The Ethiopian Chitet army list is one of the most unique and different lists in Chain of Command:Abyssinia. This series of posts looks to get under the ‘hood’, taking a peek at some of its options, how it can be put together and highlighting some of its tactical strengths and weaknesses in play.
More than any other list the Ethiopian Chitet is the most ‘non Chain of Command’ army list you are likely to find. Near all other platoons are structured to use a traditionally organised and essentially similarly equipped platoon with assigned leaders to control your men on the tabletop…training!
The Chitet list is a wholly irregular force and thus will need to be organised in a way that most Chain of Command players are not used to. The Baluch (platoon) must be put together to maximise its effectiveness to do the task you expect it to do by playing to its unique strengths and trying to limit it weaknesses. It’s lack of all-round firepower, little to no training that is mixed in with its warrior ethos will limit its utility when confronted with a range of possible tactical situations.
Particularly its lack of effective firepower against the flexibility of a modern army platoon who are equipped and trained in combined arms tactics using altogether better equipment means that particular attention is needed to enable the more ‘limited’ options to be used to best effect by a Chitet player. We shall try and look at this in a methodical way.
If we start with the platoon itself it’s worth looking at how it can be organised according to the list as follows;
Having a look at the list above before we take account of any support list options, which will be covered in a later post, we can see a number of important points.
The list itself is very flexible with its gascegna being made up of three to five units (hazbs or ‘squad’), but they come with an inherent weakness in that they are only activated on a dice score of ‘2’. This is the first indicator that command and control is going to be something that you want to maximise for the baluch, or mitigate by the way you divide up the gascegna into the respective hazbs when putting together your battle plan.
An important choice from the very start will be whether you take a force with four command dice or five. Naturally CD5 is the better option unless you feel the extra three support list points will help your pre battle plan – not inconsiderable given it can provide your gascegna with ‘mixed weapons’ or a full 15-man boost to your forces total overall, though command could be an issue for an increased force size – we shall look at command and control in a number of ways a little later. Taking a CD5 force also improves combat resilience which can be seen on the Irregular Fire and Combat Results table (below), this reflecting an overall better led, more experienced and committed force. So the command dice you choose will to a degree dictate the potential style with which you will be choosing to play with the baluch.
Looking at the actual break-up of the gascegna into its hazbs we see that the first limitation is that a single hazb can be up to 20 figures strong. How this effects the decision to take larger units will be predicated on the effect this size unit has in play. This limitation means there must be at least three units within the gascegna, but each could be 20 men strong if sufficient support points or a platoon force rating split existed to allow such an increase in size.
If we look at the specific rules regarding Irregulars we can see how the different hazb size affects its ability to absorb losses and perform in the game. To recap unit sizes in CoC:Abyssinia; Small (1-6 figures), Medium (7-15 figures) or Large (16-20 figures).
So a 20-man strong hazb will be considered a Large unit. It retains this size classification as long as it remains 16 figures or more in size. So until losses are received it will test as a Large unit on the Fire and Combat effect table.
We can see that for a CD4 or CD5 force their combat ‘resilience’ is different so this is where the CD5 options will possibly prove more effective in attack. If the gascenga is taken as CD4 it will be suited for defence (allowing it 3 extra support list points by its reduced platoon rating cost) hopefully requiring less command ability to move to achieve the scenario objective. Though this is not the entire story and attacking with a CD4 force is still quite possible.
Thus the larger (CD5) unit will, subject to modifiers, pass any required test on the table on 3-6, with a pin result on 2 and a rout result on 1. Therefore if a the unit can garner a single +1 modifier then a large hazb can take quite a beating and still keep on coming i.e. no shock, it just keeps coming! If it’s in any way well motivated, it can be seen therefore that a Large unit is quite hard to stop. The only way for your opponent to do so is to reduce your motivation or inflict one or more pins on you…woe to him if you contact him and you are well motivated as you derive combat bonus attacks for the level of motivation you have as well!
Now, as you can see, this immediately indicates that a CD5 force made up of Large units is going to take some stopping – but given the 3-5 hazb restriction on the gascegna, just how many chitet can an Ethiopian player get into his force to take advantage of this natural advantage they possess?
This question off course will depend on the Platoon Force Rating (PFR) split between armies and the subsequent support allowed to each side based on the scenario being played. However if we take some typical averages then a CD5 Regular chitet gascegna has a PFR of +2. This would represent a good force to attack an enemy with. If we assume that a typical opponent is an Italian Regular Fucilieri platoon then this has a PFR of +3…so these two forces are pretty evenly matched with the Fucilieri PFR only being one more than the Chitet. A typical scenario allows an attacker 2D6 support list points usually limited to 10 maximum, thus the chitet can at best gain in this confrontation 11 support list points.
This doesn’t leave too many options open to expansion right from the outset based on a straight comparison of PFRs but potentially a scenario can significantly increase the number of chitet allowed…possibly an intimidating prospect for a player opposing such an Ethiopian force.
To continue our example, if you take one large hazb (20men) and then add in the remaining 30 men from the gascegna, plus 5 more that the +1 PFR would allow, you’d have 35 men that would need to be split between the remaining two, three or four hazbs. This could include another 20 man large unit leaving you with a rather full sized ‘medium ‘ unit (15men). Whilst this would provide you with a powerful three hazb force it does reduce tactical manoeuvre units somewhat and present a rather large target for enemy forces who can concentrate their fire on only two or three enemy units at most….quite possibly with only one or two on table depending on the success of the hazb’s deployment…which is always a consideration when your opponent has an artillery advantage that can hinder your ability to get units on-table (something the Italians excelled at in the real Italo-Ethiopian War).
If we consider however that the 11 support list points are available in some scenarios then that would allow for an increase of 55 men in total over and above the base 50 men in the gascegna. This would now allow for five hazbs of 20 men each which would be a serious number of Ethiopian troops. If you opponent wasn’t intimidated before he should be now! Many scenarios will not allow this many additional support points but it is still possible for a chitet force to gain many support list points if the PFR split is great enough, such as that between a regular CD4 chitet balcuh (PFR -1) and an Italian Bersaglieri platoon (PFR +6). Even with an average 2D6 support dice roll of 7 you can still increase your force by (7x5men) i.e. 35 men.
If however you decided to ‘max out’ on support list options and keep your hazbs smaller then you’re introducing hazbs into the equation who eventually will be quite brittle if reduced to a Small size with only a modest number of casualties. You can see on the Fire and Combat results table that a (CD5) Small unit needs to be motivated/highly motivated for it to reasonably expect to shake off the effects of fire. If this is not the case then these units start to become vulnerable to being ‘picked off’ by a wily enemy commander.
…and so whilst you may have a very powerful hazb and lots of support list choices you also have a number of quite weak ones…so begins the puzzle for the Ethiopian Chitet force commander to contend with when organising his force..size vs support list choices – large and fewer units or more flexibility balancing unit size and command potential and support options for the force as a whole…a question for the next instalment.
In part II we’ll look at the effects of the irregular warriors rules and national characteristics of the Chitet and see how that can effect gascegna organisation as well as taking a look at the specific notes relating to the baluch and ways it can be used in play. In part III we’ll round out the list discussion by looking at the specific elements of the support list choices taking everything into account by bringing all these factors together to prepare our chitet baluch for play….and then on to a battle report to see how all this plays out.