On Thursday evening Gary put together a game of Chain of Command for us. This was always going to be an interesting experience, with only he and Caesar having read the rules beforehand, and none of us having played.
This was the table. We played a Russian vs German encounter, with both sides just trying to take the other side out. Nice and simple. Each side had a platoon of three squads, plus appropriate supports.
The beginning of the game involes moving patrol markers -essentially blinds - around the board. As opposing markers interact they lock into position, and this determines the jumping-off points for each sides' troops. The gane then uses activation dice to deploy to move things or perform actions, but your troops can appear at any available jumping off point when first activated, allowing them to appear halfway across the table if you've managed to get your positioning right.
The Germans took the initiative, setting up a squad in a strong position in the village in the centre, then a second one in a wood covering its flank. We (for I was Russian this evening), responded by deploying two squads, one after the other, on a point which had a line of fire to the wood. Since we could fire upon deployment, this gave us a positively 19th century double-rank volley fire effect on the defenders. It wasn't pretty.
The Germans spent the next part of the game on the back-foot. They had to deploy their senior commander and some supporting teams just to bolster the morale of their troops in the wood, and spent a lot of thei activations repairing the damage our firing was causing. We kept one unit firing, whilst our other squad worked its way through some woods ready to set up a second firing position, or assault the already wobbly Germans and take their jumping-off point.
Eventually the Germans got it together, and moved the troops in the village across to support the ones in the wood (not pictured), whilst deploying their third squad wide on the other flank in a bold move to take a couple of our jumping-off points. Since these points represent a side's route onto the table, they kind of act like supply lines and their loss causes a negative morale effect.
We had one squad left to deploy. We deployed it close to our baseline, with an initial view of defending our jumping-off points. But it really wasn't a very good defensive position;we decided something bolder was required, and rushed up the middle of the table, behind the main German position, aiming for their jumping-off points.
In the meantime our flanking squad was moving into position against the Germans in the wood. In the background to the left you can see our firing squad, pinning the Germans in place, in the centre you can see the Germans from the village basically hiding in a wood and doing nothing and to the right you can see our third squad moving into what is essentially the German rear.
Chain of Command uses random movement, so when I say that our troops 'moved into position' what I mean was that they advanced so quickly that they hurled themselves into a close assault against the Germans in the wood, without preparing for it first, as we had planned.
There was a bloody fight. The Germans were outnumbered, but were defending a wood, had an LMG in position and had more automatic weapons. The Russians got slaughtered, but kept pressing home the attack and forced a draw which pressed home more attacks. Essentially we traded casualties on a one for one basis, until the Germans simply ran out of men. It was a massacre all round; the Russians retreated as the last German died, even. But the Germans then did badly on the mass of morale checks they had to take in the wake of the combat. Their force's morale collapsed, and their rest of their troops fled, giving the Russians the victory.
The Russians did what you rarely see in a wargame; came up with a simple plan, and basically stuck to it. That said it was because we got very, very lucky. Our initial firing was devastating, plus the Germans made the mistake of not deploying in tactical mode (which would have given them a better cover advantage) but in overwatch (which, it appears, doesn't allow them to react to our troops merely deploying). The Germans had the better of the command and control, with a senior commander directing their troops and a couple of points where they got two activations in a row. The Russian command was plodding and unimaginative and simply allowed us to move a couple of units each turn. We had a sniper and a mortar, but they saw little of no action because basically massed shooting, marching and close-assault were the best we could come up with. And it worked.
We spent a lot of time checking things in the rules, and we're sure that we made a lot of mistakes, especially with regard to how shock and casualties are applied to, and affect, groups made up of more than one squad/team. But the game moved along quickly, and was certainly not boring, with plenty of decisions to be made each turn. We are all keen to give it another go.