Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chain of Command, This Time with Armor

All,
    This morning/early afternoon I got in another game of Chain of Command, this time adding armor to the mix.  Let's get to it.
 Here's a pic of the table.  German baseline at top, Brit baseline at bottom.

The Brits have a Platoon Commander (PC), Plt Sgt, three rifle sections, a 2" mortar team, a PIAT team, and a Troop of M-4 Shermans, one of which is the Armor PC (Sr Ldr).

The Germans have two squads (with 2 PzFausts each), a PC, a PzSchreck Team, and an ad-hoc Panzer Plt consisting of a Panther (PC) and a PzJgr IV.

Both sides started with a Force Morale of 10.
 Here's a pic with the flash on, the first without.  I haven't been all that pleased with my photos as I always use the flash and it gives some strange looking, washed out colors sometimes.  We'll see if the photos today look better, truer to color, or just too dark.
 The conclusion of the Patrol Phase.  Nobody got where they wanted to go; the Germans wanted to get on top of the hill at center right, while the Brits wanted to get behind the wall at the intersection at center left.  The Germans really got jobbed though, in terms of their jump-off points.  I didn't plan well in the Patrol Phase and so the JOPs ended up pretty far back (owing to the 6" back, in/behind cover rules).
 Germans are up first, roll 3 6's, a 5, and a 3.  So 1st Squad comes aboard in the center, moving for the hill, and the next phase is theirs before Turn 1 ends, with Germans up again.
 Germans get 1st Squad up on the hill but not into position, while the PzJaeger IV arrives on the left and the Panther comes on in the center.  Their PC also came aboard in the center (I also gave them an adjutant for deployment purposes).
 The Brits get the PC and 1st Section on the board opposite the German 1st Squad, and...
 Itching to try out some anti-tank rules, I get the Brit Armor PC on the table.  Brit 1st Sect and PC in center (white beads show PC put them on overwatch), German 1st Squad on hill opposite them with German PC behind them in field, Brit Armor PC at bottom right, with German PzJgr at top right.  The Panther is at the very, very top, above the German PC.
    The Sherman takes a shot at the PzJgr, and hits it, but has no effect as it gets three strikes to four saves...
 The German 1st Squad goes tactical (green beads) and moves up, while Brit 1st Section comes off overwatch to light them up, getting a shock and two kills (pretty good shooting considering Tactical counted them as "hard" cover).  The PzJgr returns fire, missing.

The Brit Command Roll (CR) does not give me the opportunity to have my Sherman fire at the PzJgr, which makes me a bit anxious.  The 2" mortar comes on (bottom left), and fires up German 1st Squad, as does 1st Section's Bren Group (1BG) getting a kill and 4 shock between the two of them.

The German PC moves up, intending to remove shock from 1st Squad, but rolls only 4" of movement...  1st Squad fires at 1st Section, getting a kill and 6 shock (again, good shooting).  But the PzJgr fires again at the Sherman and misses again!
 The 2" and 1BG again hit 1st Squad, getting a kill and two shock.  The PC says what they hey, why not?  And leads 1RG into the fray.  Brits eliminate the German 1st Squad, who manage 3 kills and a shock themselves.  Ouch...  The mistake I made was that only the German Assault Group was pinned, the Fire Group wasn't, which let them rip into my Rifle Group.  With all the shock, 1RG decides to split, taking the PC with them!  This costs the Germans 3 Force Morale (FM) points and the Brits 1.
    The Sherman fires at the PzJgr and rolls boxcars, adding 3 strike dice to the roll!  But the strike roll is terrible (two Strikes on 10 dice), and the German rolls one save, ends up with 1 shock, no movement next phase.
 The aftermath of the close combat.  All of the German 1st Squad wiped out, with 3 Brit kills on the rifle group, which split.  They're still on the table, so we'll see if they can be saved.
 The Germans decide to bring their other squad on, trying to take advantage of the isolated 1BG (center top).  They open up and, with some great shooting, end up getting a pin on 1BG (yellow bead).
    The PzJgr takes another shot at the Sherman, rolls snake-eyes.  That's three straight misses, while the Sherman has hit the German twice, for one shock.  The Panther decides to move up in the center to get a better view of the situation.
 This presents a perfect opportunity, who roll an incredible 2 2s and 3 3s.  The Brits bring their other two sections on on the left, and their other three tanks on in the center.  All three tanks fire at the Panther, and not a single armor piercing round touches it...
 Germans roll and get next phase; the German Inf PC gets 2nd Squad into position while the PzSchreck team comes on in the center.
 Germans are up again and the PzJgr slams a high velocity 75mm round into the Brit Sherman PC, knocking it out.  The crew bails, unharmed (I didn't do anything for Force Morale with this.  I was working off the QRS which doesn't list a vehicle brew up as a FM event, and the Sr Ldr left, but I wouldn't say he routed.  I'm sure I played this wrong as I certainly think a tank getting knocked out, and the PC's tank at that, should have a negative effect on FM).
 The Panther PC orders his driver forward to square their front armor up tot he advancing Shermans, then orders the gunner to fire on the lead Sherman on the road.  The Panther scores a hit at maybe 100 yards, but 3 strikes and 3 saves later, the Sherman gets a shock and falls back six inches.
 Brits get next phase, but can activate two of their tanks.  The first bounces one of the front armor while the second does too, but damages the Panther's gun sight and gives him a shock.  Third Section moves up on the far left.
    The Brits are up again and bring their PIAT team in on the left.  The Plt Sgt comes in on the right, removing shock from 1RG to keep it from routing off the table.  A Sherman bounces another one off the Panther, with the odd result of "halt and engage firer next turn."  That sounds like a pretty good result to me, and probably the plan in any case.  I need to look it up though, because I don't know if this is supposed to require and activation by that player next phase or if it's supposed to activate for free.  I didn't play it that way because that seemed ridiculous to me.
    The Germans rolled 4 6's and a 1, so the turn will be ending.  The PzSchreck moves up next to the Panther and fires at a Sherman, but misses.  At the end of turn, 1RG was saved from routing off the table with the PC, but 1BG will remain pinned through the next turn.  On the next phase 2FG lights up 1BG, getting a kill and 3 shock, causing them to run (no FM effect for the team breaking or the Jr Ldr breaking and the Jr Ldr getting wounded, amazing!).  The PzJgr decides to move up, but rolls terribly for movement and doesn't get very far.  The Panther fires at the lead Sherman and misses...
 This is the Brit 1st section, with two rifles and PC in top RG, three infantry and wounded Jr Ldr in bottom BG, and Plt Sgt at left trying to slow down the stampede.

The Germans get a CoC dice, the PzSchreck fires its second rocket and misses again, while the Panther hits a Sherman, getting 1 shock and panicking the gunner for one phase, while the PzJgr creeps forward.
 The Plt Sgt continues to pull shock from 1st Section, while PIAT (dead center) and 3rd Section (bottom left) move up.  At this point we've got Brit 1st Section trying to rally at their baseline (off camera to top right), 2nd Section at center right, the PIAT in front of them, 3rd Section across the road, the Panther and PzSchreck sitting in the crossroads with 2nd Squad above them, while the PzJgr is just off camera to the top and the three remaining Shermans are just off camera to the right.
    The German 2FG fires at 1RG on the basline, getting two shock and a kill, forcing 1RG to route off the table, taking the PC with it (dropping the Brits 3 FM points, down to 6 total).
    The Panther decides to again engage a Sherman, but the Brits use a CoC die to interrupt.  Boxcars are again rolled (+3 strike dice), but all they manage is 2 shock and immobilized.  The Panther then fires, but misses (it's getting real hard to hit anything, what with the shock and the damaged gun sight).  The PzSchreck scores a hit, getting engine damage on one of the Shermans.  The Germans use their CoC dice to end the turn, causing 1BG and their Jr Ldr to route off the table (another 2 FM points gone.  Now the Brits are at 4 and are down a command dice).  Very shrewd...
 Now the PIAT moves up and puts a round into the Panther, finally ending its day.  It blew up, so I tested for a dead Sr Ldr, dropping the Germans a FM point to 6 total.  The Plt Sgt sprints left to get with 2nd Section.
 The PzJgr climbs the hill and pops a Sherman, getting two points of shock and causing the crew to bail.  The German PC order the PzSchreck team to fall back to a JOP to resupply with some more rockets, but it only gets 2" of movment...  2FG fires to their far right at 3rd Section, getting a kill and a shock.
 A Sherman manages a hit on the PzJgr but gets 0 strikes, while the Plt Sgt order 2nd Section to the right, but they only get a couple inches.  Having said that, they did open up a ferocious fire (with half dice) and get 2 kills.  The other Sherman misses...
 The Germans have 2FG move right (to tie in with their AG so that casualties may be shared as their rifleman and A-gunner were just killed), but only manage 1" of movement...  The PzJgr busts a Sherman, blowing it up, dropping the Brits another 2 FM points (now at 2 and down to 3 CD!).
    The Brits roll up another CoC dice, while 3BG fires at the German 2nd Squad and get 1 kill.
    The Germans roll double 6s, have next phase.  The PzSchreck resupplies while the PC pulls shock, while 2AG and 2FG activate separately (on 1s), getting 0 hits and moving only 4" on 2D6, respectively.  On their following phase 2FG gets into the line next to 2AG and light up 3rd Section, hitting their Jr Ldr, dropping the Brits another FM point (only 1 remaining).
 3rd Section returns fire, getting a kill and a shock.  This has degenerated into war of attrition, which the Brits could win by bodies alone but will lose because of Force Morale.
 The Plt Sgt moves the PIAT team right and 2nd Section forward.  Neither the Germans nor the Brits have had the dice to do anything with their tanks in awhile (the Germans have their PzJgr while the Brits have one Sherman left, out of four).
    The PzSchreck team moves forward while the PC continues to keep shock off of 2nd Squad, who get another kill on the Brit 3rd Section.
    The Sherman fires, but bounces off, while 3rd Section puts 4 shock on 2nd Squad, and the German PC pulls three of those off immediately, allowing 2nd Squad to get another two kills on 3rd Section.
 The German PC keeps removing shock, while 2nd Squad manages to pin 3BG...
    The Brit Plt Sgt decides it's go time as one more shock on 3BG will cause it to break, more than likely costing the Brits their last FM point.  The Plt Sgt leads 2nd Section over the wall, eliminating the German PC and the remainder of their 2nd Squad, costing them 5 FM points, bringing them down to 1.  However, the Germans managed to kill five of the Brits, including a Jr Ldr, which ended up costing the Brits 2 FM points, leaving the Brits at -1 overall.
The aftermath of the close combat, which destroyed the German infantry but caused the Brits to flee the field of battle...

So, what did we think about our little game?  Hmmm...  This is kind of a tough one.  I think I may have broken it.  What I mean is, that was a lot of stuff to be pushing around for just little old me, and I don't think it meshed particularly well with the command roll system.  What I mean by that is, so far I've run a platoon per side with no supports; it was neither cumbersome for me as a solo player nor did it outpace the command rolls.  You could never do everything you wanted exactly when you wanted to, but you didn't have a bunch of (in some cases, very important) stuff just sitting around for numerous phases, which is what happened in this game.

    Please note that I am not saying this doesn't work or that it's not realistic or that I don't like it.  My concern is that, in a two-player game not having enough 'initiative' to do everything you want is a great source of dramatic tension, as each player is focused on what he is doing, trying to seize the initiative/impose his will/get inside the other guy's OODA loop and have him on his heels, reacting to what your doing.  When you can do that you've really accomplished something, and when he doesn't respond the way you hoped, you're in for some great surprises.

    My problem is that this same dynamic does not occur in a solo game.  In a solo game, when you get tunnel vision you get tunnel vision and it affects both sides.  In a two-player game you can get tunnel vision and get surprised, in a solo game you get tunnel vision and ignore other options for at least one of the sides, meaning you're shorting one of the sides.  You just can't surprise yourself in this manner.  And so in this game, there were instances for both sides where it would have made much more sense (tactically) for them to say 'damn the torpedoes,' that is, ignore the enemy and carry out their own scheme of maneuver, but as a solo gamer I tend to lock in on a piece of the action and want to see it brought to conclusion before moving to the next act, so to speak, which misses out on the brilliance of the rules' command and control system.

     With all that being said, there were some things I'm sure I screwed up and some things I just flat out didn't like.  I had tanks idly sitting by, staring at each other for multiple phases because I couldn't seem to roll a 3 or a 4 (for the PC's tank).  It seems to me those could be handled the same way as a squad, that is, one position could be activated on either a 1 or a 2 to give one crew position an activation so that the vehicle could either shoot or move.  I'd lean towards using a '2' so that it's a bit more 'expensive.'  I'm not sour on the rules or questioning their reality; there are plenty of reasons to justify why that would/could happen in real life.  But, as with all wargames rules, we all have what feels right to us, and this didn't feel right.  Hand in hand with this concept was the inability of anti-tank fire to destroy tanks.

    As a quick example, the Panther hit two different Shermans, at engagement ranges of a hundred yards or less, and put 1 shock on them.  The rules have a mechanism (in the Advanced Rules section) to make AT fire more deadly, and I'll definitely have to look at that, because my personal feeling is that not getting knocked out (or at least taking some serious damage, i.e., immobilized or gun out of action, as opposed to 1 shock and back up 1D6" or gun sight damaged) is pretty much an act of God.  I just went and read section 12.1; I don't know if even that goes far enough for my tastes.  I think maybe do that and reduce saves to only sixes.  I don't have a problem with shooting and missing, as a matter of act, with fleeing targets at 150 yds dodging between trees and buildings, it may actually be harder to hit a tank than firing at 600 or 700 yards.  But I believe if a tank gets hit at 150 yds it should pretty much be done for the day.

    I understand that the rules as written were designed to make armor more survivable in order to be more playable, but, as an infantryman at heart, I actually like the concept that the armor has blundered (or at the very least is in a seriously disadvantaged position) if it has allowed itself to get into an engagement with infantry inside of 150 yards.  If armor has done this, it deserves to be punished, and, if hit, should probably be out of the fight.  The rules as written appeared to me to be perfect for tank vs tank engagements at 500 to 900 yards.  I also need to look up morale tests for tanks getting KO'ed.  I had to have played this wrong!  There is no way there is not a hit to your Force Morale when a tank gets knocked out.

    Lastly, this game really drug on.  In all honesty, both forces were beat to crap and probably should have cracked already (again, probably my fault for not testing for armor KOs).  Okay, I've got to look this up...

    So, page 65 shows that I am, indeed, an idiot, and should have been testing under the "Support Unit Killed" or "Support Unit Routes" clauses.  Addtionally, page 66 talks about not testing when vehicle crews that have abandoned their vehicles leave the table, i.e., they are not considered to route, they left because they are no longer viable on the battlefield.  I agree they shouldn't have to test as vehicle crews routing, but I think there should be a test when they abandon their vehicle (as in treating it as being destroyed for FM purposes) as I believe it is incredibly disheartening to infantry to see their armor get brewed up or watch the crews run away from their (still operational) tanks.

    Another deal I did wrong (I think) was that I had a rifle section that had broken and ran.  It had the PC with it when it endured the combat that cause it to break, so I had no problem with having the PC run with the section.  Then I brought the Plt Sgt over to try to rally the shock off the section to get them back in fighting shape, but, alas 'twas not to be.  Another burst from a German LMG sent them running from the hills.  I did as told in the rules, and had no problem with it, in terms of sending the PC off the table with them.  He had been in the close assault that broke them, he had run with them, clearly his mental state was not what you would want it to be, and so he ran.

    My understanding of the rules is that the Plt Sgt, who was within 4" of the routing unit, should have also routed off the table with them.  I can understand this if it is a game mechanism to make it risky, and thus a tactical decision as opposed to an automatic decision, to send a Sr Ldr over to try to rally a broken element.  But in terms of being 'real life,' I thought it was grossly unfair to send this hard-charging Plt Sgt off the table with the routing section.  He was there begging, beating, and otherwise cajoling, trying to get those sissies to stay in the fight.  So when they routed, I kept him on the table and let him get back in the fight.

    Okay, so where do we go from here?  In the immediate future I want to start a WWII campaign for Brits using Platoon Forward (I'm dreaming of taking them from Tunisia to Sicily to Italy to Normandy to Market Garden).  I also have my modern ImagiNation project, Cuba Libre!, which is a serious undertaking with ground and air gaming in multiple theaters.  I have a 6mm Napoleonic painting project going on (which is going to take years, much less actually ever gaming with it).  I have dreams of a 1942-43 Solomons project with 10mm USMC and IJA, USN and IJN (using Axis and Allies miniatures), USN/USMC vs IJA/IJN air gaming, and coastal actions (PT Boats, landing barges, etc...).  I have Pendraken forces in the mail to start French Indo-China and finish Vietnam projects.  I would like to do Platoon Forward campaigns for US and British Airborne platoons, both of which I already have in my possession.  I have a bunch of 1942-era Germans and Soviets that need to have the finishing touch put on them, and then need some gaming.

    Suffice to say, I have a lot on my plate and I need to get games in and get them in quick.  It might sound kind of funny, but I don't enjoy the games as much as I do campaign narrative.  Don't misunderstand, I like getting them on the table and having a good time, but I can't wait to get it finished up, figure out what it means in the campaign, and move on to the next fight.  So I need rules that fit that mentality, and I regret to inform you that Chain of Command is not that set of rules (for me).  They are brilliant and I dream of playing them against a real life, flesh and blood human, but they are not working out as the best tool to enable my solo campaigns.  I believe the best choice I can make is to go back to my modification of Angel Barracks' KR-16 rules (which, if you look at all the other batreps, is the rules I used).  I will happily charge ahead, so you can expect plenty more batreps.

V/R,
Jack

2 comments:

  1. Yes, it sounds like you had more fun with your other rules than you did with CoC, as the other rules better suit what you are trying to achive with your solo gaming. Go with what is more fun! Looking forward to more bat reps in the future. They are long, but I do read them and you enthusiasm for gaming comes out of the reports!

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  2. Thanks Shaun, I really appreciate it.

    It's not that I don't like Chain of Command, I think they're great; they're just not best suited to my current projects. I've been giving some thought to using CoC's Patrol Phase and Force Morale concepts with KR-16 to get them a bit more flavor.

    Every Tuesday evening my wife and kids have some after-school activities, so I'm already pondering my options: I should get some terrain and figure painting done, but I could get a game in. We'll see what happens. Either way, more batreps will coming soon. I'm also working on shortening them a bit, using photos more to tell the story.

    V/R,
    Jack

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