Big Chain of Command: Punch by Wünsche

This is a battle report of our second Big Chain of Command game. 6 players, 3 infantry platoons, two tank platoons, armoured recon and a thousand elephants!

Well, almost.

The scenario is the epilogue to Annatar’s and Slowik’s Operation Martlet campaign, one of TFL’s ‘pint-sized’ campaign supplements for Chain of Command. This one deals with the struggle between 49th Infantry Division and 12. SS-Panzerdivision for a few villages to the West of Caen in June 1944. The British division, supported by tanks of the 24th Lancers and the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry, was to break through between the 12. SS-Panzerdivision and Panzer Lehr Division in a three steps plan to take the hills west of Caen and thus support the encirclement of the city in Operation Epsom.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Our scenario deals with a counter-attack at Fontenay-Le-Pesnel. Max Wünsches Panzer detachment and armoured recon units of the 12. SS-Panzerdivision meet with units of the 11th Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Hallamshire Battalion and a platoon of Sherman tanks of the 24th Lancers. Remainders of the 26.SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment are at the scene already and will support the counter-attack.

Annatar prepared the scneario for us. Here you can see the area we aimed to recreate…

ww2 chain of command skirmish

..and this is what it looks like in a diagram:

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Each of the squares is 30x30cm (= ca. 1 by 1ft.), so the table was 240x180cm (= 6 by 8ft.).

Setup

We met at 4 in the afternoon to set up.

ww2 chain of command skirmish
ww2 chain of command skirmish

That took us about 1.5 hours. Again, a great looking table, not the least due to the heaps of little details Annatar brought along to liven up the table.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Vegetable patches, wells, clotheslines, …

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…several outhouses, a tractor, …

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…a whole graveyard (along with Virago’s church and walls)…

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…a pig sty, ‘sleeping’ cows, shot up guns and tanks from earlier fightin’, …

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…more wells, more veggie gardens, …

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…and of course the ever popular references to other players. Here’s Virago’s dog house. Slowik stood in the back of the table on a field, shoo’ing off the crows.

ww2 chain of command skirmish
ww2 chain of command skirmish
German Jump-off Points

Good stuff.

Scenario and Game

Now to the game itself. We had everything set up, the rest of the players had appeared and forces were allocated.

British

ww2 chain of command skirmish
Infantry of the York and Lancaster Regiment in the village of Fontenay-le-Pesnel, Normandy, 25 June 1944. B 5942 Part of WAR OFFICE SECOND WORLD WAR OFFICIAL COLLECTION No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit Handford (Lt)

Virago (British Commander):

British Rifle Platoon

1 Lieutenant (Senior Leader)

1 Platoon Sergeant (Senior Leader)

2″ Mortar Team

PIAT-Team

3 Infantry Sections, each:  1 NCO (junior leader), 1 Rifle Team of 6 men and 1 Bren Team of 3 men

Tùrin:

British Rifle Platoon

1 Lieutenant (Senior Leader)

1 Platoon Sergeant (Senior Leader)

2″ Mortar Team

PIAT-Team

3 Infantry Sections, each:  1 NCO (junior leader), 1 Rifle Team of 6 men and 1 Bren Team of 3 men

Both Rifle Platoons shared the following Support:

  • Adjutant (helping to get units on the table even though your Senior Leaders are all on the table)
  • Fortifications for one team (noted down in secret and deployed along with the team)
  • Vickers MMG Team
  • Forward Observer with a 3″ mortar battery on hold
  • 2x 6pdr Anti-Tank Guns

Klaudius (Reserve, deployed along either of the roads from turn#2):

M4 Sherman (Senior Leader), M4 Sherman (Junior Leader), M4 Sherman (Junior Leader), Sherman Firefly (Junior Leader)

Germans
ww2 chain of command skirmish

Counter-Attack Force

Annatar (German Commander, deploys along the road):

Panther Ausf.A (Senior Leader), Panther Ausf.A (Junior Leader)

SdKfz250 with MG42, 2 Crew, Team of Junior Leader, 3 men with MG42, SdKfz250 with MG42, 2 Crew, Team of Junior Leader, 3 men with MG42

Slowik (deploys on the left flank):

Panther Ausf.A (Senior Leader), Panther Ausf.A (Junior Leader)

SdKfz250 with MG42, 2 Crew, Team of Junior Leader, 3 men with MG42, SdKfz250 with MG42, 2 Crew, Team of Junior Leader, 3 men with MG42

12.SS Panzergrenadiers

Sigur (deploying via Jump-Off Points):

Panzergrenadier Platoon

Senior Leader

2 Panzergrenadier Squads: 1 Junior Leader, two MG42-Teams of 3

Support:

  • Adjutant
  • Fortifications for two Teams
  • Medical Orderly
  • Pre-Game Bombardment
  • Forward Observer with 8cm Mortar Battery on hold

Just like in the previous game each player kept track of their Force Morale values in secret. Highly recommended. Some may feel the need for an umpire when using rules like this as long as you don’t play with scoundrels, scamps and rotters it will work just fine. Force Morale is a central element to Chain of Command. At the beginning of the game you roll for your platoon’s Force Morale, resulting in a value between 8 and 11. Whenever ‘Bad Things’ happen (a leader is wounded/routing/killed, a team or squad is forced to retreat, a Jump-Off Point or objective is lost, …) you roll for possible deductions from your Force Morale. Most scenarios will be won or lost based on reducing the opposing side’s Force Morale. If Force Morale gets too low you will lose activations and generally your platoon ‘freezes’ and then will sooner or later be forced to retire.

After the Patrol Phase Jump-Off Points were placed and sectors allocated to the players:

ww2 chain of command skirmish
ww2 chain of command skirmish

Virago’s rifle platoon sat at our left flank. His Jump-Off Points (turquoise) were set up almost exactly behind each other – one way forward behind a building, the other one back across the main road in the woods.

Tùrin’s rifle platoon was at the other side of the frontline in the built up area. A second Jump-Off Point had been placed outside of the village centre.

Klaudius’ Sherman Platoon was in reserve. Virago’s Senior Leader was to establish radio contact first, then, on the following turn, Klaudius’ tanks would start showing up. Which is a cool ruling, because in Chain of Command a “turn” is a variable entity. End of Turn is more like a random event happening. Meaning you never know exactly when the reserves finally arrive. As usual for vehicles in Chain of Command, the tanks will show up along the two roads on the British table edge.

Annatar, as commander of the Germans, had the honour of attacking the built up area directly.

Slowik’s attack force was to approach through the orchard.

My Panzergrenadiers were at the scene already and would use the Jump-Off Points as usual.

Being the attackers we got the first phase.

ww2 chain of command skirmish
Virago (in the back, with a measuring tape to indicate rank) discusses the situation with Tùrin (in the suit) and Klaudius (in blue). Annatar (far right) is confident of his Panthers while Slowik (far left) dives for his command tank.
ww2 chain of command skirmish

Annatar immediately brought both his Panthers and his two SdKfz250 on the table to take the village in a coup de main.

In doing so they passed the building which would become the fate of my Panzergrenadiers.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

The Jump-Off Point being depicted by a medic’s vehicle along with crew already was an omen for things to come. Dangerously close to it: One of Annatar’s SdKfz250.

Slowik at our left flank took it a bit more cautiously and only brought one Panther and one SdKfz250…

ww2 chain of command skirmish

…but those two immediately raced forward through orchards, cows and walls to deny Virago’s forward Jump-Off Point.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

By the pre-game bombardment Virago’s riflemen had been forced to keep their heads down and couldn’t deploy to defend the Jump-Off Point.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

All he could do was have the 2″ mortar set up from the Jump-Off Point to the back and start lobbing smoke grenades in front of the Panther and somehow keep it from getting any further. He also radio’d Klaudius’ tank platoon to support them asap.

At the right flank Annatar’s tanks proceeded equally enthusiastic, but in good order.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Battlefield morale is a funny thing. Even though it’s just 15mm models – these two Panthers driving towards the village looked so impressive to me that I deployed one of my two understrength Panzergrenadier Squads to support them. I mean these tanks looked invincible! We had to exploit the fact that the Brits had a tough time deploying due to the bombardment and tanks need support in built up areas, right?

ww2 chain of command skirmish

I deployed my first squad to flank enemy positions revealed by the tanks.

So far the British troops hadn’t given away anything, but as the tanks closed in, Tùrin’s well placed (and fortified) 6pdr anti tank gun opened fire down the road.

ww2 chain of command skirmish
The gun was even directed by a senior leader (in the left)
ww2 chain of command skirmish

Just like in training, the Panthers left the road to the left and right to be less exposed and don’t stand in each other’s way.

A nerve-tearing duel between the two Panthers and the 6pdr gun emerged. The Scottish gun crew took a lot of fire, but they kept their nerve (not the least due to the officer bellowing at them) and returned fire again and again.

My assault squad attempted to get in the flank of the gun, dreaming of taking them out and earning heaps of medals. The dream was cut short by a section of british riflemen revealing their position in the large corner house, killing one of the Panzergrenadiers and forcing the rest of the team to take cover behind a wall where they stayed put due to overwatch fire. Even worse off was the other team who didn’t even make it over the road before they took serious fire. Only by sheer luck they made it back behind a shed, but with loads of shock points, reduced to two guys and separated from their leader and the other team they wouldn’t be able to do much.

Our attack on the right side had ground to a halt.

ww2 chain of command skirmish
British Schadenfreude

While firefights broke out at the right flank Slowik’s left flank also saw some action: The bad news were that Klaudius’ Sherman platoon had started showing up. The good news were that Slowik’s second Panther had swiftly shot up the command Sherman.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

This was the second success for Slowik’s attack in a row. Celebratory dances were cut short when the 6pdr gun in the village managed to blow up Annatar’s command Panther.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Very unfortunate. The second Panther stayed put, determined to silent zis puny gun once and for oll!

In the mean time I had deployed my second Panzergrenadiers squad in the grey house further back who engaged in a firefight with the riflemen in the corner house. And it didn’t go all that well. The dice must have been jinxed with ancient druid magic!

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Or maybe it was the weird mascot they had brought up with them to the first floor? Either way, despite the awesome firepower of the Panzergrenadiers’ MGs the British fire was much more effective. I brought my senior leader (to rally the men) and the forward observers into the game at the first floor of my grey house as well.

Virago had been put under severe pressure by Slowik’s armoured advance, so he deployed his 6pdr gun as well as two infantry sections and a senior leader to form a good old gun line along the main road.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Klaudius’ remaining Sherman moved behind a house to flank the Panther should it proceed (because this is how you get Panthers).

The cat deterrent worked and Slowik turned his forces to the East to support our attack and drive a wedge between Virago’s and Tùrin’s platoons.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

After a short back and forth with the 6pdr gun Slowik’s second Panther followed suit:

ww2 chain of command skirmish

My Forward Artillery Observers finally had made contact with the mortar battery. Virago’s gun line was an attractive target. Time was tight, so no need for ranging shots or any such nonsense, just pour down on ’em!

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Nobody really is to blame for what followed. The mortar crews were just a bit off, the forward observers had been under fire while giving the coordinates, there was pretty strong wind too on the day I hear… either way, the mortar barrage hit the church. And the graveyard. Badly. And nothing else really. Right bang in the middle between the British lines and the Panther. You know, with some historical formations it’s just impossible to get good PR.

Later on I managed to direct the mortar barrage into the British lines, catching the 6pdr gun, an infantry section and the mortar team. Also, it blocked LOS of a huge chunk of Virago’s flank and I had amassed enough Chain of Command points to keep the barrage going for the rest of the game. Thus Slowik’s flank was pretty much safe and he was able to turn his attention to the built up area.

And it was high time for it too, because Turin’s 6pdr gun again struck home and blew up Annatar’s second Panther.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

After the initial shock the armoured recon moved up to keep up the pressure:

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Yet another shock – Klaudius had another Sherman driving straight through a barn door for dramatic effect!

ww2 chain of command skirmish

The beast drove up a bit and opened fire at my poor, battered Panzergrenadiers in the grey house!

ww2 chain of command skirmish

An overview:

ww2 chain of command skirmish

My Panzergrenadiers still kept up the fight, but despite outgunning the opposition (well, until the appearance of the Sherman), they were outshot. The Junior leader had been wounded and killed in short succession, the forward observers had survived two hits by sheer luck and the existence of the two MG teams was hanging by a thread. The senior leader had to run down to the ground level to calm down the MG team there. When he returned upstairs the MG team there was gone! I immediately deployed the MMG team to replace them.

However, this opened up opportunity for my pinned down Panzergrenadiers team way forward behind the wall – they lobbed a smoke grenade across, blocking LOS of the tank! Hooray!

In the mean time Slowik’s armoured recon teams drove towards the village centre. On their way they first got out of their vehicle to turn down Tùrin’s other Jump-Off Point. An unlucky 2″ mortar team sitting nearby got close assaulted by the Panzergrenadiers and were taken down in short and bloody mêlée.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

After that was done they proceeded into one of the buildings, spelling trouble for the 6pdr gun. The other SdKfz250 drove up to support them at full speed, the Panther right after them.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Tùrin immediately had the PIAT team summoned to the corner house…

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Due to the way PIAT launchers work (as opposed to Bazookas or Panzerschrecks) they may be fired from within a building without everybody inside turning all crispy.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

The recon vehicle was hit and blew up, just like the passengers.

However, the Panther found a very good position to open fire at the Sherman in the square and lit it up!

ww2 chain of command skirmish
ww2 chain of command skirmish

That was too much for the stalwart defenders. Tùrin’s platoon’s morale collapsed and they gave up positions. With just one of Klaudius’ Shermans and circa half of Virago’s platoon left to defend Fontenay against Slovik’s troop, Annatars’s armoured recon and just over half of my Panzergrenadiers the game was ended as a German victory.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Debriefing

What a game! In my opinion it had all the things going for it that make a game work: Annatar’s preparation (he also supplied all the figures for the German side. I do have lots of Panzergrenadiers painted, but not SS Panzergrenadiers), the terrain (Virago had taken the time and had made a ton of wall segments the night before), the miniatures, the players, the rules set and the house rules. Mainly the secret Force Morale values of course.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

A 6 players game leads to some interesting things: Due to the fact that in Chain of Command players are pretty much always involved in what’s happening I got very little of what happened in Slowik’s front sector. I only glanced over there from time to time and to take photos of course. But the detail of what’s happening or where’s what exactly over there you never quite get. Which is all very fitting and adds to the immersion of the game. Another thing is that due to several players your own game gets quicker because you don’t want others waiting for you. This leads to people not considering every little option, not measuring every tiny little thing all the time and the game goes a bit faster. Of course sometimes you forget you wanted to do this little thing or that, but this is what happens in battle as soon as the shooting starts.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

On top of that the game had everything Chain of Command has to offer: Vehicles (transports as well as combat vehicles), vehicle on vehicle combat, vehicles against infantry, anti tank guns, close combat, wounded officers, morale effects and in the end even a random event (which are rare). Due to a bit of debris from Slowik’s blown up SdKfz250,  a missed PIAT round or simply the summer sun the shed with the tractor in it erupted in flames and huge amounts of smoke!

It was very interesting to see APCs in action. These usually don’t get much use in Chain of Command as games take place at rather short distances at which troops usually already disembarked. On larger tables such as the one we were playing on it really helps a great deal for getting teams from point A to point B fast. It was also the first time I’d seen the pre-game bombardment which, such as in this instance, can work really well. In others it may do nothing. Here, Virago had great problems getting his platoon on the table early on and I think Tùrin also had some trouble with the first or second deployment roll. Surely worth considering if you’re in a situation which requires you to attack swiftly.

ww2 chain of command skirmish

This game also illustrated very well why we prefer to play with 15mm figures. It just looks right at this scale. Distances make sense. Imagine us having to do this in 28mm. The buildings alone would take an immense investment and we would have needed a table much larger.

Anyway, great multiplayer game. Thanks to everybody involved, especially to Annatar. This game almost made up for me once again not attending Crisis. 😉

ww2 chain of command skirmish

Thanks for reading this battle report. I hope that you found it interesting and entertaining. If you have questions or other messages, please use the comments section below or get in touch via the Tabletop Stories Facebook page, Battle Brush Studios, the Battle Brush Studios Facebook page or via e-mail!

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