Battle report! This past weekend my brother came down for a game. I had intended to break out a new board game but life conspired to limit my preparation time the week prior. So, instead of muddling through a new game we settled for something we both know—Chain of Command! This system is one of my favorites, as regular readers will probably note.
My purpose in this game was simply to put a lot of toys on the table—terrain, soldiers, and AFVs. I especially wanted to give rarely-used kit some exercise. We set the game somewhere in Normandy. Two wary patrols with armor support nearby ran into one another at the ubiquitous crossroads village. We used the Patrol (#1) scenario.
US forces included a standard infantry platoon with a medic and extra bazooka team. In support was a platoon of three M18 TDs, an M20 scout car, and a lone (senior leader) M4 Sherman (75mm).
German forces consisted of a standard panzergrenadier platoon with an attached sniper. Armor support was a motley collection: a Panther (senior leader), two Pz IVs, and a Marder IIIM.
My ulterior motive in this game was to test some “Big CoC Lite” rules for a Tanksgiving Day game I am planning for November. I gave each infantry platoon the standard five command dice with no modifications to the normal rules. Each armor “platoon” had a pool of three command dice rolled simultaneously with the infantry platoon’s standard dice pool. The extra armor dice could only be used for the AFVs and the infantry pool dice could only be used for the standard platoon and scenario attachments. Rolls of a “5” in the armor dice pool could either increase the CoC die count (as per usual) or bump up the roll of any other dice in the armor dice pool by one pip (so one could use a “5” to make a “2” into a “3” – Useful because the AFVs only activated on 3’s and 4’s). The system work decently, but I will make some adjustments before Tanksgiving, which I will address at the end of this post.
The idea, by the way, came from the outstanding blog Gaming with the Silver Whistle. If you want to ogle some miniatures wargaming masterwork (or wallow in feelings of inadequacy), then you can check his website out here: http://wargamingwithsilverwhistle.blogspot.com
The specific post that inspired my rules experimentation is here: http://wargamingwithsilverwhistle.blogspot.com/2015/07/an-armoured-engagement-chain-of-command.html
The Patrol scenario permits players to choose between three and four patrol markers, then requires players to roll a dice to see which third of their long table edge the patrol markers come in on. Both of us opted for three markers and we ended up in opposite corners (NE and SW as designated on the table). Each of us rolled up an 11 for morale so we conducted another roll-off to see who went first, which I won.
I wanted to get to the church in the middle for no particularly good reason, just because it looked cool and offered a dominant position in the middle of the field. My first moves were in that direction. I made it just beyond the church before my opponent locked me down. I worked the rest of my markers around the south end of the board going east. By the end of the phase we were pretty well lined up to fight down the length of the table, my opponent ensconced on main street while I wandered in the southern fields.
However, knowing that my opponent is usually an extremely cautious and conservative player, I thought maybe I could get a jump on him and grab his eastern-most JOP. My JOP south of the little orchard gave me a fantastic covered avenue of approach across an isolated part of the battlefield. Perfect! Now I just needed to execute…
…and that’s where things fell apart.
I began with an attempt to capture the German JOP on my right. A squad deployed and moved through the orchard. Halfway through—BANG!—a mid-field German sniper in a second story window winged the squad’s junior leader, dropping him with a wound. My medic rushed forward and patched him up under ineffective sniper fire and the squad pressed forward. Then, instead of waiting to establish covering fire, bring up some armor, or even secure a double-phase, I pushed the rifle team ahead toward the building. I got what was coming to me. A German LMG team leapt out of the house in a CoC-die ambush, killing three riflemen. Before I could react, the rest of the German squad appeared and close assaulted by rifle team survivors. The Americans died to a man but took four Germans with them. -2 US morale.
Meanwhile, in the center of the table, I brought an M20 scout car on to overwatch the suspected sniper position. Problem was I totally forgot about the PzIV sitting at the other end of the road on which the M20 positioned itself. The crew must have been quite shocked too, at least for a split-second after realizing their mistake. A single round from the panzer detonated the M20. -1 US morale.
Things started to go my way at this point. I brought an M18 on in the center of the southern table edge. The TD crept up a hedgerow, ready to pounce on the PzIV. The German tank didn’t want to get in a gun duel but did want to reinforce the isolated, now-short squad holed up on the JOP on my right, so it crashed through the hedgerow to get in position. At least, it tried to crash through the hedgerow. Doubles on the dice bogged the tank. I then gained a double phase and plenty of time to peak my M18 out for a sideshot on the bogged panzer. Good for a kill! -1 German morale.
Curious about the happenings, a second PzIV rolled on to the board just behind his destroyed counterpart. I played a CoC-die to interrupt. The M18 put a round right through the oncoming PzIV, killing the driver and inflicting two shock. The PzIV then returned fire. The M18 crew, working furiously to chamber a new round, breathed a sigh of relief as the round whizzed by. In the subsequent phase, the M18 put another round into the PzIV, this time wounding the commander and inflicting two more shock. The panzer crew had had enough and bailed out. -2 German morale.
The rest of the game mostly consisted of ineffectual maneuvering. I had worked a second M18 up on the left and put it in a dominant position overwatching the east-west road on my opponent’s side of the board. This severely limited his freedom of maneuver. Instead of continuing my attack on the right, however, I tried to move the US platoon’s two remaining squads up on the left. Honestly, I didn’t have a solid plan so they moved slowly and achieved little.
One last burst of excitement punctuated the final moments of our game. I had moved my third and final M18 up on my right around the orchard, intending to blast the short German squad off their JOP. As I did so, the Germans dropped a panzershrek team in the open just over 6” from my TD. Before the TD could react, the panzershrek team fired and hit. My three dice of armor didn’t afford much protection from the panzershrek’s thirteen dice. Miraculously, though, the Germans achieved only two net hits resulting in two shock and the death of the hull MG gunner (nonexistent anyway). The M18 crewman standing on the back deck to man the .50 caliber MG (he had been preparing to spray the JOP building) swung his weapon forward and obliterated the stunned panzershrek team before they could withdraw at the end of the phase.
Dinner called so we decided to end the game, tied on morale. Later I realized that my opponent could have played a CoC die to end the turn and rout my broken BAR team on the right, which may have dropped my morale a point or two. But, it didn’t happen, so we settled for a draw.
I really struggled this game to put together a coherent, focused attack. Chain of Command punishes players in a rush to get killed, and that’s exactly what I did. Rather than taking my time to set up, I rushed in early and lost a squad as a result. I should have more carefully prepared by attack by isolating the building, putting some armor on overwatch, and approaching the enemy JOP under covering fire. Also, instead of dithering around on the left, I should have committed to finishing my attack on the right. Concentration!
The split dice pool worked ok. The tanks didn’t end up activating often, strangely. This might have represented a tanker’s hesitance in close terrain fine, but gamers might get a bit frustrated with it at Tanksgiving. I think I may expand each player’s dice pool to four, retain the option to modify a die roll by a pip with a “5”, and give players double phases on double “6’s”.