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.
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.
The battle started with a single T34-76 rumbling onto the table in the north-east corner.
Next up was an SU-76i. The SU-76i is a Russian StuG III. Getting these models was the excuse for the scenario.
In fact Chris brought all five armoured vehicle on table before his infantry made their appearance.
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?”
With everybody on table Chris pushed forward the troops on the northern end of his line.
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.
First blood. A German platoon ambushes the Soviet advance party.
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.
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.
More of my riflemen appeared when some Russians ran across some open ground.
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.
In the centre my two rifle squads were facing a huge Soviet army. At least that is what it seemed like to me.
But sure enough the Soviet armour rolled forward in the north.
My guys that had retreated earlier were now facing a tank. Luckily Chris also advanced some infantry for them to shoot at as well.
It might have been the high cyclic rate of fire the MG34, but my boys initially did alright.
I also had another FO sniping in the north.
With my infantry appearing Chris seemed to favour pushing his armour forward ahead of this infantry.
Perhaps that was just to hold the fort as he moved more troops to 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.
But in the north Chris kept pushing forward.
After their initial success my riflemen began to realise that a firefight with a tank is not to be advised.
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!
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.
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.
But as usual I attacked then pulled back. In this case only a little bit.
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.
He pushed forward again and I got a lucky shot with my squad right at the front of the action.
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.
Chris had a go at my isolated guys in the forward field but supporting fire by machine guns and mortars hammered the intended attackers.
In the north my guys finally succumbed to tank fire.
With the T34-76 killing one platoon that flank was looking pretty weak.
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.
In the centre I was actually looking alright. I had a big platoon firing into the flank of the Soviet attack in the north.
Chris turned his northern platoons towards immediate threat in the centre.
His target were the tank killers still in the field near the building. A quick charge dealt with the suppressed squad.
But Chris backed off rather than tackling the +2 PC and the remaining squad.
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.
The clock reached 1300 hours and Chris conceded. He’d lost his opportunity to breakthrough and gain bonus victory points.
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.