My response to The CoC Challenge.

One of the recurring comments about Chain of Command is about the perceived complexity. It is said to be a good set, but so complex that novices should pick something easier. I very much disagree, as for years I have not played something that would have such elegant simplicity as CoC, while retaining the period feel. So, what would be a better way of testing this than subjecting complete newcomers to CoC.


 

 This was the premise for our Ropecon  demo game with Heikki, my usual partner in crime. KG von Luck had just been published, so we started planning a Normandy-based game, featuring as many iconic things as we could cram into a small field. Dashing paratroopers, an evil nazi officer wearing leather overcoat, halftracks with panzer grenadiers, some bocage like terrain (Yes, strictly speaking it should not be bocage) and a tiger, at least.

 Defenders would consist of a reinforced platoon of British airborne troops, dug in the le Bas de Ranville. Attackers were part of KG von Luck, partially mechanized PG platoon supported by a PzIV (as I was lacking suitable converted French models), presented by a Tiger as long as it was out of LOS from the defenders.

 From my experience, main stumbling block of CoC is understanding the organization of your force: who commands what, where are teams and sections. (And how you translate those to Finnish: we settled to joukkue, ryhmä and partio.) We created a visual roster with the hierarchy shown to make it easier to understand. Players were also shown the historical maps and how the scenario was created, to give a bit more background.




 A couple of test games were played, first was to see if the scenario (modified from KG von Luck) worked at all - map underwent several changes, but a good game was had. And in the second game we worked on the details and balancing. 

 As for Ropecon itself, we were planning on either 2 or 3 games, depending on the participants. We had only a moment to set up the table and game before first volunteers appeared - both experienced gamers with no experience whatsoever about miniature war-games and mostly cursory understanding of ww2. But they quickly rose to the challenge and we had one of the most cinematic CoC games ever - the last survivors of the last British section charged over open ground to take out the PzIV, lost several men and the last standing NCO then brewed up the tank, forcing German morale to 0.




 

 In the second game we had 4 players, 2 had no previous experience about war or miniature gaming, while 2 had played quite a lot of ww2 games, too. Funnily enough the experienced players promptly massacred their parts of the platoons engaging in equal firefights, while the newcomers slowly worked their way around the cover, using covering fire. (Seemingly experienced players used only the parts of the rules which were familiar, while newcomers just took the tools they were give, I think.)


 

 In all games, we first started by asking players what they would like to do and then showed how the available command dice could be used for that. In both games, players did not need much help in basic activations/shooting after 30mins or so. Things like morale rolls, CoC die, hitting tanks etc were introduced when they happened.

Some comments received:

 "This is using surprisingly elegant mechanics. Although designer clearly loves his bucket of dice."

 "I finally understand why reduced number of NCOs hurt Germans. And how the extra lmg influences tactics."

 "War gaming is much more fun than I thought."


From the sidelines were had a French expat commenting that she had no idea what we were doing, but it was clearly happening in France. And a little girl offering part of her treasured berry flavored liquorice as a thank you for taking time to explain ww2 and miniature gaming in general. And one concerned citizen correcting a silly mistake I was making with the shock rules.

So much for CoC being overtly complicated.