Posted 08 Jul 2006
Rich Wilcox and I tried out the first scenario - Tarnopol: Russian Recce - from my Tarnopol 3 Round Campaign. This scenario was based on my experience of Reconnaissance before Pontecorvo, which revealed several problems with that HTD scenario.
I changed this scenario as a result of the play test, so bear in mind that during the play test the Russians got 4 VP for touching the German base line with any stand ("Touch Down"). If we played again I'd give 1 VP for each PC or SMG squad that exits the German base edge (up to 4 VP).
The set up was as per the scenario map. The outskirts of Tarnopol were on one side of the table, and the Russians were meant to come on the other side. The dotted white line is the eastern edge of the German deployment zone.
Rich had a difficult problem - how to defend the entire base edge and prevent a Russian "Touch Down". He decided to place his snipers forward but had his main body quite near Tarnopol and his base edge. He put his bunker and minefield near the railway embankment; this was a good spot for the bunker as it had a clear line of fire. The majority of his troops were in the centre and on his left flank. Wire was used in the centre and left to limit my movement.
Russians push over the embankment
The game started at 0300 hours. We weren't playing night fighting but this would make for an interesting variant.
This was the first time I took along my Crossfire alarm clock. There is nothing special about this clock except it is camouflaged (aesthetic appeal only) and the batteries have been removed.
We used this so we could see the Moving Clock advancing. This seemed to be quite effective - and it also seemed to act as a visual reminder to actually roll for the advancement of time.
As attacker I started with initiative. My challenge was deciding where to probe first. As it happens I decided to attack across the railway embankment, i.e. on the same side where Rich (unbeknownst to me) had his minefield and bunker.
I kept my entire company together on the grounds that I'd have reserves to exploit openings, and my platoons would be able to provide mutual support.
Only after the game did I realise I came on table via the wrong table edge; according to the scenario I was meant to come on via the eastern table edge. As it happened it wouldn't have made a difference, but something to remember for next time. Coming on via the side table edge also exposed me to fire from the one part of the embankment that Rich controlled. Luckily he didn't put any troops there, but it was an unnecessary risk.
When John Mclennan and I had played Reconnaissance before Pontecorvo John had relied on RBF to find where I was hidden. This took a considerable amount of game time, and in fact, he basically ran out of time to complete his mission.
I took a different approach, using my men to find the enemy. Advance a squad, if Rich took a shot, I gained some victory points; if not, then advance some more. Of course I might also be pinned or suppressed, but that was a risk I was willing to take - very Russian thinking
The red lines are my approach routes and the dotted blue lines are the German lines of fire. .
These two photos are the same scene; the photo below is from the perspective of the German bunker.
My first advances were across the western end of the railway embankment, near Rich's base edge. This quickly revealed two squads (one in an entrenchment) and a HMG in his bunker. It also resulted in a suppression, and subsequently a kill.
With my first platoon pinned down on my left, I advanced another platoon across the embankment near the centre. This was exactly where Rich had his snipers. 3 of them! (He rolled for the number of snipers before the game started.) Luckily for me there were just a couple of pins. A small price to pay for the discovery of a section of wire and the removal of the snipers.
Back on my left my first platoon was getting a bit of a hammering. Rich repositioned some troops to bring more weight of fire to bear.
Time passed. 0330 hours.
As the snipers had been disposed off in the centre, I pushed forward again until I made contact.More wire, an entrenchment and resident squad.
Having realised the centre was clear, I moved up both my centre and right flank platoons. The centre platoon had my HMG and FOs, and was moved into the wood near Tarnopol. The right flank platoon then started my right hook, which was shortly to bear spectacular fruit.
Having redeployed to create a firm base in the centre, I pushed forward more elements from my right flank platoon. This revealed another entrenchment and squad, at the cost of a pin. Pins are, of course, not too significant when you're talking about Veterans.
Being fairly certain that I'd found all there was to find on this flank, I went in for the kill (after he'd gone No Fire, of course). 2 x Veteran SMG squads with a +1 PC made short work of both German squads on this flank. That opened up the route to Rich's base edge ... and resulted in my "Touch Down", i.e. I got a squad to his base edge, scoring 4 VP.
The scoring squad then headed for Tarnopol through the orchard.
A wider shot from the same point in time. My right hook was unfolding nicely.
On the other hand Rich had been steadily whittling away at my left flank platoon. By this stage I'd lost two squads of the platoon and the third didn't look like it had long to live.
Time passed 0400 hours. Some desultory fire and time passed again 0430 hours.
The battle had now moved to the edge of Tarnopol. My firepower platoon in the centre commenced a fire fight with the German platoon in front of it.
To give myself a chance to redeploy a bit I dropped some smoke in front of Rich's platoon. To be honest, this was about when Rich reminded me that my mortars only had smoke to fire. I had wanted to stonk one of his occupied buildings but alas the HE had been left in camp. Strange how one forgets these little details in the heat of battle.
Having brought up troops on Rich's flank, I went into close combat. My veterans saw me right again.
All was going well until Rich's company commander surprised me as I crossed the road. I think this is the only Surprise Encounter I've ever played (normally we use Ambush Fire instead, but a CC can't shoot). This time I lost the fight - the only time during the entire battle that I lost a close combat.
Meanwhile I had redeployed my centre platoon so its full fire power could be brought to bear on the remaining German strong point. The writing seemed on the wall to Rich, and he conceded.
OK I won, can't complain about that, but I didn't win by much. My final victory points came to 6.5, i.e. a minor Russian victory. And to be honest, I think this unfairly inflated my achievements.
The game took 2.5 hours of real time (including set up and a chat) and only 1.5 hours on the Moving Clock.
My strategy of neglecting RBF and using my squads to find the enemy had mixed results. It was fast, but what cost me a major victory was the fact I lost five stands, each deducting 3 VP.
And losing stands also forced me into a strategy where I went for kills rather than just reconnaissance. I needed the extra VP; every +1/2 VP counted. By the end of the game Rich had lost eight stands of his 11! This wasn't so much a recce as a blood bath.
So an obvious question is, was another Russian strategy possible? Certainly. The game ended much before the time limit. It would, in hindsight, have been possible to use more RBF - something my scouts were very good at (5-6 to succeed) - rather than wait for reactive fire. I could have just probed until I found Rich's troops, then retreated out of range.
So was it balanced? Rich thought so, but I wasn't so sure. As I mentioned in the introduction I would make one tweak. Rather than giving the Russians :4 VP for touching the German base line with any stand, I would give them 1 VP for each PC or SMG squad that exited the German base edge (up to 4 VP). This would make it trickier for them as they have to decide whether to lose stands to get those extra VP. It also more accurately simulates having scouts penetrating into the German rear zone. With that tweak I think it would fine for a rematch.
And was there an alternative German strategy? Yes, but would it be better ... I'm not sure. Defenders always have fairly limited options in Crossfire. You set up as best you can and then hope. As it happens I think Rich set up pretty well. If it was me, however, I might have done a few things differently:
- set up with two platoons slightly more forward, and one more obviously back as a reserve.
The front platoons would have to be forward, so the
reserve has room for manoeuvre.
- put the bunker on the railway embankment. This would have severely limited the Russians offensive options, and would have really messed up my own plan of attacking across the embankment. OK it would have been easy victory points for the Russians, but the benefits would probably have outweighed this.
- Mix the snipers in with the main line of defence, so they can pick off officers, not any old squad that wanders a long.
Whether this would have been more effective is hard o say, but that's what I would have tried.
After this game and a similar game of Russian Scouts we replaced the German casualties victory points with the "Tongue" special rule. The play tests both turned into blood baths. The Russians realise they've lost too many stands so then have to kill all the Germans to have a chance of winning or at least drawing. And that isn't a reconnaissance.
Original victory condition:
- +1/2 VP for killing each German stand. (i.e. 1 VP in total with spotting and killing)
New victory condition
- 1 VP for capturing a "Tongue" i.e. killing a German stand in close combat. (at most 1 VP no matter how many Germans are killed)
Overall results of campaign:
|1||Russian Recce||Battle Report||Steven|
|2||SU-152s up close and personal||Battle Report||Rich|
|3||Battle Group Friebe||Battle Report||Rich|