Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Day of Days (Brecourt Manor) with CROSSFIRE

 I've been keen to get some WWII action on the table and what better way to celebrate a belated 80th anniversary of D-Day than with a game of Crossfire featuring my 15mm US Paratroopers and newly re-based Germans.

I used the scenario from the "Fireball Forward" rules which, as it turns out, needed a little bit of tweaking before making itself into a Crossfire scenario.  

The famously shaped hedgerow containing the German HMG position is upper-left.  Some of you may remember the trenchline from the Ulianovo scenario.  I used it and added some modifications to support the Brecourt Manor assault.

German guns firing on Utah Beach!  Each German gun represents its own "position" that is outside of the trench-line and susceptible to reactive fire.

Battery defense platoon!  Georgians?  Regulars?  Fallschirmjaegers?  Nothing fancy in this game.  I just made them regulars.

The Americans are rated as "Veteran" in Crossfire, which makes them about as good as you can get.  

The machine gun platoon sets up along the hedgerow!

The action begins immediately against the Battery Defense Platoon in the "V Shaped Hedgerow" and the Screaming Eagles of Easy Company as the American .30 cals open up and start suppressing everybody!

German suppressed HMGs!  The squad in the foreground is still unsuppressed - all of the firing at this point is coming from the hedgerow in the upper right of the picture.

While the HMGs are suppressed, LT Compton and LT Winters move their men up to the hedgerow, preparing to assault.

The paratroopers make their way over or through the hedges and into the trench!

And the rest of Easy Company follows their lead.  So far, so good.  Solid base of fire element and all of the maneuver elements are in play!

The German defense platoon has an HMG in the trenchline along with 2 other sections.  The firing has them alerted, but their commander holds them back, fearing more Americans will come from a different direction.

V-Shaped Hedgerow to the left, bristling with firepower.

With the HMGs in the "V Shaped Hedgerow" suppressed, Winters decides it's time to assault the first gun position.  Winters is my Company Command stand in this battle, and so by the Crossfire rules he is authorized to initiate close combat.  I gave both him and LT Compton "+2" modifiers wich is the best you can get as a leader in Crossfire.

Winters and his accompanying rifle squad dash into the gun position, only to be react-fired by remaining un-suppressed squad in the "V-Shaped Hedgerow".  Winters is suppressed and his rifle squad is pinned at the gun emplacement for Gun #1!  The initiative switches to the Germans, who promptly and very successfully rally both of their HMGs, one of which has a bee-line to the first gun position now occupied by Winters and his rifle squad.  Winters is already suppressed and of course the HMG kills him and then trains its fire on the rifle squad, eventually eliminating it as well.  

Winters is killed in action!  Command goes to LT Compton now.  Can he take out the gun position?

Compton and his 2 x rifle squads hold their position in the trenchline while the American MMGs try to suppress the German HMGs in the V Shaped hedgerow.  The American shooting is good and it actually suppresses both of the German MGs... again!  What is with my dice rolling today!!

Compton's assault goes in against Gun #1.  Remember that German rifle squad in the V-Shaped Hedgerow, the ones who were previously unsuppressed who suppressed Winters and his Rifle Squad?  They now open fire on Compton and his men and score the exact same score as they did against LT Winters - COmpton is suppressed and one of his Rifle Squads is pinned in place as they go in to assault Gun #1.  Initiative switches to the Germans again.  They successfully rally both HMGs again, which both successfully open fire on Compton's men - with disastrous results.

I decided to tweak the scenario a bit at this point.  Units have way more staying power in "Fireball Forward" than they do in "Crossfire".  Perhaps 3 HMGs for the Germans was a bit too much?  I remove one HMG but nothing else.  Re-running the scenario 

This cursed squad made the Americans miserable in both games!  Iron Crosses all around for these Landsers.

LT Compton is also killed on his way to assault Gun #1 in Game 1.

Game 2 sees a shuffling around a bit and a tighter American deployment so they can form more "Firegroups".  The MMGs work over the German HMG and eventually knock it out with excellent shooting and incredibly the German squad in the V-Shaped Hedge goes "NO FIRE" meaning they attempted a reaction fire and missed completely.  The Americans have the run of the field as the remaining Battery Defense Platoon cannot shoot through any gun positions and so have the wait until the Americans close with them.

The Americans knock out the Gun in close combat.  and I should hope so because by Crossfire standards, the gun crew gets a -3 to their roll (-2 for Crew and -1 for "Green).

Compton leap-frogs over Winters and takes out Gun #2.  The German squad is still "NO FIRE" and I'm thinking the good guys are going to win this thing.

Approaching Gun #3 Winters' men are pinned by the German HMG.  A couple rounds of inconclusive shooting later, and the German HMG goes "NO FIRE" - Winters and his squad assault it immediately and destroy it.

Winters rallies his squad at Gun 3 and prepares to assault the German HMG while Compton and his men will assault Gun 3.

The White Bead is a NO FIRE marker as I was too lazy to fish out my actual NO FIRE Markers...

The Screaming Eagles promptly dispatch the HMG crew in the trenchline while Compton eliminates Gun #3.

As soon as the US PAratroopers lose the initiative, this white bead comes off of the German squad in the V Shaped Hedgerow and they're back in the war.

and they immediately start shooting up Winters and his men, suppressing the rifle squad.

With a huge advantage in quality and numbers, the Americans still manage to lose this close combat by rolling a 1.  Guess what that means?  Yes - Winters is killed again!  In Crossfire, when a side loses close combat, all participating squads in the close combat are eliminated.

Once again, LT Compton is in command of Easy Company.  He goes on to suppress the Squad in the V Shaped Hedgerow, and eliminates the remaining German squad in close combat.  The destruction of Gun #4 is a foregone conclusion and I call the game.


Like so many other battles before it, I think the lessons learned here probably have more to do with coming up with a scenario than any tactical lessons learned.  Everyone knows how much I love Crossfire as a game, but it is very unforgiving.  I think the Germans could have kept their other HMG if I would have given the American paratroopers smoke but I wanted to go with what was in the scenario in Fireball Forward.  

Anyways, reducing it to a single HMG in the V Shaped Hedgerow was a good move as it allowed the American attack to develop (and for me to reacquaint myself with the rules again).  I also forgot LT Spiers' reinforcing rifle squad as well in both games, which may have turned the tide here with the introduction of another Veteran-rated American squad and another +2 leader.

One thing I'll say, though, is that I think small games of Crossfire with a handful of platoons on the table is definitely the way to go and this approach supports solo games very well.  6 squads per side and an HMG or 2 still can give a heck of a tactical challenge.  I think I am going to take a crack at re-writing this scenario for Crossfire and possibly putting in a few more bells and whistles for both sides.

Anyways, it was great returning to battling in NW Europe in 1944 and I have not played any good Normandy battles in awhile.  I think I'll peruse the Fireball Forward rules for additional scenarios to play with my US Paratroopers.  Stay tuned for more battles with the US (and British) Airborne, and Crossfire.


Sunday, June 16, 2024

The Battle of Quatre Bras with OHW

 Dave was over for our bi-weekly game Saturday night and we cashed in on the eve of 209th anniversary of The Battle of Quatre Bras using Peter's "D3 Horse & Musket" rules and my newly re-based 10mm French Napoleonic troops.  

I also took the opportunity to try out some new "experimental" rules for use in OHW and Peter's "D3 Horse & Musket" games, which of course I tinkered with and made them "3D6 Horse & Musket" rules because I just cant help myself from tinkering😁

The Battlefield looking towards Quatre Bras.  We used a heavily modified version of the One Hour Wargames scenario along with a host of "experimental" rules

The OOBs for today's battle were taken from the Neil Thomas "One Hour Wargames" book, using a 6 x unit OOB, and a 3 x unit OOB combined for a total of 9 units per side.  All units take 9 hits.  Here is a short breakdown:

French under Ney

  • 5 Infantry "Units" 
  • 2 Cavalry "Units" (in this case, we diced for Cavalry composition - 1 light and 1 heavy cav unit)
  • 1 Artillery "Unit"
  • 1 Skirmisher detachment

Anglo-Allies under Wellington

  • 5 Infantry "Units" including 2 Dutch/Nassau Units, 2 British Infantry Units, 1 Brunswicker Infantry Unit
  • 1 Cavalry "Unit" of King's German Legion Light Cavalry
  • 1 Artillery "Unit" of Dutch Artillery
  • 2 Skirmisher detachments 1 of 95th Rifles (rifle-armed), and 1 of Nassau Light Troops
Key differences from the OHW battle were the table was a 6 x 4 instead of a 3 x 3.  All other facets remain the same. including the reinforcement schedule.  We kept the 15 turn limit although in retrospect probably should have increased it to 16 or 18 turns.  

We also included a Battlegroup-styled "morale clock" which I'll delve into later.  For now let's get to the fighting!

Dutch Troops - looking very lonely facing a mob of French Brigades!

These are my 10mm Dutch-Belgians who do double duty as Nassauers and triple duty as Peninsular Portuguese.  If you are an easily offended button-counter - stand down!

French Cavalry "Division" of 1 unit of Hussars and 1 unit of Dragoons charges forward and flanks Gemioncourt!  Dave wants to get in behind the Dutch line.

Meanwhile, Ney brings on the French infantry who are spoiling for a fight!

After about 4 turns, Dave lays the guns and starts blasting away at the Dutch who are taking the fire cooly.

Dave's advance with his Cavalry is text book and by turn 3 I'm biting my nails.  The British line infantry reinforcements are going to deploy in the town and along the road just as they did historically - not because I wanted to, but because the French Cavalry are out in force!

bottom-center French guns and astride the road are the 2 French infantry "divisions" as they advance towards the Dutch.  Note Dave maneuvering his Cavalry in the upper right of the photo.  Dave also moved his voltiguers up to skirmish with the Dutch and pin them in place!

French cavalry rounding Gemioncourt farm and preparing to assault the Dutch in the rear.  Note the British infantry behind them marching into position - making this turn 4 or 5.  Dave has 15 turns to capture the crossroads at QB.

British reinforcements arrive and bolster the defense around Quatre Bras.  Given the....intense (?) interest experienced from my last post given my poor WWII British aircraft recognition, I'm going to hold off from naming regiments on the field, for the fear of leaving out an Oxford comma or improperly spelling the name of a Lieutenant Colonel of the 33rd, 69th, 73rd etc.  Anything that could invite reprisal comments below 💀

Meanwhile French light troops skirmish with the Dutch-Belgians.  Wellington and the Prince of Orange are behind them, lending a potential activation re-roll.

Peter's rules have activation rolls if the unit has hits, and the unit must roll above the number of hits on 2D6 to activate for its action that turn.  A general within 12" allows a re-roll.  We added an experimental rule that an attached General allows +1D6 to your attack roll, however, if a unit has an attached General and takes a hit, you have to roll to see if the General is hit!  

The French are setting up a massive attack against the Dutch units around Gemioncourt.  Note the Dutch infantry Regiment retrograding center-right.  The guns and center Regiment would remain in position to buy time for the rest of the force.  French Cavalry are preparing to assault the rear of the Dutch line.  Meanwhile, British infantry garrison QB and Nassau lights

Closer shot of the action.  Dutch troops moving back towards the rear, while the remaining infantry and guns are fighting with the French skirmishers.  Note the legions of French infantry lining up behind the skirmishers to assault!  2 x French regiments are preparing to overrun Gemioncourt.  The French steamroller presses on!

A valiant stand by the Allies as the French skirmish with them in order to hold them in place.  The focus of the battle is starting to shift back towards QB now.

Nassau Light Troops!

Dave harries the retro-grading Anglo-Allies but given who I'd rather take double hits from (hit in the rear or flank = double hits in Peter's rules) I turn to face Dave's heavy cavalry!

The battle in the center now

French Dragoons assaulting the Dutch-Belgians now.

Dave also sends his light cavalry to assault my Nassau light troops.

Ney lending his re-roll and following the infantry out of Gemioncourt.

Gratuitous shot of Dave's French advancing!

Dave's getting the assault going now on Turn 7.  Like Ney in real life, Dave realizes halfway through the battle he needs to step up the intensity of the assaults!

Battle in the center taking place in front of QB.  The Cavalry would eventually destroy these Dutch Belgians, but they did their job admirably, soaking up French hits while the reinforcements get into position.  Speaking of which, there are Brunswickers, 95th Rifles, and KGL Cavalry coming on soon.

Overall situation - Brits have garrisoned Quatre Bras and the flanks are secured.  The French are massing forces to advance on QB and it's Turn 8.  Still about half of the game left.  Note the upper-center of the picture there are 3 French regiments and 2 in the left of the picture.

So Dave and I tried a new method to try and "end" the battle, taken from "Battlegroup's" morale chit system.  We calculated a morale-point value for the troops.  Infantry were worth 2, Cavalry worth 3, Artillery were worth 2 and Generals were worth 3.  You add up the total of all of your units and this is your "force morale value".  The French, who had 2 Cavalry Regiments, were 23.  The British were 20.  Each time one of your units is destroyed, you roll an average die and take that many points from your "force morale value".  

We tried it this time and the battle went to 15 turns without any force actually breaking, but we were close!  Dave's French "force morale value" had 8 points left and my Anglo-Allies had 10 left.  I think the value of the units to calculate the value need to be tweaked but this was a viable system for "ending" the battle before each unit is destroyed, as tends to happen in OHW-styled games.

Dave massing infantry Regiments to assault Quatre Bras, but he is facing fresh British muskets left of QB town.

British units watch the cavalry charging in the center.  The streets of QB are garrisoned.

Dave attaches Ney to the Dragoons and assaults the Dutch-Belgians.  

QB is holding!  Dave is whittling down the protecting units and not assaulting QB itself!  I might actually win this thing!
The "Surprise Attack" scenario in OHW (actualy modelled on The Battle of Quatre Bras) is a tough one for the attacker.  The 15 turns means you can't "dilly dally" and must focus on whittling down the defenders in the town.  The reinforcements on TUrn 9 certainly dont help.  Dave was able to skillfully break through the line, but this was no time for holding back.  You need to "flood" the town and get as many units firing at it as possible in a short amount of time, before the rising tide of reinforcements.

Dave moving past the Dutch and moving everyone towards Quatre Bras.  It's turn 11.

KGL (Risk Pieces) Cavalry move to reinforce QB!

Sean Bean leads his rifles and elements of the "South Essex" towards Quatre Bras.  

Wellington's "Funeral Hearse" AKA the Black Brunswickers show up

Meanwhile the Dragoons are still pounding away at the Dutch-Belgians.  Dave is knocking out a ton of units these last few turns.

Right into action directly from the march!  These Riflemen line up and begin skirmishing with a French infantry regiment!

It was Turn 15 and Dave manages to get his guns pushed up to fire on Quatre Bras but the game ends with only 2 hits on the unit garrisoning the town so this is a comfortable Anglo-Allied victory.  As stated before, the British still have 10 left on their force morale value and the French have 8 left.  Peter's rules handled this battle with 9 units per side remarkably well.  We added some changes to Peter's rules but overall this gave a fun and relaxing game with a historically plausible result.

This was a fantastic game.  Both Dave and I failed activation rolls at very inopportune times and the General's re-roll saved our bacon when we needed.  Some of our volleys failed to cause any hits when we really needed them to!  Dave's skillful assault at the Dutch-Belgian line was great, with Dave using minimal force to tear open the allied line, but he was not able to capitalize on his success fast enough and that cost him the battle!  To be fair, Dave had adequate combat power to seize the town if he would have instead focused on the QB instead of the supporting Allied units.

Some of the changes to Peter's rules?
We made it 3D6 vrs D3.  All dice hit on a 4+.  Close Order Infantry roll 3D6 to fire.  Skirmishers roll 2D6, along with Artillery.  Cavalry are the only units that can conduct "hand to hand" combat.  We differentiated between Light and Heavy cavalry - Lights got 3D6 in combat, with an extra D6 if assaulting skirmisher detachments.  Heavies got 4D6 in combat, with an extra D6 if assaulting skirmishers or Light Cavalry.

Attached Generals to a unit give +1D6 combat support, but at risk if the unit they are with is hit. (killed on 11+ on 2D6)

We added some other rules to the game such as "Bayonet Charge" from Martin Rapier's OHW Napoleonic rules.  This is simply occupying the ground if you destroy a unit with Close Infantry shooting after it is picked up.

We also introduced a "Rally" roll whereby a unit may, as its action for the turn, rally off 1 or 2 hits on the roll of a 1D2.  I completely forgot about this re-roll however, and we ended up not using it.

We introduced a "Rifles" special rule whereby a rifle-armed unit can re-roll misses, as well as a "Guards" unit that is eliminated in 10 hits instead of 9 hits.