Russian Scouts – A Crossfire Battle Report

Mark Bretherton has a go at my Russian Scouts Crossfire Scenario. Mark’s experience echoed earlier play tests of this and other “reconnaissance” scenarios. Basically the attacker can go all out to kill the opposition rather than scout. I’ve made a few tweaks to the scenario to address this.

The Play Test

This is the second play test of this scenario although the first one I’ve documented.

This is what Mark had to say (slightly edited):

Played Steven’s Russian Scouts scenario last night.

By default we played the hills as Steven intended. We allowed for the hills to be elevated positions that could see over crops, fields, crests and hedges, but not over buildings or woods.

The Russian player moved his two HMG, CC and FO to the first hill and from there dominated much of the table. The German FO was on the opposing hill, so there was the potential to balance things out, but the dice decided otherwise. While the 81mm mortar rounds fell harmlessly around the MGs, the MGs poured forth devastating fire to eliminate the German platoon holding the centre of the line. Although two Russian platoons were stalled on either flank, their centre platoon took advantage of the hole to split and destroy the German defence.

Even before this occurred we faced the same issue that undermines the Pontecorvo scenario and that is that the attacker had already gathered enough VP to earn a win and would be better off withdrawing. We decided that was a bit dull and carried on. At which point I eliminated a squad with a second suppression earning -3VP so the game still had something to play for, even if my opponent could have withdrawn earlier for a win.

Luck played some part in the outcome. While the Russian MGs were devastating, one of the German MGs facing an entire Russian platoon hung on wire could only manage to eliminate one Russian squad, despite several fire attacks. Much like the 81mm mortar, on target, but to no effect.

The entrenchments seemed to serve no purpose if in a terrain feature. For the purposes of this scenario you want to keep the entrenchments hidden from the Russian player, so I set mine up in fields, however, other than keeping them hidden from my opponent, the entrenchments were worse than worthless as I could only fire out of them from one direction yet my enemy could fire at me from any direction. I was better out of them, than in them. Seems strange

I know the entrenchments are there for VP but given the Russian has no indirect HE, the need to keep them hidden for victory purposes and the disadvantage to the firer who occupies them, I found them a hindrance more than a help. Given there is so little open ground I was wondering if you might be better off leaving them out and finding another way of earning VP?

One thought off the top of my head is to designate objective locations that the Russian must enter or spot in order to earn VP (regardless of what is in them), that way you ensure a Russian requirement to do a thorough recce of the table (you could make it 3 of a possible 5 so that the German can’t focus his defence too tightly)? If those objective locations are evenly spread you could exclude the spotting of other things on the assumption these would be a given if all, or the majority of the objective locations are accounted for. The Russian must then exit from his friendly edge for the remaining VP, so the key objective for the Russian player is to scout the objective locations and then exit without too many losses. To compensate for not getting to all objective locations and add a variable, you could allot bonus VP for killing Germans and/or capturing them (via close combat as you have already). If you go with victory conditions like this you flip the roles on their heads – the Russians become the ones who want to sneak around and be concealed and the Germans the ones aggressively on the lookout for prying Russians. I think this sets the scenario and situation up for a fight (which is what you want I assume) and gives each side the right sort of aggressive stance to reflect their situation. The Germans will actively look for a fight and the Russians will need to find a way to push their way in and get back out again once they have achieved a successful recce.

Just some thoughts to fine tune what is at heart a nice little scenario playable in a short sitting.

The is the map Mark was using:

Original Map for the Russian Scouts Scenario
Map produced in CC2

Responding to Mark

Mark makes some very good points and they’ll inform how the scenario progresses.

In play tests of Reconnaissance before Pontecorvo, Russian Recce and Russian Scouts, there is a temptation for the “scouting” side to go for broke and try to “defeat” the enemy rather than “spot” them. It seems, from Mark’s account, that his opponent went down this route, abandoned the recon option and went for the assault option.

There are, however, aspects of the scenario that are there to deliberately discourage this:

  • That -3 VP for a dead Russians is to discourage an assault; discourage but not deny the possibility of. If the Russian is tempted to go for it they have to be careful not to sacrifice early spotting gains by losing troops in combat.
  • They also get no VP for killing Germans, only for spotting them (the exception is capturing the tongue in close combat). Earlier play tests did give VP for killing the defenders but this encouraged an assault so I dropped it.
  • I also restrict the Russian indirect fire to smoke to encourage moving and discourage attacking.

Clearly these did not make a sufficiently compelling case for scouting.

Russian Scout Platoon

Russian Scout Platoon

As Mark points out, generally the Germans don’t want to reveal themselves because this gives away VP to the Russians. And Mark is spot on when he says that entrenchments in standard CF aren’t much use. And no use in this scenario because the scouts have no barrage capability. The combination of these encourages the Germans to deploy their fortifications away from the enemy. Which is un-historical and counter-intuitive. This needs to be addressed.

I’m not so keen on Mark’s suggestion of trying to reach/spot terrain objectives. Don’t get me wrong, this would make for an alright game. My problem with the suggestion is that it would be a completely different game. More like “See if you can reach X, Y and Z” rather than “where are the enemy, in what strength and what fortifications?” In fact it would tend to turn this into another attack/defence scenario, which I’ve already got plenty of. I was aiming for something else.

Proposed changes

On reflection I made these changes to the Russian Scouts Scenario:

  • Dropped the morale of the Russian Scouts from Veteran to Regular
  • Give a +1 to rallying for troops in fortifications (nod to Concarti for the suggestion)
  • Changed the Russian PCs to provide +1 for rallying but not for close combat; the reverse of normal Soviet PCs
  • +1 squad for the Germans; -1 squad for the Russians
  • Changed the victory conditions
    • No Draw
    • Germans get VP for holding the Collective Farm and killing Russians
    • Any Russians left on table at the end of the game are counted as “dead” for Victory conditions

The forces are now much more balanced making it much harder for the Russian Scouts to attack.

The changes to the VP also meant the Russians now need slightly more VP to win.

Worth a play test.

I’ll also something on reconnaissance objectives in general in the near future.

2 comments to Russian Scouts – A Crossfire Battle Report

  • Hi Steve,
    An interesting scenario.
    Personally I would remove VPs for spotted units that the Russians subsequently kill, after all, the spotted troops are no longer where they were spotted, so the VP earning actions are now worthless. This wouldn’t apply to the bunker as it will always be manned by someone 🙂

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