Saturday, August 20, 2016

5Core Company Commander: Ostfront Edition!

So I've been itching to play a WW2 company level battle lately after finally finishing the Quatre Bras project so I opted to try out Ivan Sorensen's 5Core Company Commander today and the results did not disappoint!!

The scenario pitted 2 small rifle companies against one another in an attempt to capture a road junction and a hill.  I was initially afraid that 5Core Company Commander (henceforth in this post referred to as 5CCC) would be too blah or generic for my tastes but I was very pleasantly surprised.

As Nordic Weasel makes no secret of, the great strength of this game is in the many features of the game that are on auto-pilot, while you, the Company Commander, maneuver squads around to capture objectives or fight off enemy thrusts.  In short  - you make decisions.

One Soviet group moving towards Hill 235
 The actions you may carry out are slightly controlled by a die roll.  You may either get to move everyone, or only a small group of squads, allowing you to focus on your main effort.

 Shooting is handled in a very novel way, which frankly took some getting used to for me but after a game you've pretty much got it down pat.

Other Soviet grouping moving towards their objective
 There is a very cinematic feel to combat where you focus on the action on a particular corner of the battlefield, then move onto another.  The action heats up, dies down, then flares up again on the field.

German HMG team gets into position on another hilltop overlooking their objective
 I should note that I played this game solo but I think it would be a ton of fun playing with someone else.
And are joined by more kamaraden.

German platoon on overwatch

More Germans reach a small enclosed garden while their sister platoons to the left move across the road into an orchard.

Germans move their way through the woods to get to the hill

 The Soviet gunner released the charging handle of his HMG and lets fly a long burst at the German occupied hilltop.  OUCH!  All 6s nice shooting Ivan, as that German MG34 on the tripod and its crew are toast.  The squads next to them are forced back and the Soviets take full advantage of the situation by sending their platoons forward.

Skull added for dramatic effect...


Germans cautiously advance on the left into the orchard to flank the hilltop.
 What I noticed is that, as the rules say, the concentration of the action occurs in spurts at various places on the battlefield.  when squads take fire, generally you move more squads in to assist with the contact until the situation is resolved, one way or the other.

I do like that some of the things happen without my needing to decide on and that is built into the genius of the system itself, which controls the tempo of the game for you in an elegant way.  It's a radical departure from games like Squad Leader or Flames of War where you are moving everything along and doing all the work.

In 5CCC, some of your men are being held up, holding their positions, ostensibly sorting things out while platoons to the right or left are moving out toward the objective.  Who knows what happened there.  Wrong azimuth?  Lieutenant got lost.  Radio died and they're trying tuo get it to work, etc.  The point is you focus your attention where it's most needed.

Germans making a move against Hill 235
 Did i mention close combat is brutal and unforgiving?
Soviet squad assaults a German squad on the road.  They are promptly wiped out and the Germans maneuver themselves to receive more incoming Ivans.

Ivan then launches an all-out assault at the other Germans on his right.  He wins the combat with a single squad remaining and both sides are in pretty desperate straights after that.

Casualty Collection Point!

Final situation.  The Soviets making a push int he upper left of the picture, with 3 squads aligned against the German held hill, and Hill 235 in the center unoccupied by any Germans.  Casualties aside, you could chalk this up to a Soviet victory. 
I'm keen to play this again.  I feel like I don't quite have the hang of some of the special rules but the shooting and moving is starting to sink in now.  The right roll at the wrong time can REALLY ruin your day as evidenced by the German HMG that was wiped out before Fritz's other platoons were even set up to attack.

I would also like to mix vehicles into the game, but I'm apprehensive given my thoughts about the game and the armor combat rules.  Plus I like hordes of tanks, which Company Commander (rightfully so) relegates to supports in this game.

The rules for "scurry" are pretty cool and the Germans ended up rolling scurry after scurry after scurry which resulted in them getting into position quickly.  The Soviets, on the other hand, kept rolling "6" whenever they needed to when shooting so you could relegate that to accurate fire keeping the Germans pinned down and away from the hill.  This is where those extra support weapons would really have come in handy.

There is also a nice level of uncertainty when you've a unit that is pinned down or forced back due to fire.  Roll badly when you activate them next time, and you could lose them.  That said, you can move a squad up to help them get back on their feet.  Again, 5CCC forces you to make decisions about the battle, not be the driver, gunner, tank commander, platoon leader, and company commander all at the same time.  You pay people to do that stuff for you!

I actually own many of the Nordic Weasel game titles (5Core Skirmish, Company Command, and Brigade Commander to name a few, as well as Laserstorm, From Shako to Coalscuttle, Trench Storm, Clash on the Fringe, and of course No End in Sight, which I REALLY want to play soon.)

Stay Tuned!


  1. Superb report Steve.

    You have pretty much summed up a lot of my own thoughts when I have played the rules. I do think some of the concepts are genius, but they take a bit of getting used to and the cinematic effect of scurry/firefight can really ruin your day, but as you say - you can focus on the CC decisions and watch as other stuff happens that you have less control over. Also, very hackable for various modern periods (Vietnam, WWIII).

    Have you found yourself a new set of squad leader rules here then? I haven't tried 5CCC yet, but the mechanisms are pretty similar across the board. Great to see this.

    Have a look at Jack's blog for more examples. He commented on my last post, and uses Ivan's rules across the board.

    1. Cheers, Darren.
      I was very impressed with 5CCC for my first game. After reading and re-reading the rules, I was apprehensive about the generic nature of capabilites and combat but that is easily worked out by the ebb and flow of the battle. You plan and you realize, the game is not about the weapons, it's about the battle and the movements. In a sense, the game is about the unit not the unit's weapons.

      That's a radical approach to wargames and wargaming in general.

      Yes Jack's blog is great inspiration for the 5Core games!

  2. Steve,

    No reason to go to my blog, I'm here! I'm always on the lookout for other folks playing 5Core in any of its various iterations. That was a good looking fight, thanks for posting.

    Certainly 5Core isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it's been my go-to set for team to brigade level the past couple years, for all the reasons you outlined. My experience is that most gamers want to throw a division's worth of troops on the table, and control each individual rifleman!

    Now, to be sure, to each his own, everyone should do what makes them happy. But I like what I call 'perspective based gaming,' I.e., making the decisions appropriate to who I am on the battlefield, be it a squad, platoon, company, or battalion commander, and this is where these rules shine. 5CCC has long been my favorite of the group, though modern skirmish with 5MAK is gaining ground.

    I also need to give No End In Sight another look for some Vietnam-era stuff I'm looking at.

    Again, thanks for posting, and I look forward to more batreps with 5Core.


    1. Thanks for commenting, Jack. This was my first ever game of 5CCC and I really enjoyed it. As I stated above, the reasons I was apprehensive turned out to be negligible and I do think I will play this many more times in the future.

      As always, I will turn to your blog for some great inspiration!

      Wow the No End in Sight rules are a hidden gem. In my opinion, ultra realistic in that there are many, many things you find yourself doing as a battlefield leader, and in the middle of all those things you still have to fight your team/squad/platoon/company. I cannot wait to play the NEIS system.

      What's 5MAK?

    2. Steve,

      Sorry man, "5MAK" is "Five Men At Kursk," a 5Core counterpart to "Five Men In Normandy."

      So nowadays 5Core can be looked at as having two different activation systems. You've played the "5MIN" activation system: one action die is rolled and your entire force scurries, firefights, or gets normal (2-3 units which didn't react get to activate).

      5MAK is different; you use the same concepts of scurry, firefight, and normal activation, but you roll one action dice per unit that didn't react, and you as the commander allot them to your stands.

      So if you have six stands you roll six dice. Say you roll 1 scurry, 2 firefights, and 3 normals; now you give one die to each of your stands and carry them out.

      5MAK has some other differences from 5MIN (which is the heart of 5CCC), and activation and reactions are a bit simplified in my description above, but that's the gist of it.

      You can see 5MAK (modified a bit) in my campaign of Royal Marines vs Taliban skirmish games.


    3. Ahhh yes I should have known that as 5MAK has been looking very appealing lately, especially as it allows you to play larger battles. Yes I am definitely getting hooked on the Nordic Weasel stuff. As I've said before, the older I get, the less time and patience I have for gimmics and bulls***.

    4. Yeah, I'm with ya on the getting old stuff. I only got into wargaming about seven years ago, and I did what I figure most folks do: I want realistic rules, so the more pages and charts the better, right? I look back on all the games I played with me father, that took seven hours and accomplished very little, usually with a lot of post-game "I wonder how it would have ended. I bet 'x' would have happened..."

      And then there was the issue that there wasn't really a lot of decision making; there's a line of troops on each side and the only real decisions are which bad guys to have this or that unit shoot at. But not scheme of maneuver issues, not exploitation-type issues.

      And that gets to what you were saying below to Grenzer regarding 'regular' game systems. You've read about defenders in prepared positions being swept away by smaller but better trained forces, you're read about enemy units suddenly appearing on your flank or rear, you've read about units with overwhelming troops and firepower stalling out in the assault. Playing 5Core, and particularly Company Command, is the only time I've ever had a ruleset do that.

      Then there's the issue of them being so easily modifiable; I can get the rules to do exactly what I want in any situation. There is never a time I play where it doesn't 'feel right,' because I'm constantly changing them to get the right feel for each period and situation. Some will probably say that's a result of me having played so many games of 5Core. I've given a lot of thought to this, and I would submit it's not my familiarity with the rules that allow me to do this, it's that the rules are so easy to become familiar with (that probably sounds ridiculous, but it's the best way I can describe it).

      Whatever you're doing, it's easy to come up with a quick 'fix' for whatever it is you're trying to do, and I'll just point you at my Fulda Gap ("Team Whiskey") campaign. Rules for ATGMs, attack helos and aircraft, running whole battalions, FPFs, on call targets/TRPs, whatever you need to do, 5Core lends itself to quickly and easily popping in a solution.

      Just the other day I was discussing WWII 5Core Brigade Commander with a guy, and he wasn't sure what to do about armored cars. We put our heads together: give them 'x' kill and 'y' shock dice firing at infantry, a different value at armor, they move like any other vehicle off road, bonus on road, fired on at a penalty, and can call in air/arty. Voila, you've got recon in the game!

      Anyway, it's occurred to me that I'm blathering, but 1) I like talking about game design in general, and 2) I like talking about 5Core in particular. But sorry about the long post ;)


    5. Jack,
      Rules discussions ALWAYS welcome on this blog! The more the merrier and no problem with long posts.
      I'm always willing to sacrifice a little realism in lieu of imagination but there is a definite limit. I can justify alot of artistic license in game design as long as I can justify or reconcile what's going on tactically.

      That's funny you say that about "I wonder how that game would have ended" because in my never ending quest for the "right" Napoleonic rules set I have found the guys I game with to constantly be saying just that as we never are able to finish a game. What did Napoleon say about giving you anything in the world you could want except time? 4 hours is about all the bandwidth the guys I game with can usually provide.

      Anyways, you're spot on. The big decisions I need to make are exploiting a breakthrough and where to send the second platoon after first platoon makes contact. They're paying those PL's alot of money to make those decisions on how to do it and whom to suppress.

      So many games want to make you the tank driver, gunner, commander, PL, Company Commander, and Battalion Commander all at the same time.

      And you also hit on another point - that the 5Core rules are "infintely hackable" as my buddy Darren (the Duc de Gobin) likes to say about certain rules.

      I read over your Fulda Gap stuff and I found myself getting lost in the writeup and wishing I had a 12' by 8' table to play it with 15mm miniatures!

    6. Steve,

      Excellent! We seem to pretty much see eye to eye then! Regarding imagination, I can generally stretch pretty far. If the rules allow me to be 'in the moment,' or 'in role,' then I can live with abstraction. What I can't live with is 1) constantly having to look stuff up/consult charts; 2) eight million steps to get results (love 5Core's rolling kill and shock dice simultaneously, or One Hour Wargames' roll a D6 and that's how many casualties they took); and/or 3) friction built into rules that makes me feel like I have no control over what's happening, doesn't allow me to make decisions. Again, that's why 5Core is great; I know I'm not going to be able to do everything, but if I've got six units on the board and I only get to activate two, at least their the two I want to activate. I as the commander am putting my focus where I want it.

      And I never have the 'wonder how the fight would have ended' moments anymore. I've used 5Core in multiple campaigns: Kampfgruppe Klink in Poland and part of France, Cuba Libre's Liberation and Cronistria, Royal Marines in Afghanistan, several goes at Brits in Normandy, part of Operation Jupiter, and the whole Fulda Gap campaign. The longest games were Fulda, with several clocking in at 3-4 hours, but that's because I was throwing battalion vs company on the table and activating each vehicle/squad individually. But other than those, my fights take between 45 and 90 minutes.

      Regarding hackable, that's the fun of it, right? I've been fortunate to have lots of discussions with guys, even with Ivan, about 'how would you handle 'x' in the 'y' situation?' And the beauty of it is, we've never come up with a piece of gear or scenario we couldn't figure out, then carry out in a simple manner consistent with the rules.

      The Fulda Gap campaign was a lot of fun, and if you're not familiar with Ben Lacy's campaign books, they're pure wargaming gold. And if you've got 6mm moderns, I think I played those out on a 4' x 4' table (maybe a couple on 5' x 4').


    7. Just bought the Fulda Gap scenario book :)

      "Putting the focus where I want it" I could not have said it better myself. I do have a ton of 6mm moderns just need to get around to finally painting their infantry but I've got loads of tanks and IFV/APCs.

      Going to try it out. Oh and I took your advice from your blog and bought a "RISK" replacement set of 360 of the figures with Shakos. The dudes on horseback are worth the price alone. That will build me like, maybe 7 or 8 Hussar regiments!!!

      The One Hour Wargames that's another set there that is infinitely hackable and very much fun. Thinking about their suitability for Grand Tactical where a unit is a Brigade. That might worth exploring.

    8. Excellent, I hope you like the scenario books. I have about 15 of them; not every scenario is the best, but every book has been worth it. And I look forward to your 6mm.

      I'm actually looking to offload all my plastic Naps (the Risk pieces), if you're interested. I'm painting up a boatload of Old Glory 10mm French and Austrians I bought last year. Not sure why I bought them, just wanted massive units I guess. I see you've got OG 10mm as well.

      I need to get back to OHW; to many projects!!!


  3. I have a lot of Nordic Weasel's rules too and have wanted to play out the 5Core games, especially as Jack (above) keeps telling and showing me how good they are. I am getting really close to giving these a go (with the skirmish set first) and so much thanks to your post to ensure that I have even more inspiration to give Ivan's rules a go!

    1. Shaun,
      Thanks for commenting. Ivan is a prolific rules writer to say the least! Now that I've played 5CCC I'm hooked and I really want to play 5Core skirmish, as well as Brigade Commander.

      You should give them a go - especially the company commander version.

      I am going to also break out my old Epic Space Marine stuff and play Laserstorm and hopefully No End in Sight soon.

      I also have the beta test of "From Shako to Coalscuttle" and think that would be alot of fun to try.

  4. Some of the guys in my group are getting into the Nordic Weasel games. They like 'em and I'm itching to try them. Your review has been quite helpful.

    1. John,
      Definitely worth a game for your groups' time. I am glad I finally tried them out and I will play them again.

      I tried a Soviet "battalion" attack again last night with 2 companies on the table and it played great. The Germans unfortunately couldn't get the impetus to get everyone up to the objective, but again, the results were always in question which is satisfying in an of itself.

      Had it been a "regular" game system, I would have moved every last German up to the village and shooting/melee would have decided the evening.
      Last night the Germans trickled onto the objective and the poor slobs that were on the objective fought like hell to keep ivan out.

      You relegate a certain amount of control as to what your stands can do but that's not always a bad thing!

  5. Glad you liked the game and love seeing the lively discussion :-)

    1. It was awesome! I'm ashamed for not having played more 5CCC sooner.