Review: Black Ops

Rating: 3 stars

Black Ops (written by Guy Bowers and published by Osprey Publishing) is a game about covert military operations, inspired by films such as The Wild Geese and Zero Dark Thirty, and computer games such as Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell. Although there are rules for a stand-up fight, the core of the game is aimed much more towards a stealth-orientated raid.

The game is designed to be played with a small number of figures – perhaps no more than 20 in total (a player must have a minimum force of four models)

Each model has several stats, which define how good it is at ranged and close combat, its morale, saving throw and what card it is activated on. The stat of a figure denotes what you need to roll equal to or above on a D6 to be successful, so the lower the stat, the better the model.

The game works on a card activation system, very similar to Muskets & Tomahawks. To create the deck, use a standard deck of playing cards but only use the Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, Deuces and Jokers. One side is controlled by the red cards, the other the black cards.

Forces consist of Leaders, Heavies (weapon specialists such as snipers or RPG operators), Specialists (Scientists, Medics etc.) and Soldiers. On the turn of their card – Aces for Leaders, Jacks for Soldiers etc. – all the models of that type in that force may be ordered. Each model can perform a single action when activated such as Hold, Cautious Move, Run or Reload. Models may also choose to be placed in Reserve and can be ordered later in the turn.

Jokers are a bonus action, and can be given to a Leader as an additional action, or the leader can order a single model to perform an action if they are within 6”. Deuces can be used to order non-combatants

The turn ends when all the cards in the deck have been revealed. The cards are shuffled, and a new turn begins.

Weapon ranges are somewhat restricted, and fall into three range bands – close, effective and extreme. Accuracy modifiers are applied at effective and extreme range. For example, a rifle has a close range of 12”, effective range of 24” and an extreme range of 36”. If you hit the target (i.e. roll equal or above your modified ACC score) then you hit and the target has to make a save. Fail the save and the target is removed as being injured or killed (it can, as an alternative, be laid down during the stealth game – nothing gives away the fact that the enemy is in the area more than a dead body)

The game includes rules for all the paraphernalia of modern war – smoke, grenades, mortars, RPGs, body armour etc. They also have several paragraphs on using hidden movement, observation, guards, noise and raising the alarm when playing a ‘stealth’ game. Suffice it to say, whilst a head-to-head game can be entertaining, it’s far more fun to try and sneak around the board to achieve your mission. The rules have a good scenario generator, with both objectives and locations being generated randomly. Missions can include assassinations, sabotage or surveillance.

The last part of the book contains rules for using vehicles in the game, and force lists. These include Special Forces, Militia, Fanatics, Mercenaries, Conscripts and Specialists (such as Medics or Technicians)

Covert Operations have become much more common in recent years (or maybe, the public have just become more aware of them). They are certainly a stock feature of many a Hollywood blockbuster. There are actually not that many sets of rules around that cater for this style of operation, so this book is very welcome for gamers who enjoy this genre. Black Ops is a good addition to the Osprey Wargames stable.

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