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Rauray, Normandy, 1944


The Second World War, Chain of Command, 28mm

Two Second World War games in one month might sound a bit excessive, but we were keen to try a bit of “Big CoC”. That’s the double entendre name the Two Fat Lardies give their bolt-on system which lets you turn Chain of Command from a platoon-sized game into a company-sized one. In this, each player gets their own set of command dice, and has responsibility for their own platoon. In theory that should have speeded the game up, but that didn’t take into account Alan’s decision-making processes, which seemed to lag about a turn behind everyone else. To be fair, he had control of the German armour as well as a platoon of panzer grenadiers, and he was faced with a pretty doughty defence – Gyles’ platoon of British regulars, lurking behind the bocage. On the other side of the table My British tanks and infantry were ranged against Sean’s Wehrmacht infantry platoon. the aim of the game was for the Germans to cut the main road at the British table edge – the only piece of “blacktop” on the table. To get there though, the attackers had to negotiate a tabletop filled with small fields, bocage hedges and twisty country lanes.The Germans also got off to a slow start with the placement of their jump-off points, which allowed the British to place theirs close to the centreline of the table. This of course was a double-edged sword – they were well placed for placing our defenders in their forward positions, but they were also vulnerable to being overrun. Anyway, both sides had four jump off points – two assigned to each infantry platoon, The armour came on the table via the road network on their respective table edges. In the photo above, the Germans started on the left, and the British on the right. The scene was set for this attack and defend game, and our first collective taste of “Big CoC”!The German attack developed slowly – very slowly. A single tank appeared next to the old barn on the country lane opposite my side of the table, and another came on behind Alan’s front line. My troop of Shermans arrived en masse thanks to some nifty command dice rolling, and began duelling with the Panzer IV opposite them. Both sides scored some clanks and near misses, but it was the Firefly that finished the German tank off, with  cleanly-struck hit. As the rest of the German tanks had now deployed on the other side of the table, the Shermans set off to engage them. This though, meant crossing an open field, and I didn’t noticed a gap in the bocage at its southern edge. Another Panzer IV was lurking in overwatch there, and it fired at the Firefly. It missed, but then Alan announced he was launching an ambush. A panzershrek team deployed next to the tank, and this time there was no missing. It brewed up the Firefly with ease, leaving me without a clear edge in tank firepower. Did I say how much I hate panzershreks? Anyway, revenge was sweet, as my command tank discharged smoke to cover the gap, while Gyles’ British riflemen took out the Nazi tank-killers with a well-placed fusilade of shots.Over on the right Gyles wasn’t having an easy time of it, as Alan’s panzer grenadiers had a lot of firepower, with their two belt-fed LMGs in each squad. The also had a tripod-mounted MG-42 backing them up, plus three panzers. Gyles lost one British section to this combined firepower, and then pulled back slightly, waiting for my tanks to arrive to help him out. Over on my side of the table though, things were a lot quieter – for the moment. Sean had advanced one section through an orchard towards my front line, but his other two squads remained in reserve, lining the bocage on  their own side of the table. Eventually I got fed up with this inactivity, and sent two sections forward to take on the German patrol. What followed was a pretty furious firefight in the orchard, with both sides blundering into each other at fairly close range, and peppering the enemy. Numbers though, were on the side of the British, who slowly began to gain the upper hand.While the fight in the orchard was going on my third section had advanced through the small fields next to the lane leading to the barn, and began a firefight with another German section lurking behind a line of bocage, facing the orchard. This went surprisingly well, given the better German cover, and soon what was left of the German unit pulled back out of range. That left a third German squad to deal with, but as it was now outnumbered two to one or more, and I was close to overrunning two German jump-off points, then I was fairly happy with the way things were going. Especially so, in fact, as the onus had been on the Germans to do the attacking.The only fly in the ointment was one of Alan’s panzer grenadier squads on the hill in the centre of the table, which was now firing at my guys in the fields next to the road – and causing casualties. My 2-inch mortar fired smoke, but their aim was useless, and it seemed to want to fire anywhere but in front of the Germans. Equally poor was the fire by my mortar battery. During the game an observation team had been lurking on a small hill on our side of the table, and it began by calling down a “stonk” on one of Alan’s squads, moving through the woods on the west side of the big hill. This was fairly effective, until the sneaky Germans played their CoC dice to end the turn, and so end the barrage.The next plan was to call it down on the troublesome squad on the east side of the hill – the one firing at my troops. As we were nearing the end of the game I decided to fire without calling it in properly. The result was an impressive 29 inch deviation, heading over to the right, and landing between Gyles and Alan’s troops. It actually fell on two Panzer IV’s and a panzer grenadier fire team, but failed to do any significant damage. More effective was the fire from my tanks, which had now moved up to the bocage at the southern edge of their field, and were engaging the Panzer IV. A lucky shot by my command tank – handily marked by a jaunty green and white pennant – brewed up the German tank.Alan’s misfortune had begun the previous phase, when a PIAT team hit the panzer, and damaged its gun sights. It was struggling to fire back when my Shermans opened up and knocked it out. That pretty much brought the game to a close. It was painfully obvious that the German advance hadn’t gone according to plan. in fact they hadn’t even crossed the centreline of the table. Casualties were also in the Allies’ favour, with two tanks to one destroyed, and German infantry casualties almost twice those of the British. So, the game was declared a British victory, and we packed out toys away – the British players cursing panzershreks, and their German counterparts moaning about mortars…

 

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