Russian Scouts – A Crossfire Battle Report 2

Chris Harrod and I played my Russian Scouts Crossfire Scenario. Despite the fact I’ve played this scenario before I really botched my job as a Russian scout. Sigh. Penal battalion for me I suspect. None-the-less there were some insights into reconnaissance scenarios and how, specifically, to improve this one.

Difference from previous play tests

I tweaked the Scenario compared to previous play tests, like that by Mark Bretherton. The differences were:

  • 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 Table

Nice photo of the table from overhead. Notice the water tower on the near side, the collective farm in the middle ground and woods on the far side.

Russian Scouts Table from on high

Russian Scouts Table from on high

The collective farm is the nominal objective. At least the Germans are nominally trying to protect it.

Collective Farm

Collective Farm

However, the key position for the Germans is the hill with the water tower. This has visibility over a fair chunk of the board. At least over the chunk I chose to advance over.

Russian Scouts Table from German side

Russian Scouts Table from German side

0300 Hours

At 0300 Hours my scouts came on table. I clustered my entire force behind Russian hill then pushed a single squad up the slope.

Russian Scouts enter table

Russian Scouts enter table

That was it. That was my mistake. The moment I lost the game. As soon as there was a stand visible Chris opened up with his machine gun positioned on the water tower. Although it doesn’t show it in the photo this MG nest also contained an FO for an off-table 8.1cm mortar battery. These two stands would win the game for Chris.

German MG opens up

German MG opens up

Having revealed his guys on the water tower Chris started to inflict a steady stream of suppressions on the guys on Russian hill.

Start of a bad trend - suppressions on the Russian hill

Start of a bad trend – suppressions on the Russian hill

I tried smoking them off however my FOs couldn’t see the water tower, only my guys on the hill. So I could drop smoke in front of one, maybe two stands at most. Then try to rally the stand with “no enemy in sight”. Generally I failed my smoke rolls and even when I got smoke I then failed the rally rolls. Bad to worse.

Smoke doesn't help

Smoke doesn’t help

0330 Hours

After some effort I finally got an entire reinforced platoon on the hill. Unfortunately it never got a chance to fire, partly because of the guys on the water tower and partly because I got distracted by a sprint down the flank.

Scout platoon final get on the hill

Scout platoon finally get on the hill

There was a line of advance right from the woods to a field near the outlying farm building. So I sent a squad down it in a sprint. Nothing happened. So I sent another. This time Chris reacted and shot with his guy in the farm but only inflicted a PIN.

Sprint down the right flank

Sprint down the right flank

So I sent another squad down the sprinting track. Chris revealed a squad in an entrenchment in the nearby wood and SUPPRESSED the moving stand.

More sprinters on the right get caught

More sprinters on the right get caught

The guys on the water tower now started with their grim harvest. The combination of indirect fire, which doesn’t lose the initiative, and an HMG was quite potent. Two lots of 3d6 into cover are pretty likely to cause a SUPPRESS and quite likely to cause KILL. The first casualty was my HMG on the hill – it had never even fired a shot.

The guys on the hill start dying - the HMG first

The guys on the hill start dying – the HMG first

I decided to rescue the sprinters with smoke. The smoke meant I could push a HMG up the to field without risk. Then I moved up the PC to rally the stranded squad. We were playing that Scout PCs had the reverse characteristics of normal Russian PCs, i.e. +1 for rallying and 0 for close combat. This change had quite a bit influence on the game. In this case it meant the rally was relatively easy (+1 for PC and +1 for no enemy in sight).

Russian smoke helps the sprinters

Russian smoke helps the sprinters

But while I was distracted by the sprinters Chris keep laying into the guys on the hill.

More suppressions on and around the hill

More suppressions on and around the hill

Things just went from bad to worse as more suppressions landed.

Still more suppressions

Still more suppressions

I tried more smoke but it just wasted a FM and didn’t achieve much.

And smoke still doesn't help

And smoke still doesn’t help

The next stand to expire was from my small platoon. I was moving a squad past the hill to get up to where my forward unit was located. But the HMG got it in the open. SUPPRESSED turned into KILLED.

And being suppressed in the open invites destruction

And being suppressed in the open invites destruction

0400 Hours

Psychology is an interesting thing. I went to all the trouble to move my big platoon up the table and then did nothing with it. There was a moment when the two squads facing it were NO FIRE and the HMG on the water tower couldn’t get line of sight. If these had been the Veteran scouts of previous play tests I would have been in. Even with Regular troops, if the PC had been +1 in close combat I would have chanced it. But all I could stack up was two squads against one of his giving me a +1. If I lost I would have lost 12 points. Not worth it. So I did nothing.

A big Russian platoon with no omph

A big Russian platoon with no omph

Which led to more grief back on the hill.

Suppressions on the hill

Suppressions on the hill

0430 Hours

The 30 minutes between 0430 and 0500 hours saw the Russians attempting to rally on the hill. Without much luck.

0500 Hours

The incessant mortar and machine gun fire and continued to take a toll of my platoon on the hill. Another one bit the dust.

Another one bites the dust - on the hill of course

Another one bites the dust – on the hill of course

Soon after I lost my fourth stand. -24 points and no way to recover. I conceded.

Four down - end game

Four down – end game

Conclusions and observations

My experience was quite different to the previous Battle Report by Mark Bretherton. Superficially I used the same tactic as Mark’s opponent, i.e. climb the hit to enable RBF of much of the table, but the outcome was significantly different.

Generally I played a pretty poor game. Having adopted a strategy I became fixated on it and it lost me the game. Actually I lost the game the first time I moved a squad onto the hill. That is when Chris’s MG opened up from the water tower, followed soon afterwards by the mortar battery whose FO was also on the tower. They slowly, over the course of a few game hours, chewed up the Scout Platoon on the Russian hill and forced me to concede.

In general I don’t think I knew what kind of game I was playing. I was using assault tactics with troops that weren’t good at assaulting and victory conditions that discouraged it.

Despite my own failings I do think there is something wrong with the scenario.

Chris and I had a big debate after the game about the composition of the Russian force. He voted for a smaller force (two platoons) of Veterans. However, if I were to change the Russian order of battle I’d be tempted to leave the order of battle the same but make the PCs +1 for both close combat and rallying.

I think the map needs a tweak. I found, once I was committed to the right flank, that I couldn’t switch to another line of advance when I discovered this one was too “hot”. The table gave the Germans several lines of fire to my base line. I’m tempted to change the map to correct this.

One of the things that felt odd to me was that my Scouts couldn’t sneak. Particularly as it was nominally night time. Although Crossfire has spotting built in the scouts didn’t have any advantages. I’m tempted to give them some such advantage. It might be as simple as giving the scouts an extra level of cover while sneaking. I’d be tempted to restrict this to the period before the alarm is raised (say a Russian squad is SUPPRESSED or KILLED) or dawn comes; after that normal rules apply. To compensate the Germans probably need to benefit from the Reveal on a 1 house rule. This would make the scenario more complicated but would also give it more of a reconnaissance flavour.

6 comments to Russian Scouts – A Crossfire Battle Report 2

  • Dick Bryant

    Love the terrain. Since the Germans on the top of the water tower can see the Russians over much of the terrain, cannot the Russians on the lower terrain see them? Why not a mortar shot or three on that position? or smoke it.

    • Steven Thomas

      Easier said than done. The problem was my FOs could not see the water tower. And to get the water tower into sight they’d have to expose themselves to reactive fire from the HMG in the tower. All of my stands that did expose themselves regretted the experience.

  • Chris Montgomery

    Hi, Stephen! Thanks for letting a few of us lurkers live vicariously through you . . . great AAR.

    I wanted to say that the AAR I read did not seem like a Recon mission at all. I haven’t read the mission parameters, but I almost think that the mission should be about reconning a specific thing (like a train depot for arms) or just a “locate the enemy” mission.

    I would almost consider a mechanic where you have to “recon” 2 or 3 different locations on the map by getting a LOS to it, and rolling a 5 or 6 (each squad/leader with LOS could roll as an action, with loss of init for failure). Each location would givce a certain number of VPs for each location “spotted” – representing the recon mission itself — to find out what is there.

    If you do that, since the Russian player would no longer be concerned with losses, there should also be a “catastrophic failure” threshhold – if the Russian lose too many guys, they would call off the mission . . . they are recon, after all!

    But I’m just spit-balling. Thanks for sharing this mission with us. I greatly enjoy your entries.

    Having the squads be able to remain conc

  • Steven Thomas

    Glad you enjoy the AARs. They take a bit of effort so nice to have positive feedback.

    If you read the scenario you’ll find it includes all your suggestions. It is a “locate the enemy” scenario – victory points are awarded for spotting enemy stands and fortifications. The scenario also included your suggestion for LOS and a 5+ die roll – which is a variation on RBF. I give specialist recon troops a bonus in RBF – they spot on 5+. Finally, the scenario also included your concept of “catastrophic failure”. That is why I conceded when I got to four stands killed.

    But I agree that it reads like a rather lack lustre assault rather than a recon. Mind you, that is why I play test the scenarios, so that I can refine the scenarios and make them better.

  • Chris Montgomery

    Thanks for the response! As I said in my post, I had not read the scenario . . . but I am glad those concepts were included! Great stuff! I am just finishing up painting some rather generic 10mm Germans so that I can attempt to get this game to the table. All this reading of your posts has kept me slowly plugging away at the (rather bad) paint jobs I’m able to do.

  • Chris Montgomery

    Er, correction to the above . . . I guess I didn’t say that I hadn’t read the scenario. Apologies for that. Cheers.

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