In my unending (and potentially ill-advised) quest to interest some of my non-wargaming friends in miniatures wargaming, I set up a game of Chain of Command, which I refereed, while two of said friends played.
The scenario was a simple patrol, centered around a crossroads (as usual). The western side of the board was dominated by a stone bridge over a decent sized creek (represented by some stones and clump foilage lined banks) and a small orchard, while the eastern side was chock full of bocage, and other hedges. Both ends of the battlefield featured commanding heights, which were, for one reason or the other, ignored by the players.
We only made it through about three phases of the game before having to call it a night. I played the game out to what felt like a conclusion this morning and afternoon. The game was a close-run thing, with both sides force morales dwindling considerably.
In the end the Germans won, despite a couple of blunders on my part. The weight of all those MG-42s was too much for the Americans to overcome. Of course, the best part about playing solitaire is you always win!
On a somber note, I still need to build more bocage.
I don’t think my friends hated Chain of Command, but they certainly didn’t love the game, either. Chain of Command is just too complicated to use as a vehicle for introducing new players to miniatures wargaming. Or at least it is with my nascent command of the rules. Maybe it would be different with new players who are highly motivated about the period and the idea of playing miniatures games. Obviously, it’s entirely my fault for trying to use them as an introduction to the hobby. Especially since I’ve now made the same mistake twice!
I’m still trying to formulate my opinion on Chain of Command as a potential regular part of my gaming diet. Bear with me while I throw out some random thoughts from my experiences.
There are a lot of fiddly parts to the rules-the mechanics are modular, meaning the armor mechanics aren’t the same as the infantry mechanics, aren’t the same as the sniper mechanics, aren’t the same as the artillery mechanics, aren’t the same as the morale mechanics, etcetera. There are numerous exceptions and clarifications, which make it difficult to play from the cheat sheets available online. Finally, in certain circumstances, you have to roll a TON of dice. Mega-dice rolling is fun occasionally, but over the long term I’m finding the large dice pools to be a pain in the butt. On the other hand, I loathe single-die-hit-a-target-number systems, because, to my mind, they’re far too unpredictable. You just can’t please some people, can you?!
I really admire the stated goals of these rules-emphasis on command and (lack of) control, period flavor, and mechanics that reward historical tactics, but the rules overhead required to get to those goals is significant. I’ve played three times now, which equals 9-10 hours of play, and while I have a decent grasp of the general flow of the rules, I’m still constantly referring to the book, or one or more of the dozens of tables, to figure out particulars. Even with a complex game, I would expect to have gained significant facility with a set of rules in that amount of time. I wonder if I’ll ever memorize the rules well enough to support the once every month or two months that I’ll get to play the game. That’s a shame, because I can imagine how great the game could be with sufficient rules mastery. The myriad of design-for-effect subsystems all work really well as individual systems, AND the effect of the aggregate feels quite good. If only stitching it all together weren’t such work!
I’m going to continue on with the rules set for at least a couple more tries, hoping everything will start to gel in my brain. For the next game, I may tone it down on the bocage a bit, and see if a simplified terrain situation might help things go a little more smoothly. In fact, I have another game tomorrow with The Scarlet J. Hopefully he has actually gotten around to reading the rules, and will be some help in that department. I give it a 5% chance :/