One Thursday night Chris Harrod and I played my SU-76 “Colombina” in Action Scenario. I picked this scenario because we have at most four hours to play in an evening, including set up. Being on the 4’x4′ table with a small company defending I figured this would be quick enough to fit.
Summary: Chris as the Russians won. Good game with some interesting choices for both sides. But the scenario does need some tweaking to make it even better.
Deployment and Plans
We quite liked the look of the table. The curve of the road, with associated curving village was quite aesthetic.
Aesthetics aside, as the German defender, I had a big problem. How to deploy my three understrength platoons to defend a 4′ table, with a lot of small features (i.e. buildings) on my side of the table. I chose to put two of my platoons on the edge of the village near no mans land. The other platoon when on the hill to the right. My armoured car went on the hill on the left – the one that was a terrain objective. Something had to go on the hill but whatever it was would be equally as visible to the enemy. The armoured car, being armoured, would be imperious to small arms fire and that’s why it got the (um) honour.
That hill, the terrain objective, posed some challenge for Chris. The hill had huge fields of fire. Anything on the hill could see about half of the table – including most of the table that the Russians had to advance across. Chris didn’t know what I’d put on the hill but he knew I’d put something there.
Chris decided to spread his company across the entire deployment zone with the HQ (and supporting assets) on the hill on his base line. Despite that even spread he planned to attack towards the German right – the far side of the photo – the flank which provided more cover.
DAY 1 AM
Chris started advancing in the centre so very quickly I revealed my 8 RAD on the hill. Chris as quickly responded by smoking off the armoured car. For the price of a FM he opened up most of the table to unopposed advance.
With the 8 RAD smoked off I revealed my 3rd Platoon in the wood. This unit, revealed early and in the front line, would carry the brunt of the battle.
Of course I revealed my platoon to do reactive fire. As it happens PINs were about as good as my fire produced.
DAY 1 PM
It was already obvious that Chris had quite a lot of indirect fire support. He was continuing to smoke off my 8 RAD and then smoked off my 3rd platoon as well. I decided to move them to the adjacent building. This would leave them equally exposed to fire and smoke as their original position in the wood but it would also put them in a position to counter the massing attack on my right. Of course there is always some risk in moving in Crossfire and in this case a group move – to guarantee I got into the building – resulted in two PINs and a SUPPRESS. Luckily 3rd Platoon was remarkably resilient and survived.
My 8 RAD got smoked off again. And again. And again. Basically the entire game.
Chris did try to redeploy his third platoon to the German right but it got stopped fairly quick.
On my right Chris pushed towards the depression with a platoon. I revealed my 1st platoon to face the threat.
Chris retaliated by smoking off the German 1st Platoon.
This enabled Chris to push a platoon into the depression. [Speaking of which I’m going to have to make a small depression feature. The depression I made recently was too big to fit in on this table.]
The Russians in the depression didn’t wait and charged straight through their smoke into my 1st Platoon. However, my 2nd Platoon had complete visibility of their charge and conducted reactive fire from enfilade. The reckless nature of Russians meant three of the stands survived the charge but one got killed on the way. One is enough and the charge was aborted with the attackers milling about in the smoke.
When the smoke lifted the the would be attackers found themselves in a right crossfire, with Germans on both their front and flank. Another Russian squad destroyed.
All of Chris’s platoons were at full strength and had a HMG attached. He didn’t really benefit from this in game, except in the centre where one of his big platoons took on my 2nd Platoon.
My platoon took a mauling.
With the German 2nd Platoon out of the picture, hence no longer a threat to the guys in front of my 1st Platoon, Chris had another go. However, being a German 1st Platoon, the PC was a +2 and the close combat victory was mine. The only survivor of that Russian platoon was the HMG in the depression, but without a PC it wouldn’t move again in the battle.
DAY 2 AM
Day 1 hadn’t been great for me – losing an entire platoon – but Day 2 would be worse. A platoon of SU-76Ms arrived to bolster the Soviet attack.
SU-76Ms are open topped, lightly armoured and have an ordinary sort of gun. But to a 8 RAD they are scary indeed. And my armoured car could see two approaching.
With 2nd Platoon out of the picture and the Soviet attack massing, I decided to pull my 1st platoon back to the building which was an objective. Not least this would get me out of sight on the HMG that was immobilised in the depression. It would also force Chris to come to me, again. Unfortunately, the left hand building sector of the objective was in view of one of the SU-76Ms and my squad got SUPPRESSED.
In the centre my 3rd Platoon was now fighting the big Soviet platoon in the wood and a SU-76M. My platoon suffered many hits but each time they managed to rally and carry on the fight.
The PC of 1st Platoon was not so lucky. I wanted to rally the squad in the building sector next to him so took the risk of reactive fire and moved across. However, Chris rolled a natural kill. Dead PC.
DAY 2 PM
My heroic 3rd Platoon fought into the afternoon of Day 2. They directed mortar and rifle fire at the big platoon in the woods.
The combined effect was quite nasty. Particularly when I got a natural kill with the mortar. The big Soviet platoon had the stuffing knocked out of it.
On the down side “Colombina”, whose name appears in the scenario title, followed the historical precedent and knocked out my 8 RAD.
With the 8 RAD out of the way and my 3rd Platoon smoked off, Chris would bring his final platoon off the base line and launch it into the attack. He was obviously impatient with my 3rd Platoon and charged with his platoon through the smoke at the building. But he hadn’t done the numbers and I had a slight edge (a net +1) and took the laurels in the close combat. Ouch.
Chris now had three mauled or destroyed platoons. But he still had his armour and a scattering of infantry to push ahead with. Having destroyed my 8 RAD “Colombina” took the hill.
Chris had another orphaned HMG. This time it was in a field in front of my 3rd Platoon. The rest of the Russian platoon had been destroyed in the earlier close combat so this stand could not move. But it didn’t have to. It was in cover and could shoot at my Germans. Unfortunately, for me, my platoon was the worse for the firefight and started losing troops.
Chris also brought two of his SU-76Ms to the edge of the village to limit my movement.
The combination of the indirect fire and direct fire from the Russian HMG finished off my 3rd Platoon. They’d had a good run and any survivors would have earned an Iron Cross. But with their loss I was getting pretty thin on the ground.
I pulled the PC of 3rd platoon and FO out of the building but the Russian lines of fire limited where they could go. The FO took cover in the “green” in the middle of the village. But the PC made his way to the two sector building objective and took over control of 1st Platoon. He rallied the SUPPRESSED squad, which was a good thing. Unfortunately I then got greedy. The SU-76M facing the building went No Fire when shooting at the PC as he approached the building. So I took the PC and Squad and charged. Trouble is the odds were not good enough and my guys lost the close combat. What a waste.
I was now looking very thin on the ground. Just an FO in the “green” and a SUPPRESSED HMG in the objective. Ug.
There was now nothing to prevent Chris taking the 2nd objective.
However, when Chris tried to take the last objective, the one with the SUPPRESSED HMG, he got a surprise. I had my Company Commander and my last squad in that sector. Ambush fire drove back the attacker. [I forgot the reckless rule at that point; the SUPPRESS on the Soviet should have turned into a kill.]
The German Company Commander launched a counter attack and eliminated the Russian neighbours.
Then I got greedy (again). My Company Commander led a raid on the other building objective. Unfortunately, I hadn’t noticed the line of fire from one of the SU-76Ms. Luckily it only inflicted a PIN on the squad.
The trouble was that PIN was on a squad in the open under fire from an assault gun. I positioned my Company Commander nearby to help with rallying but to no avail. In time the PIN turned into a SUPPRESS turned into a KILL.
Undeterred by two failed attempts at close assaults I had a go at one of Chris’s SU-76Ms. He’d manoeuvred it into a field, facing the other way. So my Company Commander charged. The Russian vehicle didn’t get the close combat bonus because it was in difficult going but my guy got +2. Unfortunately you can’t beat a 6-1 match up. Sigh. Another dead German officer.
By Day 3 both sides were a bit punch drunk.
In the afternoon Chris took the last of the objectives.
My StuG IIIs arrived on the morning of Day 4 but by then I had nothing else to fight with. And in my house rules vehicles cannot enter building so it was now impossible for me to win. I might have had the satisfaction of getting an SU-76M or two, perhaps even taking the hill objective off “Colombina but that would have been it. Game over.
Observations and conclusions
I’m so pleased to get my SU-76M platoon on table. Ian Galley painted them years ago (2005) and I created the SU-76 “Colombina” in Action Scenario to celebrate the event. Then these Russian beauties sat in a box for 10 years. Sigh.
It was a good game and we both enjoyed it. Like all good Crossfire games, it was tense for both of us. Chris deservedly took the victory by making less mistake than I did.
A few features of the game appealed:
- “Colombina”, whose name appears in the scenario title, followed the historical precedent and knocked out my 8 RAD
- The visual aspect of a village on a bend
- The Soviet challenge of having to cross a wide expanse of fields in full view of the enemy
- The German challenge to hold a village with insufficient men
- Getting a platoon of SU-76M on the table (not to be confused with SU-76i which is a completely different vehicle with its own scenario – SU-76i in 1902nd SAP)
- Getting my SdKfz 231 8-RAD on table
Generally we both played well, however we both suffered from a few too many death or glory moments. On a handful of occasions we sent guys into close combat with uncertain odds. I believe the defenders took the laurels in all of these occasions. The largest loss was Chris’s platoon that charged the German 3rd Platoon but died at the walls of the building. However, I squandered a PC+Squad, another squad, and my Company Commander in rash charges; all troops I could not afford to lose.
I also believe a few things weren’t quite right about the scenario. We played it to the bitter end. The Germans just didn’t have enough men to oppose the Soviets effectively; it was too unbalanced at the beginning, even before the SU-76s arrived. Chris wiped out my entire infantry force, although he depleted his own to do it, and then we sat around rolling the moving clock die until my assault guns appeared on Day 4 – which seemed a bit silly. The Soviet indirect fire was very potent. Although the barrage fire from three FOs was nasty the smoke was the real difficulty. There was just too much smoke so Chris could dictate the battle and the open fields of fire didn’t really matter.
It would be better with these changes to the scenario:
- The Russians get an instant victory if they hold all three objectives at any time
- The Russians lose the the FO for the off table 76mm gun from their order of battle (another alternative would be to reduce FM from 12 to, say, 8 for the three FOs)
- The Germans get one platoon with three squads (rather than two in all of them)
- Time passes faster, i.e. 1/2 day passes on a 5+ on 1d6 (rather than a 6)
- Possibly the number of smoke FM should be restricted, e.g. 4 of the 12 can be smoke (or 3 of 8)
These changes should make the Germans more able to resist the Russians. The Russians would have less capability to use smoke to get through the open fields of fire. The Russians would also have to push ahead aggressively otherwise they’ll run out of time.
I’ll also think about a beefed up version of the scenario. This would have stronger order of battle for both sides and should take longer to play. The changes would be:
- Germans having a full company with a couple of HMG and three rifle squads in all platoons
- Russians get a reinforced company, i.e. four rifle platoons not three
- Time passes as per the original draft scenario, i.e. 1/2 day passes on a 6 on 1d6