Saturday, August 29, 2015


Ken and I played a game of "Sabre Squadron" today using their "rapid deployment rules" and while there are many questions about the rules processes and the author's intent behind certain mechanics, I think overall the game scored pretty well  (well enough to be played again) and the game delivered a very fun and highly satisfying battle between the Soviets and West Germans.  (sorry for the photo quality - used my crappy phone).

Ken played the Soviets today and I played the West Germans.  Ken had a platoon of 3 x T-64Bs (actually Zvezda T-72s substituting for T-64B) and a motorized infantry platoon in BTR-80s (substituting for BTR-60s).  I had a Leopard I platoon with 4 Leopard IAIs and a mechanized infantry platoon in Marder IFVs.  We both had artillery standing by in support.  Ken had a battery of 122mm Self Propelled and I had a platoon of 155mm Self Propelled standing by.

The West Germans were tasked with defending a ridgeline.  The Soviets needed to seize the ridgeline or at least force the Germans off it.

Marders and West German Infantry in their Battle Position!
Late-added pic from Ken - my Leos in their Battle position.  Sweet pictures!
We initially had (still have, actually) some questions regarding the wording of the player action options in regards to what your units can do and the author's meaning.  There were a few other questions (built up area terrain being one) but we were able to fight through them and I felt the overall mechanics of moving and shooting were very smooth and straightforward.  It took us a little while to figure out infantry fire (fire as a platoon?  fire as an ad-hoc group?) but the results of all were, again, very straightforward and smooth.

Something I really like about these rules?  It's very easy to suppress infantry.  But very difficult to kill or dislodge them.

Leopard Is in their initial Battle Position!  Waiting for Ivan...
 Ken moved his forces forward using "transit speed" to get into an advantageous position and raced the infantry up to the village in the center.  My Leopard's fire basically chipped the paint of the T-64 on the first volley...I was able to KO a BRDM recce vehicle (we placed one of the Soviet AOOs in that vehicle, and the other in a PT-76 recce vehicle!)

overlooking the town
 My infantry were overlooking the right-most section of the ridgeline with a wooded section in front.  Behind the wooded section, Ken's T-64s moved forward and started returning fire at the Leo's.

Recce with the Artillery Observation Officer (FO) work their way up the right flank in a Spahpanzer Luchs
Soviet T-64s (T-72 models) advance through fields!  Ivan's infantry advanced up the left side on the road.

Soviet advance towards the village.  Ken's BRDM AOO and PT-76 AOO in cover.  The BRDM's life would end next turn...

Ken's T-64s work their way up.  The infantry are in the far, far woodline
First blood!  A T-64 easily knocks out a Leopard I.
We realized early-on that if you were able to secure a hit on the first-generation Leopard, you'll kill it, regardless of the protection roll adjustment.  Scratch one Leopard!  Then another!

Ivan reaches the village.  You can just see make out the Leopards on the hill in the woods upper right
West Germans dismount!
 The infantry have a really low movement rate and they don't fare well equally in dense or rough terrain.  So getting them up to the treeline was tough, especially after Ken's artillery started raining down on the right flank and they all became suppressed.  Ken kept that barrage in place for another turn so it was especially tough to get them moving!

MILAN missile takes out a BTR from the infantry position!  Note the infantry team on the right.  They're actually "inside" the building.  We treated BUA as area terrain, like forest.
Ken's 122mm Fire Mission rains down HE fire all over my infantry.  Note the KO'd Marder from a T-64 shot.
 What was great about this game, besides the simplicity (love that you can do basically anything with a roll of 5+ and simple modifiers on a D10!) is the fact that you, as the commanding officer, must manage your units' morale and ensure they can continue the advance, or defense.  Rallying a platoon in order to get its morale back up to advance toward the enemy isn't easy, and many factors contribute to successfully rallying.  (you've got a job to do, company commander!)  So it's easy to get "stuck in" during an advance and before long, you can find yourself in a spot of trouble with units wavering under fire. 
KO T-64 and a suppressed one behind it.  The platoon's morale is "uncertain"
 Also, as I stated in a previous post, you continue to roll morale until you pass.  Meaning your morale can be fine, and next thing you know, your troops have just stopped.

View of the Soviet advance!  Ken has his T-64s in cover.
This infantry team is "neutralized" I believe - can't remember.  These guys would receive 3 platoon volleys of 155mm as well as auto-cannon, LMG and other small arms.  Tough SOBs!!

Thoughts and Lessons Learned:

Well if you have read this far you can probably tell I enjoy these rules very much.  I actually emailed the author about writing a WW2 set eventually because I like the engagement and artillery mechanics that much.

One of the things I told Ken that I liked most about this game was it achieves the perfect balance of detail and simplicity with the "right" amount of modifiers and abstraction.  There aren't too few modifiers, or too many modifiers - but "the right amount" of modifiers for the situation.  It's not like a standard microarmor game where you roll to hit, roll to kill and move on to the next tank.  It's also not as complicated as some other games at the same scale.

You still have to cross reference penetration and protection data but there is variable armor protection and this beautifully handles a myriad of weapon penetration scenarios that are missing from other games I've played at the same scale.

I like that I have to tally up infantry fire.  I've always felt that ROF is the way to go.  Although Sabre Squadron doesn't do rate of fire quite  that way, it quantifies your unit's firepower into different types that equate to extra dice in your anti-infantry roll.  This is beautiful!  If only we knew exactly what the author was trying to convey regarding the firing group.  Can I form ad-hoc groups?  Or does the entire platoon have to fire at once?

Artillery can really ruin your day.  If you are caught in a barrage, it's going to suppress you - or worse.  The fire zones are fairily large as well - you've been warned!  ( the author has assured us that rules for sophisticated artillery rounds like DPICM or FASCAM are "incoming" [pun intended]).

The game forces you to plan a move ahead because the enemy gets to either plot or fire his artillery during your turn.  So sitting there in a battle position without moving can be hazardous to your health.

A couple things I did not like about Sabre Squadron's rapid deployment rules were the movement values - especially for the infantry.  My goodness were they slow!  And if you're suppressed and in built up or dense terrain?  Forget about it!  You're barely crawling! Also - the author has assured us that infantry movement has been ironed out for the main edition of the rules coming out (thanks Nick for your prompt reply!)

I also didn't like the -1 modifier for shooting subsequent artillery fire missions at the same target.  In my experience, this only gets easier to shoot with subsequent missions, especially if there are no changes.  (The author also clarified this point and they were posted to the comments below for a detailed explanation.  This modifier makes perfect sense to me now.)

As an interesting aside - this is why we never say "REPEAT" on the radio in the US Army.  Because all you have to say is "REPEAT" and the artillery's Fire Direction Center shoots the same mission, same quantity of rounds at the same target a second time - no questions asked.  If anything, shooting the same target ought to get easier?

All in all a very fun and enjoyable game that we will hopefully be playing again soon.  I highly recommend you get your hands on this game when it comes out.  Even if it's not your "go to" game for moderns, you'll really be missing something if you don't give it a try.


  1. Great review - and appreciate your comments re. some of the clarifications needed. I got that sense reading through them too. Reminded me of the playtest we had for 3rd generation warfare, which almost ground to a halt for us. But I think these rules have some major improvements over 3rdGW especially so with losing control of the platoon/company and needing to get it moving again.

    I ran out of this time this week, so tomorrow is just a quick game of 'FIve Men in Normandy' - though sabre squadron and more Charles Grant stuff will follow.

    (oh yes...and 'say again your last...say again your last')

    1. Darren,
      Take pictures! I am looking forward to seeing how your "Five Men in Normandy" game goes. I enjoyed your 5Core Skirmish game write up very much.

      Ken was much more observant than I was regarding rules clarifications. I did my best to type up some of the issues we ran into.
      I have to agree with you regarding 3GW. I enjoyed the game, but only after muddling through the rule book with Ken quite a few times. He wrote the author, who got back to us within a week with answers.

      This game was slow to get started due to some issues regarding the wording of the "action options." Ken emailed the author to see exactly what was meant by the wording of those options. In my humble opinion, this was one of the most important questions we had.

      I would pick these rules over 3GW any day (that is not to say I didn't like 3GW. I think I just like these better.)

      I heartily recommend Sabre Squadron. I don't think I've liked a set of rules right off the bat like these in a long time, and that's saying something for me. They're great and well thought out.

      Yes that's my test to see if some movies are full of s*** or not - whether they say
      "repeat" on the radio and how it's used when they do. Knowing that the word "repeat" is basically "shoot it again!" [note the exclamation point] to the big guns.

  2. Thanks for the review/AAR... a new set of rules is always good!

    I suspect the -1 on subsequent barrages is due to them being less effective overall. The first rounds have surprise on their side and folk are up and about. By the time the second load comes people are burrowing into the dirt, the guys who 'froze' are WIA/KIA, as are the other easy kills. Same quantity of explosive and fragments, but you can only kill something once.

    1. Jim,
      You are correct! The author wrote back and said that the subsequent fire missions against the same target are not as effective.

      "Artillery firing at the same target is less likely to cause harm as most damage is done at the start of a barrage due to the battery usually beginning with a 'burst' and catching the target by surprise."

      That is pretty solid logic I think.

  3. Nice one Steven. I really admire your detail in the AAR. We all get the chance to be there with you!

    Yep, very naughty to say REPEAT. Something that needs to be drilled into everyone who touches a RT.

    Excellent pics mate. Crappy camera did well.

    Model on!

    1. Thanks, Paul! I meant to take my camera along but forgot it but glad you liked the pics. I will be playing this game again - I liked it that much.

      Game had a fast moving and very realistic feel to it - in a "things just got a whole lot worse" kind of way, especially when a platoon's morale starts to drop and you have to start thinking about getting them rallied.

      Yes never, never say REPEAT on the radio!

      Now I gotta get cracking on more of those moderns!

  4. I agree with Steve's comments.

    The one thing I appreciate most is the fact that all tests pass on a 5+. So to hit, to save, to pass morale all require a modified roll of 5+ on a D10. This allows you to often tell from the roll itself whether the test is successful, without having to consult charts and modifiers. (A roll of 1 is an auto fail and a 10 an auto pass). This simple feature really allows you to play quickly.

    1. After the first few turn revolutions, we were really going through the turn sequence pretty quickly. It was a very enjoyable game.

  5. rules available starting from today Steven! Gonna buy a pdf version!

    1. Yes Marco I put my order in for a hard copy of the rules! I cannot wait to play the full version!