Thursday, 16 June 2016

Chain of Command Playtest

Initial deployments, British on the left, Germans on the right

I've been after trying out Chain of Command for ages since everyone seems to rate it highly, and whilst Skirmish Sangin was fun I'm really looking for a "large skirmish" ruleset where you're tracking damage on squads and teams rather than individual solders - so CoC should fit the bill.

I've got some old Airfix Brits and Germans that I refurbished a decade or so ago, a platoon of each, so that's OK. Since I already had a terrain set up for Skirmish Sangin I decided to use that, and pretend that it was a small Greek village in Crete, some time in May 1941 when the Germans invaded. That meant the Germans ought to be Fallschirmjäger, but to avoid making the battle too one sided I decided to treat them as regulars not elites. I chose the "Patrol" scenario out of the CoC book with each side advancing from opposite table edges.

The CoC pre-deployment phase moving the markers around worked really well and certainly means that you start right in the middle of the battle - nice feature.

Both sides deployed 2 sections on the N side of the road, and one on the S side. German sections had two MG34s, against the single Bren in British ones. To even things up the Brits had a 2" mortar and a Universal Carrier with another Bren. The Germans had a Panzerfaust - which wasn't going to be much use!

German MG34 team dominates the ground

The Germans quickly got their MG34 teams up onto the building tops in order to dominate the ground. The Brits took casualties as they tried to do the same, and then there was some rooftop to rooftop shooting, with the Germans maintaining the upper hand. The German 2nd Squad on the south tried to push down the back alley, but took hits from a British MG on the rooftop, but so did the British rifle section just the other side of the alley wall from the MG34. Eventually the Bren was routed by the MG34, and Rifle section also pushed back, and then an initial rush by the German squad forced the Brits to withdraw back.

The Germans push forward through the southern alley, Brits retreating left

On the N side things were in more of  a stalemate, with the Brits unkeen on dashing across the side road in sight of the N MG34 team. The Germans who had advanced through the olive grove also felt the same way - but then came under accurate 2" mortar fire so took casualties anyway and pulled back.

The German commander then decided to rapidly switch flanks, so push his reserve section across the main road to the S side. They moved rapidly through the German section already there and charged straight into the recovering Brits who routed off the board.

As Germans push L in south, Brits push R in the north

With British Morale rapidly falling to danger levels (it was at 5) it was time for a death or glory action so the British sections finally charged across the side road into the olive grove, and on through that and onto the waiting Germans. Not a good move as the MG34 helped bolster the German defence and all the Brits were wiped out. The Germans took losses, but not catastrophic. The Brits played a Chain of Command dice to avoid a Morale test, but realistically it was game over as they only had one functional section left.

The final melee, Brits charge through the olive grove onto the waiting Germans

So, thoughts?

Overall not a bad set, firing system was nice and simple, and so was the melee system. 2" mortars seemed too effective as they had a direct fire error not an indirect one. The effect of 6s was nice (especially double turn on double 6), and the 5s to save up for the CoC Dice (WHY are they called dice - they aren't, their just special command pips) was OK - although the options with them weren't that impressive (although causing turn end to rout damaged units appears an obvious trick). Mental gymnastics though were required to remember the effects of 1s (team), 2s (section) , 3s (junior leader) and 4s (senior leader),  and who could do what as a result. Investing in dedicated dice sounds a good idea - but overall it did strike me as almost too artificial.

One thing I didn't like was that often it was better to take killed men rather than shock - even though as squad numbers reduce the relative ratio does move you to closer to being pinned. I'd  have thought you ought to take shock as well as a kill to re-inforce the deteriorating morale (or perhaps that's just the result of playing Skirmish Sangin where any casualty meant you moved into casevac mode!).

The random element to movement worked well, but another bit I wasn't too keen on was the lack of any proper suppressive fire mechanism. I never got the chance to use covering fire, which I suppose if the closest, but I do feel that you should be able to choose whether you're just trying to put rounds down the range to keep heads down, or firing in a more measured way to make kills.

Luckily I got a chance to play another game of CoC down at the club just as this one was finishing, so a chance to check whether my impressions would change with a second game and a real opponent.

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