Many campaign scenarios in Chain of Command specify higher numbers of support points compared to the basic rules for pick-up games, often to offset the casualties in reduced strength platoons, and several have modified core platoon structures as well. A platoon of 2 squads supported by a towed gun, a tank, and some specialist infantry would not be out of place, as in Chain of Command you probably got there the hard way!
Regardless of how you choose your force, the important gameplay considerations of list-building for Chain of Command are going to be the following:
+ Can it reliably activate? +
In Chain of Command it is much easier to activate the infantry squads that make up your platoon (1s, 2s, 3s, 4s with SL) than it is to activate support weapon crews (1s, sometimes 3s, sometimes 4s with SL) and vehicles (usually only 3s, no SLs). If a force has too many support units it will struggle to use them, as they will all compete for 1s and 3s.
There are some options in Chain of Command force construction that can mitigate these difficulties (support infantry squads, multiple senior leaders, red dice, vehicle platoons for vehicle senior leaders) but overall this is an intentional limitation to reflect the difficulty of coordinating a combined-arms force, and it will probably put some constraints on lists built via Bolt Action.
If you play a multiplayer game of Big Chain of Command, it will be easier to take a wide variety of support elements as they can be distributed across several platoons, and any vehicles can be concentrated into a vehicle platoon under one player's control.
+ Does it have enough infantry? +
This is partially related to activations, but it bears repeating because there are other factors involved. Terrain in Chain of Command is fairly harsh on vehicles, both in terms of movement and line-of-fire. Objectives will often be in built-up areas that are dangerous, if not impossible, for vehicles to enter. Finally, a game between a primarily infantry force and a primarily vehicle force has the potential to be very lop-sided, because both sides only have a handful of ways to interact with the other.
I'd say a Senior Leader and two squads is the functional minimum for a game of Chain of Command outside of very specific scenarios. Three squads is the default, both historically and in game, but even then there is a surprising amount of variation.
+ Does that unit work similarly in this game? +
This is going to be pretty much unavoidable. Chain of Command and Bolt Action are two different games, with different rules. This means that the same units in each game are going to interact in different ways. Certain equipment may perform differently (as mentioned above, activations for vehicles in Chain of Command are very limited unless you field a platoon of them) and all of this means that the point costs for one game will not have as much bearing on their effectiveness in the other.
As long as all players are aware of this going in, Chain of Command tends to be fairly forgiving of moderate force disparities, but it is something to be aware of.
Now, once they get more comfortable with Chain of Command, if you want to nudge them into transitioning over to the CoC force construction rules, here are some suggestions of how to make that easier:
Almost all support lists have entries for additional personnel, generally along the lines of the following (condensed for brevity):
- List 2: an additional senior leader (if only one is present)
- List 2: an additional light mortar team, or anti-tank weapon team
- List 3-5: an additional squad of the same type as that of the core platoon, valued depending on its composition.
- List 4-6: an additional squad of specialist troops (cavalry, motorcyclists, scouts, SMGs, engineers, etc.) again valued depending on its composition.
To increase the customization options, you could start with almost any core platoon list, remove one of its core squads, and then take additional support points equal to the value of a support squad of that type. Now, unless you're really starved for support points you are probably going to want to take an additional squad regardless, but it wouldn't have to be of the same type, and if your friends really like that aspect of list-building they may feel better for having the choice.
In terms of equipment, some support lists also have entries for modifying the weaponry of squads, some examples being:
- List 1: equip one soldier with an automatic rifle (i.e. BAR or FG42) or a satchel charge
- List 1: equip two soldiers with SMGs, or assault rifles, or anti-tank grenades, or panzerfausts
- List 1: equip one squad with semiautomatic rifles
- List 2: equip three soldiers with one LMG
These options usually show up on lists for generic platoons in armies going through periods of transition and/or disorganization, such as early war russians as well as late war germans and americans (for different reasons). If you apply these options more generally and use them in moderation, that should help with the feeling of customization. Note that support list options represent "extra" equipment and tend to be more expensive than the core elements of a platoon, and the actual impact of additions like this is usually pretty minor, but again, it may be important just to have the option.
Hope this helps!
As an aside, am I missing something about MMGs in Chain of Command?
They seem like a budget option, offering slightly less firepower (10 dice) than a full support squad (12-14 dice) taken from list 4-5, with significantly less durability (5 soldiers vs. 10) and much harder to activate (only 1s vs. 1s, 2s, & 3s). The 24" close range is a minor point in their favor, but I've mulled over some sort of Sustained Fire house rule option (or the one from Great War CoC) because they don't offer anything unique. HMGs are, of course, an entirely different matter because of their cover reduction.