Spectre Operations Design Notes - Engagements

When writing Spectre Operations V3, one of the first things we wanted to focus on was Engagement Actions. Shooting, unsurprisingly, is a major part of Modern Wargaming, and we really wanted it to feel ‘right’ and more contemporary in terms of game mechanics.

When to Shoot?

We really wanted to allow much more flexibility with when and how shooting at your opponent happened. We strongly felt it would be much more ‘realistic’ to allow Engagements to be performed before or after moving (allowing you to shoot, then reposition, so the enemy cannot fix you in place).
With the Momentum mechanic, it allowed us to give players much more flexibility in how they choose to engage the enemy. You can now move, then shoot, shoot then move, or move, shoot, move etc. This really comes into play when an Element is equipped with compact weapons, allowing them to move and shoot without penalty.

Element Vs Element

Another big change is changing shooting from being a single model against a single model, to an entire Element against another target Element. We decided on this after some conversations with Veterans and currently Posted guys that suggested that it isn’t common to actively pick out single targets when facing an enemy ‘squad’ or group, but rather in the heat of combat to concentrate on hitting any target that is visible.
This works in a familiar way where your Element rolls all their dice, and the opponent removes the models of their choice.
We did want to distinguish the use of Marksmen, who would target individuals. If a model with a Marksman weapon inflicts a casualty - the shooter decides which model is removed, rather than their opponent. This works nicely with representing the different roles and skills of these specialist shooters.

Hitting your targets

We’ve changed the terminology a little when it comes to ‘hitting’ your target now. We define a hit as Accurate Fire, which basically means your shots are on target. This is representative of an Element being aware that it is being actively targeted by fire and are likely to suffer casualties. This is where one of our brand new concepts comes into play: Situational Awareness


What is Situational Awareness?

Having several decades of experience playing a variety of wargames, we are aware that there can be the tendency of sitting and doing nothing while your opponent play their turn, making a game a spectator sport. While we don’t like the idea of ‘saving throws’ in Spectre Operations, we wanted to add something of that nature to the rules.

If an Element is subject to Accurate Fire, they must make a Situational Awareness Test. This test represents many things, including the training of the Element, how they react under fire and their ability to utalise their surroundings and cover to prevent being hit. These tests are by their nature, quite difficult to pass. Being shot at with suppressed weapons makes this even more challenging to pass. It is extremely difficult to determine from what direction you are being shot at by a suppressed weapon. In some cases, especially when being shot at with a specialist caliber (such as .300 or 8.7 blackout) it is almost impossible to determine direction or even hear a shot originating from a distance away.   

If a test is passed, that model has successfully reacted to the fire, avoiding being hit. 


Shooting with different types of weapons.

We’ve also changed the way we represent the amount of shots that are made. A single Engagement Action can represent an Element or a Model making several semi automatic shots, or short controlled bursts of automatic fire. In game terms these are represented by a single D10. If you wish to lay down more fire, extra Momentum can be spent to add additional dice to the Engagement, representing more shots fired.
This changed slightly with weapons with the Automatic rule. Automatic weapons behave in the same way as ‘normal’ weapons when 1 Momentum is spent in an Engagement, however, for each additional Momentum spent an additional 2 dice are added, to represent more continuous fire being focused on a position.
Compact and Automatic weapons are very mobile and are able to give considerable fire support allowing them to be used more realistically as assault weapons - as they are intended. This makes models with RPKs, Minimi Para or the new Kights Arms LMG much more attractive as options in games.
Weapons that are dedicated support guns usually have the ‘Sustained’ rule, where for every point of Momentum spent they roll x amount of dice, where X is the number given after the sustained rule (for example a Sustained 3 weapon would roll 3 dice for each point of Momentum).

Cover vs Concealment

We also fundamentally changed how cover works in Spectre Operations. As the focus is now on Element vs Element Engagements, modifying the ‘hit’ roll didn’t work. We also wanted a way of representing the penetration capabilities of certain weapons, which didn’t work with modifying the hit roll.
We decided to add cover modifiers to the Situational Awareness Test. This really adds to the intention that cover is more interactive, meaning that someone is only hard to hit if they know they are being shot at and are able to utalise the cover effectively.
This also allowed us to make rules like Armour Piercing and Anti Armour, remove the benefits of the cover levels - representing the ability of certain calibers or specialist ammunition to remove the protection something like a brick wall may give…

Smoke grenades were quite a tricky one to represent. We found the virtual impenetrable wall they made quite unrealistic and after numerous conversations with people that have used them in combat, or have engaged a target that deployed them we kept coming up with the same answer - Concealment isn’t Cover.
It was clear that although smoke does conceal you from view, it doesn’t mean you wont get shot at. It was noted several times that if a target used smoke, often a machine gunner would use that as an indication of an enemy position and fire into that direction in order to fix them in place and/or to inflict casualties.
We decided that smoke should not block line of Sight, but to make it give a significant bonus to Situational Awareness for a full turn, greatly increasing the chances of survival, but not guaranteeing it. IR (infra red) Smoke also gives this benefit when Thermal Optics are used. 

Blast Templates…

I’ve never really been a fan of blast templates in games. Their placement and deciding on which models are covered or partially covered can be a little tedious and slows games down. This is only exasperated by the inevitable scattering…
After a lot of playtesting, we decided that a very simple and effective way of representing the ‘blast’ of a weapon would be to simplify it to defining the number of models that are hit with an Area of Effect weapon after Accurate Fire. This is x, where x is the number shown after the AoE rule (AoE 4 for example). With this weapon example, 4 models in the Target Element will be possible casualties if the shot is accurate and a Situational Awareness Test is failed.
Scattering is represented by simply subtracting 1 from the AoE number for every point the hit ‘misses’ by (for Example, if a shot needed an 8 to hit, but the roll was a 6 and the AoE value of the weapon is 4, the value would be reduced by -2, making it an AoE 2 weapon).
This makes Grenades and Grenade Launchers very deadly weapons and a much more tempting option for your force. 

We hope this gives some insight into some of our design choices - next up is Escalations and their use in Engagements! 

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