Today I would like to take a quick look at and share my thoughts on At the Sharp End, the campaign supplement for Chain of Command. Other than listing a number of scenarios linked to a campaign this pdf document is meant to give you the required tools and some inspiration for how to run campaigns using the Chain of Command rules.
Believe me, playing campaigns changes a lot in how you play. Games often play faster and there rarely are any “desperate attacks” or “holding out until every last one member of the section is killed”. Rather than that, one side will be much more prone to retreating and giving ground to the enemy because preserving your resources for the next game all of a sudden becomes a big factor. Games start to matter in the grand scheme of things. Heroic moments will be so much more valuable, victory will be so much sweeter, the whole game feels much more enjoyable and last but not least more realistic.
I highly recommend playing campaigns in general. There is a reason why these are the holy grail of wargaming after all. In terms of WW2 platoon level games At the Sharp End is a tremendously useful document for doing just that.
Now let’s have a look at this supplement PDF.
The book is divided into four sections, as you can see on this screen cap of the contents page:
Section One – The Ladder Campaign
In this section the author elaborates on different ways to run a campaign, from using no maps at all and instead connect the scenarios in the Chain of Command rulebook in a sensible manner over various ways of using simple maps to the holy grail of wargaming campaigns – the full proper map campaign backed by solid research on a specific historical campaign. This section may sound a bit dry, but it is pretty much the bread and butter of how to run campaigns. And it takes away a lot of the daunting aspects in how it shows that you can run it as simple or as complicated as you like.
Section Two – In the Field
After the first section explained how to plan out a campaign and how to set it up, this section explains how to run a campaign, including things such as what a player can do in each campaign turn, how casualties are treated after the end of a game, a system for reinforcements and replacements for killed officers or NCOs. You will also find amendments to the existing scenarios as well as in-game events and which consequences these can have on the overall development of the campaign. This is followed up by stuff which gets the creative juices going even more: Prisoners of war and awards for bravery (Yes, they show you where the Iron Crosses grow).
Section Four -Men under Fire
This section contains a number of tables for creating characters for your officer and NCOs and every single other man in the platoon if you so wish. There are tables for background, age, physique, which area of their home country they are from and so on. Fun stuff and very helpful for fleshing out your officers and turning them into characters.
As the campaign unfolds and victories (and maybe some losses) pile up, there are three important factors to keep track of:
The opinion the higher-ups have about your platoon commander.
They basically look at whether or not your get the job done that’s asked of you. Depending on this their opinion of your officer character will either improve or get worse, resulting in either more or less support for your platoon in further missions. The officers are less inclined to put resources into any of your platoon commander’s efforts if they doubted that he was all that capable of getting the job done.
If you do really outstandingly well over a longer period of time your officer will get promoted above the dirt and the grime of platoon business and into a more lofty position. If he does really, really badly he will be relieved of his command.
The Opinion of the Men
Another important factor is the men’s opinion of their commanding officer. This is mostly based on the number of casualties amongst their ranks during each scenario and will result in either a bonus or a malus in terms of force morale. If you accumulate too many casualties and you get to be ill regarded by your men there will be several negative consequences, including – if things go really, really bad – in the untimely and mysterious death of the officer.
There are two kinds of officers, sir: killin’ officers and murderin’ officers. Killin’ officers are poor old buggers that get you killed by mistake. Murderin’ officers are mad, bad, old buggers that get you killed on purpose – for a country, for a religion, maybe even for a flag.
Your own Opinion
Last but not least the officer’s own outlook on the war and his own position within it play a big factor. This is represented by a matrix of states of mind your officer moves across based on outcomes on the battlefield. This results in bonusses or mali to force morale or certain more exotic events.
Section Four – Building a Campaign
In this last section the author takes us through the process of designing a campaign for chain of command step by step. This is another valuable resource for giving you the last bits of inspiration and ideas you might require to put everything together.
So what’s my verdict? At the Sharp End is a very handy document which is filled to the brim with ideas on how to run wargaming campaigns. There are few specifics in regards to Chain of Command, so it should be even adaptable to any other World War 2 platoon level games and beyond that. Looking at pure content-for-money, buying this one is a no-brainer. You get a 47 page document which offers ideas and tools for running your campaigns, thus turning your game into a much deeper, much more rewarding experience. GBP 6.00 for this 47 page pdf is a great deal, so no need to think twice.
Thanks for reading this review of At the Sharp End. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting. If you have any questions, comments or painting commission inquiries, feel free to get in contact with me via the Battle Brush Studios facebook page, the Battle Brush Studios website, the Skirmish Wargaming Forums or e-mail.