Sunday, 2 August 2015

Fighting Season - A First test game

For once, I haven´t played Chain ofCommand… at least Second World War :-)
Today I have played for the first time Fighting Season, the incoming rules for Modern Warfare by TooFatLardies. Our gaming group signed for the play testing a couple of months ago but only today we have been able to put a more or less decent table (with houses, walls and fully painted minis...) to play the rules.
This is a full brand new and self standing set of rules, not just a Chain of Command with some adaptations; therefore,  those familiar with the Second World War rules won’t have (I least I didn´t have) much problem in mastering the game. However, from the tactical point of view there’s very little resemblance between the two sets.
The approach taken by the designers (Richard Clarke and military historian & wargamer Leigh Neville)  was to go from bottom up and in a full Lardista style, study the key drivers of the small/skirmish combats in Iraq and Afghanistan and then develop the rules.

Once upon a time in Helmand...
 In this sense, the rules include full new terrain features typical of the area of combat (irrigation ditches, crop fields, flat roofs in the compounds’ houses…) in addition of course to the very different weaponry. Each army participating in this conflict has its own specific chapter (not just OOBs and supports) to enable a reasonable simulation of their intrinsic fighting conditions and tactics.

In that sense, for example, the same terrain feature (for example, climbing a hill) affects in a total different way to the Taliban (who can move freely due to its better knowledge of the geography) than to  the coalition forces (being broken ground due to the burden of weight carried by the modern soldier). 

In a war without defined fronts or even encounters between regular army opposing forces (“asymmetrical” war) the Coalition forces are obliged by the rules of engagement and despite their overwhelming firepower they cannot use it freely without consequences. In that sense Fighting Season covers the political dimension of the conflict, a theme already introduced by TooFatLardies in the popular Vietnam-era rules CharlieDon’t Surf, but taken to a higher step of detail and becoming more critical than in Vietnam.
Today we started playing only with infantry. The scenario provided for the testing of the rules is a patrol mission, in which a coalition force must penetrate a typical village of the Helmand area, securing several waypoints and gathering information from the local inhabitants.
As per the draft rules, the mission was to patrol a compound. I took command of the British Forces and on purpose I did not read the insurgents chapter; I tried to implement the tactics learned reading a few of the books recommended in the Yahoo Group and reviewed in June in my blog.
I chose as support an off-table GPMG which we located in a hill overlooking the playing table; incidentally instead of abstracting a line of fire from the edge of the table, we expanded the table to show the exact place where the support unit was set (a 3 level hill) as a way to avoid discussions later during the game.
After the patrol phase, in my initial phases I put the GPMG in “enhanced overwatch”, placed a fire team on a house roof (also in enhanced overwatch) overlooking a bridge at an irrigation ditch crossing. A first fire team crossed the ditch avoiding the bridge (typical place for an IED and as later I learned after questioning some civilians, there was actually one bobby trap there) while in the LOS of both the GPMG and the team in the roof of the house. They captured the first waypoint (just at the far side of the bridge).

They crawled forward at snail pace, in tactical bounds (as in the books I read) looking to get as much protection as possible in an open street towards one of the waypoints located at the end of it.
On the left flank and separated by a medium-height wall and some crop fields, I deployed another team in enhanced overwatch and an additional team moving also in tactical bounds,  keeping in line with the team  moving along the open street.

Until that moment the Taliban decided to remain inactive, waiting for the right moment to emerge, with only a sniper harassing my troops but with little effect.  Suddenly disaster stroke: the Taliban rolled 3 “sixes” (end of turn) just when the fire team on the right (the one on the street) was about to capture a second waypoint.
The Taliban let the turn end, forcing me to remove all my “enhanced overwatch” and tactical markers.  Initiative was his again: deployed two teams getting a total of 4 kills on my fire team and then used a CoC dice to ambush the troops, achieving more kills and shocks.
In the rules, the first two kills in the same phase are avoided due to the armour used by Coalition forces. The third and subsequent kills produce a “man down” and you need a doctor or the platoon sergeant to check whether the man is just stunned (and can recover) or unfortunately is a WIA or KIA. 

In the case of WIA A the mission now changes and the objective is to leave the table through a secured edge before he becomes a casualty. Same with a KIA, in this case taking your brother in arms with you.
The balance at the end of the Taliban phase  out of five men in the team, there were two hits on the Junior Leader plus another two men down; only 2 standing with 6 shocks. We stopped the game at that point because we had a lot of doubts about how to handle that situation... as long list of comments and questions now being addressed to the TFL HQ.

 We all enjoyed very much the game and during the first part it really flowed nicely. I felt almost like role-playing what I read in Attack State Red. The new rules introduced to simulate the Afghanistan field conditions are great (streams, house roofs, IEDs…) and totally aligned with what I read in the books. Great work so far.
Hope to make a second test next week before the group scatters for holidays. And very much looking forward to seeing the final rules being published.
Incidentally, the official TFL blog “Lard Island” started today posting the AARs of a newly launched campaign forFighting Season.


  1. Great write up of your first game- I'm looking forward to the final published rules.



  2. Very nice introduction the the game, thanks Benito !

    Best regards Michael

  3. Nice overview of the game:). Chatting with a gaming chum who has done two tours of Afghanistan, a man down has a massive morale effect on the Platoon/Company. In games terms it could be too easy just to focus on 'getting a man down' for the insurgents as potentially the Platoon then has to focus on extraction at the expense of the original objective. I will be interested to see how the rules handle this.

    1. Interesting
      The first man-down has an impact on the force moral
      Casualties makes ineffective at least the fireteam affected, and the mission changes to save your mates and extract everyboby from the table

  4. Great report Benito.

    The quantity of casualties produced in the rules, compared to casualties actually caused in real-life engagements, is a topic which has come up on several occasions.

    While you can count some as 'out of the fight' because they are tending to wounded comrades and other factors, rather than actual 'kills', heavy casualties do still occur, which needs fixing.

  5. The rules do actually place some very real restrictions and effects on the respective sides, without creating 'games within a game' that disrupt play.

    I know at least one serving member of the army considers them 'pukka' for the setting... so hopefully more validation will follow once they come out.

  6. With a man down, in a modern fight you lose the initiative. This has been the main problem of NATO forces in Afghanistan and Irak, so this is very nice to see it in the rules.
    Great reaction that of the Taliban player, and a fantastic game table.
    I am very interested in this ruleset so thank you a lot for this AAR.

  7. Hi Benito! Great to hear that you’ve had a go at “Fighting Season”. I found it was very different to Chain of Command – the background and context to the action of the tabletop takes centre-stage, with the need to reduce casualties and avoid negative headlines. I think you certainly found the same thing from your excellent AAR (great terrain and figures, by the way!). It’s really interested that you played after reading up on the ISAF forces in the various books you reviewed earlier this year. We’ve also found that the ISAF forces deployed and advanced at a snail’s pace in most of the games we have played – only rarely have the ISAF forces reached their objectives, although (perhaps inevitably) they’ve had by far the better of the firefights. The movement (if not the action) has been slower than in the Chain of Command games – cagey and cautious, sometimes overly so from the ISAF players (including me!). Looking forward to your future games with great interest!

  8. This looks to be a very nice set of rules. I look forward to seeing more scenarios from you and your group!

  9. Sorry Benito, just been visiting your excellent blog again and realised I haven't left a comment on this post. Looking forward to the release of FS and I can see you have everything in place when it eventually arrives.