StuG Smuggling – A Crossfire Battle Report for a Lloydian Scenario

I hosted a couple of games between Chris Harrod and Jamie Wish. We tried StuG Smuggling by Nikolas Lloyd. Both games saw the Russian “defenders” go on a successful “StuG hunting” rampage.


Table

Lloyd’s StuG Smuggling Scenario is pretty vague on terrain. A T road junction, five barricades and a village. Lloyd also suggests the rest of the table should be “a dense mix of fields, hills, rough ground, quite a lot of hedges, walls etc.”

I looked at IanH’s table for StuG Smuggling as inspiration. IanH’s table was 6′ x 4′ and he commented that there was a lot of terrain.

IanH also suggested this would play well on a 4′ x 4′ table. So I transposed IanH’s terrain onto a 4′ x 4′ table, trying to keep all of IanH’s terrain, but using my standard sized terrain features. The result looked like this:

Map for StuG Smuggling 4x4 Dense

Map for StuG Smuggling 4×4 Dense

When we put that on table, it looked great. Pastoral. “Idyllic” is how my wife described it. Ignoring the blood bath that was to come.

StuG 02 Table

StuG 02 Table

StuG 05 Idyllic countryside

StuG 05 Idyllic countryside

StuG 06 Table from south-east

StuG 06 Table from south-east


Game 1

Chris took the defending Soviets in the first game. He deployed with two platoons forward and one back. The mortar team was with the reserve and the company commander in the front line.

StuG 02 Deployment

StuG 02 Deployment

StuG 08 Soviet Forward Positions

StuG 08 Soviet Forward Positions

StuG 03 Russian Forward Positions

StuG 03 Russian Forward Positions

StuG 07 Soviet Reserve

StuG 07 Soviet Reserve

Chris left the 76mm without an escort.

StuG 24 Soviet 76mm Gun sits on the road

StuG 24 Soviet 76mm Gun sits on the road

Jamie came on in the north-east corner of the table. A long way from the road and the 76mm gun waiting there.

StuG 04 Germans arrive in north-east

StuG 04 Germans arrive in north-east

The StuG had an escort platoon with the other platoon providing flank security to the south.

StuG 09 German Battle Group Arrive

StuG 09 German Battle Group Arrive

The StuG and it’s escort played leap frog. Jamie pushed the escort platoon forward.

StuG 10 German Battle Group Arrives

StuG 10 German Battle Group Arrives

And then the StuG caught up.

StuG 11 The StuG advances

StuG 11 The StuG advances

Both players were pre-occupied by the hill near the north-east corner. I could see Jamie debating with himself on the advisability of going up the hill. He chose not to.

StuG 12 Jamie eyes on the hill

StuG 12 Jamie eyes on the hill

Eventually initiative passed to Chris and he deployed his reserve (3rd Platoon) to cover the norther flank facing the advancing Germans.

StuG 13 Soviet 3rd Platoon redeploys north

StuG 13 Soviet 3rd Platoon redeploys north

Next Chris advanced his 2nd platoon from their defensive positions to hem the German into the north-eastern corner.

StuG 14 Soviet 2nd Platoon advances in south-east

StuG 14 Soviet 2nd Platoon advances in south-east

Not content to sit behind the hill in the centre, Chris pushed 2nd platoon closer towards the Germans. The moving stand got Pinned but Chris retained the initiative.

StuG 15 Soviet 2nd Platoon pushs aggressively forward

StuG 15 Soviet 2nd Platoon pushes aggressively forward

So Chris advanced more of 2nd platoon. This triggered a NO FIRE on the German side.

StuG 16 2nd platoon keeps pushing forward

StuG 16 2nd platoon keeps pushing forward

A NO FIRE German, with no other Germans able to bring defensive fire, and Chris was off. Charge!!!

StuG 17 And with a German No Fire 2nd Platoon charges

StuG 17 And with a German No Fire 2nd Platoon charges

Good odds overcome by good dice rolling. 6-2 to Jamie and most of the Russian 2nd platoon evaporated.

StuG 18 Heroic defence by German Squad

StuG 18 Heroic defence by German Squad

Not content with that success Jamie finished off the last squad in 2nd Platoon.

StuG 20 Germans close for the kill

StuG 20 Germans close for the kill

Jamie, deciding that the Russian 3rd Platoon had closed off the northern route, now starting redeploying to face the village in the centre.

StuG 21 Germans consolidate forward

StuG 21 Germans consolidate forward

StuG 22 Both German platoons move to the centre

StuG 22 Both German platoons move to the centre

Eventually Jamie got in range again and the shooting began.

StuG 23 Jamie tries to push forward in the centre

StuG 23 Jamie tries to push forward in the centre

StuG 25 Germans edge forward in the centre

StuG 25 Germans edge forward in the centre

With 2nd platoon gone, Chris realised he was open in the south. All he had to fill the gap was his company commander. I wasn’t sure how effective this would be because, of course, a company commander cannot shoot.

StuG 26 Soviet Company Commander swing around to cover the flank

StuG 26 Soviet Company Commander swing around to cover the flank

In the north Chris tried to get close to the, now unescorted, StuG. But the northern hill was really exposed and reactive fire drove back the Russians.

StuG 27 Soviet 3rd Platoon climbs the hill

StuG 27 Soviet 3rd Platoon climbs the hill

Jamie was more interested in the centre and used his initiative to start firing back.

StuG 28 Jamie continues to focus in the centre

StuG 28 Jamie continues to focus in the centre

Chris decided to reinforce his company commander and brought forward his mortar team.

StuG 29 Soviet mortar joins the CC

StuG 29 Soviet mortar joins the CC

About this point I suspect Jamie realised the south was open and moved a platoon that way.

StuG 30 German platoon ventures further south

StuG 30 German platoon ventures further south

It was looking pretty good for the Germans with a whole platoon to use. The question was … where?

StuG 31 Germans assemble for the assault

StuG 31 Germans assemble for the assault

Jamie elected to attack the Russian company commander. Lloyd’s scenario doesn’t specify this guys quality so we gave it the same as the Germans i.e. +2. That was enough to even the odds and Chris threw enough to kill off the attackers.

StuG 32 Soviet CC drives off German attackers

StuG 32 Soviet CC drives off German attackers

Chris advanced his mortar team through the Russian bodies to the hedge. But that just attracted German rifle fire.

StuG 33 Soviet Mortar moves up to see over hedge

StuG 33 Soviet Mortar moves up to see over hedge

Back on the northern hill Chris tried to push forward 3rd platoon again. No luck. Jamie still had the choice of rifle platoon or the StuG itself to conduct reactive fire.

StuG 34 Soviet 3rd platoon tries again to get over the hill

StuG 34 Soviet 3rd platoon tries again to get over the hill

Deciding that caution is the better part of valour Chris retreated 3rd platoon off the hill.

StuG 36 Soviet 3rd Platoon retreats off the hill

StuG 36 Soviet 3rd Platoon retreats off the hill

3rd platoon did a wide sweeping manoeuvre and ended up on the southern flank.

StuG 37 3rd Platoon turns up on the other flank

StuG 37 3rd Platoon turns up on the other flank

And of course, this being Chris, he attacked. Chris saw a mostly covered route to the StuG behind German lines.

StuG 38 3rd platoon advances behind the Germans

StuG 38 3rd platoon advances behind the Germans

German reactive fire caused a PIN but Chris was still going.

StuG 40 Only one move away from the StuG

StuG 40 Only one move away from the StuG

Chris brought forward more of 3rd platoon. And there was nothing that Jamie could do about it.

StuG 41 And Chris on a reduce platoon assembled

StuG 41 And Chris had a reduce platoon assembled

Urraah! The Russians were off. Target: the rear of the StuG.

StuG 42 Urraahh

StuG 42 Urraahh

Chris had numbers (we ignored our normal house rule of one squad when attacking armour) and the StuG was in terrain so didn’t get its +2. StuG burned.

StuG 43 The StuG burns

StuG 43 The StuG burns

Chris had counter-attacked immediately and pinned Jamie on the base line. At the end of the game the Germans were still in the north-east corner where they started. They occupied 2 square feet of the table area, out of 16 square feet. Chris lost a lot of troops but had more troops to start with and found a way to get the StuG.

StuG 44 Table at end of game

StuG 44 Table at end of game


Game 2

Jamie and Chris swapped sides. Jamie set up with all three platoons in a line across the middle of the table, where the village was. The mortar team was in the centre.

StuG 46 Game 2 Russian positions in south

StuG 46 Game 2 Russian positions in south

StuG 47 Game 2 Russian positions in north

StuG 47 Game 2 Russian positions in north

The Germans (Chris) arrived in the north-east again.

StuG 48 Game 2 Germans arrive

StuG 48 Game 2 Germans arrive

After that it was pretty much a re-play of the first game. Jamie boxed Chris into the north-east corner, lost troops, but used superior numbers to find an opening and kill the StuG.


Conclusions / Observations

Summary: nice looking table but played too much like chess.

After Crossfiregrad we were buzzing. After this scenario we left with a vague intellectual curiosity on how to make it a better game. “Bit like chess” was the most common refrain of the evening. Manoeuvring, sacrificing pawns, but eventually check-mate.

Two games that played out in almost identical fashion. In essence the Germans defended against marauding Allied tank killers. Firstly the Germans arrived. I can’t say “attacked” as they didn’t. In both games the Germans only got one initiative where they had much choice. As soon as the Allies got the initiative both games turned from “StuG smuggling” to “StuG hunting”. The Allies counter-attacked immediately and aggressively. They trapped the Germans on the base line in a small box. Then used numbers to wear the Germans down as they waited for an opening. Eventually the Allies can get a platoon at the StuG and “Bang!” After the fact we realised we could have played both games on a 4’x 2′ table with the Germans entering on a long edge. They never got more than 12 inches on table.

I think there are two reasons:

  1. Firstly, the dense terrain. I had, perhaps, taken Lloyd’s suggestion that the table be “fairly dense” too far. In fact I took a photo of the IanH battle report for this scenario and drew my map based on this – but my table is 2/3 the size. The end result was a terrain density that was about twice the Crossfire guidelines and my normal tables. This meant there were about 10 terrain features to move through on any particular route across the table (ignoring the road). A normal Crossfire table has about 5-6 terrain features across the table (which is Lloyd’s normal guideline). So, even without Allied intervention, it was going to take the StuG a long time to cross the table. Next time we would try with more normal terrain density for a Crossfire game.
  2. Secondly, the scenario gives the defenders no reason to defend. The goal is the StuG and in both games we played the allies immediately abandoned their positions and went after the StuG (“StuG Hunting”).
    • The simplest way to encourage the defenders to defend is to give them a weaker, but hidden, force. Being hidden gives the defender an advantage that they squander if they voluntarily move. In terms of orders of battle .. maybe lose an Allied platoon but make them hidden. This might make the Allied line too thin on a 4′ wide table. For a bigger game lose an Allied rifle stand and add a German platoon, again with the Allies hidden.
    • Alternatively add a scenario rule limiting when the Allies can move e.g. a stand can only move if any stand in the platoon has seen Germans during the game, or some such.

Next time I’ll also add some walls. We had plenty of hedges but no walls.

Finally, a few things that would have been nice in the original scenario. Nothing major but would have made a mid-game conversation unnecessary:

  • Specify the quality of the Allied company commander. We assumed +2.
  • Specify the command and control for both sides. We assumed German and British given Lloyd’s interests.
  • Specify whether or not the StuG bogs in area features. The special rule mentions linear features (walls, hedges, fences) but not things like woods, orchards, rough, fields. We assumed it did not.
  • Specify whether the fields are in/out-of season. We assumed in season.

References

StuG Smuggling by Nikolas Lloyd

IanH’s table for StuG Smuggling.

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