Northern Wedding plays Fireteam Modern

So I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been looking into playtesting Rory Crabb’s Fireteam Modern ruleset, and last week we finally got around to it. I didn’t have time to dream up a convoluted scenario, so the fight was just a straight up confrontation between symmetric forces. This was partly a decision to better playtest the ruleset as well.

Overall, the experience was very positive, the rules play fast and generally make sense. Still, there were some things that irked us both, which I’ll get back to below. I wont write a super detailed after action report this time, but rather focus on some situations that highlight different aspects of the ruleset.

fireteam_soviets_advancing.JPG
Soviet Motostrelki advancing with their BMP-2

Fireteam Modern – The gist

Fireteam is played by each player taking turns activiting units, until all units on the board have been activated (like Bolt Action without the random factor of grabbing hidden dice). Each units can execute up to two actions upon activation, and since these at least partly map to the orders in Bolt Action (move, shoot, etc), we used a couple of Bolt Action order dice to keep track of which units had been activated. As usual, I also use homemade NATO symbols (printed on regular printer paper glued to cardboard) to make it easier to keep track of units. It really makes life easier when gaming on a cluttered board with 6mm figures.

An important mechanic that sets Fireteam apart is the rules for spotting and hiding. Basically, units that are sufficiently hidden have to be spotted before they can be fired upon, unless they have fired themselves. This creates a situation where it’s not always prudent to fire with a unit just because you can, because you will then expose that unit to return fire. The mechanic works well, and I think it will work even better after a few games (we were a bit too reckless with opportunity fire and didn’t use the rule to it’s full potential.) I really, really enjoy the spotting aspect of the ruleset. It’s elegant, makes sense, and forces you to make meaningful choices.

us_troops_cover.jpg
US troops surveil the battlefield from a hidden position. An important part of Fireteam is the hiding and spotting mechanics, which really sets the ruleset apart.

The game

As I mentioned above, we had no real scenario. Just two mechanised infantry platoons of equal size and capability that try to inflict as much damage as possible over five turns, while limiting losses. We set 2 victory points for each enemy vehicle or section destroyed, and 1 victory point for each suppressed enemy unit at the end of turn five.

fireteam_game_board.JPG

Force compositions

Soviet Union

Motor rifle platoon

  • 3 x BMP-2
  • 3 x 6 man motostrelki section with RPG and medium machinegun
  • 1 x 4 man Platoon HQ with medium machinegun
  • 1 x Off board medium mortar battery, platoon HQ as observer

USA

Mechanised infantry platoon (-ish, a realistic orbat would have two squads divided into four fireteams in four Bradleys I think)

  • 3 x M2 Bradley
  • 3 x 6 man infantry fire team with LAW and medium machinegun
  • 1 x 4 man Platoon HQ with medium machinegun
  • 1 x Off board medium mortar battery, platoon HQ as observer

We played these forces as completely symmetrical as a way of trying out the rules and minimising the amount of stats to memorise. As such, the Bradley and BMP-2 are both stat clones of the “BMP” card included in the rulebook. In retrospect, I think that card could have been more generous with the anti-personnell stat of the 30mm cannon. As it were during this game, the IFVs were less than intimidating.

The beginning – Maneuver war

The first turn saw us both jockeying our forces into position, and not much fire was exchanged. We really saw the hiding and spotting mechanic in action here. We both tried to finish most moves in cover so the respective unit would be hidden. This allowed for a turn of maneuver which in another system would have quickly turned into a firefight. It felt chesslike, getting your pieces in position to execute your strategy.

fireteam_t1_nato_advance_left_flank.JPG
US infantry and Bradleys advance on the left flank. The plan is to leapfrog forward to get into a position for a coup de grace, while trying to suppress and pin any units coming into contact as they go.

Our respective platoon HQs took up positions in cover at the rear. We both had the idea to use forward infantry groups to bait enemy units into firing, and thus revealing their position. Then the HQs would use their forward observer ability to call in fire support. Sounds good in theory, but as we shall see it was a bit underwhelming.

fireteam_t1_soviet_hq.JPG
The Soviet platoon HQ takes position in an orchard. Both HQs dug in at the early game and tried to call in artillery from hidden positions, which turned out to be fairly useless.

The middle – Dodgy artillery and brutal close assaults

t1_nato_secure_crossroad_bradley.JPG
US infantry run across a field to take a position behind a farmhouse. A Bradley has made a dash move on the road to take the crossroads.

The larger walled farmstead would become a focus for much of the fighting. At the start of the game, I had fast moved a Bradley up the road to hold the crossroads. Swordsman countered this by advancing a motostrelki group into the nearby farm’s courtyard and taking out the Bradley with a side shot from the RPG.

At this point I figured a perfect opportunity had presented itself to call in some hurt in the form of a mortar strike. The motostrelkis in the farm had just revealed themselves by firing at the Bradley, and they were in line of sight of my HQ. Here we started noticing some strange things with artillery though.

The artillery mechanic works by first having you roll to see if any battery is available to strike your target. If so, you then roll to see whether the battery manages a good hit, or any at all for that matter. If a hit is made, you roll a number of dice to hit, save and wound as with any other weapon. The clever part is that the likelyhood of a successful strike goes up for every time you try to strike the same target, simulating artillery zeroing in and so on.

However, the problem is that the HQ squad’s firepower with regular small arms was more than twice that of a good hit with a mortar strike. Moreover, calling an artillery strike uses both the unit’s actions that turn. So I could either try to beat the many hurdles of calling an artillery strike, or I could just open fire with regular weapons and get more than twice the firepower guaranteed, and also have an action left. The only benefit (which, to be fair, is not insignificant) to calling an artillery strike with the HQ squad is the ability for them to then stay hidden. In summary, I think the artillery system is close to being great, but needs some tweaking. I have some suggestions for that in the conclusions at the end.

destroyed_bradley_suppressed_motos.jpg
A motostrelki group lands a successful RPG shot on the Bradley from their position in the farm. Much blood would be spilled in the farm’s courtyard throughout the game, mainly through assaults and counter-assaults.

As it were, I instead opted to try my luck with a close assault. It turned into an almost text book affair, where one squad suppressed the motostrelkis with a volley of suppressing fire (the rules make a distinction between direct and suppressing fire), and another squad moved into assault range and managed to wipe out the Soviets without a single loss.

After that, a deadly back and forth started with Swordsman counter-assaulting my riflemen. However, my riflemen were not suppressed (unlike the squad they themselves had routed), and as such could start with a round of defensive fire. They then proceeded to eliminate their attackers in the following close combat. Two notches for the berserking Americans!

They could not, however, withstand a third assault. Swordsman commited his last remaining motostrelki squad in yet another assault, and they managed to cut down the yanks, albeit while taking some losses. Overall, the assault rules feel like a perfect amount of abstraction, while allowing for some flavour between different units in the form of an assault stat.

The end – Wipeout

The brutal meatgrinder in the farm had broken the Soviets’ back. The end of the game saw my NATO forces converge in a crescent on the remaining motostrelkis on the left, taking them out one by one. Poetically, the last standing Soviet figure was a single soldier in the platoon HQ. The commander, if you will. The reactionary forces of imperialism had won the day once again.

endgame.JPG
Endgame. Remaining US infantry converge on the Soviet platoon commander, the last man standing on the REDFOR side.

Conclusions and suggestions

Overall we had a lot of fun with this ruleset. I think it’s perfect for my niche of gaming 6mm i 1:1 scale. The combination of spotting rules, suppression fire and movement makes for a game flow that feels realistic while still not being bogged down in detail. Although we had some small gripes, I think these can be quite easily amended.

For example, I suggest that any successful artillery strike (Good or Partial) automatically causes suppression, regardless of the subsequent “hits” scored. This gives a little more reward for the risk (losing a unit activation) of calling artillery. I also think the mortars need a firepower boost of +1 across the board.

I think suppression could stand being a little more fleshed out as well. Although I haven’t test played it, I really like the Bolt Action concept of stacking pinning markers that adversely effect the unit. That turns suppression into a scale rather than a binary state, so that the more fire a unit endures, the less likely it is to activate and function correctly.

So I suggest implementing a simple version of the Bolt Action system. Each time a unit endures something that causes suppression, a suppression marker is added to it. Each suppression marker lowers its morale value by 1, and a successful activation after a morale test only clears a single marker. It can shed all suppression markers by spending a turn rallying (costing two actions). If it is reduced to worse than 6+ morale it must rally to be activated. The causes of suppression and morale stats might have to rebalanced to work with this approach though.

All in all, Fireteam Modern is a nice system that I recommend, and it could become even better in a 2.0 version or with some light supplements. It can be bought as a PDF on Wargame Vault for the pittance of a US dollar and a half.

Fireteam Modern site: https://rorycrabb.wordpress.com/fireteam-modern/

Wargame Vault: http://www.wargamevault.com/product/191672/Fireteam-Modern

nato_farmhouse.jpg
NATO won yet another game. At least I was playing them this time.
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Northern Wedding plays Fireteam Modern

    1. Thanks! I started out with the European Buildings from Paper Terrain, and they are originally meant for the WW2 era. I think it adds to the pastorality factor. I’m working on a number of new tiles with more modern contents though, and I think they’ll complement the rest nicely.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s