With it seeming like we’re settling in for a long time of dealing with coronavirus-related limitations, I decided to attempt to get out and play some games. I’m not quite ready to risk playing at a club (mostly because I need to find a new one). However, due to being back in England and within a reasonable distance (40 minute drive) of my Dastardly Regular Opponent in York, we decided some socially distanced gaming was in order. After some careful prep/planning, we were able to play.
However, the question was what to play – both of us have collections we were interested in playing with. But eventually, we settled on some desert Chain of Command, 8th Army vs DAK in 1941. This, along with my Dastardly Regular Opponent reading up on the period, eventually mutated to a cunning plan… a campaign.
As my Dastardly Regular Opponent has been writing this campaign up, I’ll let him provide the details (you can see above). However, I’ll add that I decided to play as the Afrika Korps, rather than my usual British. Why? Well, I’m already incredibly used to how the British platoon works and wanted to try using the dual MGs, less integrated support. Even better, I’ll eventually get a hand on my some of the German Steel – I have already been sending him Flak 88 links so I have something to hammer his Matilda tanks.
So Mission 1 saw the British probing the Axis defences before eventually pushing through the first line of defences. Despite being the defender, I managed to be quite aggressive in the patrol phase but then remained static when the shooting started. Instead, I should have pushed harder, grabbing the centre and becoming a real threat to keep the carriers away. I was also pretty stuck with the lack of AT, which really hampered my attempts to keep them away. My single point of support was a bit of a kick in the junk!
So next time (in two weeks or so), I’ll have to deal with the British pushing into the suburbs. Hopefully, I’ll be able to lock them down more easily in a semi-urban environment and HOPEFULLY hold them off until the relief force (and its armour) arrives. Also hopefully before the British Matilda starts to roll around.
Christmas is the time I return home to Leeds. As well as family events, I usually end up using it to encounter my Regular Opponent and get a game of something in. This year, myself and Regular Opponent got invited up North to partake in some Chain of Command, my favourite set of WW2 rules (and one that I dearly wish was still coming to modern-day). With three of us ready to play, we decided to play Big Coc and, in between chuckling, started looking up all the tank rules we had not got round to ever using before.
As the only player who didn’t have a painted army (my Brits still sat waiting for me to get my act together), I took control of one of The Host’s armies. Seeing as the three of us are very interested in Operation Market Garden, The Host decided we’d be working our way up Hell’s Highway and he’d be the one blocking us with “old men and boys” (Translated from Intel: a Panzergrenadier platoon and a Panzer 4 platoon). My Regular Opponent was in charge of the Paras while I would be taking charge of XXX Corps.
While the other two rolled up support choices, I ( Lt. Michael Mather-Charge II of the Grenadier Guards) was presented with a simple force – A Sherman V with Senior Leader, two Sherman V’s with Junior Leaders and a Sherman Vc Firefly with Junior Leader. To provide support, a pair of Universal Carriers transported a section of Motor Infantry.
The other side of the game was the scenario. Rather than simply running a standard setup from the rule book, The Host instead decided to expand and make it a little more interesting. Each player received a different briefing, meaning that myself and My Regular Opponent actually had different goals despite being on the same team. Worse, we actually had different information as well, with our maps having different key locations on them.
Put simply, my goal was to capture the central plaza of Elst, before pushing north to continue on the road to Arnhem. However, I couldn’t actually get onto the board until the Paras had captured a foothold in the town referred to as HIGH TOP. Until they popped smoke, I was forced to sit on the sidelines (with my CO making sure I didn’t try any funny business). If I gained enough COC dice through lucky dice rolls, I could start off early – this task would be made easier if enemy armour was spotted from my Jumping Off Position or enemy infantry started to advance on the bridge.
Here we have the town of Elst, as it was established on our arrival at Our Host’s residence. Shown here is the bulk of the village, the bridge in the south and the road to Arnhem in the north.
As well as the road signs, this image captures three vital locations – the tall building known as HIGH TOP on the left, the leafy town plaza I was ordered to secure and the local town hall, which the German would have inevitably fortified.
The view from the bridge shows XXX Corps route of arrival. On the left, the first house in that row is also the bridge control building – it would be vital to secure this to prevent the Germans from cutting off the main advance.
Before the Patrol Phase had actually begun, The Host showed off his wonderful patrol markers, detailed with kettenkrads and scouts.
As the rest of the XXX Corps boys wait for the signal, a lone rifleman sneaks forward to spot the Germans moving into location.
Sadly, I failed to capture the useful photos of how the patrol phase actually went. The Para’s were able to get their markers relatively far forward, but the Germans stormed across the plaza and lockdown was achieved relatively quickly. German JOPs ran from the comms hut in the north down to the plaza, while the Paras managed to get one very close to HIGHTOP target building.
The Allies grabbed the first action… and thus began my dice rolling/waiting. However, the Paras were much faster. The third sections deployed into the roof of the northern farmhouse, setting up their pair of brens and marksman team.
In the Windmill, an Airborne sniper gently opened up the shutters and set up, his scope covering the road outside the church.
The other two sections of the Platoon also deployed and began their advance onto the objectives. The section at HIGHTOP moved relatively quickly, getting into the small back garden while the Bridge section moved through the cover alongside the road.
And not a moment too soon as the ripping paper sound of dual MG42s announced the arrival of a PanzerGren squad in the inn beside the bridge.
As the rifle team advanced, the MG team (pausing to cover 1st Section’s advance on the objective HIGHTOP) suddenly found itself under inaccurate light mortar fire.
Yep, the Germans had turned up with the 5cm mortar, digging in close to the church.
At this point, there was some discussion of how annoying it is the German mortar doesn’t come with smoke.My Regular Opponent is a big fan dropping all the smoke hey possibly can, influenced no doubt by the events of our first game of Spectre.
The Germans had snatched a double turn and immediately took advantage of it, opening up another hail of MG fire that put shock down Paras, forcing them to hit the dirt even while trying to move tactically.
The team at HIGHTOP also noticed more Germans advancing out of the Town Hall and again started wondering who thought this lot counted as “old men and boys”
The Paras also spotted a German officer come racing out of the Town Hall. This was Hans von Gruber, recently arrived leader of a new Kampfgruppe. Although not able to activate other units (the veterans are not going to listen to this unknown officer who showed up), his survival was a German objective.
And as a way of supporting that objective, the Panzer 4 platoon sprung into life, deploying the platoon leader and one of the other tanks onto the board. Despite the Paras reporting their arrival over the radio, a lack of line of sight to my JOP at the bridge meant we couldn’t deploy just yet, despite the rumble echoing between the buildings.
However, the tanks immediately got to work, hammering main gun rounds into the British secured farmhouse. The Paras didn’t take any damage, simply hitting the deck and waiting for the enemy gunners to realise they were just increasing the airflow rather than causing damage.
Meanwhile, at HIGHTOP, the Paras finally burst into the objective (vaulting through a downstairs window. At this point, the Airborne realised they would need to pop smoke from the top floor window and just how many stars would need to be climbed.
Of course, the plight of the Paras wasn’t helped as a burst of fire shredding the windows announced the setup of a tripod-mounted MG42 in the building across the square.
Of course, the MG wasn’t the only thing attempting to slow them down. As the team of elite soldiers pounded up the stairs, an explosion from the main gun managed to cut down two Paras. However, the section kept pushing, eventually reaching the top floor.
Not part of the action, just a good image of My Regular Opponent’s bugler in a pumpkin patch. Perhaps telling XXX Corps to stand ready?
The Panzer IV Platoon Leader decided now was the time to roll forward and continue engaging the Paras sat in the farmhouse.
The Germans continued to move forward, the camouflaged Panzer IV moving out to allow one of its comrades to join them in the AO. Additionally, Hans von Gruber’s staff car arrived, disembarking another squad of Panzer Grenadiers and allow the senior commander to prepare for this daring escape.
The Tanks Arrive!
Finally, even as the Germans prepared a force to retake HIGHTOP, they finally popped green smoke. Immediately upon seeing it, Galahad (one of my Shermans) was the first one over the bridge, spotting enemies dead ahead and preparing the machine guns.
Close behind Galahad was Arthur, the lead vehicle (and technically my command tank), storming across the bridge and preparing to flank around and meet up with the rest of the Paras. As they drove past the infantry in the row of houses, cries of “took your time didn’t you?” rang out.
Of course, this is where my inexperience with tanks showed up. After unleashing a literal mountain of dice to brass up the squad near the town square, the German player pulled out a CoC dice and shoved a Panzerschrek round up the rear of Galahad, immediately knocking it out.
Even as the first tank across started burning, the rest of my force appeared. Gaiwan (another Sherman V) moved past the burning wreck of its teammate while Lancelot (the Firefly) moved to link up with the command element and prepare to knock out the pile of tanks in the main square.
Additionally, the motor infantry arrived, preparing to support the tanks and secure the inn.
Speaking of killing tanks, the Airborne PIATs claimed the first Allied tank kill, the bomb lazily arching in to destroy a Panzer IV.
Inside HIGHTOP, The Paras began a desperate close-quarters battle. Leaving the Bren team upstairs, the Section Leader and his rifle team bust downstairs to secure the building. Grenades were thrown, killing some of the Germans before closing to contact. The end result? Even as the few remaining Germans fled outside, the only Para survivor was the Junior Leader, staggering back up the stairs covered in dust.
With the battle advancing, the Para Senior Leader hit the board, ready to take control of the Airlanding Section that had joined the assault.
At the northern end of the board, the British Paras attempt to fight across to the comms shack but ends up taking fire from the Panzer IV.
In another shock, the dreaded Ambush popped up again with the second round from the Panzerschreck team carved through the front armour of my command tank. Not only was it entirely knocked out, but the ammo cooked off, putting shock onto the Airlanding teams.
Due to the turn ordering, the Germans managed to box my armoured units in at the Bridge, kicking my Command Dice down a dangerous amount. Worse, the German armour platoon pulled in a Panther. Myself and The Regular Opponent started to get a little concerned…
…Until the Panther’s attempted shortcut through HIGHTOP simply ended up putting it into the cellar (we used a modified version of What A Tanker’s smashing through buildings). Worse, the damage to the building would mean it was about to collapse at the turn end.
And then the turn ended. Meaning the four Paras who had just survived so much now had to dig themselves out of the rubble and fall back.
Cruising past the wreck of their boss’s tank, the crew of Lancelot were ready to get some payback. Spotting a Panzer IV rolling forward, the 17pdr blew the tank to pieces, burning pieces of tank shredding the vegetation around it.
Time was rapidly moving on, and having spent the whole game fighting off the Allies, The Host suddenly remembered his objectives. Hans Von Gruber’s staff car, with the support of the Panzer IV platoon leader, put the pedal to the metal and raced down the board. Brushing off fire like it was nothing (including multiple sniper hits) the halftrack actually reached the very end of the board…
At which point we had to break out the “grenades on open-topped vehicle” rules as the Paras did a last chance rush on the vehicle as it slowed slightly at the gate. Despite one grenade bouncing back and causing shock, the Paras did manage to stop the vehicle in its tracks before dragging Von Gruber out.
After 5 hours of non-stop play/rules checking, we finally called it here. Looking at the various objectives, we decided that the Allies had won a pyrrhic victory – they had prevented Von Gruber from reaching his forces to the north and the bridge was secure but the Germans were still contesting the town plaza, the German Comms broadcast had been uninterrupted and a tank wreck just off the bridge would take some time to actually move it and open the road for the rest of XXX Corps to advance.
Once again, Chain of Command is a great game to play. Even just this one game has got me very excited about playing more, and was the kick in the backside to get a move on with my own platoon of Brits. Going to need some tanks of my own as well – having them in-game was glorious fun but definitely something I’ll have to practise with (and get more infantry co-operation).
There comes a point in most wargamer’s life where your eyes start to wander towards collections of tanks and men armed with bolt action rifles. Afternoons spent watching war films, trips to the library to pull down the hardcover book full of black and white photos or endless nights of Call of Duty suddenly lead you to looking at collecting books of reference material and eyeing the various ranges of chaps in steel helmets and woolen uniforms.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your frame of mind), it is my time to take a trip back to WW2 and build my own army up. Although we had been talking about it for a while, the decision by my ‘friend’ Peeb’s Gaming Nonsense to gift me a Churchill tank for Christmas was really the straw that broke the camels back and unleashed the whirlwind.
(It should be noted that I got him back by gifting him some additions to a possible WW2 British Para Force. So guess what we’re playing in September)
So, what am I doing in my World War 2 project? Well, my first interest in WW2 came from Operation Market Garden, but there is a distinct lack of Churchill’s amongst the elements of XXX Corps speeding up Hell’s Highway (mainly due to the speeding requirement).
So my eyes drifted to the Reichswald and then into 1945. Mud, blood and hard fighting, everyone reaching the breaking point as the war begins to draw to a close. This time period also lets my opponents pull out the weird and wonderful toys to play with, while I potentially get to mix Paras and Churchills, Tommies and Comets as the final offensives get underway.
Because of this, I’ve decided I’m going to make a force for this period. Pulling on the feel of things like Fury, (and helped partially by my wash heavy painting style) I’m going to making these guys into a platoon of British infantry somewhere in Northern Europe in the early stages of 1945. Everything is muddy and wet, you can feel the cold in your bones, and still, bloody Jerry won’t simply pack it in and call time for this long game.
To take inspiration from the period, and get the right mood, I’ll be using the name “When This Bloody War Is Over” for it. Having listened to the tune above, it seemed appropriate for the time period. I’m also collating a few more books on the subject to try and capture some of the feel for the actions and tactics of the time.
With that target laid out, I’ve already made my start. The most obvious thing is the Churchill tank, now fully assembled and with a few tweaks to make it look unique. It was a bit strange building plastic kits again, but the Warlord product is really nice. I do have opinions on the fact it comes with two turrets and only one turret rear basket but it wasn’t enough to ruin the kit. More on it once it’s painted.
The bulk of the force, and something else that pushed me over the edge was the announcement that Empress had a range of late war British coming soon. Sculpted by the incredible Paul Hicks, from the first photo I fell in love with them. It’s something about how crisp they are as well as the proportions. The assault jacket and decorated helmets are also a strong outline
I picked up the Bren teams and two each of the two rifleman sets. My intention is to do some modification to the duplicate poses. These will probably be minor, removing some of the pioneer tools (of which there are many) and rotating a few heads, building on the scrim everyone is wearing around the neck to cover over any gaps.
However, there is also the matter of another few packs coming out soon which Empress released at Hammerhead this past weekend. The PIAT is a must, while the kneeling rifles and sten gunners should help to bring my force closer to the core platoon being comprised entirely of Empress figures.
Of course, I had to have a little play with a few other things as well. Arnhem and a Bridge Too Far weigh heavy on my mind when thinking about WW2, thanks to the inspiration it had in getting me into history. Despite focusing on the poor blooding infantry, I couldn’t help but pick up a box. Both for sourcing possible conversion bits, but also to let me possibly start building a second platoon in my collection. Also, plastic kits are something different from the piles of metal I usually have to handle.
In addition, I picked up the Winter British Infantry (mainly for the greatcoat look) and to act as an additional infantry section. Finally, I really like the ghillie suited snipers and will be making them into a sniper team, one soldier having his rifle replaced with a sten gun. More details on these guys as I work my way through them.
For anyone interested, here is a rough look at the Empress and Warlord figures side by side. The Warlord guys are definitely chunkier but should work well as an attached squad (maybe some of those Canadian fellows).
I’m also using the British Paras for an idea that GetWhimiscal, Peeb and myself talked about at Christmas – modelled patrol markers for Chain of Command. This should help to make pre-game phase a little more visually appealing, as well as reminding the players just what the markers represent. It’s also a chance for me to break out the converting skills and learning something new. Above is my first attempt, a pair of paras patroling forward, one of whom has recovered an MP44. There is a lot of work to do before they are ready but I’m really looking forwarad to working on them. Also the lack of pointing right hand on the para sprue is irritating.
With this idea, what am I actually going to play? Well, Chain of Command has really grabbed me, in part due to the feel of the game. The patrol phase and the jumping off points especially make me feel like an infantry commander in WW2, rather than an all-seeing general. I look forward to breaking out the support lists and getting a few more games in
However, I was lucky enough to get my hands on Radio Dishdash’s Ultracombat Normandy, the latest ruleset from Skirmish Sangin’s developers. Having had a read through it, it’s got some really interesting ideas that I can’t wait to put into practise.
Overall, I’m really excited about starting an entirely new setting. I have a tentative goal of getting a force ready for September (even if the equipment isn’t technically correct for Operation Garden) but I’d like to get plenty of games in before then. And of course, it may make sense for me to get some opponents for them at some point…
As this project continues, expect new posts every time I finish something. Meanwhile, I have to go read up on painting camo suits and using rifle/gun team combinations rather than my beloved fireteam arrangement.
As you might guess from someone who plays a lot of Skirmish Sangin, I don’t play wargames as a competitive exercise. Winning is nice, but at the end of the day, I’d much rather tell a good story, immerse the players in the setting and scenario. I’d rather make the players concentrate on making the decisions the real commanders would have to make.
Chain of Command from Too Fat Lardies is a game all about giving you the feel of being a platoon commander in the 1940’s. It’s about giving you the tricky choices while removing some of the more formulaic elements, beating into you the problems and issues your historical counterparts would have to deal with. I love the Too Fat Lardies motto – “Playing the Period and not the rules”. These are not a ruleset for competitive play. These are ruleset designed to evoke the feel without it turning into a horrible grind.
After having played it a few times at the club when I first started going, I’ve been desperate to play it again. Luckily, my usual York-based wargaming buddy Peebs Gaming Nonsense is a recovering Bolt Action fan with a platoon of both 8th Army and DAK. So what better way to start off my Christmas break than getting a game of it in.
Somewhere on the road to Tobruk. 1941
The desert sun glared down on Sergeant Kerridge as he stood on the roof of the farm, his beady eyes glaring out over the landscape around him. This part of Libya was greener than he expected, good enough to grow crops, the surrounding land covered in palm trees and shurbs. If it wasn’t for Jerry, and the questionable antics of the Lieutenant, it would be a perfect place to be posted.
Suddenly, with a cry from the sentries, his morning was interrupted by the arrival of a pair of Cheverlot trucks, each laden down with equipment and kicking up a plume of dust. One rolled straight past but the other rolled to a halt at the entrance to the compound, three troopers jumping off the back with ammo cans in hand while another two started to quickly work at dismounting the Vickers MG from the pintle position. To a man, the entire team seemed scruffy and out of regs, wearing the local headgear. They pushed past him, heading towards a position on the roof of the main building.
Kerridge was having none of this. He strode across the square, heading towards the commander’s seat, almost shaking with annoyance.
“What the hell is the meaning of this? Which unit are you part of? Don’t any of you know protocol about coming through lines.”
The man standing in the passenger seat turned to face him, the scraggly beard still covered in dust from the road. The sight of his rank slides caused Kerridge to click to attention, his boot heels slamming together. The Captain just smiled, throwing a casual salute before leaning down to him.
“Ah, there is a man in charge. Look here old chum, we were just returning from a patrol when we got into a bit of a scrap with some bosche just a mile or two back down the road. Looks like part of a probe and they heading straight this way. Now, we’re going to leave Williams and the old Queen here with you chaps to help give them what’s for while the Boy and I head back to somewhere with a radio to get the news out”
The Captain returned to full height, eyes scanning the horizon.
“Looks like you’re in for an interesting morning”
We decided to go for the second scenario Probe, with a DAK platoon of moving up to look for a way through British lines close to central farm.
Support wise, seeing as I was on the defence and just about had enough points, I went for a Vickers MMG team – hopefully it would help me to strike back at the masses of MG34s I was about to go up against. On the Germans side, my opponent went for an adjutant (to make up for the single Senior Leader the DAK platoons get) and a satchel charge (which went unused for the entire game).
After the dance of the patrol phase (a feature I particularity love), we had the above setup for the jumping off points. My positions let me setup up in several good pieces of cover, anchoring my defences around the main defensive position. The Germans had started their probe from my right flank, spreading their kicking off locations to a reasonable spread of locations.
Once the game kicked off, Jerry deployed two squads. One moved into the palm grove at the board edge, the other began to advance to the closest edge of the compound. In response, I deployed one section up to the low wall (both to protect the JOP and to prevent a flanking move) while the other appeared from the table edge and began advancing on
Sadly the second British Section made the fatal mistake of being caught in the open by two MG-34s which managed to rip them to shreds, dropping the NCO before pilling on the shock. This squad was eventually reduced down to one solider in each team, pinned down in the wadi.
Speaking of machine guns, the Vickers deployed in the position on the roof and started brassing up the Germans in the trees. The light cover of the undergrowth helped to reduce the casualties (although the NCO did take a hit) but they were covered in shock and unable to advance. They could, however, keep throwing potshots a the MMG that was pinning them down.
The next major deployment of troops was the Germans bringing their senior leader and the third squad to assist the advancing teams. The officer managed to get things moving en-mass. To fight back, I deployed my final section into position on top of the main compound building, able to put rifle and Bren fire down on that flank.
At this stage I made a critical error. Rather than keep my squad on the left in cover or trying to flank left, I decided to get more troops in the centre to engage more of the German offsensive. To do this I had to cross the open road which despite being done at the double, ended up with most of a squad stuck in the open. Two LMGs later and the NCO was done for, as well as several riflemen.
A phase later and I managed to get the 2inch mortar up to pop smoke and cover the crossing. Alas too late.
We ran out of time and had to call it there but where does that leave us? Well, I think it’s safe to say the Brits are in trouble. They managed to stop the probe and prevent it from breaking through the line, but they were now in serious trouble after my error. The Germans were taking shots but could possible had advanced down the right flank (using the other squads to put fire on the Tommies).
All I can say is that the cavalry better get there soon or else there might not be much to rescue.
I will admit, I can get why people don’t like Chain of Command and prefer other WW2 set games. If the dice hit you the wrong way, if Field Marshall Friction decides to make your troopers club footed fools, then yeah, it can throw your plans entirely out of wack. But nothing has quite matched the feel you get when reading histories of WW2 or even the modern day – where things can go incredibly wrong. In other words, I will be coming back to Chain of Command soon. Maybe even sooner than I expected when I started writing this post.
That said, I am very interested to try out the new WW2 rules from Radio DishDash.