Chain of Command: Going Solo Pt.1

By now you’re probably familiar with my Chain of Command gaming. About twice a year, in 15mm, usually with Virago. Now something happened to break this behavior.

Andreas of Tabletop Wien West invited me to demo Chain of Command to his Bolt Action group. Me, being Lard Within, Lard Without(tm) of course was on board. Which made me realize that I better brush up on my rules knowledge.

On top of that the BA guys are used to playing with 28mm figures, which I was not. However, I do own a collection of 28mm Germans (Warlord Plastics) and Russians (mostly Black Tree Design), so I decided to get a solo game done with my collections. My 28mm WW2 figures very rarely get our anyway, which is a shame, because I really like them. Especially my Russians, because I love the BTD ranges.

chain of command skirmish

So I swiftly set up a table with my limited means. To illustrate the limits of my 28mm WW2 terrain, compare this table to the one from my Last Days battle report. 😀

As far as solo playing rules go – I didn’t apply any. Just playing both sides. This was to refresh my memory on the core rules after all.

The Scenario

chain of command skirmish

I just went with the first scenario from the Chain of Command rulebook, the patrol. Two infantry platoons meeting in no-man’s land, each of them driving off the other.

The background is that there seems to be that remote warehouse full of nice supply stuff which probably should have been evacuated, but the deal was never done. In the bottom you can see a truck stuck in a swampy area. Scouts of either side discovered the site, now everybody wants the supplies for themselves.

The Patrol Phase

…went uneventful. I guess I should play about a billion patrol phases to “get it”, because this unique part of Chain of Command is so much more than a fun gimmick. I lost games based on the patrol phase alone. Many people who are more experienced in the patrol phase have written clever treatises about it. Also check out Richard Clarke’s and The Tactical Painter’s thoughts on the subject.

Essentially it very much streamlines the first few turns of a game in which both sides move around without really interacting directly and try to outmaneuver each other.

So after some moving around (one of the funny things which happened was that the Germans at one point turned two Soviet patrol markers which I had put onto one another for extra flexibility in subsequent moves. Oops.) the situation looks as thus:

chain of command skirmish

The red table edge is the Germans’, Blue is the Russians’. Jump-Off Points are clearly indicated. As you can see, the Germans got way closer to the central depot, with a Jump-Off Point right behind the board wall. The Russian Jump-Off Points are sitting more to the flanks.

Force Morale is 10 on the German side, 8 on the Russians’.

The Forces

The Germans are running a regular Heer platoon from the CoC rulebook with three points of support which they invest into a Panzerschreck team on top of the squad-integral one, and the ever-useful Adjutant (not pictured, obviously):

chain of command skirmish

On the other side we got the Russian rifle platoon. Due to quite a difference in platoon force rating they are able to get a T34/76 to come along.

chain of command skirmish

The Game

…starts with the Russians deploying an infantry squad to move into the orchard. The plan is to move up, go into overwatch and either pressure the Germans into deploying on their right flank or run the risk of losing that flank early on.

chain of command skirmish

You see, the problem for the Russians is that their right flank is behind that swampy terrain, which is not just open to fire, and annoying to maneuver in. So they either have to go right to the centre or way left. I choose the latter.

The plan works up until the point at which the Soviet squad is supposed to advance into firing positions at the edge of the orchard. Barely half of them make it that far in their phase and there’s no time to put them into overwatch.

So the Germany deploy and fire away.

chain of command skirmish

The Soviet squad takes two shock and a casualty and retires back into the orchard. 1-on-1 firefights with Germans are no fun. The Germans stay put and go into overwach.

chain of command skirmish

A second Soviet squad deploys and got two choices – push through the open and towards the German squad to throw them out, or, with the first Soviet squad sitting in the orchard and being a nuisance, driving on to the centre to take the depot. In the end I choose the latter.

chain of command skirmish

The Germans – as if their commander could read the Russian commander’s mind – deploy another squad right into the depot. Here they are, scurrying to take position.

chain of command skirmish

Here’s an overview:

chain of command skirmish

Russian Squad A throw a smoke grenade to cover Squad B’s dash into the depot area (there’s still German Squad 1 on overwatch after all). By that point in time German Squad 2 is in position and awaits Squad B.

Space is somewhat cramped, and the Germans can quickly feed more troops into the compound (see the Jump-Off Point in the lower right in the photo above). A prolonged firefight is uncool as well, so it’s time to introduce a difference-maker.

chain of command skirmish

…and when it comes to making a difference on the Eastern front it’s hard to beat the T34.

The vehicle moves up, in the dense terrain and opens fire at the Germans on Overwatch. Not too effective due to firing through smoke.

Meanwhile things are heating up in the supply depot. Russian squad B takes quite a battering (including their NCO getting wounded). However, the German MG team also takes a beating and is close to being pinned. Obergefreiter Gierig is a bit hasty and sent the rifle team to flank the enemy.

chain of command skirmish

The Russians exploit this error and spend a Chain of Command die to move their centre Jump-Off Point to the back of the squad in the depot and deploy Russian Squad C to relief battered Squad B.

The T34 moves down the dirt path to get a killing shot in at the German LMG team in the depot. The Germans spend a Chain of Command die to call in an Ambush.

chain of command skirmish

As out-of-nowhere as a rattlesnake a Panzerschreck team appears and do their thing.

chain of command skirmish

A big hit to the Russian morale.

The Germans deploy Squad 3 into the depot, along with their officer who takes care of any shock problems on the LMG team.

chain of command skirmish

Seeing how the situation within the compound is very, very tough to crack now the Russian lieutenant has his boys pop a smoke grenade to cover their retreat and leads squad B out behind the tank wreck.

At this point I decided to call it a night. German Force morale: 10, Russian Force Morale: 6

Debriefing

Technically the game could have become interesting again now if the Germans had to come out to finish the job and if the Russians managed to set up position again. However, they had taken more casualties than the Germans, and their force morale wasn’t too well either.

On the other hand, the German support has been nullified as well after the tank blew up (to put a very positive spin on that event from the Russian perspective).

Still, in a campaign game I would have withdrawn with the Russians at that point. It’s a German victory.

I don’t play “late war” that often. I don’t use AFVs that often. That Panzerschreck is one scary weapon.

chain of command skirmish
Raketenpanzerbüchse 54 “Panzerschreck”, Bundesarchiv (source: Wikipedia)

Main reason I went for the T34 is because I got a nice model by Die Waffenkammer which I’d never used before, and it was a good way to brush up on the vehicle combat rules.

It’s just not a good idea to put all one’s support eggs into one basket, no matter how well-sloped its sides. But that’s one of the cool things about Chain of Command – it’s often preferable to use the ‘small things’ over a big tank. All those 1944 man-portable anti-tank weapons can really ruin their day.

When it comes to playing I was kinda happy with how I did somewhat sensible things with the Chain of Command dice. Moving a Jump-Off Point can make a world’s difference. Same with ambushes, of course.

chain of command skirmish

Anyway, good way to get back into the rules and get used to the look of 28mm. Hope you enjoyed this battle report! Let me know what I’ve done wrong in the comments. 😉

4 thoughts on “Chain of Command: Going Solo Pt.1

  1. Good report. Tanks can be very useful in CoC, but they can also be a liability. Given the scale of a CoC table – 240yds by 160yds – they have unlimited range, so best to keep them further back to limit the opportunity for nasty surprises like Panzerschrecks. Thanks for the mention too.

    1. Yeah, with the terrain being as dense as it was and given how I got myself into a pickle in the centre I felt like I had to get the tank in there. Of course I probably also in part fell for ‘tank hubris’ (the other side of the ‘tank fright’ medal 😉 ). On second thought I probably should have taken the wide flank move rather than getting right in there. Keeping them back is a good suggestion to keep them safe from ambushes.

  2. Beautiful table and mini’s!

    I really need to get my eastern front table paint up. I’ll definitely be doing some fences like yours.

    1. Thanks very much, Lightbulb!
      Speaking of which – the lighting on my gaming table is really bad, so I have to use flash photography, which makes the minis look much worse than they actually look. 😀

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