Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rethinking the Force Pool

I am rereading Nathaniel Fick's One Bullet Away: The Making of a Marine Officer and it has me thinking about what force pool to use for the U.S. Marines.  Fick was the commander of Second Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Battalion and his character was a main if conflicted part of the Generation Kill HBO seriesHis book is a must read (for me at least) as it gives a different perspective than Evan Wright's Generation Kill.  It also provides some excellent details on just how Second Platoon was organized for the invasion of Iraq.  Unlike the basic U.S. Marine platoon order of battle given in Ambush Alley (forty-two men), Fick's "fully staffed" platoon consisted of twenty-three men.  Normally Fick's unit would be organized into three recon teams of six men apiece (each led by a sergeant) and a headquarters section of a platoon commander, platoon sergeant, corpsman, communications specialist, and a special equipment NCO.  However, as the U.S. Marines are a highly flexible force, Fick's platoon was restructured in Kuwait (shortly before the invasion) as follows:
  • Team One Alpha - Sergeant Colbert
    • four Marines in one Humvee
  • Team One Bravo - Sergeant Espera
    • five Marines in one Humvee
  • Team Two - Sergeant Patrick
    • five Marines in one Humvee
  • Team Three - Sergeant Lovell
    • four Marines and one corpsman (Doc Bryan) in one Humvee
  • Platoon Headquarters - Lieutenant Fick/Sergeant Wynn
    • four Marines in one Humvee
Okay, I can handle that, even fewer Peter Pig figures to have to get painted, but now I am short a Humvee.  When I placed my Humvee order with the Irishserb he added in some extra Humvees (four to be exact) that he called "throwaways".  I have looked over the "throwaways" only briefly, but I am thinking I will be able to salvage one to use as Humvee number five.  Humvee issue potentially solved, but the platoon arrangement still has me thinking....

In order to give players enough figures to actually use during the course of a game, as well as to provide some flexibility on how I can use the Marines for different scenarios, I think I will just have a total of thirty figures painted (ten leaders, eight M-16s, six M-249s, and six M-16s w/M-203s).  This gives me two standard squads or Fick's Second Platoon, Bravo Company, using distinctive poses within each fireteam.  This will allow two U.S. players to each command a full strength squad if need be.  Yes, that's it, no more beating around the wadi.

Next time, terrain!

Monday, April 5, 2010


And now a bit about the miniatures....

After much debate and hem-hawing over what scale to use, I decided to go with 15mm for size and cost considerations.  I really like 20mm for skirmish gaming, but having pre-painted buildings was not an option as there are very few companies who make pre-painted 20mm Middle Eastern buildings (I wanted the Crescent Root Studios buildings from their Middle Eastern line to use with Liberation Miniatures 20mm figures; alas, Crescent Root are not currently in production), so I decided to try 15mm to see what figures and buildings were out there.  I looked at a variety of manufacturers, and even bought (and since sold) the Rebel Minis modern Americans (which are nice castings) but something about those Peter Pig Marines from their AK-47 range really caught my eye.  Kinda chunky, animated, good poses, yeah, that's the ticket!  And as Ambush Alley does not call for a lot of troops, the handful of figures I would need for the "good guys" was not cost-prohibitive.  I was able to pick up a few packs very cheaply from fellow forum member RJ and then ordered a few more packs directly from Peter Pig (cheaper than ordering from their U.S. distributor and the turnaround time is still very good).  The figures also have the right mix of gear that I wanted for my Generation Kill type of games.  So, the "good guys" are all set (Peter Pig figures with Irishserb and QRF vehicles).

And now, the "bad guys"....

Now that I had settled on 15mm, the selection of insurgents I could choose from became a bit more limited.  I would have prefered to use Peter Pig figures for both sides, and while they make PLO/Arab types, they definitely look a bit more militarized than what I wanted for my insurgents.  Rebel Minis makes both "insurgents" and "fedayeen" when, mixed together, should give me a good enough figure mix for the insurgents, particularly inconjunction with the reinforcement rolls.  There are figures with AKs, RPGs, and RPKs.  Alas, there are no "leader" types, so I will take some of the figures and mount them on larger bases to signify their leadership status.

Speaking of bases, I will be using the Likto Aero round 15mm ones that are 1.5mm thick.  The leaders will be placed on 20mm round bases that are 3mm in thickness.  This should alleviate any questions about which figures are the leaders because they will be slightly taller with a larger base than the "grunts".  I'll use this method for both the regulars and insurgents.  I will probably add some sort of terrain piece as well to help distinguish the leader stands.

Next time, buildings!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Gaming the Modern Period

I have always been a black powder type of gamer who's interests have stretched at times into World War II and Vietnam.  Some in the gaming community have an issue with table top recreations of modern actions.  Admittedly, it is a bit disconcerting to game a period where we are portraying actions of those who still walk amongst us or who have died serving in the armed forces.  I have not had any concerns with gaming World War II as most veterans of that war have no idea about our little hobby and therefore it would be very rare that I might rub elbows with such a person.  But with Vietnam and more recently the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we certainly have some of those veterans enjoying miniature wargaming, including in some cases the very conflicts they served in.  If they can do it, why can't I?  Or have they earned the right to portray the very combat they were engaged in, and I have not? 

Maybe I need to consider why I game in the first place.  Changing the outcome of a battle, the "what-if" factor is certainly a compelling reason.  Of course getting together with "the guys", sharing a few beers and good natured taunts is also a key ingredient.  And then of course there is the childlike fascination with "toy soldiers".  And there is the research aspect of course, which can make a gamer salivate uncontrollably.  But none of these reasons can be used to justify gaming the modern period over any other, can it?  Modern weaponry and tactics are interesting, the uniforms with their various camo patterns can be colorful and challenging to paint, but so can a Prussian fusilier from the Seven Years War.

Maybe in a small way (15mm to be exact) I am gaming these periods because I live in the here and now, not 200 years ago, and while I rather enjoy the American Revolution and the American Civil War (and my book collection proves that statement), the conflicts of today I am finding more and more compelling. Perhaps I can "blame" this new interest on such productions as Generation Kill, Green Zone, Hurt Locker, and the disturbingly painful Combat Diary (Lima Company - 4th Marines). I am slowly collecting books as well, my faves being Generation Kill, One Bullet Away, and House to House.  I doubt if I will ever get away from my primary interest (the ACW), so this is just a sidebar interest, to a point.  I will keep looking for first person accounts on Iraq (and perhaps to a lesser extent Afghanistan) and watch any movies made on the war, and I am sure I will keep adding to my Ambush Alley project as time goes by.  Maybe because I was too young for Vietnam, and Operations Urgent Fury and Just Cause (along with the First Iraq War) were over and done so quickly that there just isn't that much out there on those conflicts, so in a way, while I am too old to serve, the "War on Terror" is still "my war" and these are my countrymen going off to serve this nation I call home.  A bit too patriotic perhaps, but also true.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


As noted in the Force Pool listing found to the left of this page, I will be using vehicles from two sources: Irishserb's 15mm Vehicles and QRF.

My project will be based loosely along Generation Kill lines, meaning U.S. Marines riding around in Humvees with the occasional LAV-25 for support. Therefore I needed to find some Humvees with .50 cal machineguns and Mark 19 grenade launchers to replicate the vehicles used in the Generation Kill series. My gaming friend Brian O'Leary has a history of making true scale 15mm vehicles, and when I found out he had exactly what I was looking for, I immediately placed an order.

Brian's Humvees are extremely well done, cast cleanly in resin, and are very cost effective. Each Humvee retails for $5.00, so I bought four (two with MGs and two with GLs). Brian only charged me $2.00 for shipping (I live about two hours away from him) and mailed the order very promptly. Here is a picture of a GL armed Humvee right out of the pack.

As you can see, the vehicle is well detailed. Brian builds a master and then makes a mould to create the production models from. And he offers his Humvees in a variety of configurations. I highly recommend his service.

From fellow Ambush Alley forum member RJ I was able to pick up a nicely painted QRF LAV-25. Since the Marines in the Recon Battalion came across the LAVs from time to time, I thought having one (or two) around for support might be a good thing. The QRF vehicles are cast in metal and have a heftier price tag than Brian's resin offerings, but since Brian does not (yet) make an LAV, and RJ gave me a sweet deal, I really shouldn't complain. Plus the QRF LAV is nicely done. The LAV retails for around the $7.50 mark.

Next time, pics of the miniatures I will be using.

Purpose Driven Blog

Welcome to Ambushed in the Alley!

This simple blog will serve as my repository for all things related to my 15mm Ambush Alley gaming project. It will be updated from time to time, mostly as I buy or paint figures and vehicles, and then when I actually play some games. My gaming time has been drastically curtailed in the last few years, but I am hoping that having this blog will keep my inspiration level high!

So, what is Ambush Alley? It is a set of modern skirmish rules designed to replicate (mostly) the current actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it can also be used for other periods and locales. I like skirmish level for modern gaming, and having played the rules a few times with some of my gaming compadres I became hooked on it's ease of play and "feel". Feel is such a hard term to define, but let's just say I like the way the rules work and how quickly a game can be played. I also like the randomness of the insurgent side, both on where a unit might appear, and what that unit might be comprised of. The rules are not super detailed, an assault rifle fires with one die no matter what they type, but they are more focused on the quality of troops involved as opposed to their specific weaponry. I won't continue to bore you with rules details, instead I highly encourage those interested to peruse the Ambush Alley website.

My goal will be to create actions based in Iraq during the invasion. My 15mm figures will represent U.S. Marines and insurgents, actions will be inspired by Generation Kill. I have on order some Easy Terrain tiles and palm trees from The Terrain Guy, some savannah grass pieces from Battlefield Architect, and am working to place an order with Wilson's Miniatures for some buildings to supplement those I have from Miniature Building Authority. I am starting with the basic two foot by two foot "board" as recommended in the Ambush Alley rules, but the Easy Terrain allows for...wait for it...easy expansion. My Peter Pig Marines and Rebel Minis insurgents will be sent off for painting (lazy sod am I, yes?) as I simply do not have the time to paint as I once did ten to fifteen years ago. Once they have been completed I will mount them on 15mm round bases from Litko Aero. All told I am shooting for 28 Marines (with support) and 60 insurgents. Eventually I will add in civilians and livestock to bring a little more human element to the board.

So, the blog will be a step by step (not a 12 step program though, I like my beer) process of my Ambush Alley happenings.

Check back from time to time and see what alley I am currently ambushing!
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