The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm
Nothing says Christmas like an MG34. That seemed to be the tag line for this game, set in Normandy in August 1944. Motorised infantry of the 1st Polish Armoured Division were advancing south from Caen to Falaise, and having secured the open ground around St. Sylvain and Soignolles, a platoon was sent forward to probe the defences of Mazières. This was a village beside the small River Laison, defended by elements of the 12th SS Panzer Division. Despite the presence of two armoured divisions, this little meeting engagement was purely an infantry fight, with a platoon a side. That said, the two sides weren’t exactly equal. At this stage of the war a German panzergrenadier platoon boasts three squads, each with two MG34 teams. That’s a lot of light machine guns – which in Chain of Command means a lot of firepower dice. By contrast each of the three Polish infantry sections contained a lot of riflemen, and a single Bren gun team. In other words, the Germans had a big edge in firepower. To even things up the Polish player (Bart) added an extra light mortar to his lineup. The game began with the “Patrol Phase”. We were playing on a 6×4 foot table, facing each other across the opposite long sides of it. The Poles started on the northern table edge, and the Germans from the southern one. In the patrol phase we both edged forward with our markers, until both of us had “pinned down” the other side, by placing markers within 12″ of the enemy. By the end the Germans had control of a little farm hamlet on the northern outskirts of the village, and the Poles controlled the lateral lane running across the table, a little to the north. These were then turned into three “jump off points” per side – the Germans in the farm and in the fields to the west, with the Polish ones on the road, behind patches of cover. The centre of the table was fairly open – a big killing ground of a cornfield in the middle of the table that naturally dictated the course of the skirmish. Bart began by deploying two of his three sections on the left and centre of the table – all on or close to the lateral lane. I did the same in a field and village opposite them, and the two sides began blazing away. At one stage I had to move half of a squad out of the farm buildings and up to a hedgeline, to support their comrades, which meant breaking cover. Bart’s fire caused me hits, but no kills. Then the killing began in earnest. the sheer level of German firepower meant that they were getting the better of the firefight, particularly on the German right and Polish left. There the Poles took quite a few casualties, and were forced to pull back from the lane into the fields beyond. There they stayed, pinned down and laden with “hit markers”.
In the centre it was much the same story. Bart eased the pressure by dropping smoke from his mortars, which effectively denied my machine guns a target. Then he tried deploying his third squad on the Polish right, working through the orchard to my western jump off point, which had a rather effectual panzerschreck team deployed there to defend it. However, I had an un-deployed squad, and when they turned up they not only were able to defend the jump off point, but they bypassed the smoke, and began shooting up the Poles in the centre of the table. I used a “CoC die” to lift the smoke, but Bart thumped more of it down the following turn. Sensing blood though, my panzergrenadiers on the right pressed forward, and broke through the hedge into the lane.
Bart wisely used his “CoC die” to move his eastern jump off point, to avoid me capturing it. However, I was now behind his front line. Once in the lane and the field just to the north of it my panzergrenadier split their fire. this meant they could shoot up what remained of the Polish section a little way up the road, who were now unprotected by cover, and also shooting at the remains of Bart’s broken section on his left. Both units either retired off the table or were wiped out.That effectively ended the game, with Bart’s Force Morale dropping to “0”. All in all it was a good little game, and a fair reflection of a Normandy infantry skirmish. Jack Glanville said afterwards that the Too Fat Lardies have issued an errata, which changed the stats and force composition a little to compensate for the crushing firepower of a German panzergrenadier platoon. However, we hadn’t seen that, and played the rules “as written”. I’ll try to find it though, as getting eviscerated couldn’t have been much Christmas fun for poor Bart. That said, it was still a nice little game, and the rules – as ever – worked like a dream.