We played a new and likely final test-game, before formally launching the Afrika CoC campaign, our first major club collective project put in motion last December using the Too Fat Lardies Chain of Command rules.
Following a somewhat disappointing game a few weeks ago were we perhaps overstretched the rules introducing three infantry platoons, this time we wanted to test what happens when playing with two infantry platoons and one armoured troop... and it went really well!
Boys und Panzers
This time we field one British infantry platoon with some supports plus an armoured tank troop of mixed vehicle types (Matildas, Crusader and Honeys) vs two Axis (one German and one Italian) infantry platoons together with fairly large Panzer Zug (2 Pz IIs and 2 Pz IIs).
As in previous large games, we organised the commands allocating five dice per player but only allowing the Force Commander to account for the Chain of Command points when rolling his dice.
As for sequential activations (two “6s” in a roll) we allowed the active individual player to take another phase; in the case of achieving three “6s” (marking the end of a turn) we applied the recommendations of the rules and to force an additional roll where only 5 or 6 mark the end of the turn.Only one Force Moral table was allocated per side, the Germans starting at 11 and the British at 8.
For the test we selected Scenario Three “Attack-Defence” from the book. Patrol markers were assigned to the infantry platoons (2 sets to the Germans and one to the British) and conducted the phase as indicated in the scenario conditions. Victory conditions for the Germans were to eject the British from the battlefield.
The development of the game saw the Axis attacking with the Italian infantry on the right flank where most of the Indian infantry deployed to stop the advance. On the left flank the German infantry emerged together with the artillery FOO which had a major role in this battle.
The British armoured units (Matildas), an AT gun (2 pdr) and a Bren Carrier section were released early in the game trying to stop the gap on the right side of its line, where the Germans were attacking with the support of a Pz IV. In the meantime, the remaining British tanks were allocated to the other flank to beef up the Indian defences.
With most of the British troops already on the table, it was time for the Panzers to deploy which they did next to the Italian infantry who was making good progress towards the enemy: one section supporting the advance of its sister with the fire of the two LMG teams and the strong 10-men rile section.
In the left flank the Indian infantry suffered a number of casualties and shocks and the two senior leaders attached to the unit had to work hard to avoid panic spreading among their lines. A Honey in support saw the gun knocked out but still could provide some support with the MGs. The Crusader and a Matilda made a brave dash forward to stop the German tanks and made a lucky hit on the Panzer Commander vehicle (that was me, by the way) , which added a lot of complexity to the management of the armoured unit, who then on could only activate with the tank leader in each vehicle.
In the other flank the FOO put a deadly mortar barrage on the 2pdr, killing the crew and wiping out the unit. A second mortar barrage was this time placed on the Bren Carrier section that was threatening the German infantry in the area, destroying one of the vehicles and forcing the other to retreat badly mauled.
With the Indian casualties and the successful destruction of both the Bren and the AT gun, the British Force morale level fell to l 4, reducing the allotted command dice to four. The Indians and the Tanks were pinned by the Italians and the Panzers; and the German infantry now had a clear passage to make a flank attack on the British positions... the British commander decided that it was better to pull back and fight another day. A German decisive victory.
Handling Panzer Troops (how NOT to)
Until now I’ve been using single individual tanks in support of the main infantry forces in my games; but today was a totally different and interesting new experience, managing a whole Panzer troop.
CoC standard mechanism to handle tanks is simple: individual tanks activate with the junior leader (rolling a 3 with the command dice) and depending on the number of initiatives he can order move, shot or a mix or both.
When a full tank troop/section (3 or more vehicles) plays, then a senior leader is allocated to one tank (command tank) and he can give orders to the individual tanks (up to his limit of initiatives, usually three) using the radio or with visual signals (flags, etc).
What seems simple in paper, it is a quite complex in the table. When rolling the dice you do not usually get the results you’d like at each moment, forcing to make decisions and trade-offs. On average only half of your force is activated at each phase; and as the battle progresses, shocks accumulate and the vehicles suffer from malfunction, their performance decrease at an accelerated rate.
An example this morning: the command vehicle was hit several times, shocks went to three (moral level was four) and loss part of the crew. The senior leader had to invest initiatives in recovering his crew and reducing shock, leaving the rest of the vehicles stranded without orders. This made truly hard to manage the tank section as I had to rely on the “3s” to activate the other tanks, and with just 5 command dice the probabilities of success were really limited.
It was fun, probably realistic but above all... quite stressing! Clearly this was new territory to me and I did not follow two simple rules: you cannot (1) just emerge from the table edge and expect shooting to anything moving when you want and (2) think that you’re safe just because you’re “armoured” ... no, it does not work that way... do not which yet, but I’ll have to learn