The Retreat from Mons August 24th / 25th 1914 – A Chain of Command Scenario
Earlier this year I purchased the Too Fat Lardies Christmas 2014 edition to find the “Cocking Up Through the Mud and the Blood” article. In short the piece is a retro-engineered piece bringing Chain of Command to The Great War or “Son of Mud & Blood” as it was described.
This was an excellent update but for me there was one disappointment, the rules “really apply from 1916 onwards”.
As my preferred interests, and substantial forces, lie at the very start of the war I wanted to bridge this gap with a slightly different approach. This article will present how I add variety and spice to this pivotal week in history.
A note: I make the assumption that readers already own Chain of Command, but do not necessarily own the 2014 Christmas Too Fat Lardies edition. As a result I will refer to the main rules as appropriate, but very occasionally repeat the 2014 article to ensure this is a complete scenario.
Unless otherwise stated all standard Chain of Command rules apply.
This scenario is pitched between the battle of Mons (23rd August) and Le Cateau (26th August). However the rules can certainly apply right across 1914 up and until the conclusion of the “Race to the Sea” (17 Sept to 19 Oct). Here we focus on Smith-Dorrien, survivor of Isandlwana, and his retreating II Corps as they look to delay the overwhelming German forces as they exceute the Schlieffen plan.
It is important to try and highlight variety in this scenario. A platoon or company level game, based on mass rifle fire, is not particularly appealing. It is important to reproduce the uncertainty and dynamic of the CoC command and control dice process, alongside a variety of units presented on any given tabletop.
To achieve this I have raised the representation level to that of a battalion on a 1 figure : 80 men ratio. As a result we focus on battalions, and not sections and teams. However, the army list allows us to introduce variants within the battalions, from green volunteers, to grizzled professionals, from Guard Jagar battalions to ferocious Highlanders. With cavalry, artillery, engineers and even the medical corps, the games should offer every conceivable option.
The Patrol Phase
The patrol phase remains exactly the same as the CoC rule, and the scenario here is Scenario 4: A Delaying Action in all but one regard, the victory conditions.
In this game the Germans succeed by getting two units off the board at the British end. This is to represent the German’s overarching objective to reach the rear of the retreating British beyond. As a result with this dynamic the British are forced to offer a balance of attack and defence in order for the Germans to stall with a bloody nose. This is possible due to the volume of German troops on the board which are difficult to co-ordinate. The Germans may make a dash for it with their cavalry, however with a narrow board edge the German player may find their morale drop rapidly with heavy casualties. An option may be that the game is also limited in terms of turns? This variable remains a consideration to agree between the players.
Either side will win when force morale drops to “0” which is determined initially as always from the main rulebook with both the British and Germans being seen as regulars, although there are variants within the forces.
Command and Control – The principle remains the same as in the main rules but the rolls will work as follows;
- A support section from the army list is deployed – there are no teams, scouts or ambush units in this game
- An infantry battalion or cavalry squadron or MG team from the original (German only) force arrive. They arrive with a junior leader who cannot be activated.
- A junior leader arrives with their force and may use command initiatives
- A senior leader arrives – The first senior leader must be a Ranking Senior Officer who must appear behind (anywhere within 12”) the jump off point closest to its friendly board edge. If more than one “4” is rolled on this phase a second senior leader MAY NOT arrive on this phase and the “4” roll is wasted.
- Adds to the Chain of Command dice* (see table below)
- As per the main CoC rules with a revision to a roll of 4 or more “6”s and the Random Events** (see below)
*The Chain of Command usage is as follows;
- Interrupt an opponent’s phase
- End a turn
- Move a friendly jump off point 18”
- Avoid a force morale test
- Reform, bring one figure back lost in the last phase only
- Spook the horses, enemy cavalry chosen may not move next phase
- Reduce opponent command dice by one in next phase, declared before rolling
- Add two command dice to the next roll, declared in advance
- Change the target of the sustained target machine gun by 18”
- Artillery barrage! French 75s from nowhere land a misdirected dose of the hard stuff and everyone dives for cover. No troops may move in the next phase. Roll for which area it falls in with one D6.
2. Civilians and a man of the cloth! The war is getting too close and local villagers make a dash for it lead by their spiritual leader, but some are hit from both sides! All troops within the grid take one point of shock of shame. Roll one D6 to determine which units are effected from both sides.
3. A willing runner! Pre-war middle distant champion receives an order from the Ranking Senior Leader. In a flash he can activate a junior or senior leader this phase within 18”.
4. It’s jammed! An MG – chosen by the opponent – has jammed and cannot fire again until next turn.
5. All or nothing boys! Resolve and fortitude as any green units amongst a German force is blooded and plays the remainder of the game as regulars.
6. Strike Fear! The Germans catch a glimpse of Highlanders on the charge! Any Highlander regiments who enter hand to hand fighting next phase will add a further 4 D6 in combat.
Turn and Phase Sequence – Remains the same as the main CoC rulebook
Movement – Remains the same as the main rules remembering that there are no teams or scouts. However there are additional rules for “Horse Mounted Troops”.
“Horse Mounted Troops” are covered in some detail in the Blitzkrieg 1940 supplement which partially used here with troops split into two types, Cavalry such as lancers and Mounted Infantry, details below.
When deploying mounted infantry may do so an additional 3” from JOPs. Troops will add 1D6 to all normal movement in open or broken ground. Troops may dismount at no additional cost. Troops may not travel mounted through woods unless on roads.
Mounted troops may not move at the double from stationary, nor adopt a tactical stance when mounted. To do so they must dismount and remain so until the end of the turn, remounting only at the start of the turn. Troops do not need to return to where horses were abandoned when remounting.
Cavalry deploy from any point from a friendly board edge. Cavalry add 1D6 in normal movement and, in open ground only, 2D6 “at the charge” therefore 5D6 in total at the charge in open ground. If contact is not made from the charge the unit must remain stationary on their next phase and take 1D3 of shock.
Cavalry never dismount.
Firing and Close Combat for Horse Mounted Troops
Troops may not fire whilst mounted.
If infantry target mounted troops a kill is rerolled. A 1 and the horse is hit but ignores it. 2 or 3 and the horse is killed. Mounted Infantry may continue on foot, cavalry are removed. 4 to 6 the rider and horse are removed.
If Mounted Infantry are engaged whilst mounted by enemy infantry they will fight as normal. However if mounted infantry engage enemy infantry, not other mounted troops, they will do so with the enemy being thought to be hit in the rear for the first round.
If Cavalry are engaged by infantry, or mounted infantry, they will fight normally. However if engage either infantry or mounted infantry they will do so with the enemy considered to be hit in the rear and they will also be considered as aggressive fighters. Both of these factors are for the first round only.
Firing and Close Combat for all other Troops
This is done as per the main rules however with the following table and specific additions;
|MG08/15||6||0-18”||Over 18”||Lose 2 firepower when reduced to one man|
|MMG||10||0-36”||Over 36”||Lose 3 firepower when reduced to one man|
*British Characteristic – 5 Rounds Rapid – When a leader attached to a battalion applies two command points or more he may apply the number of D6 to the firing dice that phase.
|37mm / 1 Pdr||3||Reduces Cover By One Level|
|60mm / 6 Pdr||5||Reduces Cover By One Level|
|76.2mm / 13 Pdr||6||Reduces Cover By One Level|
|77mm / 18 Pdr||7||Reduces Cover By One Level|
*Artillery require a complete phase to limber up / unlimber and move as mounted infantry. Limbered artillery enter from the friendly board edge by road if roads are an option to do so.
Sustained Fire On and Off Board
This is a sustained Overwatch marking a point on the table as the target. Any troop moving within 6” will be fired on immediately in that phase. It may also fire at a single unit subsequently on the roll of a 1 or Senior Leader activation. The target area remains ALL GAME unless changed within 18” by a chain for command dice.
Close combat is carried out as per the main rule book with the following amended list;
|Add 1D6 for the Command Initiative level of every one of your Leaders present in the fight|
|Add 2D6 for each troop quality level higher than the enemy|
|Add 1D6 for each D6 of movement the enemy moved to get into contact (1st Round Only)|
|Subtract 1D6 for each two points of Shock|
|Aggressive troops add 1D6 for every three men|
|Add 4D6 for MG08/15 or 6D6 MMG if attack within ark of fire (first round only)|
|If defending light cover add 1D6 for each three D6 already have (first round only)|
|If defending heavy cover add 1D6 for each two D6 already have (first round only)|
|If hit in the rear remove half of your dice (first round only)|
|If you are pinned remove half of your dice|
|If Cavalry (not mounted infantry) “at the charge” contact infantry in the open dice are doubled|
Army List – 1914 British Expeditionary Force II Corps 3rd Division
Force Rating: +1
Command Dice 5
Brigadier – Ranking Senior Leader – Cavalry (with sabre) or Infantry (with pistol)
Colonel – Senior Leader – Infantry, pistol
Major – Senior Leader – Infantry, pistol
Rifle Brigade: 1 to 4 Battalions
Captain, Junior Leader, Pistol
*See support notes regarding Highlanders
British Support List
|*Upgrade rifle battalions to Highlanders (Aggressive fighters) up to 2 battalions|
|Static Barbed Wire|
|Dispatch rider on Motorbike – Move as mounted infantry (see description)|
|Royal Army Medical Corps – 3 Crew (see description|
|Vickers Machine Gun and 5 Crew|
|Royal Horse Artillery Limber – No Crew – Crew made up of artillery team|
|Off board MMG|
|Ambulance and 3 Crew (see description)|
|Red Dice (see description)|
|Unreliable Ally – 1 Battalion of 1 Junior Leader with pistol and 9 Rifles (see description)|
|56th Royal Engineers – 4 Men (see description)|
|15th Hussars – Mounted Infantry 5 men plus Junior Leader|
|13 Pounder with 5 Crew Royal Horse Artillery Unlimbered|
|5th Lancers 4 men with Junior Leader|
|5th Lancers 4 men with Musician (see description)|
|18 Pounder with 5 Crew Royal Horse Artillery Unlimbered|
|One Additional British Battalion with Junior Leader and 9 men – +1 point Highlanders|
Notes: The 3rd Division of II Corps, under Hamilton, comprised of the 7th, 8th and 9th Brigade and the source of information is “Mons” by John Terraine. The exception here is the 5th Lancers which were part of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade. In the chaos of withdrawal I have added them as a reasonable possibility of them being available. In my own composition of forces used I have deployed;
3rd Battalion Worcestershire Reg – 7th Brigade / 2nd Battalion Royal Scots Reg – 8th Brigade / 4th Battalion Middlesex Reg – 8th Brigade / 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders – 8th Brigade
I add this tiny detail simply because it brought to life the game and adds colour to this battalion level engagement.
Dispatch rider on Motorbike – Here the dispatch rider is initially located with the Brigade command. At a key moment a key order is made and the rider may then make contact directly with any senior leader on the board at which point the British gain a further dice for that phase. The rider is removed from the board at this point.
Royal Army Medical Corps and Ambulance – The RAMC operate as do medical orderlies in the main rules however an ambulance can travel as per mounted infantry to complete this function.
56th Royal Engineers – The Royal Engineers have been hard at work ahead of the action. They can lay 2 6” x 2” barbed wire or 1 6” x 2” sandbags and stone hard cover structure ahead of the game. These are deployed as per the main rules.They can also clear barbed wire as per the main rules.
Red Dice – As per the 1940 Blitzkrieg supplement, offers an additional dice which operates the same as the other command dice but ignores a 5 or 6 when rolled. The British must be using 2 other supports before this dice becomes available.
5th Lancers Support with Musician – Operated on a 1 and not a 3 for Junior Leaders the support uses the musician to reduce 1D3 of shock at the start of the phase. This unit can be combined to the other 5th Lancers Squadron now activating on a 3 for the Junior Leader and the musician shock benefit.
Unreliable Ally – Either a Belgian or French supporting infantry battalion may be added to the BEF. However at the end of each turn a D6 is rolled and if a 1, 2 or 3 is rolled the force is immediately removed from the board as they move to another sector. There is no “Bad Thing” rolled for this.
Army List – German 6th Division, III Corps
Force Rating: 0
Command Dice 5
Generaloberst – Ranking Senior Leader – Cavalry (with sabre) or Infantry (with pistol)
Oberst – Senior Leader – Infantry, pistol
Oberstleutnant – Senior Leader – Infantry, pistol
Rifle Brigade: 1 to 6 Battalions
Kapitan, Junior Leader, Pistol
*See support notes regarding “Green Troops”
Machine Gun Team
MG08/15 Plus 2 Crew with Junior Leader
4 Mounted Infantry with Junior Leader
German Support List
|*Downgrade rifle battalions to “Green Troops” up to 2 battalions – Gain 1 point to support option|
|Dispatch rider on Motorbike – Move as mounted infantry (see description)|
|Medical Support Unit – 3 Crew (see description|
|MG08/15 and 2 Crew|
|Horse Artillery Limber – No Crew – Crew made up of artillery team|
|Off board MMG|
|Ambulance and 3 Crew (see description above)|
|Red Dice (see description below)|
|Engineers – 4 Men (see description below)|
|76.2 mm and 5 Crew Unlimbered|
|Jager Battalion – 9 Rigles and Junior Leader|
|Guards Infantry Battalion 9 men and Junior Leader|
|Hussar Lancer Squadron 4 men with Junior Leader|
|Guard Jagar Battallion 9 men with Junior Leader – Count as Elite|
|77 mm and 5 Crew Unlimbered|
Notes: The design of this game is to give the Germans a large numerical advantage which, however can be challenging to co-ordinate as they encountered a prepared BEF force. The board is also designed to be narrow, however if the Germans punch through either flank they should roll through the British and move on. The speed of the German advance is also such that they are unable to bring all their guns to bare off-board. However, the German player should not be completely disadvantaged. As a result a pre-game barrage is still an option.
Red Dice – Unlike the British the Germans have no restrictions and can choose a red dice with no other support. This would be most helpful when a low level of support is rolled.
Engineers – Unlike the British the German engineers operate exactly as per the main rules and do not construct any barbed wire or hard cover. After all the Germans are in a rush!
And finally….a picture of sleepy Belgium on August 1st 1914 on which the game if fought.