Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chain of Command at Barries

Barrie & John's Germans v. Jim & Marks' British

We played the Probe scenario, British attacking.
The British objective was to get one team off the far table edge - the German's objective was to stop them doing so.  In the pre-game scouting phase the Brits got a jump off point well forward on the right and with the help of the command system giving them 2 goes at the start tried to rush down the flank.  The Germans then got some good command dice, dropped down troops in their path - in front, and soon after the pic was taken, in the wood on the left & house on the far left.  Converging fire stopped the Tommies & a panzerschreck blew up the lead bug.  They fought back & wiped out the German infantry in the wood on the left.  But the Brits had lost too many casualties and saw taht the only chance of winning was a Banzai charge by the surviving bug.  When a panzerfaust got the bug it was all over.

I've now had 4 games of Chain of Command and rather more of Bolt Action & now feel qualified to make valid comment.  They both use similar forces and are the same scale of game.  Bolt Action has a few annoying issues, but there is a lot more to like than to dislike in BA & the more I play it the more I like it.  On the other hand, I've tried to like COC, but the more I play it the less I like it.

Complication:  COC is far more complex than BA.  The Too Fat Lardies have a record of making convoluted rules.  Warlords have a good record of keeping rules efficient.  Both sets are true to form.

Using the Book:  It's easier find what you want in BA than COC - the book's smaller to start with, but it's also more likely to have what you are looking for where you look  for it.  COC has an index, but not good one.  BA has no index in the book, but there is a good pdf index.

Using the QRS:  BA's QRS is 2 pages & easy to use.  COC's original 4 page QRS is twice the size yet lacks so much basic information to be useless.  A newer 6 page QRS is more comprehensive, but so badly laid out you can take ages to find what you want - which rather defeats the purpose.

COC's Scouting Phase:  This is an interesting game mechanic much praised as innovative.  It appears to provide variety in the way scenarios kick off, but actually I find that it's application to all scenarios makes them all seem the same.  The concept of troops arriving on the field near jump of points is akin to FOW's ambush as no pre-planning is required re which troops arrive where.  This is  rationalised as representing scouting and troops being slipped forward before the action starts to be revealed as the game develops. But any correlation with reality is compromised by the fact that you can freely choose which jumping off point to use for each unit.

Command Systems:  COC's command system has also been much praised for innovation.  It may be an interesting game mechanic and it may provide the players with lots of decision moments, but any correlation with realism escapes me.  What has being told by the dice how many officers & nco's you can activate in a phase and then deciding which ones to use got to do with realistic military decision making?  The exercise of working out what to do with the hand the dice deals you each phase is more akin to Saga's gamey dice board than reality.  I am no doubt biased towards BA's simple Hail Caesar style activation dice system through being a veteran Hail Caesarian.

Combat Systems:  These are often not a lot different.  Where they do differ BA's system is invariably easier to use.

Movement:  In COC's a unit's move distance is governed by dice.  I don't mind variable moves dependant on chance in principle (I love Hail Caesar), but the COC system has some odd effects I don't like - like troops stopping on the road in the open between two hedges because of low dice - or troops forced to move beyond cover because of high dice.  BA has variable movement but indirectly, without a specific test - the command dice determine if a unit moves or not.

Annoying Issues:  Both games have their annoying issues that go against my grain.  For instance, BA's friendly fire by artillery & air is an awful rule.  But I have no problem with house ruling out such issues & as long as there aren't too many of them I don't let them unduly influence my judgement.

Choosing Armies:  BA has the conventional points system with restrictions on choices.  COC has fixed basic lists with some add ons.  While points systems can be abused, I have no problem with them in principle - used sensibly they are most useful for generating good scenarios without having to find time to play test them.  I have to think COC's fixed lists might get a bit boring eventually.

General Comment: We all look at new rules in the light of our long gained prejudices about how wargames should be played.  One man's meat is another man's poison (for example I think it impossible to like both FOG & HC).   The learning curves for BA & COC are very different - COC is far more complex.  Some like going to effort of learning the intricacy of complex rules, some confuse complexity with realism.  I like my rules simple and easy to play without endless searches through the rule book.  I'll play COC if that's the game that's on, I don't actively dislike it like I do FOG, but BA is definitely more my style.


Paint-In said...

Great comparison, but might I suggest a movement thing we always use and which afaik is also used by TFL. Before throwing your dice point out were you want your section/team/vehicle to go and throw the dice. Now if you throw more than needed you are not forced to move more than needed and if you throw under what is needed you stop short... as simple as that.

Itinerant said...

Hmm, I think I may be in a similar boat. Though I'm not excited about BA yet either. Thing is, I like the random nature of things, but something about the CoC rules don't sit with me either. Oh well, I must keep looking for the set that works for me.
I appreciate this review.

John Lambshead said...

I have bought a couple of Lardy rules sets, one was IABKYM, and really don't like them. They seem to be convoluted for the sake of it with long mechanisms going nowhere in particular.

BA is a Classic Warlord system. You get to play a game with the rules platform working smoothly and mostly invisibly.