Wargaming: Narrative Play for Chain of Command

08 May 2023
Battle scars

Words by David Hiscocks. Photos by The Author & Editor

Many wargamers like to think of their models as developing their own unique character as they play more games with them. Our games are filled with moments of high drama as units achieve the impossible or fail spectacularly, anecdotes that may be talked about among your gaming group for years to come. Yet unless you are playing a dedicated campaign the impact of such memorable actions will not be represented in future games.


Across the history of warfare veterans have been marked by their experiences, those who survive becoming more adept in the art of war, although often being scarred by their experiences. Such traits can have a discernible effect on a unit’s battlefield performance. Famous examples include Caesar’s 10th Legion, notable for its steadfastness, or the 7th Armoured Division “Desert Rats” whose long war in North Africa led to the division being less willing take risks by the time it arrived in Normandy. At a lower level, smaller units can develop their own veteran ethos over time within a larger organisation, the fictional “Dirty Dozen” or Easy Company of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment being classic examples.

One of the main attractions of running a campaign is that they can be designed in such a way that participants can see their armies develop over time, growing in character as they go through the tumult of war. Unfortunately, playing a campaign is not always possible due to the amount of organisation and time such an undertaking requires, and many that start fall by the wayside due to such problems. Recently, however, Games Workshop has published a set of rules entitled Crusade, a version of Warhammer 40,000 where player’s troops gain experience across multiple one-off battles without having to set up a dedicated campaign with the all the attendant administrative baggage.

Inspired by the spirit of the Crusade concept I have written the accompanying set of house rules designed to develop narratives in the Second World War. Basically rules for gaining experience in One-Off Games. These are designed specifically to accompany Chain of Command (CoC) games. While these have been written specifically for games of CoC, they could be easily modified for other WWII platoon level games such as Bolt Action, or even non-WWII games.

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CoC already has an excellent campaign system in At the Sharp End (available as a PDF on the Too Fat Lardies website), and this article does not intend to attempt to supplant this. However, At the Sharp End is focussed on the “big men”: your leaders, and how their experiences, successes and failures influence their platoon’s morale as well as the support they have access to.

In contrast, the purpose of this article is to give player’s the opportunity to see their rank-and-file units gain experience as well as the scars of battle, without having to run a dedicated campaign to achieve this.


I had three goals when creating these experience rules. Firstly, they were to be light on paperwork. Secondly, the rules were designed to be flavourful without being game-breaking, allowing them to be used without any modification to the standard scenarios given in the main CoC rules. Finally, I wanted units to gain both positive and negative traits, both of which would reflect their in-game experiences.



To use these rules players must do the following:

  • Your opponent must be asked if they are happy for these rules to be used, although they have been designed in such a way that your opponent does not need to be using them as well for the game to be “balanced”.
  • Only the following units may gain experience: Sections and teams in your chosen platoon and armoured vehicles taken as support choices.
  • All units that are gaining experience should be given a name or designation to allow them to be easily identified from game-to-game.
  • Players are encouraged to continue using their platoon and attendant support vehicles even as their units gain more battle scars. It is important to note that if a player wants to use a certain unit type then they must use any that have experience before using a fresh one.
  • The result of any dice rolls is final. No cheating!


Between each battle it is assumed that replacements and new equipment are received to bring all of your units back up to strength. Even if they are wiped out they will be available for your next battle.

After each battle you will need to see if the units in your platoon and any selected support choices gain any veteran skills and/ or battle scars. To do this check the “Battle Performance” list below for each unit. Add up the various modifiers on this list to determine the unit’s battle performance score. Then refer to the relevant line in the “Outcome” table to see if your unit gains veteran skills and/or battle scars. Finally, you will need to roll on the relevant veteran skills or battle scars tables. The results should be tracked on the unit’s roster from battle to battle.

Units will either be classified as infantry or vehicles. This will determine the veteran skills and battle scars they may acquire. Transport vehicles will gain neither battle scars nor veteran skills as after all, they are just a glorified bus. If you are using platoon ratings to calculate support choices then it is important to note that as units gain experience their points cost will remain the same. This is because it is intended that the battle scars and veteran skills balance each other out over time.




Instead of rolling on the tables below, players may choose a veteran skill or battle scar so long as their choice reflects the narrative of the battle. This should be agreed with their opponent or discussed within the player’s regular gaming group as it could be subject to abuse.







After rolling for your units’ experience following a game you can send one of your units for some R&R. In this time they will rest, recuperate, absorb replacements and replace worn-out equipment. While this period of R&R will help them to recover, some of their finely honed battle experience may also be lost. If you choose this option roll a D6 for each battle scar and veteran skill. On a 3+ the scar or skill is lost and removed from the unit roster. Each unit can only be sent for R&R once (you cannot keep sending them for rest until they lose all their battle scars, there’s a war to be fought!)



Battle scars force players to overcome new tactical challenges which will enhance the narrative of the games they play. However, there may come a point when the player decides their whole force is too battered to continue, at which point they can start again with a fresh platoon (their old platoon and its supporting vehicles being rotated back for some well-earned rest).



Seeing your units grow in character across multiple battles is immensely satisfying and adds a layer of dramatic tension to your gaming. Tracking their ongoing exploits makes each game memorable in its own right, even if they are just one-off games. Your decision to deploy an experienced squad or vehicle will have to take into consideration its veteran status as such hard-bitten troops are not lightly squandered.

This sort of decision making discourages you from taking foolhardy gambles with your men’s lives that your historical counterpart would baulk at unless in direst need. Whereas with your army of anonymous, out-of-the-box soldiers you might be willing to fight to the death for the possession of the merest scrap of land, knowing that your troops will return unscathed for your next game, you are less likely to do so if there are long-term consequences to such a course of action. 


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