Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Fall of Tobruk - A Chain of Command AAR

Last weekend the first Afrika CoC campaign concluded with the last game, in this case with the attack on the central objective of the campaign: the inner perimeter of Tobruk. As I commented in a previous post, for different reasons I've been less active than wished in the campaign and have only played a couple of games including this final chapter.

With eight players interested, we structured the campaign around two different fronts with 2 opponents per side each, using the "ladder" system described in At The Sharp End, the CoC campaigns companion publication. We allocated 2 infantry platoons and a tank troop to each front, with no further reinforcements.

  The first games were a reconnaissance in force scenario in the no-man's land, and the subsequent steps of the campaign moved the players up and down the ladder (depending on who was winning each strike) to the outposts line, the main defensive line and finally into Tobruk itself, that was the game we played last weekend.

As the Axis forces had been playing most of the campaign with the German assets, these arrived to this last battle in brittle condition, and for this reason we decided to deployed our fresh (and relatively untested) Italian platoon, reinforced with a tank troop (3 x M13s) and the remnants of a panzergrenadier platoon. On the British side, two understrength Empire infantry platoons (one Indian and one Australian) manning the defences supported by the remaining surviving tanks (2 Cruiser and 2 Matildas).

The photo below illustrates the gaming table, with the opposing jump-off points circled after the conclusion of the patrol phase.  

The terrain was not as flat as you may deduct from the photo, with several escarpments and hills concentrated mainly in the edges; however the space in front of the buildings was flat and featureless, offering no cover to the units advancing towards them. The Axis player plan was to try to pin the centre of the British defensive position with the LMGs and try manoeuvring on the flanks (either right of left) with the rifle teams depending on the strength of the opposition found.

In the first activations one German LMG section was deployed in overwatch overlooking the British buildings and getting some cover from the palm corpse, while an Italian section took positions behind a low ridge to the left of the Germans; the Italian section's LMG teams were placed on the summit in overwatch and the rifle teams under cover behind.

Italian LMG and Rifle teams

The reaction of the British was to deploy one section in the building together with a FOO. The unit received the welcome of the German and Italian fire, inflicting the first few casualties despite being in hard cover. 

In the following phases, the British FOO was able to place the mortar barrage right on the German unit. In the meantime, a German FOO had been deployed among the Italians on the left and was lucky enough to land its own mortar tubes on the house sheltering the British FOO and the infantry section.

The summary of the rest of the game was as follows:

In the centre, both mortar barrages lasted until the end of the game; but as the British FOO was under fire, pinned and lacking LOS, our understanding was that he could not activate its own mortars until the barrage was lifted. The Axis mortars gradually eroded the defenders in the building, reducing the Force Moral level of the British as infantry teams and leaders fell.

Bring up the mortars!

An attempt to bring reinforcements through the jump-off point behind the building was checked by the Axis player moving the barrage enough as to catch the new troops in the open, causing additional harm. 

Tanks were also brought into play by both sides, but for most of the game they remained more or less static and exchanging fire.

British armour...

...and its foes
On the right of the Axis line, an infiltration was attempted with a motorised recon section and some support of the Italian tanks. However, as they were moving in the open it was not long before being hunted and destroyed by the British tanks. A total failure (and somewhat suicidal in my view),

On the left of the Axis line, the second Italian section emerged and run towards a hill to its left (in the far corner of the table) followed by the rifle team of the first section, under cover from the LMG teams of this first section. 

The British reacted deploying a weak section among the palms to the right of its line but did not dare to expose to the Italian LMGs, except for a two-man a patrol that aimed to direct a small mortar fire on the Italians (the patrol was wiped out by the LMGs in the following activation).

New British reinforcements in the area were placed behind the ridge with the palms on top, out of LOS of the Italian units. Although the Italian rifle teams reached the foot of the ridge, it was clear that trying to force an assault on the intact British forces was deemed to be suicidal. They decided to disengage and to go back to their own lines; the plan was to try at a later stage forcing the British out of hiding with the mortars.

Ooops! Too crowded for comfort

However it was not finally needed: the casualties made by the artillery on the centre took its toll on the British moral force level, plummeting to just one. It was only a matter of time to lose this final morale point and the British player decided to surrender.

The end of the campaign does not mean the end of the Afrika Coc project. This first campaign has been useful to test and strecht both Chain of Command and At the Sharp End and some valuable lessons have been learned. The system can support fairly large games (with 2-3 players per side and 2 infanrty platoons) but require focus and discipline in order to make it work properly.

Our plans for the near future (in addition to the summer holiday arrangements) involve a new campaign in North Africa and starting a new period (Spanish Civil War) in late autumn. I must also comment that, as we have painted a good number of  vehicles for both sides, we are also looking to test and study an in-house adaptation to play  a "Chain of Command Armour" with AFVs only.


  1. Very nice AAR; I like a lot your pictures with the game table and markers in it; really useful. Fantastic terrain and figures, too.

    I´m preparing a game of "Chain of Command" for my mates (depite the fact they are enjoying a lot "IABSM"...) so your opinion about a campaing for a group of player is very interesting for me.

  2. Beautiful game and enjoyable BatRep. Your game photo annotations made the action easy to follow.

    Nice job!

  3. Lovely looking game. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Looking good. I hope to have my Italian forces ready soon. If only I didn't get distracted by building new models (a King Tiger at the moment).

  5. Excellent photos and AAR. I am just getting into CoC with my own desert rats

    I am very impressed by your terrain mat. It looks like to is soft and pliable to cover hills placed underneath the mat. Is that correct? I would love to copy this to use in my own games, how did you make it? Cheers Neil.

  6. Great looking game, love your explanations and, of course, your splendid tanks!