Friday, 23 May 2014

Command Decision: Test of Battle - Notes and Thoughts

 I have played all the iterations of the Command Decision rules. I first encountered them in the mid-nineties when a colleague introduced me to the first edition and we had a blast playing a spot of WW2 wargaming. The rules have always been geared towards scenario play and have not included any kind of points system until the Test of Battle (CDTOB) variant came out. Originally it was well supported with Command Post Quarterly which included scenarios, orders of battle and campaign games. There were even a couple of campaign games included as articles in Miniature Wargames.

So, when the Test of Battle variant came out, I snapped it up at the first opportunity. It has all the rules, streamlined to make the game less involved, while still maintaining the right feel. There is no longer any need to track ammunition usage for each individual vehicle, and you no longer get a bazillion shots per turn. Spotting no longer relies on a die roll and is now purely deterministic based on range and cover. All of this makes the game easier to play and yet does not detract from the feel.

The first printing of the rules (the version I have) includes six late war Western Front and six late war Eastern Front scenarios to get you started easily. It also includes a scenario generation system including a points system, so you can more easily create pick-up games, and tables of organisation and equipment are provided for late war German, Russian, British and American forces. The ToEs for various armies are provided free on the Command Decision website and you can also download the battlegroups for the scenario generation system. Additional force lists are provided on these pages and in various supplements that have been released.

Scenario Generation System
You are given a core force (usually a little below battalion strength) and buy reinforcements for it. These comprise additional infantry companies, tank squadrons support assets and command elements. The final results seem to reflect battlegroup composition quite well, with not too much room for finagling the super-army or fielding 500 Tiger IIs. As you buy troops they are allocated to one of three forces: Holding, Reserve and Assault. The allocation is done in order, so the first 750 points must be allocated to the Holding force. Then the next 600 points must be spent on the Reserve force and finally 600 points on the Assault force. At each stage the force must comply with the minima and maxima in the lists, which means that you cannot beef up one force and use another as a dumping area for the less good stuff. Leftover points may be spent on later forces, but you may never underspend on a later force and allocate those points to an earlier force. The final result seems to reflect battlegroup composition quite nicely.

The rules include a system for generating the battlefield. A composite map has been compiled from the scenarios that should give players a 'typical' area to fight over. There is one map for the Western Front and one for the Eastern Front. These maps are 6x10 squares, with each square representing a 2'x2' area. The standard battlefield is 6'x6' at full scale. I play at half scale in 6mm because it fits my gaming table better. Anyway, one player chooses a square that must be part of the battlefield and the other then designates a 3x3 square area on the map, including that one square, which will be the playing area. The first player chooses their baseline and the players set the terrain up.

Then the mission is generated. Each player may either pick or randomly determine one of the six possible missions. The mission will determine which force(s) they get to field and which may arrive as reinforcements.

I like this system. I have played around with the various options for the Western Desert which is my preferred theatre and think the games that it generates should be good fun. I suppose that means I should get on with sorting out my forces and playing games using it now, but first WW1.

The Death of Glory
A WW1 supplement, The Death of Glory, was released and I snapped that up. It includes nine scenarios for 1914, one of which features Belgians versus Germans, while the rest feature French versus Germans. There is a small campaign covering the action in the Lorraine which looks fun to play and more manageable than the 'Home before the Leaves fall' campaign in the original CD WW1 rules Over the Top. The book also includes British, French and German battlegroups for 1914 so you can use the Test of Battle scenario system with this supplement.
Death of Glory test game. French on the right and Germans on the left
We put together a test game comprising an infantry battalion each with a single artillery battery in support. Given that it was our first game, the whole thing went very smoothly. For simplicity we ignored spotting this time around but plan to use it in future games. The end result was that I was even more enamoured of the system and that I have realised that I need to buy or make a lot more fields for my French countryside. I am now looking forward to our next game, although I still have a lot of French troops to paint if I am to use painted figures for all the scenarios in the book.

We plan to play all the scenarios and then the campaign this year. If I fail to paint my troops in time for a scenario, should I penalise their troop quality, morale or both? Totally unpainted troops suffer a drop in both? Partly painted troops suffer a drop in just one of the two? What about using proxies? Do they suffer for being substitutes?


  1. What is the scale? 1 tank represents 1 tank, and one base of infantry one squad? Could it be played solo?

    1. I should have mentioned the scale in the description. Sorry.

      Ground scale: 1 inch = 50 yards
      1 turn = 30 minutes
      1 model vehicle or towed weapon = 4-6 real vehicles or towed weapons
      1 infantry stand = 1 platoon

      The original game played best when players controlled approximately a reinforced battalion. This version might work with players controlling a regiment, but I would need to test that.

      The game uses order counters to mark what each unit will do in a turn, so it is more difficult to play solo. You can get around that by either trying to play each side as impartially as possible or using a decision making die roll to determine what orders to give. If you were to write detailed orders for each side at the start of the game, then you would have a basis for making a decision or using a die to decide which order they woudl use that turn. This thread on the CD forum has some discussion of solitaire rules:

      Another idea for solitaire play would be to recruit commanders for each side and get them to email the detailed orders for each side to you at the start of the game. You then play out the game assigning orders each turn based on what the remote commanders have ordered.

      Actually, the whole topic of solitaire play would probably make a good future post. I shall have to explore this further.

  2. Thanks for the explanation Ruaridh but it seems it is not the droid I'm looking for :)

    1. I thought that would be the case. Still, I think I should write a post on how I would approach solitaire gaming with CDTOB anyway. You never know, I might listen to myself and actually try it. :)

  3. Interesting.

    I have lots of different rules for WW2 now, one more set cant hurt...surely?

    1. I like the rules and have played them since the first edition. Some are not happy with the techie element and the counters, but it works for me. With this edition, I particularly like the Test of Battle system which is used to generate pick-up games, because it holds you to realistic formations while still giving you a bit of flexibility and choice.

      As to whether one more WW2 rules set cannot hurt, I am not the person to ask. I am too addicted to buying rules for all periods! ;)

  4. I think it may have been me who introduced you to the rules...

    1. In Bedford? For that I thank you. I've had a lot of happy hours with these rules.

    2. Yes indeed,in Bedford.

      I've managed a couple of games of the ToB version since it was released, and am vaguely planning a couple more. Good review by the way.