wtorek, 10 września 2013

Chain of Command - Summary and the second battle

So what are my thoughts about Chain of command ? I have to say I like these rules very much. They have few peculiar elements but overall they are most interesting WWII ruleset I know.
Patrol markers at the end of patrol phase

1. Mechanism of activation is absolute gem! I just want to use it in many many different settings and scenarios. It works great as way to implement shifting fortunes of battle. Initiative moves from side to side in a way that's not boring to anyone (and not simple IgoUgo), but maintaining initiative is random affair. You have to be ready to act when breakthrough occur.  Who dares win! But at the other side  luck could mark the victor and make you unable to move anything at all. There is  beauty and simplicity in both idea and execution. And I love it.
 I was having some mixed feelings when in last phases of second game Russians throw only single command die and were unable to do anything for 3 phases, but then when the did move they brought German morale from 6 to 3. I think that in most situation throwing just 1 command die is just stubborn refusal of surrender. But that's one of the most realistic mechanics of combining morale and combat effectiveness I saw in my gaming life.
EDIT: After re reading the rules, Russians should have 2 command die. Its the lowest number side can get !!
Final entry points

2. Fight engine is solid. Uses to many die for my liking bot work very simple and without interruptions. I taught the rules to my opponent and he did not have any trouble with running his shooting by himself after just one turn. Still I did not try any AT fire thou. Shock mechanic and unpinning at the turns end only i considered a was bad idea  in the beginning, but it really makes turn end action one of the most powerful things you can do with CoC die. In second game i ended the Turn in the right moment to unpin my unit, and end disability of my two wounded Leaders  (result of the wounds on the leaders might block them from activation until end of turn) right in time for breaking counter attack and routing of broken enemy squad that gave me the victory. And now I am fully convinced that shock mechanic is well thought out and works very well with combat engines and activation system.

3. Morale: Morale is one of peculiarities of the system. There ate certain triggers that forces you to test if and how much Force morale points you lose. Most interesting is very heavy link between morale and well being of your leaders (NCOs and Officer) When I stated that Chain of Command is a game of sergeants i meant not only that they are crucial in leading your forces to victory, but also that their wounds and deaths are most important factor dictating the will of fight of your men. Second game was decided by wounds on the soviet officer (each wound have chance of killing the guy or just lowering his command initiative, and he can take as many of them as he has initiative points. Poor soviet commander was wounded 3 times - that forced soviets to test morale twice for Senior commander wounded and once for him being killed costing Russians 5 force morale points from the starting 8 they had - rest were from squad being broken and later routed from the table). It could felt a little unfair to a player when he is loosing having better positions and more men on the table. Again its probably most realistic way to portray such thing as platoon morale in a war game (and Russians had a lot of bad luck in those morale tests) but its a feature that some people might dislike.
Chain of command its not a game where your soldiers fight for the last man or until you tell them to stop. They might let you down and break at the verge of victory.

4. Force list. There are no army list in traditional sense in Chain of Command. Each player commands one platoon of infantry and scenario dictates how many support points each platoon has got (normally decided by a one or two die roll of which attacker gets rolled amount and defender only half of that). Each army has a support table that list what kind of supporting units what amount of support points could buy.
But difrent kinds of infantry platoons have diffrent strenght. So author decided to ranke them from -7 (green Russians) to + 8 (Elite American late war 3 squad paras platoon). Difference in those values is added to support points of the side with weakest platoon (in this hypothetical scenario Russians would get 15 extra support points). It works really well, but has there are few problems with the support list. I found one support option  that is not explained in the rules at all (namely a soviet Commissar). Few other are inadequately explained, or have special rules not explain in the rulebook (Ronsons). Thats a minor problems but quite annoying when you search the book for rules that's just not there.

Another is my gut feeling that it was a game that was meant to be Normandy game from the beginning. US,UK and German list seem better researched than soviet one. That’s not surprising considering who the author is, but soviets seem a little rushed ( mentioned earlier lack of rules for a commissar, or lack of ZIS 3 gun in the support list - really popular thing in the soviet army with over 100K built!) Its perfectly playable as is but could be done at the standard of west allies and German list. If you are playing mainly west front you wont feel that at all probably (And commissar rules were released by TFL in free add on list for Russians in 39-40).
Internal balance in support list is another question but in such infantry centric game some abstractions are perfectly Ok.
One thing that bothers me in abstract way  is low cost of extra MG in panzer grenadier platoon. It give very big advantage for insignificant one point of difference in platoon strength, but I did not played enough games to decide if its unbalanced or just my over thinking.

5. Patrol phase and deployment. When i first got interested in the system i though that patrol phase is unnecessary level of complication.  After playing two games I think its cool idea. Its really simple to play (although controlling the distance is a bit clunky) and places entry points not quite where you would prefer them to be. This gives another level of depth. Ive jest to see taking out enemy entry points in a game, but that could cos a force heavy in force morale - that make an interesting factor. Whet I like most though is that entry points dictate natural approach lines for units. going info battlefields in center of empty piece of grassland is rarely sound tactic in this game, as it was quite stupid movement in reality.
Yes, we are still sad proxies.. My FLGS was out of platoon for lieutenant Gruber and I had to order online

My final evaluation gives Chain of command 9/10
Its really first WWII small scale system that made me not only want to play it some day but actually play two games in a week ! Despite some slight imperfections and small number of forces (that's getting better each week as TFL blog released 3 new force list so far)  you should give it a try.

Part 1
Part 2

Second game :
I forget to make more photos unfortunately but provide small report. It was an attack/defense game - scenario 3 and we rolled 10 points for support. German had advantage in Force morale.
Soviets got One infantry squad and Scout squad as support units while Germans got infantry squad (I did not want to be badly outnumbered) light mortar and Sdkfz251 half track to test vehicle rules.
Generally Soviets deployed heavily on the hill on my right flank and set crossfire for squad in the field. German reinforcements were struck in mud on the way (really bad move pips). Than half track suported badly shot squad. Than leader casulties started to mount up. As I mentioned Soviet lieutenant got wound 2 times and his squad i concentrated on broke down. He was down to 3 morale then. But Both Gruber himself and junior leader were wounded and unable to act until turns end (morale to 6). Then on retained initiative i managed to reduce shock of my forward squad and then ended the turn. My Leaders were back in action, and Soviet broken squad routed taking his force morale to 1. Then we struggled for few phases unable to do much difference until central squad broke down and run taking German morale to 4. But then with concentrated fire i wounded Soviet officer for third time killing him and breaking the Soviet army.
Death tool was 11 Russians to 10 Germans.

Halftrack was safe (Soviet did not had any AT and they were newer in position to attack it with grenades), and with stable LMG - very deadly, but having grenadier squad dismounted would gave me better firepower.
using both LMGssound well in theory but its not practical in action.
Soviet mistake was splitting fire and passive actions of Scout platoon.

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