Friday 15 December 2017

Reasons why this Chain of Command malarky must be pretty good

If you are reading this then you might have noticed that I have started to re-invigorate this erstwhile dormant blog, one of the main reasons for this has been my (rather late) discovery of these rules. A set of rules that has managed to achieve that after a seven year lay off is in itself no mean feat given my natural indolence.
Last night is a good micro example of why for me Chain of Command is a great set of rules and lives up to its recent accolade from WI of "Best game of 2017"; for me, that is literally so.
We had a game planned at the CLWS, just a vague pick up game of "medium" CoC, 2 German infantry platoons versus 1 BEF and 1 French infantry Platoon. Nothing special, but even as a simple game it was extremely tense, tough on both sides, and with neither  really having any great advantage until the very end.
We plumped for a Delaying Action scenario, with the Allies deploying in a small village protected by a small wooded rise to the south of it, with an open flank to the west and the eastern side protected by walls and hedges
The view from the southern German approach
The forces were a slightly weird mix, 1 full strength early war German outfit, plus 1 German platoon with only 3 sections rather than 4. This meant the Germans were giving away a total of +3 support points.
The Allies had a full strength BEF platoon, on a minus 5 support points, plus a weakened (2 section) French platoon at minus 3 points. The net result was a massive 11 support point adjustment for the Allies.
Then the fun begins: Will, for the Germans rolls a 3 (three....) for the German side. So the net result was indeed 3 support points for the German and 12 for the defending Allies....ewwwww.
It actually turned out, in my opinion, to make for a really good game. What on earth could we take with our puny 3 points? We were sure to be up against armour of some sort...A flamethrower? decent choice but we'd be attacking so it would be tricky to use in an ambush ATR plus perhaps a satchel charge? ...In the end we opted for 3 satchel charges, in order to spread some sort of AT ability around.
The only problem with 2 on 2 games of CoC is that they inevitably turn into 2 x 1 on 1 games, and this was no exception, doesn't really matter, and still worked out ok for us. However, it does mean that my knowledge of what went on on my right flank is a bit sketchy as I had my hands full to my front trying to winkle out the BEF from a collection of buildings. To be honest, I found it sort of added to the experience and emphasised how this truly is a platoon commanders game. Yes, bits of news and sounds of fighting filtered through to me, but generally I was concerned with doing my own job and not worrying too much about someone elses.
The plan was fairly simple, I was to fix the defenders by approaching and occupying the wooded rise while Will with the 3 section platoon swung right and went for the nearest (French) JOP which was tantalisingly close to our right flank.

Early deployment: 1st section gets into defilade south of the village
And so it begun, this was going to be quite tough. The buildings facing south (me) had a decent field of fire, and the defenders in the upper storeys would be able to pop away from hard cover as soon as I crested the little rise, so I wasn't in too much of a hurry, I thought I'd get a couple of sections on, go tactical and advance up the rise, which is indeed what I did....meanwhile from my right I could hear a lot of firing (and quite a lot of swearing) from Will. I don't think things were going to well over there.

About to crest the riseA few British had indeed deployed into the buildings to my front as I readied to "go over the top", off we went. I was indeed met by a hail of rifle and Bren fire, plus (horror) a Vickers gun opened up from one of the rear buildings on my right hand section. I took the odd casualty, and bit of shock, nothing too terrible, but I kept rolling 1's for my movement. I was going nowhere fast, taking a steady dribble of hits, and, by staying tactical, not putting any fire back on the enemy (Dave). Not good.
I dropped a couple of totally ineffective mortar rounds on the Vickers, came out of tactical with 1 section and traded fire with the section in the house but this simply wasn't working.
Most of the British fire was on my right hand section, the left hand one was safe from the murderous Vickers by virtue of a building blocking his LOS. What to do?
Sod it.
Pull back, rally up. Do it properly.
Meanwhile on the right things were not going well. 1 German section had been almost eliminated and some French armour had showed up. Questions such as "How do these satchel charges work?" were being asked. I hadn't inflicted any damage at all on the British and had 3 men dead for my trouble,Oh, and my mortar rolled a double 1....out of ammo. So I pulled back down the little rise.
Meanwhile, a Bren carrier had appeared on my left flank, and was trundling up the road to come and cause trouble.
A couple of rather indecisive phases passed, I ended up deploying all of my force now behind the riseand had racked up 3 CoC dice...there were some 40 odd German infantry milling about there, Jerry and  Dave were rightly bemoaning the fact they hadn't taken a mortar in their support!
All the while the Bren carrier advanced, I'd pulled 2 of my sections to the left of the rise, which would allow them to get over it out of sight of the Vickers which would be blocked by the occupied house in front of them, but, the Bren carrier would also spot them. A third section moved tactically to the left to distract the carrier.
Then suddenly I had a brainwave..Smoke! doh! why hadn't I used this?
My senior leader expertly lobbed a smoke grenade to cover my left flank and the 2 sections on the rise tactically moved over, steeling themselves from the fire about to come their way from the occupied house to their front.

                         About to go over a second time. Bren carrier threatens.Where's that smoke genade?
Over I went. British turn.He opened up at close range with a Bren and a couple of rifles, and....I got away with it...He only managed to hit 1 rifleman and inflict a couple of points of shock.
Then my turn: A double 6 plus a 4 and a couple of 3's..perfect! I returned the British fire with some 25 fire dice, got 17 hits, killed 3 or 4 British and inflicted a similar amount of shock, he was wobbly but not quite pinned, I also continued moving my left flank section up to distract the carrier. With my second turn from the double six I fired again...hitting the BEF section with another 25 dice...too much for him- the entire section was wiped out including the corporal. Much better.
A loud bang and and a shout went up from my right flank. The lone surviving rifleman from Will's section had got forward, flanked the Souma and detonated his satchel charge! Things were looking up. I despatched my 4th section round to reinforce the right now that Will was making headway.
Then the British turn, he rolled 3 sixes so the turn smoke evaporated....Gulp...The bren carrier and a section in the rear house started peppering my left hand section, The Bren carrier continued forward firing.. I took a couple of hits and several shock, I needed to get forward. In my phase the sergeant readied another smoke grenade and promptly rolled double 1! dropping it at his feet and enveloping himself in smoke. Nothing for it, The platoon sergeant ordered forward a rifleman with my only satchel charge, he ran to the Bren carrier, planted the charge and retired to safety. It was even the right figure to do it, he had a gold close assault badge on his little plastic arm! The charge went off and did absolutely nothing, didn't even scratch the carrier.
I pushed forward with the left hand section despite taking fire from the carrier, I didn't really know what to do to be honest, but at that point the  game was won on the right, the last French section broke, the German force  morale was hanging on by a thread (Will was down to FM 1!)but in the ensuing tests I used a CoC dice or 2 and survived and the British morale gave way. I ended on FM 7

It was a thoroughly enjoyable game, so thanks to Will, Dave and Jerry for a good evening. I don't think I've managed to convey much of the tension that was in this game. The lack of support options for the Germans meant they had to do it the hard way. I don't think it would have been as much fun if the Germans had brought along a Stug or 2. I took 12 casualties but if this had been a campaign my losses wouldn't have been too bad after adjustment.
Thinking about it, if we had been playing a game of say, Spearhead, or Command Decision, this entire game would have been about 3 or 4 die rolls between 4 stands.....
So, it looks like I'm sold on Chain of Command.
(Apologies for the lack of photos for this game, but I was having too much fun to remember to take many)