Sniper! – Patrol in the Orel Sector, 1943

I recently played a game of Sniper! (2nd edition) published by TSR way back in 1986.  Sniper! is a single man counter man-to-man combat game not unlike Avalon Hill’s Firepower (1984).  Although both of these games deal with the same themes and share some similar characteristics (chit pull activations, for one), Sniper! seemed a bit simpler to learn and easier to jump into for someone looking for a casual night of gaming.  This is a hex-and-counter game but I thought it would be more interesting to illustrate what happened by using miniatures.

In the first scenario, two patrols meet each other by chance.  The system allows you to pit any forces from WW2 up to more modern engagements and since this was my first game of Sniper! in a long time, I chose to have a chance meeting engagement between a Soviet and German patrol in an urban area in the Orel sector during the Battle of Kursk.

Both patrols entered the southern area of the map, the Germans from the west and the Soviets from the east.  They quickly found each other and combat ensued while some of the men on either side had still not yet entered the map!  What ensued was the craziest and most intense couple of rounds of any game that I had played in recent memory.

The firefight between the two squads seemed to revolve around control of a few small buildings in the middle of the southern area of the map.  Early in the game, the Soviets had caught the Germans with the bulk of their squad sitting in an alley behind a group of buildings and two Soviet soldiers each threw a grenade at either end of the alley, miraculously only wounding one of the several Germans caught in the blast.

Next came a fierce battle for control of the buildings.  The Soviets, with the aid of some good activations, entered a large three-storey building.  The German squad leader tried to play the hero and go around the back of the building where the Soviets were entering.  He was shot point blank by a Soviet waiting around the corner and immediately killed.

Germans on the left side / Soviets on the right.  German squad leader attempts to sneak around back of building…

This event triggered a massive close-range firefight throughout and around the building.  A German soldier who had snuck through the window of the building in an earlier turn peered around the corner, only to be shot at by a Soviet rifleman in the next room.  Rattled, the German went prone behind some nearby furniture.  The crack of the Soviet’s rifle caught the attention of another German outside the window of the building, who turned and fired through the opening.  The shot killed the Soviet solider immediately.

On the next round, our panicked young German soldier got a hold of himself and charged through the rear entrance of the building.  This started a messy couple of rounds of hand to hand combat.  The German lunged at the Soviet soldier with his rifle and missed while the Soviet attempted to counter him but only managed to clumsily drop his submachine gun in the street – a fatal error that cost the Soviet his life in the ensuing activation round.

German rifleman in hex 1627 kills unarmed Soviet soldier in hand-to-hand combat in hex 1728.

By this point, the Germans had already managed to kill two Soviet soldiers and a lucky shot from a German sniper outside on the street nearby scored another kill on a Soviet squad member who peeked his head around the corner of a building far down the street.  With nearly half of the Soviet squad killed or incapacitated, the Soviets were quickly reaching their breaking limit.

In the next turn, the wounded assistant German squad leader managed to hobble into a nearby building with a Soviet standing at a nearby window.  The Soviet rifleman had been firing at a German machine-gun squad slowly making its way down the street from the east.  Hearing the wounded German approach from behind, the Soviet rifleman swiveled around just in time for another German soldier to burst into the room behind his assistant squad leader and fire on the Soviet, hitting him twice and killing him.

Wounded German asst. squad leader sneaks behind Soviet rifleman at window.  
Another German bursts into the room and kills the Soviet rifleman.

At this stage, the Soviets have just had enough.  Their preservation score has been easily surpassed and the remaining three Soviet soldiers run back to the east.  With the Germans in hot pursuit, they manage to get enough activations to get off the map.

Soviets make a break for it, heading to the west and trying to get off the map.

One of the Soviet squad leaders, who made his way to the roof of one of the buildings earlier in the game, is captured.  The German patrol, having suffered 1 KIA and 1 WIA, made their way back to their lines with a prisoner.

The Soviets actually fought quite well in the scenario but were plagued by problems with pulling high activation chits early in the round, which severely limited what they could do.  The Germans, meanwhile, consistently pulled low numbered activation chits and got to perform actions for several rounds while the Soviets could only sit and watch.  The Germans also rolled unusually high (and the Soviets unusually low) for their attacks.  Although luck was the determining factor this time around, the Soviets could have admittedly done a better job of placing their sighting markers for better opportunity fire.  Sniper! can take a few turns to really get going but once the bullets start to fly, it can create some very fun and interesting narratives as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

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