Sunday, May 18, 2008

Moderns Ops Review and AAR

Modern Ops by Pinnacle Entertainment Group
is a skirmish level wargame based on the Savage Worlds ruleset. It uses the abbreviated version known as the Showdown rules as well as its own setting rules.

Now for anyone familiar with the Savage World rules, the Showdown set is essentially what happens when you strip off most of the RPG elements and excess fat away to turn it into a lean mean fighting machine. The result is a highly intuitive set of rules that can move fast even if one has little experience with them.

I'm not going to go into the core system, since that's a bit beyond the scope of this post. On the plus side, it lived up to the expectation of Fast, Furious, Fun. Highlights included the unit cards that are available for free, these kept bookkeeping down to a minimum, essentially all we had to recall was how many bennies we had left, and some of the expendable ammo(grenades and RPGs). The pace never bogged down, even though the units might have from enemy fire, and the setting rules made it appropriately deadly for the genre.

On the down side, there were portions of the rules that were either vestigial or lacking. Close Combat rules and mount rules were included, but there was no real follow up on either. There weren't any living mounts statted out, and there was no section for hand to hand weapons in the armory. At best one could look at the batons that the swat teams wielded, but I felt that given how they emphasized how important Ganging Up bonuses were, especially to untrained troops, that they should have at least included a few. Even if they just had the point values for the baton, a bayonet and knife/sword it would have been enough. Also the militia units refer to not being able to use the aim action, but from what I can see, that was one of the actions cut out from the rules. Suppressed weapons were another item that didn't really have an explanation aside from the obvious. Finally, nowhere could I find the point values associated with the various abilities and edges.

I would also have liked some more Savage Tales to have come with this product, but perhaps that's just me being spoiled, as some games only come with a single or no scenarios. But on to the AAR.

We rolled up a meeting engagement, and decided on a 1000 point target, we both ended up relatively close to the number. I took the role of the Taliban commander and my opponent taking over as the German commander. We put together a few ruined city blocks for them to fight over. For this game we played a bit loose on the Loyal rules, as he wasn't happy about having to retrieve corpses, and in turn I was able to play loose with my morale checks, which would occur whenever 25% of a team is lost. Which, in a 4 man team means that I would be checking for every casualty, so I said it would trigger when >25% was lost in a single turn.

German Forces
Panzergrenadiere Gruppe(644 points)
-1 NCO with G36
-5 Riflemen with G36
-2 Soldiers with MG3
Sniper Fireteam(388 points)
-2 Snipers with G3-SD1
-2 Soldiers with MG3
=1032 points

Taliban Forces
Taliban Command Fireteam(353 points)
-1 Taliban Warlord Leader with AK-47(Wild Card)
-1 Soldier with RPG-7
-1 Machinegunner with RPK
-1 Soldier with AK-47
Taliban Fireteam(2x)(253 points each)
-1 Soldier with RPG-7
-3 Soldiers with AK-47
Taliban Sniper (166 points)
-1 Sniper with Dragunov SVD(Wild Card)
=1025 points

I'll be referring to the placement of units by my perspective at the Taliban edge of our 2x6 table. The Command Fireteam set up along the far left, with one fireteam in the middle and one on the right, the sniper set up along the right hand side as well. The German forces mirrored mine, their 8 man team on the left and their sniper team on the right.

The first turns were mostly feeling each other out, but some skilled sniper fire by the Germans pinned down my rightmost fireteam, shaking the RPG man. My own sniper returned fire from the second floor of a building, but had little success. It was not an even matchup. I outranged them, their guns considered my sniper as in medium range, while mine could reach them as close range. However this was evened up by the fact that my sniper only had a D10 in shooting while the German snipers were sitting pretty with D12s. I quickly learned that their body armor(giving them a toughness of 11! Most of my soldiers had a 5 or 6) kept them relatively impervious to small arms fire.

Along the left side of the board both sides inched towards each other. I started things off with a volley of RPG shots, which quickly took out one of the sniper team. After that my opponent kept all his units relatively spread out, which helped reduce casualties, but kept him from a concentrated assault as my command team moved into position.

Midgame was when I learned the importance of not bunching up as well. The German soldiers were keeping their heads down due to my command team, I believe that one rifleman and one machinegunner had been killed by my MG or RPGs, my AK-47 armed soldiers were having trouble hitting or damaging his(although that might have been due to the dice more than the mechanics), again due to the body armor. His snipers had concentrated on my RPG soldiers, taking out the one in my command team and in my right hand side fireteam. My middle fireteam had bunched up, minus the RPGman who had been shaken by sniper fire and had not caught up with the man bunch, but a well placed grenade took out three of them in one hit. What was amazing was that the RPGman was able to make his morale check, acing it and continuing on. Meanwhile, every German soldier that was getting close enough to toss a grenade was being taken out with accurate MG fire.

The endgame was a continued attempt to flush out my command team with grenades, and accurate sniper fire chipping away at the remainder of my forces. By the time we ended due to hunger the tally was pretty close. I had lost 7 of my 13 men, including my leader, while he had lost 7 of his 12. 6 of those were from his Panzergrenadieres, leaving only his leader and a MG man from that squad. The remaining casualty was from his sniper team, which really didn't move all that much throughout the game.

I was actually rather surprised at how well the Taliban forces did given that of my 13 soldiers, 9 of them had weapons that barely scratched the body armor of the German troops. My opponent's major complaint was that the German squads were too big, in order to avoid a grenade or RPG landing in the middle and taking multiple soldiers out, he was forced to essentially move his forces in a chain, which limited firepower at a point. Also he felt that the two MG men with his sniper team would be better served near the front, as opposed to with his sniper on overwatch. Actually that whole team could have moved up and flanked my forces, given that my own sniper was having trouble doing any damage other than perhaps shaking a unit for a turn or two.

My own problems included, of course, the fact that the body armor made most of my shots harmless, it was only due to the luck of my MG(acing damage repeatedly) that I was able to do as much damage as I did. In general I felt that there was a little trouble with interrupting actions, as we had two ties before resolving an interrupt, I think the one on hold should win ties personally, so I might houserule that. My leader's fireteam was waiting for them to move into the open, but lost the interrupt and got a grenade down their throat for their trouble.

All in all, a really fun game that played fast and was suitably deadly. Unlike the Chain Reaction ruleset, this game doesn't almost run itself, but the Modern Ops ruleset is very intuitive, and most likely second nature to anyone who has Savage Worlds. So, aside from the above gripes I'm quite happy with it. It could have been executed better, so it's not perfect, but it gets done what it set out to do.

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