Thursday, April 13, 2017

Battle of Schellenberg, October 6th, 1813

This past weekend, Doug Kline (of Battlefield Terrain Concepts) and I met in beautiful Roanoke, Virginia for some Napoleonic gaming. Doug dug deep into the 1813 archives to come up with an interesting "what-if" scenario set in the vicinity of Chemnitz (Saxony) between Marshal Murat and elements of the Austrian Army of Bohemia. Between grilled steaks and good German beer and schnapps, we managed to get in a fair amount of gaming, playing through the scenario twice. As always, it was an incredibly fun time doing what we do best: eating, drinking, and pushing lead.

Carnage and Glory 2 was our rules system of choice and, as always, it did a fantastic job of producing a top-flight simulation of Napoleonic warfare.

Doug's beautiful terrain and magnificent figures provided the backdrop of an outstanding game

The Scenario

During the latter days of the 1813 campaign, the Emperor Napoleon was seeking to destroy the Prussians, Swedes, and Russians in a grand maneuver. Recent defeats by subordinates were jeopardizing ultimate victory, yet Napoleon still resolved to crush his enemies before him.  To accomplish this, the French had to keep the allies separated. In particular, one army's location and activity was unknown to the Emperor; namely the Austrian Army of Bohemia. In order to determine where and what the Army of Bohemia was up to, Napoleon tasked Murat with a rather large force to locate and delay the Austrians as long as possible.

Murat was given command of the V Cavalry Corps, II Corps, V Corps, and VIII Corps. The flamboyant marshal was able to uncover enemy activity in the area of Zwickau, Annaberg, and Chemnitz, which led Napoleon to order Murat to conduct a "reconnaissance in force" to ascertain what was ahead of him. As Murat advanced, he realized that he had to clear enemy forces threatening his left flank in the vicinity of Augustusberg and Schellenberg. He tasked Victor's II Corps, Pajol's V Cavalry Corps, and the 1st Light Cavalry division to advance into this area on October 6th, 1813.

The tabletop represents this area to the right of Chemnitz. Historically, the Austrian troops under FML Murray were spread out as the French marched onto the table from various points. Finding themselves about to be overwhelmed, the Austrians called for reinforcements as they conducted a fighting retreat. Reinforcements never came and Murat secured the heights above Augustusberg, which gave him a full view of the Austrian forces in the area. Having accomplished his primary task of reconnaissance, Murat decided not to push further that day. Austrian casualties were about 400 while French losses were even less. Historically, the battle was merely a large skirmish.

Our scenario assumes that Murray was successful in activating the rest of his division as reinforcements. In addition, Feldzeugmeister Gyulai actually paid attention to the French advance and sent reinforcements to shore up Murray's position. So, instead of a "reconnaissance in force," the skirmish turned into a full-scale engagement.

Turn 1 was to begin at 10:00 am. The Austrian outposts under Murray were spread out and in a bad position as the French marched onto the table.

The tabletop

Reference the above picture for initial deployments. The French marched on from the top edge of the table as well as the right side of the table (Hohenfichte). The Austrians had 2 infantry battalions on the heights opposing the primary French advance. A few squadrons of Austrian cavalry, one battalion of infantry, and a battery were spread out in this area. Not a good defensive position! On the bottom edge of the table, the rest of FML Murray's division were poised to march on as reinforcements, but were delayed until turn 2.

A different shot of the table, with the French marching on at the bottom of the table and to the left of the table.

In our game, there were some tense moments as the Austrian outposts attempted to consolidate and retreat in the face of the French advance. As the remainder of Murray's division under Generalmajor Salins was delayed until turn 2, this left the Austrians desperate and without support. The French marched on methodically and seemingly without initial resistance. French lancers preceded the infantry as columns spread out onto the field from the town of Hohenfichte (on the right side of the table in the first picture). General de Brigade Pire's light cavalry and DuFour's division of infantry pursued the Austrians downhill from the heights overlooking the village of Plauen (the top edge of the first picture). Another French column advanced from Plauen to threaten the Austrian left flank. The Austrians scrambled to form some semblance of a defensive line.

French lancers protect the infantry columns debarking from Hohenfichte

DuFour's division of infantry with French light cavalry advance against the two Austrian infantry battalions manning the heights

French troops also threaten the Austrian left from the direction of the village of Plauen

But in the face of the French advance, against the odds, the Austrians were forming a semblance of a defensive position. The wooded strip opposite Hohenfichte offered a nice sanctuary for the Austrian infantry; as the French approached piecemeal, the large Austrian units issued powerful volleys in defense. The infantry retreating down the heights above Plauen were skirmished mercilessly in their retreat by the French legere troops, but hung in the fight.

Austrian infantry form a nice defensive line in the face of the French advance

Infantry retreating from the heights pursued by DuFour's infantry and light cavalry

French troops force their way onto the Austrian left flank

By this time, Salins' brigade was marching in maneuver column towards the beleaguered Austrian position. Although the French had advanced steadily from Hohenfichte, the Austrian position on the right flank had stabilized. The Austrians in front of Grunberg were pushed to the limit....and to the French player's surprise, one Austrian battalion actually charged the 2 French infantry columns facing it. The defensive fire was feeble, but supporting fire from an adjacent French battery forced the Austrians back. A big sigh of relief from the French player was overheard.

Austrian reinforcements begin to arrive

Austrian and French forces face off on the Austrian right flank

Austrian infantry unexpectedly charge and were only barely stopped by supporting artillery fire

At this point, although the French had occupied Grunberg as the Austrian infantry fell back in disorder, the Austrians had formed a nice defensive line and the battle was beginning to turn into a stalemate. The Austrian player had retreated in admirable form against great odds. The Austrian fatigue and morale were suffering though, but at least the French advance had been blunted.

The Austrian right flank had stabilized

The forces were in a stalemate with lines drawn

As the forces faced off, Crenneville's Austrian division was marching to the field. Grenz light troops had also arrived and these large units were pushing French legere in the woods on the extreme Austrian right. By this time, L'Heritier's French dragoon division had also arrived and the first brigade was advancing in the center and onto the Austrian left.

More Austrian reinforcements arrive........the tide is beginning to turn

L'Heritier's dragoon division arrives

In order to break the stalemate and take advantage of the weak fatigue and morale states of the Austrians, something dramatic had to happen. More and more Austrian reinforcements were arriving in support; after a promising start to the battle, the French player was sensing the chance of victory slipping away.

Austrian reinforcements even arrived on the French right flank, but a new defensive line was quickly formed with cavalry in support.

After a couple of turns, the dragoons were ready to strike. In conjunction with French lancers, the first dragoon brigade charged. The French player was attempting to wear down the Austrians in the center with artillery placed on the heights, but it was a gamble charging battalions with no adverse markers.

The French cavalry charged the Austrian center. was a success. The 5th Chevauleger-lanciers almost destroyed the 3/Erzherzog Ludwig infantry battalion as the dragoons all converged on the center. Not every charge was a success, but the Austrian center was forced into either squares or closed columns. And above all, the Austrian fatigue and morale worsened to the point where the situation was now deemed hopeless for the Austrians. The game was called at this point. (The French player silently breathed yet another sigh of relief).

Although the French player was thankful for the victory, the Austrians had almost pulled off a miracle and had played a very difficult scenario brilliantly. It was a well-played game on both sides and deserved to be well toasted with German schnapps.

Consulting the Carnage and Glory 2 system, the battle was determined to be a Minor French Victory. After walking wounded and returning stragglers were added the following day, the French suffered a total of  1391 casualties and 4 cannon lost. The Austrians suffered 2485 casualties with 13 cannon lost.

In retrospect, the Carnage and Glory 2 system tracked the fatigue and morale to a level that led to the resignation of the Austrian player. Without the effect of failing fatigue and morale, the Austrians could have hung on much longer.  I don't know any other rules system that is as accurate and capable when it comes to analyzing an overall battle situation.

I've had a couple of requests for the orders of battle. Here they are:

Army Murat

[ 101] Marechal d'Empire Murat - Active A [1600 paces]

Corps Victor

[ 102] Marechal d'Empire Victor - Active B+ [1400 paces]

  Division Dubreton - Attack

[ 103] General de Division Dubreton - Active B+ [950 paces]

  Brigade Ferriere - Attack

    [ 104] General de Brigade Ferriere - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 101] 1/24 Legere                       0/ 543      C  [sk+]    

            [ 102] 2/24 Legere                       0/ 462      C  [sk+]    

            [ 103] 4/24 Legere                       0/ 426      C- [sk+]    

            [ 104] 1/19 Ligne                         0/ 427      C  [sk+]    

            [ 105] 2/19 Ligne                         0/ 455      C  [sk+]    

            [ 106] 4/19 Ligne                         0/ 377      C- [sk+]    

    Brigade Brun - Attack

    [ 105] General de Brigade Brun - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 107] 1/37 Ligne                        0/ 353      C  [sk+]    

            [ 108] 2/37 Ligne                        0/ 413      C  [sk+]    

            [ 109] 4/37 Ligne                        0/ 371      C- [sk+]    

            [ 110] 1/56 Ligne                        0/ 493      C  [sk+]    

            [ 111] 2/56 Ligne                        0/ 494      C  [sk+]    

            [ 112] 4/56 Ligne                        0/ 405      C- [sk+]    

    Regiment Reisser - Attack

    [ 106] Chef de Battalion Reisser - Active B+ [250 paces]

            [ 113] 7/2nd Foot Artillery              0/ 200 [ 8] C+          

            [ 114] 11/4th Foot Artillery             0/ 200 [ 8] C+          

  Division Dufour - Attack

  [ 107] General de Division Dufour - Active B+ [950 paces]

    Brigade Estko - Attack

    [ 108] General de Brigade Estko - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 115] 1/26 Legere                       0/ 533      C  [sk+]    

            [ 116] 2/26 Legere                       0/ 533      C  [sk+]

            [ 117] 4/26 Legere                       0/ 531      C- [sk+]    

            [ 118] 1/93 Ligne                         0/ 415      C  [sk+]    

            [ 119] 2/93 Ligne                         0/ 430      C  [sk+]

            [ 120] 4/93 Ligne                         0/ 430      C- [sk+]

    Brigade Lahne - Attack

    [ 109] Colonel Lahne - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 121] 1/46 Ligne                        0/ 569      D+ [sk+]    

            [ 122] 1/72 Ligne                        0/ 607      D+ [sk+]

    Regiment Grosset - Attack

    [ 110] Chef de Battalion Grosset - Active B+ [250 paces]

            [ 123] 3/5th Foot Artillery              0/ 200 [ 8] C+          

  Division Vial - Attack

  [ 111] General de Division Vial - Active B+ [950 paces]

    Brigade Valory - Attack

    [ 112] General de Brigade Valory - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 124] 1/11 Legere                       0/ 528      C  [sk+]    

            [ 125] 2/11 Legere                       0/ 450      C  [sk+]    

            [ 126] 4/11 Legere                       0/ 426      C- [sk+]    

            [ 127] 1/4 Ligne                          0/ 440      C  [sk+]    

            [ 128] 2/4 Ligne                          0/ 548      D+ [sk+]    

            [ 129] 4/4 Ligne                          0/ 389      C- [sk+]    

    Brigade Bronikowski - Attack

    [ 113] General de Brigade Bronikowski - Active B+ [500 paces]

            [ 130] 1/2 Ligne                        0/ 465      C  [sk+]

            [ 131] 2/2 Ligne                        0/ 529      C  [sk+]    

            [ 132] 4/2 Ligne                        0/ 432      C- [sk+]  

           [ 133] 1/18 Ligne                       0/ 539      D+ [sk+]
           [ 134] 2/18 Ligne                        0/ 544      D+ [sk+]    
           [ 135] 4/18 Ligne                        0/ 512      D+ [sk+]    
    Regiment Louis - Attack
    [ 114] Chef de Battalion Louis - Active  B+ [250 paces]
            [ 136] 25/3rd Foot Artillery             0/ 200 [ 8] C+          
            [ 137] 26/3rd Foot Artillery             0/ 200 [ 4] C+      
    Brigade Mongenet - Attack
    [ 115] General de Brigade Mongenet - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 138] 10/6rd Foot Artillery             0/ 200 [ 8] C+          
            [ 139] 1/2nd Horse Artillery             0/ 150 [ 6] B-          

  Division Berkheim - Attack
  [ 116] General de Division Berkheim - Active B+ [950 paces]
    Brigade Montmarie - Attack
    [ 117] General de Brigade Montmarie - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 140] 16th Chasseur a Cheveal           0/ 185      C  [sk+]    
            [ 141] 1st Chevauleger-lancier            0/ 185      C  [sk+]
            [ 142] 3rd Chevauleger-lancier           0/ 185      C  [sk+]
    Brigade Piquet - Attack
    [ 118] General de Brigade Piquet - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 143] 5th Chevauleger-lancier           0/ 180      C  [sk+]
            [ 144] 8th Chevauleger-lancier           0/ 180      C  [sk+]    
            [ 145] 1st Italian Chasseur a Cheval    0/ 200      C- [sk+]

Corps Pajol
[ 119] General de Division Pajol - Active B+ [1400 paces]
            [ 160] 2/3rd Horse Artillery             0/ 150 [ 6] B-          
  Division Pire - Attack
  [ 120] General de Brigade Pire - Active B+ [950 paces]
    Brigade Klicki - Attack
    [ 121] General de Brigade Klicki - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 146] 3rd Hussar                                0/ 163      C  [sk+] (14)
            [ 147] 27th Chasseur a Cheval            0/ 264      C  [sk+]
    Brigade C. Vial - Attack
    [ 122] General de Brigade C. Vial - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 148] 14th Chasseur a Cheval            0/ 188      C  [sk+] 
[ 149] 26th Chasseur a Cheval                        0/ 178      C  [sk+]
            [ 150] 13th Hussar                               0/ 135      C+ [sk+]
  Division L'Heritier - Attack
  [ 123] General de Division L'Heritier - Active B+ [950 paces]
    Brigade Quennet - Attack
    [ 124] General de Brigade Quennet - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 151] 2nd Dragoon                       0/ 333      C       
            [ 152] 6th Dragoon                       0/ 270      C           
    Brigade Collard - Attack
    [ 125] General de Brigade Collard - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 153] 11th Dragoon                      0/ 360      C           
            [ 154] 13th Dragoon                      0/ 187      C       
            [ 155] 15th Dragoon                      0/ 270      C           
  Division Milhaud - Attack
  [ 126] General de Division Milhaud - Active B+ [950 paces]
    Brigade Larmotte - Attack
    [ 127] General de Brigade Larmotte - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 156] 18th Dragoon                      0/ 250      C           
            [ 157] 19th Dragoon                      0/ 199      C           
    Brigade Montelegier - Attack
    [ 128] General de Brigade Montelegier - Active B+ [500 paces]
            [ 158] 22nd Dragoon                      0/ 330      C           
            [ 159] 25th Dragoon                       0/ 243      C           


Corps Graf I. Gyulai
[ 501] Feldzeugmeister Graf I. Gyulai - Active C [1200 paces]
            [ 536] 1st Heavy Position Battery        0/ 150 [ 6] C           
            [ 537] 1st Position Battery                   0/ 150 [ 6] C           
            [ 538] 2nd Position Battery                  0/ 150 [ 6] C           

  Division Crenneville - Attack
  [ 502] Feldmarschall-Leutnant Crenneville - Active C [800 paces]
    Brigade Hecht - Attack
    [ 503] Feldmarschall-Leutnant Hecht - Captured C [400 paces]
            [ 501] 1/Warasdiner Kreuzer Grenz        0/ 899      C- [sk+]    
            [ 502] 1/Warasdiner St. George Grenz     0/1004      C- [sk+]
            [ 511] 1st Cavalry Battery               0/150 [ 6] C           
    Regiment Klenau - Attack
    [ 504] Oberst Klenau - Active C [200 paces]
            [ 503] 1/Klenau Chevauleger              0/ 273      C  [sk+]    
            [ 504] 2/Klenau Chevauleger              0/ 210      C  [sk+]    
            [ 505] 3/Klenau Chevauleger              0/ 210      C  [sk+]
            [ 506] 4/Klenau Chevauleger              0/ 210      C  [sk+]
    Regiment Dauch - Attack
    [ 505] Oberst Dauch - Active C [200 paces]
            [ 507] 1/Rosenberg Chevauleger           0/ 201      C  [sk+]
            [ 508] 2/Rosenberg Chevauleger           0/ 201      C  [sk+]    
            [ 509] 3/Rosenberg Chevauleger           0/ 201      C  [sk+]    
            [ 510] 4/Rosenberg Chevauleger            0/ 201      C  [sk+]    

  Division Murray - Attack
  [ 506] Feldmarschall-Leutnant Murray - Active C [800 paces]
    Brigade Salins - Attack
    [ 507] Generalmajor Salins - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 512] 1/Erzherzog Ludwig Infantry       0/ 948      C- [sk-]    
            [ 513] 2/Erzherzog Ludwig Infantry       0/ 948      C- [sk-]    
            [ 514] 3/Erzherzog Ludwig Infantry       0/ 948      C- [sk-]    
            [ 515] 1/Wurzburg Infantry                     0/ 907      C- [sk-]
            [ 516] 2/Wurzburg Infantry                     0/ 907      C- [sk-]    
            [ 517] 3/Wurzburg Infantry                    0/ 907      C- [sk-]    
            [ 518] 1st Brigade Battery                      0/ 200      C-          
    Brigade Lowenwarth - Attack
    [ 508] Generalmajor Lowenwarth - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 519] 1/Mariassy Infantry                 0/ 752      C  [sk-]
            [ 520] 2/Mariassy Infantry                 0/ 751      C  [sk-]    
            [ 521] 1/Ignatz Gyulai Infantry          0/ 826      C- [sk-]
           [ 522] 2/Ignatz Gyulai Infantry           0/ 826      C- [sk-]  
  Division Weigel von Hessen-Homburg - Attack
  [ 509] Feldmarschall-Leutnant Weigel von Hessen-Homburg - Active C [800 paces]
    Brigade Czollich - Attack
    [ 510] Generalmajor Czollich - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 524] 1/Kottulinsky Infantry            0/ 738      C  [sk-]    
            [ 525] 2/Kottulinsky Infantry            0/ 738      C  [sk-]    
            [ 526] 3/Kottulinsky Infantry            0/ 738      C  [sk-]    
            [ 527] 1/Kaiser Franz Infantry           0/ 794      C- [sk-]    
            [ 528] 2/Kaiser Franz Infantry           0/ 794      C- [sk-]    
            [ 529] 3rd Brigade Battery                0/ 200 [ 8] C           
    Brigade Grimmer - Attack
    [ 511] Generalmajor Grimmer - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 530] 1/Kollowrath Infantry             0/ 801      C- [sk-]    
            [ 531] 2/Kollowrath Infantry             0/ 801      C- [sk-]    
            [ 532] 1/Frohlich Infantry                 0/ 930      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 533] 2/Frohlich Infantry                 0/ 930      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 534] 3/Frohlich Infantry                 0/ 930      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 535] 4th Brigade Battery                0/ 200 [ 8] C           

    Brigade Paumgarten - Attack
    [ 512] Generalmajor Paumgarten - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 539] 1/Palatinal Hussar                  0/ 260      C  [sk+]    
            [ 540] 2/Palatinal Hussar                  0/ 259      C  [sk+]    
            [ 541] 3/Palatinal Hussar                  0/ 259      C  [sk+]    
            [ 545] 2nd Cavalry Battery               0/ 150 [ 6] C           
    Regiment Zauten - Attack
    [ 513] Oberst Zauten - Active C [200 paces] -
            [ 542] 1/Erzherzog Ferdinand Hussar      0/ 209      C  [sk+]    
            [ 543] 2/Erzherzog Ferdinand Hussar      0/ 208      C  [sk+]    
            [ 544] 3/Erzherzog Ferdinand Hussar      0/ 208      C  [sk+]    

  Division Furst Hohenlohe-Bartenstein - Attack
  [ 514] Feldmarschall-Leutnant Furst Hohenlohe-Bartenstein - Active C [800 paces] -
    Brigade Schaffer - Attack
    [ 515] Generalmajor Schaffer - Active C [400 paces]
            [ 546] 1/Colloredo Infantry              0/1007      C- [sk-]    
            [ 547] 2/Colloredo Infantry              0/1007      C- [sk-]    
            [ 548] 1/Zach Infantry                      0/ 907      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 549] 2/Zach Infantry                      0/ 907      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 550] 3/Zach Infantry                      0/ 907      D+ [sk-]    
            [ 551] 5th Brigade Battery                0/ 200 [ 8] C           

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Review and Summary of Chain of Command

Chain of Command is a skirmish-level rules set for World War Two actions that is both exciting and simply "fun as hell."  Published by Too Fat Lardies, this rules set continues their fine tradition of producing outstanding rules that are groundbreaking as well as historically accurate.

Being relatively new to the period, I've been an avid "horse and musket" gamer for years, and only flirted from time to time with World War Two gaming. I approached Chain of Command with a bit of skepticism, although I have always been interested in the period. After reading through the rules several times, I realized that this was very different from the UGO-IGO systems that I was used to. Having played and enjoyed I Ain't Been Shot Mum by Too Fat Lardies in the past, I knew that the turn sequence would be unconventional. Although I admired  IABSM, I was never an avid fan. Chain of Command has changed my perception of World War Two gaming; I absolutely love this system.


Each figure represents 1 individual soldier / leader or vehicle.  Soldiers are organized into teams, whether making up full squads or specialist units. With regards to ground scale, 12" on the tabletop represents 40 yards. Turns are made up of an unspecified number of phases, with each phase  representing only a few seconds.

The Rulebook

The rules are well organized, covering the basics in a logical order. Subjects include a full description of squads and teams, as well as junior and senior leaders, a pre-game patrol phase, command and control, phase sequence, infantry actions, vehicles, firing, and close combat. Other, more detailed, subjects include specialty teams, anti-tank combat, mortars, snipers, and many other specific subjects. In my opinion, the authors have thought of almost everything when it comes to ground combat. The rules have some complexity to them, but the rules are so well laid out, that all of the concepts are reasonably digested.

The Patrol Phase

After the units and support on both sides are selected and the Force Morale (similar to army "break point" in other games) is determined, the pre-game patrol phase is conducted.

Unlike many games, units are not deployed on the table at the outset. Instead, there is a pre-game maneuver that is akin to a chess match that determines "safe" deployment areas within light or heavy cover. These are called "jump off" points. After this patrol phase, the game begins and activated units are placed within a certain distance (depending on experience status) of the "jump off" point.

After the patrol phase, jump off points are designated with the black and red markers

The Phase Sequence

The scenario usually determines the side that moves first.  A certain number of command dice for each phase are rolled (typically about 5 dice). The results determine what the gamer can do in each phase.  Here's how it works:

- A "1" that is rolled allows the player to deploy or activate an individual team (ie either an onboard regular team or a specialist team like a light mortar unit or a sniper team).

- A "2" that is rolled allows the player to deploy or activate a full squad (which can be made up of 2 teams) as long as the entire squad conducts the same action.

- Rolling a "3" allows a player to activate a junior leader. A junior leader can use 2 command actions to either activate a team or the full squad under his command or to use actions such as rallying shock (negative morale points), throwing grenades, dictating overwatch, and other actions.

- Rolling a "4" allows a player to activate a senior leader, who has 3 command actions that he can use for any unit under his command. Typically, senior leaders are kept off-table to send in units throughout the game. A leader deployed on-table might have some trouble bringing units on throughout the game, but is a powerful presence due to his 3 possible command actions.

- A "5" adds a point towards a Chain of Command die. Once 6 points are accumulated, the player may stockpile this Chain of Command die (this will be discussed in the next section).

- Finally, one "6" that is rolled has no effect. Two "6's" allow the player to move again in the following phase. Three "6's" ends the turn (which has several effects) and allows the player to move again in the first phase of the next turn. Four "6's" ends the turn and dictates a roll on the Random Event table which could mean anything from a random mortar barrage to strafing aircraft to weather events.

Confused?  Once you play Chain of Command the first time, it will not only make total sense, but it flows incredibly well while adding excitement and a sense of controlled chaos.

....and one thing that I have never seem to have enough command dice results to do everything that you want in a phase, so you must choose what you want to do wisely.

Chain of Command Dice

As "5's" are rolled in each phase, the points accumulate to enable each player to control one or more Chain of Command dice. The use of these dice can be game-changers. The player can use them to end the turn, which has several effects (routing units are removed, wounded leaders come back or are replaced, overwatch and tactical move markers are removed, smoke is removed, etc). Other actions that a player can use a Chain of Command die for include an ambush with a specific team, interrupting an opponent's move, and even relocation of a sniper.

Using a Chain of Command die is a powerful tactic and can snatch a game out of the jaws of defeat if played properly.


A unit's stance determines the number of six-sided dice  thrown for movement (the results are in inches). An infantry unit that wishes to carefully move and adopt a covered position moves with 1d6. A unit that wishes to move and fire with half effect may move 1d6. Normal movement without fire is 2d6 movement. An all-out sprint allows 3d6 movement with no fire and a point of "shock." Vehicles move in a similar way. Terrain is accounted for and the system is simple and logical.

A Soviet T-34 tank issues fire onto the enemy in support of an infantry squad


Fire is weapon specific and based on a number of six-sided dice. For example, a bolt action rifle fires with 1d6. A light machine gun that uses a magazine fires with 6d6, while a belt-fed light machine gun fires with 8d6. The dice are thrown and hits are calculated versus targets. Than hits are thrown again and converted to either misses, shock, or kills. If a unit absorbs kills, attached leaders need to be rolled for. Vehicle fire is similar with armor rating saves included. Grenades, anti-tank weapons, and mortar fire are all described in detail. Again, the system is simple, yet very detailed with regards to historic weapon types. Types of cover, experience level of a target, and range are all taken into account.


When a unit is hit, one of the possible effects that can be accumulated is shock. Think of "shock" as a morale point. As shock points accumulate, a unit may become pinned or even break and run away. Junior and senior leaders may rally away shock points with their available command activations.

Close Combat

When a unit moves to within 4" of an enemy unit, the moving unit has initiated close combat. Close combat can be risky for the charging unit and is almost always decisive and very destructive. A player must choose their targets wisely. A number of six-sided dice based on the tactical situation is rolled and kills are determined. The losing side that suffers more kills has to retreat or break depending on the number of kills more than the winning side. Many tactical factors are taken into account, such as number of combatants, leadership, distance that the charger travelled, defending cover, number of sub-machine guns or light machine guns on defense. It is all very comprehensive, yet again very simple to conduct.

A German panzergrenadier squad moves into close combat with a Soviet squad defending woods

Force Morale

At the beginning of the game, a side's morale break-point is determined. As negative situations occur, such as a leader being killed, a team breaking or being wiped out, a roll of the dice determines how the Force Morale rating is affected. As each side's Force Morale drops, the number of command dice decreases (simulating a breakdown in command and control) and eventually can force a side to break or surrender.


Admittedly, there are a lot of moving parts in Chain of Command. The system is so well thought-out and logical that it is easily understood after a couple of test games. The game itself provides a comprehensive gaming experience for grognards and newbies alike. The system is very detailed yet is easily played....I think the overused word is "elegant." The only minor gripe that I have is that there is no Quick Reference Sheet (QRS). I plan on making my own so that I won't be thumbing through all of the pages of the rulebook.

I am very pleased that I found Chain of Command and am looking forward to building my World
War 2 forces over the next few months. I highly recommend this rules system . Too Fat Lardies rock !

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Road To Majorski using Chain Of Command

I caught the World War 2 bug a little over a year ago, so I decided to begin building some German and Soviet forces in order to put some Eastern Front action onto the table.  I experimented with a couple of rules sets, but eventually settled on Too Fat Lardies' Chain of Command. This set of skirmish rules stresses rapid decision-making, realistic mechanics, and (you guessed it) a proper use of the "chain of command" in order to get anything done.

After downloading the rules as a pdf, I was initially put off by a perception of complexity. These rules are not your typical "IGO-UGO" rules that I was used to, and it took me a bit of time to fully digest everything. Once I got the scenario onto the table, everything made total sense. In my humble opinion, Chain of Command is an outstanding set of rules. Not only do the rules allow a rollicking and entertaining game on the table (definitely one of the most fun games that I have played in a while), but the authors are serious about historical realism and results. The rules also allow for some realistic "surprises" and instances of chaos. If you are interested in World War 2 skirmish combat, I fully endorse Chain of Command. I think the rules are simply brilliant with a deep sense of subtlety that you really have to play in order to fully appreciate.

As for the scenario, I downloaded Operation Winter Storm (22 Eastern Front Scenarios) from the Too Fat Lardies website. I selected one of the simpler scenarios, The Road to Majorski (September 5th, 1942). Basically, the Soviets are pushing along the road to Majorski from the direction of Pokhlebin. A panzergrenadier platoon is tasked with throwing back the advance guard of the Soviets and pushing ahead towards Pokhlebin. Here we have a classic meeting engagement.

The terrain is open ground with 3 distinct areas of scrub and light woods. The road itself runs from north to south. Most of the natural trenches caused by the hilly terrain offer light cover and don't block line-of-sight. There is one section of hilly terrain between opposing areas of western woods on the western side of the table that does block LOS. The areas of woods count as broken ground for movement as well as providing light cover. The open ground is covered with clumps of grass, so units moving Tactically could assume light cover here as well. There are pockets of light snow on the ground, but this doesn't affect movement at all. Remember, this is Southern Russian !

I rolled for Force Morale, with the panzergrenadiers having a slight edge of 10 compared to the Soviets Force Morale of 9. I then selected some support for my platoons. Here, I deviated from the scenario a bit. The German units are portrayed below:

The panzergrenadiers begin with 3 squads of infantry, made up of 2 MG34 teams each. Each squad is commanded by a junior leader. I added a 2-man panzerschreck team that is commanded by a senior leader. The Germans have a large amount of firepower and are able to counter any Soviet armor that enters the table.

The Soviet units are below. The Soviets have 2 squads of infantry, each with a light machine gun, and another squad of infantry made up of purely riflemen. Each squad is commanded by a junior leader. The Soviets also have a medium machine gun team as well as a T-34 tank. One Soviet senior leader controls the force. The Soviets have less inherent firepower per squad when compared to the Germans, but the T-34 tank and the MMG team could very well tip the balance.

The table is a 6' x 5' surface. After the patrol phase, in which probing units maneuver to create "jump off points," it was obvious that the Germans had a slight advantage for deployment, with 2 main areas of light woods to deploy to when moving from the off-table area. Troops are not initially deployed on the table, they have to be activated by a roll of command dice. Here is the table with the various "jump off points" designated. The top of the picture is South, so the wooded areas on the right of the picture are the "western woods" while the wooded area on the left is the "eastern woods."

The German jump-off points are in black at the top of the picture, while the Soviets have decidedly less cover to deploy to.....their jump-off points are in red.

For those unfamiliar with the system, the command dice dictate which units may move, fire, or be deployed onto the table. In this scenario, each side has 5 six-sided dice to roll with. A roll of "1" allows a team to be activated or deploy. A roll of "2" activates an entire squad together. A roll of "3" activates a junior leader, who may in turn activate a team or squad, or use some special abilities (ie order a hand grenade thrown, rally a point of shock, etc), A roll of "4" allows your senior leader to use his command points and/or activate units. A roll of "5" gives your side a point towards a "Chain of Command" die, which contains some special abilities throughout the game. Then there are the "6's." One "6" thrown means nothing. Two "6's" allow the active player to move in the next phase. Three "6's" ends the turn and allows the player to move first in the next phase. And so on.....

The scenario called for the Soviets to activate first. They were able to deploy the MMG team to a jump-off point in a natural trench caused by the rolling terrain. Another squad was deployed to the rear of a large section of the western woods. Not bad. A couple of "5's" gave the Soviet player 2 points toward a chain of command dice.

The Germans deployed a full squad into the western woods, another squad to the rear of the eastern woods and the panzerschreck team to another edge of the western woods.  The Germans definitely have the advantage of more cover to deploy into. Most of the Soviets will have to travel over some open ground in order to advance.

A Soviet squad "jumps off" to the rear of a large area of scrub

The next phase saw the Soviet MMG team deploy into the open and put some fire onto the panzerschreck team on the edge of the woods. A couple points of shock (you can describe "shock" as morale points) were absorbed by the team. The senior leader deployed onto the table and pulled the panzerschreck team back out of visibility (a unit is visible in light woods up to 4" deep). A third German squad occupied the spot where the panzerschreck team vacated from. The western woods were infested with panzergrenadiers at this time. These troops were going to be tough to crack.

The Soviet MMG team deploying and putting down fire into the woods, directed at the panzerschreck team

The western woods become infested with German infantry

In the following German phase, the Soviet MMG team was damaged and pinned (excess shock) in place due to withering fire coming out of the eastern woods. On the west side of the table, although a steep hill blocked the LOS of one German squad, the other panzergrenadier squad again put overwhelming fire into the Soviet infantry in the opposite woods. The Soviets here were considerably hurt by the accurate German fire.

Soviet infantry considerably damaged by opposing German panzergrenadiers

The Soviets, in the next phase, gained a stroke of luck. The T-34 tank deployed on the tabletop. In addition, a full Soviet squad deployed into the jump-off point in support of the damaged MMG team.

Soviet armor enters the table, as more Soviet infantry deploy to the eastern side of the table

The German player realizes that the Soviet plan was to hold the western woods while the rest of the Soviet force, supported by the T-34, attempted to concentrate fire onto the lone panzergrenadier squad in the eastern woods. Reacting quickly, knowing that the Soviet infantry in the western woods was considerably damaged (and now pinned), the junior leader threw his squad forward over the hill and down into the direction of the enemy. During this action, the Soviet infantry in the woods was completely wiped out by further fire from the other panzergrenadier squad opposing it. Luckily for the Soviets, they were able to deploy their last rifle squad to the jump-off point to the rear of the woods. The action was really heating up.

Seizing the moment, German panzergrenadiers advance over the hill into the opposing woods

On the other side of the table, the senior Soviet leader arrived and began to rally the shock on the MMG team while the supporting rifle squad advanced to the flank of the MMG team and began to throw fire into the German infantry in the eastern woods. The T-34 was advancing in tandem, firing its hull machine guns, and the German infantry began to waver. After a couple of phases, the panzergrenadier teams both broke and routed. The Soviet plan to clear this area through concentrated fire was working.

German infantry in the eastern woods catching hell

At the same time, the Soviet infantry advanced into the western woods to replace the squad that was decimated, running right into the charging panzergrenadiers. The game's first close combat was initiated. Although the Germans had the dice advantage, the Soviet riflemen threw the Germans back with a lucky roll, defeating the Nazis by one kill.

Close combat initiated by the panzergrenadiers

....and barely thrown out by the Soviets

The situation on the eastern section of the table looked great for the Soviets, as the Germans routed out of the cover

At this point in the game, both sides were experiencing a decrease in Force Morale, but the Soviets seemed to have the edge as far as territory. They were in control of the western woods, and only had to advance unopposed into the eastern woods to take control of this side of the table's area of cover. The T-34 was in the center of the table, menacingly about to advance again. Soviet total losses were slightly higher than the Germans, but they had a larger force that could absorb some extra punishment.

In the next phase, the Soviets advanced a rifle squad to the edge of the eastern woods. Soviet fire onto the western woods from the T-34 and the MMG team caused a bit of shock but effects were minimal. In the German phase, the panzergrenadier squad that was thrown out of the western woods regrouped and threw some massive firepower into the remaining Soviet riflemen. The rifle squad, which was victorious in combat just a couple of phases ago, were completely wiped out ! The power of 2 MG34's was truly evident.To end the phase, the Germans moved their remaining panzergrenadiers deeper into the wood to protect them from Soviet fire.

Soviet infantry move into the eastern woods recently vacated by the Germans

As Germans occupy the western woods, stepping over the bodies of dead Soviets

Panzergrenadiers sprint across the table to take the fight to Soviets in the eastern woods

In subsequent phases, the Germans advanced and occupied the western woods, while the other panzergrenadier squad sprinted across the table to begin an assault on the eastern woods, gaining a point of shock in the process. Rolling luckily, the squad made it across without being caught in the open by the T-34, which was covering the center of the table. The next phase saw some repositioning and regrouping, but the drama was really starting to begin.

Having accumulating a Chain of Command die, the Germans used one of the abilities of the die to interrupt the Soviets' move further into the eastern woods. The panzergrenadiers closed into combat, but the Soviets had a slight dice advantage this time around.

It was not to be for the Germans. Although the Soviets took about a half-squad worth of casualties, every panzergrenadier was killed in the fight. The entire squad was wiped out !

A dramatic close combat in the eastern woods sealed the Germans' fate

At this point, with the Soviets controlling the field with the T-34 and the MMG team, along with the eastern woods, the game was called. Casualties were heavy on both sides. The Germans only had the panzerschreck team and a half-squad of panzergrenadiers left. They had  little offensive capability at this point. The Soviets had won the day, although it was a bloody price.

I was thoroughly impressed with Chain of Command. The game was incredibly entertaining and fast-moving. Although I may have balanced the scenario too much in the favor of the Soviets (the T-34 was a game-changer) it was touch and go for most of the game.  I found out that once initiated, close combat can be totally decisive. Also, I found that you never quite have enough dice activations to do everything that you want in a turn, so some tough decision-making has to be made. In retrospect, I feel that the authors thought of just about everything when it comes to World War 2 combat. Every base was covered in a fun-to-play and historically realistic game. Both thumbs way up !