Last week I ran a couple of games of Chain of Command for the local group. This was the first game for many of them, but one other had played a time or two before (like myself). Most had the rules though and had read them, so that really helped as well. In the end there were 4 people playing, with me helping with rules and acting as GM/rules advisor for the games. We also had a couple of onlookers/interested parties as well. I know a few people also could not attend so it seem like we have a decent quorum of people interested in the game.
So I thought I would write up a few comments and put some pictures up about the games that we played. This will also include my first thoughts on the rules, especially after some time playing other games (battlegroup in particular). Note, I game WW2 in 15mm. So the tables do not look as great as they would with 28mm figs, but the figure to table and scenery scale are much better – which IMO makes for better games over all.The games mostly used my figures and all my terrain. You can play Chain of Command in 15mm or 28mm but I game ww2 in 15mm. Also, I have to say that 15mm gives the ’empty battlefield’ effect much better than 28mm, although as mentioned previously 28mm is great for eye candy.
So, the first game going was set on the ‘Prussian front’ with a few scattered buildings and a smattering of tall wheat fields as well as so light woods/rough ground on the table. The forces (for both games) were from the main book, with nothing more than a minimum support elements. It was also a simple meeting engagement scenario. That was to allow the players get used to the game and focusing on the mechanics and getting used to how it plays. Note, one things with the CoC force building is it is possible to create bad matchup’s for scenario’s – for example one side having tanks while the other has no armour killing at all. So rather than risk this I created the forces and scenario, which I think is very typical for CoC games anyway.In the first game the patrol phase went quite smoothly, with the Germans setting up just behind the small collection of buildings. Overall, the patrol phase is something people take a little getting used. It definitely effects the later game. It controls where players can bring on their forces. It’s a real addition to my mind in comparison to the usual start in deployment zones close to the table. The mechanism of bringing on forces close to those jump of points and those being enemy objectives adds a real different feel to the games.
In this game, after the jump off markers were down the first turn went to the Russian who cautiously brought on some of their force. The Germans were blessed with a lucky roll though and a double phase as they brought on most of their forces in their next activation. It was an interesting tactic, especially as they split the forces up and had troops come in at each jump off location. As mentioned this ability to somewhat control when and where you troops hit the table makes for an cool mechanic. It adds to the control effect of the game as well as more decision points. At the same point it does make the game feel more platoon level. Squad tactics, move and fire etc all play a part in CoC games, much more so than in many other games of this style I find. By this time the other table was being set up and I jumped over to that, as the players on that table had never played CoC before. This again was identical forces as the other table but this time with my my 17th Cent buildings and church being used. As my official jump off points were in use on the other table, I decided to use T-34 tank hulls as the jump of points in the game. Obviously, the infantry were fighting over a previously fought tank engagement!
The Russians worked hard in the patrol phase to get close to the church and their jump off points were all around that as it turned out. The Germans had tried an outflanking them but had not quite pulled it off in the patrol phase. This meant that in the first turns the Russians could set up their one extra unit- a HMG with 5 crew right in the top of the church clock tower! Each Russian platoon got one of these to balance the force levels as the German late Platoons are a little more powerful than the Russians. This became the dominant move of the game really, as the Germans set up in the woods surrounding the church and for much of the earlier game exchanged fire with that HMG. The HMG was backed up by the Russian senior leader who was busy removing shock from them to keep them as an effective force.
The German focus on this ‘hard point’ definitely allowed the Russians to dictate the flow of the game. I also made the terrain too hard on the table – with very deep/thick woods and high fences which limited movement and visibility for troops on the ground . This gave this Church steeple vantage point even more significance. A lesson learnt for me as a scenario creator there. A Russian section moved up to one of the high fences around the church to engage with the German section on this flank. They moved up the the hedge in anticipation of removing some of pressure from the HMG in the church tower. In the end this did not work out well for them and they were beaten back with a lot of shock. They were lucky really that there were not more killed vs. just having huge number of shock.
Again the terrain really stopped the Germans finishing this section. The size of the Russian units helps them survive as well because they had enough leaders around to hep rally off some of that shock over the next few phases. On the other flank the other German section there decided the use the cover from the HMG provided by the woods to move closer. By this time the HMG crew were starting to look few on the ground but there were still 2 able to operate the gun. They were also giving casualties and shock to the primary german section engaging them, who are shown in the closest woods at the bottom of the picture below.
To counter this the Russian other sections now started to show up on the table. They countered the flanking move of those Germans. The last Russian section was put on the table and moved inside the main boy of the church,. These two were tasked with engaging the Germans on that flank. Because of this the Germans headed into the woods near the church and set up a defensive position.Swapping back to the other table, for a minute, on that one the Germans had taken the initiative and attacked. I got a brief summary from the guys who described that the Germans had attacked the Russians in the wheat fields. Unfortunately, although putting a decent amount of shock on the Russian HMG it had still been enough. The rifle sections had seen off the German attack. So the Germans were down to a few morale points on that table and it looked like things were not going to end well for them. In the end it did not and they were beaten due to their aggressive attacking.Back on the church table, the Russians had a nice central secure position around the church. The HMG crew had finally broken and run from the church tower. An end of turn was triggered soon after that which saw them leave the table for good.
The Russian section in the woods close assaulted the Germans and learnt just how deadly that can be – with mutual destruction being the result. The Germans saw the writing on the wall with this though. So to see what the result was they assaulted the now recovering infantry section in the church yard. You can see them at the bottom of the picture below. Again this resulting in lot of death on both sides. But in the case the Russians held on and won the combat. At this point the Germans had just their Platoon senior leader, plus a Panzerfaust team and junior leader left, so conceded the game.So overall we had a fun set of games. I think all the players enjoyed the games and there were definite comments of wanting to play again.
As for thoughts on the rules. I thought it easier to put this in bullet form to make the points easier to read.
- These are ‘adult’ mainly scenario style rules for Infantry Platoon level fights. Rules for having several platoons on the table but still, this is a very specific scale and type of fight. So those coming from say Flames of war or Battlegroup will be surprised about the space vs. figures on the table. It’s more realistic but looks different to many game of toy soldiers out there.
- At times there are items which require rules checking (as well as in FAQ & Errata) and common sense for understanding the rules is requires as in all the TFL rules. These rules are not exceptions to that principle. So you have to have common sense to play these rules. Players with a rules lawyer attitude are not going to end up creating a fun time for anyone.
- The patrol section for setting up jump off points, and the bringing on troops as you want them makes this a unique set of rules and I really like that aspect.
- Combat, whether hand to hand or shooting can be quite die heavy. This should over time balance things out, BUT in the short term can make for large swings of luck. Just something to be aware of and in many ways I guess that can reflect the reality of combat.
- The roll for what you can do is an element I like in the game and makes you think and work on tactics. It’s much more limiting in some ways that it initially seems when reading the rules.
- Weapons having realistic ranges and the random moves of troops means you have to plan in a different way for the games. It means mutual support of troops is very important. As I mentioned to the players, typical 40k tactics will get you killed real quick in this game.
- Following on from that, the scale of the game means that modern/ww2 infantry tactics really work. This means the Soviets can be the easiest force to use for beginners. Their large sections and small number of command units means they are easy to control, vs the german or Brits etc. However the later can do fire and move tactics but have smaller teams to support this. This does take a little getting used to though.
- As mentioned somewhat balanced support options are required. Tanks vs no tank killers or off bard art vs. a close up deployment can make for non fun games (again may be realistic though.
Overall, have to say I really like Chain of Command. They feel more realistic and have real life style tactics vs. very game specific ones. But the more life like nature of the game and unusual command elements do make them a little harder to get into than something like Bolt Action. Overall though I think this is definitely worth the pain though, as the end result is a much more ‘historical’ feeling game. So this definitely will get more play time for me and if you want real platoon gaming I’d give it a try. The closet game to it is really Bolt Action which I enjoy as well but feels much more like a game with short ranges and predictable moves for troops. I’ll play both but the two games have a very different feel overall.