The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm
Last week we all agreed to take along our Second World War toys, as we hadn’t played that period for a while. It used to be a leading wargames staple, but in the last year or so other periods have overtaken it. This was going to be a “Big CoC” game – Chain of Command with more than one platoon a side, plus tanks. Oh yes. Even then we had to limit the AFVs a bit, as between us we had far too many to use. We set the game during Operation Epsom, and the push towards the Odon River.We set it on the west side of the Epsom battlefield, just outside the hamlet of Brettevillete, just south of Rauray. On 27th June Brettevillette had been captured by the 49rd (West Riding) Infantry Division, supported by the 8th Armoured Brigade. However, the following day the inevitable German counter-attack came, spearheaded by the I/3rd SS Panzergrenadiers, supported by tanks. The village was held by the 1st Tyneside Scottish, backed up by Shermans from B Squadron, 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards. The Germans advanced towards Brettevillette from the south, and a few hundred yards from the village they ran into the Geordie’s front line. Effectively this was going to be an “attack and defence” battle, fought out on an 8×4 foot table.There were two roads leading towards the hamlet from the south. Bart deployed his British platoon to cover the one to the west, and my one deployed on his left, to the east. A small lateral track joined the two roads. The table was all fields, with some copse of trees, an isolated building, and the small farm of Le Hameau Paris, which sat just beside Bart’s front line. Bart also got to play with the supporting troop of three Shermans, including a Firefly. As for the Germans, Peter’s platoon advanced up the western road, and Campbell’s came up the eastern one, supported by three Panzer IV’s. Peter also had a Panzer IV supporting him, bought as a “support option”, while Campbell chose a Marder, which for some reason never made it onto the table. For our options, I chose a 6-pounder AT gun and a Vickers MMG, while Bart took another Vickers team, and some engineers. So, we were off. Both German players advanced onto the table with just about everything they had. In Campbell’s case, this involved his panzergrenadiers advancing across a large cornfield, to leave the road free for his tanks. This worked for me – my section deployed behind a hedge just north of the lateral track opened up on them, and the German bodycount began. His first wave made it to the edge of the field, but the rest were pinned in the open, and as the turns went by they took more and more casualties. By then though, the column of German tanks had appeared, trundling up the eastern road towards Brettevillette. In Chain of Command you have to roll to see the target, and then you roll attack dice. the defenders rolls defence dice, and you compare the result. So, the first shot from my 6-pounder hit the leading tank, killing the driver. While Campbell was pulling the body away and replacing him with the machine gunner, another round slammed into the tank, and brewed it up. The other two panzers duly turned off the road, one heading through the cornfield and the hedge at the end of it, and the other cut through the hedges and trees to the east of the road. Over on my right Bart was having fun with his tanks, pinning down the German infantry, and trading shots with Peter’s sole Panzer IV. the German tank seemed to get the worse of the exchange, but Bart’s Shermans never managed to knock out it out – just inflict shock and crew casualties. In the end though that was enough – the German crew abandoned their panzer. The German advance on that side of the table duly stalled, as British tanks dominated the western road, and the fields around it. Back on my side of the table I had another success, as the Panzer IV cutting through the eastern side of the road ran into my PIAT team. One very lucky shot later and the German tank was left smoking, having blown up. That was the command tank, leaving Campbell with one operational tank, and a crew whose morale wasn’t too good. It was worse for his infantry though. While his own machine guns had been ripping away at the British behind the hedge-line, more Brits opened up from a small farm building, and I also brought up my Vickers in support. One by one Campbell;’s remaining infantry squads were either pinned or broken, thanks to some pretty impressive dice rolling. Eventually, Campbell’s infantry reached “0” on the morale chart, and the survivors fled the field. Back across the table Peter’s panzergrenadiers had pulled back, and were left huddled behind the hedgerows, exchanging fire with the British infantry and armour to the north. Strangely, the unequal tank duel continued on the western edge of the table, with the British Shermans around Le Hameau Paris farmhouse still getting the worst of the exchange with Peter’s solitary panzer. it was clear though, that the German attack had been well and truly blunted. Still, back over to the east, Campbell had one trick left. His Panzer IV revved up, changed gears, and smashed through the hedgerow, and across the lateral track beyond it. It kept trundling until it reached my 6-pounder, and although the crew scrambled out of the way, the gun itself was turned into a tangle of scrap. If this happened earlier in the game it might have been a battle-winning move. As it was, I still had my PIAT team, and I could always whistle up Bart’s Shermans. However, there wasn’t any need, as with a final drop in morale thanks to the broken infantry supports, the tank commander backed away and retired from the field, secure in the knowledge that he, at least, had done his job. So, that was the end of a fun game, and a pretty one. It ended in a clear British victory, but really, it could easily have gone the other way. The key was really the use of armour, and the deployment of firepower. The Germans never really got a combined arms attack into gear. Chain of Command really is an excellent set of rules, and while we hadn’t played them for a while, we were soon “in the zone” and the game flowed along very smoothly indeed. We’ll certainly give them another go soon.