Let's say that you have a problem, an issue, or a force that you want to portray in your gaming, but there is something about them that is distasteful or reprehensible or just a sensitive subject for some. What do you do?
One way is to transform whatever it is to the world of science fiction. For example, the writers of Star Trek could, on television, address the problem of racism because they invented fantasy races: aliens with black-and-white faces. (Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, 1969)
So let's take a wargaming challenge: ISIS (the Islamic State in Syria) is a modern force in the Middle East. They have been successful in warfare, and they present many interesting tactical challenges. On the other hand, ISIS is also known for repugnant acts of terrorism. You might not be comfortable fielding them on the tabletop, or you might have trouble finding opponents...
In this article, what I am going to do is to create a force, based on ISIS, for the sci-fi apocalypse game Warfare in the Age of Madness. This allows me to create a fictional force that provides the same challenges as the real ISIS, while dumping all of their reprehensible traits, or making them into a sci-fi caricature of themselves.
A Fictional ISIS
In the post-apocalyptic world, I'll call my force SISI. This stands for: Syndicate to Impose Scientific Intelligence. Their leaders are fascist neurosurgeons who believe that by surgical intervention, they can modify the brain to make human beings better able to survive in the post-apocalypse. Their brain-modified soldiers are known as neurosoldats, and are known for their fanaticism and bravery.
That nicely gives me an ISIS-like force, but without the real-life atrocities (and probably with some horror sci-fi monstrocities instead!). It also takes away the religious angle, which means I won't offend my Muslim friends, but leaves the single-mindedness and fanaticism.
In my fictional setting, SISI operate from a secret mountain base, and control several survivalist tribes in the great wasteland (from which they recruit their neurosoldat candidates). They have a wide variety of military vehicles that were captured in the fighting after the apocalypse, but their primary vehicle is the ubiquitous Toyota pick-up.
Designing the Force
Armies in this game system start at 1,200 points, modified by perks and penalties. I haven't played these rules yet (still finishing my first army), but from reading the rulebook, I think that Heroic Moxie (-150 points) will give them fanaticism on the battlefield. I'll add Inspired Motivation (-100 points), which makes the force more likely to take action without waiting for orders. That gives an adjusted total of 950 points.
(I would like to get more points by taking one of the penalty traits, but nothing seems appropriate for this force.)
The Core Elements will be the assault rifle-armed neurosoldats. These cost 80 points per stand, and I can have up to nine stands of them in my force.
Adding a command element costs 20 points.
How Many Points is a "Technical"?
Diving into the vehicle design rules... well, it's unarmored (especially considering the passengers are riding in the back), so that makes it either an S0-2 (2 hit points) or S0-3 (3 hit points) softskin vehicle. I'm thinking that a small pick-up truck doesn't have a lot of hit points, so I'll say S0-2 class (50 points each).
To carry passengers (one stand), the vehicle needs the Transport 1 trait, which is another 10 points.
I also think a Technical needs the Open Topped trait (allowing passengers to fire their weapons), which is another 10 points.
So, a basic, unarmed pick-up truck with Transport 1 and Open Topped is 70 points. (That assumes it has off-road capability, by the way.)
What about weapons? Adding a Vehicle MG – defined as "infantry machineguns mounted on vehicles including pintle mounts, ring mounts..." – adds another 40 points, for a total of 110 points.
Substituting an HMG instead for some heavier fire support would be 60 points, for a total of 130 points. Or 120 points, if transport ability is left off.
(Lots of other weapons are possible, but these are the ones I am interested in for the moment.)
The rules allow up to six soft vehicles per army.
Plugging This Into A Spreadsheet
I was hoping to have three teams of motorized infantry supported by armor and artillery, but obviously, I haven't got anywhere near enough points for that.
So I decide to go with four infantry elements with four technicals. Two of the infantry elements will also have light anti-tank weapons, and two of the technicals will have medium machineguns (the others are unarmed). The command stand can ride "for free" in any of these technicals.
For some support, I'll have one technical with a HMG (and no room for passengers!).
That leaves just enough points to deploy a Booby Trap on the battlefield (sort of an abstract way to represent suicide bombers, but they'll even attack me if I get close...).
|2 Assault Rifle Element (core)
|2 Assault Rifle Element (core) with LAW 22
|1 Command Element
|2 Technicals (Transport 1, unarmed)
|2 Technicals (Transport 1, Vehicle MG)
|1 Technical (Transport 0, HMG)
|1 Booby Trap
The next decision to make is to decide if this force should look like ISIS, or whether to go with another look.
For example, if you want to go more sci-fi, you could use futuristic sci-fi vehicles (as long as they behave like pick-up trucks!) and soldiers that have a Frankenstein influence.
Or, if you just want to disguise the fact that they are based on ISIS, you could use U.S. equipment: Hummers and U.S.-type infantry figures. Maybe paint the faces metallic to show they are neurosoldats?
I've decided to stay with the authentic ISIS look, however.
...and Taliban Insurgents.
I think these will work fine, with the Taliban figures painted in (mostly) the black robes of ISIS, and the Iraqis painted in any of the wide variety of uniforms used/captured by ISIS.
For the gunners and machineguns for the technicals, I can pick up Vehicle MGs(30/50 cals) with Gunners (6 of).
It looks like the pack has "small" and "big" machineguns, which may be good enough to represent the HMG as well as the lighter Vehicle MG. If not, I'll improvise.
It would be nice to have both "loaded" and "unloaded" versions of the technicals I'm using as infantry transports, but I'm not aware of suitable figures and it would be a lot of extra work.
How much will this force cost? Well, the infantry packs are $20.00 AUD each, which gives 48 infantry figures. (You could save money and use just one pack – you'll still have leftover figures.) The technicals are £4.00 GBP each, and a pack of gunners will be £3.00 GBP. Roughly $80 USD for the entire force, at current conversion rates, not counting shipping.