Over The Hill (Crossfire)

Operation Epsom, Summer 1944

This is a scenario I'd wanted to use for some time, it being a Too Fat Lardies scenario. Not everyone in our group likes the TFL Rules though, so I wanted to try Crossfire (Arty Conliffe) at "Fireteam" level to see if it would work (in readiness for a Russian Campaign later this year). See the bottom of this page for the House rules we used...

Introduction

This is the table we used:

There follows the briefings issued to each player:

Together with a copy of the British Orders:

Here are the two armies:


German Forces


British Forces

Battle Report (by Steve Hardy, British Commanding Officer)

We set up with three British players (me – 1st ptn, Graeme – 2nd ptn, Jim – 3rd ptn) facing Mal’s Germans. I distributed the plan and orders, making objectives clear and off we went.

First up came our scheduled artillery, and our CO spotted the strikes with dismay. Only one seemed on target (the wood north of the pond), and none had any discernable effect. Never mind, we had to take the hill or some other poor blighters would have to come back and do it tomorrow.

As ‘commander’ I got the say on which British player/platoon acted and when, and with our objectives written I gave Jim (3rd ptn) the first initiative. He had the hard yards to take and hold the wood and road up the hill so I wanted to push him forwards early.

Unfortunately, Mal had placed some of his best troops on a bocage line along the orchard lane and some lethal rifle discipline chopped 3rd ptn to pieces as they tried to advance, including the two MMG sections! This forced them into the orchard itself and stymied the attack here.

So we switched initiative to the main assault. 2nd ptn advanced to a covering position, and then I took 1st ptn straight up the middle. As suspected Ferme Valle was crawling with Germans. Well dug-in Germans. With our infantry pinned down close enough to smell the sauerkraut we brought up a Sherman and let the armour take the strain. In an unequal duel, the tank blasted the farm buildings to rubble and ended the German resistance. They did have a parting shot though and a careless driver poked the nose of the Sherman out just far enough for a retreating German with a panzerfaust to take a speculative shot. The Sherman dutifully brewed up! 1st & 2dn ptn consolidated their position at the farm and we swung the initiative back to Jim’s precarious position at the orchard.

Taking stock, Jim brought up his light mortar, and managed to sneak a few chaps onto the flank of the dug-in Germans, and with a concerted effort finally silenced their guns. Further down the road however, a few of what we expected was a heavy German concentration in the ‘pond’ wood revealed themselves and started to lay more fire into Jim’s hapless men. Despite this, with the main block cleared he made good progress along the lane, taking more casualties, but managing to get into a decent fire position to contest or at least pin down the Germans holding his main objective. In my planning I fully expected 3rd ptn to get pinned down and make little progress here, so for Jim to make it this far was a great achievement!

Mal’s Germans weren’t able to bring concentrated fire down which really helped us.

So, with 3rd ptn heavily engaged and a crackle of sustained fighting over in the bocage there, we switched initiative back to the ‘main show’; the assault on Ferme Belle Vue and hill 203 itself.

The terrain didn’t look good. Uphill across open terrain. Mal would definitely have something nasty on the bocage line up there, and given we’d not seen any of his MG42s yet, we guessed they were waiting for us.

Graeme double-timed 2nd ptn across the bottom of the hill in cover to get to his final assault position, before in the centre, I finally took up the reins. Things weren’t looking too hot really. We’d taken fewer casualties than expected capturing Ferme Valle, but there was a lot of open ground to cross against a no doubt defended bocage line up the hills. Crucially, Jim, despite his sterling efforts, hadn’t yet secured the road up the hill for the tanks. I was sure there was still an AT gun lurking somewhere, and I knew where I’d put it. Also, the German infantry in the wood, would definitely have panzerfausts too.

So I diverted half my remaining force across to support Jim and try and free the road for the armour. Taking a risk I supported this, with a second Sherman that rolled around the corner cautiously, to try and hit the wood.

The concealed German AT gun, placed exactly where is suspected (Mal knows what he’s doing and it was the perfect spot), opened up down the hill. At almost point blank range, the Sherman took a hit through the side and brewed up instantly.

The fierce German infantry also opened up on my chaps, now at the bocage, and were ripping me to pieces. It was all I could do to get my brave chaps out of the firing line, and I had to leave Jim to it.

So I faced a difficult decision – the armour was clearly not going to be able to support us. Do I continue to try and winkle Jerry out of the wood to get the last tank up the hill, or do I push on unsupported up the hill?

Graeme had a nearly full platoon remaining at the bottom of the hill, so I made the only decision I could – we’re here to take the hill so lets take the hill!!

I pushed out my remaining troops across the open ground to try and draw the German fire. This I did rather too succesfully, and the ‘grand battery’ of expected MG42s opened up from the bocage line south of the farm. I’d only sent a section forward to scout the position, but the cunning Germans waited until they were well into the open before letting loose. The poor chaps didn’t stand a chance. However, luck was with us! The men’s lives were not lost in vain as the German guns fire slackened quickly off. Either they had some terrible jamming problems, or their ammunition was low, but either way it cleared the path for 2nd ptn to get up the hill and into them! Graeme took his men up, overran the position at the point of the bayonet, and swept on to occupy Ferme Belle Vue, which was empty of Germans!

Excellent. We’d achieved our objective, and with Jim’s 3rd ptn pinning down and pinned down by the Germans in the wood, I took the rest of 1st ptn up the hill, into the farm to reinforce our position. I became clear however that the Germans were spent, and as 1st ptn advanced to capture the top of the hill, we then turned and came back down into the rear of the remaining German position.

Wisely, the few stragglers left threw down their rifles and threw up their hands. The British had finally captured hill 203.

This was a great scenario that worked really well with the Crossfire rules. As British commander I’d spent a bit of time during the week planning the attack and I have to say ‘it went like clockwork’.

I expected us to capture Ferme Valle but to be spent by the effort so that we couldn’t take the hill.

My fear that the armour, restricted to the roads, would be a liability was largely true, hence the plan to clear the roads. That said, in Crossfire at least, armour is a brutal ‘hard point’ killer. Once the first tank was in position, the Germans had very little chance to resist there.

Things went better than expected though, with 1st & 2nd ptn taking the farm for very little loss and 3rd ptn, despite its losses making good headway.

The Germans really seemed to put most of their defence into holding the road, which showed as we lost 66% of our armour and it was kept mostly out of the game (except at Ferme Valle).

However, this German effort meant that when the MG42s ‘clicked’ (as we term the defensive fire failures in Crossfire, that effectively ‘silences’ the troops suffering it), we were able to get up the hill far easier than expected. It was still touch and go though, but always rely on Mal failing those critical dice rolls which meant the close assault went our way too!

Overall it was a really fun, exciting little scenario, with some very ‘WWII’ problems and battle frictions in evidence.

Great stuff and bad luck Mal!

Overheard in Prisoner of War Camp Two Weeks Later (Steiner, 2nd Squad Sergeant)

"Everything was set up just fine. We were bleeding the Tommies dry. Ok 1st squad lost the hamlet but we held the wood and no-one was getting past us. Then that damn fool captain fell asleep at his post. No doubt he had found some Calvados and was passing it around our support troops. Gott im Himmel the Tommies just walked up our machine gun line with barely a shot fired. I hope he died in the assault, cause if he didn't, I'll kill him if I see him again."


House Rules

Multi Player Games:

An overall C-in-C is appointed for each side, and forces are divided as appropriate between the players available (the C-in-C may wish to retain control of company/battalion assets).

The commander decides when a player may act upon initiative and when that player stops his actions for the next player to proceed. Players on the side alternate, performing as many actions as they (or the commander) feels necessary before passing the reigns to their partner(s). The players continue an action fails.

N.B. If the very first player to go fails an action…..tough…the other players don’t get to go!!!

Vehicles:

Vehicles are classified as slow, normal or fast...having 1, 2 or 3 actions (1 of which can be a fire action) accordingly.

Additional Rules For Fireteam Level Games

Groundscale:

For the purposes of creating scenarios, 1 Foot = Approx 100 Yards (8.33 Yards = 1 Inch)

Timescale:

The clock advances 15 minutes on 5+ (d6) at the end of each turn.

LMGs:

In the standard Crossfire rules, the basic squad has rifles with 1 light machine gun. The 3d6 rolled by rifle squads take the LMG into account. Additional LMGs available to squads are abstracted to additional HMGs.

Because Fireteam scale isn’t literally 1:1, I see no reason to change the standard rules. For guidance, one additional HMG stand should be allowed for every 3 squads with additional LMGs (or part thereof).

In practice, this will mainly apply to Late War Panzergrenadiers and some US Paratroopers.

50mm/60mm Mortars:

These are deployed on table, and operate exactly as a FOO (i.e. can’t move and fire in the same initiative). Fire is direct, as they are self spotting, though they CAN fire over friendly stands providing the distance from that stand to the target is greater than the distance to the firer. They have a minimum range of 6”. In close combat, they count as crew served weapons, and when using direct fire (i.e. rifle, rather than mortar), they fire with 2 dice.

Anti Tank Weapons:

Some Anti-Tank Weapons are now represented by separate stands. Anti-tank weapons have a maximum range of 24” (12” for Panzerfausts). In close combat, they count as crew served weapons, and when firing without AT weapons they fire with 2 dice.

Crossfires:

As in the original rules, the entire platoon may participate in a Crossfire. Obviously this means that a greater number of stands will be involved, however, it should happen rarely, as it will be more difficult for the Commander to maintain line of sight with all of his units AND the target.

Commanders:

Commanders work as per the standard rules, except for the following:

  • Their command radius (for rallying) is 2 base widths (i.e. 4").
  • COs may act as the line of sight point for units within their structure.