Maybe 36 years ago, I last played a WWII game with my Airfix and Matchbox figures on an extension of the family train board, using a typewritten rules set I’d bought at Stoker Models in Auckland. The figures and models that survived that gaming are now in safe hands with a mate of a mate, who uses the good old Operation Warboard rules, but last weekend I put the terrain, buildings, and figures I’ve been working on for my WWII gaming reboot out on the dinner table, and played a game of Chain of Command. And it was good.
I played the patrol scenario, with no support for either side… a platoon from 6th Green Howards is carrying out a fighting patrol inland from Bayeux.
While I played the patrol phase out I was aware that there were tactics and nuances in playing that phase that would help in the game proper, but I didn’t really do much thinking and pretty much just followed my nose with the patrol movement and placement of jump-off points.
The Germans went first, and the very first round of dice resulted in their platoon commander, Lt Gruber, turning up on the table on his own. I forgot until much later that with him being up front, subsequent attempts to bring German troops onto the table would now only have a 50% chance of happening.
The Germans also rolled a couple of sixes, which meant they had the next phase, but that didn’t help much as they only managed a 1 in the next lot of activation dice. A couple of scouts from 2. Gruppe arrived to keep Gruber company. However, in the activation dice the Germans rolled three sixes, so they had another phase to themselves, and the rest of 2. Gruppe arrived. The British at last got a chance to move and they made the most of the opportunity, with 1 and 2 sections and the 2″ mortar team showing up.
The German 1. Gruppe then arrived opposite 1 Section.
The two scouts from 2. Gruppe proved themselves to be a good choice for the first fighting element on the table, with accurate shooting on 3 Section, who I deployed on the road from the west. 3 Section spent far too much time engaging in a pointless and somewhat one sided shooting match with those scouts, before belatedly taking on 2. Gruppe.
Meanwhile 1 Section started heading across the wheat field in the northeast corner of the battlefield, but then pulled back to cover the British left flank. They were very lucky to only take light casualties from 3. Gruppe, who had ensconced themselves in the farmhouse with a field of fire directly up the road they had to cross.
1 Section’s withdrawal freed up 3. Gruppe, who began making a real nuisance of themselves. Their MG team headed for the upper floor of the farmhouse and, along with the MG from 2. Gruppe, began suppressing 2 Section. Caught in the crossfire between two MG.42s, 2 Section wilted pretty rapidly, especially when their corporal was killed, and the rifle team broke. Seizing the opportunity, 2. Gruppe’s rifle team charged the two survivors of the section, manning the Bren gun. The gunner got in a burst and felled three Germans but the Bren team was wiped out. The British were now down to two sections. At that point LT Jeffers elected to arrive on the battlefield, just in time to help SGT Fraser start trying to activate troops to withdraw from the table. The rifle team from 3 Section were not fast enough, and they were charged by 2. Gruppe, with the survivors routing.
Tactically, I wasn’t really trying. I was more interested in seeing how things worked, so the troops acted somewhat randomly. I also haven’t played WWII skirmish before. The rules really do seem to give a historical feel, though, and reward you if you follow the tactical manual. My not having any smoke markers made a big difference to how the British performed, as they couldn’t do that suppressive fire, lay smoke, get around the flank thing. But British marksmanship in the game was pretty dire, maybe 40% of what could be expected, while the Germans were very lucky. It’s almost as if the dice knew who I was rolling them for. Rather than a 1.2m x 1.8 table, the dinner table is 1m x 2m … I kept the proportions constant and used 1m x 5 feet. I think the lack of an extra foot one way and eight inches the other isn’t much of a problem for the moment. I thought the table looked good. It would be nice to add some marshes, a stream, more buildings, some gates, wrecks, craters (the list goes on) but I’ll not let that hold me up. My wheat fields betray their origins somewhat, I may buy a cheap beard trimmer and hack away at them. But next up are some vehicles… and smoke markers!