3mm Modern Skirmish

Theo's first club game as umpire last night was a Modern period skirmish game, using his own set of rules. Theo had play-tested them at my house a week before.

A Red force (Philip, Patrick and I) clashed in a valley with the Blue force (Rob, Doug, Mal), using a large table decorated with multi-layered hills, roads, a river, woods, some farms, and some pillboxes. The Red force: two infantry platoons and several technicals (armed militia in Toyota pickup trucks) was tasked with holding a missile battery and preventing the Blues (with a number of infantry platoons including special forces, plus helicopters, and a convoy of trucks) from exiting off the northern table edge.

The Reds managed to win the game, despite the destruction of Patrick's vehicles carrying a senior commander, having inflicted more casualties, and destroyed one Blue helicopter with ground fire. The Blue convoy did not manage to get off the table.

A number of things struck me about the game. The figures - in 3mm scale - were unusual and nicely painted and based, each infantry base having a coloured strip to identify mortars, anti-tank rifles, machine guns, snipers, AA, grenade launchers, or riflemen. Each penny-sized base could be slotted into a movement tray in various configurations. While the table was very large, the ground-scale was supposed to be accurate, in other words, each millimetre was equivalent to one metre. The generous movement distances and weapons ranges meant that the units could manoeuvre quickly. The overall effect was panoramic, and reminded me of the film Behind Enemy Lines (starring Owen Wilson and Gene Hackman), in which a downed American pilot had to negotiate a hostile countryside to avoid capture. The use of 'blinds' to mask real or ostensible troop positions was a good way of lending fog of war to the scenario.

On the night, Theo and a few players were of the view that the Red team's use of interrupting fire and overwatch made their defence too easy, and the corresponding Blue advance consequently too difficult. The rules themselves are certainly grounded in the arcana of modern weapons systems and capabilities and in that sense were realistic, to my mind. As with any new ruleset, we were all being spoon-fed by the umpire, but this is not so much a criticism as a reality of wargaming. Whether Theo wants to tweak them further, or streamline them, is of course up to him. However, I do see the rules and figures - which are fairly generic - being used in other settings such as Iraq, Afghanistan, or the Middle East, in any period after World War Two. The blend of small forces and detailed rules in a large landscape lends itself to imaginative scenarios, and certainly adds something different to our repertoire of club games, which tend to be predominantly tactical (rather than operational) in nature.

Looking forward to another 3mm Moderns game in the not too distant future!