Volkhov Bridgehead – A Crossfire Battle Report

Rich Wilcox and I played out my Volkhov Bridgehead / Posicin Navarro scenario the other day. As Rich took some photos, I thought I’d write up a battle report. This is one of my Blue Division scenarios, so features the 250th (Spanish Volunteer) Division on the Eastern Front.

Set Up

The gist of the scenario is the Spanish player has established a small bridgehead on the east bank of the Volkhov River and is trying to expand their foothold. The Russians are, of course, trying to prevent this and drive the Spanish back into the river.

The first photo shows the table looking from the northern edge. As you can see, lots of trees, fields (out of season), rough ground, and a few hills.


Position of the Objectives

The Russians started with possession of five terrain objectives scattered around the table, and the Spanish with one.

The white cord was used to highlight the three deployment zones: 1. the initial Spanish bridgehead, 2. the Russian forward zone, 3. the Russian rear zone.

The scenario was played in two halves: night then day. During the night the initial landing force had to capture a Russian held objective in the forward zone. This event would trigger the day half of the game. With dawn came came the Spanish reinforcements, and the Russian main body in the rear zone also became operative.

Both sides started with two platoons, but the Russian outposts had the additional restriction that they could only deploy one squad per feature, and in the forward zone. With dawn both sides were reinforced up to 2 companies.

Plans


Full Table – Deployment zones

As the Russian player I deployed an outpost platoon near each of the forward objectives (X2 and X3). With wire blocking easy access to the southern objective (X2), I was hoping Rich would attack X3. As a result I positioned the bulk of my main body near the bunker, so they could counter-attack against X3; this had the added benefit of shielding two of the three rear objectives. X4 was not neglected though, as it had a platoon with supports.

Rich, the Spanish player, unfortunately saw through my cunning plan and chose to attack the wired-in southern objective (X2) instead of the more easily approached X3. However, to reach X2 he had to attack around the wire.

Rich’s over all battle plan had four stages:

  1. Take the hill protecting the flank of the wire.
  2. Take objective X2 and wait for dawn.
  3. Take objective X4 (while his forces were still fresh)
  4. Take objective X3 (which being held by the survivors of the outpost was likely to be relatively weakly defended)

By and large Rich’s plan worked.

Phase 1 (Night): Circumventing the Wire

The first part of the game was played at night using the night fighting rules from Hit the Dirt. To summarise these: everybody is in cover, stands get at most one move action per initiative, and stands in cover can’t be shot at until they shoot.


Spanish assault first hill in face of Russian fire

These rules were fascinating limitations. The night battle was engrossing even with only two platoons each.

There was a bit of a fire fight but ultimately Rich relied on night to protect his Veteran Spanish as they charged the Russian defenders. The hill was taken this way. Using group fires the defenders did manage to pin and/or suppress individual charging Spanish, but with Veterans and good commanders, the Spanish kept coming.

Phase 2 (Night): Capturing LZ2

Having cleared the first obstacle Rich brought up some reserves. His men then turned back to attack the remainder of the Russian outpost protecting X2. Capturing X2 would allow his reinforcements to land on the nearby landing zone (LZ2).


Spanish cleared hill

You’ll notice he also left a couple of stands protecting his original objective – visible in the background in the photo on the right. Although few in number, this flank guard was a sufficient deterrent to prevent me forsaking the advantage of hidden deployment and attacking the Spanish held objective.

While stands on the hill used covering fire on nearby Russian squads, Rich’s assault platoon went in with the bayonet.


Spanish attack around the wire

Once again Rich used the cover of darkness and the morale of his men to charge across open ground and finish the Russians quickly.

In one notable instance he did a group move to contact, but the two rifle squads were pinned and suppressed, leaving the officer to charge in alone. Under the group move rules the officer didn’t have to contact the target, but had to end within one stand width of the intended location of the group move leader.

Spanish charge again, but pinned crossing open ground

Unfortunately for me, the defending stand didn’t manage to finish off the officer with Rifle fire, and the Spanish squads rallied and dispatched it

Stage 3 (Day): Pushing inland

Having taken a second objective (X2), hence landing zone (Z2), the Spanish waited for dawn and their reinforcements. Rich brought these on in both his landing zones.


Dawn, and Spanish reinforcements arrive

Dawn also exposed the Spanish advance guard to fire from the Russian main body. The Russian platoon on the hill (objective X4) saw their opportunity and opened up, but didn’t inflict many casualties.


Dawn reveals Russian main body

Rich brought up his reinforcements, including artillery observers and pounded the defenders of X4. Rapidly losing stands I withdrew those I could from the hill into shelter behind. Rich charged the hill and destroyed my sole remaining defender.


Spanish mass

Stage 4 (Day): Consolidation

Having captured two objectives, giving Rich three total, things were going well for him. Rich had completed three of his planned four stages. The last step was to take the house in the northern sector (X3). As I hadn’t moved up reinforcements Rich was confident I had only a platoon defending this feature. He redeployed his attacking forces from the south – leaving a light holding force – and launched his attack in the north.


Spanish probes blocked

He initially tried to take the hill dominating the northern sector, but with at least two platoons having LOS to this feature, his attack was driven off.

Then Rich resorted to the tried and true frontal assault – although this time without the benefit of darkness. He took the precaution of blocking off the LOS of nearby stands, leaving the occupant of X3 as the sole enemy with LOS to the assault platoon. Then he charged with a full platoon. By a miracle the defending rifle squad managed to pin all four attacking stands. Rich’s platoon went to ground in front of the objective and tried to shoot it out – but failed to get the vital suppression and lost the initiative.


Russians grimly hold Spanish

I then brought up my reserves and counter-attacked.

Conclusions

At that point we ran out of real time, although the game clock had some time to run. We called it
a draw as it could have gone either way. We both had possession of three terrain objectives. We
both had sufficient force to allow a bit of a tussle. In particular I was intending to
counter-attack the southern hill objective (X4) and Rich was still trying to press home his attack
on the house (X3).
During the debrief we agreed a few points:

  1. During terrain set up we realised I’d drawn too many small features on the original map, and it was hard to recreate this on the table. Subsequently I updated the map with less but bigger features.
  2. Seemed balanced right to the end.
  3. The night fighting was intriguing and made for gripping play even though small forces were involved in the first half of the game.
  4. The moving clock went for too long, so I have shorted it in the published scenario.

It was fun and we’d try it again.

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