The essence of “Chain of Command” is really on recreating historical small unit tactics in wargames which are a lot of fun to play. Although the genesis of “Chain of Command” is the Great War rule set, “Through the Mud and the Blood”, the rules for “Chain of Command” are quite different. They feature some very clever mechanics in a patrolling phase, coupled with a different form of non-predictable turn sequencing than using cards.
So, first the games….
The first action featured a platoon of US paratroopers on the early morning of D-Day pressing forward to a Normandy crossroads and being opposed by a number of German machine gun sections. The fierce engagement balanced the tactical flexibility and mobile firepower of the US paras against the more static but potentially superior firepower of the German defenders.
The Americans advanced fairly slowly, enabling the German forces to seize a number key terrain points, including a small hill on the right =t of the German baseline. As one of the German commanders I was comfortable with the position I occupied, the sloping ground allowing my troops a good field of fire for their MG42s. The Americans, by contrast made heavy weather of the dense terrain, reducing casualties but moving very slowly as a result.
One of the pleasures of “Chain of Command” is the important role of scouting and reconnaissance units. I have always enjoyed commanding these forces in wargames, perhaps as a result of recce units being able to hit hard and still manoeuvre out of trouble (at least in theory). The situation which arose with both sides scouting the approaches to a Normandy Church, in the photo below, is something we’ve had numerous times in our playtest games. This type of groping and feeling your troops’ way to the enemy “feels right” in a Second World War context, and certainly in a Normandy game.
American redeployment followed once my machine gun teams had been sited and commenced inflicting casualties. The fighting shifted from the machine-gun fire lanes I was relying on, to an area to the north of the German baseline hill. You can see below that my troops redeployed through a small wood on the hill, edging forward to try and outflank the American airborne troops.
However, the American paras are tough opponents, and used their movement allowances and bonuses to win the race for good defensive terrain lining the main road. Rather than deploying on overwatch and waiting for the paras to rush my troops, I pushed forward with a grenade attack on the Americans.
The arrival of an Allied Sherman made the German attack all the more imperative, and I pressed forward. Unfortunately, I’d counted without a couple of strengths of the American airborne troops, namely that they were better, more skilled troops (ignoring “wounds” in some situations) and carried automatic weapons. The German attacked eventually petered out, but not before the Allied tank had been driven off.
Honours even, therefore, and with a sense that the game had brought out some of the historical distinctions and merits of the two units opposing each other.
The second game featured a platoon from the British Special Service Brigade led by Lord Lovat (accompanied by Piper Millin) against a tough German force occupying a small hamlet near to the Normandy beachheads. Again, the date was D-Day, with another classic attack/defence playtest game.
Playing the plucky Brits this time, I scouted around the north of the village, using my 2” mortar to lay a copious amount of smoke as recommended by standard British infantry manuals of the time.
At the same time my co-commander, Biffo, probed forward with a Centaur towards the west of the village, targeting the buildings one-by-one….
Alongside the crescendo of firing in the town, my Special Service sections crept forward gingerly, spluttering with the smoke and intent on checking each house in turn. Sniper fire started to target the Special Service sections on foot, making me decide to press on at greater speed and occupy the centre of the village.
Suggestions from our opponents that we were targeting the pissoir in the village square were (of course) denied and rebuffed with British, and Gallic, sang froide....
By now some German resistance was being flushed out (no pun intended...), with anti-tank teams flitting through the backyards of some of the houses…
As the firefight rolled across the village square, one of the German panzerschreck teams obtained a lucky hit on the Centaur, making our Special Service Brigade troops re-assess their mission and consolidate their hold on the village.
So there you have two short games, each pitched to bring out different aspects of small unit tactics.
The first game focused on fire and movement, the second on co-ordination of disparate resources and the implementation of a plan. I’ve felt that during play-testing it is possible to bring out themes like these quite easily on the wargames table. I’m certainly enjoying “Chain of Command”, and will be thinking about using some of the changes within the rules (when compared to “Through the Mud and the Blood”) when I run a few Verdun 1916 and Chemin des Dames 1917 themed games later this year.
Until then, I'll leave you with a quite-partisan (but honest) conclusion that I really like the Chain of Command rules, pre-orders and details for which can be found HERE.