*NOTE: This post was written by our former Blog Colleague, Sire Godefroy. WordPress seems to have transferred all his posts to me*
A confession: I am a fashion-victim. At least if it comes down to gaming. So I talked my two companions into celebrating “Tabletop Day” with our very own gaming-marathon. Of course, Desert War was undisputed on top of the list!
Just in case you’ve lived under a rock so far (or you’re simply no Youtube-addict like me), here’s all you need or ever want to know about “International Tabletop Day 2014”. And yes, the event takes place today, the 5th of April! Due to other commitments we had to reschedule to an earlier date, and so you may read this on the day itself.
For the weekend the good Doc made his summer residence available to us (thanks again, old chap!), so we had plenty of room to stage the main event of our jolly meet-up: a game of Chain of Command. Lt. Hazelorov provided a great gaming mat he’d built beforehand along with a few terrain pieces. I confined myself to gracing the venue with my noble presence and the occasional witty commentary – and so I was asked to write up a summary of the game itself which I gladly accepted.
First off, here’s the lay of the land as it may have appeared on photos taken by an aerial observer of 1941, somewhere in the Libyan wastes.
Identified as the main objective was the old mosque in the south-western corner of the table. The Italians, in this scenario being the defender, had used it to store their provisions of Chianti Classico. Honestly, who would suspect huge quantities of alcohol in such a place? British recce, however, had become suspicious about the numbers of troops concentrated in the area. Whatever they expected to find – most likely a radio station, preferably a brothel –, they were determined to take it. Force morale was good (8) if not as high as that of the sons of Italia (9) defending their bottiglieria – who would’ve guessed!
The patrol phase saw short but intense action (*harrumph*). The Italians came out at a slight advantage as they started from the mosque and secured a position near the northern cottage as well. In turn, the Brits were driven back to the far end of the battlefield, and would have to deploy from behind a high dunes and scattered rocks.
The actual game started with a very usual roll of three 6’s for the Brits! Pretty useless that early on, of course, but, obviously, it was a hard night’s day for the Italians. At the first opportunity they rushed out to fend off their opponents. However, the British being surprised themselves by this initial interruption, advanced with caution. Forward observer Tim led the way and took cover in some brush-wood, while section one and a 2″ mortar team crept into position.
The Italian commander, Tenente Di Ornatello, sensed what the small man with the big radio was up to and ordered his men to open fire. But to no avail, Tim came out unscathed and called in a strike from the mortar battery. Without a ranging shot, though, the barrage went off-target, and the Italians rejoiced. A second hail of bullets hit home this time, and Tim was badly wounded – yet not badly enough to abandon his task. Lucky devil!
The British mortar started to deploy smoke (much to Lt. Hazelorov’s annoyance). Still no one dared to cross no-man’s land in the centre of the table. So, focus of action shifted towards the cottage on the northern flank as both sides raced on to reach this key position.
At the cottage Caporale Fazi was hard pressed to counter the threat of being overwhelmed. Then he noticed – or rather felt – an interruption in the British advance. Things had gone quite smoothly for them; the occasional exchange of bullets at long range had caused little to none casualties, all teams were properly positioned and ready to deliver a devastating blow. However, there was “a nettle to be grasped” (as this time, to Doc Remington’s great excitement, the turn ended on expense of a CoC die, and British best-laid plans got binned).
Now, as they’d lost their tactical advantage, the British switched to brute force. A hulking Herrington (actually a dazzling Daimler) trundled onto the battlefield, escorted by the third and last British section under Corporal Adams. The armoured car raced towards the cottage in order to strengthen the British position there. Meanwhile smoke-balls exploded in front of the mosque to cover the advance of two infantry sections.
The British closed in on the mosque, and a fierce firefight ensued. The insanely brave (or insanely drunk) Italians held their ground, gnawing down the Brits down man by man. Both sides started to send in reinforcements, Caporale Fazi valiantly leading a team across the open field to support their comrades.
To replace manpower lost on his left, Tenente Di Ornatello called in the company’s (t)rusty Autoblindo. Both British and Italian armoured cars set at each other like knights in a joust, engines roaring, guns blazing. As the dust settled, though, it became obvious that neither side had suffered a scratch.
It was a bloody stalemate!
At this point in the game, we called it a day. Action was at a peak and victory or defeat in reach of either side. Though we had played for a couple of hours already – which was due to (re-)learning the game as we went along, adding new rules and some such – and so we felt pretty exhausted.
Despite some minor quibbles with the rules and some major shortcomings on the umpire’s part (naming no names), I think we all had a blast. One or two phases into the game the players were already engaging on a duel to outfox their opponent by using the right asset at the right time. Impersonating Rich Clarke by uttering catch-phrase like “To use historical tactics actually pays off!” was great fun, too. 😀
Thus, there we are, we’ve played a game using most of the toys ‘in anger’ which had been so lovingly prepared for the last eight months. And in case you’ve missed it, all progress is documented on the project page.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our little trip into the desert (even if, at some point, we forgot to take pictures). It may not have been our last one.