The Battle for Bourlon Woods: A Chain of Command WW1 Solo AAR

With Virtual Lard 5 on the horizon, I thought I would host a game. Having attended the last four, I thought I should give something back. For the game I decided to have a scenario base d during the Battle for Bourlon Woods, part of the 1917 Battle of Cambrai. British divisions attempted to clear the woods from the German defenders, using a combination of infantry and tanks. The place also held a special resonance for me as I was part of a team that excavated the hunting lodge in Bourlon Woods, around which my scenario would centre. 

I was using the Cocking up the Mud and Blood rules variant for Chain of Command that can be found in the 2014 Lardy Special and played a solo playtest of the scenario to see if the balance was right. The British have a platoon of infantry, supported by two tanks (one male and one female Mark IVs) and a battery of Stokes Mortars that provided off table support. I also changed the rules slightly for spotting distances and firing. Spotting was limited to 12" across the flat ground (the hills were undulations in the woodland and can't be spotted through), however, if one unit in a platoon was able to spot an enemy then the rest of the platoon could also fire at them, as long as LOS was unbroken by undulations or the building. This would allow the rifles and bombers to move forward and still have the support of the Lewis and Rifle grenade sections without them having to be within 12" of the enemy as well. 

As the British began deploying on the field, the Germans started to take up positions in the jumble of trenches that constituted their defence line. 

One section was unable to get into their trenches immediately, but they made an effort to get to safety.

As the rear trenches also filled the front line of defence was now bristling with rifles...

The British tanks began their slow rumble up the fire breaks in the woods. Movement within the woods was restricted for these beasts, so they stuck to the paths. 

The British also deployed their rifle grenadiers and Lewis gun sections within the safety of the hunting lodge.

As the rifle and bomber section started a slow move forward through the rough terrain. 

The going was slow, but they were not yet spotted by the German defenders.

Meanwhile, the front male tank pushed up to the lodge and began firing on the forward German positions. With no anti-tank capability in this section all the Germans could do was keep their heads down and hope for the best. 

Another German section moved forward with a multi-headed grenade to tackle the tanks.

Just then the British unleashed their Stokes Mortar battery, it fell in the wrong place that they wanted, clipping one of the sections, but it still obscured the German defender's line of sight and meant that the attack could go ahead!

With the casualties mounting from the tanks six pounders the Germans tried to get forward to attack the tanks as quickly as possible. 

The Germans ended the turn which meant that the barrage lifted, however, using a combination of Lewis gun, rifle grenades and rifles the British infantry battered the German defences on the left flank.

Another round of firing saw the Germans shattered and the remnants retreating off the table.

As this was happening a lone German infantryman ran forward to attack the tanks with the grenade, but the attack failed and no damage was caused to the vehicle!

The British rifles and bombers surged forward to the now empty German position and made a line for the jumping off point. 

With no resistance in the area the British infantry took control of the JOP easily, German morale collapsed and the British won the day!

With the help of the tanks the British infantry caused huge casualties on the German defenders, yet only sustained two themselves! 

At the end of the game the British platoon had pushed forward on the left, whilst the tanks had cleared the area around the hunting lodge successfully. 

As playtests go, this was pretty exciting and should be a good foundation for a good game on the day. Having rethought it a little, I am going to give the Germans a bit more anti-tank defences, in the form of a field gun and maybe some AT ammunition for the LMGs. With only two multi-headed grenades they were a bit stuck when the tanks rolled into range. 

Interestingly, the two tanks ended exactly where these two tanks did in the real battle, right next to the hunting lodge in the centre of the woods. 

I also filmed this playtest and you can follow the action in the video here:


  1. Great stuff- will watch the video later.

    Congrats on your win.



  2. Really good looking game.
    Regards, James


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