Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Getting Started with Chain of Command

Lately I've seen a lot of posts in forums and social media from new players asking questions about how people base their figures, or looking for suggestions on pulling together what they need to play Chain of Command. So I thought I would tie together in one post an overview of the key elements I've pulled together or created for playing, as well as some useful links to other places where you can find out more.



This is just my personal preference, not much of it is original thinking, a lot of ideas came from the immense source of information that is out there in blogs, forums and social media. I play in 20mm, but there is very little here that is scale specific other than the size of my bases, so hopefully there is inspiration here for you regardless of your chosen scale.

Starting at the very basic level I have my core platoons. I find having the bulk of the figures individually based works best and gives the most flexibility, so the core riflemen of a platoon are mounted on round 20mm MDF bases (2mm thick).





I want to be able to identify leaders and key support weapons quickly and easily and I use different base sizes to do this. Junior Leaders are on round 25mm MDF bases. These are marginally bigger than the individual men, but I often find the combination of larger base and a suitable pose makes them easy to spot.

Larger bases and suitable poses for these junior leaders

Senior Leaders are on rectangular 20mmx40mm bases which makes them easy to distinguish from junior leaders.

German senior leaders

US Army senior leaders

Support weapons are on 40mm x 40mm bases with two or three figures attached to the base depending on the size of the weapon crew.

Australian section, with junior leader, bren team and rifle team

The important thing is to be able to glance quickly at the table and know what is what.

A British bren and rifle team advance cautiously

MG42 with two crew

Panzergrenadier squad with two full MG42 teams and a junior leader

Weapons that have a crew larger than three men have the additional crew figures mounted on single 20mm round bases, the same as the riflemen. I could put a full five man crew on a single base, but that would require a larger base which would not be practical to use in certain terrain and scenery. The best solution I have found is to have the extra crew based in the same way as riflemen. The added bonus is that these can be the first to be removed as casualties. I will cover how I deal with casualties when they occur to the multi-figure bases later in this post.

A MG42 tripod mount with five crew, three on the base

This crew have already taken a casualty

Weapon teams for the PIAT and Panzerschreck and other similar teams, like the British 2" mortar team below, are all based on the 40mmx40mm standard support base.





Of course there are times you just want to break the rules for aesthetic reasons, like with this gun with its large crew. It seems a shame to break them up onto individual bases when they make such a nice mini-diorama like this.


As your platoons start the game off the table you will need a way to keep them organised until you are ready to deploy them. Even as an experienced player I like to have my platoon organised in a way that is easy to see how the unit is structured and to know what is left to deploy. For this I have created platoon boards, which are particularly useful when introducing new players or running demonstration games. These make it very easy to organise the figures and then keep them off-table ready for deployment. You can see how I made the Platoon Boards here.



On the subject of platoon structures you will find that the Chain of Command rule book contains a set of army lists for platoons for various nationalities, but these generally cover the more common types of platoons seen in the European theatre and on the Eastern front. If you are looking to play the Pacific, or say Poland in 1939 you will be able to find army lists in a number of places, many of them available free of charge.

In 2018 Too Fat Lardies published Blitzkrieg 1940 a specific Chain of Command handbook for playing France and the Low Countries in 1940 and this is the first of a series of handbooks that will eventually cover the entire war. Each handbook will contain lists for nationalities and the various platoon structures for infantry units from paratroopers to armoured infantry depending on the period of the war and the nation. They also include background history, scenarios and theatre specific rules.

Lists also exists in a number of forums and are available at no charge as downloadable pdf's. You can find complete lists for The Spanish Civil War or for a range of various WWII armies. Additional lists can be found in some of the Lardie Specials (downloadable pdf magazines sold from the TFL website), for example the Christmas Special 2016 contains a range of mid-war lists for the Eastern Front. I think it is hoped the various handbooks will help to consolidate many of these lists into easily accessible books.


Once you start playing a Chain of Command scenario you will find some items useful for keeping track of what is happening on the table.

For general game play there are a few essentials. Starting with the patrol phase you will need a set of patrol markers. I downloaded these great patrol markers from John Bond's Wargaming Stuff, if you are not familiar with John's work he makes some of the most inspiring terrain and scenery (and his miniature painting rises to the same level). You can find a file for his Patrol Markers here.




After printing them out I then paste them onto 40mm diameter round MDF bases.


These have a print for the reverse side to indicate a Patrol marker once it has been locked by an enemy marker within 12".



Japanese and Australian patrol markers at the end of the patrol phase

I then use the same size base to make Jump Off Points. I've raided the spare parts box for material here, mainly stowage items from AFVs, Oil drums and other similar accessories. For most scenarios you will need three jump off points for each side, however some scenarios require a fourth jump off point to mark specific objectives, so I'd suggest having enough for four for each side.







Recently I've seen people use a couple of figures for the JoP and they look great, although I'm not sure whether or not they might be a bit confusing given the figures won't count as combatants. I've experimented making one for my Japanese platoon using some figures I had originally painted for a different project. I do like the look of these and will be tempted to follow the pattern for other nationalities.



If you don't want to make your own jump of points or patrol markers Too Fat Lardies produce a set of resin Jump off Points that will do the trick and you can see these below and order them from TFL here.  If, like me, you play in 20mm or a smaller scale you should just note that the jump off points have been scaled for 28mm.


The other essential is a device for tracking the all important Force Morale for each side. The rule book includes one you can copy and laminate or mount on a piece of card. Pictured is one I use, they come in two colours grey and khaki and I bought mine at a local wargame convention in Sydney, they are made by Olympian Games. A quick Google search will throw up something similar, see this option from Warbases.

Force Morale tracker from Olympian Games

I use large coloured dice to track points on the Chain of Command dice and I used an old counter from the Axis and Allies board game to make up markers to track Force Morale for each nationality.



Combat will result in your units taking shock, losing men as casualties and suffering wounded leaders. I've tried to come up with simple ways to show this on the table.

Shock levels will rise and fall during play and so you need a simple and flexible way to record this. I'm not a fan of too many markers on the table and levels of shock on units can sometimes be as high as 10 or more. For this I use micro dice with matching dice frames in MDF which I sourced from Minibits. I have these mounted on small, scenic bases into which a dice showing the relevant level of shock can be inserted. My personal preference is to use a black dice to record shock.


You may ask, why go to the bother of making a base just for the dice, why not just place the dice on the table? It's a good point, but I've found small dice are easy to leave behind when a unit moves and more importantly, too easy to knock over to a different number if not held in place in some way. I think if you don't want to use a dice frame then you need to use larger dice and I feel you can start to clutter the table with unsightly dice if you're not careful. If nothing else the dice frames just look better on the table and my feeling is, if it looks good, then it's worth doing.


Three teams all with one point of shock each

Most casualties are simply removed from play, however wounded leaders are an exception. I've tried to find a way to identify these, particularly those who will have their command initiative reduced for the remainder of the scenario. With that in mind I created these Wounded Leaders part 1 and Wounded Leaders part 2 to use as substitute figures when a leader is wounded.



While it's an advantage to have support weapons based differently there is then a need to find a way to identify how many crew survive once they start taking casualties. This is one reason I have no more than three figures attached to a single base, so that I can at least remove individually mounted figures first. However once I get down to the final two or three figures attached to the base I have created a variation of my shock markers, this time with two dice frames and a casualty figure mounted on the base. This way I use a red dice in one frame to show the number of casualties and a black dice in the other to mark shock.



A shocked and weakened Bren team about to be overwhelmed


A Panzerschreck crew down to one man and carrying one point of shock

Units that are taking Tactical positions or placed on Overwatch need to be marked, as do those that have become Pinned or Broken. My solution was to have some laser cut MDF markers made up using an online site I found browsing the web. To keep cost down I chose standard sizes and standard type faces and had two types made up - one had Pinned on one side and Broken on the reverse, as it seemed logical one would often follow the other. The other type had Overwatch on one side and Tactical on the other.



As they came in unpainted MDF I painted mine so they would be easy to distinguish. It is my one real concession to having markers on the table where function is more important than form.










A sad state of affairs - loads of shock and broken

Now I know this might sound obvious to any wargamer, but you will also want some dice - D6 to be exact. One thing I would suggest is that you find a way to differentiate your command dice from the dice you will use for other things like firing. The reason is that it is incredibly easy in the heat of the moment to pick up the nearest dice and roll them to resolve an action, but you don't want to find you just did this with your remaining command dice (believe me, I've done it more than once). So I have a set of different coloured dice and then set these aside once rolled while I work through my activations. As you don't have to declare all your activations at the start of the phase I will keep my command dice to one side and use them as I see fit and subject to what unfolds in the phase.

Blue dice for command and the white dice for other rolls

Alternatively you can pick up one of the many sets of nationality dice from other rule sets (I found sets of six dice for the Tanks game gave me exactly what I need) and these add some flavour to the command rolls. The nationality symbols represent 6, so work well for things like determining who has next phase and turn end.


One of the great things about Chain of Command is that you don't need to refer to numerous charts during play, it's amazing how quickly you pick up the core mechanics. However you will find a Quick Reference Chart useful for things like Force Morale rolls and other events. Mike Whitaker who runs the Trouble At T'Mill blog has produced some great charts that you can download. Very useful when you are just learning the game (and I still find them useful now), you can download them from here.


As with all rules there are questions and clarifications and Too Fat Lardies have made available a downloadable CoC FAQ which may help answer any questions you have.

There are a few other items you might want to consider. Smoke is something you will use often, particularly if you are playing the British with their 2" Mortar. I found ready made blank MDF coasters at a local craft store that were very conveniently 3" in diameter, the perfect size for smoke.  All these needed were some texture and flock and the addition of synthetic cushion stuffing (from the same craft store). I don't use cotton wool, mainly because, well it tends to look like cotton wool. The synthetic stuff holds its shape well and looks better in my opinion.




For some reason I can never remember the direction for drift when a smoke round fails to land on target, so as a memory aid I've printed a label and marked the underside of the base. So 1 is 6" right, 2 is 6" left, 3 is 6" over the target, 4 is 6" short.






I found Covering Fire very useful in suppressing an enemy in an uneven firefight, particularly when your target is in hard cover and your chance of inflicting casualties or shock is reduced. So I have made up some simple markers that I can leave in play to mark where I have laid down covering fire. I've gone for a slightly Hollywood effect with the simulated gun fire, but they work well enough. You can see how I made them in this post.





A mortar barrage can have a huge impact on the table and so you will want to have a way to mark out the area covered by it. This can make for quite a spectacular visual effect and so I thought it well worth going to the effort of making some really nice ones. There is more on how I made these here.



Using a similar technique I created blaze markers to show destroyed AFVs.




For fortifications from the support list I have created sections of wire, minefields and entrenchments.

I made up some generic entrenchment terrain pieces, one style to hold a support team and another to hold up to eight riflemen. You can see how these were made in this post.


As you may have noticed, I'm a big fan of AB figures WWII range and they do some great half figures and entrenchments to match. A bit indulgent, but they do look great on the table. Again you can see more about how I made these in this post.



Minefields are another thing you will want to find a way to mark on the table. In Chain of Command they are an area 6"x6" and so I initially made these from a piece of MDF with a simple wire fence around them and warning signs made from images I sourced from the web.


However these are not always functional when you need to place them in terrain, like a wood for example and so I copied an idea from John Bond to make 'hollow' minefields that were simply wooden coffee stirrers glued together.



Using a similar technique I made up 6" sections of barbed wire, this wire was an eBay purchase and I can't recall the supplier.



Another thing you might find handy is a devise to show covered arcs, particularly useful when firing into or out of buildings. This inexpensive perspex marker came from Charlie Foxtrot Models.


While by no means essential, these two laser pointers are great for working out placement of Jump of Points. Unlike the normal laser pointer, each of these projects a laser line onto the table and so the two of them make it very easy to work out the relevant arcs behind the patrol markers. They are also very handy for determining line of sight. You don't need them, but you know you want them.


There are several great sources of additional information you can explore. Too Fat Lardies run an online Forum for all their games including a folder for Chain of Command this is in addition to their own Lard Island News blog which also has a section of useful (and free) downloads.

There is also a Facebook group specifically for CoC and a more general Yahoo Group for Too Fat Lardies where a number of game support files are also available.

The player community also has some great blogs and YouTube channels. There are too many to list here, but a few I would point new players to are Tiny Hordes which features some easy to follow game reports that I found useful when I was learning the rules. More recently there have been a number of YouTube channels which feature the game in action and I would recommend Tabletop CP and Beasts of War.



I also have a number of AARs in this blog.  Just one word of caution with all of these, we all make mistakes sometimes and miss the odd rule in the heat of the action. If while you are watching or reading these something strikes you as not quite correct, chances are you are right. These are the not the final word on the rules but a wonderful way to get a feel for how the game flows. Even Rich Clarke, the author of the rules who features in the Beasts of War videos, has been known to confuse a rule with another one of the rule sets he has written. If in doubt refer back to the rule book and the FAQ as the correct source.

I hope this is a useful guide for anyone just getting into Chain of Command. I wish I could take credit for much of this, but my thanks go out to the many fine folk out there producing great terrain and gaming tools and sharing them with us via their blogs, forums and social media.



26 comments:

  1. Splendid primer for the tyro player, or even us grizzled old vets, Mark.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you so much for putting this together; I'm one of the newbies who was asking the questions and this is so helpful for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've discovered a great set of rules, hope you really enjoy playing them.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for these tips. Will going to use a lot of them. Great painting by the way.

    ReplyDelete
  4. The force morale tracker we use comes from Olympian Games (based in Canberra).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah thanks, I'll edit the post and put in a link for them.

      Delete
  5. I think you have covered it all Mark, Great starting point for beginners, love the markings on the underside of the smoke marker, I always forget if its left or right first.
    cheers John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks John,I don't know why I have a mental block with that, but I do, those labels have been very useful.

      Delete
  6. that's a great summary, and some good ideas. i am slowly building my CoC forces and this is really helpful

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice work, I do both things very similarly but I need to get some of the white stuffing it looks much better than cotton wool.

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cotton wool has two problems, the first being it just looks like cotton wool, secondly it tends to sag over time and become limp, the synthetic stuff is much more durable.

      Delete
    2. The synthetic stuff also seems to take paint better than cotton.

      Delete
    3. Yes Marc I agree, it takes acrylic paint well. To make some black smoke I simply soaked some of it in a diluted mix of artists' acrylic, gave it a squeeze to get rid of excess and left it to dry and it came out looking great.

      Delete
  8. Great article! I hope it’s ok that I shared this to my page.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Absolutely, feel free, glad you think it's useful!

      Delete
    2. Travis, I've updated the post to include links to a few useful sites and I've included Tabletop CP (I hope you don't mind!).

      Delete
    3. Not at all! I appreciate it.

      Delete
  9. Great post and an impressive display of gaming aids. Some really good ideas as well. Makes me want to break out my CoC forces for a game. 😀

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Stew, it's a great game and any excuse will do!

      Delete
  10. A useful primer indeed! I wish I had this when I started out ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rich has made my post in the TFL forum a sticky and the first one in the CoC folder, so hopefully others can add their tips and advice and it becomes a good resource for new players.

      Delete
  11. Great post Mark! Copying your casualty-shock markers now!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I created a useful aid for the patrol phase. Take a 4 foot wooden dowel (mine is 1/4 inch across) and chop it into a 1 foot section and two 18" sections. The 1 foot dowel I use to move patrol markers and check for proximity.

    The two 18" dowels I use to determine the angles for the JOPs. I put them on the two closest enemy patrol markers and across the friendly marker. Because they are 18" long, typically all I need to do is put the JOP in the angle between the two dowels but beyond the length of the dowel, which should be 6" beyond the patrol marker.

    ReplyDelete