Saturday, 18 January 2014

Operation Epsom - the (bloodless) prequel

Prior to Xmas Craig and I decided to start a themed campaign in the New Year, based around Operation Epsom. We would be using Chain of Command for small scale engagements at the Platoon level, with Blitzkreig Commander II for larger scale ones at Company level and up. We both had plenty of reference material and after a flurry of e-mails we decided to kick things off with a game based upon a small British attack in the area around Fontenay-le-Pesnel.

For the Chain of Command games, we would be using Craig's FoW Brits and Germans as my 10mm forces are still in their respective jiffy bags. He also has a lovely range of scenery (pics to follow when he posts them on his Blog) as well as a host of 4Ground painted mdf buildings that are perfect for skirmish games such as CoC. As a result of this, Craig set about coming up with the scenario and forces involved, so all I had to do was turn up on the day.

For the first game he chose Scenario 2: The Probe (no jokes please, we're British) as this seemed perfect to represent a British platoon probing forward looking for weak points or gaps in the German defences. Or so we thought...

Let me set the scene for you:
  • The game is to be played on a 6'x4' table (we used a 5'x3' but adjusted things to suit).
  • The Germans (defenders) set up 4 markers in a line in their deployment zone, up to 12" in, with each marker to be no more than 12" from another. 
  • This means that the German markers cover an area 3' long. 
  • The table is 6' long.
  • With an 'area of control' of 12" around each marker that causes enemy markers (and their own) to become 'locked down' when entering this zone, they have an effective area of control of 5'. 
  • The table is 6' long.
  • The more astute of you will have already spotted that this leaves an uncontrolled area of 12".
  • The British (attackers) deploy their 4 control markers at any one point along their table line. They then dice off to see how many free moves, between 2 and 4, they get before the Germans can activate their own.
  • Due to all markers having to remain within a contiguous line of each, even when locked down, it is glaringly obvious that the attacker deploys on one flank as this will give him a massive advantage in the game (see below).
So how did it play out I hear you ask? Well it went as follows:
  • As the attacker I rolled a 6 and got 4 free moves. 
  • I was able to move 3 of my 4 markers onto the table and lock one of the German markers down on the left flank before the Germans could react. This meant that there was a large gap on my right flank that I could exploit without any realistic chance of the Germans stopping me.
  • Remember the bit about the contiguous line above? Well the first German move had to be from their right flank (my left) which had no effect upon my 'movement'. The same was true of their second move.
  • By the time the Germans had moved into the centre of the table to 'threaten' my left flank, I had already moved a marker pretty much to the German table edge on my right flank. 
  • By the time the last marker was locked down I was gauranteed a jump off point from where I could get a Team off the table just by deploying them!!!
Well, this was the quickest and most bloodless victory (if you can call it that) in my entire wargaming 'career'. Both Craig and I looked at each other, somewhat dumbfounded by the way things had panned out. "Had we missed something?" we asked each other. Afterall we are both pretty experienced wargamers and are old enough and ugly enough to know that mistakes happen. So we checked and checked again and as far as we could see we had made no mistakes. We worked out various possibilities if the attacker has 2 or 3 'free moves' rather than the 4 I had rolled; what if the defender deployed more to one flank than another; what if the defender got to be the active player in the first phase etc?

Our conclusion was that the scenario was a very hard one for the defender to win given all of the above. To be sure we re-played the scenario (well we hadn't really played it first time round) and I chose to deploy more centrally this time, but again it proved to be quite an easy victory for the attacker, even with us deciding to limit the attacker to only two free moves at the start.

So a frankly bizarre start to our campaign, but none-the-less another enjoyable game of CoC with Craig, even when taking into account the vagaries of the scenario as outlined above. In terms of the campaign, we decided that the British had found a weak point in the German defences and were to do a 'reconnaissance in force' through the gap, with a scenario from BKCII (yet to be decided) as the basis for the next game.


  1. sounds like you had fun. I've never been into WWII at lower than brigade level so 6mm and a set of rules called stonk by a guy called Jim Wallman. I always fancied platoon actions but never found the rules to be honest.

    1. I can highly recommend Chain of Command Robert. A cracking ruleset and importantly for you (and for me) one that can be played solo. If you are interested, check out the YouTube videos that Rich Clarke posted that really give you a great feel of how the game plays.

  2. As strange as the CoC game might seem it's perfectly possible, we just (for obvious reasons) tend to game actual clashes between opposing forces rather than the units slipping through unnoticed. I think sometimes we also forget how fluid the front lines could be and how few men would defend quite a long frontage.

    Look forward to reading how the campaign progresses.


    1. You're right of course Richard, but for us it was very strange to 'win' without a shot being fired etc.

  3. That's CoC for you.
    A game within a game, I seem to send more time worrying over the deployment phase than when the figures go on the table.
    Let's hope your luck holds.

    1. We both love the deployment phase of the markers which is certainly a game-within-a-game as you say. For me this is one of the USPs of this game and one that is an exciting challenge everytime.

      Fingers crossed for the rest of the campaign!

  4. Don't forget that the defender gears to choose which is his friendly rabies edge at the start of the game. Unless the terrain really dictates otherwise he should be really choosing a 4" edge as his edge, thereby forcing the attacker to advance down, rather than across, the table. If you choose that option you won't get the result you got this time round.

    1. Thanks for replying Rich. Craig set the terrain up and decided to deploy along the 6' table edge and as you rightly point out, things would have been markedly different on the 4' one. Sadly his table is only 3' wide, but I keep badgering him to buy a board to give a 6'x4' table.

      Despite the slightly bizarre first game, we had great fun in the 2nd, learnt the value of smoke from 2" mortars and hand grenades and how to move over linear terrain!!! Really looking forward to another game of CoC sometime soon with luck.

    2. Try a couple of pack of chip-board loft boards. These are four foot in length and six of them locked over a 6x3 table gives 8x4... I've had excatly the same issue with scenario 2. its been dicussed on the TFL forum but I didn't realise the defender could choose a short table edge... then I found the sentence at the very foot of page 73 which says the defemder can choose any table edge regardless of what the scenario map says;-)

    3. As mentioned above Nosher Craig chose the long edge as it felt right for the action we were portraying. The short edge would certainly have made for a very different game. I'm glad we are not alone with regards this scenario, but the Forum and Yahoo Groups are not the easiest to navigate if you're looking for something.

      Good call on the loft boards BTW as they pack away nice and small:)

  5. Hi,

    The table was set up as a broad front as I was trying to recreate the broad front the British attacked as operation Martlett, prior to Epsom. However now I am aware of page 73 I will certainly bear it in mind. Point taken re the loft boards, will check them out.

    Cheers, Craig
    Tiny Terrain Model