Sunday, July 12, 2020

Tigers at Minsk: The Woods - A 2 x 2 Crossfire Scenario fought with TaM

Readers will remember I posted a scenario idea for "Tigers at Minsk" where I tinkered around with the Dick Bryant "2x2 Crossfire Scenarios" taken from the excellent "Steven's Balagan" blog and site.  Tigers at Minsk and Crossfire are cut from very simliar cloths and are both excellent games in their own right.  I felt the scenarios would be ported over nicely.  I was right.

As a refresher, Steven posted an excellent scenario guide for Crossfire which I posted guidance and thoughts on for converting the Crossfire scenario to a Tigers at Minsk scenario.  I played through "The Woods" twice this afternoon, solo.

(flip back 2 x posts or simply click on the link to see the TaM scenario parameters).  This scenario turned out to be a really good one, and chock full of decisions.  The Germans must clear out the woods.  The Soviets, outmanned, must try to inflict enough casualties on them to stop them.  You respective task organizations follow:

Steven Thomas' "The Woods" Crossfire scenario for use at SELWG in the UK.  It found its way across the pond and onto my back patio to play the World War II game "Tigers at Minsk" gaming this afternoon!

Let's get to the action.

1100 Hours

German first platoon steps up to the Line of Departure.  Before them lies a series of wooded areas they must sweep through to clear out Ivan.
Tiny Mats from the UK.  Good thing I bought this before the shipping cost from the UK went bananas!

Lots of shooting as the Germans suppress likely enemy positions.  They score a number of pins and I'm thinking this is in the bag for them.  Or is it?

Soviets return accurate fire against the German positions.

Then their HMG opens up...

A German squad is pinned

Then 3 more German elements are pinned!  The Soviet HMG breaks down!  I allowed an action to fix it / reload ammo if a roll is secured.

Doubles!  Germans get "ambush" but no one is within 2 hexes.  Soviets get unpin, but no one is pinned any longer!
1108 Hours

The Germans send forward 1st and 2nd platoons, along with the attached combat engineer squad while the HMG attempts to continuously fire on the Soviets in the woods.  1st platoon sends a squad forward, with the combat engineers trailing a hex behind them.  The base of fire squads of 1st platoon a trying to unpin and sort out their situation, while the maneuver squad gets itself into a jam, finding itself face to face with another Russian squad. 

1117 Hours

The Soviets counterattack and send a squad forward on their left / German right to block 2nd Platoon.  It works and spooks the squad in contact into opportunity firing.  A great move by the Soviets to slow down the German advance.  The Germans bring up the next squad in 2nd Platoon to support their kamaraden!

White "opportunity fire" bead to try and stop the Soviets in their tracks!

1126 Hours

Germans on the left start shooting at the Soviets to their front but the fire is ineffective.  Meanwhile, the Germans on the right are either opportunity fired and cant' do anything, or out of command!  The Soviets will assault them!

Soviets assault into the German hex.  the fighting pins both squads and the Soviets pull back into the woods!

hand to hand combat and murderous short range firefights!

1137 Hours

The Germans need to make something happen here.  The Soviets have 2 units broken now and one more will end the game but the Germans cannot seem to bring it home!  The Soviets are fighting cagey here and putting up a hard struggle.  Both the Germans and the Soviets realize they haven't used their indirect fire yet.  The dedicated FOs will call for the larger tubes, and the PCs or CC's will call in for the company mortars.  Not a bad compromise.  I also used the Crossfire fire missions from the scenario, so 4 fire missions each of 81/82mm mortar fire, and 50mm mortar fire for both sides.  

The Germans switch tactics and attempt to knock out the resistance to their front on the left.  Again, more inconclusive shooting.  to make matters worse, they're "target rich" now and the Soviets get an extra shooting dice!  

combat engineers and landsers pinned!  

Everyone on the German right is pinned!

The combat engineers are eager to get a crack at the Soviets!  Their demo charges are primed and ready!
1147 Hours

This is it!  The Germans have to make something happen.  All firing is focused intently to mass against units to the front.  It was not to be.  The Soviets weather the fire!

1151 Hours

The Germans break contact!  A Soviet victory!

This game was full of decision making and required a bit of thought about main and supporting efforts, bases of fire, fire support planning, and gambling.  Plenty of gambing!  The one hour limit really forced the Germans to get a move on, and while the Soviets don't have alot of men, they make up for it with firepower. 

I really liked the Crossfire 2 x 2 scenario here and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a fun challenge.  There are numerous questions and problems to solve here both as the Germans and as the Soviets.  Do you defend forward?  or Do you take advantage of the open areas and force the opponent to come to you through kill zones? 

 I felt that I needed to try the game again and set up a bit differently than last time, with the German second platoon much further away than the first platoon.  Let's see how that plays!

1100 Hours

Soviet FOs scanning for targets!

German first platoon preparing to assault!

Base of fire element
 1107 Hours

German second platoon works its way up the right flank and is caught by a Soviet HMG and squad and unfortunately is "target rich" the Soviet shoot up their hex and both German squads are pinned!  Meanwhile teh Soviets eliminate the first squad from second platoon!

The Soviets opted to defend much further forward this time instead of further back, and utilized the forests in the middle of the table.  The Germans made contact almost immediately from some of their starting hexes!

German return fire eliminates a Soviet squad as all of first fire and an HMG concentrates on the Soviet squad to their front.  

The Germans move forward under fire!  note the 2 x copses to the front have Soviet squads in them.  The Germans advance under constant 82mm mortar fire, and 50mm mortar fire!

Germans working their way up the right flank.

Ouch!  The Soviets take another hit.  Do you lose the infantry squad - 1/3 of your combat power?  Or do you lose the FO - who is literally your link to the 82mm mortar battery and 4 x fire missions?  I chose the FO to be knocked out.

Soviet light mortar - I tracked fire missions with a red die

Fritz is moving over there comrades!  Adjust fire in the name of the Rodina!!!  A German squad is taken out by excellent Soviet shooting.
 1113 Hours

The loss of the German squad on the right has the men reeling!  The Soviets already have a unit knocked out.  Time to earn a few more!

1 Squad from 2nd Platoon is knocked out and 2 other squads are pinned!

HMG and squad in upper left.  Germans in lower right.

The Germans in 1st platoon on the right knock out the squad to their front and feel like the time is right to advance.  Pay close attention to the squad with the pinned marker on him!

German fire is furious from 1st Platoon and the Soviets lose another squad.  Soviet return fire is ineffective and the Germans from the previous turn rallied both squads in 2nd platoon on the right.  it's time to resume the advance!

1117 Hours

The game ends at the top of the German turn as they knock out another Soviet squad, ending the game.

German shooting with 1st Platoon is extremely effective and their target the Soviet Squad in the copse to their front.  The Soviets bug out!

So, how did this little experiment go?  Did the Crossfire scenario work out for Tigers at Minsk?  Absolutely - and quite well!  I was a bit afraid that the 2:1 advantage would be too unbalanced, but the Soviets can stay in the game if they play cagey enough, and the extra mortar fire missions really help.  

The games featured crazy reversals of fortune and it's interesting to see how things change dramatically with slightly altered deployments.  This gaming was alot of fun and I think with a human opponent it would be even more so.  

I really liked the multiple fire missions and I dont think it was too powerful or harsh, especially since both sides had equal fire missions.  I feel like this would be a good introductory scenario for someone wanting to play Tigers at Minsk that incorporated indirect fire, multiple platoon actions and a bit more responsibility and management.  You really have to move in this scenario as the clock is ticking and 8 or 9 hexes are a long distance to travel under mortar and machine gun fire!

Next step is to play some of the other scenarios in the Balagan "Dick Bryant 2 x 2 Crossfire" scenario pack and see how those go. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Battle of Shiloh: 1000 hours to 1300 hours

Ken was over for another installment of the Battle of Shiloh using the excellent "Altar of Freedom" rules.  For those who missed the first part, check out last week's post where we played the 7am to 10am turn.  We were able to push from the 10am turn to the 1pm turn this past Sunday and things aren't looking so great for the Union I'm afraid...

Grant orders a general withdrawal to a new, tighter defensive line behind the initial positions, following Bragg's piercing of the hornet's nest.  He'll use relatively fresh Divisions to cover the left flank as fighting has worked its way up the to the banks of the Tennessee River.  These forces will ensure Breckenridge's Reserve Corps don't walk straight into Pittsburgh Landing unopposed.

Vacating the Hornet's Nest at the 10:00 hour.

Grant's troops, mostly of Sherman's Division, fall back to positions northward in the woods while strong Union Artillery covers the approach.  This will be important in the coming hours.

View from the Rebel side - note the solid defensive line forming up.  We're not going to make it too easy for Johnny Reb to change the course of history!
Ken and I still did a fair amount of looking things up in this battle as we came across a few new situations we hadn't previously encountered last game.  I will say things did come a little easier for us, and both of us are getting more "dangerous" in our application of the rules.  At 12:00 noon, disaster struck the Union side as I completely guessed wrong what the rebels would do and it cost me a big setback.  Meanwhile Ken is still sending attacks against the entire line at this point, on the right, in the center, and on the left.

The rebel breakthrough at the sunken lane sees the union evacuate the position in a hurry!  the Rebs are right on their heels.

Breckenridge reaches the Union positions on the left flank int he woods and hard fighting ensues.  The Yanks are pushed back!

Note the new Union line curving from center-left down and to the right.  The most beat-up units are from Sherman's Division in the center where I have some Brigades that have quite a bit of fatigue on them.
 I did learn to cover you defenses with artillery.  nothing is better at breuaking up an attack than artillery.  If you wait until they're in small arms range, youre toast!  On more than one occasion, my batteries distinguished themselves in action. 

Rebels massing in the center to go after Sherman's Division again

Ken presses his advantage now.
 My die rolls were generally awful in this game but in some cases, I rolled enough 6's when it counted to avoid a complete and utter rout!

More assaults against a brigade of Sherman's division with 2 fatigue!  Remarkably they'd hold!

More Union units sent to the back of the line with the Confederate onslaught
 High drama at high noon as Ken throws more units against the battered line.  While one of the Brigades has pulled back, a lone battery from Sherman's Division covers their approach.  Ken assaults it and his assaulting brigade is routed due to a combination of modifiers and me rolling a "6".  The first broken brigade of the battle!  This Union battery earns a fatigue marker, and also earns their place in history by repulsing a Brigade attack as the enemy charged again and again into the very muzzle of the guns!  This had the added bonus of disrupting the entire Rebel divisional attack by destroying the brigade in contact.  Sherman's line is saved once more, but this time by a battery of medium guns!

Sherman's artillery routes a Rebel brigade!  Heroes all!

The broken brigade - who tried to rally and rolled a "1"!  Brigade evaporates!
 So there you have it.  Ken is arranging his forces for a killing blow against Grant's line but it'll take time and coordiantion.  I have a heap of reinforcements coming in soon if I can only hold!  Rebels are a mere 17 inches from Pittsburgh Landing!  Talk about a nail biting defense.

We continue to be impressed with Altar of Freedom, specifically for the command and control mechanisms, and the resource management aspect of it.  We may try to meet earlier to finish the battle in the next sitting.  Next up...First Manassas?

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Converting Borrowed Scenarios for Tigers at Minsk!

I'm always on the lookout for good company-level games (maneuver element is a squad/section) which is one of the reasons I love Norm's "Tigers at Minsk" World War II rules so much, and have played many a game of them on this blog.

Cover art from "Tigers at Minsk"
I'm also inherently lazy, and sometimes I just want to throw down a game on the table and play, instead of doing research, assembling units, counting up points or cost values, and breakpoints.  This is probably a roundabout way of saying I want/need more scenarios for Tigers at Minsk, and World War II in general.  It's also a reason I don't play nearly as much Battlegroup as I would like to - because the pre game work is extensive and on a Friday night I'd rather get right to playing.

A Tigers at Minsk game played with Alex - we made square grids and played this way instead of on a hex mat
The other day I happened upon some of my older CROSSFIRE posts which led me back to the "Balagan" blog (a treasure trove for Crossfire enthusiasts.)  Then I remembered Mr Thomas posted some quick and easy Crossfire scenarios for newcomers, written by Mr Dick Bryant.  (If this is all very confusing, go here, and then go here.)  The premise behind these short scenarios is to introduce newcomers to the tactically challenging and realistic Crossfire rules. 

I want to use those 2 x 2 Crossfire scenarios for Tigers at Minsk.

I took a screen shot of the scenario card highlighted on the "Steven's Balagan" blog post where he showcases the 2 x 2 Crossfire Scenarios for use in a convention.  I used his example scenario - The Woods:
Taken from the Steven's Balagan Website here.  No challenge to the author intended - used without permission.
If you've played Tigers at Minsk, or read the rules, you'll notice you literally have everything you need for a game within the scenario pack here.  (And Mr Bryant was kind enough to lay out forest shapes in hex form!).  There are a few calculations needed to finish the job, however, and we'll walk through those steps now.

1.  Morale Level
TaM has a slick mechanism whereby your side's morale level (calculated by dividing the number of units by 2) is reached through attrition of your units.  Say you start with 8 units, your morale level is 4 for that scenario.  When 4 units are lost, bad things can start to happen.  To convert the Dick Bryant scenarios over to TaM, we'll have to do a little bit of math...

The Soviets have a reinforced platoon of 3 x squads, 1 x HMG, and 1 x on-table mortar.  That would effectively give you a morale level of 3 for TaM.  The German morale will be higher at 4.

Troop morale isn't taken into account quite like Crossfire, where stands have inherent values like Veteran, Regular, etc.  Instead, you can alter your final morale level to make troops more or less brittle.

2.  Time Clock
While there is a "time clock" feature in the Crossfire supplement "Hit the Dirt", TaM has a time clock used for the advance of each turn in every game.  In the main rules, scenarios can run from the passage of 40 minutes to 80 or more minutes, calculated by the roll of 2 D6 each turn.  For the Dick Bryant scenarios, the end is based on either attrition or achieving the scenario victory condition.  For Norm's TaM rules, the game is significantly more tense and enjoyable with the added pressure of the time clock and so given the small amount of forces for the scenarios, it's probably easy to go with 50 minutes, at least for "the woods" scenario.  This would keep both players on their toes.

Now we're ready to set up a proper Tigers at Minsk scenario, borrowed from the 2 x 2 Crossfire scenario.


Dick Bryant's 2 x 2 Crossfire Scenario Map "The Woods" taken from Steven's Balagan Blog - used without permission

Scenario:  "The Woods" Map looks like it could be 9 x 9 hexes or 10 x 10 hexes.

Morale: Soviet Morale Level 3 German Morale Level 4 - both infantry can make smoke.

Setup:  Soviet Player Deploys First in Squares "D" and "C" on the map.  German player deploys second in Squares "A" and "B", south of the Red Line.

Admin:  Game starts at 1100 hours and ends after 1150 hours.  German player goes first.

Victory Conditions:  the side that reaches breakpoint first loses.  If the 1150 hours is reached before breakpoint, the side with a higher remaining morale level is the winner.

Fire Support:  both sides have 4 x 50mm mortar fire missions and 4 x 82mm (Soviet) / 75mm IG (German) fire missions.

The fire support piece - I wonder if that's way too much given that your average game of Tigers at Minsk you will likely receive 1 or 2 salvos of fire support.  That's definitely worth experimenting with in the game to see if it's too lethal/generous.  It could be scaled back to 1 fire mission each.

Anyways, I thought I would post some of these ideas I've been scheming up over here.  I will set up my hex grid after our ACW Altar of Freedom game is completed.