“This is a cracking scenario”. Mark Bretherton played my SU-152s Up Close and Personal scenario for Crossfire. The words below are Mark’s unless indicated otherwise. Aside from the after action report itself, Mark explains the house rules he used for this scenario and muses on potential house rules for attacking buildings and bunkers.
House Rules relevant to this scenario
We played that the roadblocks are not revealed until after the Russians have set up. Given where he placed one roadblock (right on the frontline), I might have re-considered my set up had I known it was there. Perhaps a scenario rule along the lines of ‘roadblocks that are set up in line of sight of the Russian set up area may not start hidden’.
On a similar note and taking a leaf out of the ASL rule book, minefields that set up on a paved road should be able to set up hidden only if out of line of sight of the set up area but should be revealed the moment a Russian unit has line of sight. I think this should be a rule that applies at all times for Minefields on paved roads.
Another house rule is that mortars cannot fire out of buildings. Again we played this for the on table 50mm Russian mortar.
The Battle Report
First up, this is a cracking scenario, lots going on without having a huge table and we played it to conclusion in about 2.5 hours including set up.
The Germans had a fairly forward defence with one road block right on the front line blocking the Russian’s right hand road just as it entered the square. We weren’t sure if allowing a road block this far forward was the intention when you created the set up areas but we decided that was a correct literal interpretation of the set up map and let it be.
The other roadblock covered the Russian’s left hand approach and the third blocked the road leading out from the square towards the railway station. He placed a minefield in the road entering the square from the Russian left flank.
Russian progress was slow. The opening shots were an attempt to destroy the roadblock on the Russian right – unfortunately only one hit, initiative passed and the first German roll was a 6 and the Stuka turned up. The Russians moved into no man’s land but then found making progress painfully slow and it felt at one point that it was going to be almost impossible to make any breakthrough. It didn’t help that the clock was ticking at quite a rate as initiative passed quite frequently with the Russians needing to rally pinned and suppressed squads.
One SU stumbled onto the minefield and was destroyed. Things were not looking good until the other SU suppressed two German squads in the building complex on the right of the square (the Russian right that is). This allowed the Russian Assault Engineers to close combat them and destroy them. The Pak 38 was in an adjoining building sector and was eliminated by the same Engineers who then proceeded to clear out the whole complex in one devastating close combat session, taking out the Pak 38, 4 squads (including the one with the Panzerschreck) and one PC.
By this time the German reinforcements had arrived, but by then momentum was with the Russians who then made progress on the left flank and down the centre. The left flank made a breakthrough to the buildings at the back of the board and assaulted into the railway station, by which time they had the 6 buildings they needed for victory. The Germans had inflicted only 4 VP (one SU and two squads).
The German player forgot about his bunkers and so they never came to aid his defence and this might have made a difference. That said the air support remained German throughout the game with no sign of the Red Air Force
Given the balance of forces, with the Russians assaulting with only a small numerical superiority in squads and all the advantages in the German defence I had a sneaking suspicion this might be a bit pro-German, but on play the balance seems less so, although the fact my opponent forgot about his bunkers may have made my major breakthrough less likely than it turned out.
Nice scenario. I think Crossfire needs more like this on this scale to encourage play by those who don’t have ready access to 6×4 tables and loads of scenery. There’s more than enough of a tactical puzzle to solve in a situation like this.
Pre-game Q&A on the Scenario
Message for Steve – I’m about to give this scenario a try and just noticed in the German OB you list a PAK 38 50mm gun, but I notice in the Weapon stats in the special rule you give stats for a 75mm PAK 40. Are you able to clarify which it is meant to be? The battle report mentions a PAK 38?
Steven’s Answer: Just a typo in the weapon stats section. I will correct.
It was a Pak 38 50mm gun. In my house rules they are +1 ACC and -1 PEN and HE 2/1. Which is why their shot bounced off the SU-152’s ARM 6 (“Ping”). If you want to have more serious resistance then introduce a Pak 40.
I like the rules for building destruction by HE, but just wanted some clarity on how you played this:
1. If I fire at a building aiming for its occupants, did you count any of these Hits towards the building demolition.
Steven’s Answer: no. To quote the special rules “The building sector must be targeted as opposed to any occupants”. Sightly unrealistic but forces the Russian to choose what he is trying to do.
2. Similarly, if you fire at a building with the intention of destroying it do these Hits have any effect on the occupants.
Steven’s Answer: Ditto
3. If a building is destroyed are all occupant eliminated?
Steven’s Answer: No. Only the normal kill effect. To quote the special rules “If the barricade is occupied (whether the occupants are visible or hidden) then kill effect rules similar to destroying vehicles with passengers apply. If there are 3+ hits on the barricade in one shot, a number of occupants are suppressed depending on the HE/EFF of the firing weapon.” So the occupants will still be there but in rubble and possibly suppressed.
Generally I wanted the SU-152s to be tough, will unique abilities, but not super troops.
A question on the victory conditions. You list occupation of each building sector of the Railway Station as worth one victory point but your terrain map doesn’t appear to show how many sectors it should have? Looking at the pictures in the Battle Report the building used appears to have 6 or 7 sectors. This seems a lot considering the Russians need only 6 sectors from the Railway and/or the buildings west of the railway line, or am I not understanding what you mean by building sector?
Steven’s Answer: Building sector is what CF calls, well, buildings and parts of building complexes. So you’re probably not confused there.
This is an older style map when I tried to be fancy and include buildings of different shapes. If you look closely you’ll see the grid lines on the train station. 6 building sectors – which you noticed in the Battle Report. It helps to realise that all the building sectors on the table are a standard 3” x 3”. Just happens the train station includes six continuous building sectors.
There are 12 building sectors that award victory points. Half of them are in the railway station. They only reason for this is to force the Germans to defend more than just the railway station. Obviously, with six VP, the station will be the focus for both sides.
You have a fair bit of artillery in the OB for each side, but I note from the Battle Report that it would appear the Russians only dropped some smoke and the Germans didn’t use theirs at all. Did you make any changes to the OB of either side that impacted on the battle report game?
Steven’s Answer: No. We find artillery is often used for smoke.
I also see in the Battle Report that the German reinforcements never came into play. Given the German victory in your game would you say those reinforcements would make the scenario too pro-German?
Steven’s Answer: No. I just should have been more aggressive as the Russian.
As with most of my scenarios I calculate the points cost to get two balanced forces. Of course that doesn’t mean identical. If the defender is hidden I give the attacker 50% more forces (or, put another way, a hidden stand costs 50% more than an unhidden one). I count off table reinforcements as half price. In the points system the assault engineers and the SU-152s have a combined price of an entire company. So the soviets start with quite a points advantage even if they don’t have much of numerical advantage. The German reinforcements compensate for this, but the defender has to weather the storm to benefit.
We didn’t allow the German squads to have Panzerfausts, just the OB given Schrecks, was that correct?
Steven’s Answer: Good call.
The German infantry anti-tank weapons appeared in late 1943 and were still not pervasive during 1944. So I tend to dish them out piecemeal. Units didn’t seem to combine fausts and schreks.
The scenario is March-April 1944 so you wouldn’t get many and unlikely to be get both. It was an arbitrary decision to give them panzershrecks.
Suggestions for the future
I had a few thoughts you might want to consider:
Bunker/Fortified buildings – while these offer additional protective cover they are no more difficult to enter than a normal building in terms of close combat. With that in mind we thought some variation of below might work:
An enemy unit cannot go into close combat against a bunker/fortified building sector that contains unpinned or unsuppressed enemy squads (not PC or crew served weapons). The exception would be Assault Engineers (on the assumption they possess satchel charges etc that would enable them to blast their way in). Once an Assault Engineer has gone into close combat against the bunker it is considered ‘breached’ after which non-Assault Engineer squads may follow or enter in a later phase (this would normally be in the case where the Assault Engineer loses the close combat and the defender remains in the building). This gives an additional advantage to the defender and so may need a counterbalance for the attacker (more Assault Engineers or see below on HE building destruction?).
With the above in mind but also thinking about the HE building destruction rules (which we really liked by the way) we thought of these options:
Once four or more HE building hits have been scored against a bunker/fortified building sector the above rule for close combat entry no longer applies (ie the building defences have been compromised enough that non assault engineers may enter into close combat against unpinned/unsuppressed defenders).
Another additional thought – HE building destruction could have a collateral damage component. For example using the 5 dice of the SU-152 use two coloured and three white. Hits for building destruction can be taken from any of the five dice. The collateral attack on building occupants is calculated only from hits on the three white dice.
So say I roll 3 and 6 with the red dice; 1, 5 and 6 with the white dice. I have 3 hits on the building (red 6 and white 5 and white 6). I have two hits on the occupants (white 5 and white 6) for a suppression.
With a bunker there would be two hits on the bunker from the red 6 and the white 6. The occupants would be pinned from the white 6 in the collateral attack.
However as you point out the temptation to just blast at the occupants with 5 dice is very tempting and may make a rule like this redundant. Nonetheless it could have its uses, particularly with a bunker/fortified structure as it gives the attacker the option to create say the four hits required to negate the rule for entering when squads are unpinned or unsuppressed, or to destroy the bunker.