Today I would like to introduce a World War Two skirmish game. Operation Squad is a WW2 squad-level game written by Massimo Torriani and Valentino Del Castello.
The game originally was released in 2009, in 2011 second edition was released which is the version I will review in this article.
The scope of this game actually is a little more than squad level. Just like the popular expression “platoon plus” I would say that this is a “squad plus” level game, meaning you get your basic infantry squad and then some support from platoon, because playing with just the historical squad layouts alone would be a little dry after a while.
On top of this of course a squad would rarely be out on their own and engage the enemy.
As this is an Italian game, measuring is done in centimetres. In their introduction, the authors mention the use of 28mm or 20mm figures, but I see no reason not to use 15mm miniatures. To be honest, ranges sound a bit more realistic for use with 15mm to 20mm figures. Of course 28mm is the most popular scale people play this game at.
The optimal table size is cited to be 120x120cm, but any bigger table won’t hurt. Tape measure aside, you will also need a few 6-sided dice (d6) to play, something like five to ten per player. Deviation of grenades and such is worked out via a d10, so you will need one of those as well.
A very central thing to this game is the use of markers of which you will need a lot.
The rulebook is A4 in size, soft cover and full colour. At 45 pages including “army lists”, lots of pictures, tables, diagrams, summary sheets and scenarios it certainly is not a heavyweight, but it has everything you need to play the game.
In fact there is a cardboard double-page in the middle of the book which consists of a double-sided weapons summary table and a sheet of all the markers you require to play for you to cut out (also printed on both sides).
Those are of solid quality. In most cases these tokens will be just enough for two players.
Now let us get to the meat of things – how is Operation Squad played?
The very basic way a game turn takes place is by each player activating one model in an alternating fashion. When a model is activated you state which action you want it to make: Move cautiously, Run, Move&Fire, Fire, Hide (if in cover), Reload, Stand Up or Assault.
When moving you indicate where the model intends to move, when firing you state which enemy model it wants to fire at.
Once you stated your intentions your opponent may declare a reaction carried out by one of his models which hasn’t acted already this turn. This does not necessarily have to be in any relation to your acting model. If your opponent stated that any of their models want to react, you in return may elect to act on their reaction with another model.
If you do so your opponent may again choose to react with one of their models. On any action-reaction round each side may act/react up to three times in total.
1. Action: The Russian player is to activate a model. He elects the rifleman behind the hedges (R#1) and as his rifle is out of ammo (as indicated by the token) he states that this model’s action is to reload his rifle.
2. Reaction: The German player uses this opportunity to react with his rifleman who is currently running down the road (G#1), is all in the open and close to the enemy, thus in danger. He declares that his rifleman wants to make for the stone wall to get in cover.
3. Counter-Reaction: Of course the Russian player wants to catch the German infantryman in the open, so he declares the second Russian rifleman’s (R#2, who is standing behind the fence) intention to shoot at the running German before he can dive for cover behind the wall as he just stated.
4. Reaction to Counter-Reaction: Overseeing the situation the German on the hill (G#2) declares his intention to in turn fire at the Russian rifleman behind the fence to cover his comrade’s run for cover.
The German officer on the hill already acted this turn (as indicated by one of the markers next to him). The Russian soldier in the woods in the background also acted already. Far in the background you can see two more Germans on the little ploughed field.
Both elect not to act at this point as they probably got more important things to do at their own end of the front line. That aside it would be the Russian player’s turn to declare an action now, but he does not.
All actions are declared, now you roll for priority to work out in which sequence the stated actions take place.
Let’s say that Russian rifleman #2 behind the fences comes out first, German running down the Street comes second, Russian Rifleman#1 rolled the third highest result and German on the hill scores the lowest total. The sequences unfolds as follows:
This means that Russian rifleman#2 shoots at the German while he still is out in the open and wounds him. (That was his action, so he receives a “Turn over” marker once his action is done.)
The German falls to the ground, but still may slowly move into the relative safety of the walls (and gets a “wounded” marker as well as a “turn over” marker once his action is done)
After that Russian soldier#1 reloads his weapon (the Ammo marker is removed and he receives a “turn over” marker once his action is done).
German#2 on the hill fires at Russian rifleman#2, rolls exceptionally well and kills him.
All models involved in the sequence used up their actions and the game continues with the German player becoming the active player and choosing one of his remaining models to carry out an action.
I tried to make it as easy to understand as possible. However, reaction systems always look way more complicated and long-winded on paper than they actually are in the game. I played two games so far and I can assure you that the reaction system employed by Operation Squad is dead simple.
The Rest of the Rules
One of the remarkable things is that each model only has one stat: Tactical Value (VT). Regular soldiers have a VT of 3, officers, veterans and elite formations have a VT of 4. Very few individuals have a VT of 5. Usually the mechanics are based on you rolling a number of d6, add the model’s VT and your total result is compared to your enemy’s.
Modifiers such as cover (to shooting) or rough terrain (to movement) are applied by adding/substracting dice from your roll.
And this is it really.
One thing I find worth mentioning is that it’s interesting how battlefield prowess is treated in this game. The “better” the model is in combat (= the higher his VT is) the better it is at hitting their target. However, this value does not come into play with the “defense” roll you make against shooting attacks.
This is the exact opposite of how Chain of Command handles veterancy of models. In Chain of Command models which are say Elite status are much harder to hit than Regular or Green troops, but they fire pretty much the same.
I’m not saying that either of the approaches is wrong, it’s just different findings the authors drew from their sources. Interesting stuff.
I ran across a similar thing when comparing Chain of Command to Force on Force when it comes to adding or substracting cover bonusses on pinned troops. Maybe I will talk about it when I do a few articles on Force on Force some time in the future.
There are five scenarios to be found in the book. While they are not the most inventive ones (possibly with the exception of the “Save Him!” scenario in which both sides have to retrieve wounded men), they are perfectly serviceable.
Standard games seem to last for 8 turns and forces of 500 points seem to be the norm. This leads us straight to…
The rulebook comes with 12 “Squad Rosters” which essentially are the army lists in Operation Squad.
You get the standard fare of 1943-1945 forces: Infantry, Rangers and Paratrooper squads for the US, Rifles, Paratroopers and Commandos for the British, Rifles, Assault (all SMG armed) and Guards Rifle Squads for the Soviets and Grenadiers, Panzergrenadiers and Fallschirmjäger for the Germans.
On the Operation Squad website you can download a host of more or less exotic additional rosters, including lists such as Hungarians, Canadians, Polish, all required lists for the Northern African or Pacific theatres and then some more. Here is a sample page of the Hungarian squad roster:
You can see the core squad along with the Tactical Value of each model, their equipment as well as additional characteristics. Below you can see various equipment and other options to bring your points up to the required 500.
I really like the fact that your squad is always based off of historical TO&Es. In this game you will not see whole squads of Panzergrenadiers running around with StG44 with night vision equipment. Granted, German lists will let you “upgrade” up to three or so riflemen to having StG44, but these are very, very costly.
I’m not sure if the lists are “perfectly balanced”, but points systems as we know never quite work perfectly well.
On the website you can also download an Errata document and the tournament rules.
Operation Squad is a very tactical and pretty elegant squad-level game with a unique action-reaction system. And I’m quite the sucker for that stuff. Firefights between small units are very frantic and often chaotic affairs in which miliseconds and sometimes sheer dumb luck can decide over a shootout between two fighters.
Not that the rules are chaotic and all about luck. It’s all in the activation system, how to coordinate your moves and how you use cover. It goes without saying that this game works better with lots of cover.
There is a lot of elegance in these rules, I like them. And given how you only need about 13 figures to play it’s hard to pass on such a good opportunity to get into a new game or even a new period.
To make it short:
Operation Squad is available from various vendors for about € 25,00 including a quick reference card and all required markers. Very much worth a look.
I hope that you enjoyed this review, found it interesting, entertaining and so on. If you have any questions, comments or indeed commission inquiries, feel free to let me know via the comments section, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail.