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"Playtesting Phil Barker's "The Sharp End"" Topic

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PeteMurray20 Nov 2006 11:09 a.m. PST

So, Phil Barker has an experimental set of rules for peacekeeping/insurgency wargames. Being a fan of Barker and of modern rules, I thought I'd try it out.

Scenario: 1 squad of US Mechanized Infantry on patrol. An insurgent cell is out to get their goat.

Turn 1: Insurgent sniper in a building fires on the US patrol leader. The junior officer leading the patrol gets pinned and cowers behind the Bradley.

Turn 2: The patrol's NCO manages to coordinate a massive round of suppressive fire, including two fire teams and the Bradely's cannon. Civilians scatter, the sniper manages to suppress another fire team, and the junior officer manages to unstick himself from behind the Bradley.

I total up the Brownie Points/Own Goals so far and find out that at this point, the US side would have to negotiate the handover of OBL in full sight of CNN in order to call it even.

Depressingly like the 6:30 news to constitute an enjoyable game.

Lentulus20 Nov 2006 11:38 a.m. PST

I'm glad someone is having a go at the subject matter. Is there any room for negotiations, or does it start with the shooting?

John the OFM20 Nov 2006 11:43 a.m. PST

Sounds like negotiations are conducted well above your pay grade.

PeteMurray20 Nov 2006 11:52 a.m. PST

Negotiations, no. The First World side has an object they're trying to accomplish (patrol, ambush, capture, observe) and the insurgents have to plant IEDs, screw up demonstrations, lob mortars at them…

You can act nice with the locals, and if you do kill the insurgents or their commanders, you rack up the victory points, but it's far, far too easy to undo a military victory through running through people's flower gardens, shooting at unclear targets, you get the picture.

Clever idea, no question. Alarmingly CA material though.

Grinning Norm20 Nov 2006 12:06 p.m. PST

Sounds like a very interesting game. It's scenario driven then, with victory conditions defined more or less randomly?

nvdoyle20 Nov 2006 12:23 p.m. PST

Wow, that sounds like a really neat set of rules. Anything that gets away from 'exterminate the enemy' as victory conditions, I'm for.

nvdoyle20 Nov 2006 12:34 p.m. PST

Okay, where do I get these?

Warjack20 Nov 2006 1:04 p.m. PST

These sound like just what I have been looking for. Please tell us where we can get a copy!


Grizwald20 Nov 2006 1:09 p.m. PST
Barks120 Nov 2006 8:05 p.m. PST

Dense Barkerese, but these look good, particularly for solo play.

It's begging for a demo with maps.

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP20 Nov 2006 9:23 p.m. PST

I am very happy to see others that see this game as something good! It deals more with issues in reality than just shooting up things! It looks like a great aid in instructing new officers/NCOs that will soon be confronted with such scenarios. (Which, as I know it, is what it is being designed for.) Well done, Phil!

Tom Dye

PeteMurray21 Nov 2006 5:42 a.m. PST

In the general principles, I think this is an excellent game, and the implementation of the Brownie Points/Own Goals is coherent enough to be readily followed. It's also a timely set of rules, and if it's a training tool then I pray for its wide distribution and for its students to have many informative sessions with it.

It is damned hard to win as the First World in this game.

First of all, played appropriately, the board swarms with noncombatants, all of whom are terribly, terribly hard to persuade to move out of the way. The insurgent side can induce them to riot. He can fire from them as mobile cover. And you can't bring massive force to bear on them because you will be shooting up civilians. Even if firing into the crowd weren't a punishing condition in the game, it's something that would make me queasy, even on the table.

Secondly, filling in the incomplete rules with what seems like doctrine responses results in situations like Turn 2. And when you read about the distribution of translators among troops in Iraq, then you get too many situations where the First World can't talk to the locals, and you burn your initiative trying to move the locals out of the firefight.

It's frustrating work, with the slightest gains overwhelmed by the end result of the tactics used to achieve them. Where have I heard this before?

And that raises maybe the creepiest point. To play it as a frustrating table exercise highlights the fact that this is based on something happening today, where the consequences are not victory points, but dead people. How many times a day does a "gameable scenario" occur in Iraq? And this time the decisions are being made by teenagers and twenty-something young men with not enough sleep, in a hostile country with different culture and a different language.

It's too timely to be recreation.

GRENADIER121 Nov 2006 6:58 a.m. PST

I have not read these rules but I have been working on a similar set from since well befor the current situation in Iraq. We have been running a number of scenarios playtesting the rules out. I blend a small level of role play into the game because as some of you have said its not all about just shooting up the place. While we have ran those type of games to work on mechanics I intend the rules to be played much like this discription. More non-combat type of action with the shooting being done at limited times. For example three weeks ago I ran a test game where I set up a township at one end of the table. In the main square a team of US army infantry were running a checkpoint. Covering this check point was a single scout sniper team. All in all about 18 men. At the other end of the table near a small ruin and settlement a convoy is ambushed. This convoy is carring heavy construction equipment and the squad is ordered to move and secure the ambush site in order for the equipment to be retreived. The ambush has already happend so there is nothing the squad can do about that. The player running the insurgents attacked the squad as it moved and split them all up. However they were able to move and secure the site without suffering any casualties. After they recoverd from the initial hit of the insurgents. During all of this they had to deal with civilian trafic and non-combatants.

Leadjunky21 Nov 2006 9:56 a.m. PST

Sounds interesting, but where do I get all of the non-combatant figures needed? Seriously, there seems to be a shortage of modern civies.

I like the idea of the small scenarios and special goals.

GRENADIER121 Nov 2006 2:16 p.m. PST

We used HO railroad stuff (cars and the like) But yes there is a dire need for Civilians and Non-combatants in all scales. Make mine 20mm though!

Personal logo Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP21 Nov 2006 10:35 p.m. PST

Sorry, Grenadier1. We have 'em in N scale, now! African and Europeans. (For Iraq, I could see both used; possibly mixed.)

For 20mm, Preiser has some decent selections, but NOT specific to Iraq. remember, most Iraquis today wear western clothing.

What's interesting is that the Insurgent faction runs the innocent civilians. There are mechanics where the western powers can attempt to take that control away.

The difficulty for the western player to win is precisely what I like about these rules. It requires the use of some grey matter to come up with a different way of handling situations other than shooting them all up! Any game that can measure success of other than leathal means can get folks to rethink tactics!

The Shap End looks to be that kind of game.

Tom Dye

Buzkashi22 Nov 2006 12:25 a.m. PST

20mm Iraqi civilians (and soon allegedly African and Afghan) are available from Liberation Miniatures (think through Syr Hobbs in the States?)

Nice figures- I have around 30 painted up.

GRENADIER122 Nov 2006 7:06 a.m. PST

Thanks for that I had not looked at their stuff in some time I will have to check them out! I also have been working on an "intafadha" or Riot version of my rules that would have large bases or mobs of civilains that move at more or less random times and the players running the Security forces would effect the mobs actions by how aggressive they were in specific situations.

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