Having got cocky about our ability to play games of Chain of Command we recently decided to up the ante and put on a big game. Thanks to Phil’s recent decision to paint about half a million Russians we had enough toys to put on a 2v2 game of BigCoC umpired by myself.
Did we manage to pull it off? Read on…
I wanted to keep the scenario reasonably simple and the terrain fairly open to make sure we could get through a game using new rules in one club night. I decided we’d have the Soviets attacking (it is late war, after all) with a thin line of German Panzergrenadiers that would get reinforced during the game. The Russians would start from the edge of a village to give them some cover, and would have to cross open ground broken up by woods on either flank to give them some options if they wanted.
The Germans would start with a single platoon on table, but I made sure they had enough support to dig at least some of it in. Their second platoon was off-table in their halftracks (well, three SdKfz 251s and a scwhimmwagen for the platoon commander. His 251/10 must have been destroyed). They also had a StuG that I would allow them to commit through a jump off point by spending a CoC dice, just like a normal ambush. This was to represent prepared ambush positions for the assault gun. They also had the option of buying a tank scrape to deploy it into, which would give it hull down protection making it into a very tough customer indeed.
The Germans weren’t going to get everything their own way though. Reserves are normally activated using a SL’s CIs in BigCoC, but for this game I would be making them spend a CoC dice. They started with a full CoC dice, but had to decide what to spend it on:
- Bring on the StuG?
- Deploy the reserve platoon?
- End the turn, and the expected Soviet bombardment
Apart from these little tweaks the scenario was a standard Attack/Defend. The Soviets were trying to persuade the Germans to take another step backwards towards Berlin, and the Germans were just there to shoot the hell out of the Communist hordes and break off their attack.
The Russians got two free moves and shuffled forward at the left end of their line. The Germans had started with all their markers in a pile near where the road emerges from the woods, and pushed them across the open ground between the village and the road quite aggressively. The Soviet line met them and both sides were locked quickly. The longer Soviet chain of markers meant they had one on the flank that could put a JoP well up on their left. In future BigCoC games I might make sure both sides have the same number of markers to prevent this.
The Germans put JoPs into the stone walls, the hedges by the bend in the road, and in the middle of the large wood. That one in the hedge would prove to be too exposed. Their other platoon was in reserve so didn’t place any JoPs.
Soviet JoPs mostly went into the buildings at the edge of the village as expected, although one was in the hedges on the left end of their line, with only a short piece of open ground into the woods on the German right flank.
The Soviets opted for a quiet attack, forgoing a prep bombardment and only a single sniper quietly making his way to the edge of the village on their initial phase. The Germans showed their hand quickly and put two squads on the table in reply, but had nothing to shoot at yet as the sniper hadn’t been spotted. With the German positions revealed the Soviets sent up their Maxim and a rifle squad in the village who started to establish a base of fire for their attack. On the Soviet left the order of the day was infiltration: a rifle squad deployed into the hedgeline and put covering fire on the nearest Germans so that a scout squad could move tactically across the open ground towards the woods.
Over the next few phases the two German squads in the centre traded fire with the Russians deployed in the buildings opposite them, and both sides sent in senior leaders to manage the accumulating shock. Some frisky rolling from the Soviets and their hard cover allowed them to accumulate some damage on the Germans without taking much in reply. The Soviets doubled down and brought up a T34 to make the Germans even more uncomfortable.
Meanwhile the Soviet scout squad made it safely across the open ground and into the woods and the Soviet commander immediately spent a CoC dice to consolidate their gain by moving a JoP up behind them and deploying another rifle squad from it. Classy manoeuvre that, and the result was worried noises from the German side of the table.
The Germans decided to spend a CoC dice and commit their reserve platoon to meet the emerging threat. The first Hanomag full of panzergrenadiers rolled onto the table and immediately drew the attention of the T34 lurking way down the other end of the table. A 76mm round whistled past the halftrack and spectacularly killed some dirt nearby. Keen to upstage the tank, a 45mm AT gun deployed onto the Soviet left and also drew a bead on the halftrack. They had a clearer shot and the benefit of a double phase; the first round struck high, wrecking the Hanomag’s MG. A second shot smacked off the front armour but rattled the driver enough to make him floor it towards the nearest trees, where the Soviet scout squad had shown up. The driver swerved around the Russian squad and braked to a halt at point blank range a few metres behind them. The shielded gun on the halftrack was out of action, but both gun teams inside the carrier started firing at point blank over the sides of the vehicle. The Russian team had no less than five SMGs, so their return fire was effective, but the panzergrenadiers had the advantage of surprise and weight of fire, and it wasn’t long before kills and shock on the scouts saw the scouts pinned. The panzergrenadiers elected not to debus and batter them with entrenching tools, deciding instead to stay tucked up inside their armoured box. Maybe someone had just put the kettle on in there.
Meanwhile in the centre of the battlefield the Germans had deployed their forward observer, who wasted no time in calling down a barrage on the Soviet left, catching the 45mm gun, a rifle section and one of the platoon commanders in the beaten zone. This slackened some of the murderous fire the German centre was being subjected to, but the Russians simply called up another rifle squad and their second T34 to compensate.
The platoon commander of the reserve German platoon was now on-table in his schwimmwagen, and dodging fire he sped forward to the hedge in the centre and booted his panzerschreck team out of the car. They levelled their rocket launcher, punched off a shot and scored a beautiful hit on a weak spot of the newly-arrived T34, totally obliterating it. In their next phase they switched position and fired a second rocket at the other T34, but sent it wide this time. Russian return fire was heavy, and the squad in the centre was losing a lot of men, although the presence of the senior leader kept them rallied.
On the Russian left the company commander went forward with a flamethrower team and deployed from the JoP they’d moved up into the woods earlier. He gathered up the rifle section in those woods and hurried to rescue the scout squad, which was holding out valiantly but taking a real beating. In brighter news for the Russians their sniper, who had been steadily plugging away at the German squad in the hedges throughout the game earned his pay by hitting a German platoon commander right between the eyes and dropping him stone dead. Casualties on men and leaders had already chipped away at force morale for this German platoon, and this hit saw them get down into the danger zone where they started losing command dice, which also started affecting morale in the other platoon. Russian morale was still buoyant however, having only dropped a point or two from their high starting values for both platoons.
Back on the Soviet right the surviving T34 had been slowly pushing across the open ground, and with the upper hand in the firefight Russian infantry began moving out of the houses and working their way across the open ground with it. The Germans finally felt it was the time to commit their StuG in its tank scrape, and it announced it’s presence by hitting the T34 squarely on the glacis, but the shot bounced and the Russian tank kept advancing. The T34 returned fire, but the StuG’s hull down position made a difficult target and the shot missed. With morale dropping time was running out for the Germans holding the left and they needed to stop the Russian attack which was now confidently advancing towards their position.
Meanwhile the Soviet company commander was leading his men through the woods to link up with the hard-pressed scout squad, and as soon as the Germans in their Hanomag came into view he ordered the flamethrower to give it a good blast of burning napalm. Predictably a load of very unhappy Germans piled out of their vehicle and replied with some sporadic fire. While this was happening the second squad of the German reserve platoon had rumbled onto the table in their halftrack, and immediately drew the attention of the T34, which scored a hit and killed the vehicle outright. That squad too debussed in a noisy rabble. The situation on the German side of the table was now looking poor. The platoon holding the left flank with the StuG was wavering and close to pulling out completely. They had lost their CO and most of a whole squad, although the StuG crew bucked the trend by punching a new ventilation hole right through the Soviet’s last T34. The German reserve platoon CO was wounded and unconscious and the two squads they’d committed so far were getting shot up. When the one that had just been hit by the flamethrower took a second roasting they broke and ran.
The unconscious German officer in the scwimmwagen was singled out for heavy fire which eventually killed him. This cost his platoon a command dice, and with that the other platoon decided that was it and withdrew, which then caused the reserve platoon to do likewise. Total morale collapse from the Germans, and the Soviets strolled onto their objectives as the Germans fell back in disorder!
The Butcher’s Bill
I didn’t track exact casualties, but the Germans took the worst of it. Two of the four squads they committed were broken or wiped out. They lost both officers KIA, a schwimmwagen abandoned and two SdKfz 251 halftracks (one abandoned, one knocked out). They did manage to pull out their StuG, and it had taken a scalp too.
Russian infantry casualties were fairly light, only their scout squad taking much of a beating and that did survive the game (just). On the armour front things went less well, and both T-34s they’d brought up were now smoking wrecks. That’s a believable historical result, after all the T-34 wasn’t just the most-produced tank of the war, it was also the most often knocked out (something like 45,000 of all variants lost. Ouch.)
Overall the Soviet force ended the game in much better shape and would be quite able to press on to their next objective. By contrast the Germans had lost valuable leaders and transports and the collapse of morale suggested the landsers were all pretty upset.
• One of the German platoon commanders quickly admitted that deploying two sections so early was a mistake, and simply allowed the attackers to put fire on his boys throughout the game and wear them down.
• Morale collapse in BigCoC is a real worry. If more than one friendly platoon is down near the 5 point danger zone then you can get a chain reaction like: platoon 1 loses a dice > platoon 2 has to test and loses a dice > platoon 1 has to test, etc.
• Having an umpire for BigCoC is well worth it. Players tend to forget that everybody on one side can all play simultaneously (or they get distracted watching each other!) and if you’ve got a hard time limit it’s good to keep reminding them they can crack on.
• Infiltration tactics work well in CoC at this scale. The way Dan used covering fire and tactical to send up scouts, then brought up the JoP and deployed a strong force through it was very effective.
• Armoured reserves can be difficult to deploy and command as a unit. I expected the Germans to commit their Hanomag-mounted platoon as a strong group, but they ended up getting committed piecemeal as that’s what the command dice leant towards.