Friday, April 25, 2014

Battle Report - Chain of Command, 15mm WW2

A quaint village in Normandy, 1944
Last week Dallas hosted a Chain of Command game at his place just before the long weekend.  We played using individually based 15mm figures.  The scenario was set in Normandy in 1944, featuring a Canadian platoon trying to capture a small French village as part of their efforts to seize the airfield at Carpiquet.

Another view of the Village - from the German table edge. Those buildings are awesome! And check out the bocage and fields Byron has made!

Byron brought a load of stuff out for the game - his 15mm WW2 Canadians (you can see more of them here, together with some very nice PSC Churchill tanks, as an entry in Curt's recent Analogue Hobbies Painting  Challenge).  But as you can see from the photo, he also brought out some really smashingly done smashed buildings from 4ground.

The Patrol Phase - patrol markers move about, looking to pin down the other side.
As you can see from the photos, these buildings look pretty amazing.  Byron also brought some home-made bocage-type terrain and fields.  Combined with Dallas' existing and substantial terrain collection, this assembly looked pretty damn nice on a 6' x 4' table!

A close up of the awesome 4ground buildings - they are not cheap, and not the quickest to assemble (at least for me), but man - they are nice!

We played the "Attack on an Objective" scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook.  Byron and Jim took command of the Canadians as the attackers.  They had a platoon backed by an M4 Sherman and a Firefly, with it's deadly 17-pounder main gun. Dave and Dallas took the German side - an understrength Panzer Grenadier Platoon with just two squads, but backed by a tripod-mounted MG42, a 50mm mortar and three StuGs.

A little hard to see here, but some Canadians are in the church absorbing fire from Germans across the road.  They got very, very close to knocking out that German jump-off marker in the church

For those who may not be familiar with the game, Chain of Command is (like most of the rules I have seen from the Too Fat Lardies) not a "typical" set of rules.  The game begins with a patrol phase, where both sides try and maneuver markers that will ultimately be used to establish the places they can deploy in the game.  Once again, Byron has made this process more elegant - you may have seen recently on this blog that he is now doing some of his own laser cut products, and he has made some gorgeous custom tokens for the game!

Canadians approach the village - crafty German defenders await in the buildings

After the patrol phase establishes the "jump off" points for both sides, the battle gets under way.  Chain of Command is not an "IGOUGO" system.  Each turn is made up of a unknown number of phases, and the phases go back and forth between the sides based on how you roll your command dice.  A turn could last two phases.  It could last ten. Your side could go in one phase, and maybe go again, and again, before the initiative flips to the other guys. I call this rules approach "Turn Yahtzee", and it can produce interesting effects that have a serious impact on the game - and this one was no exception!

Firefly approaches for fire support
The Canadians went first...and went, and went, and went again! They "got" four phases, I think, and they used this to take a very very aggressive approach.  Now, just because you have a phase, it doesn't mean you get to use all of your stuff - again, it comes down to the Turn Yahtzee - so you might have rolled in a way to secure the next phase, but that means those dice - "6"s - won't be activating any of your troops.

MG42 team occupies a particularly nasty spot on the table
Byron and Jim went straight for the jugular, getting a Canadian section (i.e. a whole squad) on to the table and moving very fast toward the German jump off points.  Remember - you don't start with any models on the table, just jump-off points, the smaller tokens.  Byron and Jim gambled and ran the section right into the village, almost on top of the German jump-off tokens.  Dave and Dallas looked on with concern...and making matters worse, Byron and Jim were sprinkling a fair number of "5"s amongst the command rolls, accumulating pips toward a Chain of Command point...with that in hand, they could have ended the turn, removed the key German jump-off tokens and dealt crippling blow to the morale of the German side, all without a shot fired!

Canadian support elements under fire at the tree line...

And yet...and yet.  They were so, so close...but the Germans got a phase before the turn could end, and as these things seem to do, the dice gods "regressed to the mean".  The Germans appeared and, with the Canadians so close, exacted a frightful toll with their machine gun fire.  It kind of went downhill from there. And where the Canadians had a bunch of phases in a row, the Germans now enjoyed this good fortune.  Dave and Dallas deployed the German elements and spewed horrifying fire - backed by some wicked hot dice - out on the Canadians.

Canadian infantry advance into the village - the square base represents an NCO

Byron and Jim brought other elements on, but could not arrest the damage as the shock accumulated and casualties mounted. Canadian morale disappeared once the Germans earned enough Chain of Command pips to end a turn - with some Canadian elements on the run, they broke and that was that. Call up the artillery! Those Germans need a little more attention before the Canucks try again...

StuG rolls up to see what the fuss is about

Chain of Command is an interesting set of rules.  I am generally not a fan of the rules sets from the Lardies (card activation - gag!) but these rules offer a lot to engage with and are quite enjoyable.  They really make you think, to make decisions and engage in a little planning. They have an interesting ebb and flow to them. In this game the Canadians gambled big, came oh-so-close, but paid a terrible price when it didn't work out. Chain of Command will reward planning (and can sometimes reward gambling!) in a way that the more conventional IGOUGO rules systems never will.

The German MGs have turned their attention to the Canadians outside the village

Like any rules set, Chain of Command could use some fiddling.  For example, you can end up with casualties but no shock on your unit.  This was punishing for the Canadians - they were returning fire on the Germans and actually picked off quite a few of them, but because they rolled up a "kill" instead of a "shock", the pressure on the Germans did not build.  I find it odd that you can take kills but zero shock, and I don't think that makes any sense.

The balance of the StuGs arrive, but there was nothing for them to do...

Also, the German MGs are just horrifying in the game (which, of course, reflects how they were in the actual war after all).  The gamble-rush approach by the Canadians probably magnified this, but I am thinking some house rule mechanism should be in place. Curt mentioned that he has an idea to have the MG crew switch a barrel out or something...sound like a good place to start.

Finally the patrol phase, while novel, is sort of superfluous, and the calculations involved with placing the jump-off markers based on this can be headache-inducing (at least for me).  I think it would be just as sensible to place the jump-off markers in a defined zone with defined limitations - and get started with the game!

A big thank you to Dallas for hosting, Jim and Dave for playing, and to Bryon for bringing out all of his awesome stuff!  I look forward to playing Chain of Command again.


TKIY said...

I just have to say that this table is gorgeous. What a fantastic layout.

Admiral Drax said...

Gorgeous table and a really illuminating battle report too: thanks!

I watched a very useful demo game (I think) for Chain of Command on Youtube which is an easy viewing and which expands on a few of the ideas noted here. I reckon I'd quite like to try this game out...

DaveV said...

I liked the ebb and flow of the game we played. Some rules about German MG barrels overheating or ammo use sound OK (especially for the squad guns; the tripod mount MG probably has lots of ammo, spare barrels, and crew).

I also actually really liked the scouting phase. It added a real feel of recce and fog of war without having to use double blind mechanics. I was thinking that, since this is such an important part of the game, one could use the counters as actual bases for recce models: dismounted scout troops and armoured cars. I think it would add to the visual aspect of the game.

Paulalba said...

Looks great!

Dallas said...

Awesome game Greg Nd beautiful terrain Byron! Thanks for putting on the game!

Chris said...

Looked like an excellent game gents.

I think it was interesting to see the gambit go wrong to a set up gpmg in the sustained fire roll. Very fitting and dramatic.