Two years ago, the Dastardly Regular Opponent and myself were summoned North to the home of our Creative Regular opponent to take part in Operation Chisel, a scenario written by our host and featuring four platoons in total on the board. It was a great introduction to Big Chain of Command, as well as a chance to spend an afternoon with friends, rolling some dice and blowing up tanks. We finished off planning to get plenty more games of Chain of Command in, helped by the fact I was planning to transfer to Leeds.
And then 2020 happened. The winter time slot saw us still in lockdown. 2021 was busy for everyone, including our Creative Regular Opponent who managed to move house after a frankly dizzing amount of bullshit. Part of this house move has meant that he has ended up with an attic floor just asking for a hobby/wargames room, and luckily it was among the first rooms finished off (mostly). So when the Christmas break came around, the Dastardly Regular Opponent and myself were once again invited North to partake in more Big CoC.
Once again, rather than playing a preset mission in the Chain of Command rulebook, the Creative Regular Opponent (or CRO) had prepared an operation, complete with briefing for all parties. And once again, I found myself with a different briefing and set of instructions. Something I found out about 5 minutes into the journey when the topic of engaging buildings with high explosives came up. Turns out the Para commander was allowed to be a touch more aggressive with his forces.
There was also a mention of the Soviet Army and an urging to react quickly to prevent something “Unthinkable”.
Our battle site for the day was Rheinburg, a town on the Kermisdahl river just over the German border from the operational area of our previous game With the action having shifted to February 1945, the invasion of Germany rumbled on. My orders were to capture the town and church, allowing the advance of friendly force further into Germany. It was not going to be easy – according to the briefing, elements of the 655th Heavy Anti-Tank Battalion, 84th Infantry Division, 180th Infantry Division, 47th Panzer Corps, 7th Parachute Division, and 15th Panzergrenadier Division were all in the area, so our opposition would be varied. What was also concerning was the appearance of a halftrack and a 88mm position in the churchyard during the recce flyover, signs of emplaced AA/AT forces.
In a major difference from last time we played, I now had my own force under control. The 25th Infantry Regt. (Scots and Yorks) which I spent the start of last year painting would get their first taste of table top action, alongside the freshly painted Churchill tanks. With this being a Big CoC game, I actually got to control a platoon of each, something I definitely appreciated.
Regular Opponent Ally would be taking on control of the Paras (recently reconstituted after their trip to Holland in the Autumn) and accompanied by a platoon of Guards Armour (the platoon I had controlled in our last game).
We were then informed by our host/opponent that we had the grand total of 50 support points to spend between us. This of course was answered with “What the Hell are we up against” and “Damn why didn’t I finish the Avre” but eventually we made our selections
To accompany my Regular Infantry Platoon and the Churchill Platoon, I chose:
- Infantry Platoon
- Adjutant – Not as vital for the Brits as it is a German platoon, but still a nice to have when both senior leaders hit the board.
- Vickers MMG – A British Infantry Section is not going to outgun a German Infantry Zug
- Pre-Game Barrage – With the Germans throwing 4 platoons at us, having the ability to slow their arrival might be handy.
- Forward Observer – In a platoon engagement, having a load of mortars to drop on the enemy is a useful way of forcing enemies off a position. With my force, I think the more important element of a mortar barrage would be popping smoke to cut down on the enemy’s sightlines.
- Sniper – I am a big fan of the humble sniper in Chain of Command. The ability to reach out and touch the enemy is always useful, especially when the enemy can only return fire by burning command initiative and locking someone in place on overwatch to maybe catch sight of you. I also have a very nice sniper team waiting for action.
- Armoured Platoon
ParachuteVeteran Infantry Section – The parachute infantry section perfectly matches what the Warlord Winter Brits are armed with. Giving them to the Armoured Platoon represented some Veterans riding on the tanks as close security before disembarking just before they entered the board.
- Recce Section – Borrowing a few carriers from the host, I added another bit of infantry support to the Churchills to hopefully speed down the board. This section was sadly wasted as I totally forgot to bring them on before… events transpired.
To use the other points, the Parachute Infantry Platoon and Guard armour took:
- Parachute Infantry Platoon
- Vickers MG
- Forward Observer + 3″ Mortar Barrage
- An additional section
- PIAT team
- Guards Armoured Platoon
- Cromwell Recce Tank
Arrayed against us were elements of a German Tank Platoon (with supports), a Fallschirmjager Infantry platoon and a German Infantry Platoon. There was also mention of an SS Platoon, although it only came into play later on. Additionally, the Germans started off with multiple full Chain of Command dice, as they had several non-standard ways of using them.
As you’d expect, the Para’s stormed forward off their jumping off point, heading for the first piece of cover.
In contrast, my first roll for my Infantry Platoon was that combination above. Sadly, the single 6 is wasted but a massive four pips on the Chain of Command dice had me well on my way.
The paras also deployed their sniper to cover the the long sightlines down the board towards the known 88mm position.
After rolling for my armoured platoon, I managed to activate my tanks. The Junior boy in the platoon (one of the 75mm gun tanks) started off slowly, rolling slowly along the bridge past the regular jumping off point.
In it’s shadow, the 6pdr tank rolled into position and setup an overwatch just in case anything was to appear from the town itself.
I wasn’t the only armoured commander moving forces around. At the same, the recce Cromwell blasted across the bridge, putting it’s speed to good use.
The empty windows of the town overlooked the Cromwell as it came to a pause ready for future operation.
A shot the other way reveals the 88mm gun shield lurking behind the church wall.
The Guards Commander, rolling onto the board, setup on overwatch to cover the left flank.
The Germans now took their turn and started it off by rolling one of their Panzer IVs onto the table coming down the road.
Barely coming to a halt, the Panzer IV managed to line up a shot on the advancing Churchill and send a 75mm shell hurtling across the field, resulting in a damaged mantlet and a VERY concerned gunner.
Zooming past the gunfire, a Puma armoured car begin heading for the centre of town. I’m not super worried about it against the Churchill but it’s still something I don’t want running around too badly.
On the other side, the German 88mm crew disembarked from the protection of their half track and rushed to start manning the gun. Although not technically a support option in the game, we went with a 8 man crew for it (junior leader and 7 crew) which seemed about right.
It was also located in the centre of town, a very real danger for any force attempted to cross it’s arc… such as the Cromwell currently in the open.
The FJs decided now would be a good time to deploy and begin taking up fire positions to repulse the oncoming infantry.
Having just seen the shell bounce off it’s partner tank, the other Churchill dropped overwatch and engaged the enemy. The first shot would do nothing but, thanks to a double phase, the second shot sent a solid lump of metal through the turrets spaced armour and straight into the ammo rack. First tank killed.
While the tanks duelled, their escort moved into position. With the Infantry still waiting for orders (the fault of a poor platoon officer recently promoted after a much loved veteran has been moved to Company HQ), it fell to the 10th Regiment of Rifles (Teesside) to push forward and secure forward positions. In game terms, I wanted to move my JOPs forward into the town rather having to foot slog all the way in.
Having seen the problem with the 88mm (and experienced a 88mm shell flying past his Cromwell), the Dastardly Ally was quick to drop 2inch smoke rounds to block the line of sight.
Having moved my tanks forward, we swapped to the German player who immediately placed…
An AT gun in the side streets. A PAK40 in fact. This is something to be worried about, especially with it being on my flank. Luckily the shell hit the bridge support rather than
Of course this was made worse when one of the uses for the German player’s Chain of Command dice came into effect. With a supersonic woosh, a Pak 43 shell came crashing in from off map and barely missed the Churchill tank on the bridge. At this point, I know realised I needed to pop smoke to break up the sight line on the right flank.
On the left flank, my ally was also about to bring his mortars to bear. The difference was he was calling for HE. After reading the rules, he decided to go with a ranging shot rather than risking a full on stonk. Luckily, he managed to land bang on the target so next activation would bring the rain.
Back at the bridge, the Paras were taking cover behind the house, unwilling to advance through the open area ahead of them. With a JOP close to the main buildings, that open ground would leave them exposed to germans hiding in the buildings ahead.
Rolling a 4 among my Command dice, I decided to bring my Senior leader and his tank onto the board. With the potential of having multiple enemy tanks attacking my flank, the risk of it turning into a shell slinging match had me realising that I should get more guns on the table than the other guy.
On the right, the Paras were massing in preparation for a push on the town, with the Senior NCO ordering the 2inch mortar and the Forward Observer to keep firing.
The armour’s attached infantry continued the advance – seeing as I only had a team activation (a command dice of 1) left, I decided to leave the Junior Leader and the Bren gun team back to provide cover as the rifle team stormed forward.
On the left, the British Mortars really started causing havoc. As rounds dropped out of the sky, the halftrack took a direct hit, knocking it out and forcing the crew manning the MG42s to dismeark. It also started dropping shock markers.
It had taken a while but finally the main infantry platoon is beginning to arrive. My dice rolls weren’t great, but putting the Senior NCO on the table would put me in a good position in future turns. It’s also a good story moment – the experienced NCO making his way forward to see what’s going on before his boys turn up.
As the Paras began to cross the open ground, the Germans started appearing in the building in the centre of this picture. This would lead into a slugging match, with the armour and infanty taking advantage of Covering Fire to keep the Grenadiers inside bottled up
The arrival of the Germans in the building was not the only movement. The FJs left the cover of the town hall and started heading to meet the approaching Brits.
Another German deployment was in the multistory building covering the British Infantry approach.
The first burst caused some damage among the veteran infantry, with one casualty and two points of shock, putting the team at risk of being pinned. In addition, the squad leader caught a round, injuring him and reducing his command initiatives.
Unfortunately I missed getting a photo of the carnage but the British took their first tank loss. Thanks to a Chain of Command dice being spent, an 88mm shell came screaming in off the board and found a new home in the turret ring of the forward advanced Churchill. This is what’s know as a “Serious Emotional Event”.
With an AFV being destroyed and a junior leader lost, it took a rather sizeable chunk out of the armoured platoon’s morale.
Almost as concerning as is the appearance of a Tiger tank behind the church. This meant that there were now two heavy AT guns covering the Para’s flank, even if the mortar barrage (kept running through several turn ends via via the use of Chain of Command dice) was picking away at anyone in the open.
After a pretty horrifying turn of events in the German turn, it was now back to the Allies. My first deployment was the Infantry’s Sniper team. Due to what’s required to engage a sniper in CoC (going on overwatch followed by a lucky dice roll), placing them in LOS of the machine gun would let them start putting shock or kills on it with a much lower risk than engaging it directly.
My next action was getting the some more Infantry on the board. The first Section pushed out along the fence line, moving to link up with the Guards armour advancing down the road.
I wasn’t the only one bringing forces onto the field. The FJs had deployed their Stug in the churchyard, another AT gun to blunt the Guard’s advance up the field.
A FJ sniper team also appeared, taking up position in the church tower (as war movie stereotypes demand). The sniper obviously didn’t mind the mortar rounds dropping around them, which would perhaps end up being a touch risky as the Paras kept bringing the barrage in closer and closer
The German tank platoon brought on another Panzer IV. Before it even finished it’s first advance, it sent a shell right into the Churchill III’s ammo rack, blowing it to pieces.
As you might expect, this caused another shift in the Tank Platoon’s morale. Dropping it down to only 2, I found myself with much less flexibility in the upcoming phases. A jumping off point would also be removed, but for this scenario we left it in place.
Back with the Allied activation, and the mortar barrage continued, finally clearing out the 88mm crew and silencing the gun. Shells also started to land on the Tiger, causing some mild discomfort.
With two of his Squadron members out of action and activations draining away, the Senior Leader’s tank stepped up into the firing line. Sighting on the Panzer 4, the first shot stunned the gunner, giving plenty of time to prepare for another round.
Sadly on the other side of the table, the Guard’s took their first casualty of the game when a newly arrived Panther tank managed to thread the needle and sink a shell into the side of the Recce Cromwell.
Back with the Allies, the Infantry continued their advance behind the Veterans. Additionally, seeking to disengage from the tank battle, I deployed the forward observer to prepare a smoke barrage.
Taking the Paras off the chain, the deployment of a Vickers team to keep fire on the enemy held buildings allowed the second section to move off from it’s cover point, moving all out to keep ahead of the enemy fire screaming overhead.
…. There isn’t anything new actually happening here, I just like the Airborne Senior Leader and his crew of support elements setup by the bridge.
Meanwhile, despite the crashing barrage, the FJ deployed an infantry section into the graveyard, ready to ambush the advancing paras.
With more infantry on the board, I also deployed my second British Infantry section. My plan here was I now have a sizeable infantry force that could then push forward, allowing for me to then move the jumping off point into the town.
It seems the Germans realised what was going on and moved to counter my advance, the FJs moving all out.
Next activation, one of the Guards Sherman tanks started rolling down the street in an attempt to capture the town centre.
Much to the horror of the FJs, who found themselves frantically needing to get out of the street before the tank could open fire.
My Infantry were also heading in the same direction and so the firefight would all come down to who would activate first.
And then the Germans got a double phase.
At which point the FJs managed to secure a building, drop the MG42 down and open up on my advancing Brits. The veterans taking the lead took the fire, with several casualties and points of shock before being able to move into cover.
The Guards spot a Puma entering the town square and prepares to engage.
To assist with the advance moving forward, the Paras were quick to move another jumping off point next to their base of fire.
With the MG in the centre of town shifting it’s focus from my Infantry to the Paras crossing the field, I decided to relocate my sniper team to cover the gap into the centre of town. In what would be a glorious Call of Duty style set piece, it’s easy to imagine the snipers ducking along the banks of the river as tank shells fly overhead, before climbing up into the new position under the bridge.
In the town hall, the Germans deployed their light mortar, eager to halt any further para advances.
In a similar way, the another unit of Grenadiers appeared in the old farm buildings, pushing into the courtyard and putting fire down against the building full of Paras, in a scene very familiar to the last time we played Big CoC.
Watching another Panzer IV appear, the Tank Platoon leader decided to finish the fight and slammed home a 75mm AP shell into the lead vehicle. With a deafening explosion, the turret was sent spiralling away, the tank duel now with equal results for both sides.
The Paras had managed to move into position in a certain farmhouse that fans may remember from last time we played Big CoC, preparing a good defensive position and trading gunfire with the building marked with the white counter.
The falling mortar bombs started to worry the Stug commander as they rained down closer and closer. One lucky round even managed to wound the Sniper in the tower, removing that threat.
The Tiger tank, gunning the engine, smashed it’s way through the churchyard walls and began advancing towards the enemy at a slow steady pace. This let the gunner draw a line of fire on the Firefly and….
BOOM! Direct hit on the Firefly sends bits of tank everywhere as the crew hastily disembarked and run for cover.
Return fire however was brutal. Para fire managed to pin the 5cm mortar team on the rooftop, while the Vickers hammering the grenadiers made the German player relocate.
On my flank, I was reorganising my infantry sections, the veterans reforming to move together while the two regulars prepared to push on the recently vacated FJ positions (one moving into the house on the left). The FJs had sprinted into the next building along and would have probably proved to be a difficult problem to crack.
And then the Skeletons arrived
I feel like I should explain.
Every time we rolled for the turn to end (rather than the end of our activation phase), the German player/host would reach for his phone and read a forboding piece of text. Originally it could all be explained away as bad weather. But soon the shadows were moving unnaturally, a sense of unease fill the air and strange lights illuminated the church. And then…
Surprise, it was actually a Weird War 2 game.
Thanks to the ritual of the SS commander in the church (who had spent every activation attempting to build up Chain of Command dice, was now able to begin spending them to summon up groups of skeletons. They were run using some Zombie rules found on the TFL forum, with the only tweak being their numbers worked out using D6+6 seeing as we were in a Big CoC game
Of course, the appearance of the undead did unnerve most people around the board. Only the Paras and the SS were unaffected. The duelling tank platoons (both mine and the Germans) routed immediately at the sight of the undead horde, while the Guards took a knock down hard enough to lose command dice. My Regulars were still relatively game, an advantage of having held them back for now and being relatively free of their concerns up until this point..
With the twist in the game revealed, it was now time for a mission change. I soon learnt what my allies actual objective was – seize the church and eliminate any SS officers who might be leading the ritual.
As the turn had ended during the skeleton’s arrival, and without enough Chain of Command dice to keep the bombardment going, the Allied FOs called in a new bombardment. There was some discussions about ignoring the ranging shot but luckily it was decided to go with one. Luckily, because it dropped far, FAR too short and would have caught the forward Para section.
On my side of the board, I decided to bring the JOP up, giving me a foothold in the town. From here, I’d be able to organise my remaining assets (the Vickers, PIAT and Rifle Section) and get them directly into the fight.
Excuse the blurry photo but this was our first sign just what we were up against when we got our first battle between the skeletons and the fleeing Germans. Fisticuffs in Chain of Command is brutal at the best of times but each skeleton was doing the damage of four men and were hard to kill (seeing as all kills have to be confirmed by another dice roll), not even the STGs and MP40s could help, especially being attacked in the rear.
Once the skeletons struck back, it was all over – the Grenadiers torn apart as the horde advanced.
Luckily ancient skeletons lack armoured piercing weapons capable of dealing with modern vehicles – something the Puma crew were obviously happy about.
Ready to counter the skeleton horde, I brought in a Hail Mary – my Senior Officer, the PIAT team, Vickers MG and the final rifle section. With the game approaching an end, it was time to get everything moving. The Rifles and Vickers setup on the road alongside the Guards’ armour.
I also began working the other two sections around the flank, attempting to reach the Church while avoiding the bulk of the skeletons.
The bulk that were now swarming the square, past the cowering Puma and the fleeing MG team.
Luckily, before the undead could activate, the combined gunfire was able to open up, dropping many of them with HE rounds and automatic fire.
The final few advanced further, eventually charging in to cause some damage but were eventually beaten back.
Of course, further skeletons were still advancing and managed to get into combat range, charging in to the section beside the tank.
Most of the shock markers on this section was actually from where I opened up and cause barely any casualties or shock. Horrified as the undead managed to shrug off rifle shots like they were nothing, the close quarters fisticuffs eventually took them down (turns out it easier to skill a skeleton beating it to death with a rifle butt).
The paras on the other side also came up against the skeleton hordes, defending their bullet filled farmhouse from the oncoming horde. There was definitely plenty of Dog Soldiers references made at this point, and luckily the walls held firm.
One problem with fighting the undead is that they have a habit of continuing to rise as long as the ritual behind them continues. Seems like the stack of Chain of Command dice kept giving us bad guys, with each full one being exchanged to summon another group (made worse by the German player handing us the dice to roll every time a new group appeared).
Of course, the Para player, being a Dastardly man with practical plans, soon worked out that continuing the barrage would cause absolute havoc on the slow moving skeletal warriors (helped by HE kills not needing to be confirmed). The barrage really did save that flank, preventing full sized hordes from reaching the paras.
With the bulk of the undead being drawn towards the Paras, I managed to setup two of my rifle teams to prepare an L shaped assult on the church. However, before we could advance we first had to take out the enemy – fanatical SS troopers right out of a 1960s pulp film. I ended up getting into a two way firing range with them, the dual MGs managing to hold back the two British sections.
Eventually though, I managed to bring up my PIAT and Vickers, able to form the base of fire before the infantry could advance. I didn’t get a chance to do my expertly tactical push on the Nazi filled mausoleum before the game ended but there was a little bit of satisfaction setting up the tactical puzzle.
The mortar barrage, buoyed up yet more Chain of Command dice, continued to scythe down the undead (even after they chewed their way through the Germans at the farm building). The remaining shambling survivors were then taken down by the Paras as they advanced towards the church.
The mortar barrage was also causing havoc inside the church as well, slowly chipping at the fanatical defenders. Eventually, as the night in the real world grew darker, the mortars managed to reduce the SS defenders to a junior leader and the target for the operation, the Villainous SS Colonel.
Deciding to make a break for the board edge, the SS NCO rushed two flanking paras while the Colonel tried to slink away to perform dastardly deeds somewhere else.
Alas, the heroic last stand was all in vain, and a burst of Bren fire finally managed to kill the target. Mission accomplished!
I will admit, when the skeletons appeared I was a touch surprised – I’d expected some twist based on the briefing documents but the appearance of the Undead did have me burst out laughing, even more so once the boxes of skeletons arrived! We all agreed the scenario could do with a tweak or two (we had progressed through the turns far quicker than the host had anticipated and so had a fair chunk of ground to cover against an enemy that didn’t shoot back. I still really like the Big CoC formula for having everyone involved – even with one player with four platoons, the game didn’t really feel to drag at all
Overall, the game reminded me why I’m really excited about playing Chain of Command – the thrill of the command dice, the friction when shooting or moving that really makes you think on your feet. There were a few cases of carefully picking dice to get everything I wanted done, as well as some annoyances at fluffed dice rolls. The game continues to be my favourite platoon level game and one I’m eager to prepare for Ultramodern use.
Getting a chance to control my own force as well was something new and exciting – I’m really happy with how my winter Brits look, not too overwhelming with the snow effects that they seem too out of place on the regular European board. I’m definitely going to get them finished and will probably (later in the year once I can get to a show Empress is at) pick up some of Paul Hick’s Germans and Americans to similarly paint up for 1945.