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"First Chain of Command Game Impressions and AAR" Topic

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ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2017 5:11 a.m. PST

I played my first game of Chain of Command yesterday and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. I'd heard good things about the game, but when I bought the rules about a year ago and read through them, I couldn't help but think: ‘Wow, this seems complicated!' I read through them again a few months ago and my reaction was the same: ‘Wow, this seems complicated!' And then when I decided I was actually going to play the game, I read it through several more times and the impression of considerable complexity remained. I'm no stranger to complex rules sets. I've been a serious gamer for over 50 years now and in my 20s and 30s, if a rule set wasn't complicated, I wasn't interested. But these days my feelings have changed and I don't have the time or attention span for complex rules anymore.

I was also worried about getting my gaming buddy, Eric, to enjoy the game (or even be able to play it). He doesn't care for overly complex either. And with no veteran player around to show us the ropes, it would be up to me and the rule book to make our first game work. I did it! Taking it a step at a time, the complexity turned out to be manageable and by mid-game we were running smoothly with little delay for rule-checking. Yay! The game went very well.

I only have a limited number of figures. Basically an infantry platoon with three squads, a HQ section, and a few miscellaneous weapons teams for the Germans and American forces. To make things easier for Eric I decided to use Scenario 6 and have an American Attack on a German-held position and give Eric the Germans. I had to modify the scenario rules a bit since with the limited figures available, 90% of the stuff on the standard support tables in the army lists just wasn't available. So I gave the Germans a tripod-mounted MG42 and a PAK 40 AT gun. The Americans got a 30 Cal LMG team, a 60mm mortar team and an M-10 tank destroyer.

I set up a Normandy table with a tiny village of two houses and a bunch of hedgerows dividing the table into sections. The American objective was to capture the crossroads. The Germans had to stop them.


The first part of the game was the Patrol Phase where we moved our patrol markers around. I sensed that Eric was a little skeptical of the whole procedure, but he managed to push out his patrols to create three safe jump-off points in and around the village. I moved up to match him, but also managed to put my right flank jump off point pretty close to the village. I had hopes of maybe outflanking him. Overall, I think that part of the game works really well. The location of the jump-off points has a big impact on the course of the game and the Patrol Phase means that each game will be different. One suggestion to Too Fat Lardies: if you ever reprint the rules, change the diagrams for this section to show terrain on the table instead of a just a big blank green table. Working the patrol counters with the terrain is a very big part of this and I didn't appreciate how cool it would be until I did it on a real table with real terrain!

And then it was on with the game. I made both forces equal in quality and morale, so it was a die roll to get the first phase and Eric won. I was glad of this, because the last thing I wanted was for me to move first, roll a lot of 6s, and get the initiative for three phases running and overrun the village before Eric could even get any troops on the table! Not likely to happen, of course, but I've seen stranger things happen in games. I have to wonder how often a string of weird die-rolls at the start of a game wrecks the whole thing. I could certainly see it happening.

In our game, we rolled very few 6s for the early parts of the game, so we alternated the initiative in the phases for quite a while. But Eric rolled a lot of 1,2,3, & 4s and got his troops on the table very quickly. My rolls included a lot of 5s and I earned a Chain of Command die pretty fast and a second one before the game ended. Unfortunately, that meant I was a long time getting my troops deployed. (And I never figured out a good way to use the Chain of Command dice—inexperience I'm sure.)


And this is the major difference between CoC and Bolt Action: the activation system. With Bolt Action you have a command die for each unit. They all go in a bag and you pull them out one at a time. Whichever player's die gets drawn gets to move one of his units (or several if he activates an officer). The order the dice come out is random, so one player or the other might get a number of moves in a row. The random order creates a challenge in making plans since the enemy might get to do something in between your moves which will wreck you plans. But no matter what the order of the dice, each and every one of the units will get to be activated each turn.

Not so with CoC! Each player gets a phase where he rolls his command dice and depending on the results he will get to deploy or activate some of his units. It's VERY unlikely that he will get to activate all of them each phase. Making use of your senior leaders is vital to pulling off any sort of coordinated activity. And preparation and planning are key.

I got too ambitious early on in the game and tried to launch attacks before I had all my forces on the table and in position. I had more men and more firepower and if I could have brought it all to bear I might have been able to overwhelm Eric. But instead, I tried to grab apparent opportunities with unsupported attacks and paid the price.

Early on I deployed a squad near my right flank jump-off point in hopes I could rush forward and grab one of the houses. But before I could, Eric got a squad in there and I was caught out on the open and shredded. My troops ‘went tactical' in the wheat field and while that gave them hard cover, I couldn't get any help to them and they ended up having to pull back after losing half their men.




In the center I deployed my mortar and LMG before I had any infantry support.


They did some damage, but Eric was free to concentrate his fire on the LMG and eventually took it out. My other squads and the M-10 finally got on the table, but again I committed them piecemeal and they got hurt and accomplished little. Eric skillfully put his troops in positions where they could cover approaches with heavy fire and positioned his senior leaders to control them all.




Eventually I had been whittled down enough that he started pushing troops forward to counterattack. At that point I decided to withdraw.

The game was fun and I thought very realistic. The actual mechanics of combat and morale aren't all that different from Bolt Action, but the activation system gives the game an entirely different feel which to me seemed to capture the flavor of WWII combat much better than BA. We both had fun and will definitely play again.

However, it must be noted that CoC is NOT a 'beer & pretzels game'. It is more work and not nearly as fast to play as BA. You need to be prepared to spend a number turns (phases) just getting your troops on the table and in positions to do something. One game group I belong to, which plays a lot of BA, would never put up with it, I'm sure.

VVV reply08 Oct 2017 5:30 a.m. PST

A good report. I think you have covered the Chain of Command system nicely. One point to note, you earn a Chain of Command die, for every six rolls of '5' on the Command dice (which are just normal dice).
I like the table layout as well.

thosmoss08 Oct 2017 5:45 a.m. PST

Now that you've stepped through your first game, you can start to grapple with the bigger issues. One that we try to get our heads around continually: just because you have a lot of troops, do you really want to get them on the table as quickly as you can?

RC wrote an article called "Infantry Training for Chain of Command". I know he lumped his multi-part discussion into a pdf, but I haven't found it this morning. But part 1 is here:

Andy ONeill08 Oct 2017 5:48 a.m. PST

Good work.

If extreme rolls ruin a game then you could reset and start again.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP08 Oct 2017 6:30 a.m. PST

VVV: Yes, I rolled a lot of 5s! :)

Thosmoss, yes, I can see advantages to keeping forces in reserve. But if you are going to attack, you need a superiority at the point of the attack and I failed to do that and got burned.

FusilierDan Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2017 8:09 a.m. PST

Great AAR and a nice looking table.

Bravo Two Zero08 Oct 2017 9:00 a.m. PST

I really enjoyed this AAR. i am in the same boat as you in that I am playing first game by myself(have 5 year old daughter as a helper).

I watch youtubes from the lardies to help but what you presented here was very good. we are using what we have so soviets are decked out. we use what we have for Germans. this was inspirational. we intended to play his weekend but I am under the weather and we delayed as she was ill last weekend.

she advised me we need more trees from looking at you table which is stunning. than you for sharing and for what it was worth she had me read it all too her.

Keep up the good work!

JH and jessa h

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2017 11:39 a.m. PST

I noticed one thing about Chain of Command vs other games. Players either get it, or they don't.

The usual complaints are :

1) Troops "teleport" into the field. No the jump off points are the closest you can get troops to the action before they are "in range" This is due to the common understanding that troops must by definition "enter the table" which in itself is arbitrary.

2) Players tend to try to shoot their way out of most situations. Bogging yourself down in firefights is a very bad idea because firefights tend to be exchanges, while you kill some of the enemy, they end up killing some of your men. Shooting is an important tactic of the game, but it's all about finding a way to maximize your firepower and attack at the right time.

3) The order dice. The friction of not being able to move all your units and have them all perform an action can frustrate some players.

4) Variable movement, lack of army lists to exploit to the max etc are also factors that puts off players.

But if you understand the concept of the game and have a basic understanding of WWII small unit tactics you realize that CoC is about actual small unit combat.

tinned fruit Supporting Member of TMP08 Oct 2017 11:50 a.m. PST

Great write up and sounds like you had a great time.

BobGrognard08 Oct 2017 12:13 p.m. PST

It's a very sophisticated game. Lots of command decisions to be made at all stages. When to deploy, when to keep a reserve. When to probe forwards carefully with scouts, when to rush in with the bayonet. We like the challenge of the patrol phase and the fact that it gets you straight to the point of contact. Then the decisions really begin.

Some people prefer to play a very simple game and they often confuse the decision making challenges of CoC with complication. However the subtlety of the system makes it endlessly replayable. I know that I have heard the difference being comparing chequers to chess.

Neal Smith08 Oct 2017 9:37 p.m. PST

+1 BobGrognard

Glad you have gotten a chance to play Scott!

jdginaz09 Oct 2017 1:55 a.m. PST

Nice table and a good AAR.

use of your Chain of Command dies can give you a big effect on the game. The problem usually is that you never have as many as you want. when defending the ambush option be used with your tank hunter teams surprise enemy armor or used with a MMG team can shoot up a enemy squad that has been a little too aggressive.

Like in the game we played Saturday it was a two on one attack and defend game. Soviet SMG squad defending a built up area and two volksgrenadier assaultgun platoons attacking. Playing one of the German platoons I got a couple of double turns fairly early in the game and was able quickly to rush a squad forward into a flanking position on one of the Soviet players Jump Off Points with another a lagging somewhat behind. After making what I thought was a fairly clever move the Soviet player then played CoC die dropped down a flamethower team behind a stone wall near the JOP and let loose on my forward squad kept it on the table (you have the choice to leave the ambushing unit on the table or pulling off after firing) and hit my squad again during his phase, reducing my squad to few survivors running for the rear.

Other good uses for the CoC die are to avoid take a moral check when thing are getting critical and to move up a jop, really useful when attacking.

You can find the "Tactical Primer" here

TacticalPainter0109 Oct 2017 3:47 a.m. PST

As others have said, you don't have to rush all your units onto the table. All your units start hidden, that's a good thing, it means your opponent is unclear of your intentions. Try to keep him guessing while probing to find where his units are. You want to deploy where you can have the upper hand – where you can bring more fire to bear, or perhaps where you can outflank him.

As the defender I find it really spooks my opponent when I roll my command dice, look at them, look at the table and then hand him the dice without deploying anything. It can pay dividends to bide your time, hold your fire and choose your moment.

It's not how quickly you can get on the table, it's about how quickly you force him off it!

GoodOldRebel Inactive Member09 Oct 2017 2:36 p.m. PST

"As the defender I find it really spooks my opponent when I roll my command dice, look at them, look at the table and then hand him the dice without deploying anything. It can pay dividends to bide your time, hold your fire and choose your moment".

TacticalPanter01….my regular opponent as done this to me several times and yes I most heartily concur it is extremely unnerving!

genew49 Supporting Member of TMP09 Oct 2017 11:14 p.m. PST

Glad you enjoyed your first game of CoC. There will be a number of TFL games at Fall In. Thanks for the AAR and it was great to see your buildings "in action".

donlowry11 Oct 2017 1:46 p.m. PST

If extreme rolls ruin a game then you could reset and start again.

If you aren't going to abide by the results of your die rolls, why have them?

tyroflyer211 Oct 2017 4:33 p.m. PST

Don, I might be misinterpreting Andy's comment but I think he was suggesting if the die rolls bring the game to an early conclusion you have time for another one rather than not abiding by the result. As I say, could be wrong.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Oct 2017 4:18 a.m. PST

I think that is what he meant, too. He was responding to my musings about a string of early die rolls which mess up a scenario. For example, in my game here, if I had moved first and gotten a string of double 6s which gave me the initiative phase after phase I could have deployed some troops, marched them forward to seize the objective and capture the enemy jump-off points before my opponent even got any troops on the table. Not a likely thing to happen, but not impossible. In such a case, yes, we'd reset and do it again :)

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