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"My First Chain of command game and review" Topic

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Von Miligan06 Dec 2013 4:44 a.m. PST

My First Chain of Command game, hosted by and played against Richard Clark, the author.

Richard set out a 6 foot by 4 foot table, using his 28mm figures and scenery. Richard played a late war British Platoon with 2 inch mortar and a Sherman tank in support. He rolled low on his force morale, and I rolled average for my late war German platoon, who had the benefit of a 2 man Panzerschrecht team. The table had a staggered crossroads in the rear, which I had to defend, and Richard take. It was a massive benefit having Richard explain the simple initial moves using his innovative system for defining deployment zones. Once you see it in action, it makes so much sense. The choice of 3 markers was taken by him, the subtlety of this being to concentrate your point of attack or effort. I took 4, allowing me, after manoeuvring, to threaten a possible approach route.
At this point, some things really stand out. You are immediately thinking about the terrain, enemy approach routes, defensive fire points from where to dominate possible opponent approach routes, cover, lines of sight, where to concentrate your reserve, where will the enemy attack be concentrated. I am liking it already, and we have not even got the miniatures out yet.
So, the opening phases allow you to scout out your approach routes, define your lines of march, define your FUP's (Forming up points) to a point where you can be interdicted by the enemy possibly what a great concept. It can seem deep, and I imagine hard for some gamers to understand, but any student of military history will instantly recognise what this is simulating. If you think the ground is flat like our war games tables, try taking a long walk in the countryside and see how many dips, lumps and covered approaches you can find. This simple mechanism gets you to a point where the action can begin, allowing you the player, or commander of this force to dictate how you will now command your attack or defence of the area of terrain on the table. I imagine this concept took many hours to define on paper in a way that is clear to the reader, but I got it straight away and for me, it breaks many of the "stale rules" I have experienced over the years. Where, in some war games rules, you expose your entire force, marching on from the edge of the table, war just isn't like that. The Chain of command approach allows you to hold back certain elements, keeps your opponent busy thinking, allow you to exploit the "potential" of your force, without actually even using it, then when you do expose them on the table, it's time to really get stuck in. This system allows you to "fence" with your opponent, create bluffs, set traps, keep them off "balance", wonderful.

These approach moves allow you to really use the inherent military historical tactics of your chosen force in a way I have not experienced in other WW2 rules to date. It's not called Chain of Command for nothing and your leader types are vital to make things happen for you on the table, as in real life.
Each turn, players roll 5 dice, the numbers dictating your options for activating leaders, sections and units on the table. You can add up numbers 1-4 to give even more options, 5 being chain of command dice, very important and 6's meaning either you get another phase (2 required) or the phase passes to the opponent (1 required). What an inspired mechanism. As a commander in the field, you have limited capacity, your options can sometimes be limited by circumstance. How you prioritise your "effort and resources available" is key. This rules mechanism does that simply, clearly, with minimal overhead and maximum effect. Richard tells me it came to him in a dream one night, he got up, wrote it down and now we have it in this rules system. It's better than cards drawn randomly, it makes the very, very best of any you go I go rules systems, in fact, the you go I go gets lost to a large degree . Why, because the length of your "go" is not fixed, your options to deploy your best effort are not fixed, you have to make the best of what's presented to you by this mechanism, the opponents moves and possible mistakes, the deployments you have made, the terrain and the dice each time. Nothing is left to a predicted set of move lengths, not every asset you have on the table gets to be used, you, the commander , have to determine where the priority is and use what from a combination of chance, your previous moves, the opponents previous and potential moves , your planning and the terrain throws at you phase by phase, awesome.

Even the thought of a reserve, to be used if your opportunity to expand a growing break in the opponent's lines occurs, is highly playable under this system. Rare in any war-game, especially WW2, but here the Chain of Command mechanisms allow the players to do this.
Richard's attack developed down a good line of approach to the cross roads, under constant smoke support from his mortar and potential fire support from his approaching Sherman tank. The attack blunted, his left side approaching section caught in the open and riddled, I made a "demonstration " on his extreme right with the rifle elements of one German section. Their intent was to flank the Sherman and middle British Rifle section and go hunting with their Panzerfaust. A very big ask, and requiring lots of 1s to be rolled to activate the required elements. How often can you in a game, use a "demonstration tactic" to effect? As I said, it was a big ask of a rifle section of 6 men, to go tank hunting behind the enemy front, but it forced Richard to deploy his reserve in a place he really did not want to, to counter the potential threat this element imposed on his force. The defender was able to steal the initiative, and after a few more phases, I ended the turn by using my cumulated 6 chain of command dice (all 5's rolled) to add additional pressure to this weakened side of the table. His Sherman got brewed up by the Panzerschreck team under the direct command of my senior commander, who was forced by circumstance to be in the right place, at the right time, despite the dangers.

When things go wrong or as Richard has defined so quaintly, "Bleeped text happens", you make rolls on a defined table to note the effects on your force. I found these worked really well, and not just as I was dishing out a bit of a stuffing to Richards poor Tommies who were attacking my well laid out and defended German positions. As negative effects and events occurred, the effects of modern small arms firepower on men, at close range, even in cover, can be devastating and a reminder of just how dangerous the modern battlefield is. Foolish is the commander who picks a poor approach route to engage his opponent.

Ranges, well, as you would expect, on this size table, at this scale, the only restriction for rifles and machine guns is line of sight. It all makes sense and there are no crazy false range limits here. If you can see it, you have a chance of hitting it. The fire effects are simplicity itself. After the first few phases, I could work out my odds of success without reference to Richard. I found the basic moving and firing mechanisms easy to understand, logical and easy to remember. So once off, unless you encounter an unusual circumstance, you know what to do. The random nature of how far you get to move, dictated by the number of dice you opt for, again brings a level of uncertainty which is healthy. I don't want to know that my troops will advance exactly 12 inches every time, life and combat conditions are not like that. Finding a mechanism that brings this to the table without complex rules is a real pleasure, nice one again Richard. :this:
There are many more subtle effects contained in these rules mechanisms, but I now am aware of how military doctrines, tactics and the realities of modern warfare have been captured and rolled into these wonderful rules. It was truly a pleasure to play with Richard using his rules systems . :this:
The name Chain of Command is most appropriate. As a student of military history, having visited and studied many WW1 and WW2 battlefields and sites of smaller actions, I can directly relate to how and why Richard has created these rules systems. They are, in my limited experience of war games rules, a significant leap forward in terms of playability, relationship of historical simulations and fun from a much misunderstood period. Hollywood has unfortunately tainted our understanding of and blinded us to the realities of modern warfare. Thankfully there are some notable exceptions in recent years that expose the true horror and effects of modern weapons on battlefields.
We don't carry many rules sets, in fact this is only the second set we have carried. Our approach is that we can't sell them unless we have been offered them, have played and like them. I like them a lot , as I know do many at my local club in Hitchin. I can't wait to get my 1940 Belgians finished and ready for a game. :grin:
Paul T@EWM/20mmZone

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Dec 2013 5:23 a.m. PST

Very nice review! I ALMOST bought the Chain of Command rules at the Fall-In! convention and now I'm sorry I didn't.

Karellian Knight06 Dec 2013 7:06 a.m. PST

An interesting read that, thank you. You'vee exactly described why my group and I have been playing CoC since they were first released.

Jamesonsafari06 Dec 2013 8:39 a.m. PST

Good review. Very well written. I've tried the rules once and am hooked for all the same reasons you explain.
Previously I had thought the 'platoon battle' to be a bit of a non-starter and focused on the 'company battle', but CoC has changed that.

Jamesonsafari06 Dec 2013 8:40 a.m. PST

Also Rich's 28mm toys are REALLY nice, aren't they?

Crucible Orc06 Dec 2013 8:56 a.m. PST

Hey jamesonsafari, you planning on carring CoC??

whoa Mohamed06 Dec 2013 8:57 a.m. PST

Lovw the rules wish they where were more availible in the USA.

Beneath A Lead Mountain06 Dec 2013 10:39 a.m. PST

I bought CoC on a whim from my FLGS (on the day of its release although I didn't realise it) and I think it may steal me away from Bolt Action over time. I haven't played it yet (many tiny 15mm Fallschirmjagers being individually based and in some cases re-sculpted at the moment) but just after a read through it seemed like a refreshing and understandable approach.
Just need to join the yahoo group now as I hear the resources and community is invaluable.

genew4906 Dec 2013 10:58 a.m. PST

Available in print in US at On Military Matters:

PDF and Tablet Version at TFL:

Gaz004506 Dec 2013 11:09 a.m. PST

Good review- might be tempted- especially as I have organised all my 20mm figures in actual platoons……..!

Mr Canuck06 Dec 2013 11:31 a.m. PST

Lucky! --how cool would it be to play CoC against Richard Clark? (I'd probably get hammered, but that would be OK!)

The few games I've played so far have been great.

Really good Review and AAR, by the way!

the trojan bunny06 Dec 2013 1:32 p.m. PST

Nice review. My copy of CoC just arrived yesterday. Looking forward to giving them a go.

vtsaogames06 Dec 2013 1:35 p.m. PST

I've had my copy for a while, but getting my black-powder centered group to give it a try ain't easy.

I hope to get a game in with a member who has moved out of town (not far) next month so when I try it on my guys I have a grasp on the rules.

idontbelieveit06 Dec 2013 4:04 p.m. PST

I'm hooked too. Thinking about what all I need to paint for a bunch of different stuff.

For folks who haven't played yet, I highly recommend the youtube videos Richard did earlier in the year explaining the rules. This is the first one I think:

YouTube link

nazrat07 Dec 2013 9:11 a.m. PST

I played a number of games with different guys in my group and everybody seemed to like it a lot. I will continue playing Chain of Command in the future-- maybe someday I'll be lucky enough to game with Richard at a future HMGS con.

(Stolen Name)08 Dec 2013 2:54 p.m. PST

Nice review, one of the best skirmish sets I have come across

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Dec 2013 8:57 a.m. PST

idontbelieveit: thanks for the YouTube links. They sold me! My copy is on the way!

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