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Fighting Season at Salute – A Sitrep

Well, funnily enough, it was a boozy old night after Salute so my recovery time has meant that I have had time to contemplate on the gig and think about Fighting Season and how it was received.

For me, the low point was the suggestion, somewhat aggressively put, that we shouldn’t be gaming Afghanistan. The high point was an officer of General rank suggesting that the game would be great for platoon leaders to play. Square that circle if you can.

The game we took was very much an early playtest version of the rules, always a dangerous thing to do as (clearly) nothing has been polished to the degree that one would like. However, I really like the idea of taking the game on the road and getting feedback. And we had that in spades. All we were really attempting to show off was the move/shoot/command aspect of the game; when I say “all” that is clearly a big part but it fails to take into account some of the more subtle and sophisticated aspects which influence thinmgs like political opinion and the input that the legal team have in modern warfare. Fear not, that will be covered, but in a manner which does not intrude to deeply on the enjoyment of the players.

My thoughts on gaming the ultra-modern period are pretty well documented. I will not game a conflict which is currently being fought. However, after that, I WILL game it, with the emphasis on producing a game which is also a respectful simulation of the conflict. I first gamed the Rhodesian War as early as 1982 and I lost friends in that one, and my cousin served with the New Zealand forces in Afghanistan. My emphasis has always been about using a game to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the conflict, hence my endless reference to avoiding the “whack-a-mole” cliche of “bad versus good”. My game design never makes a moral judgement about who is right and who is wrong, I leave that to politicians who are far more adept at compartmentalising than I can ever be, but I do aspire to reflect the reality of the conflict through extensive research into how the war was fought. My colleague Nick spoke to one gentlemen who had served in theatre and was, I am told, sceptical, but upon reading our skimpy designer notes became more enthusiastic. I find that encouraging feedbaack this early in the process. I can promise all those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan that we intend to produce a game which presents the gamer with some of the same decision making opportunities as the commanders on the ground. This will not be a parody of modern warfare, but a homage to those who served.

I was extremely pleased by the way in which the rules were accepted by the players who took part in the four games we ran. I can but apologise for their abbreviated nature but this was the “taster” menu rather than the full banquet. The thing which pleased me most was the fact that the chaps who had played Chain of Command in its WWII garb were immediately able to recognise the game and leap right in from the off, appreciating that the changes we had made were subtle and only made where necessary, as opposed to a root and branch hack job, but subtle enough to provide them with a game which felt modern and contemporary, reflecting the dynamics of contemporary warfare, without changing the essential nature of the game. In other words, it was still Chain of Command but where small adjustments provided a very different flavour and game.

Of course, this early in procedings, there are issues still to be thrashed out. Leigh in Australia, our technical man on the team, is well know for his writings on the conflicts. His latest published work, The British Army in Afghanistan, 2006 to 2014, is one of the best overviews of the conflict, from a British perspective, that I have read. If you want a one-stop-shop introduction to the conflict then this is it.

Leigh Books

So where next for Fighting Season? Well, the next month is dedicated to putting the rules into a playtest format so that we can invite people to get involved in the playtesting. We hope to have something ready in around a month. Publication, despite my rather optimistic talk of June, is likely to be this summer. There’s a still a journey to travel, but we are confident that it will be an enjoyable and illuminating experience.

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25 Responses

  1. It looked great and as for the negative commentator, there’s always one.

  2. Benito says:

    Negative comments come likely from people that don’t know your solid track-record of combining history and wargaming. I’m 100% sure that FS will be highly respectful with the people that fought on the ground and not a Rambo-like parody of a game.
    Actually I have refused to play moderns on similar moral grounds bit I will definetively break my reservations and will give a try to FS

  3. Mervyn Douglas says:

    Agree 100% with Benito. The game looked great, your layouts are always topdog, and I had a good chat with Sid and Nick while you were engaged with enthusiastic players. I’m going with 20mm figures from Elheim.
    Anyway – I guess there is no reason why the Vietnam conflict couldnt receive the Chain of Command treatment. Any thoughts on that?

  4. Brian Weathersby says:

    “The high point was an officer of General rank suggesting that the game would be great for platoon leaders to play.” And that, I would think, more than outweighs the single dissenter’s comments.

    I always swore I would never play Vietnam games until Charlie Don’t Surf came along. Benito is right: anyone who thinks you would do a parody-type game just doesn’t know you very well.
    BWW

  5. frazermac says:

    It looked excellent on Saturday my young son prevented me from lingering longer. I did however buy some extra figures from Empress to make a full platoon of New Zealanders in anticipation.

  6. Gary says:

    My Nephew served with the British infantry in Afghanistan. As a long term wargamer he loves the idea of FS. I certainly can’t wait.

  7. Jim says:

    I am one of those who is against gaming ultra-modern conflicts… so much so that I don’t game anything after the mid-’80s.

    However that is my personal choice and one which I have no intention of forcing on, or even suggesting to others.

    One of the aspects of the conflict in question, is that it is about ensuring that a people have a right to a freedom of choice in their day to day lives, which others seek to deprive them of.

    So it is somewhat ironic therefore that we appear to have a sort of ‘Wargames Taliban’ out there, who seek to impose their ‘dogma’ on everyone else.

    All that aside, Leigh has done a great job on Fighting Season. It’s far from being a ‘Boys Own’ version of Afghanistan and I imagine some people will find the restrictions on activity for the coalition both somewhat frustrating and indeed eye-opening into the bargain.

    The suggestion that it could be utilised as a training aid for the real thing speaks for itself to me… and that’s just the ‘stripped-down’ version!

  8. Matt Rendar says:

    After reading this post . I’d figured I’d throw my two cents in . I am a US Army infantry serving two tours in Iraq 2003 and 2005 completing over 400 combat missions . I am an Recipient of the Purple Heart and of the combat infantry and badge . I lost a couple of friends over there . Also I am a avid wargamer . I game just about every period including ultra moderns , irag and Afghanistan and Somalia . To me it’s just a game of toy soldiers , a mere slight reflection of real life and combat . You can find problems with every form of wargaming from the tyrannical chaos cultists To the waffen ss . To each there own . There just toy soldiers . I look forward to the release of fighting season . I respect the care and work you are putting into this book . Keep it up

  9. Dougie says:

    Nice to meet you at Salute Rich, I thought the game played very well and you may just have rang the bell with it. I’m composing a full update for my blog. Keep up the good work!
    Dougie

  10. Big Rich says:

    Dougie, it was a great pleasure. I’ve been admiring your blog for some time and it was fantastic to put a face to a name.

    We only really wheeled out the core move/shoot/command rules at Salute. There are many more interesting mechanisms which will serve to make the insurgent side more fun and dynamic. We just tried to keep it simple on the day.

  11. Pat Smith says:

    Hi Rich,
    Your table looked great and I am only sorry that I ran out of time and didn’t get back for a game as was my intention.
    On the plus side I did pick up a couple of packs of your new terrain sets.
    Pat.

  12. I have served there and I have no problem playing the period because I know this is only a game with toy soldiers.
    Something I have seen is that some people have problem playing their own modern conflicts, but not other people´s conflicts.
    On the other hand, really interesting demonstrations of the ruleset. I expect to be the first one buying it!!!
    Thanks a lot for your effort.

  13. Phil says:

    I gather this is going to try to capture some of the nature of assymetric fighting. Will there be concepts that could be back-fitted to similar kinds of engagements in WW2 such as partisan fighting or is it too different?

  14. Graham says:

    I look forward to these rules very much. I shall be interested to play them, I have the troops and terrain waiting. 2 of my daughter’s friends served there and I shall be interested to hear their comments, both are players with a sound eye for ground. I suspect their interests will be the RoEs, Apaches and the operational aspect.
    For myself I shall be interested to see if these rules can also be back engineered to Aden now that Eureka have started to produce the opposition. Similar restrictions and similar operations.
    Graham

  15. Chris says:

    Well it sounds like this one is moving along really well. Though not in the armed forces a few chaps in Australia I know that are query one thing in almost all “modern” rules, you never leave an injured person behind.???? I just wonder if this is an actual truth and whether it makes it into the rule book?

  16. Bruce says:

    I was the skeptical individual who spoke to Nick at Salute, I was skeptical because I have yet to see a ruleset that captures much if any of what I experienced, as I said on the day I have no issue with folks gaming afghan, I’d just like to see it done well and the ideas in the designers notes were certainly in the right direction.
    I’m interested to know, as the conflict in Afghanistan has gone on for over a decade (far longer than WW2) tactics and technology have evolved in that time, will the rules have different years/periods represented like WW2 rules often differentiate the different theatres or will it just be a generic feel?

  17. Big Rich says:

    Bruce, many thanks for responding here. I’m sorry that I wasn’t around to have a chat when you were there on Saturday.

    The answer to your questions is very definietly yes. We will have different force lists covering all of the main phases of the conflict to reflect different weapons and tactics as these change and develop.

    The game we played on Saturday was rather pared back as it was simply a case of intorducing the core rules to the public, as such the scenario was (and I apologised for this at the start of each game) something of a gunfight at the OK Corral where we just showed off moving, firing and command and control. The real game will be much more nuanced.

    Its my plan to show a real game report in as much detail as possible on Lard Island News in the very near future. If you were interested, I’ve be very keen to make contact to discuss how the rules go forward from here and get your input.

  18. Bruce says:

    I would certainly give a full game report a read to see how the ideas work on the tabletop and happy to assist if it’ll help

  19. Ben_C says:

    I had a very good discussion with Nick just after the doors opened, and briefly Rich, on the subject of ‘how soon is too soon’ for wargaming Afghanistan, no aggressive chest poking there I hasten to add. My initial thoughts were probably similar to Bruce. I told Nick I had served in Helmand and in the discussion we had around that I was impressed with the aim and ethos of TFL to produce something that gives its players an appreciation and not a cheap parody.

    On a lighter note, I also told Nick that if players wanted the authentic experience then the game should be played with the thermostat all the way up and with a hair dryer being blown into your face.

  20. Derk G says:

    I’m looking forward to these rules a lot.Just gone and ordered a boatload of 20mm miniatures to try them out with.

    What force strengths make sense here? One of the forces I’m looking at is Dutch SF. E.g. 4 Mercedes G wagon patrol, 12-16 men?

  21. Ronnie says:

    Could not make it to Salute, but it sounds like FS will be an awesome game.

    Cheers to all the posters above, warm fuzzy feeling all around.

  22. Dave P says:

    Hi Rich,

    I was lucky enough to be in the first group of the first game at Salute. I can say that it definitely did not feel like a play test or a beta test from my point of view.

    I have in the past battled with the moral dimension of modern wargaming, but FS sid not trouble me in this regard. I can only imagine this is due to the level of research and understanding that exists at the heart of TFL games.

    There are plenty of hypothetical situations that could be explored if the idea of gaming Afghan or Iraq is troubling. Anti-piracy in the Indian Ocean or counter-narcotics in Central America spring to mind.

    Something I didn’t ask about was how well the rules would simulate two “modern” forces against each other? There are plenty of potential hotspots in the world, both real and imagined. The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea are in the news again, with no less than 6 countries claiming ownership over some or all of the territory. Scenarios spring to mind with two landing parties clashing for control over islands, facilities, oil wells, etc.

    Looking forward to the publication date, the only question for me is what scale to use.

  23. Thomas Normoyle says:

    I’m eagerly awaiting these rules. I have a lot of figures for the Russian period in Afghanistan so I’m hoping that will be covered too.

  24. Derk G says:

    (Odd, must have done something wrong, as I thought I had commented a couple days ago)

    I’m much looking forward to these rules, and have in fact just invested in a boatload of 20mm for the period as a result of reading the AAR’s. Sounds like some great stuff coming up.

    What force sizes would work with this? I’m wondering whether it could scale down to e.g. a 4 vehicle (12-16 men) SF patrol for the allied side? I have bought both that and a full platoon of ‘normal’ troops.

  25. Jon Reinertsen says:

    I have been playing “Force on Force” for a couple of years now and will be very interested to see how your rules work. FoF has a number of scenarios in each book. Sometimes they are rather hard to win, I lost a Falklands war scenario when a wounded Argentinian (the sole survivor) managed to crawl off the table! Another has a single squad of Marines (US) attempting to extract two “contractors” who have had their vehicle shot up. We have played it a dozen times and without air support, armour, or at least a platoon it can not be done.

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