Sunday, 15 March 2015

Playing Kampfgruppes with Chain of Command

You may have noticed a lack of activity in the blog over the past two weeks. The fact is that I have not been idle at all, but after all the flurry with the last North African Desert campaign, I was longing to stay away from organising and managing the logistics of the games and to concentrate in roll myself some dice  on a wargaming table. Thank God, my club mate Alfredo took the lead and have been umpiring a couple of Normandy-based games over the last two weekends, ending with my abstinence period.

Besides playing, these two games have been helpful to discuss and test a couple of topics not fully covered in Chain of Command: fighting in build-up/urban areas and the use of kampfgruppes.

As you probably know, the German army used extensively ad-hoc fighting groups combining forces from different arms and units, the combination depending on the type of mission that the kampfgruppe had to undertake. As the war progressed and the units were below the OB theoretical complement (due to casualties or insufficient reinforcements), the use of this special groups increased, usually named after the commander in charge.

FJs and Pz IV in support attacking a Norman Village
In Normandy and specially the first weeks of the battle, battle groups were gathered, dispersed or recycled almost continuously due to the high level of attrition suffered and the lack of substantial reinforcements (just take a look to the Von Luck memoirs or the Lions of Careentan books).

One of my CoC gaming group members suggested using these ad-hoc formations that do not fit to any standard army list or OB. There were two possibilities: historical research or let the player decide depending on the type of game, by providing him with enough points to assemble a unit with good fighting capabilities, but not too many to become the uber-army.

Looking to the later-war German support lists included in the CoC main book, he concluded that 18 support points were a fair number. I have tested twice so far i over the last two weekends and it seems to work right, although the decision on the units chosen is of course crucial. But overall, the 18 points gave me a good variety of available units.

The first game took place in the Canadian front during early June 1944. The Allies have to break through from the beach-head and take a cross road in a village located inland. The defenders base force was a German paratrooper (Fallschirmjager) elite platoon with its corresponding support points of an “Attack to an Objective” scenario. In addition we had to create a kampfgruppe with 18 support points.

German FJ Gun Support
Being on a defensive role, and after studying the lists, I went for an infantry force. The core force were 2 x Panzergrenadier   squads (with good fire punch as each fire team has 1 LMG each) with a junior leader plus a senior leader; this made a total of 12 points.

For the remaining 6 points, I consider two different alternatives:

  • One pioneer flamethrower team, (3p), one Panzerschrek anti-tank team (2p) and a defensive (entrenchment,  minefield, etc) asset.

  • Or one artillery forward observer (4p) and one Panzerschrek team (2p)

Ah! ...The lure of the artillery... I went for the second option although from the very beginning I realised that it was the wrong decision.  With limited fields of observation and the crossroad located in the middle of the table, I had no opportunity to use my FO (who was eliminated when fleeing from a building about to be shelled) while the flamethrower would have paid a good service in the close combat fighting.
German Artillery Forward Observer
In any case, we won the game when the Canadian infantry platoon’s Force Moral fell to zero after a set of consecutive losses of teams and leaders wounded/killed and pretty bad dice rolls of the Allied players.

The second game (played today) was a counterattack. Again the base force was a Fallschirmjager infantry platoon with its corresponding support. For the kampfgruppe and being in the offensive, I decided to go for an armoured unit.  Among the different options, I could field a Panther (10p) and Pz IV (7p); or as I finally did, 2 x Pz IV (14p) and the ubiquitous artillery forward observer (4p).

In the game played this morning again the FO had a limited effect. The Panzers did a good job in supporting the assault of the FJs but were at a clear disadvantage when an enemy Sherman Firefly emerged... a tough nut to break, really missing the Panther to deal with it.

The Mighty Firefly
The game extended for almost 4 hours and as the force morals of both sides were still in healthy levels, we agreed on a honourable draw passing 2PM in the afternoon. Not a single tank destroyed by the way.

My overall experience was highly satisfactory. I loved the idea of deploying kampfgruppes with different combinations according to the mission; while setting the supply of points at 18 as discussed, in my opinion it worked as expected: there’s an element of scarcity that forces the player to carefully select the forces while the final result provides an enough strong and respectable force to deploy on the table.

I will love to test this idea and to read you comments. 

Major Michael Caine


  1. Excellent. The models look really nice.

  2. Superb! The ad-hoc lists are a great idea.
    Question: how are you deriving the points cost for the basic troops? For example; how does 2 x Pzg Squads & Leaders = 12pts? Is there a definitive list somewhere?

    1. Yes, the points are coming from the support lists for the late war German Army included in the main Chain of Command rules book. These are used to attach reinforcements to your basic infantry platoon, and the support level depends on the type of scenario played (as described also in the rules book) and is calculated with a 1 or 2 dice roll.

      For example, the Pz Grenadier squad is a support level 6 and a PzIV is a support level 7; this would mean that if you have seven support points you can spend entirely in 1 Pz IV or in 1 Pz Grenadier Squad and the reaining point in a trench or a barbed wire element (these are support level 1)

  3. Some great looking photo's, love the Michael Caine figure.

  4. Great pictures. And interesting your idea.

  5. I'm not sure if you should be forming a Kampfgruppe in a platoon. Maybe a platoon would be part of a larger company or battalion sized Kampfgruppe, but, would you have a platoon sized Kampfgruppe?

    1. Frankly I don't know, but as we are playing Big Chain of Command we are controlling a larger than platoon sized force in any case

  6. What do you do about Leaders?

    1. Junior leaders are integral part of the squad
      Seniro leader you "buy" from the support lists (support level II)

  7. This is interesting. Will give it a go as well.

  8. The game extended for almost 4 hours and as the force morals of both sides were still in healthy levels, we agreed on a honourable draw passing 2PM in the afternoon. Not a single tank destroyed by the way.

    ....Says it all about COC.... 4hrs for no result...Must be an acquired taste.

    1. Rather unexpected, but it is true that both sides played pretty conservative this time(I decided to hide one Pz IV behind a hedge after the Firefly emerged, standing there for most of the game peering if any British Sherman or infantry unit dare to cross my sights...)

      The Force Level moral was at around 6 by then starting in 10

  9. Lo veo muy interesante, con tu permiso comparto el enlace en mi blog.