So we’re back after a summer break from blogging (and gaming as well – not a lot of that done with the best summer weather we’ve had in years). Our first game of the new season had to be “Chain of Command” really – ever since I saw the demo at Salute I’ve been biding my time until the rules arrived, and with splendid timing they arrived just before the Bank Holiday weekend. I had to paint up the resin “jump-off points” which come with the rules in a hurry, but once that was done we were all ready to go.
The rules are different from a lot of Lardy games, in that the normal moving with blinds to simulate the fog of war has gone and is replaced with a Patrol phase, where players jostle with each other to position their jump-off points (remember the resin markers?) from where their troops will enter the fray. This is a critical phase of the game and, as we saw at Salute, the game can be won or lost in this phase. We played a standard attack / defence game with me defending as the Germans – in the patrol phase I had to concentrate on moving my patrol markers around so as I could place my jump-off points to control the road and the farm – unfortunately this allowed Tom as the British to manoeuvre on the flanks and get a jump-off point fairly far forward on each flank to give himself some options. His vehicles would come on at the board edge on the road.
For this first game we had a standard regular platoon each – the British took an extra PIAT, a Dingo and a Humber Mk IV while I had a 222 armoured car. Typically, I rolled low for force morale giving me 8 and the British rolled high giving them 11. The morale of a force is what determines how effective they are – the higher it is means the more able the force is to absorb losses without impacting effectiveness – when it goes under 5 due to losses and/or units breaking then (as the rules put it) “bad things happen”. When it goes to zero, it’s game over.
A turn consists of a number of phases, with each side rolling a number of command dice (5 each in this case as we were were both regular troops), and using the numbers rolled to perform various actions with squads or leaders. The first thing a squad must do to get into action is to deploy on the table within a certain distance of any jump-off point – if they do this on a ‘2’ dice, then they can only fire when they move onto the table, but if they do it under a ‘3’ dice, this allows their squad leader to place them on overwatch or seek better cover (“go tactical”) as part of the entry move. A ‘4’ dice allows a senior leader (platoon sergeant or officer) to be activated. The Germans have a built-in disadvantage here, as they only have 1 senior leader in a standard platoon, whereas the British have 2. If you have all your senior leaders on the table, then it becomes harder to deploy your remaining troops, only succeeding on a 4,5 or 6 for each squad in a turn – as the Germans, I would not be deploying my senior leader onto the table until most if not all of my squads were on there. Each roll of ‘5’ allows you to accumulate “Chain of Command” points (when you get to 6 you can do a special action such as ambush or end the turn) and rolls of ‘6’ are only useful when there are more than a single one rolled – 2 x ‘6’ rolls allow you to have another phase immediately after this one (thus putting your opponent at a disadvantage), while 3 x ‘6’ rolls end the turn after this phase. Various things happen at turn end, such as smoke disappearing, broken units vanishing if they haven’t been rallied and jump-off points being lost if they have been overrun and not re-captured – the last 2 being bad news for your force morale of course!
As the force with the best morale, the British were up first and managed to combine 2 dice of ‘1’ & ‘2’ to make a ‘3’ (this is allowed) to deploy a section on their right flank – they also brought on their platoon sergeant on a ‘4’ and the Daimler scout car with the remaining ‘3’. The ‘6’ rolled meant that it would be the German turn next. The Germans rolled 2 x ‘5’ straight away (good for the Chain of Command points) and a ‘3’ was used to bring on a full squad in the centre around the farmhouse. The British sergeant then ordered the rifles led by the team corporal over the hedge – they rolled badly for movement and didn’t get far, but at least they were “tactical” and making the best use of cover, which allows them to roll as if they were in a better level of cover when shot at. Meanwhile the bren team went on overwatch while the Daimler advanced up the road and the Humber deployed.
The Germans put in a full squad opposite the advancing British squad and immediately opened fire. With all guns blazing, 4 points of shock were inflicted and they managed to wing the junior leader – he went down unable to move for the rest of the game. The Bren and Sten on overwatch responded, though they didn’t kill anyone, they put 5 points of shock on the Germans – ouch! A German LMG opened fire on the Daimler, but with no effect. In the British turn, the Sergeant rallied 3 points of shock off the rifles in the field and the Bren opened up again, causing 1 casualty and 3 more shock – the Jerry squad were nearly pinned and could not take much more of this. I chose this point to roll 3 x ‘2’ and no ‘3’ so couldn’t activate (or combine to activate) the squad corporal to rally off some shock – some ineffectual fire against the British was easily rallied off whilst the Bren kept pounding the Germans. After another turn without rallying the squad broke (shock twice the number of remaining figures) and ran back to the small group of trees, losing me 2 morale in the process. On my turn I had to bring on my senior leader to rally the broken squad, but only after deploying my final squad on my right flank hoping for a shot with the squad Panzerfaust at one of the armoured cars.
On the road, things were going better for the Germans. The exchange between the Dingo and the LMG was ineffectual, however a Panzerfaust took out the Dingo causing it to explode, while the 222 deployed, fired and damaged the Humber’s gunsight along with shocking the crew. The British started to move across the field towards my jump-off point which had been left exposed by the broken squad and deployed 2 more sections to face off against my other 2 squads. I picked that moment to roll 2 x ‘6’, so got 2 turns in a row – my senior leader rallied shock off the broken squad, whilst my squad on the right made mincemeat of the newly deployed British section, though it was all kills and no shock. The 222 moved up the road to get a flank shot at the centre British section on the road, but fluffed the roll, only causing 1 shock!
I was now faced with a dilemma – the British were 4″ from a jump-off point of mine, the only squad near it was the broken one (which was now merely pinned, but still useless) and I had enough Chain of Command points to end the turn. This would remove the pin and stop an immediate morale drop from the loss of the jump-off point, but the British would move first in the next turn and they had enough Chain of Command points to end the turn immediately. I decided to withdraw at that point, as things could only get worse with another jump-off point of mine in the sights of the advancing British and my 222 presenting the Humber with a flank shot.
We thoroughly enjoyed the game – even though we jumped straight in with vehicles it still flowed smoothly. From reading other battle reports, it was unusual that we only played 1 turn (but with a lot of phases!), so we didn’t get to run through the turn end sequence. There’s still a lot to try out – snipers, smoke, artillery, tanks etc, so it’s a bit soon to say that these will definitely become our WW2 platoon rules of choice, but it is looking that way…highly recommended.
Some more shots of the game:-