Friday, 18 July 2014

Chain of Command: Maltot Church (5) - Closing Rounds

"Get a bloody move on!"

Finally the Lt Pringle was in command range of his own troops. Two squads (again) opened up into the right flanking woods at the Germans who were still not in protected "tactical" status. Incrementally the casualties had mounted over the last two turns and now were at the 'tipping point' with devastating results. The German whole squad was down to only two "effectives" (see below):

Smoke was called down to stop any punitive reply from the remaining MG42 team "of two" landsers, remembering with great respect how a burst from a MG42 had just felled three "ramkers" from Second Squad moments earlier (see below):

It has to be acknowledged that the German senior NCO showed great bravery in attempting to personally extracting his troops from the wood (where from a neutral observer there was an obvious temptation to just leave them be and treat them as an already lost cause). Despite his best efforts another one 'bought the farm' but the soldier he rescues did bring back an extra MG42 for the defense of Maltot Church.

In a moment of insanity (or should that read 'battle-lust' the German player had briefly contemplated assaulting "Red House" in a mad "close assault", gambling on the effect of hand grenades in confined spaces. However the umpire quite rightly pointed out how 'unnecessary' this was and how the Germans should retreat to the hard cover of the Alamo, aka Maltot Church to await the final British assault as per the scenario victory conditions (see below):

Lt Pringle gathered his troops together in a fire team to exchange parting shots with the Germans now positioned in the upper reaches of Maltot Church's "bell tower". One British/German KIA casualty was sustained by each side in a brief exchange that no sides particularly enjoyed (see below).

"Time gentleman please". The evening at the club was drawing to a final close. It was decided that 16 Platoon had simply 'run out of time' and would have to be called back to the original start line to "have another go" later perhaps with additional supports. However the German defenders had been really mauled. Reduced to less than half strength, whereas the British force were still above two thirds of its original complement. The Germans had done very well to simply "hang on" and were faced with another two potential attacks before the campaign ends.

Both commanders also felt shattered, the German also a little 'relieved' if truth be told. 16 Platoon must show its mettle and learn from some pretty basic mistakes it (or rather the Commanding Offier) made. Two more chances exist, but like all best strikers know it is not "attempts on goal" that count but rather "finding the back of the net".

Next: Regroup and "Go again sir?" but with more support points please.

Footnote: Having rolled "five" support points (still on the low side, seven would have been nice) but means 16 Platoon could bring back into play "Timmy the Tank"! Hmm, I wonder, I wonder, decisions, decisions?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Chain of Command: Maltot Church (4) - Deadly Fire Fight

The British piled all their troops into the central "jump-off" point, the off-table Adjutant doing a grand job of bossing people about. "Red House" now literally bristled with Bren guns and rifles pointing out of every window (see below):

The British trained their guns on plump fat targets (still not in a protective "tactical" stance) in the German held wood to the right hand side of "Red House". Two German KIA's and plenty of shock resulted. The British Commander was relieved to be "giving a bit back". Despite these casualties the Germans were still being able to return effective fire. Damn those four man MG42 teams, however the German squad was in danger of soon running out of "effectives" (see below):

More British fire came from the exposed British Second Squad, adding more shock and yet another KIA. The German Commander was now going to have his hands full just bringing this squad back into some form of semblance of order. This explains why you can see the senior German NCO scampering across the road from Maltot Church to the wood (see top of photograph below):

Meanwhile the British Adjutant deployed the last British off-table assets (Third Squad) into the center of the village, forgetting about any flank march operation in the initial British plan, the one that seemed so good 'before' contact with the enemy (see below):

Just to prove that there was still fight left in them and a reminder that you should NEVER underestimate the prowess of a German MG42, three exposed Tommies were cut down (from a very good set of combat dice it had to be said). This was a shocking blow but given the murder placed on the German squad a few seconds earlier it was like two punch-drunk heavyweight boxers trading blows at the end of a fight. The battle was first swinging one way and then swinging back in the next, getting "very, very tense" as even commented on by the impartial umpire (see below):

Note: Despite the tension, the Chain of Command rule-set allowed the game to be played in a "very" convivial manner, unlike other billimeter rule sets I could mention that are hard to play graciously even with the best of friends, well at least at the start of a game (though of course there the fault here could be all of my own making - but I have a certificate to say otherwise).

With casualties mounting for both sides it seemed to be a question of "which side will break first"? At least the British Commander was by now 'almost' where he should have been in the first place, namely in command range of his troops to help them recover direction and remove shock so that they could function better. The bravery of Sarge McCoy was unfortunately his undoing in this instance!

Next: The bloody battering reaches its conclusion

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Chain of Command: Maltot Church (3) - Death Stalketh and Pays No Respect to Rank

The previous turn's Command Dice gave the Germans another go (damn the the non-determinism of this system, it makes it so addictive). The centrally placed German MG42 picked out one of 16 Platoon's two inch mortar teams for special attention and felled the loader (a rather unlucky position to hold in 16 Platoon as this is the second time the mortar loader has been taken out). Lt Pringle knew he was being out gunned but 16 Platoon had just got to grin and bare it through gritted teeth (see below):

Worse was to follow as the darkest fears of the British Commander (me) came to pass. The woods to the British left opened up with the combined fire of two full strength MG42 teams, pumping out death into "Red House". McCoy was the only valid target and was hideously cut down, effectively decapitating the British Command Structure in the center. Lt Pringle was now hopelessly placed to take control of the battlefield, a basic set-up mistake that was bearing rotten fruit of disastrous consequences (see below):

Next followed the worse Command Dice permutation to date for the British. Four activation dice for senior commanders ("the 4's") and a Chain of Command dice ("the 5") leaving me less than bugger all to do (see below):

That meant no reinforcements from off-table were available. With McCoy down no activation by NCO commands were possible, particularly brutal for the Bren team in the center with lots of targets. All Pringle could do was bring in some more covering smoke and start making his way slowly towards then center, hindered by the very protective 'hard cover' of the ruined houses he had so carefully placed himself in. The Germans took advantage of this British 'stasis' by advancing on "Red House" with the intent of storming it under a hail of hand grenades (a special German NCO lead tactic) and claiming a valued British "jump off" point - potentially shattering British morale. .

However the best made plans of mice and men can go astray. No more so than in the realm of warfare. The game winning German move suddenly seemed to be a double edged sword as no sooner had the Germans left the protective soft cover (where  they could have gone tactical) and before they had reached the much sought after 'hard cover' of a ruined house, some Tommies appear on their flank (hankfully the British Commander had rolled better dice this time). A whole squad! That is a Bren team and a rifle team, eleven combat dice all told. The Germans caught in the open should have been devastated, if they had somebody capable of giving the order to fire! (see below):

However with McCoy down, there was nobody left to tell them to do so. Such is the "Fog of War" and a truly golden opportunity went begging as the nearest officer, Lt Pringle, hobbling on a twisted ankle, hopped through the rubble and debris created by the British preliminary bombardment. The battle seemed to be ebbing out of control of the British player. Pringle just needed one turn to stabilize things, but the Germans were not being very obliging.

Not believing their own good luck as the Tommies simply stared at them, "Was it Sarge McCoy ahead?". Not only had the Tommies missed their chance but the British Infantry was idling about in the open in direct line of sight of a veteran MG42 gunner who took careful aim and pressed the trigger. Eight British lives were now in the palm of his hand ... "click", the gun jammed (or rather the German player threw incredibly bad dice). Action number two for the MG42 was simple, "run back to cover as fast as you can" which they promptly did with I may say understandably outrageously fast movement dice.

However it was not all good news for the British. What the first MG42 team could not do by firing itself had opened up the second MG42's opportunity by moving, getting out of their line of sight. Telling fire soon struck the line of advancing British infantry, killing one and placing a fair amount of shock on the others. Still it could have been far, far worse! (see below):  

The British seemed to be getting embroiled in a deeper and deeper in a crisis of their own making. The British Second Squad reinforcements were now left "hanging on the wire". A panting Lt Pringle was desperately running across no-mans land to get into the battle, cursing himself for looking so much like a buffoon to both his troops and the Germans.

Next: Trading blows with the devil!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Chain of Command: Maltot Church (2) - Troops Deploy

Lt Pringle now had the face of a Veteran. Unshaven and grimy. Taking stock of his charge 16 Platoon, they too had a grimy realism that betrayed a loss of innocence. They had lost friends and were keen to end the grind for Maltot. The sooner the Germans were forced out, the better their chances of living. To this end Sgt McCoy and Pringle were of one mind. Despite the delay in getting powerful supports forward with them (they had only managed to 'keep hold' of the Company Adjutant and 'find' another two inch mortar - very bad support dice rolls on my part) they would nevertheless press on and try and catch the Germans off their guard.

Sgt McCoy was to grab the "big red house" with two squads, while Lt Pringle would lay down a smoke screen with the two inch mortar teams from the left flanking house (keeping the mortars pumping out smoke with his command dice when he was activated) and holding the third squad as a reserve for a possible coup-de-grace flank march, or to reinforce the center push.

As it so happened the roll of the Command Dice only allowed both senior commanders to activate along with one of the two inch mortar teams (see below, bottom left and top right). 

In hindsight a certain sense of cockiness was apparent, both men were happy in 'hard cover' BUT they were also in the front line and this meant they would be perilously near a host of dreaded MG42's. Battlefield tourism is a dangerous hobby for the unprepared!

Lt Pringle positioned his platoon mortar team in a forward shell-hole. The direct line of fire would give the team a better chance of bringing in the "smoke" on target but also he seemed to forget that it would also leave them exposed to rifle and MG42 return fire (see below).

Note: The platoon had already lost one of the original mortar team to a German bullet.

McCoy meanwhile went 'tactical' and on 'overwatch' as he waited for the Adjutant to send his boys forward. He was eyeing up a dirty big obstacle of barbed wire and wondering how his boys could navigate it safely. Trouble was, he was beginning to think he was bullet proof and maybe, just maybe the Germans had all gone home. This was careless thinking (see below):

Not freebie this time, as two German MG42 teams deployed. One in the woods to the right of the British, the other dead center. The British mortar team under the direction of Pringle partially obscured the central Germans but McCoy was in dire danger of being outflanked and losing the "red house" bastion (see below):

The Adjutant sent in the Bren Section of First Squad  to beef up "red house". The Brens promptly blazed away at the Germans in the wood (still only classed as "soft cover" as they had not yet had time to go tactical) and caught one landser square on for a KIA. The Bren team did not get too carried away with this success as they knew the score. You had to nearly take out the whole of a German MG42 team before the firepower noticeably diminished. The British set themselves up for a long drawn out slogging match (see below):

However as they had to deploy to the side of "red house" to get a clear LOS to the wood, this meant they and McCoy alone were rather exposed to the MG42 team holding the center of the German line. Deadly fire took a Bren team feeder out and wounded the seemingly indestructible McCoy (see below):

Suddenly the British were facing an early and unexpected crisis. They were in serious jeopedy of losing a senior leader and the center was in desperate need for urgent reinforcements. All depended on the roll of the next set of Command Dice. Who knew what would happen next?

The non-deterministic nature of the "Chain of Command" game is its best element IMHO. It is not random, there is a certain chaotic structure about the sequence of allowable events but more importantly there is also a sense of tactical awareness lacking in many turn based games. Good tactics seem to pay off, but luck is also such an important factor.

Next: The Heart of the Battle

Monday, 14 July 2014

Chain of Command: Maltot Church (1) - Opening Rounds the "Patrol Phase"

The Final Scenario of the Maltot Normandy Campaign: 

The battlefield, Maltot village (church end), complete with evidence of the freshly churned craters courtesy of the "warm up" barrage from British 25 pdr Field Guns and 5.5 inch Howitzers. 

The Germans hold the top end, the British advance from the bottom 'straight down the road' (see below):

The objective, Maltot church which is believed to be a German Regimental HQ, but who ever believes the Intelligence Officer. What is for certain is that it is very 'hard cover' (see below):

The British patrol markers are set according to the scenario rules which mean that the British get a 'broad front' advance and the Germans 'hurry out to meet them asap' (see below)

The patrol markers pin each other about half-way (up/down, delete as applicable) the table (see below):

The British are keen to convert their 'patrol markers' into 'jump-off points' in 'hard cover', which generally seems to be a good plan. This means two solid positions in the town itself, very close to the church (see bottom of the picture below, the points with the white stars), and a flanking position on the British left (see top left of the picture below, this time a lone white star) with an ominous amount of open ground in front of it.

The British Commander was envisioning a vicious firefight in the village supported by flanking fire from the left, bags of smoke to obscure everything and then a flanking advance when everything German is dead or suppressed, but with line-of-sight blocked by smoke from two  two-inch mortar teams. It seemed to work well last time, but then the British player had Timmy the Churchill Tank to call on too.

The German line was known to be stretched thin. With the losses from the previous scenarios they could not defend everywhere. Two jump off points were sensibly placed in Maltot Church, then one on the German right flank in hard cover and the final one in soft cover, but hidden from line of sight on the German left flank (see below):

A close-up shot of the German hidden jump-off point, also very close to Maltot church (see below)

Woods can be a somewhat mixed blessing to defend. Great if you set yourself 'tactical' as it goes to hard cover, but as witnessed in the last scenario they can become a "killing zone" if you are caught by superior numbers. One German squad paid dearly for that mistake.

The "patrol phase" was complete and as it was a timed (as in until they throw us out of the club) game and both players were at least familiar with the Game System we briskly "set-to".

Next: Figures on table and the shooting starts

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The Next Napoleonic Ship: "A French 74"

Deep in the depths of a French port, shielded from prying British eyes, a sinister black shape is taking form. Nothing less than a deadly French 74. Intent on challenging the superiority of the Royal Navy, Napoleon himself has decreed a vast naval expansion programme (see below):

Well at least one more ship is under way, even though ever so slowly. Instead of "yellow and black" banding along her sides I am looking forward to painting her "red and black" in the 'French way'!


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Pegasus Hobbies: 1/72 WWII Black Sea Marines

These figures came from one of those "I MUST pick it up" moments, when you see a crazy model or set of figures that you know you will never, ever see again and will live to regret it if you put it back down. When you spy it on a model shop's shelf it cries out to you and you vow to "make" a use for it (see below, WWII Soviet Black Sea Marine Infantry):

Sevastopol or Stalingrad their time WILL come, but first I had to assemble them! Over two nights, armed with a sharp craft knife and a tube of super glue they slowly took form (see below):

Plenty of basic rifles (for the troopers to make up two squads), much needed LMG pairs (x4), enough SMG armed types for the NCO leaders, plus two heroically posed pistol wielding leaders makes for a "Chain of Command" platoon or detachment to add a bit 'blue' colour to the otherwise 'khaki' or 'white' Eastern Front. There is even an option to make two 81mm mortar teams, I just made one up as in "Chain of Command" it is an 'off table' element.

The painting will be bit of a challenge but "well worth it".

Watch the painting tray for further developments ;)