Monday, 1 September 2014

Non-stop to Madrid - A Chain of Command España Battle Report

I’m back after a short 10-day break. As you’ll see over the next days, I’ve been all except idle having used this time to make a second visit to El Puerto del León (this time visiting the Republican lines), painted an initial batch of Spanish Civil War forces and even played with Chain of Command España.

This is the first post with the battle report of a game we played last weekend. The setting is the summer of 1936, where a column of Requetés (Carlists) Nationalists is confronted by a group of local Republican militias at a key cross road in a rural area.

This was in fact my second SCW game and with the militias, a very tricky army lists but one that you really enjoy given the challenge involved in handling these irregular forces (Note to self: write a specific post next week dealing with the pros and cons of this list?)

The Requetés are well trained, experienced and well lead, while the militias are green,  firepower-weak and badly lead. The previous game we played showed that there’s no use in trying long range fire exchanges, but a close combat is a different thing due to the sheer size of the units (that you can reinforce and staffed with a lot of additional squads and weapons given the usual large number of support points available top the militia players…)

As the victory conditions were to control the central buildings in the table and the Nationalists had to enter by the road, we skipped the patrol phase and deployed the jump-off points aligned with these restrictions (see photo below).
The first Nationalists forces arrived to the table (an infantry  platoon and a Pz I tank), the made a hasty advance on the Republican main defensive position. Waiting until de last minute, the Republican militia and a contingent of Assault Guards stormed out of the house and charged on the surprised Nationalists.

Thanks mainly to the advantage in manpower, the close combat dice of the Republicans tied those of the Nationalists. The fight is as expected bloody, confronting two units in good shape and high spirits, with numerous casualties (over 15 per side!). The Nationalists unit is wiped of the table due to casualties but the Republicans lost the melee by a difference of 1, forcing a retreat to the base line and pinned due to accumulation of shocks.

In the following phases the Nationalist kept the offensive momentum and a second section hit the table, this time approaching the house under cover of some trees in their right flank. In addition a gun was brought and the FOO of an off-table mortar battery.


The Republicans placed an MMG in a hose on a hill in the right flank of its line, overlooking the battery and the FOO team. In the left flank another section occupied a house to reinforce the line…

… and to face the threat of the Pz I, a “volunteer” by popular vote of the section to attack the grey steel beast   with a Molotov cocktail. Unfortunately, the brave syndicalist  failed not only to throw the bottle on the target but got frozen in place! … 

… so the pity-taken Nationalists sent a priest to provide the last rites before the tank was activated in its own phase.

The rest of saw (1) the MMG broken by the nationalist artillery and (2) the units previously broken in the close combat melee caught by the mortar barrage including the senior leader. As casualties mounted and shocks accumulated, the moral crumbled and the units broke.

With the main position virtually lost to the incoming attack of the Nationalists infantry and the remnants of the Republican forces at clear disadvantage to retake the house, the Republicans conceded defeat and pulled back from the table to fight another day.

It was a short but intense game, and a good practice facing the SCW campaign we`re planning for autumn.   As said at the beginning of this post, the militia forces are a real challenge and you should carefully plan your support choices in advance.

One aspect that I’m having trouble with is the artillery. While in the IIWW games that I have played so far, the off-board artillery were another asset, I’m having the bothersome feeling that in the context of the SCW rules it is too powerful and too decisive in the development of the game.

Nonetheless I think I need to play some more games before making a final judgment. And probably something to discuss with Jim Hale and Rolf Grein the brains behind Chain of Command España.

I finish this post with the photogrpahs of these two beatiful Nationalists jump-off points painted by a good friend of my gaming  group and who very soon will launch a professional painting service


  1. Excellent battle report. Your jump off markers are very clever and original!

  2. Great report, but why did the Militia leader decide to leave the buildings!? Clearly a fifth columnist! ;-)

    I share the 'brains' with Rolf Grein and it might be the case that I am more the 'spanner' which is thrown into the machinery than the 'brains' in any case.

    1. Sorry I totally forgot; amended now
      Jim if you have the opportunity to spend a weekend in Madrid during your stay in Spain, let us know. My gaming group will be delighted to host a few games for you and to discuss the rules.

    2. No problem and thank you for the invitation. :-)

      If everything works out I should be in Spain for quite some time and would not miss a visit to your capital at some point. If that happens, I would be honoured to meet and take part!

  3. Love the jump off points. Those look grand.

    1. Entertaining AAR. Why does everybody seem to want to tempt me into CoC and especially SCW. Excellent vignettes btw.

  4. Great AAR and fantastic game. I think "Chain of Command" is perfect for the Spanish Civil War.

  5. Great game, over at the Wyverns we are about to kick off our SCW project - perfect inspiration.

  6. Great looking game. We find the Militia very hard to use too. Although we found in our games that the Moroccans are a tough proposition for them they can easily beat off an attack from the Falange.

    Also, we found that when playing in a campaign you are a lot more cautious with your forces, very often the Militia would try to shoot up their opposition and then quit the field of play before they got too close.

  7. Wonderful AAR Benito! I've not tried off-board artillery in a SCW game yet but I do know that it has been a very powerful support choice in some of the WWII games that I've had the pleasure to play.


  8. Hi Benito,

    That is an excellent layout your have there and I like the use of the Flags in the pics.

    In regards the artillery, in what way do you think it is "too powerful and too decisive in the development of the game.” I’m curious to here how it impacted on your game, what assets you took (which side?) and what Chain of Command dice made it ‘too powerful’.

    Once again, lovely stuff and glad that CoC Espana is played in the Spain itself ;-)


    R olf

    1. Thanks Rolf
      The issue with artillery is a long standing one. Over the last three games my opponent chose an artiller battery with oberver, placed the barrage on my main deployment area, pinned the units already there, blocking the jumpoff points; once with enough shock accumulated as to break (or suffer an inmediate close assault from opponents nearby), the observer moved the barrage around in the following phases catching any other unit deployed on the table, falling like rabbits.

      The Nationalists almost did not have to use the infantry forces to win the game.

      Scattering the jumpoff points too much means risking them being captured as you have less command dice and leaders; concentrating them in an area means risking having them blocked by the artillery.

      As the militia has fewer command dice, the build-up of CoC points is also slow; and when you want to end the turn with your CoC dice, the Natioanlist have at least one CoC dice ready to extend the barrage to the following turn.

      In summary, this is a catch-22 situation that I haven't been able to break effectively yet.

  9. Hi Benito,

    I can see your point there. I think there is no reason why denying enemy ‘access points’ is not within the realms of tactical possibilities and the ’spirit’ of CoC…I can see an argument either way for not targeting JOPs….I think on balance the current system has it right.

    Also, the initial target still needs a ‘spot' and has deviation. The area itself is 14” square and with a potential 3"-7” average deviation) possibly greater) the ability to deploy 4” to 6” from a JOP, the actual units under the barrage can be minimised. That said, the bombardment can try and channel in deployment by denying good terrain, which usually equalities to cover also so the bombardment can be slightly less effective. Whilst all this is happening the bombarding player is burning his precious CD #3 to do it whilst his on table troops are doing that much less.

    Overall it sounds like your opponent my very well be playing to the spirit of ‘modern warfare’ tactics and has perhaps just been a bit lucky with what he’s got away with so far…probably shutting down the turn is less of an option but any FOTs that make themselves ‘visible' by spotting can also be ‘legitimate’ targets…all that flag waving!

    No doubt spreading your JOPs will partially solve the dilemma so that will be a stratagem considered.

    I shall look forward to hearing of your ‘counter’ to your wily opponent ;-)