Chain of Command – Saipan Day 3

The final day of the Saipan campaign begins with a Japanese night attack on the last table won by the Marines. So this means setting up a table that has been already used. Luckily there are the images from this blog to help although some of the terrain may have shifted by an insignificant amount. Jump off points are shown with patrol markers. The big building is also a Marine jump off point.

The Japanese have a full platoon together with 3 tanks. The scenario rules are based on 4 tanks but that and the Marine support has been reduced to reflect the models available. The Marines have a full platoon, an anti-tank gun plus, embedded within 1 section, a flamethrower and bazooka.

Turn 1 ends on the first phase again making the Japanese pre-game bombardment worthless. Nevertheless the Japanese advance steadily, keeping their tanks together with the infantry. The night rules restrict visibility but it is relatively easy to see a unit that has fired in the previous phase. The Marines can call in star shells to light up the table but they are not accurate and reduce visibility away from where they land.

The tanks bombard the Marines in the building. One Japanese section has had good movement rolls and overrun one of the Marine jump off points.

The Marines deploy their gun and the gun versus tank duel is off again but the Japanese have 2 tanks in on the action. The Marines charge in and wipe out the Japanese section at the bottom of the table. They then take cover in the wooden building. A Japanese tank moves up and gradually shells the Marines off the table. The Marines drop a bazooka squad in ambush by the Ha-Go. They hit but amazingly fail to penetrate the little tank’s paper thin armour.

Eventually the Marine gun is lost and only the senior leader is left of the Marine section at the bottom of the table. The game is called with the Marine morale at 1 and no hope of breaking the Japanese.

The campaign rules state that the Marines always have the initiative but the night fighting section explains that the Japanese are buying space not time. This will be taken to mean that the next battle will be fought on this board again with the Marine force bonus as if they had fought and lost here on the last day battle. It also saves having to set up the next board yet again.

The beach assault and night attack do not count as games for campaign victory. 7 valid games have been played. To win the campaign the Marines must win on the final map by game 9. They could still do it but it will be tight.

Daylight on day 3 and we have an attack and defense battle on the same map. The Marines have 2 more points of support since they last fought this battle. They take a pre-game bombardment, off table mortars and a HMG. The Japanese have 2 anti-tank guns in support. Both sides have enough men left from disbanded platoons to run at full strength again. The Marines deploy a senior leader, HMG team and the mortar observer in the top story of the big house. A Marine platoon advances towards the hedge line. Turn 1 ends and with it the pre-game barrage effects. The Japanese first deploy a gun; leaving the mortars with a lack of targets. The mortars aim for the gun and spectacularly miss; landing on the top jump off point. The mortar shelling will make use of that jump off point very risky so the barrage is left in place. The Japanese gun is eventually neutralised by Marine HMG and rifle fire. The Marines move up one of their jump off points and drop a platoon close to the edge of their bombardment. The Japanese deploy another platoon and exchange shots with the Marines at the hedge line.

The Marines call off their barrage and run a platoon to the now exposed Japanese jump off point. The Japanese have to shift their line to make the best firing line against them. The mortar section is deployed to add to their firepower. The Marines by the Japanese jump off point shift to tactical movement and creep up to it. A key moment as the Marines might be able to destroy the jump off point or the Japanese might be able to move it back out of the way. This all depends on how many 5s each side roll in activations allowing the purchase of a Chain of Command point. Unfortunately requests for another mortar barrage have been refused so the Marines cannot bomb the Japanese off the board.

The Marines earn a Chain of Command point first and remove the Japanese jump off point. Japanese morale drops by 1 and they are down to 3 dice. This could be a good point to withdraw but with the campaign drawing to a close and the Japanese still relatively strong they carry on and deploy more troops in the hopes of maximising Marine losses.

The Marine section that captured the Japanese jump off point soon breaks. The Marines deploy their final section. A firefight ensures with but the Marines gain the better of it and the Japanese have 2 broken sections and elect to withdraw.

The campaign rests on the final battle. Both sides have enough replacements to field full platoons. The Japanese support is a field gun and entrenchments for 2 sections. The Marines will rely on a mortar battery, bazooka and flamethrower plus a red command die.

The Marines advance a section to behind the clump of trees where there is some break in the line of sight to the Japanese jump off points and some hope of staying away from being shot for longer. A team of 2 Marine rifles can just be seen behind the middle small building. They had moved forward with the hope of moving up a Marine jump off point behind them. Unfortunately the dice did not turn up in time to do that. A Marine section, senior leader and the mortar observes sit in the big building to the rear throughout the game providing long range fire support. The Japanese have deployed a gun to shell the Marines in the house and their mortar platoon to prevent the rightmost jump off point from being overrun. The Marines call in their mortars on the Japanese little mortars. Unfortunately they inflict few hits. The barrage is soon called off by a turn end and no further barrage calls are available.

The Marines do get a 2nd section, senior leader, bazooka and flamethrower team up to support their assault. The Japanese deploy an infantry section in front of their mortars and a 2nd in the bunker.

The Marine assault seems to be slowing so, chancing their luck the Japanese deploy their 3rd section behind the bunker and move to outflank the Marines. Note that the Japanese forgot to deploy their entrenchments, this proved to be unwise. The general firefight broke the Marine section that deployed first but the senior leader managed to rally them.

The Marines wipe out the closest Japanese infantry section. The mortars start to take losses and break. The Japanese are now down to 3 command dice. The Marines sections are all weak but morale is still good.

Another Japanese section breaks. The Marine fire from the house (to the left of this image) helped here. The turn ended abruptly and with 2 sections broken but not rallied the Japanese morale drops to 0 and the Marines pull off a win. Note the heavy Marine losses, the 2 prone figures to the right of the board are all that remains of a section. Another Marine section is dangerously weak in the woods. If it were not the final game of the campaign the Marines might have pulled out long ago. The Japanese in their bunker are unharmed but only contributed 8 shooting dice at any time due to the restricted vision of the bunker. The Marine section in the house is also relatively unscathed but they were continually put out supporting fire. If the Japanese had sat still in their 2 unused bunkers they might have pulled off the defense.

To finish up here are some general comments on the campaign. All the games were played down rather than across the table. The patrol phase and jump off point mechanism led to a good 2′ of table space only being used for the attacker’s deployment. The core of the battles took place on the remaining 4′ square of table. If possible it made more game sense to keep units off board until jump off points had been moved forward or backward during the game then deploy units. This does depend on having 1 or 2 Chain of Command points in hand and that is a consequence of rolling lots of 5s. At least 1 unit does need to be on the table to prevent the opposition overrunning jump off points. It also prevents a flurry of early game dice rolling to rack up those Chain of Command points. A point can be used to end a turn which will stop a barrage either on table or a pre-game barrage. If the attacker has bought either he will need to get boots on the ground before the opposition ends the turn wasting the points spent on the barrage. The off table mortar barrage was a chancy buy, as seen by its effects either being devastating or far from effective. It is guaranteed to come in once but after that the odds are against repeated use.

The campaign as a whole did work and one can’t argue with it being free. It does require a table being left alone for some time or taken down and reset for each game. The night actions require resetting a table out of sequence. There is some advantage in running the night battle in advance of schedule while the last victorious Marine table is still set up. There would of course be some drop in surprise as both sides would know the future. The replacements available, 1 Japanese and 2 Marine platoons are more than adequate. The only casualty worries were in losing just enough plastic men to allow a platoon to be disbanded and to make it available for reinforcement use. This is akin to throwing Gandalf the Grey under a bus because you know that the improved Gandalf the White will then come along. The rules for commander’s opinion from ‘At the Sharp End’ were not used and might have helped to reduce the butcher’s bill throughout.

Chain of Command – Saipan Day 2

Game 4 and the 2nd turn of day 2 on Saipan. The first battle turn had seen a voluntary Japanese retreat and automatic Marine victory. The next battle is a probe. By the rules book this should be fought across the table but for this game play goes along the table length. The Marines need to get a unit off table; breaking through the hedge line behind the railway tracks. An added blow is that the pre-game barrage is not allowed in a probe battle. The image below shows the patrol markers and jump off points in place. The Japanese are planning to hold the hedge line. The Marine support is an off-table mortar unit and 2 teams of MMGs. The Japanese buy 2 anti-tank guns, neither entirely useless against infantry in a case such as this where they do not encounter any tanks.

The mortar choice proves a game changer due to pure luck and a mis-read of the rules.. A single barrage is guaranteed to come in but will end with the turn end. To call an additional barrage requires a 5 or 6 on a D6, on a 3 or 4 another attempt to call a barrage can be made on the next spotter activation. On a 1 or 2 no further barrage will come in. The Marines were able to call in 3 barrages in this game. The relatively narrow Japanese defensive area made it almost impossible to miss a target unit even if the barrage deviated. There are few counters to the barrage effects. Not deploying would allow the Marines to march off the board. Entrenchments might have been some help as they would be some protection against HE. When the barrages came the Japanese damage was severe. This was because each team under the barrage rolled for hits with a reduction of cover for HE. A better reading of the rules revealed that although under a barrage each time still has to roll to be targeted and again for the effect of the hits. Getting this right would have halved the number of effective hits. Also although HE does reduce cover a unit under a barrage is pinned and this increases cover by one level so the HE cover effect would be cancelled out.

The Marines moved in with a single section and the Japanese manned the hedge opposite with one of theirs. The Marines deployed the mortar observer and a senior leader so the observer could activate on a 1 (observer team) or 4 (senior leader). A barrage comes in pinning the Japanese infantry and racking up their losses. To counter the Japanese deploy an anti-tank gun and shoot at the observer. He takes a shock but the nearby leader is killed. The Marines deploy another section, their 2nd senior leader and a MMG team. The gun scores no more kills and there is nothing much the Japanese can do until the barrage lifts. The Marine section stay outside the barrage area.

Eventually the barrage lifts. The Japanese deploy a mortar section but have to shuffle them outside of minimum mortar range.

The Japanese deploy a section in the centre of their line. A new barrage catches part of a section and the nearby gun. Marines move up to the railway embankment and blaze away. Other sections move up and give supporting fire.

Close combat is somewhat random in Chain of Command. There is too much risk in charging in if you can get away without it. The Japanese deploy another gun to support their defense. The original Japanese squad holding the line has broken but another has deployed to fill the gap. The 2nd barrage ends but a 3rd catches the centre section and eventually wipes it out. A fresh Marine section moves up on the empty Japanese left wing.

The Marines lift the barrage so they can charge through and get off board. The Japanese manage to move their jump off point so it is not overrun and gather their remaining forces around it. The Marines will not be able to move far enough to get off board on their next phase and the Japanese voluntarily withdraw. They were close to a rout and a a game loss through Marines exiting the board. All that remains of a full Japanese platoon can be seen below.

The Marine platoon has taken only limited losses but the Japanese are running out of men. The Japanese fill out their 1st platoon with survivors from the 2nd and field it at full strength. None of the Marine platoons are weak enough to disband so the 3rd platoon goes in again. The Marines take a Sherman and pre-game barrage as support, the Japanese an anti-tank gun and 4 sets of entrenchments. The patrol markers and jump off points are shown below. The Japanese markers are deliberately further back to prevent them being overrun. The objective is to break the opposition’s morale while keeping your own above 3.

The first dice roll includes 4 sixes so the turn ends and the Marine pre-game barrage is never used. Some good news is that the random event bring on rain so the Marines are out of sight of the Japanese on the back row. Unfortunately the turn has ended swiftly again and with it the rain. The Japanese have deployed 2 more sections well back and inflict losses on the leftmost flanking unit forcing to fall back into cover. The entrenchments are a cover bonus to the Japanese but do make the defense less mobile.

The Japanese mortar section comes on too far forward and is taking hits before it can sort itself out. The Marines make better use of cover which slows their advance but keeps them in the game. The Sherman shows up and tries to keep out of trouble.

The Japanese deploy their anti-tank gun opposite the Sherman and the familiar gun-tank duel is off again. The tank takes some shock which it shakes off and the gun loses some crew. The initial Marine sections have been taking steady losses. A 3rd section deploys and moves up to the side of the Sherman.

The Sherman loses its main gun and has a wounded leader but carries on. It is the accompanying infantry which eventually assaults the Japanese gun, breaking the crew. The Marines end the turn and the Japanese morale drops to 2 due to the routed gun team and accompanying senior leader. The Japanese had sent a section to advance and overrun the exposed Marine jump off points. With a minimal chance of holding out that long the Japanese pull back and voluntarily withdraw.

The games so far have featured lengthy gun and tank duels. Where possible it is best for the tank to avoid or overrun the gun. In the last game the gun hit the tank with almost every shot but did not knock it out. The gun rolled 6 dice for effect and the tank 6 for armour. In each case a 5,6 was a success and the surplus of hits against saves affects the possible damage. For a good chance of a knock out a surplus of 3 is required and the odds are against that.

This is the final scenario with the play at game 4 of day 2. The Marines are only 1 game behind schedule but this looks a tough nut to crack. All ground to the right of the row of scrub is a steep hill and impassable to vehicles. Most of the board, excepting the courtyard around the buildings offers some sort of cover. This will put an end to the strategy of running over the Japanese with a tank. Instead the Marines rely on an off-table mortar battery and pre-game bombardment to do the job.

The Japanese deploy a squad with entrenchments in the centre jump off point. The Marines bring on the mortar battery. Despite getting the rules right this time and rolling to hit and to damage the Japanese still take massive damage. Meanwhile the Marines move up on the rightmost objective but the Japanese deploy an infantry and a mortar section. The Marines go to ground with 2 sections but still take heavy losses. The 3rd Marine section is in the building. This is also pouring fire into the section on the centre jump off point, together with the effect of the mortar barrage the Japanese holding the centre are wiped out.

The Marines need to lift the barrage to hopefully move onto the jump off point and capture it. The Japanese deploy their final infantry section in the now empty entrenchments. The Marines cannot shift their forces forward to make any progress and with steadily mounting losses and dropping morale withdraw. The Japanese had bought a field gun, this could have gone into the bunker but was never deployed.

The Marines have failed to pull off an early win. Day 3 will begin with a night attack by the Japanese.

Chain of Command – Saipan Day 1

The four first 4 turns of a WW2 Pacific campaign running with the free Saipan rules covering day 1 of the campaign and the beginnings of day 2 in 3 battles. To properly play the campaign it also needs ‘Chain of Command’ for the battle rules and ‘At the Sharp End’ for campaign tracking. The beach landing and night attack scenarios are run with full units and no campaign options so could run with the main rules alone. The Saipan force lists could also be run with other rules such as Bolt Action.

The 1st game is a beach landing. Marine losses are not carried over to subsequent games. Multiple failures would however use up campaign time and lead to a Marine campaign loss. There is a video playthrough on YouTube which goes some way to explain how the scenario plays. This and the other Saipan campaign games on YouTube are a useful reference on the table terrain but may be using older versions of the scenarios so the support points in play may vary here. Having run it through the beach landing several times making fewer rule mistakes each time it seems that success is heavily based on the supports chosen by either side. The Marines do well to take Amtraks; their entire base force will load onto a single LVT-4 and LVT(A)-2. These will roll over any wire obstacles and are relatively impervious to the Japanese defending fire. The field guns available to the Japanese are relatively low powered. The only other options against the Amtraks being to drop mortar shells into the open topped transports and fire LMGs in the hope of doing some damage; both are low probability options. Even when hits are scored the effect on vehicle and crew is limited. Put shock on the Amtraks faster than the Marines can strip it will cause the vehicle crew to bail. There are no rules to assault armoured vehicles but if an Amtrak has been immobilised it is reasonable to treat it as a building assault and bodge some sort of mechanism. The high transport capacity of Amtraks makes even this option unattractive. When choosing their defending supports the Japanese need some sort of big gun. Otherwise they are relying on light machine guns to drive off armour or the unlikely chance of dropping a mortar round inside an open topped Amtrak. For stopping infantry wire is a good option. It won’t stop the Amtraks but if the Marines begin or end up on foot wire will force them to go round.

The maps are laid out in the scenario book and have been reproduced as well as possible on the gaming table. This is the beach assault. The undergrowth by the beach is a steep bank which tracked vehicles can just about get up. There is a deliberate gap onto the open ground beyond. Be warned that 2 of the 3 Amtraks have been proxied. The single real Amtrak in use is from Anyscale. With limited game use buying enough to move an entire Marine army is an expense that is hard to justify. The Marines run with their standard platoon and one each of LVT-4, LVT(A)-2 and LVT(A)-1; the latter for some fire support. They also buy a pre-game barrage and ‘red’ Chain of Command die (5s and 6s are ignored). To win the Marines must get 2 units off the table. This encourages pushing all possible activation dice onto a single Amtrak to get it off table before the Japanese sort themselves out at the possible and unlikely expense of leaving others back on the subs bench.

The Marines lose the LVT-4 to an unlikely hit from a mortar shell. One of the two sections inside takes significantly more damage than the other. Chain of Command movement is based on D6 rolls and with some above average numbers one of the squads from the LVT-4 has caught up with the LVT(A)-2. That vehicle was halted by a tank barrier which the transported section hops over and gets as far as the wire line. The Sherman is acting as a LVT(A)-1. It has advanced towards the Japanese gun in the tree line, both trading shots with limited effect. The pillbox is not occupied.

The Marines end up occupying the 2 houses while a 3rd section breaks through and runs off board. The remaining Japanese close the line behind it. Marine victory is achieved by getting 2 units off-board but is a section 1 unit or 3 (for the 3 Marine squads in the section)? To make sure the LVT(A)-1 speeds past the Japanese gun and drives off board. As the vehicle gets close to the gun it is better off driving fast than stopping and shooting because it can move more easily than the gun can be turned to face.

The Japanese should have kept their losses for the next game. Although these can be worked out from the photos the mistake was not realised until after the following scenario was played. So the Japanese get a (free) fresh platoon in scenario 2. Knowing that losses will not be replaced would influence the Japanese to only make a limited defense in the beach assault. The Marines will get a fresh platoon in scenario 2 so the only benefit in putting up a vigorous defense is to gain a ‘campaign day’ and slow the Marines down. This could be a winning strategy but only if casualties are minimal and that is unlikely. If the Japanese are just going to run away then game 1 in the campaign could be skipped.

Here is the set up for game 2, an assault on a makeshift airstrip. The patrol markers have been left in place to show how the jump off points worked out. To win the Marines must take and hold the rearmost Japanese jump off point.

The Marine supports are a Stuart tank, preliminary barrage and MMG team. The simple plan is to belt the Stuart forward and capture the jump off point before the Japanese can deploy. It almost works. A preliminary barrage means that a Japanese unit must roll 4+ on D6 before it can deploy. It ends with the beginning of the 2nd turn. This is the situation at that point. There are Marines all over the shop and only a single Japanese gun has deployed. On its first shot it knocked out the main gun of the Stuart but the little tank kept on coming.

The Japanese manage to sort themselves out and put up some sort of resistance. This includes a tiny tankette which can’t hit much but with the Stuart gun out of action can’t be easily damaged either. The Japanese have used a Chain of Command point to pull their jump off point out of the wooden house which the Marines now occupy.

The Marine section in the wooden house trade shots with the Japanese in the trees while another section moves up on the jump off point. That section is in the open and takes significant losses. The Japanese crew abandon their gun after immobilising the Stuart.

The Japanese move their tankette to overrun the Marines in the open. As the Marines are heavily ‘shocked’ they can’t all get away. They take losses and break. The Japanese use a Chain of Command point to end the turn and the Marine squad routs off table. The game is called with a Japanese withdrawal at that point. It should continue through the remaining Japanese and following Marine turn but neither would have a significant impact on casualties and given time the Marines would take the objective and win. The casualty list was about the same for both sides, the best part of an entire section. Below is the Japanese view before they bug out.

On to game 3 and the first face to face game with a human opponent for 16 months. The Marines have to take and hold the 3-storey stone building. For support they bring a Stuart, bazooka team and the ‘always popular’ pre-game bombardment. The Japanese spend all their support on a ShinHo To Chi-Ha; it proved to be worth every penny. The Marines field a new full platoon. One of the Japanese sections is down to a single LMG team, the rest of the force is up to strength.

The tanks and bazooka trade shots but eventually the Marine tank, bazooka and the senior leader directing it are all taken out; Marine morale drops to 5. At a morale of 4 a force starts to lose activation dice.

The Marines push on closing in on the objective building but take fire from the Japanese mortar and HE from the tank. The mortar team proved its worth. They don’t put out a lot of shooting dice but firing indirect allows them to cover most of the table and to set up behind another section giving a bonus defense in depth. A carefully placed senior leader can activate the infantry and mortar sections on a command die roll of 4.

The Marines move up a jump off point and get a 2nd section close to the objective. The first squad almost broke but moved out of sight behind a building. A senior leader and section junior leader put the kettle on and passed around Mars bars and gradually peeling off the shock.

The Japanese defend the objective building with the lone LMG section and a full section. Both take heavy losses but Marine progress is slow. They can’t lay down fire and move quickly at the same time. The Japanese move their tank closer for a possible overrun and shift troops from the far side of the table towards the objective. To win the Marines would need to run quickly enough to get into the building and hold it until Japanese morale breaks. With the precarious Marine morale and prospect of HE coming in from the tank and mortars and little chance of neutralising either the Marines decide to pull out before they are forced to rout.

A Japanese victory buys them a campaign turn. It is day 2 and they are now eligible for a new platoon of replacements. The Marines also have a full fresh platoon as well as the 2 blooded platoons. Both sides could go in again with the same forces to conserve their replacements for future battles. The Marines get an extra 2 points of supports to help them out. The Japanese could field what is left of this platoon or bring in a fresh platoon. Although this is a good board for the defense the Japanese pull back and the following game is fought on the next campaign board. Assume that the Marines have pulled back, regrouped and gone in cautiously on day 2 to find the Japanese gone. The campaign allows the Japanese to fight a night attack on the last board won by the Marines. As this would need a reset of board 2 they will wait and launch the attack on the night of day 2.

Chain of Command: USA vs Germany

A club game of the Chain of Command probe scenario following on from the lessons learnt in the recent Paras vs Heer clash.  The Heer are back taking an additional ‘Green’ squad for support.  They are defending against USA attackers with a scout car for support.

The Americans begin by dropping their scout car at the road entry to the top of the board.  The next phase the Germans roll a ‘1’ amongst their command dice; deploy their panzershrek by the hedge at the opposite edge and needing a ’10’ to hit make the roll and knock out the scout car.  Lesson learnt, don’t deploy vehicles without infantry support unless you have a double phase to, hopefully, shift them out of the way.  If you do hope the opposition does not have the dice or chain of command points to react.

All the remaining American forces spawn from their central jump off point.  The only German jump off point to the West of the table is way back at the edge causing a log jam of German units trying to block the USA advance.  The Germans are well set up to flank the Eastern approaches but the other side of the table is wide open and all the Americans need to do is get a squad to the Southern board edge to win.

Here the German tries to get the panzershrek team out of the way and sets up a squad tactically opposite the lead Americans who already have a squad lining the closest hedge and another 1 field behind.  The Germans are in tactical stance and as a major rules error were allowed to remain tactical and shoot.  This meant that the tactical German section and American section opposite were both treated as in light cover and traded shots relatively equally.  If the rules were correctly adhered to the Germans would either not be returning fire as they kept tactical or would be shot up in the open.

The panzershrek lads did not last long.  The Germans deploy another section from the same jump off point while the Americans jump the final hedge and eye up the way South.  Off to the East (off picture) the German ‘Green’ squad is pumping flanking shots into the 3rd American section by the buildings to the rear.

What happens next is a luck fest.  The American squad to the West run and move 12″, they are now perilously close to the German board edge and victory.  The next phase is German and they declare an assault on the advancing Americans.  The American spend a chain of command point and interrupt.  First the Americans roll 3D6 wanting to get to the board edge but still keeping away from the assault threat they head in a diagonal to the far corner (the board edge being the end of the game world).  For their part the Germans also roll 3D6.  They can go in a straight line and need to get within 4″ of the Americans.  They make it, the usual dice fest of assault follows and the Germans wipe out their opponents.  Together with previous bad things the USA morale is now 3.

Did the Americans win at this point?  They did get teams to the exit board edge but did the interrupted assault have to continue?  Given average dice rolls the American should have won the combat and then the game on the next phase.  Alternatively they could have used the interrupt to shoot but even at crazy short range kills or shock are not guaranteed and the Americans would certainly have less assault dice because the Germans would not have run so far into contact.

It is not over yet.  Despite being down to rolling 3 activation dice they have 2 more squads temptingly close to the exit edge and the Germans facing them are thinly spread.  Blue or red rings indicate leader effects.  Here an American junior leader is wounded.

Shooting at the squad in the road probably will not stop them so the Germans risk an assault.  The odds are against them but the Germans win and inflict enough shock to break their enemy.  The last remaining American squad charges forward and destroys the German section (what is left of it) to their front.  Unfortunately they take losses themselves including a killed senior leader which breaks USA morale and gives an improbably German victory.

To conclude the Germans should have lost due to bad jump off point deployment and getting the tactical rules wrong.  They won by rolling a disproportionate number of 5s and 6s.

The move and fire abilities were a major benefit to the Americans.  Certainly of more use in attack than defense.  They did not deploy any scout squads.  One out to the Western break out might have given them another chance to reach the victory board edge.  The 2 American senior leaders were also a major influence, constantly stripping shock from the firefights.  The BARs were of limited use, they do not contribute much above the M1 rifles of the infantry.  The American bazooka squad was never deployed, there being no German armour.  Any benefit from possibly crossing the exit line to the moral loss of it being destroyed would probably weigh itself out.

Chain of Command: Probe (British Paras vs German Heer)

A no frills game of the probe scenario.  To win the attacking player has to get a team onto the opposition’s board edge.  Here we see the starting board with jump offs and patrol markers (1 blue British patrol marker is behind a house out of view).  The British are attacking from the top but their jump off points are trapped well back.  The German jump off points are represented by seedy secret police types, the British jump offs are parachute cargo.  A building without a roof is occupied.  In this case there is a German jump off point in one building.

We assume the action as part of Operation Slapstick in 1943 revolving around an Italian village of close-by small fields and larger open fields towards the edges of the board.

The British have 4 force points, spent on an observer for an off-board mortar battery.  The Germans have 10 and buy a Stug Howitzer and 2″ mortar team.  The Stug is a lot of points for a mobile howitzer.  With the game hanging on getting teams off the board the combatants would have been better buying infantry teams for support where possible.

Both sides make a cautious start, keeping the bulk of their forces off table in the early turns.  A lucky clutch of 5s on the dice allows the German to buy a chain of command point and briefly deploy a LMG team to flank the British.  The LMG inflicts a single casualty then the firer disappears back into the force pool.

The Stug shows up early, swivels a bit then stands still and starts to pound the British opposite.  The paras deploy the PIAT and later a senior leader (making it easier to shift the PIAT about).  The Stug will now be looking for 3s to act and the PIAT 1s and 4s (with the senior leader).  The German supporting infantry have taken some losses on the way in.  Yellow dice are shock.  The paras are agressive and ignore the first point of shock from shooting but not from running.


With the Stug committed to the German left flank the paras push 2 squads up on their right.  A Britsh jump off point had been moved up to behind the top right field with a chain of command point to facilitate this.  The German mortar should only  have 2 crew.  It is already under 2 pins and won’t be around for long.

An overview of the game end.  The PIAT took out the Stug, rolling double 6 to hit helped with the fire effect roll.  One para section shoots up the German section on their right while another runs off and takes the victory.  The 3rd German squad is running up the table centre under the illusion that either side can win by getting troops to the opposing table edge.  Another case of not reading the victory conditions properly.

A final curtain call for the victorious paras as they run to the table edge.

If the Germans had studied the victory conditions;  lining up a 2nd section’s firepower close to this exit area would probably have stopped the British breakthrough.  The Britsh had 2 snipers neither of whom did any good as their own troops were always in the way of a clear shot.  The off table mortar observer was also wasted as the few 1s to go round were rightly allocated to the PIAT team.


Chain of Command España – Regulares

Regulares are the Moorish regular troops that were employed by the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War.  North Star, Empress and Templar produce suitable figures in 28mm.  For the command and support elements European troops would be used.

North Star sell their Regulares in sets of 10 or 30 mixed figures. The quality is not up to Empresss standards but they are not too shabby and a good deal cheaper. Of the set of 30 3 came with LMGs. The weapon model is unclear but it seems to be a Hotchkiss 1922.  A browse of this Spanish site shows the possibilities available:

The modelling is not dissimilar to a rifle model and it is not much work to carve off the front of the LMG and glue on the front of a rifle. An advantage is that on the table the LMGs can be used as rifles. The flip side is that if used as LMGs one needs to look pretty close to pick them out. The Hotchkiss can be magazine or belt fed so an ammo belt around the shoulders might do the trick.

Empress sell a model with a LMG but in the same pack as their tank hunter team.  For Chain of Command a Regulares force needs 0-2 LMGs. In short, the North Star packing has too many LMGs and Empress will require 2 separate packs of 4 to supply the 2 LMGs.

About half of the North Star Regulares come with fez and half with turban which makes separating the game squads easy.  It is not clear if the turban should be wrapped around a fez.  Looking at the Regulares on campaign uniform guidelines are loose.


These stills from ‘Defenders of the Faith’ show the variation in Regulares campaign clothing.  One of the figures in the still above does seem to be wearing a turban wrapped around his fez.  The film is an original colour print not colourised although some colour fading is evident.


Here we see a Chain of Command force of 2 sections of Regulares with 8 support points.  A Pz I (3 points), Pak 36 (3 points) and a pre-game barrage (2 points).

The Regulares are up against a Brigadista force.  This has spent 5 points of support on a T26 (3 points) and 2 LMGs (1 each).  There should be another 4 soldiers and a Junior Leader for the mortar squad.  No mortar as that is a separate support option but the troops were left in the box giving the Regulares a slight game advantage.

The game is scenario 6 from the main rul ebook which has the attacker moving up along the length of the table to take a fixed objective close to the defender’s edge.

This is the set up from the Republican side after the patrol phase .  There are 3 Republican jump off points each shown by a civilian vehicle and a 4th by the structure in the square.  Doubtless this is the base of a religious monument that the Godless Rojos have torn down.  We can assume that the village continues off-table behind the Republican lines but if the Nationalists get as far as the cross base they will dominate the area and force the Republic to withdraw.  A hedge has been knocked off kilter at the bottom of the image but it will magically move back later.

The Nationalist has 3 lorries to represent jump off points, all tight along the river’s edge.

There seems little point in holding back on the attack so the Regulares get their sections down as soon as possible.  These big Spanish units can take some losses but also get in each other’s way restricting their potential firepower.  The pre-game barrage should have helped the Nationalists as all Republican units coming onto the board would have to roll to come on.  The 1st 2 Republican units passed their rolls then 3 6s came up on the initiative dice ending the turn and the effect of the barrage.

A large chunk of the game saw little movement and a smattering of ineffective shooting.  Most units were gone to ground in soft cover making them act as in hard cover.  So being regular a 4-6 is needed to hit followed by a 6 to kill or a 5 to shock but with everyone being aggressive the 1st point of shock is ignored.  The key interaction was between the Pz I, Pak 36 and T26.  If the Pak 36 was taken out then nothing on the Nationalist side could touch the T26.  On the other hand only the T26 could affect the PzI (the Brigadists LMGs do have a very slight chance). The tanks shuffled from side to side of the table as best they could.  The Pak was well positioned to cover the centre ground.  The Nationalist dedicated a Senior Leader to maximise the chance of activating the gun and of removing any shock on it.  A good number of shots were exchanged, some hit and fewer still had any effect.  The Pz I picked up 2 shock but managed to speed off and later recover the shock.  The Pak finally got 2 consecutive hits on the T26, wounding its commander and inflicting enough shock for the crew to bug out.

With the T26 danger gone the Regulares gave up on exchanging pot shots and slid past the Government positions to head for the Republic jump off points to the rear.  So far the Brigadistas had kept these safe by using command points to move them back.  For a while the Regulares are exposed as they creep past the Brigadista positions but it will soon be a case of the Government troops having to assault them or lose the game.  Although the forces are about equal in numbers the Regulares are better at moving in cover and are better commanded.  The Government do not have enough boots on the ground to defend in depth.

The Regulares gain the main objective and spend a command point to end the turn and capture it.

The Regulares shuffle forward to hold the cross objective and take the nearby Republican jump off with the same section. The Republicans shuffle troops to try to hold them off. Their only hope is to take back the cross base. A turn end removes the green lorry jump off further lowering Republican morale. Several rounds of firefight ensue but the Republic takes the worst and eventually the Regulares risk going in.

The Regulares have 2 sections close enough to charge in but can only activate 1 at a time. The Brigadistas are badly beaten. 1 man is left in each of the 2 surviving squads, the junior leader is only lightly wounded. Also knee deep in shock the squads break. Brigadistas don’t break but it seems logical that their enforced retirement would have the same effect as breaking. To egg the custard the Regulares play a chain of command point to end the turn and remove the blue lorry jump off point that they now control. With Brigadista morale at 0 the Regulares gain the day. As a bonus the T26 was abandoned not destroyed so will be fighting for Franco in the future.

Spanish Civil War Improvised Armour – Tiznaos

Tiznaos (note that a tiznao is also a sort of fish stew) are the various armoured lorries of the Spanish Civil War.  Contemporary photographs illustrate a range of models with designs ranging from from entirely haphazard to streamlined planning.  The slogans illustrate that the vast majority belong to the Republic.  The majority of builds are unique and relying on the number of different models shown in photographs there must have been several dozen tiznao in use during the Spanish Civil War.  They have more of a role in the initial stages of the conflict with columns attempting to establish areas of control or in pacification actions behind the lines.  Their limited armour and mobility probably made them a liability to aircraft attack as the war intensified.  There is a scene in the Nationalist colour film Defenders of the Faith (about 48 minutes in) that shows a knocked out and burnt AAC-37 (with T26 turret, best guess based on lack of additional road wheels) or Ba6.  Nevertheless Bilbao armoured cars were still in service in Spain after the war.  The tiznao concept could be seen as the origins of the UNL35 and AAC-37 armoured cars; a mix of commercial chassis and Soviet armoured car design.  A column of UNL35s was amongst the Republican force that sought refuge in France as the war drew to a close.  These vehicles saw service in the French and later the German armies.

The film ‘Libertarias‘ illustrates a plausible use of a tiznao in street fighting; with mixed end results.  It does show the problem of getting a tiznao into combat.  On flat good roads it might make good going but with a road blocked, trenches and bridges blown moving the tiznao past an existing front line to exploit a breakthrough is not an easy task.

Vehiculos blindados de la guerra civil is a good starting point for details on tiznaos including a page hosting videos where some vehicles are shown in motion.  While the clips are original not reconstructions many are sourced from recent documentaries so the context of the use of the vehicles cannot be completely trusted.  Even contemporary newsreels would use stock footage if they could get away with it.  The key aspect is what can be deduced from the scene in which vehicles appear not any shots from immediately prior or afterwards?  Complete contemporary films are available on YouTube.  A good start is to search for ‘AGUILUCHOS DE LA FAI POR TIERRAS DE ARAGÓN’ one of a series of films by SUEP (Sindicato Único de Espectáculos Públicos).  In part 1 we see the Durruti column with a varied selection of transport including 2 civilian tractors (with the pair hitched up to pull a corporation bus off-road) and a tiznao.  The tiznao moves off-road under its own power and is parked perpendicular to the carriageway to protect the road.

For those with a modelling bent there are some card Tiznao plans that could be adapted or used ‘as is’.  This project attempted to re-size the card model around a Lledo truck.

It proved easier to start from scratch but salvage some of the cardboard outlines such as the doors.

Empress have a number of models in 28mm but tacking some card (or better still modelling clay painted as mattresses) to the sides and front of a Ledo truck would be a workable solution.

Wargaming3D is working up to be a ‘go to’ source for 3D printing images for gaming.  The difficulty is that these are images only and need access to a printer.  The images are not for commercial use so the people who deal in printed 3D models won’t print them up for you.  Your author had a spot of luck and convinced a fellow at a local club to run some off.

The Constructora field car is the recommended choice for first to print.  It is a beast of a model, bigger than most tanks.  The streamlined body shell is easy to clean up with the 3D ridges from printing scrubbing down to a gradual curve.  Gentle sanding with the dremel at low speed and a thin smoothing of liquid green stuff doing the job.  There were several real-world variants of this model.  Not all boast the gun turret but with the model being hollow this would not be easy to remove from the finished item.  Someone with knowledge of the printing files could probably remove it from the original.

Their tiznao is harder work to build up.  There is a chassis, platform and armoured load as 3 separate pieces as well as wheels and gun.  The platform needs shaving to get the load seated level and some decisions need to be made about what detail to shave off in an area of the model that will hardly be seen when it is assembled.

The Bilbao armoured car is not strictly a tiznao, having been commercially produced before the war.  The front of this model needs a fair bit of work to clear the area behind the front wheels.  The riveted construction is perfectly accurate but hinders shaving down the model to minimise 3D print ridges along the vehicle sides.  The front radiator grill might also be better ‘dug out’ but at a risk of damaging the grill itself.

Reiver are now part of Northumbrian Painting Service.  Their VBCW range has some vehicles that might do as tiznaos.  The ‘Tyneside armoured car’  is a big block of resin but easy to put together.  Stick the wheels on, add the gun and you are done.  The VBCW infantry are nice but notably smaller that Empress or Warlord.  They do, however, have some very nice carts and a limber at a very fair price.

There is no one Bolt Action interpretation for tiznaos.  In the Spanish language Bolt Action lists a Tiznao is treated like a FT17 with the option of 1 or more machine guns and the possibility of acting as a transport.  This interpretation is more than generous.  Wargaming 3D have point-outs for their models.  As a fall back treating the models as transport lorries with machine guns would work, ignoring their added armour.  Chain of Command has a reference for a range of tiznaos in the Espana book.  This is best used as a guide and the actual load out being based on each model.  In all cases the troop carrying capacity, even if overloaded in Chain of Command terms,  is much lower than could be carried in these vehicles.   An additional opportunity is to use the tiznao as a jump off point in Chain of Command or simply as a piece of terrain.  A poorly armoured box with limited exterior vision is probably not the best place to be when the going hots up.

Chain of Command 6mm

Scenario 3, ‘attack and defend’ featuring Carlists (attackers) and Brigadistas (defenders).  Although owning all that is needed to run this game in 28mm as well as enough Flames of War in 15mm to bodge the army lists (possibly Soviets vs Finns) I gave Chain of Command a whiz in 6mm.  This was partly to run through the rules again and partly to avoid the hassle of pulling out the 28mm models and terrain.  The figures here are Irregular 6mms based in the factory strips of 3s and 2s (support weapons) with foot singles as Junior and mounted as Senior leaders.  This basing was adequate for sections but poor for squad organisation.  Using tokens for individual losses and removing strips of 3 was the best that could be done.  In an actual game losses would be likely to be spread across a section rather than taken squad by squad.  The basing could not cope with this.

Carlist Senior Leader, infantry and jump off point.

Brigadista Junior Leader, mortar and jump off point.

All measurements were in cm so the 1.2 m square mat acted as 120″ or 10′ square.  The Carlists spent scenario points on a Panzer I, random air support and LMGs for their squads.  The random air support comes in at the end of every turn, its only a few shots but money well spent.  The Brigadistas took a 20mm autocanon and a mortar for 1 of their mortar squads (the other got left out of battle as I forgot about it).

Patrol markers moved forward as normal but with a great deal more space to shift around in.  Some markers went forwards then back again in an effort to constrict and lock down opposing markers.  Converting these to jump off points Irregular trucks have been used.  In the image below is a Carlist jump off point to the East of the village just in line with the Brigadista jump off point roughly at 12:00.  The game developed into a struggle for the village and its environs.  Not unreasonable for a Spanish Civil War setting.

Opposing jump off points were just over 6cm apart on either side of the village.  This seems legal as both were behind cover and out of sight of the other.  In gameplay terms this may not be wise as if one side but not the other gets the dice to deploy strongly around their jump off point then the opposition’s jump off point is at risk.  The Carlists found this out.  A rules error led to them deploying a single squad opposite a Brigadista section.  They were quickly outshot further increasing the Brigadista advantage in numbers prior to melee.

To the South of the village both sides duke it out amongst the crops.  The firepower advantage of the Carlist LMG will gradually tip the balance.  The conspicuous green jewels indicate losses.  Dice are being used to show shock but as both sides are aggressive and ignore the first point of shock not a lot of shocking is going on.

In the village the Brigadistas are through the houses, cut through the Carlists like ‘manteca’ and overrun the nearby jump off point.  Advantageous morale rolls see the Carlist morale drop twice from 9 to 5.

The Brigadistas see an advantage and rush on towards another Carlist jump off point to the East of the fields.  The Carlists use a command point and move it to safety.  If this had been lost it would probably have been curtains for the Carlists.  The Brigadista section behind the Western field is taking heavy losses.

The Carlists close in and finish them off.  The Brigadistas have deployed a 20mm cannon (note slightly oversized model).  It is more concerned with the Panzer I off camera that is gradually getting closer to the action than with the nearby Carlist infantry.

The Carlists still have the 2 squads and Junior Leader from the section wiped out earlier in the village.  These deploy and start a firefight with the remaining Brigadista section.   The other Carlist section charges the 20mm crew who bravely run away.  Brigadistas do not rout so the Carlists face the prospect of chasing them off the table.  The nearby Brigadista jump off point is moved to safety with a command point.

The panzer I finally comes into view although it has been taking the odd shot for a while.  It will threaten the Brigadista jump off point ahead.  One Carlist section sets off after the Brigadista gun crew and the jump off point behind.  There is only a mortar section between them and the final Brigadista jump off point to the North of the image below.

With few remaining infantry and 3 jump off points being threatened the Brigadistas call it a day.  They were outclassed in support points as they were the nominated defenders in this battle.  The initial agressive stance almost drove the Carlists off but at too high a cost on casualties: A microcosm of the governement strategy throughout much of the war.

The game worked well enough for patrol and deployment.  Less so for ranges and line of sight as the 6mm lads are too small to position precisely.  In some cases they may be facing the wrong way, it is hard too tell.  The 1.2 m square placing area was way too large although using the figure height as the ground scale it is not a massive area.  At 3mm to 1m the 1.2m would 1200*3 or 3.6km.  The figures would be better mounted as squads although this would require cutting and building up the bases. The height of the 6mm strips and the difficulty in separating models without leaving their feet (only) on the factory base makes basing these 6mms a job requiring metal cutters and a stack of basing putty/filler.  With roughly 2 strips to a base and a strip running at twice the price of a single 15mm from Irregular the cost saving by working in 6mm rather than 15mm is minimal (unless you already have the 6mm models).

Chain of Command – España

The brave Requetés take on the Godless Brigadistas in our first Chain of Command outing somewhere in the hills South of Granada but North of Malaga and Almería which remain in the hands of the Rojos. This is the patrol scenario with each side having only 1 support point.  The Requetés upgraded a Junior Leader to Senior and the Brigadistas took a mortar for one of their mortar teams.  The other team and indeed everybody else was stuck with rifles.

Among the rules mistakes we used 4 command dice per side instead of 5.  There are some actions tied to a turn end and with 4 command dice this never occurred.  3 or more 6s on the command dice roll are needed to trigger the turn end.  With 4 dice; needing exactly 3 6s would be 1/6*1/6*1/6*5/6 = 5/1296 , that ‘not 6’ could be the 1st, 2nd 3rd or 4th dice so there are 4 paths to success 20/1296 (.0015) .  An extra dice factors in another 5/6 for the dice not rolling a 6; 5/1296 * 5/6 = 25/7776 each ‘not 6’ could be in 1 of 5 positions but they cannot both be in the same position, using NCR we have 10 combinations of ordering 3 things from 5 so 250/7776 = 0.032.  These calculations do not include the odds of rolling 4 or 5 6’s nor of rolling enough 5’s to generate a command point and end the turn.  Short summary with 4 rather than 5 command dice we had no turn ends and no collecting enough 5s to buy the turn end or do any other fancy command point stuff.

On with the game, both players started their patrol markers on a long board edge but the patrol phase swerved the markers leading to Rojos in the West and Requetés to the East.  There is a Rojos jump off point hidden behind a hedge at about 12:00 on the image below.

The Rojos rolled a slew of 3s and used 3 junior leaders to deploy the bulk of his forces, 2 big blobs of infantry and a mortar squad.  The ‘mortarless’ squad having been broken up and distributed amongst the other infantry.  Only a senior leader and friend remained off board.  Chain of Command emphasises creeping up,keeping troops back and manipulating the jump off points.  In hindsight slamming it all down makes a lot of sense if you have the dice to do it.   The Requetés deploy cautiously and advance a squad towards the enemy mortar hoping to first get within its minimum range then destroy it and capture the jump off point.

Troops have to deploy within 6″ of friendly jump off points so the Rojos spent some time sorting themselves out into neat firing lines to avoid shooting through their own troops.  Green markers are shock.  Both sides are aggressive, ignoring the 1st shock result so shock was not a major factor in the game.

The Requetés run flat out towards the mortar,rolling miserably so do not get far and take a point of shock for their troubles.  The mortar should be a small 2-man job not this big model but no more suitable set was to hand.

In a similar miscalculation of force needed to get anything done the Rojos head for an empty Requeté jump off point only to see it spawn Requeté infantry who promptly shoot up the Rojos.

The Requetés head for the mortar but are taking losses and shock.  A junior leader heads off to encourage them on.

Things do not look good for the few Requetés left behind.

The Rojos charge in, take some losses but 2 squads (teams in España), already badly shot up, are wiped out and the jump off point is overrun.

The Requetés have to decide to reinforce failure by sending troops towards the lost jump off point or even the odds by rolling over the exposed Rojos jump off points to the North of the board.

The Rojos detach men to take out the exposed Junior Leader, another Requeté moral loss and they are now down to an almost useless 3 command dice (we possibly rolled on the wrong lines of the force morale table but the writing was definitely on the wall).

If the Requetés run troops to take over enemy jump off points they are going to pile up shock, even without being shot at.  The best they can hope to do is to use 2 Senior Leader actions, 1 to run a squad flat out and another to remove the resulting shock.  That all depends on at least one 4 on the remaining 3 command dice.

If enough command dice had been used the a game turn would have ended by now seeing the loss of the captured Requeté jump off point and their morale crashing out.  Brigadista morale had yet to drop as they do not break and no Rojos unit had been wiped out.

We forgot the Requeté special rule allowing rolls of 1 against them in cover to be re-rolled (taking cover not being a manly thing).  The Brigadistas keep running until rallied but the Requetés are liable to be removed from the game when broken.  The force morale of each side drops when bad things happen so you will be unlikely to fight on until the last man.  As breaking is a ‘bad thing’ this rule made it harder to inflict bad things on the Brigadistas.

A debriefing for Bolt Action readers.  Shooting has no maximum range but apart from the dice activation systems the mechanisms for infantry combat are much the same.  Shock has a lot in common with Bolt Action pins.  Enough shock and you are pinned which pretty much freezes a units firing and moving.  Only Leaders can remove shock.  Movement is based on a roll of 1 to 3 D6s and even moving D6 will halve a unit’s firepower so there will be somewhat less successful movement and shooting than in Bolt Action.

The 2 base forces here were fixed not selected from a points budget.  There are set unit sizes but individual models can be split off.  The problem with small units is that they swiftly accumulate shock equal to their unit size which pins them or double that which breaks them. In this game each side had 2 big section units plus some command and support.  When squads were split off from the sections they only continued to activate on a ‘1’ unless a Leader was sent off to get them, leaving the rest of the section hard to shift.  Although big infantry units do crop up in Bolt Action these full sections are 15 and 18 men so it would be a more competitive model in Bolt Action to field them as 2 units, 1 with the LMG when Regulars or the full 15 or 18 as Inexperienced.  The Chain of Command model assumes full sections but the possibility of whole sections missing in the platoon.  In Bolt Action squads are often under strength but there is an activation bonus if they are at full strength so the model would be more smaller squads for the same number of models.

To summarise Chain of Command is more of an experience, in a role play sort of way.  Bolt Action tends towards a numbers game but both are games and there is enough similarity in the two to borrow mechanisms from each other.