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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Coffee or Calvados, a Chain of Command AAR

Hugh and I played our first game of Chain of Command.  There's been a very positive buzz about these WW II skirmish rules and I was anxious to see what makes them shine.  Hugh provided everything from figures to terrain. The buildings are by Crescent Root Studio.  Comparable to 4Ground buildings, some come with 4 pins inside, allowing a quick breakdown and assembly for when space is an issue.  
Hugh sketched out the back sotry for our patrol scenario to recon a Calvados brandy factory in Normandy. It was a wonderful bit of color as I got to learn about Chain of Command AND a famous French apple brandy. I must remember to take the time to frame up a game with a story as it makes for a deeper gaming experience, win or lose!  For our next match, perhaps the first player to occupy the factory rolls see if his men imbibe and rolls for results, something like Dux Britanniarum's Bibamus table.  

This scenario saw a German infantry platoon going up against a British Airborne platoon. CoC has national characteristics for each force, grounded in their military doctrine. For example, "Maschinengewehr" rewards the German players with more D6 when attaching a squad leader to LMGs.

British Airborne are tough, with 6 command dice versus 5 for the Germans.  They're also rated as elite and aggressive.  Being new, we bungled the German support list and poor Hugh got only a medic and panzerchek team to even out the disparity between our forces.  On the other hand, it was realistic that the Germans found themselves over-matched at the start of the Normandy campaign.

These pictures are not the best but I want to show what the figure requirements are and how the squads are composed.  Hugh put leaders in larger bases to make them distinguishable on the tabletop.  Basically, you're looking at 3 squads per side with some support.  

The first bit of genius in Chain of Command is the Patrol Phase, which is a wonderful game within the game. Each side has 3-4 Patrol Markers which are moved one by one, 12" onto the table. Each marker must remain within 12" of a friendly marker. Once your marker comes within 12" of an enemy marker, both are locked. Players continue moving their markers until all are locked.  Behind the locked Patrol Markers, players place their Jump Off Points, which are where troops deploy to the battlefield. Going first, I was able to lock up Jump Off Points behind the Calvados factory.  This was a huge as it left the Germans on their back foot with Jump Off Points in a farm field, a road and an orchard.  Not ideal.  

With no troops on the table to start, I threw 6 command dice.  Command dice are used to bring forces onto the table and then later, active them for movement.  How and when you commit your forces onto the table is critical. My rolling was crazy good and I rolled up back to back phases repeatedly. I put one squad on my left flank in the orchard with a Bren covering a German Jump Off Point.  I got my 2nd squad into the main building and my 3rd squad went out on the right flank in a warehouse.  



Above, I split a section off from one squad to flank and fire on the Germans taking cover against a wall. Concentrating fire from two squads on one German squad I was able to pin them. I send in an assault that took them right off the table.  
Hugh brought his last squad to where his other squad had just perished. I was eager to occupy one of his Jump Off Points in order to degrade the German force morale.  Here, I miscalculated badly in deciding to assault the fresh Germans. Their MG 42 ripped me up and I lost my entire squad in the debacle. Lesson learned, you can't charge in like a maniac even if you're elite.  You must first knock the enemy down with fire, pin them if you can and then go in for the kill.  
My failed assault did weaken the German squad and they eventually broke from our steady fire. Hugh sent his last squad against my squad in the orchard.  Assaulting fresh troops backed by 2 Brens and some stens, the results were catastrophic for the Germans.  Their force morale dropped to zero and the game went to the British.
Two very big thumbs for Chain of Command.  It's a great set of rules, one of the best skirmish rules I've ever played.  CoC is going to get heavy rotation this year and I can't wait to run the Calvados scenario again. One game and we're both mulling over other armies and theaters of war.  That means we're hooked, I think!