Monday, 28 October 2013

A Very Lardy Civil War


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).

Knowing I had a game coming up with Giles, I thought I'd give CoC a whirl, but first had to knock up some psuedo-historical army lists. This is easier said than done, but Luckily there are already a number of 'fan generated' army lists available on the Too Fat Lardies Yahoo group, so I was able to cherry pick various bits from Home Guard, SCW and early WWII lists.


I decided on a simple encounter game (scenario 1 in the rules) with both the resurgent Anglican League and embattled BUF sending out patrols to establish some kind of front line after the game-changing events of the Battle of Foy.

When working out the lists, I decided to make both sides 'green' to reflect their largely amateur status, but gave the BUF a greater strength to reflect their government backing and greater access to arms and ammunition. I also allowed the BUF to split their LMG teams from their parent rifle teams (whilst lumping them together for the less well armed AL) to reflect the slightly more modern tactical approach of the corporate state as opposed to the 'middle England at war' feel of the AL.

This did mean however that, while Giles' BUF were limited in what support they could field, my AL had more options due to the difference in platoon strengths (i.e. I had more support points to spend.)

Giles and his BUF took to the field with his platoon leaders, rifle teams and a standard bearer (an experimental rules tweak to add a bit more VBCW-ness). He spent the remainder of his supply points upgrading one unit to regular and the 'bully boys' trait (again from my experimental support tables - basically the same in the rules as being 'aggressive').

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.

So we had the rules and lists (modified and tweaked to fit the VBCW mould), a table set up (a slightly smaller one than recommended in the rules - we played at my gaff) and a motley collection of miniatures... let's roll some dice!

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.

Anglican League advance

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.

Tally Ho!

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.

Cavalry dash

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.

Reinforcements too late!

A quick break for lunch, and then on to turn 2!

Which lasted for about five minutes.

Horsemeat

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.

Run away!

The game was great fun, with a very steep learning curve! (Giles' AAR can be found here)
Thankfully my abrupt defeat gave us time for another game and so we re-rolled for morale and support. This time we had less support options to choose from, so Giles dropped the 'bully boy' trait but retained the rest, while I forsook the cavalry, adjutant and sniper for a single MG armed tankette.

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.

Concentrating fire

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.

Barn blunder

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.

De-barning

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)

And so the day ended with honours even.

I was really impressed with the rules - very bloody when it came to weapon ranges but this only served to force a more tactical mindset. Yes you need bucketfulls of dice and the number of markers required may well put off those who dislike battlefield clutter, but nonetheless a very good set of rules (although I think more suited to the recommended 6' x 4' table than my smaller one).

The basic rule mechanics are pretty easy to pick up (even for a habitual in-game page flicker like me) although we did make some mistakes (forgetting to deduct firing dice for shock markers for example) but that didn't detract from the game too much (Giles' thoughts on the rules can be read here).


I short I can see why Chain of Command is causing such a stir - bravo Lardies!



18 comments:

  1. Great Read. The board and miniatures look superb. Its weird I keep reading good/bad reviews of these rules. I suppose it depends on what you expect from them really.

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    1. Yeah - on the whole I read enough positive reviews to convince me they were worth buying. It's a no brainer if you actually want to play WW2, but requires a bit more prep for VBCW.

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  2. Nice report, beautiful pictures and good explanations...

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  3. Excellent stuff. I look forward to seeing some more of this. I love those 'red-shirts'. Consider yourself followed.

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    1. Much obliged - thanks for bringing the number of followers up to a round 70!
      Glad you like the Archenfield Amateur Athletics Association militia :D

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  4. Great looking table and figs mate. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Great looking game and batrep there and it looks like the rules are a winner but compared to WtDW hope to they compare?

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    1. CoC is more skirmish oriented, so while you can field tanks and reasonably heavy support, there are no heavy mortars or artillery (with the exception of off table bombardments). It's also more geared up to tactics, with mechanisms for overwatch, covering fire and ambushes etc. like WTDW the basics are easy to learn, but the devil is in the detail. The patrol phase is also good and gets you straight into the action.
      However I'd still use WTDW for big multi player games, if only because our big game regulars are used to WTDW now, plus you get more VBCW flavour than with CoC, which in fairness is actually a WWII set after all!

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  6. I get nervous when I see Army Lists mentioned - I don't want to be limited by what the rules writers consider to be "proper" armies - particularly in VBCW where a lot of the charm is in the mad variety and individuality of the forces. Also, I shy away from points value games.

    I played a game in Pembrokeshire last week using the Force on Force rules which are very popular there. Much more "realistic" than Went The Day Well but not, in my opinion, as much fun. Having said that, I doubt if WTDW would be quite so much fun without a good umpire, an asset that is not always available.

    Interesting to hear of your CoC experience - I do know people who play them and love them so I hope to give them a try myself sometime.

    Thanks for the report.

    Doug

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    1. The Lardies' tenet of 'playing rhe period, not the rules' rings true here I think, with the army lists ensuring some kind of historical accuracy, whilst giving the player enough variation with the support options.
      Of course this somewhat flies in the face of VBCW, and the most difficult part of preparing for this game was coming up with some plausible lists for a made-up period!

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  7. Veru nice AAR !

    I to have thought of using CoC for our "A Very Moderate Swedish Conflict" but I didn´t have the time to fix army lists, might just use some of the one publiched so far.

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Thanks! You might find this link useful (although you'll probably have to register on the forum) http://toofatlardies.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=569

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  8. Great to see the HG lists providing some inspiration. I bought Foundry Home Guard with an eye to also using them for VBCW. No I just need some Red Proles. ;)

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    1. Thanks for commenting - They are inspirational lists!

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  9. Hi JP, did you ever finish of the armylists for VBCW using CoC rules?
    We're thinking about having a few VBCW games, and Chain is definitely the ruleset we'd go for... Any help would be appreciated, especially if you continued work on the file you posted on the Lardies yahoogroup...

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    1. Hi Sven, I must admit I haven't done anything else with the list (I haven't olayed any CoC since this game as my table is too small really) - sorry! I suggest taking a look at the SCW supplement, which could be useful, and raid the Home Guard and early WW2 lists too. Asking on the Lardies forum, and/or the LAF would also be a good move.

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