Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Skin The Cats - A Chain of Command Tank Battle

"I guess we'll walk back to the front lines then..."
Last week was a fun one for gaming.  Not only did we get to try Dave V's cool Death Star trench run scenario for Star Wars, but I was able to test a new Chain of Command scenario with the help of conscript Byron M on Friday. The figures and terrain are all 15mm.

Patrol Phase complete - Byron made me some laser cut wood markers for Chain of Command, and I painted them up; I like the effect
I am a major league tread-head - tank battles are pretty much my favourite games.  Games like "Flames of War" certainly give you a chance to shoot up a whole bunch of tanks in a short game, and that can be fun - a lot of fun - but I am always on the lookout for a set of rules that could provide players with a more involved perspective of tanks and armour without bogging everyone down in needless (and boring) details.

Russian Patrol Marker

German Patrol Marker
With its unique activation mechanics, Chain of Command fits that bill. In the basic/original rules, however, tanks are add-ons to a force, so it could be hard to keep them moving/firing due to limitations on the dice pool - you can only roll so many dice, and activate so much different stuff, at one time. 
Russian Platoon moving out - the fellow with the yellow token has been hit!

T-34/85 deploys in ambush
Enter "Big Chain of Command".  Released earlier this year by the Too Fat Lardies, these slight alterations to their popular new Chain of Command rules  allow for multiple platoons on one or both sides of the game.  It also provides a bit of a quick overview and some extra clarity on how to employ an armoured platoon as an element in the game. This feature immediately drew my attention, and I have been plotting for scenarios ever since...

Fire! I like to use markers to try and show the dust etc. kicked up when these big main guns fire
Byron M agreed to help me test how a tank-vs-tank scenario would play out.  The scenario was simple, set in the late war, Eastern Front, 1944.  A platoon of Panthers, having held the line while others fell back, must now fall back themselves.  Making their way carefully back to the lines, they encounter a force of T-34/85s - battle ensues, each force out to break the other.  I used "Scenario 3 - Attack and Defend" as the basis.

Right on! Panther start to find the range
Byron took command of the Russian force - two platoons of three T-34/85s each.  I played the Germans, a nasty platoon of 4 Panthers.  For ease of play, everyone was rated regular.  Even though no infantry was present, we set up a patrol phase etc. as the jump-off points might prove useful for capture etc.  Byron also suggested a useful rule allowing vehicles in the defending force to attempt to deploy on-table via a jump-off point.  Basically they made a D6 roll to deploy, needing a 4+.  If they failed, they had to wait for another phase and enter along a table edge as normal for vehicles.

Byron's tankers move into the centre of the table
We got our platoons into action in fairly short order - Byron successfully deployed one tank on the table, with the rest rolling on the board.  My fellows entered along the opposite table edge.  A knife-fight with high-velocity tank guns was underway...

A Panther draws a bead from a covered position - this was a lucky cat...for most of the game...

Now THAT is an armour save! How can we lose?
Every luck streak runs out, however...
What I enjoy most about Chain of Command is how the activation system creates an ebb and flow to an engagement you cannot find with a conventional IGOUGO system.  Byron had some good luck initially, knocking the main gun out on a Panther, and generally moving into position.  But his luck on shooting was terrible - he missed something like seven straight shots by a single pip on the dice!

The action develops in the centre
Then momentum switched and went the German way for a few phases. The Panthers started to knock out the T-34s.  After a few phases Byron's six-tank force was down to just two runners. Sounds like an easy victory looming, right?  I had two tanks - the platoon commander included - in great position and they moved into the centre of the table to take the surviving T-34s in the flanks.  It would be no problem at all...

The Panther platoon commander engages targets from the flank - and they burn!

Nice! Flank armour cannot stop 75mm high-velocity shells.  The Panthers have this one in the bag, right?
Er, not so much.  Byron's gunners suddenly found the range, while my dice-luck deserted me.  In two quick final phases Byron's last two T-34s cooked two Panthers (!) and seriously damaged a third.  I went from three runners to one - and it had no main gun! Alas, the fate of many German rear-guards...these panzer crews would be finding their way back to the lines on foot, if they found their way at all...

Russians do not give up...

Hey!!! This Panther is immobilized and takes shock from a point-blank hit...uh-oh...
I quite enjoyed the Big Chain of Command system and really loved this game - it was a very involved and engaging tank battle without needing tons of tanks on both sides.  There are some nice extra details to tank command in Chain of Command, without having too many of them, and Big Chain of Command is a good way to get them on the table. By far this is the most fun I have had with a tactical tank engagement. I hope to tweak the scenario a little bit and try it again sometime soon with the main Fawcett Avenue crew...

There goes the Panther command tank...
Thanks to Byron for serving as guinea pig, and for bringing along some awesome terrain to help the table pop.  That is one key thing for these armoured engagements...you will want a lot of terrain if possible, otherwise it will be a gun duel at the edges.   On this table we managed to have a mix of fields and towns and things to slow things down that looked OK.

Up next - some painting stuff. And a new scale for me.  Because I'm dumb like that.

4 comments:

Chris Stoesen said...

Looks like a fun game. I have not run a pure tank game yet with Chain but I may now.

Kevin Holland said...

Great looking game, Greg - hope we get to try it some "Fawcett Thursday!"

DaveV said...

Fantastic looking game, Greg!

Byron said...

It was an awesome scenario Greg, and I really like the new "big" chain of command rules. It just "felt" right, sometimes things went well, and sometimes they didn't, but you could never really count on being able to do what you wanted, which makes it feel much more like a real battle where !@#%& happens and the plan never really sticks to what you thought you could do.