This is the After Action Report of Game 8 from World Crossfire Day, 4 April 2009. For background on this event see:
- Lloydian Aspects: World Crossfire Day – Nikolas Lloyd organised the event.
- Wargaming.info: World Crossfire Day 2009
Jose and I would like to thank Lloyd for all his efforts in co-ordinating this excellent and enjoyable event. It was a near super-human effort.
15mm scale, two players (Steven and Jose), without umpire.
Words from the original briefing and clarifying emails are in Italics.
Setting: Europe 1944
It is 1944 and the Germans are on the retreat. Allied forces are pressing forwards and hoping to encircle pockets of the enemy and force surrenders on a large scale. The Germans, though being forced back, are still resisting well, and have not collapsed. The nineteen games of the campaign are all part of this same operation. Every game of the campaign will have some knock-on consequence for later games.
Both sides must conserve forces and resources, and yet both are pressed for time. The allies must advance quickly if they are to catch large numbers of Germans before they can retreat and regroup.
The Germans must react to the changing situation rapidly to ensure that they are not encircled. Achieving objectives quickly can never hurt, and can make a great difference to your side’s chances of success of later games. You will not be told in advance what the knock-on consequences of your game(s) will be. You will find out what good you did in after-action reports.
Table set up
Probably go for 6’x4′ table ideally, but it should work on 4′ x4′.
The usual mix of terrain for the countryside: fields, hills, woods, fences, walls, hedges etc. A road runs lengthways down the middle of the table (but not in a straight line, there must be at least three swerves in the road) from the allied (west) end to the German (east) end.
The photo shows the full table from the western/Allied table edge. The white crosses are there to facilitate recreating the table in future – either for a replay or just to draw a CC2 map. The white line in the foreground is demarcate the German deployment zone – the hidden defenders are beyond the line. We took both off table as the game started.
In positions overlooking the road are three fortifications (2 squad) suitable for emplacing AT guns. The German defender player places these wherever he wants, covering the road. Their function is to deny the road to the enemy. He must place at least one in his home third of the board, and at least one in his home two-thirds of the board.
I placed all three fortifications on the long table edges. Two in the north and one on the south.
The road is placed first. Then the fortifications, then the rest of the terrain, with enough to cover about a third of the table. Hills can be placed under fortifications. A fort could be in other terrain, but obviously nothing that blocks its sight. Builders of forts don’t want the enemy having too easy a time sneaking up on them, and want them to have a good field of view. [I wrote the rules with fairness and realism in mind. I recall the time when I placed a pillbox in a game, and then my opponent placed a wood right in front of it, blocking its view of anything useful.]
Players place these alternating, but neither player may place sight-blocking terrain features between the road and a fortification covering it.
I set up the table before hand while Jose was driving to my place – a two hour drive. I had previously asked Lloyd if this was ok. Due to the obvious bias involved in the procedure Lloyd and I agreed some ground rules. This was essentially to restrict the fields of fire which were originally very generous. The original brief said “neither player may place sight-blocking terrain features between the road and a fortification covering it“; using this as the limitation would have allowed the German player (me) to guarantee an open table by putting the three fortifications on the side edges and using the 90 degree cone of fire/sight of the occupants to prevent placement of LOS impeding terrain on most of the table. The agreed guidelines were:
- Give each fortification a 1 foot corridor to/along the road. That means the defender can get line of Sight/Fire to the road and also down a stretch of road.
- Place LOS impeding terrain on the far side of the road unless this is in a field of fire of another fortification.
- Restrict the defender’s deployment to the rear 3/4 of the table
- Place LOS impeding terrain in the remaining 1/4 to facilitate entry of the Allies.
In hindsight I should have placed even more blocking terrain on the far side of the road from each fortification even if this impinged the line of fire of other fortifications.
The game starts at 1215 Game Time (GT), at the end of every allied initiative, 1d6 is rolled and the clock advances five minutes on a result of 4+.
Jose wasn’t told the reason for the Clock until a significant event occurred so I’ll leave that a mystery to you as well.
German Briefing / Plans
I commanded the German defenders. My brief was …
Hold the road. German forces west of you are in retreat and need this road to be clear of enemy. Do not block the road until you sight allied armoured vehicles, at which point feel free to destroy any that you can see. You have no BC – he’s away at a staff training day. You may deploy hidden.
- 1 x SMG Squad
- 3 x HMG
- 2 x FO for off-table 80 mm Mortar (24 FM total – from common pool of ammo)
- 1 x Infantry Company
- 1 x CC (+2)
- 2 x HMG
- 1 x Rifle Platoon: PC (+2); 3 x Rifle, all with early pzfaust
- 3 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1); 3 x Rifle, all with early pzfaust
- 3 x Pak 40 AT guns
The Pak 40 are equipped with a plentiful supply of AP shells, but only 2 HE shells each.
I deployed two platoons north of the road and two south of the road. The first platoon, with the +2 PC, was deployed up front in the field and wood you can see top right of the photo. The fourth platoon was my reserve and was deployed in and around the large wood in the centre left of the photo. The 2nd and 3rd platoons were deployed up front near the building.
The various fortifications were garrisoned by:
- NW Fort: a Pak 40, SMG Squad, and FO. I included the SMG because this was the front position hence the most vulnerable and SMGs are good in close combat.
- NE Fort: had a Pak 40.
- SE Fort: only had an FO. The Pak 40 that could have been deployed in the SE Fort was actually deployed with the 4th platoon in the wood facing along the road. I was hoping that Jose would expend energy focussing on what was essentially an empty fortification.
Allied Briefing / Plans
Jose was the Allied commander. His brief was …
Your figures may look like Russians, but believe me this is an illusion brought about by the strange perspective of the thousand-foot general. They are actually allies fighting in the west, like Americans, or Italians who have changed sides, or free French, or breakaway Hungarians, or British in fancy dress, or I dunno – someone.
You have in your command:
- 1 x BC (+1) with radio team (reg)
- 2 x HMG (reg)
- 2 x FO for off table 81mm Mortar (12 FM)
- 2 x Rifle Companies (regular)
- 1 x CC (+1) with radio operator.
- 1 x on-table 50mm Mortar (8 FM)
- 3 x Rifle Platoons: PC (+1), 3 x Rifle, one with ATR
- 1 x Assault Engineer Platoon (veteran): +1 PC, 3 x Assault Engineer Rifle Squads, one with ATR
Note: Assault Engineer squads get a +2 in Close Combat: +1 for being Assault Engineer and +1 for being Veteran. They can remove minefields.
You have advanced at great speed as part of the operation to encircle the Germans. Your objective is to clear the road ahead. Intelligence reports say that there are fortified points along this road, and these could be a menace to any columns we try to send forward in this area. We don’t know exactly where they are on the map, but freed slave labourers have told of working on them. Proceed east along the road until you come to a fortification. As soon as you take a fortification, radio in and report its location so we can add it to our maps. Your forces enter the table from the western edge. You start with the initiative.
The photo is of the western end of the table. The German deployment area was to the left of the white line and the Allies came on the table edge to the right.
Jose’s plan was to attack south of the road i.e. come on at the top right of te photo. He brought one company on table and left the second company off table to exploit any successes. The red arrows in the photo above show the eventual routes of attack used by the Allies troops.
Phase 1: Allied Entry (1215 Hours)
1215 GT brought the first Allies on table. They hugged the southern edge of the table probing for enemy.
More Allies quickly followed and took control of the wooded area in the south-west of the table. .
The Allies then siezed the small hill in the south-east of the table. Possession of which was to dramatically impact the game later in the day as it had a fine view over a large area of the table and could in turn be seen from afar.
Phase 2: The fight with 1st Platoon
First contact occurred as an Allied squad tentative pushed across the open ground to the large wood near the Allied controlled hill. This was where half of the German 1st platoon was located. The defenders conducted ambush fire and duly suppressed then killed the enemy point squad.
The firefight escalated as more of the German 1st platoon came into play against the Allies on the hill. It took a lot of initiatives and 15 minutes of game time to push 1st platoon out of their front line positions.
Phase 3: Incoming
The Allies brought in more troops to protect their northern flank near the road. They were unopposed except for the odd mortar shell directed by a hidden Forward Observer (FO). Although hidden it was fairly obvious the FO was in the NW Fort as this was the only German position that had visibility of the allied lines.
Phase 4: Fire and Movement
Jose quickly adopted the tactic of using moving stands to draw fire thus revealing German positions. An example of this was his attack on one of my retreating stands. This stand had earlier been suppressed by fire from the Allied hill. Jose sent successive stands across open ground to close combat it. The first attempt was stopped in the open but the second got through with the inevitable result = dead Germans.
Phase 5: 2nd Platoon firefight
2nd platoon, having revealed half its stands to stop the charging allies, now got into a fire fight with the Allies on the road. Weight of small arms and mortar fire took its toll and even the ministrations of the +2 German Company Commander couldn’t save the HMG. But another 10 minutes ticked past.
Phase 6: 1st Platoon at the Hill
Earlier in the battle I’d already revealed that there was only a FO in the SE fort. I’d foolishly moved the FO before realising there were no safe passages to anywhere useful and decided to move him back into the fortication. In other words Jose knew there was no fire power in the fortification.
With enemy pressure increasing in the south I decided to pull the remains of 1st platoon back to positions near my reserve. I thought I’d put at least one stand in the SE Fort. With the help of some smoke I successfully used a Retreat Move to escape from the Allies on the south-western hill. The PC and one squad of 1st platoon were only visible again when they started up the hill of the SE Fort. It seemed a worthwhile risk at the time but the reactive fire was fairly nasty. The squad was killed and the PC pinned on the hill.
The PC however eventually managed to make his way off the hill and into the field at the bottom where he was joined by the remaining squad of the platoon. These two, with some support from a couple of squads from 4th platoon in the nearby field, would now face the main thrust of the Allies.
I’d done my foolish hill climbing and it was now Jose’s turn. He had brought his assault engineers up from off table. The lead squad chose to come up over the hill rather than skirting it on the level. Taking advantage of this slip I revealed the rest of 4th platoon in the wood and let rip in reactive fire. The assault engineer was suppressed and subsequently killed.
The remaining assault engineers pushed on supported by a rifle platoon. The engineers formed up in the small wood near the SE Fort before charging the remains of 1st platoon.
The odds were not good for the defenders.
- Allies: +1 PC, +1 Veteran, +1 Assault Engineer, +1 for extra squad = +4.
- Germans: +2 PC.
So the Allies were +2 up. But a 6 versus 1 in favour of the Germans meant the Assault Engineer platoon expired. Not even the previously destroyed engineer squad would have tipped the balance.
The destruction of the assault engineers only delayed the inevitable. The next Allied platoon formed up in the small woods and charged 1st platoon. To make it even worse the German squad meanwhile been suppressed. This time the gallant fighters went under.
Interlude: Artillery and Pak 40s
Elsewhere on the table Jose’s artillery was still taking their toll of the defenders. One notable shot scored four 6s – thus killing the stand and suppressing the neighbour. [OK we subsequently realised he should only have rolled three dice but three 6s is still a direct kill so it didn’t matter which was the “extra” die.]
But I had my own surprise for Jose. The Pak 40 in the NE Fort opened up in reactive fire and pinned some of his redeploying troops. This made Jose quite cautious for the rest of the game as he’d forgotten the Pak 40s only had two HE shots each. The main manifestation of this caution was that Jose consistently tried to smoke off this fortification.
Phase 7: Hunting 4th Platoon in the fields
Having dispatched 1st platoon it was the guns of 4th platoon that were preventing Jose’s men from climbing up and taking the SE Fort. 25 minutes of game time passed as Allied squads tried to close with and destroy the two squads of 4th platoon in the field under the SE Fort. One squad was eliminated quickly with fire. The other survived only because of the reactive fire support from his comrades in the rest of 4th platoon.
German Secret Briefing
As host of the event I got a Secret Briefing in addition to the public briefing given above. This came into effect at 1315 hours and was a bit of a shock to Jose.
N.B. This scenario is sent to you, and you should be aware that it will be to the disadvantage of the game to show it in its complete form to your opponent, since some of the information in it should be secret from him. In case your opponent complains later that he was unfairly kept in the dark, you might like to print out a copy of the scenario so that you can then show it to him, and he will then see that I, and not you, were responsible for the secrecy, and that he was not meant to know everything about the scenario. Once you have read this scenario, you can play the role of the Germans only.
At 1315 the allied player receives this radio message (unless he has lost all his radio operators):
German armoured column spotted heading east along the road towards you. Must be some stragglers that we didnt know about. Can you do anything to stop it? Have you captured any anti-tank weapons? ETA 10-20 minutes.
At 1330 a great rumbling of tracks and engines is heard, and a German armoured column enters from the west end of the table on the road. In the column there are: 2x Pz III, 3 x Pz IV, 2x Stug IIIs, 1x Tiger
The German player controls these vehicles, but he is very limited in what he can do with them. The road is good going, but off-road the ground is treacherous. Every move action taken off road requires a 1d6 roll and if the result is a 1 the vehicle is bogged, and there are no ARVs to recover them.
The top priority for the vehicles is to escape. If a vehicle can move along the road, it will. The main reaction to an encounter with the enemy is to put the foot down and race away. The vehicles will be buttoned up and moving at top speed on a road, and so will find it VERY difficult to see enemy infantry in the bushes. A vehicle may only shoot at enemy forces who are blocking its way or who have fired at it. It will only move off-road to avoid a wreck on the road.
Unless German troops move to contact with a vehicle to tell the crew about a mine field, the tanks will never see a mine field until they drive into it. Any attack on the tanks will be an unexpected one that will panic them. The German objective from 1330 is to get as many AFVs off the east end of the table as possible, as fast as possible. If the Germans are wiped out before the German tanks arrive then the game is just seeing how many of the tanks can make it along the road and off the table.
N.B. There is a change in the behaviour of the tanks that MAY be possible, depending on the results of earlier games. You will be informed on the day if these changes apply.
The change in behaviour was dependent on Game 4 but in the event there was no change.
The Mine Store
After all other terrain features have been placed, a terrain feature (perhaps a building) is designated by the German player as a mine store. This goes where he chooses in the central half of the table (i.e. not in the western or eastern quarters of the table). The mines will only be discovered by allied troops if they are in the feature when there are no Germans there. There is no need to tell him that mines can be laid during the game. He’ll have to think of that himself.
I chose the building in the centre as the mine store. It didn’t have to be a building but this was distinctive.
The Germans can lay mines across the road by carrying them there and rolling 1d6 once per initiative. They have been trained for this. On a 5+ the job is done. The roll does not risk the initiative. The allies, being less familiar with the mines and not ready for the task, need to roll a 6, except the engineers who also need a 5+. There are enough mines for three fields. These mines would be easy to see and clear, because they would not be well concealed or dug in properly (only attack engineers on a 1), but they would be effective against buttoned up fast-moving vehicles.
Using captured weapons
There is no particular need to tell the Allied player that he can crew ATGs – better to wait for him to ask. If the allied player specifies that he is destroying the AT guns, let him! Normally an ATG is taken out of a game by combat with its crew. An ATG can be destroyed by troops in base-to-base contact with it, if they wish. Do not entrap the allied player, however, by asking him if he is destroying the guns. It is for him to come up with this mistake on his own. The normal stats for a Pak 40 are +1 +1 4d6/2SQ HE, but with allied replacement crews the stats reduce to +0 +0 3d6/1SQ HE to simulate the crews unfamiliarity with the weapons and the art of placing a shot for maximum effect.
For every German infantry rifle stand killed in close combat, the allies can get ONE SHOT with a pzfaust. This simulates the chance that someone picked some up and knew enough about how to use them to give it a go.
Phase 8: Closing in on 4th Platoon
Despite from the radio communique Jose was still ignorant of much of the secret briefing so pushed his attack on 4th platoon. Anyway the nearest Pak 40 was the one with 4th platoon and that would be useful against the approaching German armour.
With their comrades near the SE Fort eliminated the remainder of 4th Platoon reoriented to face the impending Allied assault. Moments later the Allies began their assault tactics again: advance squad, draw reactive fire, hope for No Fire, charge.
Phase 9: Armoured Convoy
1330 hours brought the rumoured German armoured column. 2x Pz III, 3 x Pz IV, 2x Stug IIIs, 1x Tiger. Jose only had anti-tank rifles to stop them – double 6s anyone? – so they roared along the unblocked road to safety.
We played on for a couple of initiatives but neither of us had inclination to continue as it looked like Jose had little chance of winning even if he captured fortifications.
Jose and I had a great game. Hard fought and tense. I hope my report reflects that. The battle through the fields to the south of the road was gruelling for both sides. The Allies advanced field by field, hedge by hedge, under fire most of the time. Taking losses but relentlessly pushing the Germans back. By 1315 hours they had reached the foot of hill where the SE Fort was located but enemy small arms fire prevented them making the last dash up the slope. The bubble burst when my tanks arrived. With the armoured convoy come and gone and facing a two hour drive home Jose wasn’t up for continuing. I don’t blame him. I’d have probably done the same thing.
The WCFD organiser asked me to report on certain specific outcomes at the end of the battle. The summary of this initial report was:
Started 11.15 BST (GT 12.15)
Radio message 14.55 BST (GT 13.15)
Ended 15.50 BST (GT 13.45)
Steven Thomas German
Allied losses: 1 x PC, 6 x Rifle Squads, 1 x HMG, 1 x Engineer PC, 3 x Engineer Squads
German Losses: 1 x PC, 6 x Rifle Squads, 2 x HMG
All German vehicles escaped GT 13.45
No fortifications captured
No mines captured.
Based on this report the WCFD organiser’s perspective was that Jose hadn’t done too well. The official result consequently read :
Reports of an Allied setback. Strong units of infantry were sent forward with Assault Engineers to clear a road of some ATG positions, and it seems that casualties have been high, and the road may still be in enemy hands. A crushing defeat for the Allies. The attempt to force a road, to open a new line of advance, has proven a failure. Despite numerical advantages in Infantry and support from veteran Assault Engineers, the Allies were thrown back from three strong points along the road with ruinous losses. Later, a German convoy was seen heading up this road unhindered.
Game score: Germans +113 VPs.
Jose wasn’t too pleased at the way the battle was presented. Fair enough as he’d fought a bloody good game and didn’t get credit for it. In fact we both think the scenario was flawed. Fun but flawed. I’ll go through the reasons why…
Relative balance of forces
On the day the game felt weighted in favour of the German defenders: 5 HMG, 3 Pak 40s, +2 commanders all played their part in this feeling. Just to check I later calculated the points of the two forces using standard Crossfire points from the rules. Ignoring for the moment the fact the defenders were hidden the points came out at German 111.5 and Allies 133.5. If you factor in my normal 50% bonus for being hidden the Germans had an effective 167.25 points. No wonder Jose had a hard job of it as I effectively had roughly a 25% advantage in points. With those numbers in mind he did well to get as far as he did.
|Side||Points||Visible / Hidden||Comments|
|German||111.50||Visible||Counting the three fortifications, without wire and mines, as a single fortification package. I have not included the cost of the Panzerfausts as the Allies have no armour in this scenario. Similarly the mines were for the Allies so I’ve not costed them either.|
|167.25||Hidden||I count hidden as a 50% advantage|
Suggestion: Add some Allies and/or reduce the defenders to balance up the forces. For example reducing the number of German HMG from 5 to 2 would roughly balance out the two forces.
Jose’s original objective was to capture the fortifications. He got his first inclination of the real objectives 3 hours and 40 minutes into the game (which was only 1 hour of game time). That gave him about 30 minutes (15 minutes of game time) to adapt his strategy. This was, of course, impossible. By then his attack was too advanced to change strategy and his troops were too dispersed to be able to stop the German armour roaring along the road and exiting. His only anti-armour capability was the odd anti-tank rifle shot. Despite playing an excellent game he’d never come close to the mine store so didn’t have the option to mine the road. The first hint that he could capture German anti-tank weapons was in the radio message and he did not get the chance to do this before the armour arrived. There was zero chance he would have thought of capturing German weapons before the radio message as this is not standard Crossfire.
Nobody, myself included, could have done better in Jose’s position.
Suggestion: It was a fine scenario without the secret objectives so they could just be dropped. If you still want the armoured column then I suggest you tweak the scenario in all of the following ways:
- Mention a suspected mine store as part of the public pre-game brief for the Allied player.
- Give the warning radio message a lot earlier, perhaps 1235 GT
- Make the radio message really, really, really explicit about the desirability of capturing Pak 40s and Panzerfausts.
Open fields of fire
Jose was aggrieved by the open fields of fire on the table. I was the one who laid out the table so any fault is mine. In my defence:
- The open fields of fire were in keeping with the scenario brief which said “neither player may place sight-blocking terrain features between the road and a fortification covering it“.
- I had also proposed some guidelines Lloyd to limit how this was implemented.
But the table could and should have been less open. At least I should have given Jose a chance to do a sanity check before we started.
Having said that I disagree with Jose that my anti-guns and FOs had a major impact on the game. Limited ammo for the ATG (only two HE rounds each) and FOs that seemed from my dice rolling to be more interested in talking to their girlfriends on the radio than calling in mortar fire meant I feel I gained little advantage from high visibility from the fortifications. And bear in mind I only had two Pak 40s up on the hills so that reduced my potential firepower even further.
The hills did have an impact in that both of us sent troops up hills where enemy could shoot at them – to our respective loss. In both cases this action was voluntary and, in hindsight, a mistake. I lost a squad from my 1st Platoon and Jose from the Assault Engineers. These units, as it happens, later met in close combat with rather spectacular results.
Suggestion: The umpire draw a map. Failing that then impose more limitations on the placement of the fortifications and/or encourage more LOS impeding terrain. For example you could impose one or both of these restrictions:
- All fortifications must be at least 6″ from every table edge. This helps ensure there are on-table routes to the fortification which were not in the LOS of the fortification.
- Give each fortification has a 1′ wide and 2′ long fire corridor directly to its front. This corridor must intersect the road. Neither player can place LOS impeding terrain in the corridor.
Suggestion: Be explicit about which German troops can/can’t be in the fortifications. This was implied in the brief but not explicit. I chose not to put HMG into the fortifications but there was nothing really in my brief to prevent me doing that. I’d make them a 1 squad bunker and only allow the Pak 40s and/or FOs inside. And I wouldn’t allow the Pak40s to move.
Ours was the longest game in WCFD. 4 hours 35 minutes of actually playing. Post set up. No breaks. No lunch (for me). No mucking around. And we didn’t finish in that finishing would have meant the complete destruction of one side or the other.
|Game Time||1215 GT||1345 GT|
|Actual||1115 BST||1550 BST|
Suggestion: Impose constraints on the length of game. For example you could do one of:
- End the game once the moving clock reached a certain time, perhaps 1345 GT.
- Add morale using Casualty objectives for one or both sides. The Allies could, for example, break off their attack (i.e. lose) after suffering a certain number of losses.
Despite the controversy it was a great game and WCFD a great event. I’d like to thank Lloyd again for organising it.
Although I think the scenario was flawed I also think it would be easy to tweak to make it more balanced. I’m certainly keen to give it a go and I’ve already recruited my mate Chris to try it out.
The fact we didn’t really finish the game raises the question of what would have happened if we had played on. Jose was pretty much guaranteed one of the fortifications as it was empty and he was at the foot of the hill. If he could have rallied / consolidated sufficient troops he had a good chance at getting the others. I would of course have tried to make it difficult. No sure thing either way and certainly a lot of life left in the game even if the players were exhausted.