If you're a wargamer with an interest in any period in or around WWII, you will no doubt have heard something of Chain of Command; the new WWII platoon level skirmish rules by the Too Fat Lardies.
With it's 'game within a game' tactical phase, multi-phase turns and dice-based activation of platoon sub-units, I was certainly intrigued enough to buy a copy (incidentally making good my promise to Richard at Lard Island to buy something after cadging a free promo mini off him). I duly bought both a hard copy, and the electronic tablet version.
The rules are geared towards the use of historically accurate tactical formations, and include army lists for the four great WWII players. Each nationality has a different set of army lists, together with associated armouries and support lists. Platoons have a strength rating and the difference in these figures allows weaker platoons to level the playing field against more powerful opponents by fielding a greater array of support units (AFVs, HMGs etc).
|My Anglican League platoon|
I had platoon leaders, three less well armed militia sections and chose a cavalry scout team, an adjutant and a sniper from my experimental support lists.
|Patrol markers placed|
I started off with no real plan, other than to get my jump-off points behind some decent cover during the patrol phase. During this phase, players place patrol markers in a chain, 12" apart until they are 'locked down" by being in the vicinity of the opposing player's markers. From these markers, you then deploy jump-off points: safe zones where your troops can deploy in relative safety.
|Anglican jump-off points|
This is one of the strong points of CoC as it saves the often tiresome business of moving your units along the table, and can give you a tactical edge if you can lock down your opponent's markers in less advantageous terrain.
|BUF jump-off points|
Moving our markers along the length of the table, I was able to place my jump-off points behind a hedge line at the middle of the table, thus claiming a sizeable chunk of territory and forcing Giles to jump off behind the hills in the more open land beyond.
To add further to his discomfort, I proceeded to roll a double six in my first handful of activation dice, meaning that I would also have the next phase. This brings me on to another good feature of CoC. Rather than activating units alternately, or by using playing cards, you instead roll five dice. The results determine what you do: a 1 activates a sub-team, 2 a whole section, 3 a junior officer etc. 6's determine who goes next while 5's increment your Chain of Command rating. When this reaches 6 you are allowed to do cool stuff like force end the turn, avoid morale tests and such.
|Advance into doom!|
Another thing worth remembering is that CoC rewards good tactics - fire support and the like. What it does not reward is sending your sections of shotgun toting militia out of cover and into the teeth of BUF fire. Alas this is what I did on my left flank. The results were not pretty and the red-shirted militia were forced to fall back (ranges are long in CoC!)
|The dastardly BUF|
Their return fire had less of an effect as their targets were classed as regulars (one of Giles' options from the support tables), which made them harder to hit - yet another CoC innovation: your rating allows you to take cover more effectively, not to shoot better.
On my right I moved my cavalry onto the hill in the hopes of drawing out the BUF, who wisely refused to take the bait. I placed my sniper in a stand of trees in the centre, hoping to use the disruptive effect of such a character (troops must be on overwatch to even spot snipers, let alone shoot at them) to pin down their centre. However I failed to appreciate that the centre hill would block his line of sight, causing him to spend much of the battle twiddling his thumbs.
|Right flank under fire|
With my left in tatters I tried to force the right, bringing back my cavalry and moving up another section of militia, who soon met the same fate as their chums. Soon the unit broke (having racked enough shock markers to build a barricade with) under the BUF's murderous fire, and my senior leader, who I had attached to the unit to help jolly them along, was wounded.
All this caused my morale to tumble, and winning a game of CoC means keeping your morale up! In an effort to redress the balance I once again ordered my cavalry forward, surging over the centre hill and onto one of the BUF jump-off points. By now my CoC value had increased to 6, allowing me to end the turn and capture this jump-off point to the detriment of the BUF morale.
The cavalry paid for their impetuousness in blood, rather predictably, and were soon, fleeing the scene with the broken militia section. By now my morale had dropped to 1, which meant I could only roll 2 activation dice per phase, giving me few options. One such option was to concede defeat.
The game was great fun, with a very steep learning curve! (Giles' AAR can be found here)
|The barn in no-man's land|
Giles was keen to bring out some of his superb EM-4 farm buildings, so we plonked the barn in the middle of the table (belonging to a farmer who has been extracting weapons from local gun runners in payment for crossing his land). Once again I was happy with the disposition and cover of my jump-off points, as was Giles, and the barn formed the no-man's land in between.
|Left flank crumbles again|
My red shirts and tankette, accompanied by the platoon sergeant , deployed first, but on opposite sides of the table. Another lesson learnt - while my militia were in cover this time they were not supported by the tankette. Soon the militia were once again getting the rough end of a firefight, despite being in cover, and shock points were stacking up to breaking point.
|Tankette to the rescue!|
I decided to tip the scales in my favour by racing the tankette across the table to belatedly provide support, whilst activating another militia section to add to the fire. Luckily Giles kept back his other two BUF sections, allowing me to concentrate my fire on his regulars. So, while my red shirts eventually broke, so did his regular BUF.
It was now that Giles made a tactical blunder that, I must admit, I was hoping he'd do when he mentioned he'd bought his farm buildings.
With one section breaking and another holding back behind a hedge line, he moved his other section into the barn - a barn with windows at the front and back, but not the sides. I acted immediately, activating my third militia section and racing them past the side of the barn and out of the BUF's field of fire.
|Flanking on the right|
Taking a gamble and clearly not remembering the lessons learnt in the last game, I risked an advance in the open to the BUF section that was hanging back at their rear-left flank, managing to get close enough to open up with a devastating combined rifle, shotgun, SMG and BAR fire.
With this section withering under my fire, Giles bought his remaining section back out of the barn - easy prey for my tankette and militia, who were now advancing around the BUF flank to within shouting distance of one of their jump-off points.
|Flanking on the left|
Caught in a pincer movement with a jump-off point about to fall into Anglican hands and with two sections broken, Giles conceded defeat. (Giles' AAR can be found here)