Papa Eicke – A Crossfire Battle Report

Chris Harrod and I played my Papa Eicke Scenario for Crossfire.

Summary: Chris, playing Kampfgruppe Masarie, recreated history and secured the body of Papa Eicke and his insignia and consequently won the game. However, he did this at the cost of a half his armoured fighting vehicles. The scenario had the right elements but could do with some tweaking.

Deployment

One of the unusual things about this scenario are the forces involved. The German attackers have a small tank heavy force – only two platoons of infantry but eight armoured vehicles. Facing them is a Russian battalion – arriving in dribs and drabs. At the start I only had two platoons hidden in Artelnoye.

Forces in the Papa Eicke Scenario

Forces in the Papa Eicke Scenario

Here is the map we used for the table. [This might change for future games so I’ve recorded it for prosperity.]

Table for Papa Eicke Scenario

Table for Papa Eicke Scenario

The German forces – Kampfgruppe Masarie – deploy on table.

Kampfgruppe Masarie arrives

Kampfgruppe Masarie deploys

Chris weighted his forces heavily to his left – the side of the table with the crash site.

Kampfgruppe Masarie arrives

Kampfgruppe Masarie deploys

0800 hours

Chris kicked off by pushing his tanks and assault guns as far forward as possible. Even with a Speed of 2, i.e. only two movement actions in an initiative, they managed to surround the crash site.

Panzers secure crash site

Panzers secure crash site

Then Chris drove a half-track onto the crash site itself. So far I’d done nothing. Actually I hadn’t had an opportunity to do anything. So the Germans safely got to the crash site and there was nothing I could do about it. Which, more or less, was historical.

Germans reach crashed plane

Germans reach crashed plane

Of course, as the defender I had to do something eventually. Unfortunately, in this scenario the Russians start with pretty ineffective anti-tank weapons. Just anti-tank rifles. Admittedly a lot of them as every squad has one. But even a platoon crossfire isn’t going to have much chance against a Panzer IV. So I waited until some infantry showed up. Sure enough a squad did arrive at the crash site. Chris didn’t need that squad on the site, he deliberately exposed it to draw my fire and reveal my troops. But I wasn’t going to get a better chance so I took the shot.

Soviets finally open fire

Soviets finally open fire

The guys shooting were my first platoon back in Artelnoye.

Platoon of Russians

Platoon of Russians

The trouble is that once I revealed anybody they then got pounded by overwhelming German firepower. Heavy artillery followed by direct fire from tanks was lethal. In my House Rules for Crossfire tanks can shoot their main gun and machines guns in a group fire.

German artillery and tanks pound Russians

German artillery and tanks pound Russians

However, life is cheap in the Red Army. As Chris broke one platoon but another arrived behind it.

Russian reinforcements begin to arrive

Russian reinforcements begin to arrive

The fight wasn’t all one sided and I picked off what Germans I could. First up was the original squad that Chris had used to tempt me into shooting.

First German casualties

First German casualties

0900 hours

Unfortunately, I only had rifles and Chris had tanks. He’d place them well. The two in the centre of the table used their position behind the ridge to dominate my part of the table. There was no way I could counter-attack or even work my way around the sides. I was stuck in the 12 inches near my baseline for the entire battle.

Panzers on over watch

Panzers on over watch

With the German guns dishing out pain in Artelnoye Chris successfully searched the wreckage for Papa Eicke and the other dead.

Searching for Papa Eicke

Searching for Papa Eicke

Unexpectedly my next reinforcements were my Battalion HQ and supporting assets. BC, 2 x HMG, 3 x 45mm ATG, and 2 x FO for off table 82mm mortars. Compared with what I had on table already that was quite potent. My only problem was where to put it, and my options were fairly limited. I opted to bring them on in the corner furtherest from the Germans. Couple of reasons for that: (1) anywhere closer and they would have got hammered in reactive fire, and (2) that corner had long lines of sight. Through a map design oversight there were narrow lines of sight all the way to the German base line. With a bit of luck I’d get a shot at any German vehicles trying to leave the table. I didn’t realise how lucky I’d be.

Russian HQ arrives with ATG

Russian HQ arrives with ATG

1000 hours

In Artelnoye Chris continued to deal out punishment to Ivan. This was part of a tit-for-tat casualty exchange.

German shells rain down

German shells rain down

With my anti-tank platoon on table I suddenly had some teeth. Small teeth admittedly, but teeth. The first victim was a half-track on the crash site.

Strike one for the 45mm ATG

Strike one for the 45mm ATG

German firepower kept the Russians in Artelnoye suppressed.

More carnage in Artelnoye

More carnage in Artelnoye

With the Russians suppressed, Chris collected the bodies from the wreckage. Loaded them onto a half-track and drove this off table. Well, almost off table. One of my 45mm anti-tank guns caught a glimpse of the half-track just as it passed the big hill. Bang. Papa Eicke’s transport burned for the second time that day.

Strike two for the 45mm ATG

Strike two for the 45mm ATG

1100 hours

Although my 45mm guns in the corner were having fun, the HQ troops on the crest near Artelnoye was not having such a great day. Both the ATG and the HMG got suppressed by Chris’s tanks.

Russian HQ gets hammered

Russian HQ gets hammered

Chris was determined to get Papa Eicke off table so he sent another half-track over the big hill. Bang. Strike three for the 45mm pop guns.

Strike three for the 45mm ATG

Strike three for the 45mm ATG

1200 hours

Having lost all his half-tracks Chris sent a StuG III to pick up the bodies. Bang! Another score for those pesky 45mm ATG in the corner.

Strike four for the 45mm ATG

Strike four for the 45mm ATG

1300 hours

Chris decided to push into Artelnoye to find Eicke’s insignia and papers. SS assault straight into unhappy Russians with predictable results.

SS assault into Artelnoye

SS assault into Artelnoye

Generally in the village my guys were having a bad time. As I revealed stands they, more or less immediately, got suppressed. I had managed to catch the SS infantry in the open when they assaulted the first building in the village. Yay! Unfortunately, my HMG didn’t score a hit, initiative passed and the Panzers blasted this building. Ouch.

Oh man when will the pain end

Oh man when will the pain end

I was still occupying most of the village but this was defence only in the loosest terms.

Suppressed Russians everywhere

Suppressed Russians everywhere

Then I got another platoon as reinforcements. The Panzers were facing the other way. The Motorcycle Company Commander was suppressed in the crash site. Was this a chance to get a quick win?

Russians see an opportunity

Russians see an opportunity

Um, well, no. My platoon of Poor quality troops versus a suppressed, veteran, +2 company commander. Even odds. And the dice went to Chris. I’ve done that a lot recently. See an opportunity, which really isn’t a good opportunity, and lose valuable troops that could have been used for something else. Like shoring up the defences in Artelnoye.

Close assult on SS Company Commander

Close assult on SS Company Commander

1400 hours

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as I made out. I still had functioning stands in Artelnoye. Not many, but enough to continue to chip away at the German infantry.

Village still contested

Village still contested

1500 hours

Having lost three half-tracks and a StuG, next up was a Panzer IV. This vehicle managed to rescue the dead Obergruppenführer and get his body off table.

Pz IV carries Papa Eicke off table

Pz IV carries Papa Eicke off table

With the Germans in the first line of houses they could fire into the houses on my base edge. And more significant than the infantry, a Panzer IV had crawled to the edge of Artelnoye and was firing into the houses.

It doesn't pay to be Russian

It doesn’t pay to be Russian

A squad of SS Motorcycle men found Eicke’s insignia and papers on the hill at the edge of the village.

Germans find Eicke's insignia, decorations and papers

Germans find Eicke’s insignia, decorations and papers

Chris then finished off my 45mm ATG and HMG on the crest at the far end of the village. One shot with HE got both of them.

German shells rain down

German shells rain down

1600 hours

And that was it. The clocked clicked over to 1600 hours and the game finished. Chris had picked up 22 Victory Points (VP):

  • +15 VP recovering the bodies of Eicke and his companions
  • +15 VP finding Eicke’s insignia, decorations and papers
  • +5 VP securing the crash site
  • -6 VP for losing three Half tracks destroyed
  • -5 VP for losing a Stug destroyed
  • -2 VP losing a couple of infantry stands

That gave him a narrow win.

Table at end game

Table at end game

Observations and conclusions

We both enjoyed it. Chris enjoyed it because he won – which is fair. He did, however, observe that it felt like a “Duck shoot”.

I certainly took a hammering but still enjoyed the game because the scenario offered good flavour. In some ways getting pummelled by the Germans is part of the scenario. That is the point of having a whole battalion waiting in the wings to challenge the aggressor – lots of cannon fodder to soak up casualties but also the inherent threat of swarming the attackers.

Generally, I thought the scenario had the right elements. Small, tank heavy, attacking force. Crash site. Searching for bodies and insignia. Masses of defenders what can’t quite get their act together to overwhelm the smaller force.

However, the scenario would benefit from refinement.

Map

Despite the fact I used this map to illustrate how to Draw PowerPoint Maps for Crossfire I’m inclined to change it.

The Russians had no room for manoeuvre. Any reinforcements arrived and were more or less immediately within line of fire of German tanks. Ouch. The defender needs a bit of depth to enable them to muster a significant counter-attack – or at least give them the option. So I’m tempted to shift the whole map 2 feet to the north-west. The Germans would drive onto the north-western table edge rather than deploy on table. The Village of Michailovka would be next to the German base line and the crash site only two feet from the base line. But the big difference would be that Artelnoye would start in the middle of the table and stretch to near the Russian baseline. I might have some or all of the Russian reinforcements deployed on-table but to the south-east of Artelnoye, and their appearance on the reinforcement table would be “activation” not “arrival”.

I also need to revisit lines of sight on the map. I try to close off lines of sight when I draw maps but I missed a few on this one. That meant my 45mm ATG could, and did, shoot the length of the table.

I’m also wondering whether this game can actually fit on a 4’x4′ table. Generally I’m wanting smaller scenarios as they play quicker. The Germans have a small orbat anyway, and although the Russians have a battalion lined up to fight, our play test suggests they will only have a couple of companies of their four on table (the four being the three rifle companies and the HQ company). Shrinking the table would require a more radical redesign, but I think I’ll give it a go.

Russian anti-tank capability

In our game the Panzers were very Terminator like – marching across the battlefield destroying everything in their path. Although that is part of the flavour of the scenario it probably needs balancing up a bit.

My little 45mm ATGs were great but I was quite lucky with them. And anti-tank rifles, despite the fact I had a lot of them, are useless. So I think the Russians need something to make the Panzers a little more nervous. Not a lot nervous because historically they felt threatened but didn’t seem particularly in danger.

There are a few ways to give the Russians some anti-tank bite without giving them big guns of their own.

Indirect fire: I’m thinking of using the Hit the Dirt special rule on indirect fire against tanks.

Bogging: Although the scenario mentioned bogging down we didn’t play it. Next time I’d use that rule. Might need to think about the features in which bogging can occur.

Built up areas: I’d like the Panzers to be wary of entering the villages. So I’m inclined to remove the Panzers close combat bonus when inside the boundary of both villages, even though they are outside the actual buildings. This simulates the ability of infantry to sneak up on the tanks through the nearby structures. This special rule would encourage the Panzers to stay outside the village and fire in, leaving the motorcycle guys to attack on their own. Of course this only works if Artelnoye is bigger so the tanks can’t dominate the village without entering.

Searching for bodies and insignia

I need to tighten up the searching rules.

  • infantry only
  • not if pinned or suppressed or if they shoot or rally
  • need to make it explicit whether or not loading the bodies is an action – we played that loading was assumed if the bodies were already found and a vehicle turned up
  • need to make it explicit whether the insignia has to be transported off table like the bodies – we played that finding them was sufficient. There is some rationale for this as the Russians didn’t know the significance of this stuff so shouldn’t specifically target the stand acting as courier. But having to transport the insignia off-table would encourage the Russian to do just that.

Russian reinforcements

The Russian reinforcements arrived at about the right pace using 1d6 for arrival and another 1d6 for what arrived (no duplicates). But there are other ways to do it.

I’ve been mulling over combining both rolls into a single roll modified by the time on the moving clock. A bit like the system I used for Alexander the Great’s Solo DBA Campaign to determine the opposition. The idea would be to roll 1d6 and add the hour giving a result of 9 (0800 hours + 1 on the die) to 21 (1500 hours + 6 on the die). Then spread the reinforcements over this table with some gaps. the major effect of this is to make the type of reinforcements more time dependent. Put the missing 3rd platoon of 1st company early on the table and an armoured counter-attack force right at that end. Or some such.

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