Blockbusting in Bokruisk: SL Scenario 108

[TRANSFERRED FROM BF REPOSITORY]

Squad Leader Scenario 108: “Blockbusting in Bokruisk”:  June 1944/ 0645 hours: During the destruction of Army Group Center many of Hitler’s “Fortified Localities” were cut off and surrounded by the Soviet advance. Bokruisk was just such a city. The city had become a fortress, with pillboxes and old tank turrets being used throughout, but Soviet attacks came from the northern and southern flanks where the Germans were least able to cope with the threat. After successfully breaking through fixed outer defenses, the Soviet’s attack turned into bloody street fighting.

Played Human vs Computer (both sides)/  Battle Type: Allied Attack/ Environment: City & Hills/  Time: Dawn/ Battle Size: Small/ Map Size: 928m x 208m

Andrew Bodicky

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3 Comments on "Blockbusting in Bokruisk: SL Scenario 108"

  1. ***This review includes spoilers.***

    I’ve never played Squad Leader, so apologies if there is any sort of oldhead knowledge that I am missing, but since this scenario was converted and released in CMRT, I’ll just review it like any other CMx2 scenario. Scenario played as the Soviets vs. AI, in real time.

    For starters, my initial impression of the scenario is that it is mislabeled as a “small” scenario. The map is certainly around that range, being roughly 950x200m but the unit count is much higher than a typical small in CMx2, i.e. more than a single platoon but less than a full company. Instead I was treated to a reduced battalion reinforced by a mixed bag armor platoon of five tracks that encompassed three different types: pair of SU85s, another pair of IS1s and a ISU152 singleton. The manpower count is about the right size for a company-plus at ~250 but that still makes it a healthy medium, however a great number of small teams (MGs, ATRs, flamethrowers, HQs, etc.) bump up the number of units to whom a player must assign orders. Total command span on the Soviet side is over forty units before breaking down squads into teams. In short, this is NOT a small scenario.

    The map itself: fine, if on the narrow side of things at only two hundred meters width, but perfectly understandable in the context of a serious city fight. The author went slightly overboard on the number and placement of burning and knocked vehicles in my opinion, but that is a question of aesthetics and nothing that really influenced my enjoyment. Less excusable was the fact that there appeared to be bits of foliage placed in just such a way as to deny ranged lines-of-sight and decent options for overwatch. That’s a pet peeve of mine in CMx2 map-making. Otherwise, the atmosphere was appropriate and there were no other pressing issues that stood out as I played through.

    The briefing was clear enough, including the secondary conditions regarding tank survival, but it managed to trip another pet peeve of mine. The plan section is not merely inadequate (which can be understandable if a scenario designer doesn’t want to offer a “school” solution to the player’s tactical problem) but actively detrimental. More on that later. On the plus side, the scenario maker went through the trouble of using the BF briefing graphics and format, which is a level of effort I could never rouse within myself, so kudos for that.

    The scenario itself starts off reasonably. There are no immediate LOS coinflip shootouts (although the knocked-out ambiance vehicles producing “?” spots in the first few seconds had me worried for a brief moment) between units placed too close, no opening moment barrages by the other side to deny an axis (or two) the player, there is ample room in the Soviet starting zone for the player to decide how to format his given forces and enough options for cover he shouldn’t feel too pressed to find places to stuff everyone or risk overloading the available good terrain.

    Unfortunately, things take a bit of a dip at that point.

    Regarding the issue with the Plan section of the briefing: it is absolute bunk and the fastest way to lose a very large number of men to no gain. As said before, the lines-of-sight are (mostly realistically) limited, with little bits and snatches of cover that can mask some cautious movement. But once you’re able to sight the main objectives (five multistory buildings) all bets are off as you’ve entered effective range of a whole host of automatic weapons. You can fully expect any force (team, squad or even whole platoon; and I’ve tried) to be ripped to shreds without making much in the way of an impression on the defenders by leading with infantry first. Without ability to place effective (AKA overwhelming to the defenders) overwatch forces at multiple locations, there is no way for the Soviet infantry to gain fire superiority and win a gunfight with the defenders in even one building. I can only assume the scenario designer wrote the Plans portion with the expectation the player would read, lose a half a platoon in a short-range gunfight with a literal wall of defenders (the objective buildings are naturally packed with Germans) then realize they need to make use of their tanks to suppress. OK, tactical puzzle resolved with the pieces on the board.

    The challenge then becomes bodyguarding your armor as you take down the two objectives front and center. The tactical problem is that the town crawls with panzerfaust- and SMG-equipped infantry that the briefing advises the player ignore in favor of the objectives (lol). The challenge I have no issue with, but as you wiggle armor and infantry around ever-so cautiously, suddenly there are German tanks and ATGs in the mix as well. Admittedly, they don’t come as a surprise (to his credit, the scenario designer didn’t put lies into the Soviet briefing, just some bad advice) but they are clearly meant to represent a second puzzle to be solved before the player can advance through his next few objectives while the clock is ticking as well, having started with a reasonably tight forty minutes. Obviously, that very quickly becomes unreasonable in the face of so many challenges being put in front of the player. Off-board support is limited to a single battery of light guns with positively anemic ammo count and without an FO or any TRPs on-scene; obviously not meant to be a go-to tool for resolving the gunfights in the Soviet favor.

    To cap it all off, three of the tanks in the attached mixed bag armor platoon have sharply limited HE loadouts, coming to a grand total of twenty-eight shells between the trio. I’m not sure if this is reflected in the original Squad Leader boardgame scenario, but it definitely felt like the designer wanted to showcase the IS1’s advantages over other Soviet tanks by having them shoulder much of the burden.

    I was not able to achieve any better than a Soviet minor victory in three separate playthroughs of this scenario and lost the first two outings handily to the AI. I’m not the best CMx2 player and could definitely stand to learn some things. The amount of force concentrated might seem appropriate on paper, but the reality of the map and ample number of defenders essentially means there is little scope for maneuver (4:5 ratio of defenders to attackers) and the Soviet player has to let Germans chew on parts of his infantry depth to buy time for his armor to work in reducing each and every position. Time is critical, ammo is limited, while defenders own the interior lock, stock and barrel.

    Overall, I’d say this could be a fun scenario for an expert CMx2 player who enjoys them on the medium/large size of things but issues made it less than enjoyable for a journeyman.

  2. Not Small … need to be updated

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