Friday, May 29, 2009
Third Crossfire game, bring up the armor!
I organized my third Crossfire game earlier this week. We played a small engagement inspired by Ponyri, a village that was part of the much larger Battle of Kursk in 1943. Against the backdrop of the days-long assault, a German infantry company, supported by tanks, attempted to probe Soviet positions outside Ponyri—mindful that reinforcements from the larger battle could arrive at any time. We used my 10mm WWII miniatures, plus vehicles from my World Tank Museum collection. Pardon the fuzzy phone camera image; I've consistently forgotten to bring my actual camera.
Four players showed up, so I set them up as two teams and sat back to interpret rules and referee the game as best I could. Luckily Nico, a buddy from our Savage Worlds rpg, was there, and he digested a lot of rules prior to the game. This proved immensely helpful as we began the game.
Unfortunately, the scenario was quite one-sided and ended with a bloodbath for the Germans. The Germans had two rifle platoons, two on-board mortar squads with spotters, two Panzer IIIs and two Panzer IVs. This was arrayed against two Soviet rifle platoons supported by three 45mm antitank guns, all hidden in the village. Two KV-1s were available as reinforcements after five turns.
Much of the tactical imbalance—code for "Soviet butt-kicking"—in this game was due to a less-than-thorough understanding of how the armor rules worked, and how armor differed from infantry in terms of on-board effectiveness. Chalk that up to my own inexperience with the rules.
Basically, the two German platoons advanced from the woods to the outskirts of the village and quickly ran into two dug-in Soviet platoons. They slugged it out for a couple initiatives, but several stunning die rolls virtually destroyed the German infantry before the armor could make it to the show. Likewise the on-board mortar units didn't come into play until it almost didn't matter.
In retrospect, both German players agreed that they should have moved up their tanks first and used armor and indirect fire from the mortars to recon the suspected Soviet positions. It would have taken more time, but it would have been a lot less risky and would have allowed the infantry to move in once the Soviet squads had been identified. Plus the armor action might have prompted the Soviet players to reveal their 45mm anti-tank guns in order to re-deploy them.
I had come up with this scenario on my own, but I later found that Steve Thomas had previously detailed and played a much larger scenario based on the same skirmish. I was pretty pleased to see that our two setups, despite being written for very different sized games, had a lot of key features in common.