A Dust-Up Near Metz – Live Chain of Command Game
Well, here we are, ready to begin our day of Lard Action. The weather looks like its going to be incredibly hot so we have the wall open and the shorts on. I am just praying that Skinner doesn’t arrive in his mankini!
A bit of background first. We are playing Scenario Six from the Rules, Attack on an Objective. This calls to the attacker, Nick in our game, to assault a position held by the defender, namely me. We did a bit of setting up of forces yesterday so we can get straight on with the game. Nick has elected to use his US Armored Infantry Platoon which is a real firepower heavy formation. It rates as +4 on the Force Rating scale. Nick rolled for support and ended up with a list limit of List Nine. He elected to take the M3 halftrack from List 3, the 0.50 calibre HMG from List 5 and a Jeep from List 1, a total of 9.
As the defender I get half of his support level in this scenario, so that’s List 4 (we round down), but as his force is rated +4 and mine is rated 0 I can boost that up to List 8. I decide on a sniper from List 3 (the church is a brand new one shipped over them the US from Miniature Building Authority – http://www.miniaturebuildingauthority.com/ – and that tower is crying out for a sniper!), and an MG42 team from List 4. Sharp eyed readers will note that I have set myself up with a nice bunker already, so in the spirit of human kindness I don’t bother with the odd List One item I could have taken.
so, my basic force is a Feldwebel with three rifle squads and a panzershcreck Team. Nick’s Armoured Infantry have a Lieutenant, a Platoon Sergeant, a machine gun squad with a pair of 0.30 cals and a 60mm mortar Team.
As you look at the table above, I am starting the Patrol Phase with my Markers in the town square by the church, Nick can begin with his anywhere he lines on the edge closes to the camera.
Okay, Nick rolled a 5 on a D6 and so had four moves of his Patrol Marker for “free” before we started. I rolled a 6 for my Force Morale, so I start at 11. Skinner rolled a 5 so starts at 10. So this is how the Patrol Phase ended up. Excuse the shoddy red and blue, but we’re doing this on the hoof. Also, excuse the photo lighting, the sun is streaming in and it is not ideal. Nick is down to his string vest already!
So, here are where the Jump-Off Points ended up. I got a nice spread across the face of the village, Nick has much less cover to use (and he elected to only use three Patrol Markers) so one of his is back on the table edge by the road, but the other two are neatly around the T-Junction. More shoddy arrows I fear, hopefully the last of them.
As the attacker, Nick has the first Phase…
Rich: 2/1. Roll 11235. My sniper fires from the church tower and misses. I could do much, but I don’t want to show my hand too soon. I do nothing else. No photo – we all know what a church tower looks like!
Nick. An interesting run of play in which I got three Phases on the trot. in Phase 3 I rolled 12566, one Scout team moved out to the right, in the next Phase I rolled 33366. I decided against deploying any of my squads as I want to see what the scouts dig out.
Rich: I have just had tow Phases on the bounce. Phase 6 I rolled 66543. I am doing nothing but hoping to accrue Chain of Command points at this stage.
Phase 7. 11336. My sniper hits the team near the road junction, but their tactical stance saves them. My MG opens up from the bunker but is equally ineffective. I am kicking myself for not holding my fire with the MG.
Phase 9. 66644. The Turn ends with me taking no action. But the next Phase is mine.
Turn 2, Phase 1. 66511. Another double 6! Both scouts move up. I am getting VERY close to one of Rich’s Jump-Off Points. Me to go again.
Phase 2/2. 35566. The 0.50 cal fires on the bunker and inflicts two Shock on the MG team. And it’s me again. Some absurd dice rolling here.
Phase 3/3. 11456. My right hand Scout team rushes forwards to seize the jump-off point in the street. My other scout team move slowly again. I now play a Chain of Command Dice to end the Turn. Rich loses his Jump-Off point which reduces his Force Morale by one. Rich’s face looks like thunder!!! And it’s not pretty normally.
Rich: To say that I am a bit miffed about losing a jump-off point is an understatement. These damned scouts are obliging me to show myself and then allow Mr Squished-Tomato-Face to make his plans once he knows where I am. My MG is suffering due to the damned 0.50 cal which is no respecter of bunkers. My entire centre is threatened by two blokes.
I roll 43311. My sniper misses (there seems to be a pattern here!). I deploy a squad in the town by the church and they gun down the US scouts ike dogs. My MG kills one of the scouts on the road. Revenge is not particularly sweet.
Nick: My force morale has held up, no effect for the loss of the scout team. I am really thinking now that instead of ending the turn and clearing our Rich’s Jump-Off point I should have brought one of my Jump-Off points forward. That would have allowed me to get a route straight into the village. But it is too late now.
Phase 2/3. 34556. I put fire into the bunker from the 0.50 cal but to no effect.
Rich; 3/3 I roll 44326. My MG kills the last member of the second scout team on the road. I am just going to sit here now and let Nick come on to me.
Nick: My force morale has dropped a point due to the loss of the scout team. Time to rethink. 4/3 I roll 33555. One point of shock on the German MG team, but their NCO is rallying it off faster than I can cause it. I need to think of a cunning plan.
Rich: 5/3. 63331. My squad in the square moves to the left but remains in the road. I see no point in putting them in a house to get shot to bits by a 0.50 HMG. My Feldwebel rallies shock. I sit and wait for the great Napoleon to dream up a plan or (more likely) run away. 8^D
Rich. 7/3. 63322. Happy doing nothing.
Nick. 8/3. I roll 12244. I combine a 1 and 2 to activate the halftrack. I advance a biit, fire a bit, no hits.
Rich: 9/3. 66544. Oooh, a double.
Rich: 10/3 32222. I am thinking about some lunch…
Nick: 11/3 12456. My halftrack moves up and fires.
Rich. 12/3 66631. The turn ends. I literally have nothing to shoot at. The half-track is too far away. I am hoping he comes into range so I can try to drive him off with my MG fire.
Rich. Phase 1, Turn 4. 65441. Who’d have thought thirty years ago we’d all be sitting here drinking Chateau de Chassilier…
Nick: 2/4. 12244. I move up the halftrack, firing the 0.50 as I go. I kill one German in the bunker.
Rich: 3/4. 64211. My useless sniper fires at the gunner on the M3 and misses. I am hoping that some US soldier will walk into the town square so he can hurl himself from the church tower and land on the bloke. It’s the only way he’ll harm anyone!
Nick: 4/4. 23466. Right, I drop my MG squad by the crossroads and they open up with both MGs on the bunker. The Platoon sergeant deploys with them, I am determined to crack the bunker and then move onto the town. If only to stop Clarkie laughing at me and pulling faces from behind his bloody church tower. The half-track moves up and fires into the bunker. My phase next.
6/4 22345/ My fire from the MG Squad is pinning the German MG and the halftrack is moving up to close range.. This should really hurt the Germans. And it does, lots of Shock. They are close to breaking.
Rich: Ouch. That hurt. Phase 7 of Turn 4. 55421. I rally the MG team in the bunker. I could fire the MG to try to drive off the M3, but I elect to fire the sniper to pick off the man on the 0.50 Browning. What a fool. Naturally he misses.
Nick: 8/4. 24445. The Platoon Sergeant gets the MG Squad firing. Killing one man and adding Shock and pinning the MG team.
Rich: 9/4. 55541. The sniper hits the man on the 50 cal! And he’s down. That’s a result, it will take them a Phase or two to re-man the gun. I rally the MG team but it is down to two crew, so very weak. I use a Chain of Command dice to end the turn and the MG is unpinned as I reduced the shock.
Nick: Turn 5, Phase 1. 23445. The MG squad keeps up fire while the M3 drives forward, crashing through a gate. The man on the 0.50 cla is being replaced but it cannot fire, so I am taking the opportunity to get up close and personal with the bunker. If I can suppress the men inside my plan is to deploy the rifle squad in the halftrack to post some grenades through the firing slit. Chew on this Fritz!
Rich: 2/5. 66533. I deploy a squad with it rifle team by the bunker and the LMG teams heading towards the town. The panzerfaust doesn’t hit clearly, exploding next to the M3 and shocking the men on board. I get the next Phase
3/5. 55431. I try to drive off the M3 with MG fire, its morale is shaky, but I roll badly and fail. The sniper tries to take on the US MG squad but…..misses. The squad by the bunker run towards the cover of the village. In the square the Squad there are moving into the buildings. I am going to have to take on that US MG squad and I plan to do it with numbers on my side.
4/5 12345. Yahtzee! Combined fire from the 0.50 cal and the MG squad cause the Germans in the bunker to break. I play a Chain of Command dice to end the Turn and the broken Germans rout from the table with their Feldwebel. A major blow for the Hun. Their force morale tumbles.
Phase 1 Turn 6. 66543 The squad in the village moves upstairs and open fire on the US MG squad. The squad which deploy by the bunker now moves into the manor house whilst my third squad deploy into the square (fortunately they turn up, even though the Feldwebel has cleared off). I get the next Phase.
2/6. All three squad are now in the upstairs rooms of the town, The first squad is putting more fire into the US MG Squad which is suffering casualties thanks to Nick rolling a handful of sixes.
3/6. 23455. I move a jump-off point forward using a Chain of Command dice. This can only be done to ground I have captured, but using the Chain of Command dice reflects the “management time” I have put into scouting a clear route to the new point. I dismount the HQ squad from the M3 and they head towards the bunker.
Rich:: 4/6. 64332. My firepower coming from the front of the village is awesome, three MG42s and half a dozen or so riflemen fire on the US MG Squad and wound the US Platoon Sergeant. More men go down.
Nick: 5/6. 12346. The platoon sergeant rallies shock and pulls the MG squad back rather than suffer more casualties.
7/6. 24456. My Lieutenant moves his men up towards the Manoir moving tactically. The second squad moves up tactically as well. The Sergeant removes Shock from the men in the MG squad.
Rich: 8/6 64332. The MG42 fires from the manor onto the US troops moving round that flank, killing one and causing Shock. The squad in the town move into the square. My third squad is on overwatch looking out for the US MG Squad to return.
Nick: 9/6. 12235. I have a Sergeant and four men under the window where the MG 42 fire is coming from. They hurl grenades which, fortunately go in through the window. Had they missed they would have fallen down and exploded at my feet, but this is desperate stakes. The MG42 is threatening to hold up that whole flank attack. They explode killing the German NCO and a crewman. The German force morale plummets.
Rich: It does indeed. My Force Morale is now down to three. My men were badly affected when their Platoon commander ran away, now this NCO getting killed has been a major blow. I am reduced to three Command Dice. I roll 4,3 and 2. This is desperate stakes. My only hope is to crack the US morale. I use a Chain of Command dice to launch an ambush with my Panzerschreck on the halftrack. Unfortunately the bloke manning it is the brother of the sniper, I roll a 3 and miss.
My MG42 is still firing and kills another man. The Americans are skulking around the front of the manor, looking to seize my Jump-off point there which would hit my morale further. I move the squad in the square with the MG team facing up the road and the rifle team moving to the manor to reinforce that position.
Nick: 11/6. 11345. The HQ squad moves round to the Manoir front door whilst the second squad advancing under the MG42’s window moves round towards the square. In desperation I risk another couple of grenades. One goes through and kills a man, breaking the MG42 team in there. German morale slumps further.
Rich: It certainly does, and we call it a day. My losses were relatively light – the MG42 team of five men who were in the bunker lost four men dead whilst the MG team in the Manor lost three men including the NCO. I have two intact squads and the panzerschreck team. But my force morale has broken.
That was an interesting game, absolutely exhausting in this heat, but certainly a game of two halves. We are going to get some food and then we’ll be back with some of our post game thoughts.
ten top tips on life as a US platoon commander:
1) Use your scouts. Probe the enemy position. Go tactical where you can and take your time – the chances are that the krauts are more likely to want to keep their powder dry. Target a jump off point. Push up as far as you can. Use cover and, as soon as you can, use your CoC dice to push up your jump off points to capitalise on the ground these guys can quickly gain. The more time you can spend in this phase the greater will be your dominance of the ground with consequent advantage once the lead begins to fly.
2) Your MG squad gives a tremendous base of fire. Use this in concert with any vehicle mounted .50 cal to suck the life out of any defensive position.
3) Take advantage of your resilience. Your proportionately high number of NCO’s gives you lots of good options and will help manage shock. That said, get your platoon sgt in the action early to get things moving. If your scouts do their job, the senior leaders will be able to move the main assault teams quickly to the key points and take the battle to the enemy with devastating effect.
4) The co-ordination of fire and movement is crucial. With no squad level LMG you need to be sure that you can get your .30 cals or .50 cals to add their fire to your front. Good though the trusty M1 Garand may be, it cannot stand up to a well crewed MG42.
5) Carry no passengers. It may be a HQ section but these guys add value flexibility and firepower to your force. Sure, you need drivers and crewmen for bazookas and HMG’s but in the right spot, three resolute men led by an iron minded NCO will tie the krauts down and allow freedom of movement for your other squads.
6) The vehicle mounted .50 cal is a potent weapon. Deploy it early.
7) Push up in the face of snipers. Scouts can move 2 dice and stay tactical. Use your high proportion of NCO’s to remove shock. Pushing a senior leader up with the scouts is a risky business, but if lady luck is with you it may enable a sensational coup de main as the leader can keep the group moving and add useful short range firepower and the ability to engage aggressively with grenades.
8) Beware of the enemy’s fieldcraft and his abilities to deploy panzerschreck teams in ambush positions. Infantry and armour must support each other. Use overwatch even when on the offensive
9) Tactical moves are not slow, they are a way of saving lives and keep you in control. When attacking, resist the temptation to use every command dice just because you can. Don’t be in a hurry to die. Deploy only when you can kill or seize ground.
10) Preserving lives preserves force morale. The occasional bug out may lose face, but not the battle. Bug out. Reorganise. Capitalise.
So, that’s the thoughts from Nick. Interesting stuff. What I find most interesting about the US forces is their configuration and how different it is from the British or Germans. The US forces ability to use their scouts is key to their success. Scouts are a huge annoyance when you are a German player. The US player should be looking to Find, Fix, Flank and Finish. This sounds like a bit of a platitude, but believe you me, it is not. The large US squads mean that they can take a few hits before their manpower levels are really affected, so sending out scouts is a brilliant option. We need to remember that in Chain of Command the Scouts are not just out to find the enemy, they are also finding safe routes towards and, ideally, past the enemy. Whilst Nick went for the high-profile option of nicking one of my Jump-Off Points he could have just moved one of his jump-off points up behind his Scouts into ground which he had scouted out. See the image below and imagine if the jump-off point at A had been shifted 18″ to B.
With his Jump-Off point shifted across onto my right Nick would be well placed to wrong foot my defences. Especially as he could have shut down my jump-off point in that area by just moving to within 4″ of it, in which case he wouldn’t have been shot down in the road. So, something of a Mark Clark decision there – the glory of Rome rather than the really devastating tactical blow. But that is what Chain of Command is all about – presenting the gamer with some interesting and very real decisions to make during the course of play.
As it was, his scouts obliged me to deploy my MMG team and one of my squads and they confined my potential deployment area to one half of the table. However, Nick was they faced with the fact that he hadn’t found all of my forces and he had fixed none. With just the HMG on the table I was relatively happy to sit and wait. I certainly didn’t want to show any more of my force as the HMG is a beast of a weapon. So I sat and waited. I should have been more prepared for when Nick did eventually swing into action. His combined use of the MG Squad and the 0.50 HMG was text book stuff. Sheer weight of fire, especially when the HMG close the range to close, drove me out of my bunker, and my own infantry was not able to react quickly enough to this re-invigorated attack.
I must admit to some disappointment about my sniper. As we have seen, as a defender you cannot sit there and do nothing when enemy scouts are clambering all over your defences. You don’t want to show yourself, you know perfectly well that this is phase one of the “Four F’s” and finding you is their objective. But, at the same time you can’t have them finding safe routs through your defences and bring up their jump-off points. So you have to shoot the buggers.
I have to tell you that my sniper will hit anyone, anywhere on the table on 3 to 6 on a D6. So long as he can see them. Clearly his bloke had some serious problems as he should have been very effective in pinning down the Scouts. He just wasn’t. Indeed it was my frustration with him that led me to let fly with the MMG. But we all have bad days.
My broad plan of defence was to allow Nick to come on, to shoot him up, and then when he unleashed the 0.50 cal I was to withdraw into the church and the rearward buildings in order to oblige him to advance on to me. It’s text book stuff. It is unlikely his advance will be well enough co-ordinated to bring all of his forces to bear at the same moment, and that then lets me defeat him in detail. As it was, I got drawn into a firefight around the manor, and it took a big man of a US Sergeant to grasp the nettle and hurl grenades through the upstairs window (at significant personal risk) to break the potential stalemate and get things moving again. He probably won’t get a medal, but it was a turning point.
My morale was shaky after the colossal balls-up of deploying my platoon commander in the wrong place (as I said earlier, I am sooo used to having two Senior Leaders in a platoon I just forgot) and Nick cleverly routing him off the table (nobody likes to see their boss run off screaming!) that in the end it was that which decided the fight rather than the attritional effect of casualties. And that is something I like about Chain of Command. The fact that we are not looking to just march up and kill ’em all, this is about destroying your opponent’s will to continue resisting, and that’s what Nick achieved today.
So, a large slap on the back for Skinner and a massive plate of humble pie for me. In truth though, both of us enjoyed the thrill of the unfolding story line. Nick’s decision to take the M3 and the 0.50 calibre was proven to be the right one. It’s a high cost option, but the fast moving vehicle combined with the hard hitting weapon made a big impression. A fun day all round.
I hope this has been of interest to those of you watching from home and work. Please do feel free to continue asking any questions you may have and we’ll try to answer them.