The Great War, Chain of Command, 28mm
This is actually a report of two games rather than one. Rather, on Thursday night we had a practice game, and managed to work out what not to do. Then, on the Saturday, we ran this as a participation game at Deep Fried Lard 2017, the small annual get-together for people who game with Too Fat Lardy rules. It’s held in a rugby club in Musselburgh, a down-at-heel suburb of Edinburgh, and it gives us a chance to both stage Lardy games, and to take part in others.The first part of this was the practice game. In this one we fought it out with two platoons a side, but one of them was a tank one. More specifically, the French had two tanks (a Schneider and FT17), while the Germans had three – two A7Vs (“Lotti” and “Gretchen”) and one Beutepanzer … a captured British Mark IV. That’s a lot of heavy metal for a little game.Theoretically the game was meant to be an attack and defence one, with the Germans on the offensive. What actually happened was more of a faint probe, after the two tank platoons trundled on and began shooting at each other. Michael and I played the Germans, and my tanks scored the first hit, disabling the gun on the French Schneider tank.They then deployed a 75mm field gun, and it and the FT-17 spent the rest of the game trading shots at my three tanks. All in all it wasn’t much of a game. the German assault was something of a damp squib too, as the infantry tried to follow the tanks, just like in the war films. Unfortunately my tanks spent most of the game acting as stationary artillery pieces, so that didn’t really work out too well!After almost three hours we ended the game, as it was clear nothing important was going to happen. We learned a few things though – like don’t deploy whole tank platoons, a support point spent on an off-table adjutant is well worth it, and offensive artillery barrages mixed with gas attacks can really hinder the enemy’s ability to deploy onto the table. Tactically it was something of a draw too – both sides had caused casualties, but not enough to do anything. More importantly the German assault never crossed the half-way point on the table, and so the game was judged a draw – although really it should have been a defensive win for the French. That was Thursday. On Saturday it was Deep Fried Lard Day, and we set up the same table, but thanks to our experience a few evenings before we laid on a very different game. This was particularly so as I played the dastardly French. This time both sides had two infantry platoons, and 2D6 support points. This meant they really didn’t have enough spare points to blow on a tank. To make up for it though, we placed a broken-down Beutepanzer in the middle of the table. Both the French and the Germans had an engineer, and the sub plot of the game was to reach the tank, get it started, and drive it to safety. In this game we classed each side’s trenches as hard cover, while the badly shell-pocked no-mans land in between was soft cover, if the majority of a squad was in the craters. In this game, our two guest players were both called Jim – German Jim and French Jim. while Michael helped the German player, and I helped the French one. The two players rolled for support points, getting 7 points apiece. To counter German superiority in their platoon abilities the French got two more, for a total of 9. We blew our points on an adjutant (to get the troops flowing onto the table efficiently), and two Hotchkiss machine guns. The French bought a Maxim gun and a Granatenwefer mortar. So, no tanks. In the last game we played out a patrol phase to see where we would place our jump off points. For this game we simplified it, and simply allowed each player commanding a platoon to place two jump off points inside their own trench systems. That done, we got the game under way. The action started right from the start, with both sides bringing on sections and weapons teams and getting them firing. the Germans were quick off the blocks, making a probe from the centre of their line towards the tank. The threw the best part of a platoon into this – two sections up front, and two following in reserve. the German engineer accompanied the first wave. Clearly they were planning to get their tank back. We did our best to stop this by deploying and then opening up with our two heavy machine guns, and their fire did the trick. Soon the two lead sections were pinned down, and their casualties were mounting. then, sneakily, Michael raced his engineer forward, taking advantage of a double round of initiative to sprint for the tank. HE got there too, and managed to clamber inside before the French machine guns opened up again. So, it looked like the Germans had won the race. Our own engineer was also in no man’s land, pinned down next to a section of Sengalese troops, who had tried the same thing, only to become the target of what seemed half the German army. Most of this German fire came from their Maxim machine gun, so I targeted it using my “VB” grenade launcher squad. These are pretty nifty weapons, and I get four launchers in my squad, whose fire ignores a level of cover. So, the Maxim gun, set up in an outpost of the German trench line – had its cover reduced from hard to soft. Fortunately I got my own run of initiative, rolling a “double 6” on my command dice three turns in a row. By the end what remained of the German machine gun crew was routing off the table. My own Sengalese section in the centre was also retiring now, having become pinned and shot about a bit. Still, the Germans were suffering even more by now, with no fewer than three sections pinned down in no man’s land. On my right French Jim’s machine guns and riflemen were playing merry hell with the Germans cowering in their shell craters, and now we had a monopoly of machine guns we made the most of it. We were all thoroughly enjoying ourselves, but these games run to a timetable, and having wasted half an hour setting up at the start, we only had 2 1/2 hours to play the game. So, it was still up in their air when the whistle blew. The Germans had suffered more than three times the French total in terms of casualties, but they Had got to the Beutepanzer, which was just about to trundle back towards their lines. The morale of one of the German platoons had suffered a bit, and both platoons were just on the cusp of having their pinned units broken, which would have sent their morale tumbling. Still, by getting the tank they turned what would pretty much have been a losing draw (if such a thing exists) to a winning one. So, the game was declared a marginal buy Pyrrhic German victory. The main thing though, was that both Jims enjoyed themselves. The terrain and figures garnered a lot of favourable comments too from the other gamers at the Lardy event. It was certainly a fun game – in fact on both games this week – Thursday and Saturday – the time sped by, as we were all wrapped up in our own little bit of trench warfare. I can see us returning to the Western Front soon.