Squad Battles: Modern War – The First Battle – Part 1

John Tiller Software has recently released Squad Battles: Modern War for digital download. I decided to supplement my Tiller collection with a tactical wargame based around Modern Warfare.

I’m still a bit of a novice when it comes to the Squad Battles series (or any Tiller games to be honest) so I jumped into the tutorial scenario imaginatively entitled “The First Battle”. With a Getting Started manual that seems to be bereft of instructions other than the mechanics of moving a tank, I struggled immensley to complete any of the scenario’s objectives. Looking around the Net, it seems the tutorial scenario is considered rather harsh, so I thought I’d document my fifth struggle at it – warts and all – with the hope that it might be useful for newcomers to the game, and that I might spur some veterans to show me where I went wrong.

The scenario blurb is as follows:

March 22, 2003
Umm Qasr
Side: US vs AI only

The first confrontation of the Iraq War was at Umm Qasr. The city ports were one of the first objectives of the war, and on 21st March the coalition advanced across Southern Iraq, and the US Marines captured the new port of Umm Qasr.

Several more days would be required to clean the old town and port, with the Iraqi forces offering an unexpectedly strong resistance. One of the resistance points was a concrete building in the old port area

In the interests of clarity, I’ve disabled Fog of War. Also assume between troop movement I place them in a prone or “on ground” position for defensive purposes.


At the start of Turn 1, this is the lie of the land.

There are three Iraqi bunkers hosting 20 objective points each, with our small platoon and tank in support we have to approach the bunkers unseen to avoid heavy casualties and then launch an assault to take the defensive positions. A tall order indeed.

I decide to thrust forward and use my M1 tank as a shield to obscure the view to my vulnerable infantry, but also to begin pounding the northern most bunker (lets call it bunker 1).

I switch its loadout to Smoke, and launch a cloud in front of bunker 1 to obscure the enemy’s line of sight.

With the “visible hexes” option on, you can click on the enemy and see their line of sight. You can see that my platoon is now safely hidden from the bunkers view and subsequent fire.

Whilst covered I move my squads forward, Squad 1 from Platoon 2 covers the long grass and heads for the road.

Platoon 2 Head Quarters (HQ) follow closely behind and settle in the long grass.

Finally Squad 2, the rearguard move eastwards to cover ground.

After taking to the ground for defensive purposes (it costs zero movement points to drop to cover – however it does have an impact when standing up again – 3 movement points) I end the turn.


With Fog of War turned off, we can peek inside Bunker 1 and see what troops are stationed there. There are 7 men armed with a variety of guns and more importantly an RPG-16 (a threat to the M1 tank), plus a sniper. What is interesting is that the men have high morale, level A (morale spans letters A through to F – I think). So its going to be a tough fight, that is unlikely to be won easily because these men are positively bristling to make a tough defensive stand.

At the start of the turn I decide to hit bunker 1 with some HE shells from the M1. Luckily we see a kill! I’ve played this scenario a few times now, and I’ve rarely seen a kill by the M1 – so we are honoured in this particular AAR.

I begin my troop movements. Squad 1 heads for the cover provided by the shelled obstacles to the South East.

Platoon 2’s HQ makes a swift dash across the road with the hope of reaching shelter in the buildings there.

Squad 2 stalls, mainly because I check the line of sight once the smoke from Turn 1 has cleared and theres a line of fire from the lower bunkers covering the area. I decide to hold them in position, with a mind to getting some smoke grenades off with my other squad, affording them time to cross the road without taking fire.

I realise taking the scenario move by move is going to be quite an effort, but I hope displaying every decision and every movement will give readers a better idea at how the game plays out, and how even in such a small scenario as this, one can get embroiled in the action and circumstance faced by these brave soldiers.

In Part 2 we’ll run through the next two turns.

5 thoughts on “Squad Battles: Modern War – The First Battle – Part 1

  1. Mmmmmm…I have played hundreds of Squad Battles games, and I can tell you this is going to be a slaughter if you keep stacking your units. As the sergeant in Private Ryan says, it is a bargaint to have so many soldiers together in such a small space.

  2. Yes, you’re probably right. I think I moved them around in squads because recently I’ve been so used to operational games, I didn’t even consider splitting the squads up. What an oversight! Still it gives me something else to try on my next attempt. 🙂

    Thank you for your suggestion.

  3. Stacking the units in this particular scenario isn’t as big of an issue since they are in a smaller fire-team set up. 4 men/unit is the largest you see in this one, but, in general, the less amount you move your men in a stack, the better. In this scenario I would still move each particular team individually to where you want them to go rather than the big stack. Just in case.

    The M-1 does not need to be moved that close to the bunkers to be effective, btw. You can block the LOS with smoke from where the tank starts, then move your troops fairly easily without being seen, at least initially. Once into the buildings, however, things change quickly. Moving your M-1 so close to the bunkers exposes it to the RPG-16 fire, which can immobilize the tank.

    Remember that your M203’s have smoke rounds as well for once you get close in.

  4. The best advice I received about this game was: “Think like you are one of the grunts there”. Would you run 80 meteres (2 hexes) in front of a machine gun? I wouldn’t, so I will always try to use most of my units to supress and pin that machine gun, and then move my front men always under cover unless there is no other option.

    You’ll enjoy this game, I think it reflects perfectly what it is a squads battle…

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Ian Bowes / spelk