I've been meaning to do a comparison of these two rule systems for a
considerable time but other things just simply get in the way, like other
projects (Commissions, my ongoing La Haye Sainte project, painting 100s of Perry
Miniatures, and building lots and lots of terrain,..).
Well finally here it
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
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
: A Brit Airborne 6 Pdr covering down a road somewhere in Holland
(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!
Too Fat Lardies, Chain Of Command
(CoC) works much differently.
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).
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.
In Bolt Action (BA) you select or dice for a scenario, set up and
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
It represents scouts or recon patrols probing ahead of your main
force and establishing what is referred to as Jump Off Points (JOP).
from these JOPs your troops enter the table, and the loss of which can have
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
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')
: 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
And to do this SHOULD be easy.
It's my phase of turn
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)
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
Ambushes in BA aren't true ambushes.
cow! Where did they come from"?
In other words they are really just in
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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
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.
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
: 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
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
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
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"!
will provide you with an enjoyable challenging game.
Both systems are well
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.
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.
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
There are lots of podcasts supporting BA also.
Lardies also gave done a good job in supporting Chain of Command with two RULES
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
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.
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,...
are (grab a hot chocolate and a Tim Tam or two and enjoy):
Chain Of Command
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
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!
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
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