Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Hex madness... Chain of Command

..DG was down at the weekend for a flying visit with his daughter, and it seemed churlish not to use the opportunity for an always pleasurable face to face game..

"What do you fancy playing??" quoth I, to which he replied "do you remember saying that you would play a hex based game if I suggested it"...  "gah!" quoth I.. "Good" said DG "I'll bring the hex mat round, we'll have a bash at 'Chain of Command'"...  "GAH!" quoth I 

So it was that Friday evening saw two unlikely (but not impossible, to be fair) events unfolding in the dining room of chez Steve the Wargamer..  a hex mat, and a set of Too Fat Lardies rules....

Regular readers will be aware that Steve the Wargamer is not the 'hugest fan' of hex based games, so I'll not drift on about that again (besides, people tend to take me seriously), but it's been a while since I mentioned my dislike of the Too Fat Lardies rules that I've tried up until now (see how that "up until now" bit, gives the impression of something about to change... ).

The Too Fat Lardies team are without a shadow of a doubt forward thinking, hugely clever fellows, with an admirable interest in military history, and a shared interest in the experience of the individual soldier - what it was like to be a grunt on the ground ...  What they haven't been able to do up until now, in my humble opinion, is to find a decent editor/proof reader (see that.. another "up until now").. their rules are a nightmare to read or navigate around, and in my experience almost invariably prompt more questions than they answer (purely my opinion, I'm aware that there are many, many who wouldn't agree), and I've tried a few of their sets now...  time will tell if I feel the same about this set, and I certainly understand enough about what they are trying to do, to make it unlikely I would turn down the opportunity to try any future/new sets, but enough to say I was slightly.. errr..  trepidous.... on the plus side DG has shared my views and seemed to like these.

Either way - with limited time, and not owning a set of the rules, DG had forwarded me his quick reference sheet (dozen close typed sheets, but to be honest I used three of them most - initiative dice actions/shooting/movement). DG opted for the platoon (with some additional support...)  encounter scenario from the book, I opted for Germans, DG took British..

The rules have a (by now fairly well known) pre-game reconnaissance phase/feature which is interesting..  Having only played the one game, I'm not going to make any comment about how clever/intuitive it is, but suffice to say for this scenario each side had four tokens which were placed in turn on the table, and then moved about until they were a set distance from an opposite token(s) where upon at which point the tokens become "locked" - the aim of this stage of the game is to cover off as much of the table as possible via interconnected/adjacent tokens. Once all the tokens are locked, you then start drawing angles between opposing tokens to find "jump off points" ie. points where your troops arrive on the table...

The first part of this is fairly intuitive - I found the calculation of the jump off points to be less so - I'll need to do that again a few more times before I get to grips with the intent...

...and on with the game - which was a short sharp blast of a game...  in summary, an encounter stroke 'deny the enemy', type, game..  I ended up with a section in the house (rifles and LMG) and two other sections coming on from the left and top left in the picture following (apologies for the flash pictures by the way - poor light conditions and no tripod)

Turns are an indeterminate length long, once you've agreed who goes first, you throw a number of initiative dice determined by scenario, morale level, training etc. After that, poker dice style you allocate your dice as you see fit to your teams/sections/supports  - throw a couple of sixes and you get to go again straight away, fives are added up towards interruption dice (my term for them) which allow you to interrupt the opposing players turn....  useful if they keep throwing double sixes!

So the game is activation based using the initiative dice (vaguely similar to DBA in that you can only activate if you have enough points - but with the added complication that in CoC you also need the right type of points). Section or teams (and the phrase seem to be interchangable) can activate themselves (one action - move or shoot), but if activated by a team/section leader they can do more things depending on the leaders ability (eg. move and shoot, part move and rest shoot etc) - but you need the dice..

Movement is part random, part fixed depending on how you want to move (stealthy/normal/double pace) and affects the normal things you would expect (shooting etc)

Shooting uses a bucketful of dice (eight for my Spandau's!) and reminded me of early Featherstone, throw a too hit score, and then any hits are diced for effect...  affected by targets training level, distance and cover..

Morale is tracked by each section/team via "shock" (caused by shooting) the more shock the less they can do, and the more time leaders spend reducing shock so they can do something - bit of a slippery slope...  more shock points than men in the section/team leads to a pin.. The whole force has then has a "side" level morale table that is affected by routing troops (shock), casualties etcetc

The hexes are incidental - over a certain distance away and you can measure normally (DG uses a coloured stick - you can see one in the picture above)

..and the game - well it was largely a training/familiarisation exercise, but I'm happy to say that the Wehrmacht carried the day...  putting my Spandau in the upper story of the house allowed me to dominate the field DG was advancing down (smoke of war - he'd forgotten I'd put it in there ) and by the time he'd realised, I was pouring in more steel than the total output of Sheffield  so he spent all his time recovering and not being able to shoot back.. it would all have been very different if he'd had some artillery or air cover when the house would very soon have been totalled, I have no doubt..

I enjoyed it - I would certainly not be averse to another game - what's more I hope to buy a rule set fairly soon and perhaps use those WW2 15mm skirmish troops of mine for a few games.. shock horror...!


  1. I find 'The Lardies' rules hard work , once worked out they might be brilliant - but the process is hard , they might have good ideas but they can't put them down on paper , Tony

    1. Tony - I largely agree.. my sorry path has gone through "Couldn't Shoot an Elephant" (execrable) and "I Ain't Been Shot, Mum" (better but confusing) neither of which made the final cut... I have to say, these seem better, but even then DG said he was having problems understanding a rule and needed to ask on the forum... significance of end of turn I think.... time will tell....

  2. Interesting read that Steve, and I agree re the Lardy rules, just not for me either.

    What I'm finding so refreshing about Flames of War is just how easy it is to learn the basics, I can already mostly play off the 2 page play sheet in my trial games. They have put the FUN back into wargaming for me, and no hexes!

  3. Lee - turns out that the hexes are a DG add-on.. not actually required, DG I think is using them to speed up measurement.... :o))