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Big Chain of Command: Review and Battle Report

 

A few weeks ago I met with a number of fine gentlemen at Vienna’s premier friendly local games club to have a game of Big Chain of Command. In this article I will share some thoughts on this Chain of Command supplement and a quick run-down of events in our four player game.

 

What is Big Chain of Command?

Big Chain of Command is a free supplement PDF containing rules and ideas for games which go beyond the ‘Platoon+’ level the core game provides. It also covers rules for fielding armoured/vehicle platoons. It’s only 13 pages, so this won’t be a long review before I get into the actual game we had.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

A US tank platoon

In the PDF you will find tables for working out Armoured Platoon force ratings, examples of German, British, US and Soviet tank platoons and how they were organized as well as rules for Tank Aces. On top of that it has rules for modifying scenarios from the rulebook to fit bigger games of Chain of Command and how to treat activation rolls, support units and so on in multi-player games.

 

Right, that’s enough of that. Now for our game.

 

Our Test Game

chain of command skirmish wargaming

The game was to be set in early fall in France, 1944, a meeting engagement. The miniatures we used are 15mm in size. As it was a test game there was nothing too exotic on the table. The British had a Rifle Platoon with an attached Vickers MMG team as well as a slightly battered platoon of Paras (classed Regulars instead of Elites, just one sniper and regular Junior Leaders instead of Superior Junior Leaders). Ze Germans fielded two regular Panzergrenadier platoons. There wasn’t much in the way of support either, just Adjutants for the Wehrmacht and the Vickers MMG for the Brits (as mentioned above).

 

The Forces in Detail

Slovik:

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

1 Vickers MMG Team of 5 men

Virago:

Battered* Britisches Paratroopers Platoon

1 Lieutenant (Senior Leader)

1 Platoon Sergeant (Senior Leader)

1 2″ Mortar Team

1 PIAT-Team

1 Sniper

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

1 Infantry Section: 1 NCO (junior Leader), 2 Bren Teams of 3 plus a Sten gunner each

*) No Elites, one sniper instead of two, not Aggressive, no Superior Junior Leaders

Klaudius and I (Sigur) each had:

Panzergrenadier Platoon

1 Leutnant (Senior Leader)

1 Panzerschreck-Team

3 Panzergrenadier Squads, each: 1 Obergefreiter (Junior Leader), 1 MG42-Team of 2 plus 3 Panzergrenadiers with rifles, 1 MG42-Team of 2 Mann plus 2 Panzergrenadiers with rifles

1 Adjutant (off-table, helps getting troops on the table even if your senior officer is on the table already. Highly recommended for Big Chain of Command games)

 

The Table

Speaking of the table – that was a very pretty one:

chain of command skirmish wargaming

The club has a great collection of 15mm WW2 terrrain.  Lots of Battlefront stuff of course. The buildings at the centre of the table were brought along by Klaudius and made of MDF (pre-painted, but rather nice looking).

chain of command skirmish wargaming

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Virago (left) talks strategy with Slowik (middle). Klaudius is eavesdropping to gather intel.

I was chosen to be the German commander and Slowik was the overall commander of British forces, so we did the patrol phase. given the way the table was set up we didn’t make it into the built up area and it seemed like we’d have to do an assault on the houses along the main street. Not easy.

 

The Game

After having set the Jump-Off Points (4 per side, 2 for each player) the sectors for each player were determined:

earlygame2schrift1

 

In Big Chain of Command each player has their own jump-off Points. They have to be next to each other so that each platoon has a sector of the frontline to take care of.

For this game we used a new house rule: Each player rolled for their Force Morale (for info on what force morale is and how important it is, feel free to have a look at my review of Chain of Command) in secret and deduction to the same would also be rolled for in secret. Not even the player’s ally would know the exact force morale of their comrade. This makes for very exciting and more realistic games as you never know quite when the enemy or indeed friendly platoon would ‘freeze’ and lateron break. I started on a very unexciting 8.

 

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Annatar (in the back) expertly umpired and kept track of our force morale rolls.

On the British side there were a few double-6s on their activation rolls (= the player may ‘go again’). This gave them ample time to set up base in the buildings and our forward troops took more fire than necessary.

Klaudius sat one squad in the house without the roof and took on Slowiks and Viragos sections in a firefight. My first squad sat behind bocage and exchanged fire with Slowiks first squad which was spread between ground level and first floor of the big colourful house.

earlygame4schrift1

In an attempt to get rid of Virago’s Jump-Off Point to our very right flank Klaudius sent out his second squad. This would have been a hit to their Force Morale and of course would have gotten us rid of our worries in the right flank. In the end this didn’t quite work out. Klaudius squad got caught by a Paratroopers squad who were defending the Jump-Off Point. The Panzergrenadiers had to retreat and sat in a very uncomfortable crossfire situation between the Paras and British troops in the village.

 

I still was caught in a firefight in my sector. Me being used to playing British I wasn’t quite used to the unsubtle ways of the Panzergrenadier and didn’t make use of their awesome firepower at first. Instead I had faffed about with covering fire and such. It wasn’t before phase 2 or 3 that I finally started to just unload the MGs at the target, which showed much more effect on Slowiks first squad than all that tactical stuff.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Then there was the curious case of Klaudius’ Panzerschreck team behind the bocage. No enemy vehicle in sight, so their officer ordered them to shoot big holes into the walls of the buldings in which the British sat. In return the caught a lot of enemy fire, but turned out to be unshakable.

At the beginning of the game I had deployed my second squad to defend the white villa (including the exquisite wine cellar) at our far left flank and to harass enemy movement from there.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

(the impressive looking gun at the bottom is just my Jump-off Point and not of consequence for the game)

At least that was the plan. Soon it was clear that the squad was actually used elsewhere, so the Junior Leader grabbed one of the MG teams and off they went to face the enemy closer-up.

maneuver-element

All those shot-up Allies tanks were just for terrain. Makes my Panzergrenadiers look good though. 😛

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Towards the end of the game they actually arrived at where the action was. Unfortunately they got caught by a British MG in the middle of the road and were mowed down.

 

chain of command skirmish wargaming

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Around the mid-game we got some movement in: I finally had managed to whittle down the British in the large building somewhat, but I also have had to take casualties. Through sheer crappy dice rolling my MG teams were holding on by a thread. They had lost their Junior Leader and my Senior Leader behind them also had been wounded. Anyway, it was time for drastic measures, otherwise it would look dim for us. Luckily Panzergrenadiers are really good at drastic measures.

Klaudius readied his third squad…

chain of command skirmish wargaming

 

…charged across the field and into the large building!

chain of command skirmish wargaming

The sprint through the open and into the Bren Gun which was still firing of course wasn’t unproblematic. Despite all this they managed to take the building in bloody close assault. This would earn them a Nahkampfspange. At least. Afterwards they dug in in the building and started close-range firefights with the Brits in the next house. With a respectful delay I sent in my own third squad to help defend this bridgehead.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

In the middle you can see my third squad sprinting across the field to help Klaudius’ Stormtroopers. In the lower left (by the trees, with the two shock markers) you can see my MG team from the villa just before the MG gets them.

 

At this point we had to call it a night due to time. Predictions for the next few phases looked as such: Bloody close combat for each building, the Paras still were rather fresh and armed with several submachine guns (pretty horrifying in such a situation). Due to Klaudius’ third squad we had managed to break into the built up area, but we would have needed a lot of luck to turn the game around. So most probably it would have been a British victory.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Debriefing and Verdict

All the people involved were happy with the game, the table got a lot of praise from us as well as people passing by and watching. Big Chain of Command is surprisingly fast and fluent considering how it breaks up the boundaries of the core game. Even though we were twice the players and models of a usual game it took about the same amount of time.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

From a personal perspective I have to say that over this game I grew much fonder of my little Panzergrenadiers (we’ll take a closer look at those very soon!). Chain of Command works great and continues to surprise us with how well it plays, how much sense it makes and how much fun it is. We immediately agreed on another game of Big Chain of Command a few weeks later for which Annatar had a special plan brewing.

chain of command skirmish wargaming

Thanks to everyone involved, thanks to the club for providing a table and terrain and thanks to you for reading!

 

I hope that you enjoyed my review of this supplement and the battle report. For any questions, comments and so on feel free to drop your messages here in the comments section, on the forums or contact me directly via Battle Brush Studios, the Battle Brush Studios facebook page or via e-mail!

Sigur Squirl

Sigur is the painter behind "Battlebrush Studios" and a familiar face in many wargaming circles online. Plays a metric ton of skirmish wargames and shares his experiences here on the blog.

11 Comments

  1. The two complaints I’ve heard about CoC:
    1. The games seem to be long. (This is my opinion of IABsM, so I don’t know if it’s a TFL thing?)
    2. They seem to stall out into shooting or ping pong matches.

    • 1.) Well, that’s entirely subjective I think, depending on what game length you prefer. They comfortable fit into an evening during the week. I’d rather have one proper game with a narrative rather than two very quick ones played hastily.
      2.) This can happen, but it certainly is a thing you’ll want to avoid, because prolonged exchanges of fire will only grind away at your manpower, binds your forces and won’t achieve much in general. Also: Maybe the people who told you that this was the case didn’t use enough terrain? It’s a skirmish game after all.

  2. Nice AAR and review. If you don’t mind would you please explain what buildings were you using on your beautiful table?

    • Thanks for the comment, William. I’m afraid I forgot where most of these buildings are from (town centre). The ones more on the periphery are Battlefront ones. I’ll try to find out where the MDF ones are from.

  3. BigCoC works fine during the game, but the force balancing mechanic as written in the book doesn’t really work. Needs careful attention from whoever is running the scenario.

    • Well, it’s a free pdf supplement to blow CoC out of proportions. Plus: force balancing mechanics never work 100%. Big CoC as I perceive it is for club games and cool larger scenarios. And perfect “balance” I think rarely is a goal with these. It’s not like CoC is M:tG. 😉

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