Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Chain of Command: Battle of the Bulge

We ventured into the Ardennes Forest for the first time down at Earlswood Wargamers, trying out my freshly refitted Fallschirmjager against Keith's Yankee riflemen. 
We used Chain of Command (CoC) for the first time, and it was a very interesting experiment. We both did a few things wrong (I have subsequent discovered by rereading the rules) but it was good fun for the both of us. The rules are nothing like Bolt Action  (BA) and are far more tactical and probably a lot more realistic (or simulatorary). The flow of the game is a bit  more random, or at least less predicable than BA to, and that is probably a matter of taste. In CoC you usually start with your whole force in reserve, and by the end of the game you might not have even deployed everything you have, and sometime you might not get to do anything with all of the things you do have already on the board, depending how you roll. That might seem a bit frustrating but I think it is a neat way of simulating the natural 'Fog of War' over the battlefield. It forces the commander (player) to think more tactically about the battle, and to view the terrain more like a platoon commander and less like an omnipotent flying eye. Bolt Action, on the other hand, if probably 'fairer' than CoC, and better suited to a competitive game, as there is less randomness to the turns- you know everything is going to get to act eventually even if you don't know what order it will be. It is also less challenging for the player as there is less to think about, and so could be considered more 'fun'. I guess that it all comes down to taste. 

Our game featured a platoon of fallschirmjager contacting a US rifle platoon in the ruins of a small hamlet in the middle of the Ardennes forest during the winter of 1944. A paved lane ran through the village from north to south. A stone wall ran almost the entire length of the west side of this lane. The ruins of a farm occupied the higher ground to the east of the lane.  The Germans were moving in from the east and the US were trying to push in from the west. 

 During the patrol phase the Yanks managed to explore the territory up to the stone wall, while the Fallschirmjager seized the higher ground to the east. Apart from the hill, the terrain to the east was rather open,consisting of snow covered fields, and did not afford much cover to the Germans.  That meant that my jump off points were clustered behind the hill, or on the board edge in an area deprived of useful cover, while Keith's were along the wall, giving him a good firing position from the start of the game. 

Fallschirmjager moving cautious through a snow covered field

Fallschirmjager digging into the ruins on the hill

The Germans began by deploying a section into the ruined house on the hill, and bringing another section on from the board edge to make their way cautiously up the open flank to another ruin at the bottom of the hill. They were moving slowly, making the most of what little cove the undulations in the field could offer. The section in the ruined farm house on the hill set up their MG 42 and went into overwatch, scanning the gloom for any sign of the 'Amis'. 

The US MMG adds serious firepower

American GI's setting up behind the cover of the stone wall

When the Americans appeared the were greeted by the buzz of the MG42 and a clatter of bullets, forcing them to take shelter behind reassuringly solid stone wall. Two sections of riflemen took up positions to the west of the lane, along with a 60mm mortar and a Tripod mounted MMG.  They opened fire on the Fallshirjager crossing the open field, forcing them to dive for cover but failing to inflict any casualties.

The US riffle section sprinting across the field is cut down in a hail of MG 42 Fire. Four out of eleven men survive the crossing. 

Initially the Americans had the upper hand, and could concentrate their fire on the Germans as they tried to advance into the ruined farms along the lane, but as the Germans reached their solid cover and dug into the rubble of the farms the tide of the battle started to swing. The Americans started to dread the mechanical buzz of the MG42, as the Germans superior fire-power began to dominate the battle. One Fallschirmjager team was wiped out by the sustained fire from the Americans, but it was immediately replaced by fresh reserves held back behind the hill, and soon their machine guns were adding to the fire pouring onto the American positions. The American officer rashly sent one section sprinting across a field, but they failed to make it to the safety of a farmhouse on the opposite side. Caught in the open they were sitting ducks for the German MG42's, which cut the section to ribbons. Seven GI's were killed outright in one terrible storm of bullets. The remaining 4 GI's staggered to the ruined farmhouse, but the fight had been knocked out of them by the carnage and played no further part in the battle, leaving the America flank vulnerable. 

Fallschirmjager reserves move up to plug the gaps left by their casualties. 

The American MMG team was then wiped out  after receiving the fire of four MG42's for two rounds. The loss of a section and their MMG left the American on the back foot when it came to fire-power, but they still held a a strong position behind the stone wall, and the Fallschirmjager now had been whittled down so much that they lacked the will to push forward and to take advantage of the situation. The US mortar continued to rain down on the German positions. At the end of the day both forces withdrew, battered and exhausted. Tomorrow they will have to do it all again. 


Rod said...

Very fun looking game. I liked hearing your thoughts on BA vs CoC too. I've considered getting into both, but based on your comments I might enjoy CoC more.

Simon Quinton said...

Looks great Rob!