Ethiopian Chitet in Chain of Command…a closer look (part III)

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In part II we looked at how the irregular rules dictate the manner in which the chitet behave which should be central to how we look at forming our balcuh. In this part we can now review the support list options available as we’re in a better position to select options that take into account all of the previous discussion.

There are a good selection of support lists choices for the Chitet player and they are all relatively ‘low cost’ so quite a few can be taken subject to the limitation of being of a certain type, such as ‘on-off’ choices like a Red Cross Volunteer, Tribal LMG, and so on.

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As discussed in the last post we elaborated on the idea of the Chitet being taken as a command dice 4 or 5 (CD4 or CD5) platoon, which directly affects the command potential of the baluch. Surprisingly the chances of you building up a chain of command dice (by the score of a ‘5’ on your command dice roll) whether you roll four or five command dice remains relatively the same. It is an interesting exercise to see these ‘perfect world’ percentages, though we all know that the odds don’t tell the entire story when it comes to rolling dice!

For example, if a player rolls 4D6 vs 5D6 then the chances of him scoring at least one score of ‘5’ is essentially the same at 39% ±1%, however two ‘5s’ occurs 12% and 16% respectively, and three 5s is a poultry 2% or 3% for both dice pools…so you can see that rolling four or five command dice (CD4 or CD5) doesn’t greatly effect your ability to build up a chain of command dice, though off course it effects your ability to issue command dice to individual units as you are doing other things with that extra dice, not just building up chain of command points!

Of two factors often critical in play for irregular forces i.e. the building up a chain of command dice or forcing an end of turn, the former is the most important. As previously discussed the end of turn is something not necessarily desirable if you have an already highly motivated baluch though it will be welcome if your motivation is wavering. Whilst messing with the murky world of statistics (war is a science and an art after all), a couple of simple dice roll stats are worth mentioning.

As we have seen the chances of building up a chain of command dice are relatively the same each time you roll four or five command dice, looking for a score of ‘5’. The next interesting question is which command dice pool best enables a player the opportunity for back to back phases (by the roll of two 6s) on a command dice rolls. This can be important in a force that can move quickly and wishes to close with the enemy.

When rolling four or five command the dice the chances of two 6s occurring is 12% vs 16%. When determining the chance of an end of turn die roll by the roll of three 6s the number are 2% vs 3%…very low and virtually the same. So it can be seen that the difference between rolling four command dice and five command dice does not greatly effect the chances of either building up chain of command points, forcing a back to back phase event or indeed ending the turn by rolling three 6s….that is useful to know.

However, if a player  wishes to engage his opponent by taking the fight to him with more aggressive movement it is likely he’s going to want to take a CD5 option simply because he has a larger dice pool to allocate and/or ‘combine’ dice scores to achieve the desired command dice score needed to activate his hazbs, remembering off course that hazbs activate on the command dice score of ‘2’, so dice scores of ‘1’ are not necessarily that useful (though they can be added to other dice scores as usual) or unless support list teams are taken, which we shall look at shortly.

Conversely the CD4 force will enable a less capable command ability but the three extra support list points can enhance the command and control of the unit by the acquisition of a number of items such as a Balabat (i.e. a junior Leader assignable to one hazb only), A Senior Ranking Leader or the use of the Flag for commanding your forces.

Therefore, with some of the above considerations reviewed, we can look at a number of ways to form a balcuh to represent the type of force we’re after. For example, it can be very large but generally have a poor command ability (CD4), or one with a greater command potential (CD5) with less support list points cost, but can further increase its flexibility by adding leaders, Flags and providing motivating elements such as war drums. There are a number of options, so let’s look at a few of these in detail.

A large force is generally a good thing for the chitet. If we refer back to the Irregular rules ‘fire and combat effects’ table (below) we see that it distinguishes between a CD4 force and CD5 force with the later having a greater ability to shrug of fire and combat effects – this reflecting a general level of inherent motivation and ‘go forward’ within the balcuh. However note that a Large CD4 unit has the same ability to shrug of losses as a medium CD5 unit…so group size effects motivation.

If we compare the PFR ratings between CD4 vs CD5 you see that the Platoon Force Rating difference is three support list points which we can translate into three ‘Additional Men’ choices (3 x 5men i.e. 15 men) thereby bumping up the size of your hazbs and making them that much tougher and bigger. If we can make one or two units a large size then its combat reliance will be the same as a CD5 hazb but will have more men in it – note there is no limitation on the number of Additional Men choices on the support list table.

You still have to contend with the reduced command ability (CD4 vs CD5) but it does mean more men in larger units and this pushes the basic 50 man baluch to 65 men thereby giving you three large 19-20 man hazbs with a smaller single hazb as a 6 man unit (as each hazb can be no smaller than 6 men). This large, but command limited baluch, can still be a nasty force to deal with, it having three large ‘combat’ hazbs when combined with the chitet aggressive and Arrai! characteristics makes them potentially quite dangerous…and we haven’t really got into the support list choices yet. So the reduced command dice options is not necessarily one to easily discount.

A review of the close combat factors will obviously show that large hazbs are best if you want to engage in combat where you may be able to overwhelm any enemy you encounter. The baluch organisation table and guidelines show that it is possible to organise a force using large hazbs (20 men) so if we were to go for the most basic chitet force possible it would consist of a CD4 baluch with some additional support list choices as determined by the scenario. Most scenarios allow a player 1D6 or 2D6 support list points depending on whether the force is the attacker or defender and the points allocated for the scenario itself. If we took an average of 3-6 support list points then we can see that perhaps the three extra support list points for a CD4 force might be a quite good way to ensure you always get large size hazbs in your force.

If we really felt bold you could take a Green force and gain even more support list points based on the rather low PFR of -3. This would provide them with a full 6 support list points based on a split with a typical Italian Fucilieri platoon (PFR+3). Thus a player could build up his basic 50 man baluch with an additional 30 men, providing him with four 20-man Green CD4 hazbs. This is before we get any scenario based support list points. Now, if we assume the Chitet player does organise his large but cumbersome baluch this way with only 3-4 support list points available then how might he best use these for this unwieldily tribal baluch?

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Such a large force really lacks command ability so finding a way to control a large force  will be key. You’ve now got to find a way to get those large units into contact with the enemy. We must also keep an eye on the ever present idea that motivation is a constant factor for tribal forces. If we look at the support list choices a few options come to mind.

The first relates to motivation. Taking the War Drums options is a good way to help troops pass their motivation test. This is best done when morale is reduced as there is a possibility that the effect of the drums on the chitet’s morale will have no effect after a time (a 1 in 3 chance per time the drums beat). So for two support list points this is a good option to allow a senior leader and and an attached war drummer to effect a number of hazbs under his command when the moment is right…to help them ‘push on’.

The second option is possibly one of the first you’d take. The Flag. The Flag fulfils a dual role in Chain of Command:Abyssinia. Firstly it helps with motivation by allowing a unit with an attached flag to ignore one point of shock from the result of fire or combat. (Note the flag may be attached to a unit or to a senior leader, it does not roam around the table as an independent piece.)

The other benefit of the flag is its ability to transmit orders. This improves command and control but does have good/bad ‘side effects’ when doing so, depending on how you look at it. The Flag command says;

“A Senior Leader with a Flag Bearer, or with a unit that has one, can issue a Command by Flag order. He may, for one command initiative, activate a Section or Team (group) under his command (that has line of sight to the flag), which has otherwise not been activated in this Phase, regardless of the distance between them”.

Therefore, a player may take a relatively poorly commanded baluch and with a flag attached to his Amsa Aleqa (senior leader), control the hazbs with a small degree of ‘flexibility’. Thus the CD4 command dice should be used to activate your senior leader (command score ‘4’) as much as possible so he can then issue commands to one or more hazbs in the baluch by Flag command…all sounding rather tribal isn’t it!

Whilst this isn’t as subtle as individual junior leaders in teams, squads and sections being allocated command dice, in a course way, it provides the balcuh Amsa Aleqa the ability to exercise control over multiple hazbs instead of just hoping to get some good command dice roll scores that typically can only ever allow partial control of his hazbs in any particular phase. In fact, he could issue three such commands (each one costing him a command initiative) and control all his hazbs with ‘reasonable precision’ as the flag rule provides the potential to control multiple units;

All un-activated Sections/Teams within 6” of the ordered group must follow the same order.”

So by careful placement of your hazbs who are visible to the Amsa Aleqa command group something of a an orchestrated battle plan can be put together.

The other two ways to improve command potential is to take a Balabat, support list one cost, who provides a single hazb with a junior leader so increasing its flexibility in movement and whose presence also help counter adverse results on the Irregular fire and combat results table. Similarly a Ranking Senior Leader may be taken in addition to the usual two leaders in the baluch (Amsa Aleqa and Ammist Aleqa) and he will enhance the command potential of the platoon considerably. A selection of these options would add up to 4-6 support list points so even a CD4 force can enhance its command and control ability quite a bit and subtly use support list points to create different in game effects dependant on the chitet commanders style of play. One final point is that taking additional leaders can mean that their loss will have a very detrimental effect on your force so be careful with this as you don’t want to have to many possible causes of force morale loss due to leader loss.

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Turning now to a force that from the outset will have more command potential and rely less on the additional command support list choices outlined above, bolstering its force with other support list options. This type of force will probably steer the course of trying to enhance its firepower and provide the chitet player with a baluch that both fires and fights with lots of movement – a potentially deadly combination and not one that solely relies on brute strength to dominate their opponents.

Such a force will be taken as CD5 and Regular. That’s the best a baluch can be from the base platoon organisation, experience and command potential. This puts it on parity with the typical Italian fusilier platoon as discussed above. So if attacking it can expect to have about 8 support points and half that if defending…so what’s on offer?

If we take this in order of movement, firepower and then command we can see there are a number of ways to enhance movement in the baluch. Starting with deployment one of the best ways to get the jump on your enemy is to be able to deploy forward. This can be done using the Cave support list choice, cost two points. This option allows a unit to;

  • Deploy one unit an additional 6” further from a Jump‐Off point than would normally be the case (ie 15” for all troops – as all chitet have the infiltration ability); or
  • Move a jump‐off point (after the patrol phase, before the first game phase) up to 18” in any direction, so long as it is further than 12” from any enemy troops or Jump‐Off Point.

This is pretty useful! if we look at the first option this produces a near ambush effect for a complete unit. The Chitet national characteristic of Infiltration allows Patrol Markers to be moved 14″ instead of 12″ so right from the start the chitet get an edge in the patrol phase that can enable them to move quickly and seize opportune ground or engaging in a ‘rush attack’. When combined with the general deployment rule of 9″ and the extra ability of the Cave to push out a further 6″ you can immediately see that deployment off troops on-table for the wily chitet commander can be a real trump card in play.

An alternative is to take the second option and actually move a jump off point which can be very powerful in itself as it allows the deployment of more than one hazb from a location/direction that the enemy would possibly never expect or is unable to properly defend or support. The Cave option is certainly a great way to enhance speed of deployment for a single unit and hence contact with the enemy, but to be able to deploy two , three or more hazbs from a completely different direction might be a game changer right from the outset of play. To a large degree this option would also work well with the large combat based chitet force described above as it enables a quick overrun of your enemy and/or his  jump off points.

Another option is to mount a ten or twenty man hazb on horse, each 10-men costing two support list points. Though not as ‘sneaky’ as the Cave option cavalry do move fast and could prove useful in a scenario where such movement was important, such as the Probe scenario. These can be taken as lancers as well adding some extra sting in combat should that be desired.

Looking at firepower options, there are several to choose from. Starting with personal weapons for the cost of one support list choice you can either equip one 20-man hazb with Mixed Weapons or one 10-man hazb with Tribal Rifles. Whilst these are handy they are not overly useful as they incur a permanent -1 to hit modifier, and you are possibly not playing to the strength of the chitet by taking this option. It does give a chitet player a fire potential though that will often need to be attended to by the eneemy.

Either option (mixed weapons or tribal or rifles) is geared to allowing essentially the same volume of firepower from a 20 vs 10 man hazb so your initial hazb starting sizes to a degree will dictate which choice you take. If you are a defender in a scenario however some firepower options starts to make more sense. This will provide your force with some firepower which will help provide a balanced force and some mobile unit-based firepower potential, which isn’t necessarily a bad choice. At the very least it’ll mean the enemy will have to take into account that you can dish out some firepower that he must calculate for.

Turning to some heavy firepower options, two choices are available – a Tribal LMG or an Infantry Gun (of various types) – note you can only have one of each type of weapon. The LMG will off course give your opponent a problem he will need to attend to and it can make a useful base of fire for defending a position or to support an attack. All the usual benefits of an LMG team apply, including the added chance of jams, but an LMG is at least a useful choice to be able to use those command rolls of ‘1’ by having a Team to shoot with! The Infantry gun option will provide the Ethiopians with a surprise package should your enemy turn up with armour. Even the lowly 37mm gun at this time could ‘open up’ a Italian tankette like a can of sardines and the 65-70mm guns will do it with ease….but site it well to get maximum benefit for those three support list points.

So far as enhancing command and control is concerned the above discussion applies equally to a CD4 or CD5 force to varying degrees as well all other options available.

To round out this discussion we can touch on a few other items in the Chitet list. We’ve already mentioned the Ranking Senior Leader who can really add some command potential with this presence on table. If you’re anticipating any enemy armour then the use of a Tank Tipper team and Petrol Can attack allows for some anti-armour capability…not a bad option when combined with the cave option for deployment. A specialist Marksmen will be handy and with a single shot can really throw a spanner in the works for your enemy if he can take out a leader, which also will give a kick to your own force’s motivation level. There are some defensive options available also giving the usual defensive benefits and you can make your important leader pretty well immune to enemy assault by having a dedicated bodyguard section also.

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So with all that, how does this play out? In the next post we’ll put together a Ethiopian Chitet force and have ago at using against those damned Italians!

 

 

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