Mitch Abrahms, a regular Chain of Command (CoC) opponent, came up with a great way to represent snow drifts and sand dunes on the table top for CoC. I prevailed on him to write it up for me so I could present it here and on the CoC blog.
Playing a game of Chain of Command on the Russian Front presents a full gamut of gaming experiences. In models there are the Russians and Germans but also a host of German allies. In armored vehicles there is a choice of Early War AFVs with little armor, there are Russian heavies and everything in between. Various infantry formations are represented, from conscript hard pressed soldiers to elite and guard formations on both sides.
Playing in 15mm allows the game to give a perfect blend of soldiers in the field to space on the table. The WOW factor of 25/28mm is lessened but distance is enhanced. To me that is an equal trade-off. That is the great thing about our hobby. There is something for everyone.
From the rolling steppes of the Ukraine to the cities of Rostov and Stalingrad, the Russian Front allows gamers the ability to recreate those situations which allow the historical books to come to life and perhaps give some additional understanding of the challenges and concerns the real
combatants had to overcome. To do that the game master not only needs the forces (our soldiers and vehicles) but also model the terrain which is essential in giving the full experience some amount of justice.
When I first started playing in “Russia” I gathered together the normal things one would need. First was a ground-cloth – initially I used what I had and used a green one. But the experience was lacking for the players. They felt that if it was Russia, it had to be white so I invested in a white ground-cloth. Next were roads. I made the poor, dirt roads with water frozen on them. After all, it was winter (look outside – there’s snow [a white ground-cloth]. Everyone knows that Mother Russia is so expansive that the road network is poor and in mud they freeze solid.
I bought buildings which were transformed into a small village. Add those together and dozens of configurations can be made. Next I made winter trees and followed this up with two different types of broken ground. I had objectives to take and the pristine snow now had broken ground along the pathway allowing attackers a realistic means of reaching the objectives.
The big failing was vehicles. With the ground so flat and vehicles able to be fired at over broken ground, fields, and the “snow”, there appeared to be something missing. I had tried hills but they always gave the same result; they were too large and too consuming. The focal point always shifted to the hills. Additionally, this wasn’t realistic. There were no hills where this fighting had taken place historically. Perhaps folds in the terrain but no overpowering hills. What would give me the type of table I wanted and still give players choices on routes of movement. Looking for a long time at the table it seemed to hit on me that what was missing was snow drifts.
My first snow drifts were made out of Blue Foam. Small pieces which a tank could be placed next to in order to appear hull defilade. Looked fine – played poorly. Too many questions popped up about what could and could not be fired at or fired into. After a couple of weeks of trying different ideas I settled on the following and it appears to work fine. There is a piece of Blue Foam Board sculptured into different shapes but all approximating what a snow drift would look like. Under that, with the same shape as the Blue Foam (which btw is painted white) is white construction paper. Under that, and larger still, by a lot, is black construction paper. So, it is a three part structure: Blue or Pink Foam, White Construction Paper and then Black Construction Paper.
Here are the rules. If you are on the Black and fire goes through the Blue Foam you cannot be seen as you are hidden by the snow drift. As in most miniature rules, if you cannot be fired on, you cannot fire at a unit also across the Blue Foam. If you are on any part of the White Construction paper, you are in a firing position and the enemy can also fire at those troops. Finally, any forces on the drift itself can be fired on and they can fire (as firing is reciprocal).
A player can state his soldiers are on the white construction paper as sometimes the base hits both the white and black portions. When on the white portion they get a minus one for defense. If any soldiers go over the snow drift itself they move at a rate of broken ground and if vehicles go in they must take a bog check. Finally, fire against soldiers on the white construction paper MUST go through the Blue Foam in order to get the benefit of terrain. If the enemy fires from the side and around the drift, there is no terrain benefit.
I have used these rules during two years of gaming with our local players, at a couple of other local conventions as well as at two Historicons and the snow drift rules have worked out remarkably well.
Dick Bryant has suggested I change the black construction paper borders for clear ones so that they are not opposites (black against white). I am considering that. While the eye appeal may be better, it is possible that it is not as apparent where a soldier sits as well as making it more difficult for those vision challenged (like me) or from across the table. So at this time it is under advisement.
NOTE: This method would work just as well for Desert settings. – Dick Bryant