Sunday, October 20, 2013

Operation Squad Mini-Review & AAR - "Bloody Orchard"

Is there anything sweeter than actually bringing a miniatures project to the table for the first time?

Back in May of 2012, I decided to get back into WWII skirmish gaming. I've done this genre at 15mm and 20mm before, but I wanted to go all out with 28mm this time and I've been incredibly happy with the scale. So much so that it's been quite frustrating having to wait for the day I had the requisite terrain and painted miniatures before I could get a game going.

That day finally came today, and I had a blast. Dave, one of my RPG group regulars (and fellow podcaster) had expressed an interest in miniatures wargaming, and had worked the camera during my last outing against Des, so I invited him over for a game of Operation Squad.

My primary interest these days for games up to platoon level is actually TWG's Nuts!, but as I had enough painted minis for an OS game and I was curious how the OS mechanics would play out, I chose that set of rules to break in my new terrain and figures. All in all, I liked OS quite a bit. There were only a couple minor oversights of the rules, and the game played quickly despite its highly-detailed focus. 

We played the first scenario from the main rules ("Recon"), but I replaced the building objective with an orchard, as I'm still waiting on delivery of some MDF buildings. I played the British (Rifle Squad), my opponent took the Germans (Panzergrenadiers). And I was handed my ass - by the end of the game, 5 of my number (including the squad's corporal and lance corporal) lay dead, a sixth was wounded, and the rest were fleeing the field, leaving the Germans in possession of the orchard.

However, I definitely bloodied Jerry's nose, killing three of his veteran squad, including the squad leader. The turning point of the game came round about the fifth turn, when my corporal, who had bravely rushed up to the orchard wall, lobbed a Mills bomb towards one of the German MG42s. The deviation dice were kind, and the grenade went off nearby the machine-gunner and two other Landsers. Unfortunately, due to the grenade having landed on the far side of the wall, it failed to cause any wounds. The next turn, the MG42 started speaking, and it had very little nice to say to the British.

(Seriously, the game was pretty much over once those two MG42s got going. Good lord, I knew it was going to be rough, but it was still shocking to see how much damage those things can do.)

Partly because this was our first game with these rules, I went with a very basic build for my squad, purchasing Marksman for my rifles and three Wait maneuvers. As it was, my points would have been much better spent on a mortar or Vickers HMG. I didn't get much firing action with riflemen, and I completely failed to play in a manner that would've taken advantage of the Wait maneuvers, instead rushing forward to try and capture the orchard. Clearly, I would've been better off standing back and using a combination of my Waits and sharpshooting chaps to pull the Germans into a trap. Lesson learned.

Like any WWII skirmish game, effective play of Operation Squad seems to benefit greatly from playing to the strengths of the nationality you're deploying. Obviously, where points allow you some choices, force construction can be a decisive element, too. The casualty rate was, I think, higher than a normal game - we were both rolling abysmally with our cover dice, so most hits were kills. We didn't get a single Pinned result between the two of us! We also didn't get a chance to have a figure on Fire orders interrupt an enemy's movement, but we got a good feel for most of the other basic rules. The game, as expected, proved to be quite counter heavy, but it's a price I'm willing to pay as it means no paperwork for the forces on the table. I've seen some people use 3-D markers, and I might look into doing that. Another idea would be to stack differently colored 25mm discs under the figures, although that might be too fiddly at the end of the day. I'll have to give it some thought.

(One final note before we get to the pictures: I broke one of my own rules by using partially-painted figures on the table. I had some casualty figures that I hadn't quite completed, but we decided to use them anyway. Even half-painted, the casualty markers really added to the aesthetic of the game, and I'll definitely be ordering and painting up some more.)

At any rate, here are some shots of the action. Both forces moved up along the hedgerows towards the orchard, the Germans occupying it first and never relinquishing it.

The battlefield layout.

The first half-painted casualty marker makes its appearance!

So close, so far - my valiant lance corporal lobs his Mills bomb.

Right before the MG42 opened up from inside the orchard.

The bloody aftermath. 

From behind a hedgerow, the survivors look on in horror, their nerves failing them.

The one sweet spot for the British: the German squad leader lies dead.


  1. Your terrain is so amazing it made my jaw drop. Your minis are great, and it's awesome to see that you have terrain worthy of them. Very impressive!

    1. Thank you, sir! I've always put a premium on presentation of terrain--that's what comes of having a scenic artist for a father, I guess. I've had a lot of different terrain systems in my time, and this is by far the one I'm most satisfied with.

      Just for reference, I made my hedgerows from this article by Iron Ivan Keith, the fields are Hotz Mats, and the walls are 4ground.

    2. Cool, thanks for the links. I've definitely got to try my hand at those hedge rows.


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