We’ve been having a rather hectic time on Lard Island over the past few weeks, so last night at the club we just fancied a relaxed game as a bit of a wind down. As a result I thought we’d go off-piste, with no army lists and have a dabble with some of Skinner’s more colourful figures which he’s been collecting for a gangster game at Christmas.
The result was that Winston Churchill received news of a Nazi secret weapon which was being developed in a secret laboratory just outside Calais. Doktor Sidney, Graf von Schtabbin, one time Great War Air Ace and now Doctor of some dubious Nazi pseudo-science, headed a team of evil scientists in a secret establishment nestled in the beach-side dunes at Sangatte – a traditional assembly point for would be invaders of these shores. His weapon, the effect of which was potentially so terrible that there is still a hundred years notice on the file in the Cabinet Records Office, was apparently reaching the point where it could be tested against the south coast of England.
For the Prime Minister this was an opportunity to use his newly raised Commandos in a raid onto the shores of Nazi occupied Europe. Only one man could be trusted with such a sensitive mission, Lord Hamish Lovitch, 14th Laird and 5th Baron Lovitch, has been called to the Cabinet rooms to be briefed by the PM and the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. His mission is one of incredible daring and absolute necessity. He must lead his Commandos across the channel to Sangatte and destroy the cliff-top installation, capturing von Schtabbin and his evil minions before escaping back to dear old Blighty.
The plan had been for a night raid, with HMS Matabele, a tribal class destroyer, transporting the raiders across the channel. Once in the vicinity of Sangatte small boats were to transport the small raiding party of just 33 men onto the beach. It was unfortunate that E-Boat activity in the channel had delayed the arrival of the Commandos until just before dawn, and yet Lovitch was determined not to change his plans.
In the half light the British commandos moved up the shallow rocky escarpment onto the dunes beyond, avoiding the headland bunker and seeking out routes through the wire entanglements on the headland and blocking the most obvious gully off the beach.
A cry went up, the crack of a rifle, and the raiders were seen. Immediately His Lordship sent forward a three man flamethrower team which sent an oily sheet of flame and billowing black smoke towards the bunker. The cries of the Germans within were pitiful, yet the fire from the MG34 continue, albeit diminished in its accuracy and ferocity.
As the flamethrower attached Lieutenant Sandy St Clair threw himself onto the barbed with and his party of six men ran across his back onto the dunes which approached the rear of the bunker. Sandy ran forward to catch up the party, just as another MG34 opened up from la Villa Ronde Bois which they presumed was the main German billet for the establishment. Only one man went down, but this was Sergeant MacGillivray, the big man from Iverness who had led his section since the unit was formed.
Yet St Clair rushed on through the hail of bullets as the flamethrower played on the firing slits on the far side of the bunker. Two No.36 Mills bombs posted through the rear slits saw six Germans emerge, their uniforms smoking and clearly in shock, surrendering to the commandos. Quickly Lieutenant St Clair moved them round to the top of the escarpment in the lee of the bunker where they took cover with the commandos.
In the central gully a Bren team was trading fire with any target it could see. As a party of civilian clad men emerges from the villa and entered a waiting Citroen the Bren team took out one man and caused the driver to reverse away at top speed into the cover of the trees. Meanwhile a 2” mortar team was putting down smoke to blind the German MG team in the nearby Flak bunker.
It was now the commandos plan began to go awry. Sergeant Campbell had been detached from his section to take the flamethrower forward. Lord Lovitch was now deploying Campbell’s section into action without their Sergeant and they hesitated briefly before running forward to skirt the vegetable garden by the villa. Lieutenant St Clair ran down to join them, but the momentary hesitation has allowed the Germans enough time to reposition their MG 34 team. As the commando section attempted to rush the building they were met with a hail of bullets, cutting them down. St Clair and one remaining man were driven back into the dunes towards Escalles and Cap Blanc Nez.
Yet for all their failure, the advance of this command section had opened up a clear route to the house. Lord Lovitch now took advantage of that with what few men he had left under his control, even a team of Engineers brought along to clear the wire were roped in to this impromptu advance. As his Lordship stopped forward he could see some men in leather coats at a ground floor window. “Damn Gestapo!”, he knew that von Schtabbin was protected by a team of those ghouls. “Fraser, Cameron, get two grenades through that window now!” It was a decisive moment. A brace of grenades into the villa would likely clear out the Gestapo and open a route for the commandos to snatch victory. Yet both grenades missed, bouncing back from the wall and exploding hurling shrapnel at the exposed commandos among the cabbages. Lord Lovitch was hit, just a wound but his men saw him stagger back, blood streaming down from his brow.
An evil laugh rang out and a stream of bullets from an MP40 came from the villa kitchen window kicking up the earth around the Laird and his piper. With a terrible wail the pipes clattered to the floor, and as if in response the scion of the ancient house of Lovitch was hit in the hail of lead. As he slipped into unconsciousness he could see his men laying down their arms around him. Then all was mercifully black.
Back on the headland the commandos were slipping away back down to the beach, the German prisoners abandoned in the rush. Only thirteen men escape, an appropriate number, with Sergeant Campbell whipping in the stragglers as they ran for the boats.
This was actually a rather fun game with a fair bit of internal politics on the German side. Two squads of Heer and one tripod mounted MG34 team were defending the perimieter whilst a ten man Gestapo team were tasked with protecting Dr von Schtabbin. In every German Phase the Gestapo got the first choice of the Command Dice with no consultation between players allowed, so the Army were getting rather frustrated by the political mafia interfering.
The big issue on the British side was the small number of forces they had to begin with and the very exposed jump-off points. In fact the British reorganised their force into numerous small teams, and in the event this really hurt them once Sergeant MacGillivray was killed. They just didn’t have enough commanders to co-ordinate their forces. In the end they reached a death or glory moment and went for it for all they were worth. Lord Lovitch was the most unlucky man on the table, his moment of heroism literally blew up in his face and seeing him fall seriously wounded finished off his forces morale. Much to the amusement of the German players.
Lots of hilarity as always with one of these more “pulpy” scenarios. Evil Nazi scientists, Gestapo agents, Good Germans, Bad Germans, Scottish Lairds and going Commando is always likely to produce a rather different type of WWII game, and it certainly did. However, this did not stop the actual game being a good reflection of a commando raid. Much of the game was actually based on the Bruneval raid, even down to the large circular driveway, but with lots of added scenic detail to add a bit of fun. One of the things we like about Chain of Command is that whilst the scenario camped it up for all it was worth, and the characters involved did their heroic best to live up to expectations, we also saw the rules produce an exciting and nail biting game which came down to the last roll of the dice. Which can’t be bad.
We returned to our play-testing for our Boer War lest evening with the battle of Belmont. Historically this battle was the first real action in the attempt to relieve Kimberly, and saw a British night attack go astray due to lack of maps and misjudgement of distances, and resulted in a frontal attack on two