Chain of Command mini review

This has been a really exciting week on the game front.  I’ve been looking forward to Longstreet and Chain of Command for quite awhile and they were both released in the same week.  I hope to get a game in of Longstreet today.

I got my first game of Chain of Command in last night.  I only have the .pdf of CoC so far so looking things up on the laptop was a little bit awkward during the game.  Hopefully my hard copy will arrive in the mail in the next couple of days.  Having played once and started rereading it’s really starting to click in my head what these rules are like, and I really like them.

For WW2 skirmish I have early war Germans and Soviets.  Well, I have early war Germans, the Soviets are really late war figures I’ve been using as early war.  Chain of Command so far has force compositions for later in the war, so my friend Ed and I used his Arnhem forces.  He has both sides, very nicely painted and always nice to see on the table.

He set up some terrain with a fair bit of cover, a couple of buildings, a ruined building, some hedges and walls, and trees.  It’s a very nice set up.  We played the patrol scenario.

I won’t go through all the mechanisms to the game but will tell you about the two parts that jump out to me as really positive and new to me: the setup and jumping off points, and command and control.  If you’d like to see more about these, demonstrated by the author, look up Chain of Command on YouTube, or visit the TooFatLardies blog.  I was hooked when I saw the 4th demo video they did back in the Spring, and it has turned out to be as interesting as I’d thought it would be.

Here is a YouTube search that should bring up the videos:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=toofatlardies+chain+of+command&oq=toofatlardies+chain+of+command&gs_l=youtube.3…134.5285.0.5899.30.24.0.6.6.0.321.2719.8j15j0j1.24.0…0.0…1ac.1.11.youtube.fpdzfuZTKE0

The first interesting concept is the pregame setup and the use of jumping off points.  Before you start the game you go through a patrol phase.  Each side gets to place and move patrol markers to stake out their part of the table top.  You get 3 or 4 of these depending on the scenario and move them around the table 12″ at a time, disregarding any terrain.  You have to keep your markers in a continuous line with no more than 12″ separating any of them.  Once one moves within 12″ of an enemy marker that marker and your opponent’s marker are frozen.  You do this until all of one side’s markers are frozen and that establishes the boundary of your deployment zone.  You then place jumping-off points about 6″ back from those with some constraints about where to deploy.  It’s a neat little subgame on its own.

But this is not all, it is coupled with the fact that no forces are on the table to begin with.  You bring forces on through activating command (more below).  They can come on using any of your jump off points.  So, your opponent doesn’t know where stuff is going to be coming on, and you don’t know where his stuff is coming on.  This has the effect, it seems to me, of getting much of what one wants from hidden movement without the complications that most attempts to do that brings.  You can bring stuff on right away, or hold back, and there’s always the possibility as the game progresses of ambushing your enemy using something you haven’t brought on the table yet.   This is a great mechanism.

The second part that I really like is the way the command system works.  You roll a fixed number of command dice for your force.  For most forces it’s 5.  For some elite forces it’s 6.  So far there aren’t forces that are so sluggish they only get 4, don’t know if there will be in the future.  These dice tell you a number of things.  6s don’t allow you to do anything, but they tell you whether the next phase will be yours or your opponents.  5s build up a Chain of Command dice.  Once you get one of these (takes awhile to build it up) you can interrupt the flow of the game by doing particular actions.  The lower numbered dice allow you to activate your forces: 4 activates a senior leader who can do quite a lot when activated, 3 activates a junior leader who can do a couple of things but only with his squad or section, 2 activates a squad of section, and 1 activates a team.  Lower dice can be combined to get a higher dice, but not vice-versa.  This is another great mechanism.  It gives you an ebb and flow to the game so not everything is going every turn, your better leaders have more influence, and I imagine you have to learn how to manage your force to do the things you want to accomplish.  This is another really well done mechanism.

Now the rules are really well written.  I had the help of having watched the videos but, having seen those, and read through the rules once, we had a great first game without a lot of questions.  Starting a read through again after the first game, much more is clear now and I’m really looking forward to the next game.

It’s a WW2 skirmish set, so there are rules for everything, but most of the simple is clearly explained in about 50 pages of rules, with lots of diagrams.  You also get 6 scenarios that you build your forces for.  There are force descriptions for Brits, Germans, US, and USSR.  These are oriented towards late war, but I’m not sure whether there is an exact time frame.  For the Germans for example, the earliest vehicles are the Pz IIIJ and IVG if that helps.

Check it out!

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