Chris Harrod and I had a go at my Kodorov scenario. We threw for sides – I got the Russians and Chris got the Germans. Strangely we both started quite confident about our chances. Before we had rolled the dice I told Chris that if the scenario was unbalanced, it probably favoured the Russians. He, on the other hand, thought the Germans could hold them off. The game was unusual for two reasons: it is a night battle using night time special rules from Hit the Dirt; the Russians deploy splitting the Germans in half. The historical action concentrated on the four objectives, and the battle report follows suit. The narrative jumps fairly rapidly between the Store House, School House, Tomato Farm / Farm House, and Infantry Gun company on Battery Hill.
It was a very busy table. Lots of woods, rough, fields (in season) buildings, a few hills, and one massive crest. The latter was the edge of the ravine. Kodorov Village was inside and the Tomato Farm outside the ravine. We might have overdone the size of the ravine crest, but at least you can see it in the photos.
I wasn’t sure how long the moving clock would give me and I wanted a plan that ensured I’d get a good attack in on all objectives before dawn (2 hours away). I decided to send a company off towards Battery Hill and the Tomato Farm, whilst the remainder of the battalion cleared out Kodorov village.
Chris, following the instructions in the scenario, deployed in houses around the various objectives. He had an infantry platoon at each the Store House and School House, and two infantry platoons in the Tomato Farm around the Farm House – all within buildings and all hidden
Battery Hill was protected by the Infantry Gun company. Yippee! At last I got to field them!
Chris divided the guns of his anti-tank company amongst his infantry platoons.
0400 Hours – In the quite of the night
0400 hours and the Russians began to sneak away from the stream bed. The first to go was the company destined for the Tomato Farm and Battery Hill.
At one move action per stand per initiative it was going to be a slow slog out of the ravine.
I should have taken a photo immediately after the Russians deployed, but didn’t. An early war Russian battalion is BIG! Masses and masses of men in greenish-brown just waiting for their chance to wreck revenge upon Fritz.
These photos shows the Russians after their first few moves, but you get the idea.
Where is he?
The fighting started after I failed a recon by fire attempt on one of the buildings near the Store House.
We played it that RBF counted for making stands visible to enemy and so Chris opened up with defensive fire. First blood. One Russian HMG suppressed, then subsequently killed.
(In hindsight this might have been incorrect as RBF includes silent observation.) .
Meanwhile I pushed a platoon out wide towards the School House on the edge of the table.
Our first big mistake with the night movement was the first stand I pushed to the crest of the ravine. In a burst of adrenaline and machine gun bullets, we let Chris reactive fire and my stand got suppressed. In hindsight this guy would have not been a legitimate target due to the night rules – it was under cover and hadn’t fire.
We were to make a few more errors like that during the game.
Despite my failure on the crest I kept up the push to get out of the ravine.
0410 Hours – Of my God, they’re everywhere
Near the School House Chris was obviously getting worried and began revealing troops so he could redeploy them.
Then we started our next set of LOS mistakes. As Chris moved in the open next to the School I fired at him and Pinned him. Actually I shouldn’t have been able to see him through the field as it was in season. A bit of fire fight ensued, although it shouldn’t have happened at all.
By this stage I had got a platoon up to the crest of the ravine to threaten Battery Hill. Of course the German 15.0 cm infantry gun threatened me right back.
Actually I was lucky that only one gun was pointed my way. Chris had earlier redeployed all of the battery to face the crest line where my first squad had emerged (and been suppressed). As my platoon pushed up the hill he initially only pivoted the big gun to face them.
At the School I thrust a squad forward but was ambushed by a a Pak 36 hidden in the field. Ah well. My boy was Pinned.
German squads began to threaten my advance guard.
Both sides were psychologically heading towards a preference for close combat.
So far I had located three German infantry platoons. One in the Tomato Farm, one at the Store House and one near the School.
Choosing to leave the mess at the School House alone for the moment I advanced at the far end of the village near the Dneiper river. It was starting to look like Chris didn’t have troops there.
Fighting in the Dark
Outside the ravine I pushed ahead with my attack on Battery Hill.
I was very glad I’d attached an FO for an 81mm mortar to that platoon. He consistently managed to lay smoke in front of one or more of the infantry guns on the hill.
Using that cover I pushed the rifle squads forward.
Chris rightly pushed the contest at the School House. He close assaulted my exposed squad and took it out.
He also scored another success near the Store House. His platoon shot down another squad.
And finally he continued to shoot at the first Russian squad that had come up the side of the ravine. It didn’t take too long for this stand to succumb to the German onslaught.
On the flank of the Store House Chris had pulled back his troops to defend the School so I took the opportunity to advance my own guys forward into the gap.
Meanwhile the battle near the School House continued. Chris sent in another guy to close assault me.
This was when we realised a limitation of the night vision rules. According to the published rules the assaulting squad was invisible up to and including when it hit my stand. We both agreed this was a bit odd so spontaneously added the “or within one stand width” to the night visibility rules.
Not that it saved me. Another German close assault. Another Russian dies. Along with the PC.
My flank platoon was now looking pretty thin and went on the defensive, tasked solely with pinning the Germans outside the School House. I figured I could get other troops in behind and take the objective from the rear.
Chris was starting to feel the pressure and decided to vacate the Store House.
The HMG moved out but didn’t get far – suppressed! In hindsight he admitted this was probably a tad risky.
0420 Hours – Urraah! Urraah! Urraah!
All that action and only 20 minutes on the clock!
I saw my chance. With his HMG out of the way he had only a single rifle squad in the Store House (and a PC). The Russian infantry shouted “Urraah! and charged the objective.
Four rifle stands and a PC made it through his feeble defensive fire and contacted the Store House. During the game I often benefited from the Russian recklessness, where they ignore pins when close assaulting. This was one of those times.
The odds looked pretty good, but you can’t beat a 6 versus a 1. Scratch one entire Russian rifle platoon! But there were more where they came from.
Elsewhere I was edging closer to Battery Hill, still under cover of smoke.
By now I was in the field next to the hill and he couldn’t shoot at me because I still hadn’t shot, and he hadn’t had a chance to shoot at me in the open.
This is where the night rules bit me. I had made a few manoeuvre mistakes and got my PC out of line of sight of a couple of his squads, and unfortunately, these got stuck where they were and didn’t participate in the coming fight.
However, being a little peeved at my advance Chris pushed one of his 7.5 cm infantry guns down off the hill and into the field.
Being in the same feature he could now shoot at me. Unfortunately for him, they couldn’t lay down effective fire.
With the loss of my platoon at the Store House I brought my reserve platoon back across the stream.
And more Russians began to push up over the edge of the ravine. They came via the shelter of a small wood surrounded by hedges.
After a brief fire fight at the foot of Battery Hill I’d managed to suppress the infantry gun in the field.
Chris decided to push down a second in support. Unfortunately for him this gun’s aim was no better than that of the first.
Although you can’t see it here he also began to bring a platoon from the Tomato Farm across to support the guns on Battery Hill.
But the German infantry didn’t get there in time.
I saw my chance (again), dropped some smoke, went for the suppressed gun, and killed it. +1 Victory Point (VP).
Nearby the Russian infantry continued through the small wood. I had options here – I could send them towards Battery Hill or toward the Farm House depending on need. Assuming, of course, those building in front of me were empty.
The rescuing German infantry still hadn’t made it to Battery Hill.
More smoke and another rush took out the second German infantry gun in the field. +1 VP.
The Russians in the wood finally made it to the hedge line. Suddenly I could bring fire to bear on the Tomato Farm.
Back in Kodorov I launched two close assaults.
A company commander took on the Store House and an entire platoon attacked a house nearby.
Both combats were successful.
One objective taken! +4 VP.
Chris was looking a bit thin on the ground at the Store House. Just his anti-tank gun and a suppressed HMG.
And lots of Russians around them.
But somehow the adrenalin induced by the success of the previous assault caused me to charge again.
The first squad made it, but the second was suppressed, but being Russian this became a killed. Ooops.
So what about those two buildings next to the small wood at the top of the crest?
I sent a squad towards the first one, but not surprisingly Germans were lurking around and Pinned him.
Adrenalin still pumping, I attacked and killed the gun and HMG near the Store House.
The objective was not firmly secured.
Back at the wood outside the ravine I tried pushing more squads across the open. All Pinned.
I still can’t quite fathom why I did this. I guess it was all that “Urraah” down at the Store House. Seemed a good idea down there, so why not up here too.
These weren’t close assault attempts, just move actions under fire, and all of them suffered a Pin. Unfortunately, green squads don’t rally so easy from Pin, and particularly not if they’ve got Russian officers.
But that didn’t stop me charging the Farm House. Only one squad and a PC could get there. 50:50 chance. Somehow that seemed quite favourable at the time.
But once again Chris beat me – this time a 6 v 5.
I never got near the Farm House again.
However, in the meantime I’d taken the School House. From the rear as predicted.
But he counterattacked and on a 5 v 1 he took it off me. Another Russian platoon gutted. Bah humbug.
But there were more Russians were those came from. Another platoon in fact and the School passed back into my hands.
I now had two objectives (+8 VP), plus two infantry guns notched up (+2 VP), and a considerable number of troops still intact. Chris still had the Farm House (+4 VP), and the surviving infantry guns (+2 VP), but he didn’t feel he had enough troops to recover either the Store House or the School and conceded.
Observations and Thoughts
Quite a fun game although not nearly as exciting as our last bash (3rd Battle of Kharkov).
The game actually had the right feel compared to the account in Bidermann, which can be summarised as:
- Bitter fighting in the dark around the Store House, with the Pak 36 playing a major part in the defence, but overwhelming Russian numbers finally telling.
- Russian infiltrators trying to get to the School House via the nearby hill.
- And in the far distance the more successful battle (for the Germans) for the Tomato Farm and Battery Hill.
All of that was rather pleasing.
Oooops, did I mean to do that? (Tactical errors)
We both made any number of tactical errors. I became rather blasé about moving around under fire – after all, being dark we were always under cover. More often than not I suffered for this. I can only blame the inclination on the Vodka. Chris, in turn, was perhaps a little too inclined to redeploy his troops. For one thing this exposed them to fire, but more importantly this meant I quickly learnt where they were, and he didn’t have enough troops to be everywhere.
The game did pose some interesting challenges, in particular the night fighting rules and a Russian deployment splitting the Germans in half.
The limited movement at night meant no on-table redeployments were possible, which is a element of most normal Crossfire games. It took a long time for the Russians to slog up the ravine to the Tomato Farm. Similarly, it took a long time for the Germans to redeploy any of their troops. This made the whole game much, much slower – about 5 hours of real time for only 30 minutes of game time! It also made the action very disjointed as you can probably tell from the report above.
Aspects of the night fighting rules were also difficult to keep in mind. In particular the proviso that:
A stand in cover, that has not yet fired during the game, can only be fired at by enemy within the same terrain feature (applies to both phased and reactive fire).
How do you remember who has fired? We certainly struggled to do this for the number of troops on-table. We often fired, then some initiatives later realised we could not have fired in that situation because the target had been sacrosanct due to this rule.
We also discovered a loop hole in this rule when terrain features butted up to each other A literal reading of this rule meant that a Russian stand (for example) on the edge of one terrain feature can be close assaulted by a German stand approaching via a connecting terrain feature. We thought this a bit odd so changed the rule part way through to:
A stand in cover, that has not yet fired during the game, can only be fired at by enemy within the same terrain feature or from within 1 stand width (applies to both phased and reactive fire).
And, as I mentioned, the fact stands were counted as always in cover meant I took more risks than necessary.
With the Russians deployed in the stream bed the two German halves couldn’t reinforce each other, but then again the limited movement would have had the same effect. The battle essentially revolved around the four foci of the objectives.
In fact this scenario would be ideal for a multiplayer game with two players per side. The stream would effectively form the boundary of the two Operational Zones.
As I mentioned, before the game I thought it was biased in favour of the Russians. Having played it through I still think the Russian numbers gave them an unfair advantage. Chris made a good showing as the defender, but if we’d played on I might have been able to take all of the objectives before the time limit.
If I had played the Germans I don’t think I could have done more than hold the Farm House and protect the Infantry Guns. I couldn’t see how I could also effectively defend either of the objectives in Kodorov itself.
So if the best German result is a draw, that does suggest some imbalance. When I replay it I would change the Russian order of battle somewhat. I’m not sure what I’d do but the choices seem to be:
- Reduce the number of rifle stands somehow.
- Reduce the number of FOs.
Removing the FOs would remove the ability to use smoke to cover approach moves. This might be sufficient by itself.
Chris was surprised at the absence of a moderating morale element. He found it odd that his force could keep fighting and fighting until it was extinguished. This is, of course, a common criticism of Crossfire. In creating the scenario I hadn’t considered morale a significant victory condition so left it out.
I thought it important to record Chris’s observations, but I’m not sure I’d change this aspect.
The idea was the Moving Clock would put the pressure on for both sides, and that there was a reasonable chance both would have troops by the end of the scenario. As it happened we only played through 30 minutes of the potential 120 minutes on the moving clock.