Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Radio Dishdash Publishing: Skirmish Sangin


Today we will take a closer look at the new skirmish ruleset Skirmish Sangin from Dishdash Radio Publishing from a purely theoretical point of view as I haven't found the time to test these rules out. This new wargame company has been developing these rules for a while now and has released them now for the broad public. So what’s the idea behind Skirmish Sangin, which will surely become one of the more popular skirmish rules for the modern Afghanistan conflict that still rages on as we speak: 

“So what don’t I like about wargaming. The answer is simple, it’s the people. If gaming opponents can enter into a game with the spirit of friendly competition most rule sets should be able to provide an adequate setting and mechanism. I can hear you mumbling, “Why should I buy Skirmish Sangin then!” Well, it’s because it has been designed to make you feel like you are the person in combat, to enable you to create a story in your mind and tell your opponents about it, which in turn helps to encourage the happy banter of a great gaming experience. It’s also a really pretty book! Really you should buy Skirmish Sangin if you are interested in playing the period and think it could be fun, because it is...”


Therefor Radio Dishdash Publishing has deliberately simplified some aspects of gameplay to improve playability, as we believe that there is little point having an extremely accurate game that becomes bogged down in complicated rules. There is one more reason to play skirmish wargames besides fun, and for us it’s always been important – skirmish games have a relatively low set-up cost, with only a few figures being needed, and not much required in the way of terrain as games can be played on a board as small as 2x2 foot square, or as large as you would like! A Skirmish Sangin game is usually completed within two hours, so it also fits into the very busy lives we now all lead. 


First impression

When I downloaded the ruleset from the Wargame Vault I was amazed by the number of pages of hefty 172 pages filled with all sorts of rules! Slightly freaked out by the number of pages because I though a fast play skirmish game don't need to much of them otherwise the whole game would soon bog down ruining the fun of a flowing game.

Luckily, I was mistaken not by the number of pages but by the content. The rulebook really contains 169 pages but a nice chunk of them are filled with some excellent background stories telling the history of the conflict and the forces involved, the advanced rules to use when you're more familiar with the gameplay and last but not least gorgeous pictures of both terrain and miniatures.

What I really like are is the section showing the correct command and troop structures of each of  the troops involved such as the  ISAF forces further divided in the French Foreign Legion, American army squad, American Rangers squad, American Marines squad while also dedicated a chapter to the build up of insurgent militias, their preferred weaponry and their command structures.  As each nation involved has a different squad or section system, with different numbers of troops and weapons. This is not a definitive list but provides a good basis for adapting and expanding gameplay possibilities.


Creating a force

To play Skirmish Sangin, two or more players create opposing forces that represent a military squad or militia of six to ten soldiers. If larger groups of players are involved, each side can field 20–30 soldiers, or more. It’s important that all players agree on the kind of game they wish to play. Strict historical accuracy is important for some players, but not all; some are more interested in emulating their favourite movie or book. 

A set of guidelines should be agreed before play begins so that all players are clear on the style of game to be played. As part of this discussion, players need to agree on the number of points that are available for equipping each force. Sometimes this is dictated by the scenarios, which can be found at the back of this book, but at other times it can be decided by how many figures you have, or how long a game you want. Games do not always have to have equally matched troops – you can play valiant last stands, sniper teams, ...


Statistics in Skirmish Sangin every model has it's own statistics and his own level of experience level ranging from Novice to Elite representing the level of training and combat experience they have. The stats are represents by a number of individual scores each representing a certain aspect of the models capabilities and firing power. As you can see form the following picture each model has the following stats: Body, Armour, Morale, Action Points, Weapon and Combat Phases.


Game sequence

All combat is broken down into combat rounds, and these are further broken down into combat phases. In each combat phase, a character has three action points to spend. All combat is divided into combat rounds. These rounds represent an elastic amount of real time. A combat round is divided into ten combat phases.

It's here where the body stats comes in, as the body stat dictates which of the ten phases of a combat round a character is active in – the higher their Body value, the earlier a character’s combat phases occur. Noting that combat phases occur in order from highest to lowest body rank. During their activation miniatures can perform actions using their amount of action points as shown on their profile card. Shooting and moving cast one action point but only shoot or melee once per round.

At the beginning of a game all the players roll 1d10, and the player who rolled the highest number will announce the combat phases for the first combat round. On subsequent combat rounds, the players will alternate calling out the phases. The designated caller will work through the combat phases from 1 to 10 calling out which body ranks are activated in each turn, until the end of the combat round. 

A large aspect of the gameplay is the spotting of the enemy: A battlefield is full of distractions, with gunfire, explosions, and vehicle noises all disturbing the observer. Trying to find an enemy combatant who doesn’t want to be seen is difficult, so spotting is regarded by many to be the most important battlefield skill. All characters can see at 100% skill until their skill is affected the following modifiers: Movement, Distractions, Light levels (as in daylight, night, ...), Cover. This part is really well documented and I think this particular part adds a lot of realism to the game experience.


Shooting 


There are three main shooting skills each represented a kind of weaponry: Pistol, Rifle/SMG and Heavy Weapons. You can only shoot when you have established a clear line of sight and when the target is spotted. Then the player will be able to make a firearm combat attack. To make a successful attack roll, the player has to roll less than his character’s weapon skill, adding or subtracting the modifiers as shown in in the Shooting Modifiers Table such as the model has moved, is prone, is in hard cover and so on.

There is a huge variety of weapons available to the combatants in Afghanistan, from the most modern portable missile systems to old .303 rifles from the days of the Raj. These weapons have a variety of calibres, a wide range of magazines, and different scope systems. Skirmish Sangin has chosen not to create a system that accurately breaks down each weapon type and provide individual rules for each – instead, all weapons have been generalised into categories. There's also a sperate chapter for heavy weapons that we will not discuss in this review.



Moral

Morale reflects the moment when a soldier or vehicle decides what they are going to do in combat. Each person is different, and research shows that individual soldiers can react very differently in different stressful situations – they can be incredibly brave one day, and broken the next, only to collect themselves and continue to fight at a later point. To reflect this, the Skirmish Sangin system uses morale tests. A character’s morale is determined by their experience level and is influenced by a number of external factors.


Hand to hand combat

Hand-to-hand combat works differently from firearms based combat. Hand-to-hand combat only takes place when the two combatants are in base-to-base contact, and no firearms are used as it is deemed that the lack of physical space between the combatants prohibits their use. Other characters cannot shoot at characters engaged in hand-to-hand combat due to the risk of hitting their comrade. The basic Hand-to-Hand Combat Table assumes that each combatant is using a bayonet-fitted rifle or similar hand to hand weapon.

Vehicles and vehicle combat 

The ruleset also chapter dedicated to vehicle warfare: There are many different armoured fighting vehicles currently being used in Afghanistan – everything from main battle tanks (MBTs) like the Abrams and Leopards to the Snatch Landrover and HUMVEEs. Each vehicle has its own strengths and weaknesses, and much of the 
information about these vehicles is classified. The scale of Skirmish Sangin means that vehicles will be a rarity and we believe that MBTs should be used sparingly. The size of the battlefield prohibits the use of most heavily armoured vehicles. Skirmish Sangin does allow full vehicle-to-vehicle combat, and while this is unusual, these rules have been included for the sake of completeness. In the main, however, vehicles will only be used to deliver troops into battle.


Scenarios

Skirmish Sangin also includes some scenarios which are told like background stories. Each of these scenarios gives the stats for the troops involved plus their missions: At the beginning of any new deployment the military unit has a hand over period where the out going unit shows the incoming unit the ‘ropes’. The new unit can learn a lot from the soldiers that have been in situ for the last six months but until they get their eyes ‘on the ground’ and get out and recon the area their knowledge will always be second hand. This scenario represents 1 platoon of the 16 Air Assault Brigade, 3rd battalion initial recon of “Dodge City”. Dodge city is the the ISAF name for our imaginary town, deep in the Helmand province. 

The platoon splits into their sections and each section takes sector to patrol. Each section is in constant contact with the others as well as the “headshed” via their bowman communication system. Each section has a call sign. 1 platoons section call signs are Alpha, Bravo and Charlie respectively. A corporal commands each section and that corporal is known as Alpha 1, Bravo 1 and Charlie 1. In this scenario the men of Bravo section are lead by Bravo 1 Mike “Gimp” Lace.



Conclusion

This new ruleset is a must have for everybody wanting to refight the many skirmishes of the modern day Afghanistan conflict, although these rules are meant to be used with 28mm scaled miniatures you can easily adept the rules to 15mm or a larger scale. As I haven't managed to actually test the rules as I currently don't have the time nor suited miniatures. I have tried to give you a good insight in the build up and the sort of gameplay you may expect when you buy the PDF rulebook. I hope I managed to clear some of the doubt and actually managed to persuade some of you to give these rules a tried. I certainly will when I manage to source some miniatures and find some time.

These rules are now available at the Wargame Vault for only  $15.00 and that's a real steal considering the amount of pages and especially the nice pictures of both terrain and miniatures! Interested follow this link and enjoy the skirmishes that will follow when playing Skirmish Sangin from Radio Dishdash Publishing!

And when you have the miniatures but not the suited terrain why don't immediatly buy the useful tutorial for Afghanistan compounds from Matakishi's Tea House at only $2.38? The tutorial includes: Full instructions for building four different compounds for use with 28mm figures. A comprehensive materials and tools list is included. Each step is fully illustrated and there are numerous photographs of the finished buildings in use. Cheers!


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2 comments:

testblog said...

Thank you for the kind words, we really appreciate them.

The boys from Radio Dishdash

Wargame News and Terrain Blog, said...

Hi, No problem as I really like the way you're going with the rules and I'm looking forward in testing the rules out on the tabletop!

Cheers