Well finally here it is.
Now before I start I just want to say that I'm looking at the two systems through the eyes of a soldier (Artilleryman) of 33 years service (both in a pure training environment and operationally).
Yes, I know they are both 'Games' and playability and pure enjoyment must sit at the top of the list, but some level of realism must in my opinion be evident, otherwise why not simply play Warhammer Fantasy?
I've played about 5 games now of both systems and found both to be enjoyable and challenging.
One system was however MORE challenging, realistic and for me personally, enjoyable.
So let's look at each systems.
BELOW: A Brit Airborne 6 Pdr covering down a road somewhere in Holland.
Bolt Action (BA) is produced by Warlord Games and works on a system where for each Squad (or Section), AFV, Artillery Piece, vehicle or small team (Artillery Observer for example) you and your opponent get one 'Command Die'. All the dice go into a single opaque container and are drawn randomly. As a die comes out the owner of that die can issue 1 of 6 different commands (RUN, ADVANCE, FIRE, AMBUSH, RALLY, DOWN) to his troops as he sees fit. Very suspenseful stuff!
Produced by Too Fat Lardies, Chain Of Command (CoC) works much differently.
Depending on the Quality of your force you get to roll 4 (poor quality) 5 (Regular or standard quality) or 6 (Elite or hardened well trained Veterans).
At the start of your turn you roll your allocated dice.
For each 1 you roll you can activate a small team
For a 2 a Section together with its leader
For a 3 a Section Commander (Leader) with his Section
For a 4 a senior leader such as the Platoon Sergeant, (if you have one) or the Platoon Commander)
A roll of a 5 goes towards building up CoC die, and once you have one of these then there are all sorts of options open to you, like declaring an ambush, interrupting an opponents move, relocating a sniper team, to mention just some.
A 6 is a 'Phasing' Die and let's just say multiple 6s are a good thing.
Pre Game Preparation
In Bolt Action (BA) you select or dice for a scenario, set up and play
In Chain of Command (CoC) you select or dice for a scenario and then enter what is called the 'Patrol Phase'. This is like a mini game within the larger game.
It represents scouts or recon patrols probing ahead of your main force and establishing what is referred to as Jump Off Points (JOP).
It is from these JOPs your troops enter the table, and the loss of which can have catastrophic consequences.
BELOW: CoC at CANCON 2014
It's a fixed distance in BA.
For example Infantry run 12 inches without firing or 6 inches if the wish to move AND then fire. Terrain will obviously have effects on movement but you KNOW how far your boys will move FOR CERTAIN.
In CoC it's variable, based on moving one D6 if moving tactically, maintaining a low profile for example, (maybe they are leopard crawling or monkey running).
Normal movement is 2D6 or 1 D6 to move AND fire, (or fire and then move)
"At The Double," 3D6 is a pell-mell 'Rush' and pick up some disorder for your trouble!
So in other words each individual Section / Squad will move as they see as appropriate depending on whether or not the Section Commander or Squad Leader has told them to "keep low lads"! or "Move it boys"!
This seems more realistic to me.
In BA you can't really coordinate arms with any real certainty.
Here's an Example:
Let's say one of my dice is drawn. I decide to move my Stug III
Then one of my dice is drawn again so I move my Squad behind the Stug III. Excellent!
But I can only move my Stug III and my squad in the same phase IF I get two Die drawn in succession. If this doesn't happen the insane situation can arise where the Stug roles on down the road, leaving the dim witted infantrymen standing in the middle of a perfect firing lane just begging to be blown away.
Now obviously you can increase your chances to coordinate movement by 'counting the dice' as they come out of the bag, and waiting until you know that you have more dice in the bag than the other guy, but this might never happen (particularly if the bad guys have more dice than you due to being of cheaper 'stock')
BELOW: A PzIII in North Africa
In CoC I can quite easily move my AFV down the road with my supporting infantry section right behind it (for cover) or either side of it (protecting it from enemy with Anti-tank weapons)
And to do this SHOULD be easy.
It's my phase of turn 2.
I have regular US Armoured Infantry (5 Command Dice)
I roll and get 3, 2, 3, 5, 6
The 6 means next 'Phase' is the Italians (my opponents)
The 5 means I've scored one CoC Die! (Only 5 to go).
I use the one of the 3s to get my SGT to put my MMG 'Team' on Overwatch.
I use the other 3 to order my M4 Sherman tank down the road (the MMG is coving its movement in case any Italian Paratroopers with a Panzerfaust pop up) and I use the 2 to have a Squad of infantry move normally behind the tank.
The infantry might not be right up behind the tank,.. But they won't be simply left 12 inches behind.
Let's look at Ambushing
Ambushes in BA aren't true ambushes.
"Holy cow! Where did they come from"?
In other words they are really just in Overwatch.
The Ambush order in BA still leaves the ambushers in plain sight on the table.
I can see you, and if I can see you I can engage you, therefore you're not 'in ambush'.
There are rules in BA covering 'Hidden Troops', but for reasons I can't quite understand they are still deployed on the table in plain sight.
The bonus for them is it's virtually impossible to actually hit them if shot at!
They lose that bonus if infantry or Recce vehicles approach within 12 inches or other things happen,....
In CoC a Anti Tank team can suddenly appear literally 'out of nowhere' and attempt to put a shaped charge into the side of your tank!
This is done by utilising a CoC dice (remember,.. Rolling '5's accumulates these and once I have scored six '5's I gain one CoC Die) and deploying a small team anywhere within 12inches of a 'Jump off' point but NOT within 6 inces of enemy infantry (they would have acquired the ambushers within that range).
Consequently I see a Sherman moving across a field within 18 inches of one of my JOP so I declare I'll stage an ambush! I discard my CoC die and place a Panzerfaust team I've held off table for just such an opportunity. Fritz is placed behind a hedge 3 inches from the Sherman and fires!
In CoC it's not wise to have AFVs moving around unsupported by the foxhounds!
Oh, and you better have some troops in 'Overwatch' covering your armour
Close Air Support
Air support in CoC is something totally random and I'm fine with that.
The forces in play in these Skirmish level games really shouldn't simply call up a P47 Thunderbolt. Sorry,... Those assets are held at Battalion or higher level. Probably DIVISIONAL!
Admittedly your force really could be the tip of the spear and yes, at battalion level the FAC needs to be placed somewhere, but that somewhere is usually Battalion Tac Hq or with a Company Commander and maybe he's been sent off with a platoon,..
In BA you can obtain a FAC. Fair enough
When you go into close combat in BA any 'pin' markers (which simulate the 'Shock' or 'Suppression' troops are enduring) are removed!
ALL of them!
Like a wise section commander you've been working like a demon to win the firefight before committing to the hand to hand stuff but now as the entrenching tools and bayonet work is about to start the enemy suddenly finds his guts and fights!
Everyone is now a hero,...
All the shock you've applied is now for naught,...
Now obviously there is an element of what I've just mentioned (guys throwing up their hands or simply refusing to fight) taking place and the 'results' will be seen in the final outcome of the hand to hand combat.
It's simply abstracted into the results.
Hand to Hand is usually not simultaneous in BA,...
If your unit has been activated and you're in the 'open' then there is little chance you'll be able to fight back as the attacker will mete out his hits before you do. Only if you have some guys still standing can you reply.
I just don't like the fact that unless your defenders are behind an obstacle they don't fight simultaneously with their attackers.
There appears to be more abstraction taking place in BA to simplify the game and that's ok by me. Game design is always a compromise between realism and playability.
In CoC in almost all circumstances both sides fight EXCEPT in the situation where one side has an advantage in combat dice of 4 to 1 or greater.
In that case the weaker side routs immediately in a terrible state of shock!
Otherwise it's brutal and it's possible both participants can be wiped out,.. As it should be.
Close Combat in CoC, (like most things) is slightly more complex than in BA.
Small Arms Firepower:
In CoC a German MG 42 generates 8 dice which is over half the sections Firepower
In BA it generates 4 dice less then half!
That speaks volumes (pardon the pun) about both sets of rules!
In CoC the Machine Gun is king!
Well at least as far as the Germans are concerned. Looking at a German infantry section you soon see that the section is built around the MG34/42.
But looking at a Brit section you see manoeuvre is the name of the game, with the Bren not providing as much punch.
Consequently the Platoon Commander in CoC is better off playing his sections historically.
The German trying to dominate with his excellent LMGs (often by 'Attaching' the Section Commander to the LMG team to add extra dice) and the Brit relying on manoeuvre and the excellent accuracy of the Bren to target specific teams within the enemies forces.
BELOW: German Infantry with PINS or SHOCK
In BA when you score a hit on the enemy, whether it be one hit or several you only inflict 1 pin marker.
To be fair, if you inflict 50% or more casualties you do trigger a 'Do or Die' moral test.
By contrast in CoC you might not cause any actual casualties when you engage an enemy section squad or team but you may inflict so much 'shock' on them they become paralysed or even break in flight!
In BA you start with Teams or Sections / Squads, (which can be as big or as small as you wish within certain parameters). During game play you can't form a 'Team' from a 'Section'. For example, a section commander can't order his scouts to move to the intersection and check out that area, or send his Bren team off to a far flank.
Now you could I guess work around this by creating your sections / squads using two dice per squad. That us to say one die for 1 NCO with a SMG and 4 riflemen and another for a LMG team of 1 NCO and 4 men (2 manning a LMG) thus creating your German Squad. In effect 2 dice per section / squad, but that creates other issues and still leaves you with two independent 'teams' that might not be able to coordinate their movement and can't merge and split as the Squad leader desires.
In CoC this is possible. The Section command can splinter of small teams to perform tasks and then reconstitute his section, just as in reality.
As a platoon commander you and your sections have that tactical flexibility in CoC. You don't in BA.
Orbats or 'Lists':
Bolt Action lists look to me like something out of Warhammer 40k.
Seriously, you can 'pick n mix' pretty much to your hearts content.
You don't select historically accurate sections or squads in BA. Rather you 'Purchase' teams of about 5 men (on average I'd say) or teams that you can increase to proper squad strengths. As noted this can create a situation where you could conceivably create a squad or section consisting of 10 men with TWO Command Dice.
Games could well be decided by who can throw together the 'gamyest' order of battle rather than who possessed the best tactical grasp of what's going on.
CoC lists detail the specifics of each platoon type and then give that platoon a force 'Rating' which goes toward indicating what 'Support' options you can choose.
Anything from (for the British Motor Platoon in 1944) a single 'Sticky Bomb' or some barbed wire to a Churchill Crocodile Tank with a Junior Leader!
CoC lists drive you toward historically accurate orders of battle (Orbats) and support options.
Both rules sets allow for some limited 'National Characteristics'.
As viewed through a Periscope, (handy for 'TRUE Line Of Sight' games like CoC and BA)
A Brit Cromwell tank comes undone AND "Don't bunch up boys"!
Both systems will provide you with an enjoyable challenging game.
Both systems are well supported.
But here's one of my bigger gripes with BA,...
The poorer (points wise cheaper) quality your troops are the more troops (and as a consequence) 'Command dice' you'll get!
This is crazy as it supposes the worse your troops are the more likely you are to gain the initiative.
In CoC the better your troops the more dice you get and the more likely you are to gain the initiative and the better your Command and Control is.
For game balance in CoC the Green Troops will either gain more support options or lessen their opponents support options.
Warlord Games have been churning out plenty of Army Lists and for about $40 a book you can buy them, and they are very nice books indeed with lots of great Osprey Publishing illustrations.
There are lots of podcasts supporting BA also.
Too Fat Lardies also gave done a good job in supporting Chain of Command with two RULES Supplement!
Big CoC focuses on having a Tank or Assault Gun force as the basis of your command and At The Sharp End provides rules for playing a campaign!
There is also three (at this time) mini campaign books:
All army lists are FREE for download from the TFL forum and they have lists covering not just WW2 but also the Spanish Civil War!
There are moves afoot to produce a modern version of CoC called 'Fighting Season' and a WW1 variant is also available.
Both systems provide online video tutorials via YouTube
I HIGHLY recommend you watch both for an excellent introduction to both systems.
Hell. I could simply post both YouTube links and save myself all this writing,...
Here they are (grab a hot chocolate and a Tim Tam or two and enjoy):
Chain Of Command
Bolt Action has a huge following and finding someone to play against in most clubs certainly shouldn't be a challenge.
It's simplicity makes it ideal for introducing people to the period and I myself use BA to introduce youngsters to Wargaming.
If you want to have some fun, push some WW2 soldiers around a table and can live with some oddities then Bolt Action is great!
For me however Chain Of Command is much more challenging and realistic and it truly feels like I'm commanding a WW2 Platoon for only a very slight increase in complexity.
I really appreciate the effort the guys at TFL have gone to produce such a realistic yet elegantly simply system.
From experience I can tell you Chain Of Command is as close as you'll get to the real thing.
Here are some relevant LINKS:
The CoC Forum
Too Fat Lardies
The BA Forum
UPDATE: CoC is on SALE! 20% OFF for Sept 2015
Link here: http://toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/?p=5132