If you are not aware of it yet Two Fat Lardies have written a set of WWII platoon level rules that seem to scale well for 15-28mm miniatures. They have some good “how to play the game” Videos on You tube and well I was in the market for another set of WWII rules. I have played way to many sets and though I rate Flames of War as one of the best games I have played, the emphasis has always been on game and the beauty of all those 15mm miniatures on a 6 X 4 table. A recent foray into Battlegroup Overlord and Kursk has whetted my appetite for company sized games with a more historical feel but I really wanted something to start up at school. If I rekindle the games club with more historical games (rather than fantasy and Sci Fi) I needed something that the students could get into and out of in an hour and a half and potentially could be cheap enough for them (welcome 15mm plastics).
So when Ben from http://littletinmen.blogspot.com.au/ offered to run a Chain of Command participation game I jumped at the chance. He ran a great game that introduced most of the major rules and techniques of the game to anyone prepared to give it a go. Many thanks must go to Ben for beautiful terrain and 20mm miniatures and a great introduction. I will keenly follow his blog with interest. I hope he puts a few more images up from the day as unfortunately I took only two in my enthusiasm for playing the game.
2 Chaps played a game for an hour or so before I got the chance and they used similar forces, the same terrain and scenario but had a totally different game this is a good sign.
The board as seen above had heavy bocage on the left along with a ruined house that served as a jump off point (more later) for my bren team. The wrecked Horsa acted as line of sight blocking terrain and the right hand side held a Chateau controlled by German jump off points with my troops coming in from the bottom of the image up the road and through bocage and forest.
I ran the British with a full platoon of 3 sections including a bren in each, command with Piat and 2 inch mortar and a staghound armoured car as an extra support choice because well I wanted to see some sort of armour in action.
Doug my opponent from Cincinnati USA (a long way from home) ran German Grenadiers 3 squads MG 34 in each a sniper and extra panzer schreck + command as support.
The pregame patrol markers and jump off point aspect was a nice change something I am not used to, the game in game feel is there and it works.
Command is very important and the use of your leaders to get the troops moving was good. Dice are used to get your troops to do actions, move fire etc but Command initiatives of junior and senior leaders is a real asset. A bit like SAGA you do not get all the dice you need to get the troops doing what you want. eg I did not get my PIAT on the board at all throughout the whole game and the mortar came in real late. So by using your junior and senior leaders and their inbuilt command initiatives you can get some squads into the think of it when the dice may have failed you.
Weapon ranges for most stuff is the whole table so MG 34s in the top floor of buildings have a huge fire corridor!!! and you need to be aware of this. I did get shot up a little, I came close to losing a full section of riflemen but men in cover (heavy woods ruins etc) can survive if your dice are good.
Over watch works well but we messed up a rule a little on reflection in that my overwatch bren team should have come off overwatch when they shot and I should have used more command dice or command initiatives to get them back onto overwatch.
Mid-way through the game a section of my force moved into melee. Close combat is bloody, my whole squad was wiped out as I closed and fought with a German squad and I lost a junior leader too. Sadly Doug lost a senior leader, a junior leader and most of a squad in the melee and this really shattered his command structure.
This image is of my section moving up the road behind the staghound. Within 4 phases they had been killed to a man but had caused enormous damage to the enemy.
As you lose units and leaders your ability to throw dice to control/move your troops drops. So nearing the end of the game I was still on 5 dice to command my force but Doug went down to 2, even though we still had a similar amount of troops on the table.
The use of Chain of Command dice to interrupt a turn and alter things was also good. I did not get one (I did not throw enough 5s on the dice to accumulate a Chain of Command dice) but Doug did and used a sniper to good effect. He shot at my Staghound forcing it to reverse and stopping it doing much for a turn. Now you might think small arms should do naught to an armoured vehicle and you are right but the idea is that the damage caused to a tank commander or the driver will force the vehicle to take some shock (shock is individual unit morale that ebbs and flows throughout a battle) and potentially move back to a more covered spot and reassess the next move.
Troops in heavy cover tend to survive but are not untouchable, troops in the open are shot to bits. In the open to help you, you can move TACTICALLY, that is use as much cover as is available and therefore survive that little better when shot at. In fact I like the tactical move idea as it makes cover that much better and movement in no cover possible. Should I race my troops forward and get into close combat or should I move them tactically and slowly to sound out the enemy? Jumping bocage is hard work through 2 dice and lose the highest one, well sure enough I rolled a 6 and 1 but this left me in a little cover when the enemy opened fire.
Smoke seems to work well and is not overpowered at least from a 2 inch mortar. It does block line of sight but not to the MG 34 in the upper floor!!!!
By the end of the game the Tommies had pushed towards the German jump off points near the Chateau and though I had not captured any objectives like the jump off points themselves I had pretty much knocked out enough troops and leaders to cause Doug’s Force Morale to drop to zero and force his troops to withdraw. When your command dice drop and you run out of leaders there is not much you can do to survive.
Overall, I like it, I like it a lot. It did help that Ben ran a great game and Doug was a great opponent but we both seemed to pick up the rules fast enough and the size of forces is just great for a club nights or for school. You could even play in 28mm without spending a fortune!! Time wise it played out in an hour and a half or so with me having one read of the rules prior to the event (most of the credit to Ben here for keeping us moving). I will still keep Battlegroup rules on the back burner for larger games with more tanks as I really like these too but for a skirmish game this one rings my bell. I could even see it working well for modern conflicts if someone keener than me was prepared to do the new weapon characteristics.
Two Fat Lardies have my vote for Chain of Command.
Can I get the kids at school into it? Well 2 forces coming up, maybe a mix of FOW based until I can get a few individuals painted up. Hmmm those plastics from PSC in 20mm and 15mm look tempting!!!!!!!!