Wednesday, January 2, 2013

First Impression: 'Operation Squad World War Two' Skirmish Rules (used for Spanish Civil War)


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...'
Ouch.
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).


26 comments:

  1. Oh what a great looking table! Seems as you had a great game. Some weeks ago I had a game of OS at Cristopher and I must say I realy enjoyed it too.

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    1. Thanks Moiterei! Yes, it was good fun. I probably would not have tried the rules without Christopher's report and recommendation.

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  2. Excellent work, Curt! Your markers certainly paid off with those dodgy dinamiteros!

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    1. Thanks Rosbif! They are gory but fun to use.

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  3. What a wonderful looking game Curt! Thanks for the back link as well.:-) I was thinking of adapting SCW to these rules, but haven't worked out the lists yet. Did you make lists and could I see them?

    Those corn fields are great! Did you buy or make them? If so where or how would be nice please.

    Glad you liked the game. If you liked it the first time then I'm happy to tell you it just gets better and better as you discover the real tactical depth it offers as the experience of playing grows.

    Looking forward to seeing more!

    Christopher

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    1. Thanks Christopher for providing the impetus for this try-out.

      I did not develop a special list for the game though I think it would be fairly easy. I think the Milicia would have a VT of 2-3 whereas the Guardia and Carlists would sit at a 3-4. Nonetheless, I would give the Milicia a higher breakpoint to reflect their ardour/patriotism, especially during the early part of the war. The weapons are the same as WWII (Rifles, LMGs, SMGs) so one can use the existing Weapons List.

      The cornfield is made up of the tips of Christmas garland mounted onto heavy card. I had some made for me years ago (can't remember the guy who did it - he was out of the States) but then added a batch of my own later.

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    2. Thank you Curt for the tips!:-)

      BTW my points target is 1,000 and not 3,000!:-0 (Gasp!)

      Christopher

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    3. Hmm, I must of subconsciously thought you needed the extra impetus ;P

      The Number has been Corrected.

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  4. This may well be the surprise project of 2013 for me. If I can get someone to go for it I may well buy the rules and paint up some 28mm WWII for this

    Ian

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    1. Great stuff Ian! Its a very low-investment game. You just need around 12 figures a side and you're done.

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  5. Great battle report Curt. I've been meaning to get a copy of the OS rules for a while - they sound perfect for small squad actions. I love the graphics you used on the second photo down on the post - was that Photoshop?

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    1. Thanks Sidney! The rules are well-worth a look. You might like to try them as an experiment with your upcoming Verdun project. The map graphics were done quite quickly using 'Preview' which comes standard with the Mac OSX operating system. Its actually a fairly powerful little app and very, very easy to use.

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  6. Looks good and some nice terrain there, how does it handle on table size, Phil and I are usually after games that can be played smaller boards due to the travelling we do, a 2*4 is usually the largest we try as it makes it easier for transport.

    I've generally gone off using 4*4 or larger boards as we usually find that the action pretty much ends up being in the middle anyway, we've never really seen sweeping re-deployments in all the skirmish games we play.

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    1. Thanks Gharak. I think you could easily use the rules in a smaller 'footprint'. Our game basically focused on roughly a 2x2 area. The range of a rifle is 80cm, which gives you an idea of the tactical distance required.

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  7. A very nice table,and the game has been very interesting to read.

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  8. Curt

    Good summary of the game and I echo your thoughts on Operation Squad. The "if you do that then I'll do this" sequence took some getting used to but gave a good game. There were definitely some Clint moments with the Gardia Officers (armed with pistols) charging the dynamiter and rifle armed amigos.

    Hasta la vista!

    PD

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    1. Thanks Peter. Yes, I think the rules will become part of our low-level skirmish repertoire as they look to be very adaptable and relatively simple to pick-up and play.

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  9. Nice looking game Curt! I've had the SCW in the back of my mind nibbling away for a long time, I resisted so far but..........

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  10. I want to play SCW and I have yet Operation Squad. Could you explain me how to adapt this rules to SCW (caracteristic of each troops ) ?
    Many thanks for helping.
    Philippe

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    1. Hello Philippe,

      Operation Squad can very easily translate to SCW. The armaments are virtually identical to WWII (Bolt action rifles, pistols and the odd LMG). Grenades should be relatively rare. Vehicles should be limited to armoured cars/trucks and perhaps a light tank.

      I would suggest the following 'Tactical Values' (VTs) for the various troop types (though these can be debatable):

      Guardia Civil: 3 (but relatively well equipped)
      Morroccan Regulares: 4 or 5 with 'Trained with the Bayonet' and/or 'Infiltrator' characteristic
      Carlist Requetes: 3 or 4
      Foreign Legion: 4
      National Army: 3
      Italian Army: 3

      Assault Guards: 5 with 'Seasoned Fighters' characteristic
      International Brigades: 4 perhaps with 'Seasoned Fighters' and/or 'Political Commissar'
      Civilian Militia: 2 or 3 perhaps with 'Political Commissar'
      National Army: 3

      Again, these are just some off-the-cuff ideas. I'm sure there are others out there who may have a better informed opinion.

      Enjoy!

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  11. Many Thanks ! I find an other blog where you can download characteristics groups : http://somnisidaus.blogspot.fr/search/label/Operation%20Squad%20GCE

    All the best.

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    1. That's a brilliant blog with lots of excellent resources! Thanks very much for sending that along.

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  12. Curt,

    Great BatRep - a very nice narrative.

    I followed the link to the blog above but it has been removed. Any chance you could re post the SCW lists for OpSquad or pass them to me in a PM please?

    Kind regards

    Happy Wanderer

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    1. Thanks very much!

      Yes, it seems el frances has started a new blog. You could send him an email (click on his icon in the above post) or use my quick-and-dirty mods in the post that is two above this one. Nothing definitive just my gut impressions on equivalent troop types. I hope this helps!

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