Saturday 27 April 2013

Chain of Command: A Diary # 2

Welcome to the second entry of my Chain of Command Diary, a series of ocasional posts describing my impressions while testing the incoming II WW skirmish rules to be published by TooFatLardies in the summer of 2013.

Topic of today: patrolling and deployment... and no, this is not teletransporting! 
If I mention the word “blinds”, those familiar with the TFL rule-sets will immediately grab the meaning. Physically, blinds are some large markers used in almost all of the TFL games to undertake the initial deployment and moves of the units in a game. By using blinds, you deny the opposing player knowledge about the size and composition of the forces approaching his lines. Troops in blinds enjoy several benefits like usually moving at a faster rate and avoiding being fired by the enemy until “spotted”.

Blinds in a Vietnam Game
Blinds reflect “enemy activity” in an area of the table and helps mitigating the “bird-eye” advantage of the most traditional games. Furthermore, using the so called “dummy blinds” patrols can be simulated: small detachment of forces whose only role is to find the enemy and return as quick as possible to inform its own force leaders. These can move and spot, but never engage in a firefight.  Blinds as a game mechanism creates uncertainty and enhances “friction” in the battlefield.

In Chain of Command blinds have been ditched and replaced by a new pre-game mechanism called the “Patrol Phase”.  Well, I may be too aggressive in my wording; let’s just say that blinds has suffered an evolution and transformed into a new mechanism to simulate the initial steps of a force before engaging with the enemy.  

Depending of the type of scenario (encounter, attack defense, flank attack…) each player now has a number of “Patrol Markers”. These represent scouting detachments patrolling the battlefield area looking to uncover the enemy positions. Patrol markers are moved alternatively by players until getting enough close the enemy (12") when “contact is made”.

US Player Moving Patrol Markers

Once fixed in place, they now become “jump-off points”, or positions where the platoon commander will be able to commit the units (sections/squads, fire teams or support assets) under his control. Note that the difference between blinds and the patrol/jump-off markers is that the former represents specific forces (each blind has specific forces attached and therefore committed since the start of the game) while in the latter you do not attach forces to markers: the commander decides which units deploy in the table from which jump-off point.

Now, the first time we play CoC, some players complained that this was like using the Star Trek beaming ray technology in the II WW; and perhaps at first sight this may be the impression you get. However, this is far from true and we should try is explaining what is underneath this abstraction.

We should first return to my previous post, where I explained the implications of a skirmish game developed in some low-hundred square yards, and where you are commanding a platoon or roughly three squads of men and some light support.
German unit deploying from a jump-off point

What CoC is simulating with the patrol markers is the approach to the actual battle front, a combination of probing patrols ahead searching the enemy lines and the main force behind moving by using the best cover available of the terrain.

Once the lines are fixed (enter the jump-off markers here) you order your men to stand ready but don’t commit them into battle blindly. You allocate your resources considering the tactical situation at each moment, adding pressure on one side or the other depending on the options and opportunities. 

Beam  me up, Lt!
 So no wonder-beaming-ray but a simulation of a low echelon leader’s performance in a the battlefield: sending your men around in hiding and only coming out in sight of the enemy at the appropriate moment.

In my opinion, and after three games already played, this system offers clear advantages in the form of speeding up the games, cutting short the period in which the units are maneuvering to get into contact; or increasing the player’s optionality when committing the forces, considering the tactical situation at each moment and with enough information.

Incidentally, the patrol phase is emerging as another game within the general game. This I believe was not the intention of TFL when drafting the rules. 

But based on my experience these weeks, the patrol system is not as mechanical as initially may look. 

I have seen players trying to fix the enemy markers at disadvantageous  or clearly exposed positions, with the intention of capturing its jump-off points during the game to both, limit  the foe's tactical flexibility and to affect its moral levels (the loss of a jump-off point triggers a moral check).

Finally for a full illustration of the deployment system, take alook to the CoC videos shot by the TFL team that you can find here   



  1. I played a game of this at Salute and thoroughly enjoyed it. Looking forward to getting a set of these rules when they come out.

  2. That "blinds" thing sounds interesting.


  3. Interesting option, this of the "patrol markers".Different.

  4. Excelente resumen Benito. El sistema parece muy interesante.

  5. I like the fog of war the blinds bring to the game.

    1. Together with the card-driven system, it's what hooked me forever with the TFL rules

  6. The patrol phase really is an interesting one. You have to think about where you want to pin the enemy deployments while trying to make the most of yours.

  7. Always interesting to hear about new game mechanisms. Well explained, too, thanks for the overview

  8. Very interesting read ! I´m very temted to test the rules. Looking forward to their arrivel!

    best regards Michael