initiative for the next turn and start laying down fire on the wounded gunner and the guards overlooking the prisoner holding pen. 

While on overwatch, the sniper's spotter notices several bodyguards coming up from the bunker behind the pen. Two or three are in suits, while one is wearing a red cap - very strange. A few seconds later, a member of the Syrian ruling family emerges from the bunker. As this individual has been identified as being complicit in the chemical weapon attacks on Syrian civilians he is acknowledged as a priority target. Hmm, options, options...




Also, the JTF2 teams to the west notice engine noise and lights coming down the street from the south, just offboard. Things are beginning to get interesting. The Canadian commander doesn't like how things are unfolding so orders the Boffin to get on his laptop  and satellite uplink to see what he can drum up . He calls on the force's gunner to get on his LMG to start laying down some suppressive fire on the guards. Finally he tells the rest of the teams, excluding the sniper, to get ready to advance on the prisoner compound.

The OPFOR gets the initiative and things start to hot up. The engine noise manifests itself into a BMP2 armoured personnel carrier advancing down the side street towards the center of the action. While the operators' eyes bulge at this, the surviving guards get reinforcements from surrounding buildings and start returning heavy automatic fire at the rooftops, with a few shots getting disturbingly close to a few of the JTF2 teams. Things are starting to get tense for the Canadian operators.  


In the midst of the growing firefight, the 2IC notices in one of the lit rooms across the street are a group of military contractors wearing red hats - it's the MAGA Militia! But what are they doing here in Damascus? It's agreed this is not good and they need to be dealt with.


The next turn the Canadians get back the initiative. With the aid of some illegally acquire passwords and illicit codes, the Boffin manages to hack into the American drone network and calls in a Reaper. I remind the players that they will only have access to the UAV for a limited amount of time as the Americans will be frantic to regain control of their hijacked asset. 


The players have a quick huddle to decide the Reaper's fireplan. They opt to call in Hellfire missile strikes on the bunker, the BMP-2 and then to drop laser-guided bombs on the building holding the MAGA force and another building suspected of holding reinforcements.

(I'll compress a bit of the narrative here in order to move things along, suffice it to say that much mayhem ensued in the intervening turns.) 

Hellfire Target A

Hellfire Target B

GBU-12 Paveway Target C

The Canadians hunker down as the first Hellfire makes its run on the bunker. The Syrian VIP and his guards are almost at the gate of the prisoner pen when the missile impacted. After the dust and debris settles, a guard is dead, the VIP is grievously wounded and the remaining two guards try to bundle him to cover.

One thing the players discern from this strike is that a mysterious gas begins to emerge from the wrecked bunker. What can it be? Some sort of chemical agent? Perhaps the two prisoners will have some information if they can be saved.



The second Hellfire is slightly off target with the BMP-2, but still manages to flip it over in the explosion. Two female FSB agents bail out of the APC's rear hatches and begin to orient themselves to what's going on. They exchange fire with one of the JTF2 teams, but being only lightly armed, decide to take cover and wait for reinforcements.


The 500 pound laser-guided bomb hits dead center on the building holding the MAGA operators, causing catastrophic damage. Nothing emerges from the wreckage.


After these three strikes the Reaper UAV is taken offline by its owners. Nonetheless, just as it begins to gain altitude and pull away, an insurgent climbs to a rooftop and fires a Stinger missile at the retreating drone. The players don't know if the drone was hit or not - it doesn't matter as it's done its job.


In the shocked silence of the Reaper attack the Canadians lay down heavy covering fire and rush the compound to secure the dazed prisoners.  They then rendezvous on the street and quickly load up in one of the abandoned technicals. This all happens not a moment too soon as another BMP-2 arrives on the scene to hasten them on their way into the night.

 __________________________________________


So the Canadians have achieved their mission in releasing the prisoners, but they now have to figure out a way to get out of Syria so that the intelligence gathered by the two 'diplomats' can be given over to the appropriate authorities to be made use of. 

The prelude concludes, now on to the next chapter...