Sennybridge, a Basho film about “The Chernarus Conflict”
A few weekends ago my airsoft brothers and I were players at the TA Event’s, “The Chernarus Conflict”. This was a 24 hour Milsim game using the, freshly revised, BattleSim rules developed by Iain of TA Events.
To those of you who play computer games, the country of Chernarus may ring a few bells. As anyone who loves the Arma series of games from Bohemia Interactive will tell you Chernarus, or Black Russia, is a fictional post-USSR country somewhere in the East that is used as the main game location. TA Events have licensed the entire storyline from Bohemia meaning that players at the event could sign up to the various factions found in the series. When someone says that you should get out from behind the keyboard and get some exercise, these events enable you to re live the brilliant, in-depth storyline for (almost) real. A detailed account of the factions and background to the event can be found here and it has a very professional depth to it not usually available to airsofters.
.The real-life location was no less impressive. The Army FIBUA site of Sennybridge in Wales is a complete “fake” English village in which generations of UK warriors have trained in FIBUA (Fighting In Built Up Areas). The level of detail in the village is very impressive. Not only is the village replete with gardens, walls and buildings, but it also has a church with gravestones! Even more than this, the houses have built-in speakers hooked up to a centralised system that can be used to deliver synchronised sounds to the player. So, when the Marines call in an airstrike the sound of the helicopters can be heard in all the houses surrounding the target. This turns up the immersion to the max.
Another attempt to keep the realism high was the game rules themselves. BattleSim is a strange beast. Not quite as ultra-real as the Milsim games at Stirling Airsoft, but definitely miles more involved than normal skirmishes. The teams were all structured with roles and responsibilities. There was designated snipers and support gunners and normal riflemen could only carry 600 rounds into combat. What weapons you could use was also mandated. Not here will you find some of the more “speedball” over the top M4 Patriots with dual box mags, and even secondary weapons had to be in keeping with the role. For example, a sniper had a pistol backup, not an AEG.
A complex medical system was in place that meant that when a player got hit he had to refer to a randomly drawn medic card and read the instructions therein. It was a great idea in principle, but it did have a few drawbacks.
For example, a player could (card permitting) be “medic’ed” by anyone. Thus in the film where I took out 8 out of 9 players in a house, I had effectively achieved nothing. That last player, medic’ed the “injured” players and the house was back up to operational. It is an unfortunate fact that mechanics that appear a good idea in theory and on paper, rarely work in the heat of combat. Similarly, players naturally find way around complex rules. In my opinion, and as a creator of more than a few airsoft games myself at the late Electrowerkz, rules in airsoft should be like water flowing down hill. A golden rule to ask oneself when devising game is, “is it easier to follow this rule than not?” If not, then don’t be surprised to find that people will not follow them clearly. I certainly saw quite a few people not playing the medic rule correctly, but this was mainly due to them not understanding it as we only had a very short briefing on it.
For us DAs: we followed the rules as best we could, but when we found a player of ours who’s card mandated a medical evacuation that would have exposed the position to being overrun, well… we just shot him and saved the call. The chaos of battle was all around us all day. Something that many players were not used to and reacted against, but this was their problem, not the event’s. TA did have a few hiccups with the collecting of deaths as they had not provided a large number of players with “tags” and so their deaths were never logged and the marshal in our command tent had no idea of our objectives, but all in all the event was quite well run. I saw only one player not taking his hits all event and that is to be applauded.
Part of Team Delta Alpha marshalled overnight in exchange for a free game and I was part of a small band selected to role-play the part of “NAPA” villagers for the first hour or so. We had a lot of fun dressing up as moustached locals, with Keith really getting into the spirit with a brilliant costume resplendent with comedy beard; you can see him in the film dancing to Trip’s Russian ringtone. Also the team leaders of Delta Alpha were invited to become “Commanders” and run the US Marine team. The commanders had a lot of fun with this, doing impressions of R. Lee Ermey (the drill instructor in Full Metal Jacket) crossed with General Patton. The night before I helped DA1 write his speech to the troops using Patton’s famous address to the third army and the beginning of Arma II. Under the commanders we setup out the traditional two units of DAs, led by a Section Leader and Deputy (should the leader be killed). This structure worked quite well in play, but we may change things around a little next time.
USMC deployment in Chernarus consists of 27th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), which is supposed to overturn the balance in the civil war in the favour of Chernarussian government. Marines are skilled in asymmetrical warfare and are backed up by superior weapons and technology.
The DA faction: the US Marines
The game niggles, together with the ugly weather on Saturday, meant that the fighting spirit flagged in the latter part of the first day.
This was good.
Sure, Milsim is milsim. In real life, do you think that the troops are pumped all the time? No. They learn to pace themselves or they suffer tiredness and moral lapses too. This wasn’t a quick shunt around Electrowerkz before having a beer, this was fighting all day with no relenting. Even having lunch meant setting up a perimeter and eating with eye protection on. On this day all the DAs were made to Man-Up and fight on. Personally, when I found events confusing, I relied on something I once read in a Flashman novel,
“When you are tired and unsure whether to walk or run, look to your officers and march to the sound of the guns.”
Thus I let others worry about the storyline and I charged when told, held when commanded and slotted anyone dressed in green. One of the problems in house to house fighting is that people tend to not want to assault and you end up with with people in windows just plinking at each other all day. The DAs were having none of this and would always ask for permission to assault forwards. A few times this led to all of us being hit and killed, but for the times it worked – it really worked. For example, on Sunday morning, we assaulted a key house, slotted all 6 defenders, and consequently dominated the entire village for the second day of play.
I, personally, loved this event. I enjoyed the challenge and I hope this comes across in the film. I salute TA for attempting such a complex event and I could tell that they worked very hard. I think there is still some way to go with the rules and a print out of the objectives wouldn’t go amiss (after all we paid over £80 for the event.)
Was it worth it?
Yes definitely, I am sure the problems will be smoothed out through constructive feedback and TA Events listening to their client base.
About the film
For a while now I have been trying to find a way to add “context” to the filming of airsoft play. It is often very hard to tell what is going on, who was shooting who and where the enemy are on the screen. I have been trying to think of an answer to this for weeks. Finally I hit on the idea of us being “spied” on by a US Satellite who could act on behalf of the viewer and provide an overlay to bring the “tactical view” into the film.
I hope it worked.
Airsoft is not scripted. Everything you see is as it is. Often situations don’t pan out how you would like (as a filmmaker), and you cant cut what you didn’t film. My answer, at the moment, is to saturate the event with cameras and hope to catch some gold nuggets. On this event I got one shot I absolutely love, that of DA1 firing his Support Gun over my head. I love that shot, not least because he was shooting at someone who had just slotted me! The BB’s streaming out of the barrel look great. I hope to capture many more like that in the future.
Anyway, here is my film of the event. I have had fun making it, although it was a lot of work to cut the 20GB(!) of footage down– a one moment it was over 24 minutes long! – In order to upload it I have had to split the YouTube version into two. Of course the Vimeo version is full length (I love those guys).
Bio: Philosopher, filmmaker, writer and AI expert.
Occupation: Head of AI for a large corporation.
Interests: Watches, debate, cooking, computer-gaming, reading, writing, videoing, martial arts, airsoft, movies, diving, skiing… (The list goes on — Basho is a philosopher and therefore into everything!)