SU-76i in 1902nd SAP – A Crossfire Battle Report 2

I love the tension that comes with a good game of Crossfire. Chris Harrod and I had loads of tension in our game of SU-76i in 1902nd SAP. As a result of this game, and the earlier play test by Dick Bryant, I’m now convinced the secret to a good Breakthrough scenario is defence in depth. The game was knife edge but my Germans managed to hold Chris’s Soviet steam roller.

Table

The table reflects the latest version of the map. The big change is the Soviets attack from a short edge and must get across the length of the table. As you can see from the photo we needed a lot of fields for this scenario.

Table

Table

0800 hours

The battle started with a single T34-76 rumbling onto the table in the north-east corner.

It all starts with a single T34-76

It all starts with a single T34-76

Next up was an SU-76i. The SU-76i is a Russian StuG III. Getting these models was the excuse for the scenario.

Followed by a SU-76i

Followed by a SU-76i

In fact Chris brought all five armoured vehicle on table before his infantry made their appearance.

More Soviet armour

More Soviet armour

Then the eastern horde began to arrive. This was one of those Crossfire moments when I ask myself “how am I going to stop that?”

Russian infantry arrives

Russian infantry arrives

More infantry arrive

More infantry arrive

With everybody on table Chris pushed forward the troops on the northern end of his line.

Soviet northern flank

Soviet northern flank

Mind you the southern flank weren’t shy to advance as well. But they stopped pretty quickly. Almost all the action would take place in the north.

Soviet southern flank

Soviet southern flank

First blood. A German platoon ambushes the Soviet advance party.

Ambush fire

Ambush fire

My ambushers then bailed out. Shoot and scoot was the order of the day. I couldn’t afford the attrition of a stand up fight so thought I’d use the table depth to my advantage.

Run away

Run away

Meanwhile my hidden forward observers (FO) began to have an impact. Chris was really puzzled where they were. As it happens they were targeting down narrow lines of sight between fields and crests so were a couple of features away from their targets. And that is why Chris didn’t find them. He did, however, manage to minimise their impact by dropping smoke in front of the troops being pounded. Suited me. Whilst he was using up FM on smoke he wasn’t using them on me.

Hidden FO snipes

Hidden FO snipes

0830 hours

More of my riflemen appeared when some Russians ran across some open ground.

Russian caught in open

Russian caught in open

But again I shot once then bailed out. In this case my guys did a giant circling move to the far side of the table. This was mostly a bit of deception intended to lure Chris forward in the north.

Giant redeployment

Giant redeployment

0900 hours

In the centre my two rifle squads were facing a huge Soviet army. At least that is what it seemed like to me.

The very thin grey line

The very thin grey line

But sure enough the Soviet armour rolled forward in the north.

Soviet armour noses forward

Soviet armour noses forward

0930 hours

My guys that had retreated earlier were now facing a tank. Luckily Chris also advanced some infantry for them to shoot at as well.

Long range fire fight

Long range fire fight

It might have been the high cyclic rate of fire the MG34, but my boys initially did alright.

Long range MG34 fire

Long range MG34 fire

I also had another FO sniping in the north.

Sniping FO in the north

Sniping FO in the north

With my infantry appearing Chris seemed to favour pushing his armour forward ahead of this infantry.

T34-76 closes on the farm

T34-76 closes on the farm

Perhaps that was just to hold the fort as he moved more troops to the north.

Russians reinforce the attack in the north

Russians reinforce the attack in the north

My hidden FOs were doing good work. In one initiative they suppressed two Soviet HMG stands in the centre. These stands never moved again in the battle.

Sniping FOs hit two HMG teams

Sniping FOs hit two HMG teams

But in the north Chris kept pushing forward.

Soviets in north edge forward

Soviets in north edge forward

1000 hours

After their initial success my riflemen began to realise that a firefight with a tank is not to be advised.

A firefight with tanks is a bit one sided

A firefight with tanks is a bit one sided

1030 hours

However, I did have some troops that could damage tanks. In fact my first Pak 38 to be revealed took out a T34-76 and a SU-76i. Woohoo!

Pak front surprise

Pak front surprise

1100 hours

By 1100 hours, three game hours in, Chris found my main line of defence. It was 2-3 features behind the edge of my deployment zone. Chris had rolled a T34-76 forward to deal with my first Pak 38. So I revealed another in reactive fire, with the stands nearby. Unfortunately I missed.

Soviets find German main line of defence

Soviets find German main line of defence

If the Paks weren’t able to take on the lumbering monster then the landsers would. The two rifle squads that had done the giant redeployment earlier now rushed back to assault the T34-76 from the rear. Their PC, who had been hidden in the nearby building, joined them. A rain of grenades did their job.

Paks are good but grenades are better

Paks are good but grenades are better

But as usual I attacked then pulled back. In this case only a little bit.

Operational order: Attack then pull back

Operational order: Attack then pull back

Chris continued to push his reserves to the north. He left a holding force in the south, and a few stands in the centre, but the vast mass of his troops were now in the north.

Russians redeploy their reserves to the north

Russians redeploy their reserves to the north

He pushed forward again and I got a lucky shot with my squad right at the front of the action.

Germans have just enough to hold the attack

Germans have just enough to hold the attack

1130 hours

As usual I didn’t see much point in staying in place to get ground to mincemeat by Soviet firepower so I pulled the guys out of the building to lend close support to the Pak behind them. I would have pulled back the other half of the platoon but one of squads was suppressed and I couldn’t rally it.

Shoot and pull back in centre

Shoot and pull back in centre

1200 hours

Chris had a go at my isolated guys in the forward field but supporting fire by machine guns and mortars hammered the intended attackers.

Urraah stopped by machine guns and mortars

Urraah stopped by machine guns and mortars

In the north my guys finally succumbed to tank fire.

Don't try to outshoot a tank with a rifle

Don’t try to outshoot a tank with a rifle

With the T34-76 killing one platoon that flank was looking pretty weak.

What have I got left?

What have I got left?

So I reorganised in the centre to free up troops to deploy north. The key troops were a platoon that moved to the extreme north-west of the table to await the Soviet onslaught.

Pull back in the centre

Pull back in the centre

1230 hours

In the centre I was actually looking alright. I had a big platoon firing into the flank of the Soviet attack in the north.

Germans still strong in the centre

Germans still strong in the centre

Chris turned his northern platoons towards immediate threat in the centre.

Russians reorient towards centre

Russians reorient towards centre

His target were the tank killers still in the field near the building. A quick charge dealt with the suppressed squad.

No Fire and Urraah

No Fire and Urraah

But Chris backed off rather than tackling the +2 PC and the remaining squad.

But not brave enough to take on +2 PC

But not brave enough to take on +2 PC

Then I noticed that all Chris had facing my big platoon in the centre was a few stragglers. The two HMG suppressed early in the game, a CC, and two FO. So I sent out a hunting party to tidy them up. Chris claimed “gamey” and “cheesey”. I thought it fair cop since they had been firing at my platoon, were only a couple of features away, and Chris had withdrawn their supporting riflemen.

Germans take out Russian stragglers in centre

Germans take out Russian stragglers in centre

1300 hours

The clock reached 1300 hours and Chris conceded. He’d lost his opportunity to breakthrough and gain bonus victory points.

Table at game end

Table at game end

Conclusions and observations

First things first, it was a great game. Really tense throughout and could have gone either way. There was one particular roll about noon where, if Chris had made it, he probably would have won. He missed the shot, the initiative passed to me and I managed to bring more troops in to bar his advance. Such is war.

The most impressive thing about this game, and Crossfire in general, was the tension. When his horde came on table I was thinking “how am I going to stop that?” And it was a close run thing; I almost didn’t. I know Chris was frustrated by the continuous stings from my sniping FOs and from the rifle squads that shot and ran for it. They wore him down. We were both totally engaged in the game. That is a rare thing in wargaming.

The highlight was the Pak 38 taking out two Soviet armoured vehicles in quick successful. Hurrah for the anti-tank guns!

The game implemented a few suggestions from my Musing on Breakthrough Objectives. In particular, more open fields of fire and fighting the length of the table. Both very useful changes.

I have not, as yet, included the proviso to keep the lines of communications open. This might have made a difference to Chris who neglected his centre and let me massacre his troops there. With the requirement to keep the lines of communications open he might have keep more troops back. But then he might not have had enough troops to break through.

6 comments to SU-76i in 1902nd SAP – A Crossfire Battle Report 2

  • Dick Bryant

    Great game! I did notice one thing, however, you seem to allow an entire company of russians to come onto the table into one field (at least thats what it looks like in the photo). I always understood that you could have no more than one squad (with attachments) in a terrain piece at a time. I may have been doing this wrong since 1996!!!!

    • Steven Thomas

      I think a company in a single feature is okay. CF mentions terrain size only three times:

      (1) A recommendation that feature should be “large enough to contain at least 4-6 Squads”. I assume this is when spread out in combat formation rather than bunched up.
      (2) a building sector has a capacity of a certain number of Squads, with 2 the default.
      (3) In the scenario generator – an optional rule – A terrain feature is between 4″x4″ and 8″x8″.

      In an 8″ x 8″ feature you can fit an entire company.

  • Chris Montgomery

    Great AAR, Steven, as always. Thanks for providing it. Sounds like you are zeroing this scenario in well! Couple questions:

    (1) How lucky was that anti-gun?

    (2) Did the Soviets use Recon by Fire much?

    (3) I wonder how it would affect the scenario if you had a couple more hedgerows or walls?

    I thought that the defense in depth was a great idea, and seemed to work out well — zap them, take the init, then run away . . .

    I was surprised at the lack of smoke FMs the Soviets seemed to bring down to cover their advance in the face of such wide-open fields of fire . . .

    Finally – how many snipers did the Germans have? IIRC, the snipers are picked up after a single shot . . .

    Great AAR!

    • Steven Thomas

      (1) The ATG was lucky but not extraordinarily lucky. 5% chance of two kills from two shots. Something like that.

      (2) The Soviets did RBF at the start but didn’t find anything because I had two layers of empty terrain between my troops and the edge of my deployment zone. And with time pressure – the moving clock – RBF becomes less common and pushing forward squads becomes more common.

      (3) To be honest I could get rid of all the hedges and there would be very little effect. Because the fields are “in-season” they blocked LOS anyway.

      (4) Chris used a lot of smoke. He used his FOs every initiative so usually got 2 or 3 smoke barriers. But 2 of those were to block out my own sniping FOs from shooting up his more static fronts.

      (5) I had one sniper. He was in the woods near the back and never got into the game.

  • John D'Alton

    Great AAR and you describe it well- how tense it got and what where the players’ reasons for moves. Looks like a good scenario to play sometime 🙂

Leave a Reply