Summary: Good tense game. I conducted a fighting withdrawal in the face of massive Soviet firepower and took the game. Reinforcements gave more options (good) and did not unbalance the game (also good). I wax lyrical about the game in the conclusions and observations section at the end.
Table and Deployment
We rolled for who was Player A and who was Player B. Chris got Player A status and set up the table. I could have moved 50% of the terrain features but didn’t bother as I thought the table was both challenging and quite pretty.
Chris wanted a combined urban and country table. So he placed a ruined town as a kind of spear from one corner diagonally towards the opposite corner. Then he filled up the rest of the table with woods, fields, and hedges.
On table we placed three white crosses to mark the forward and rear zones. I have highlighted these in the photo. We left these on table for the entire battle. In hindsight it would be better to have something more discrete. Or at least not in the middle of the table.
Missions were selected randomly and secretly from the set of six – I’ll tell you what they were at the end. At this point we also chose forces with the option of reinforcements, again secretly
Next step deployment. We placed a platoon at a time. You’ll notice that my deployment had a giant hole in the left centre. I assure you this was deliberate. I wanted Chris to mass against this and maybe weaken one of his flanks. I didn’t feel too exposed as I was pretty sure I could redeploy one of my flanking platoons to fill the gap if I needed to.
I put my Assault Engineers on the right along with my 1st Platoon (the one with a +2 PC). My plan was to attack on this flank.
I had a rifle platoon on my left (2nd Platoon). These guys were up on a rocky hill. The feature provided cover but visibility would kill them. Despite the risk I deployed them here to discourage Chris from deploying in sight of them.
Chris deployed across the table. This made it hard to judge where he planned to attack. Or maybe he just wanted flexibility.
Mind you, he did place his SU-152 facing the giant hole in my line. Hmm, perhaps he’d spotted it. By the way, you have no idea what it is like to face a SU-152 with nothing but infantry until you have tried it. Terrifying is an understatement. That beast could kill my entire force without effort. The question was … would Chris have time to do it?
We rolled for initiative and I got first go. I advanced but in the excitement didn’t take photos. I wanted to dominate my forward zone and threaten Chris’s forward zone. Actually I wanted to do anything I could to slow him down.
Chris, of course, advanced in his initiative. I had moved into a set of ruins near the Soviet jump off zone. Chris accepted the challenge and contested them. No combat ensued because I didn’t really need these buildings. I just wanted to distract and give myself room to retreat. So, according to plan, I retreated and left Chris in control of the buildings.
Just to the left (from my perspective), more Soviet infantry moved into another ruin – the one facing the hole in my line. And that evil SU-152 rumbled forward.
Woods dominated both flanks. Chris advanced a platoon out towards the right flank.
Chris had elected to call reinforcements pre-game – a new feature to Mac’s Crossfire Missions v3 – so they arrived on his first initiative.
He brought on two platoons so I knew he’d take a 20 point reinforcement. I already suspected he had the Breakthrough mission because he’d taken the super aggressive SU-152 option. The 20 point reinforcements confirmed my suspicion. Chris would be trying to Breakthrough.
To my surprise Chris used both platoons of reinforcements as a second line behind his previously on-table troops. I guess this was to prevent me outflanking or breaking through his line.
Soviet reinforcements or not, I kept up my attack on the right. The assault engineers moved into the Soviet forward zone screened by smoke. My goal was to convince Chris I wanted his territory. Apparently it worked and Chris subsequently took considerable care to defend his forward zone.
When I pulled back my guys in the centre, I only withdrew one row of buildings. I wanted to cover the front, preventing Chris from breaking through, but also shield myself from the awesome 152mm shells of the Soviet assault gun. So I ran way, but only a little bit.
Now that it was obvious Chris was going for the hole in my front (left-centre) I redeployed by 1st Platoon from the right (near the engineers) into the left edge of the town. I chose the 1st Platoon because of their +2 PC. Maybe, maybe, if I was really lucky, I could get my best PC with an anti-tank rifle squad into close combat with the SU-152. It was the only way I could kill the thing. As it happened this particular hope never came to fruition.
On my left I advanced with the 2nd Platoon and spread out in the woods. I wanted to pose a viable offensive threat but also be in an okay defensive position.
Then the inevitable happened. The monster (SU-152) finally got a shot at some of my troops. 5 dice and 4 dice into cover. Boom. Instant kill and suppressed the FO next to the target squad. Oh, man, I was not going to enjoy this game.
On the other flank (right) my assault engineers lined up with a Soviet platoon and a fire fight ensued. It was reasonably balanced with casualties on both sides.
Having caused mayhem on the left, Chris moved his SU-152 to the centre and started blasting at my 3rd Platoon. More instant kills. I lost a HMG at the first shot with the other stands (PC, Squad) in the building suppressed.
Despite some heroic rallying by 3rd Platoon, the 152mm barrage continued. Double ouch. I lost a rifle squad and the PC was suppressed again … and rallyed again.
The remaining two squads and PC of 3rd platoon pulled back, strategically away from the SU-152 (but Chris had other plans for this anyway). I moved up 1st platoon to fill the gap.
Having dealt death on both the left and centre the SU-152 headed for the right flank.
A bald hill dominated the right. It had no cover so the infantry had avoided it. But Chris’s armoured monster didn’t need cover and the SU-152 rumbled to the top of the hill. It now dominated the entire right hand flank. I would need smoke to be able to move. And if I sat still he would pound my assault engineers into the ground. Urg!
But I was saved by the bell. The game clock passed 70 and the game ended. Chris was in his half of the table (forward and rear zone). I was mostly in my forward zone with some stands in both Chris’s forward zone and in my rear zone.
The game was tough but I won. 23 points to zero. The points worked out like this:
- German = 23 = 5 (Hold mission) + 18 (points in friendly forward zone) – 0 (reinforcements)
- Soviet = 0 = 20 (Breakthrough mission) + 0 (points breaking through) – 20 (reinforcements)
Note: even if Chris hadn’t taken the reinforcements I would have won (by 3 points).
My feints into Chris’s forward zone had convinced him I had a Probe mission (take enemy forward zone). Actually I was on Hold (defend friendly forward zone). For me this highlighted that, to win Mac’s Crossfire Missions, you need to do three things:
- Guess the enemy mission
- Prevent the enemy achieving the victory conditions for their mission (pretty obvious)
- Achieve victory conditions for your own mission (extremely obvious)
Of course you have to guess the enemy mission to be able to prevent them winning. But it is a different skill. One that is key to success in Mac’s Crossfire Missions. By threatening his forward zone I managed to convince Chris that I had the Probe mission. So to prevent me achieving Probe Chris set up an impressive defensive position in his forward zone. But I was actually on Hold so his attempts to disrupt my mission were in vain.
Another point I found interesting from this game is that Chris really didn’t push his own agenda. He was reacting to my apparent agenda. Despite having the most aggressive mission he adopted more defensive tactics. Right from the beginning of the game I had holes in my line. If Chris had chosen to push hard, particularly with his surplus of troops provided by reinforcements, I think he would have broken through. For better or worse he chose to focus elsewhere.
Now for the monster. The elephant on the table. Wow, that SU-152 has some firepower. Every shot was a kill. With no game clock Chris would have slowly gone around the table and ground me to a pulp. And there was nothing I could do about it. As a result I made one tweak to the reinforcement pack after this play test … I gave an option to replace anti-tank rifles with early panzerfaust either before the game or in the first initiative. I’m not sure I would have taken that option … but wow it would have made Chris nervous. As it stood I had no effective anti-tank weapons. The best I could do was a +2 commander with an anti-tank rifle squad going into close combat. It would given me a net +1 in close combat; good but not great. Unfortunately for me Chris kept his SU-152 well supported by infantry at all times, so I had no opportunity to attack.
Chris opted to take reinforcements. Effectively the maximum, i.e. 20 points. Although not directly involved I believe the reinforcements made two positive contributions:
- We got more decisions. More decisions mean the game can develop in more ways. And that is more interesting.
- If Chris had decided to go for breakthrough, the reinforcements gave him two platoons he could literally throw away in the assault. Buy reinforcements, use them, get more victory points. Which is the whole point of this tweak in v3.
Great game. I suggest folk give Mac’s Crossfire Missions v3 – Revised Pick Up Games for Crossfire a go.