Skirmish Sangin (SS) is the latest release from Radio Dishdash, a New Zealand based company. The rules, as the title indicates, concentrates on small unit combat in Afghanistan. The game is designed to be played with 28mm figures on a 4’ square board, which represents an area of roughly 100 square metres. Each player will command a single squad, usually comprising of 6 – 10 men. The rules do allow for bigger games than this, and even include rules for full vehicle-on-vehicle combat, but in the main, you will be handling a very small number of models – which is good, as the rules are pretty detailed and have a pseudo-RPG feel to them – I’ll explain why in a moment.
The book opens with a (very) brief introduction to the current conflict in Afghanistan and quickly moves into an overview of the experience that the authors hope to give the players whilst playing.
We then have a 30 page section about creating your force.
Each model in SS is treated as a unique individual, and so has their own set of statistics and skills. These have to be generated before you can play a game. The main attribute of a model is Body, which represents a combination of balance, agility, speed, toughness, and deftness. It is generated for each model as 1D10+10 (yes, this game uses D10s, or actually more often D%)
The rules give full instructions for creating your squad, including examples of several ISAF squads, and how they are made up. It then gives examples of how you can create an Insurgent/Taliban force. The game is points based, so the intention is that you create a Taliban force which is roughly equivalent in points value to the ISAF squad.
Having created your squads, you can now play the game. The game consists of a number of combat turns, each of which is split into 10 combat phases. Dependent upon the Body of each model, they can activate in a certain number of combat phases, and in each combat phase, a model can spend 3 action points to perform tasks. A task may be to walk 3”, run 6”, turn more than 90o, kneel, attempt to spot an enemy or fire a weapon.
The order in which models can go in a combat phase is dependent upon their Body – so a model with a Body value of 20 would be active in combat phases 1, 3, 5 & 7 of a combat turn, and would usually get to act first in the phases when they were active. This combat initiative system is very reminiscent of that used in 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons.
When you fire at an enemy, you first have to check if you spot them – if you do, you check your base chance of hitting the target, apply any modifiers that are relevant and then roll less than the result on percentile dice. You then roll the damage dice for the weapon you are using, subtract the effect of any body armour the target is wearing and the result is the amount of damage that you inflict. Each model has 12 damage points (arrayed in groups of boxes on their character sheet, similar to what you may see in Warmachine) which represent the seriousness of the wound that has been inflicted on them. As models suffer a higher number of damage points, their morale decreases, they have a greater chance of losing consciousness and they can even effect the mission – for example, their cries for help may not only negatively affect the morale of those around them, but friendly models will be forced to render aid and perhaps even evacuate the wounded model.
The rules go on to describe how grenades, heavy weapons, air support and IEDs can be used in the game.
The rules have an 8 page example of play, which only covers 5 combat phases, but is very useful as the rules can appear to be somewhat complex.
Finally, the rules are rounded off by a couple of example scenarios, the QRS, some blank character sheets and a number of counter sheets.
The graphic design of the rules is quite striking, with black text appearing on a dusky pink background, and text highlight boxes being in dark grey with white text. Combine this with many colour photos of either in-theatre pictures taken from the www.defenceimagery.mod.uk website, or pictures of beautifully painted figures on well-crafted terrain boards, and you have a rulebook which is also a pleasure to look at as well as read.
However, being good to look at isn’t everything and I do have a few issues with Skirmish Sangin. The rules themselves are generally well laid out, although they do have a tendency to disappear off at a tangent on a couple of occasions – during the explanation of how to shoot at a target, you read about spotting, and find yourself in explanations of how buildings and battlefield communication work before you come back to the actual shooting process. Similarly, having described how wounds work, the rules then have several pages about how grenades work, before coming back to talk about loss of consciousness and morale. There are also a couple of occasions where the rules themselves mix up the terms combat round and combat phase, something which caused an amount of confusion until I worked out what had happened.
I think it’s fair to say that Skirmish Sangin is not a quick game to play. It operates at a fairly detailed level, so you have to be very methodical in how you progress through each model’s combat phase, especially when learning the game. The sheer number of modifiers in use at times is quite mind boggling – spotting and shooting alone has a full page between them.
That said, there is much here to like, but it very much depends on how you like your games. If you like skirmish games where you know every character and have to keep track of their status, actions are both details (and to a certain extent) restrictive, and where an evening’s gaming may only reflect a couple of minutes actual time, then this could be the game for you.
I enjoyed the game, partly because of the nostalgia it generated with my time spent in combat when role-playing, and I’d certainly play it again. However, I don’t think that it is likely to be a set of rules that I would always to go when wanting to game the Afghan conflict.