I first saw 'Operation Squad' when it was being demonstrated at the Warlord Games' booth at SALUTE a few years ago. The rules looked quite interesting as it seemed it did not require a large playing surface, nor a lot of figures to have a good game - in fact they seem to fit a nice niche below 'Bolt Action' being more focused at the squad-level instead of the platoon.
As is typical with my addled mind I promptly forgot all about them until recently when I read a game report on Christopher's (Axebreaker's) excellent blog. I really liked his explanation of the rules and based on his recommendation I downloaded a PDF copy from Ganesha Games (cripes, I love being able to do that).
The rules themselves only take up about 20 pages and are pretty easy to digest. The heart of the system is its interleaved action and reactions. Basically a turn is broken down into several phases. Each phase can be composed of three sets of Actions with corresponding Reactions. Once these six activities are announced the players roll to determine priority figure-by-figure and the activities are played out in that sequence. This is repeated phase after phase until all figures on the table have taken an Action or Reaction thereby ending the turn.
So last Friday the lads came over (under the false pretence of playing 'Bolt Action') and I put on a game of Operation Squad for them set in Spain during the Civil War.
The scenario's premise is that the Nationalists are planning to 'pay a visit' to a popular leftist poet who lives quietly in a cottage in the country. The Republicans got wind of this plan and dispatched a band of militia to try to stop the fascists.
The Nationalists were composed of two detachments, one of Carlist Requetes (run by Peter) and the other from the Guardia Civil (Sylvain). Most were armed with rifles or pistols but the Guardia had a couple men with SMGs.
The Republicans (Stacy) were made up of a squad of local rifle-armed Militia stiffened with a Light Machine Gun team and a single crazed Dinamiteros with his chest festooned with improvised explosives.
The Nationalists set up first on the table edge opposing the poet's cottage and then the Republicans deployed in 'Hidden' status anywhere up to the edge of the river.
|4x4 table with positions & objectives of the combatants.|
Note: You'll have to forgive me as the photos here are a reconstruction of the game. The wine and conversation was flowing and I, like a complete muppet, totally forgot to take pictures!
In a nutshell the Nationalists chose to split their force in order to divide the attentions of the outnumbered Republicans. The Carlists advanced along the left flank towards the river while the Guardia attempted to shift their axis, hop the roadside hedge and dash up the road to the bridge.
The action started immediately as the Republicans revealed their LMG, opening fire on the Guardia who were maneuvering in the open. Several of their number being riddled while the remainder vaulted the roadside hedge to get into cover. The Carlists took advantage of their comrades' sticky situation and freely dashed towards to the cornfield next to the river.
|The Guardia take casualties crossing open ground to the hedge.|
|'You three go ahead, I'll be right behind you.'|
The Republicans maintained a small group in the woods to support the LMG but sent a trio including the Dinamiteros up the road and onto the stone bridge. The loon with the dynamite attempted to toss a stick into the Guardia ranks but it fell short and detonated in a section of the roadside hedge. His companions had more luck and managed to drop another Civil guardsman with their rifle fire.
Over the next few turns the Carlists managed to cross the river under a fusillade of LMG and rifle fire (with several red berets floating down the river). This action was aided by some good Carlist shooting from the cornfield which managed to wound the Republican LMG gunner and ultimately force the team back into the woods.
|The Republican LMG trying to pin the Carlist assault over the river.|
|'Manuel, send the guy with the cross over first and we'll see what the Big Guy thinks of this.'|
At around the same time the Guardia stormed the bridge (I was ignoring morale restrictions at this point as we were having fun and wanted to get a good play of the rules) and one of their NCOs closed virtually on top of the Dinamiteros. The Republican lit a fuse and prepared to toss... The NCO won the priority and dropped the fellow with a pistol shot from his Astra but the lit dynamite fell from the Dinamiteros' dead hands to the ground in front of them... One can imagine the blank looks exchanged between those closest as the fuse burned home. KA-BOOM!! The Guardia was short one more NCO and the nearest Miliciawoman was also wounded in the blast.
|'Before you fire let me light one more cigarette...'|
The game wound down with the remaining Guardia (all two of them) clearing the bridge and the Carlists closing in on the LMG's position in the woods. In the end I reasoned that the Nationalists, having suffered quite a few casualties on their advance, would wait for reinforcements before continuing onto the poet's cottage...
Fun! I think I can say we all had a good time with the rules. The interleaved activation system was a bit of a head-scratcher at first but we soon got it sorted so we could crack on. Consensus was that 'Bolt Action' will continue to be our rules de jour for platoon actions, but I can see us playing 'Operation Squad' again for smaller squad-level games. It could be easily modified to conduct WWI trench raids, Vietnam recon patrols or even Pulp adventure. All-in-all a nice set of rules which I'd heartily recommend if it sounds like your cuppa (especially as they are only $9.95 in their downloadable PDF form).