Monday 21 September 2015

Snipers vs Half-Tracks in Chain of Command

An interesting situation emerged in the game yesterday that I believe is worth commenting and having your views too.
You may remember that a German half-track was knocked just just before we stopped playing. This action brought a major (tense?) discussion among the players, as it was a combination of the combat effect of a sniper and a PIAT.
First some background before dealing with the reasons for this discussion.
Morale is a key component of Chain of Command, by means of a simple but effective mechanism. The fighting efficiency of the combat units decreases not only as a result of casualties but also by accumulation of “shocks”: when shocks are equal to the surviving men in the unit, it is pinned (forced to take cover and fire is halved); when shocks are more than double the men the unit is broken and routs (becomecombat ineffective).
The Chain of Command sniper rules give some interesting bonuses to this support option including doubling shocks when successfully hitting a target but not achieving a kill.
On the other hand, vehicles operate as individual, independent assets in Chain of Command and have some special morale rules: the morale level of a crewed vehicle is related to the level of the commander in charge: 3 level for a junior leader, 4 level in the case of a senior leader.
Vehicles accumulate shocks as a result of firing from other AFVs or AT weapons, according to some tables. A personnel carrier must stop when shocks reach the moral level of the vehicle and must be abandoned (the crew bails out) if shocks exceed the moral level.
Although small weapons fire is generally ineffective against vehicles, snipers are allowed to try firing to the exposed members of the crew; in the case of an APC, these will be the MG gunner(s).
Now we reached the nudge of the discussion. Combining what I have just written, as sniper shocks are doubled, you may quickly infer that with a couple of well aimed shots by a sniper, you can easily put KO a half-track.
Now this is not only a cheap way of getting rid of an expensive vehicle, but I also think it is intrinsically wrong: does it make sense that a full crew in a well protected and decently armoured (against small weapons fire) vehicle being frightened by the fire of a lonely shooter?
I can buy that an AFV morale can be affected by the fire of a weapon designed to destroy it specifically… but by a scoped rifle?
My other question (unresolved until further research is undertaken) is whether this complies with sniper doctrine and tactics in general. I must assume that infantry units were the priority (a single man can put in jeopardy a full platoon if well concealed) and not vehicles (except perhaps for the opportunistic shot to the tank’s commander peering out the turret hatch).
How do I read the rules? My view is that sniper fire of an exposed crew member of a vehicle (the MG gunner for instance in a half track) is legitimate; however only kills will be  accounted and not shocks (sniping on isolated leaders receives this same treatment).
If the crew member decides to risk getting exposed, he may end up in a grave, so better put the head down. On the other hand, if a MG gunner is killed, it will take two full activations of the junior leader to be replaced (understandably, the remaining squad members would be quite reluctant to take the now empty position)… that’s probably enough retribution.
On the other hand, this restriction will force the sniper to think where to use his skills in a more effective way: firing an infantry target and causing shocks or attempting a harder and opportunistic shot on a vehicle crew member? 
Your views and contribution to the disucssion are welcome


  1. Hi Benito:
    I'm not sure I agree with you. In most games of CoC an AFV is operating solo, with enemy infantry lurking nearby. A high velocity round hitting the thin armour plate of a halftrack beside the driver, or wounding a soldier (I would treat shock effects as at least light wounds as well as morale) is going to cause fear to men locked in a vulnerable metal box. However, I could see experienced, veteran troops being less vulnerable to shock from sniper fire in a halftrack than ordinary or green troops.

  2. The sniper can only fire at exposed crew members. I would therefore state that if the machine gunner has not fired in the turn, he is not exposed. I would still count the shock as it can't be much fun inside a tin box when anyone exposing their head gets it shot off.
    Snipers seem to be quite powerful (probably to reflect their adverse morale affect on troops under their fire) but are not easily activated. As a player, you have to decide on the risk and act accordingly. Do I send in my half-track alone, or do I dismount my troops and support it.
    In my experience, players are very aggressive with half-tracks, more so than their historical counterparts.

  3. The player who had the half track didn't have to expose the machine gunner to sniper fire. Rather than change the rules simply change your tactics. Keep your machine gunner in his armoured box if there is a sniper around. Seems historical to me.

  4. An interesting situation. The MG gunner pops out to man the gun and gets shot at by the sniper, resulting in 2 shock. If this happens a second time then the crew exit their vehicle and make a run for it, potentially exposing themselves further to the sniper... That doesn't seem to make sense to me?

  5. I think the rules are fine. The biggest issue, that I see, is determining/marking when a vehicle has exposed crew members. It's left up to the players to determine that with no hard "rules". That's OK, but could lead to issues depending on the players.

  6. Unless the sniper fire causes a kill, I don't think a sniper hitting a vehicle should cause any shock to the vehicle or crew. My thinking is that a vehicle crew can't tell that a particular "ping" against the armor was from a sniper, as opposed to any other soldier. Exposed crew members should know that they took small arms fire and have the ability to immediately button up. (The exposed crew ignores that lone "ping" at its peril.) However, if any crew member is killed by a sniper, I think that the vehicle should take whatever shock would be applied. My thinking is that it has to be disturbing to have one of your crew members fall back through a hatch with a part of his head missing. That could cause the vehicle to become immobile while the crew switches positions. It could also cause the crew to panic and either sit in place the whole game or withdraw from the field (I doubt they would bail out). In that way, I can see a sniper effectively taking out a vehicle in a way that makes sense in game terms and in reality.

  7. I think so. The sniper is a powerful and expensive AP weapon (he costs the same as the halftrack) so you need to be careful and not expose your crew to him.
    On the other hand, this is an extreme example of his deadliness...

    1. Reply myself (I´m thinking about this question). In this case, the halftrack crew is an infantry section so this is receiving the damage and not the crew of the vehicle (if there is one) so I would put the shock points to the infantry squad with the common rules about shock and number of points of shock for an infantry squad to become pinned.

  8. In CoC, "kills" represent any hit effective enough to render a man ineffective for the rest of the game. A hit which kills normally does not inflict any shock. I think "shock" represents hits which aren't effective enough to take men out of action for the rest of the game, but may either represent hits with lesser effect or just near misses that have enough effect to alarm the target and force it to be less effective in the immdeiate future. So a sniper hit inflicting shock on en exposed crewman is not just bullets pinging off of armour. It's either a minor hit on the crewman or a near enough miss to force him to pay attention to it. Given this I do think it's reasonable that a sniper firing at the exposed crewman should apply to the vehicle crew as a whole, The appropriate response for the vehicle of either having the crewman ceasing to man the exterior weapon or the vehicle moving to a location where it's not exposed to the sniper seems eminently reasonable. I probably would allow the crewman manning the external weapon the option to stop doing so and drop into a covered position without requiring a specific activation for him.

  9. You could take a middle ground and just not double the shock from the sniper. So it would take lots of shots from a sniper alone to force the crew to bail (though less if combined with an AT attack). But it would be possible for a determined (or unlucky!) Sniper.

  10. My game play is normally to dismount the section as I have lost to many troops to anti tank fire.

    With that said, I see this as all part of the tactics used. If the MG gunner is killed the half track has taken two points of shock and it will take two turns to replace him.

    In the mean time the leader can pull the half track back or stay put and reduce shock as he is motivating the men. It seems rare for the half track to be forced to break due to shock.

    Does this scenario change if the half track is not an open toped vehicle? Than the snipe could shoot at anybody. Am I reading that wrong?

    1. Snipers can only shoot at exposed crew members. In the case of the haftrack is MG gunner, nobody elese. In the case of a standard AFV not open-topped, hence and in principle only members peering out the turret hatch (tank commander and so). Considering that CoC does not provide any special advantage to move or fire with rhe commander leading from the open hatch, that situation is unlikely to happen.

  11. I agree with
    Reply myself (I´m thinking about this question). In this case, the halftrack crew is an infantry section so this is receiving the damage and not the crew of the vehicle (if there is one) so I would put the shock points to the infantry squad with the common rules about shock and number of points of shock for an infantry squad to become pinned.