The first dim lights of this mid-November morning showed the green and damp carpet of grass from the top of the hill where the milicianos squad took positions the night before. The early morning fog traces moving along the trees created phantomly figures of all shapes which the scared men took for the "moros", those apparently invencible men brought by the rebels from North Africa..
A strange quietness surrounded the men behind the stonewall, not even the sound of a bird that probably had left by now for the warmer southern regions of Spain... and when the men thoughts were probably turning to the past idle summer evenings spent picnicing in that same Casa de Campo, a cry from the advanced outposts was like a force landing jump into the grim realities of a battle about to start ... "¡Cuidado, ahí vienen!"
This is the battle report of the first game in our Bloody November-Madrid 1936 campaign for Chain of Command, set in the context of the Spanish Civil War. You can find all the necessary details to play in a previous post of the blog.
|Republican Patrol markers and Communist Dice|
No time for picnic at the Casa de Campo
The Nationalists forces are at the gates of Madrid but after failing in the initial push in early November, a new attempt is now tried through La Casa de Campo, a large natural park across the river Manzanares west of the city.
I played as Republican commander and chose to deploy the Columna Libertad forces (Anarchist) and the Columna led by Comandante Romero (Communist Quinto Regimiento/5th Regiment) which I personally led qwhile leaving the command of the other column to another Republican player. Note that this is a patrol scenario as described in the Chain of Command main rules book.
The terrain is basically open, with trees scattered covering the whole area, some low walls and rock formations, as well as gently rising slopes and low hills. Not very good terrain to defend for the Republicans, lacking good places to establish strong points and facilitating the enemy´s move under cover dashing from obstacle to obstacle... an art in which our Regulares opponents are masters.
We decided to adopt a basically defensive stance, looking to make as many casualties as possible to the enemy and retiring in good order to another line that could offer better defensive possibilities. Given the mission I chose a mortar squad support to shell the enemy at long distance and exposing my troops only as needed.
After completing the patrol phase, I deployed my jumpoff points behind a long hill and next to my tactical edge, offering a good protection to the troops deployed as it was circumvented by a sturdy stone wall.
A Regulares section already emerged in the first activation, but I decided to take no risks and wait to see what the cunning moors. As expected the LMG section was left behind in overwatch under the protection of a stonewall, while a first rifle squad cautiously moved forward.
I let the enemy get closer and then the fiesta started. I deployed a first rifle squad, on top of the hill, followed almost immediately by the mortar squad behind the hil whose fire was directed by the junior NCO in charge. The rifles discharge and the mortar shells fell on the Regulares squad now caught in the open and the first men became casualties. The enemy squad now tried to move under cover of some trees to its left; time to use a Coc dice and ambush the unit with one of my rifle teams, suffering addiitonal shock.
In the meantime, the Regulres LMG started fing on my position and in a lucky dice strike (my unit were in hard cover) killed the mortar´s squad NCO and shocked the rifle team. This forced me to deploy a new rifle squad and the platoon sergeant, to be used to direct the mortar fire.
On my left, the Regulares also deployed a second platoon that moved towards my position under cover from some terrain obstacles. I maintained an exchange of fire with the initial platoon, but considering that I have already made several casualties and I did not want to committ my force in strength in this early stage of the campign, I decided to disengae amd pull back in good order.
After the battle thiughts
Interesting campaign start.
A first thought about how to approach the game: as with the Villers Bocage run in paralell and the Afrika CoC campign played in winter-spring this year, the way to confront the scenario is totally different to the one-off game; casualties matter and influence the following legs of the campaign, so one tend to be more conservative looking for that happy moment in which the stars align and can make a bloody punch to the enemy.
Secondly, in this campaign (as explained in the introductory post) two player per side are engaged, but in totally independent batltles with clear boundaries. The umpire does not allow any type of communications during the game (although you can give initial orders) but you have the option to break into the your colleague battle area using 2 Chain of Command dice
The sense of fog of war is absolute and creates some unexpected sttuations! In this case, I was just focused in my battle and receiving no information whatsoever on what was gouing on to my left.
When I decided to pull back into the next defense line, I was basically following the course of action agreed before starting the game, but I left an uncovered flank to my colleague who was actually winning the battle and progressing towards the enemy starting line!!...
A shame; should I've known, I would probably have committed more forces to the battle to give him time to crush the enemy. Kuddos for the campaign designer on this!!
Next campaign encounter is planned for tomorrow Sunday. We'll see our faces again at the Manzanares river... and I presume that the first rebel armoured support will enter into battle.