Chris Harrod and I played my Small Threat to the Flank Scenario. A good game although the map needs a bit of work.
I’d been struggling with the map for this scenario. Our table was based on version 5 of the map.
Chris insisted we use my big river. 4″ wide for the entire course.
The terrain was fairly open with the German and Soviet main deployment zones being within sight of each other.
The southern sector of the table had a higher concentration of terrain.
The main Soviet position was the farm on the hill. I didn’t have a sufficiently big two tier hill so just used one of my big one tier hills. The three buildings in front are all scratch built.
The southern ford is key to the scenario. We were going to discover some interesting geometry about this section of river.
The scenario assumes the Soviet detachment is headed towards the southern ford. Chris deployed his detachment in cover with line of sight across the stream near the ford.
Similarly I deployed near the ford but the deployment restrictions meant I couldn’t get closer without breaking cover.
I deployed my main force with two platoons and the StuG III forward. I left one platoon in reserve behind the hill.
The scenario starts at 1600 hours.
I kicked off by dropping smoke on the southern ford (from a 7.5cm infantry gun). Then I pushed an patrol across the ford. Or tried to. Soviet reactive fire pinned it.
This is where we discovered the unusual geometry of the southern ford. The ford was visible to quite a lot of the Soviet main force deployment zone. Definitely not what was intended by the scenario or the map. This was largely a consequence of using my big river sections. But, the fortunes of war and all that, so we played on.
The main deployment zone also had some long fields of fire. I had positioned both my StuG and the FO for my heavy artillery to see between the small houses at the foot of the farm hill. This meant they could see the Soviets that had blocked my advance at the southern ford. I also had a 5cm mortar in the front line, which I used to shield my detachment from suspected soviet positions (i.e. the little house).
Although the rough ground on the hill offered Chris the best visibility, it was also the most exposed to German fire. Chris dubbed it the “rough ground of death.”
Having suppressed the original squad that stopped my southern advance, and smoked off another potential threat, I had another go at crossing the southern ford. Unfortunately Chris reveal yet another squad, in the first of the big houses, and suppressed my patrol before they got to the river. [If we had used HTD contour lines, as per the map, this would not have been possible as the house in question was on the other side of the upper contour line. I must get more higher hills!]
To add insult to injury, Chris then dropped heavy artillery on my suppressed squad. Boom. Natural kill and the squad adjacent got suppressed.
Chris then redeployed some troops into the wood on the southern slopes of the farm hill. I think they came from the objective farm house, but I could be wrong.
With my own flanking force suffering, Chris thought he would exploit the opportunity. He pushed his own detachment towards the southern ford.
I waited for the Soviets to move beyond the stream before I revealed another long line of fire. This time from the StuG III deployed with my main force. My reactive fire killed the advancing Soviet. [And that was without remembering my Crossfire house rule that both the main gun and machine guns and fire as a group fire. It was actually quite late in the game before I remembered this house rule.]
By the way, we were using my Custom Fire Mission (FM) Markers for Crossfire. Chris like to have his on table by the FO in question. It sacrifices a bit of aesthetics but makes the FM accounting clear.
I think both of were struggling to get a fire superiority anywhere. My next choice was in the far north where I had a platoon and HMG attached. They managed to kill a Soviet squad in the first large farm building. The guys that had so tellingly halted my southern advance. A bit of justice there, I felt.
Unfortunately, Chris immediately got his revenge. That particular farm house was where the FO for the Soviet heavy artillery was located. So Chris pounded my platoon in revenge. Boom! Another natural kill and suppressed neighbours. Sigh.
Undaunted I pushed my first squad across the main ford. For some reason, that now eludes me, I did a bit of zig zag. A movement path that brought my squad into the view of both a Soviet squad and a HMG. But Chris didn’t use them to stop me. He finally revealed the squad in the little house at the foot of the hill. This is the guy that got me. Damn.
So I switched focus to the south again, and pushed my Panzer III across the river. [I forgot to do a bogging roll. Sorry Chris.] Then I drove into the field in front of Chris’s T-34. Chris had the turret pointing the other way so he didn’t get to reactive fire. So bang, whumpf. The T-34 was was knocked out.
I had previously rolled my StuG forward to support the infantry advance. And this was its chance. The StuG cleared out the little house. [This time I remembered the Crossfire house rule that buildings don’t give protective cover to direct fire HE weapons. But I still forgot to fire my machine guns. Not that I needed to.]
I got cocky again and tried advancing toward the main ford. Nope. Chris wasn’t having any of that.
So I just used my squad that was already on the eastern bank of the river. It took the little house at the foot of the hill.
Then I brought up more guys and took the other little house. With two squads in houses and the third ground hugging in between, I had a bit of fire power on the Soviet side of the river.
In the south I reorganised my troops (or the survivors) to fire up the stream on the opposite bank of the river.
In the farm, I had more fire power than Chris and it started to tell. I took out a rifle squad.
Then focussed on the HMG.
Now and completely unequal fight began. Chris started shooting his anti-tank rifle at my StuG. He needed a double 6 to kill it. Fat chance. Meanwhile my StuG could dish out 4d6+4d6 of death to the nearest enemy.
And the nearest enemy was that annoying HMG in the rough ground. Suppress then kill.
I decided I needed more troops at the main ford and deployed my reserve forward.
My this time in the battle Chris was looking quite thin in the farm. I could see two FOs, a PC and a squad (with ATR). Right in front of them I had a complete platoon.
But Chris did have more troops. Which I found out when I redeployed my northern platoon. Chris revealed a squad in the woods right in the back corner, behind the farm. It took a long shot and stopped my redeployment.
And to add insult to injury, Chris’s anti-tank rifle delivered the goods. A double 6 and my StuG went bang!
Chris tried to pull his detachment back to the main positioned but my own detachment stopped them.
I can’t remember who wiped out the Soviet detachment, my riflemen or the Panzer III, but it didn’t matter, they were quickly a matter of history.
My reserve platoon opened up on the squad with the ATR.
And killed it. 60% Soviet casualties and game to me.
Conclusion and observations
It was an enjoyable game. My Germans won, always nice, but Chris also thought it was a good game.
Chris is keen to try it again with me as a defender, which hints that he thinks it is biased against the Soviets. Admittedly the terrain around the farm objective is tricky for the Soviets. Those two small houses at the foot of the hill, only one of which is inside the deployment zone, block line of sight from the hill. And that nice wood feature on the southern end of the hill is outside the deployment zone – so close, yet so far. In both cases these are elements of the original map that I have retained. I assume the wood in question is empty because the Soviet flanking force was positioned there before being sent towards the southern ford. I can’t explain the unoccupied house at the foot of the hill.
Despite offering a good game there is one point of scenario design where I think Scenario 2: Threat to the Flank failed. The idea behind the scenario is that an attack/defence of the flanking ford detracts from the main engagement. Long fields of fire from the Soviet Main Force positions meant this wasn’t true. Chris didn’t have to move any troops and he had the flanking ford covered by fire. All the way down the river. This partly an attribute of the map and partly because we used my big river (4″ wide) for the main river rather than my normal stream (1″ wide). That extra 3 inches of river really opened up the fields of fire. None of this is a problem in a normal game with limited shooting ranges. With Crossfire’s unlimited range, it is a big problem. It would be a better scenario, more true to the original, if the flanking ford was out of sight of the main positions.
The river wasn’t the only place we discovered long fields of fire. There were a few places where troops could, and did, take long shots. Something I’ve found before, and wasn’t careful enough with this map, was that both sides need covered movement on their baseline to ensure they can redeploy and attack in a new sector. This wasn’t possible with the map/table we used.
The 60% casualty objective was a good addition to the victory conditions. It would have been silly to see Chris’s men try to defend a unknown farm to the last bullet. Similarly, if I’d suffered too many casualties.