Wednesday, 12 February 2014

CoC Herrick - Game I

Today saw the first playtest of my adaptation of Rich Clarke's Chain of Command, provisionally and Lard-ily named “CoC: Herrick”. As the name suggests, it is an update for COIN and asymmetric warfare in the modern period. The game is in two parts, because the first part was between Kieran and I (I played Brits) before a meal to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, and the second half was me playing solo after I got home.
View from the eastern side of the board.

View from the north - Ansari al-Mawt board edge.

The game took place in my imagi-nation of Alephstan, 12th February 2008. 1 Platoon, 3 Royal Sherwood Rangers, are engaged in a platoon house in the village of Keren Jaghur. The local Emir of the Ansari al-Mawt, an anti-coalition militia, has decided that today is the day to assault, while the majority of the platoon are outside its walls patrolling. It is said that the decision was not his, but that of the commander of the foreign fighters in his area, Jallaluddin Hussein.

The Attack & Defence scenario pitted a British platoon with barbed wire and Air Support against a large number of foreign fighters, supported by a sniper team, some locals, a mortar and an MG team. The patrol phase was over quickly, leaving the attacking Ansari al-Mawt (AaM) stuck on the far riverbank, and the British defenders strung out through town. My initial plan had been to keep to the south-eastern quarter and defend a small perimeter around the platoon house. Unfortunately, my desire to lock down Kieran's probes left me out of position.

Part I
The game started with a series of double sixes for the Ansari al-Mawt, which saw their main squads deploy on a broad front down the table. Luckily, the Brits had left a fireteam in the platoon house, and the rest of the squad came back down the east road from their patrols post-haste, only for the group to come under heavy fire from the AaM on the far bank. Despite the mortar crew rolling out of their bunk to join in, and Lieutenant Raith and medic deploying with them too, the section spent the whole first half getting Pinned and rallied.
Platoon House begins its duel.

Macaulay's men seize the south of Keren Yaghur.

Foreign fighters move forward.

In the west, the AaM advanced rapidly, outflanking the two squads under Sergeant Malone in town and deploying an MG and snipers with a moved jump-off point. The AaM anchor in the riverside compound were kept in check by a fireteam on overwatch, while Sergeant Malone led another fireteam over a compound wall to deny it to the enemy. This led to the first Force Morale checks of the game as the Ansari charged in guns blazing. In the torrent of bullets that followed, Sergeant Malone was the only Brit to emerge unscathed. His corporal was wounded and the rest of the squad was critically injured in the close confines of the courtyard. Luckily, the enemy were slaughtered and the few survivors fled the field rather than follow up their advantages.
The courtyard was thick with death.

The MG team was swiftly pinned, and then destroyed, by the other half of the fire team blocking the riverside compound. The third turn ended on a British CoC die, opening the way for their Air Support to arrive. It also ended Part I, as we had to go have dinner in town. Hurrah for birthdays!

Both sides were down to a Force Morale of 5, due to the compound slaughter. Sergeant Malone was out on a limb with several critical casualties, more insurgents just a field away. Lieutenant Raith and the platoon house were engaged in a tense duel with an enemy squad and mortar team. The ACM position was similarly awkward, as they need to “seek out, close with and destroy” to win the scenario, but were without the means to do this effectively. The key to the battle was now Sergeant Malone's compound. If it was taken, the British morale could be crushed. If the incoming Air Support did its job, the ACM could be denied their victory, or even comprehensively beaten.

Part II
British Initiative: 66411 – 664411 – 54421 – CoC Die achieved!
Lieutenant Raith rallies both fireteams in the platoon house as the mortar continues its apparently futile counter-battery fire against the enemy 60mm. At the other end of town, a fireteam rushes to Sergeant Malone's assistance.

FAC Andy Maclain's requested Air Support finally arrives, in the form of an F-16 flying low in a show of force. The insurgents are within sixty yards of the British lines at every point, so dropping munitions is not an option. The foreign fighters engaging the position are however barely phased, though their Force Morale drops to 4. The riverside compound is kept under fire, and troops keep moving to support Malone.

Fire continues to be poured into the riverside compound, distracting them from the four men joining Sergeant Malone in the far compound. His gruff welcome shakes them out of the disorder of their pellmell run to help their friends. At the eastern end of town, Raith orchestrates a symphony of fire from the platoon house that leaves three men dead, the enemy Leader pinned, and the unit as a whole nearly pinned.

ACM Phase 5541
The Emir finally arrives on the board to rally the group in the compound. The sniper reveals himself, but misses his crucial first shot.

British Phase 44422
Malone decides to risk it and urges his men out of the compound, carrying their injured comrades. Under Raith's direction, the mortarman continues his rain of fire into the lush greenery across the river, and the fireteams keep pounding the enemy opposite – breaking them! The third section keep the compound under fire, and the medic leaves the platoon house to try and rendezvous with Malone in town.
Malone's men move out.
The medic starts his lonely walk.
Raith moves his men out.

ACM Phase 22
With his men's morale near breaking, the Emir knows that despite Jallaluddin's flight, nothing good could come of this day – but perhaps he can save it from being altogether bad. He urges the callow youths in the field forward to capture the injured Angrezi, and kicks the surviving men in his compound into shape – enough to pin the men in the house opposite.

British Phase 66651
Mortar fire continues apace.

British Phase 65422
Malone urges his men down the back road. The blocking force, now thoroughly miserable, keeps up a desultory fire on the Emir's compound. Raith, in a daring move, leads the section in the platoon house out around the fire to counterattack across the bridge.

ACM Phase 34
The Emir rallies his men and gets them firing again – and they critically injure one man in the blocking section and severely injure the corporal too! Wilkinson is a popular man, and hearing his screams on the radio puts a real dent in the platoon's morale.

British Phase 66322 – 433 (should have been 3 dice the first time too)
Macaulay, Malone's second, sees movement in the fields and hustles his men onwards. They are pinned in place however by the paralyzing knowledge that one of the compound survivors has died in their arms. Raith's squad carries on gung-ho across the bridge, while the medic travels on, alone, into town.

Raith leads his men fearlessly into the Green Zone, while Macaulay again chivvies his men on towards the medic trying to find them in the streets. He also finally gets a trooper to drop smoke and cover their escape.
The Brits enter the Green Zone.

ACM Phase 51
The mortar team fire at the oncoming Brits, and by incredible luck manage to place the round just right, killing two and critically injuring a third.

British Phase 543
Raith leads a fireteam in a charge on the ACM mortar personally. He loses another man, but routs the mortar squad. The medic finally reaches Malone, Macaulay and the casualties. A CoC die ends the turn with Raith on an enemy jump-off point, and the Emir is decisively beaten off with -2 to his force morale. Or not so decisively, since the British FM was hanging by a thread at 3 at this point.
Malone and Macaulay finally rendezvous with the medic.

In any case, the Ansari slink away, the firing dies down, and the fields near the platoon house are declared clear for casevac helicopters to take the wounded to Bastion, and from there to Selly Oak.
The battlefield at the end of play.

Too late for the men of 2/3 RSR, an Apache circles the battlefield.

Butcher's Bill
British: 4 KIA, 6 WIA, 1 wounded Leader
ACM: 12 confirmed kills, 33 suspected KIA.

CoC: Herrick played really well, as I thought it would. I made minimal changes to the rules to bring it forward, most of which were about air support and Western casevac. Kieran was a little worried to begin with by the casualty difference (at that point 12 KIA to 3 WIA), but appreciated that the Force Morale mechanic made a relatively bloodless victory very achievable. This is really crucial, I feel, to modelling a modern firefight.

The main difference that affected the game – other than the aforementioned casevac – was the change from Routing to Battle Shock for the Coalition troops. This traps troops with double shock in place and renders them useless, as well as vulnerable to enemy action. I made this change after reading several memoirs of Afghanistan, none of which mention fleeing – most of which mention a state beyond pinning, where good troops temporarily snap under intense pressure and require a good scream from an officer or an NCO to get them back in some semblance of order. That, or for the fight to be won without them.

Having got The Sharp End as an early birthday present, I look forward to integrating CoC: Herrick with it. In a COIN and asymmetric context, I think a campaign is vital to make any sense of the various engagements, particularly when it comes to the nauseating, permeating paranoia of platoon house operations. I will also be adapting the Charlie Don't Surf Military & Political Victory charts for modern use.

If you're interested, please do keep coming back. If you want to look through some of my notes, please contact me at infoatmorningstar at gmail dot com.


  1. Most interesting AAR - it sounds like you have the dynamic of Afghanistan down well, and your British Army figures looked spot on.

    1. Thank you Michael, it felt right during play. The patrol phase and Force Morale make for quite realistic commander's paranoia.

      There is a quick guide to my painting if you follow the "Modern British" label. I am very pleased with how the simple ?recipe? panned out.

  2. Great AAR. I want to try out Chain for Lebanon '82. Sounds like you are on to something.

    1. Thank you very much Chris. If you want my notes, just email the address above and I'll send them across.

    2. I am having a PEBCAK issues (problem exists between chair and keyboard) and cant find your address. can you send them to chrisstoesen @ gmail dot com?

  3. How did you handle casevac and wounded/casualties in general? A great AAR, please keep them coming.

    1. Thank you! I adapted the rules from "Charlie Don't Surf", another TFL game. Basically, Shock covers light wounds and their effect on a squad, but I introduced a quick casualty check to see what happened to "killed" models and whether they needed assistance.

  4. Looks very cool. Any chance to get my hands on your set of modifications?

    1. Of course - email me at the address above and I'll send them across.

    2. Ah, thanks, I somehow glanced over that part without seeing the address. I´ve already wondered how I was suppose to email you without an address xD
      And I already AM wearing glasses... ;)

  5. I want to try out Chain of Command for Mogadisho. What do you think about this?

    1. I think it would work perfectly well. The only problem with the sort of running battles that characterised Gothic Serpent is the issue of UN jump-off points.

    2. Ok, please can you send me your modifications, thanks.
      dyscordya at gmail com