Friday, November 21, 2014

Combat Friction and Command Challenges

When playing a game like Chain of Command, Combat Commander, or Blitzkrieg Commander II that all place restrictions on how many forces you’re allowed to command a turn I always like to picture what these are simulating.

Screen shot from the Amazon page for this book.
For example, in my last BKCII game, the Germans faced a negative 1 modifier to their command for the current and next turns because of a blunder. Perhaps there was a radio malfunction?

Here’s an example of friction/command troubles from a book I’m reading, Grenadiers, by Kurt Meyer. This is from the Eastern Front in early July. They’re starting to experience more resistance and he says this:
“I wanted to carry out a motorized attack in order to immediately advance into the depths of the Russian defense…

“I had forbidden the company to engage the enemy or reduce sped before reaching the forest’s edge. It was supposed to thunder at full steam through the enemy and leave everything else to the following battalion. Two 88mm guns had been emplaced on either side of the road. They had the mission of opening fire as soon as the company set off and laying down covering fire in front of it. The would “shoot” the company forward.” (Now that sounds like it would be an interesting game move to re-play.)

“Escaping Russians ran north on both sides of the road. But then what happened? The company came to a halt. It started to fight with the fleeing Russians and with isolated pockets of resistance.
“The company began to advance like infantry and wasted precious time. This could not be allowed to happen!”

(NOTE – here comes the scenario objective) “We had to reach the crossroads a few kilometers further north and deny the Russians an orderly retreat out of the forest to the left of our line of advance.”

I like that line, “began to advance like infantry…”

So, it happens, your little lead/metal/plastic men get wrapped in the moment and attack when you don’t want them to. Or they get overwhelmed with self-preservation and don’t move when the time is right. Perhaps a gun’s jammed and they all get focused on fixing it. Whatever the cause, as a commander at any level, you lose control of the situation and have to make snap decisions to get the plan back on track. And this is what I like about these games, they throw little kinks here and there that make you curse, think, and act.


  1. This sort of 'narrative' building is why I have personally love these sorts of rule systems and am a big fan of Piquet (sort of the ultimate in chaos). Some dislike the lack of control preferring to know exactly how far and when (in the sequence of play) the little lead or plastic chaps will move or fire etc
    Rulesets with less 'strict' sequencing whether it be via dice rolls, card or chit draws are however IMHO the better simulations in many ways and give a more satisfying game in many ways.
    I happily play both styles however :-)

  2. There should always be element of chance (friction) in any enterprise that claims to represent military operations. I like how you called it friction - interestingly Von Clausewitz also said that "war most closely resembles a game of cards."