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

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In the previous post we looked at some of the issues relating to force make up when selecting an Ethiopian Chitet baluch (platoon) in Chain of Command:Abyssinia. In this post we’ll take a closer look at the national characteristics and specific baluch notes pertaining to the way the Ethiopian chitet commander can expect to use them during play.

 

 

To recap, as allowed by the list our baluch (platoon) is composed of 50 men, led by two leaders, they being an Amsa Aleqa (Senior Leader) and an Ammist Aleqa, (Superior Junior Leader). The gascenga can be broken into 3-5 hazbs (sections) and no hazb can be larger than twenty men, or less than six. These form the base parameters to build our baluch off. Let’s start with the Chitet’s national characteristics.

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Ok, so how do the national characteristics play into this? To take the last one first, needless to say the Ethiopian Chitet use the Irregular rules in the specific rules of the supplement which we referenced in part I. These rules have a number off nuances in them that are worth pointing out as they will most likely affect other choices we might make from our support list and should always form part of our thinking as they govern how our warriors will behave.

The most obvious is the actual size of the hazb, which can be increased using the ‘additional men’ support list choice. As previously explained this directly affects a hazb’s ability to absorb fire and combat results. Movement speed of irregulars is one of their strengths. They may move 3D6″ each turn for no ill effects, unless firing, so the ability of hazbs to close with the enemy means a close combat outcome is often something the warriors will seek. Unit size is important in combat thus a large hazb that can move quickly is a potent combination.

Motivation is critical to irregulars, in fact it is everything, so anything that improves motivation or helps prevent it reducing or staying so is an important consideration. The first and often most subtle way to control motivation is through the chain of command dice. The play of a ‘CoC-dice’ to end a Turn can be a very good way to eliminate the effects of unmotivated or wavering warriors, as well as all the other effects of the end of turn occurring.

This represents the pause in action for the shaken warriors to regain their composure and  once again come back to the fight. Whilst the ‘CoC-dice can be used for a number of uses this one is often a very good, possibly the most important, use of the chain of command dice by the chitet commander. As mentioned, all other ‘end of turn’ effects apply so having a ‘broken unit with a leader’ would possibly be a reason not to end a turn…hopefully you won’t have bad motivation and broken units with leaders! The reverse of this will also be the case i.e. if you have very high motivation you will l likely want to keep the turn from ending which you can do by the play of the chain of command dice.

The flip side of to countering the effect of unmotivated warriors is finding easy or ‘cheap’ ways to get them motivated. During play this is done by having your opponent suffer a force morale drop. It doesn’t matter by how much, the warriors need only know that they gained ‘a success’ and their motivation improves. So any way you can organise your plan to motivate and excite your warriors is a good things and having fast small units to move may be an economical way to do this, something to consider when determining the final number of hazbs in the gascegna.

These could take the form of a small scout detachments for example to grab enemy jump off points (JOPs) particularly when combined with the chitet’s infiltration ability. Equally such a small force can disproportionately force you opponent to place down a unit to protect those same jump off points…a clever ploy for a small hazb or sub unit of a larger one.

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Getting back to the National Characteristics. Infiltration gives the chitet an ability that enhances their patrol phase by the additional 2″ of patrol marker movement (14″ instead of 12″) which can make a noticeable difference. Whilst not all-powering this patrol phase advantage should be exploited at every opportunity. When combined with the second part of the infiltration attribute allowing any hazb, regardless of quality, to deploy within 9″ of the JOPs, then this really gives the chitet and ability to rapidly move (deploy) in the opening stages of a game.

When one considers the chitet’s ability to move 3d6″ (that’s an average of 11″ of movement per turn) you can really see that speed is a major weapon in the chitet’s arsenal. If you start to think of small rapid moving unit’s to grab enemy JOPs and hard hitting large hazb units to overrun you are starting to think like a irregular warrior leader in chain of command!

Which leads onto the second national characteristic, Warrior Leaders! This trait allows a unit with an attached leader to ignore a single point of shock when it is inflicted, regardless of the cause. For example, if a medium sized hazb suffered two shock ‘hits’ or one kill (which counts as ‘two shock’) then one ‘shock’ is ignored meaning no test would be taken. This potentially gives one or two of your hazbs an ability to have some additional ‘go forward’ by being able to ‘shake off’ enemy shock hits…very useful to keep an attack going.

In addition leaders have an unique ability that only an irregular commander possesses. For the cost of one command initiative point a leader may attempt to rally off pin markers during a Turn (by the score of a 6, rolling 1D6 per CI spent). This means a leader with a pinned unit can possibly rally off pin markers without needing got wait for an end of Turn as regular troops do in Chain of Command, so it is possible to even restore a routed unit back to pinned or ‘fresh’ status in the same Turn…this reflecting the fickle nature of irregular forces. This is an important difference to all other regular troops in Chain of Command who progressively deteriorate due to a build up shock, ultimately becoming pinned or possibly broken, which their unit leader attempts to mitigate by lifting shock as one of his primary tasks during a phase.

The final national characteristic is Arrai! This trait is both potentially a help and hinderance. It really does depend on when this occurs as it is solely driven by the roll of the chitet player’s command dice roll. To a degree this comes back to the type of force you wish to represent. A less motivated force (CD4) has less chance it will roll two 6s or more than a more motivated one using CD5 (13% vs 20% respectively). This reminds us of our earlier comment about CD4 troops probably being more useful in defence than attack.

However one potential tactical option can be used with Arrai! to make it potentially threatening and a cause of concern for your opponent as well as a possible game changer for the Chitiet player.

If a player was to move a hazb into cover under the leadership of a senior leader and then have that unit ‘go to ground’ it essentially places the unit in hard cover. This makes the hazb quite resilient (for a time) to the effects of shock when fired upon. As it takes 6 shock to trigger a check on the fire & combat effect table for a large CD5 hazb it is conceivable that an enemy force may not be able to reasonably bring enough ‘effective fire’ upon the hazb to cause it to force a check. This reflects a large group of men using every advantage of ground to deny the enemy a target and awaiting their leader’s command to attack.

By way of example it can be seen that a full strength Italian platoon can bring about 13 fire dice on any one target. Against hard cover you need a 6 to kill and a 5 to shock.  So on average those 13 fire dice will deliver 2 kills and 2 shock. Statistically quite effective. An attached leader however enables a hazb to ignore one point of shock so in this case it could conceivably ignore the test, not to forget that being aggressive also allows a unit to shake of one point of shock. If off course it had to test, and its motivation was high then it would likely pass the test anyway…never forget about motivation! Needless to say that if the hazb does start taking losses it progressively reduces in size and once it has less than 15 men it then test as a medium sized unit and thus becomes more susceptible to a bad morale outcome.

Now  ‘going to ground’ and taking fire isn’t off itself that useful unless you want to achieving something for all this pain. This is where your chain of command dice stratagem comes in. If you have a command dice pool of 5 dice and chose to roll an additional 2 command dice by using your CoC dice then you have 7 dice to roll in one phase. Now the Arrai! rule states that you need two 6s or more for it to come into play. This means you have a 33% chance of rolling at least two 6s on those seven dice. If you do so you will move 4D6″ (average 13″). As you need only get 4″ to an enemy to enter close combat then you can reasonably be 17″ away from an enemy and charge. That’s a very long range hit! If you do so your enemy does not roll the 4D6 in combat for your movement…essentially gifting you a 4D6 combat bonus.

If you then put in all your other combat factors for high motivation and being aggressive all of sudden your hazb has a lot of combat potential. If you wanted to ‘play the odds’ you could sit outside the enemies close fire range (18″) and more or less go to ground with impunity from his fire and still expect to close on 4D6…a bit more of a gamble but doable. Anyway, you get the idea. if the tactical terrain allows for such a deployment then this may be an excellent way to overrun an enemy unit by a charge directly at him with minimal cost to your hazb….it’s worth keeping in mind should the tactical situation allow such a stratagem to come into play.

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As mentioned above the Chitet command dice pool can in fact represent a tactical posture by the Ethiopian player as he is less capable of forward aggressive movement with a CD4 force and less susceptible to the Arrai! rule when rolling four command dice than five. You can start to see once again the subtle effects that come into play by deciding what type of Chitet force you field and what you want to be able to do with your baluch, or can expect it to do, in the upcoming engagement.

The Arrai! rule off course only applies when your Senior Leader is near a unit but given the random nature of it occurring you need to have your leaders placed accordingly so that they don’t get a rush of blood to the head and order a premature attack and end up in the open out of puff…you have been warned! Similarly though there is good upside to the Arrai! rule if you can get your hazb near the enemy and often from a a covered approach. You get bonus movement and negate some of your enemy’s firepower so this combined with a large hazb attacking that is well motivated will potentially prove an unstoppable force.

So the number of leaders, where they are a placed and the type of chitet you are representing with command dice are all factors you should be considering before you get to the support list table.

Before we finish this post we should just touch on the unique chitet special abilities that they have.

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The first is that the chitet is ask ways considered Aggressive. The rule for being Aggressive are as follows;

“Troops that are rated Aggressive who receive shock from firing or combat ignore the first point received from each occasion of shock inflicted on them in a phase (so they can potentially shake off multiple shock ‘hits’ inflicted upon them)”.

Aggressive troops shake off shock, much like the attached Warrior Leader rule. This now gives them the ability to shake of two shock hits (or one kill) from enemy fire if a leader is attached. This is very useful for if we consider for example that a typical rifle squad shoots with roughly 10 fire dice, then generally only half will hit and off these maybe one or two shock, or perhaps a kill, will result. This would allow a hazb to essentially disregard the fire on the unit..those chitet are starting to look nastier yet again.

If we then add in the effect of the second trait, Sons of Adwa, then it is highly likely that the chitet will start the game motivated or possibly highly motivated (as this adds a pre game motivation check dice roll  modifier) which gives them a very good chance of shaking of fire effects as well as giving them added dice in Hand to Hand combat. In case you haven’t notices it yet, the chitet are all about getting up close and personal with their enemy!! Youur enemy will likely try to end a turn to reduce your mitivation as quickly as possible and inflict kills to reduce your hazb size to their pint where motivation fire and combat tests become more frequent.

Lastly, there is one small but quite important note on the Baluch traits we haven’t discussed yet. It is the fourth point that describes the hazb being able to split just like any other section in Chain of Command and being ordered by Flag. This ‘Creating New Teams’ is something that is not often seen much in a usual chain of command game, most likely I suspect, because organised groups/teams in a regular army platoon are already split into something of an optimal fashion in most armies.

For an irregular hazb however this is not necessarily the case. In fact it may be prudent to start your hazbs as large a possible (20-men) and then break away teams as you need them as the tactical situation develops. There is also safety in numbers as the larger units can shake of fire and combat effects as well…so this is a smart option for chitet players to consider, however, remember that each ‘section’ needs a ‘2’ command dice score to activate so creating new hazbs as it were really should be done within the constraints of their allotted task being reasonably able to be carried out subject to the Baluchi command potential, which leads us nicely into the next post in the series.

 

 

In the next post in the series we’ll take a look at the support list choices available and see how we can pull all of the above thoughts, ideas and considerations into making appropriate support list choices to tailor our chitet baluch into an effective fighting force….see you then!

 

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

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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.

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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;

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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!

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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.