Thoughts on "The Cauldron of Fire" Scenario
Thoughts on the CS EF scenario The Cauldron of Fire by Von Earlmann
I played the Russian side. By turn 22 out of 33, the score was very close at 2288 axis vs 2024 allied and the axis player was at the “minor defeat” stage. Yet, I raised the white flag. Here are my comments:
• The Russian side really has no hope of winning, i.e. stopping the Axis and holding on to his objectives. The scoring is artificially set by the author to give the impression of a fair contest if you only look at the “scoreboard”. The reality however is that the German side will steamroll over the Russians conquering objectives and brushing aside all resistance albeit at a high price. The only hope of a Russian victory is a totally incompetent Axis player, which was certainly not the case with my opponent.
• The only real weapon the Russians have is plenty of artillery. However, it arrives in drips and drabs throughout the first ten turns allowing the German side to wipe out the first line of defense before the artillery can really have a serious impact. It also arrives almost entirely from the far eastern side of the map requiring a lengthy deployment to bring it into effective range. After the first line collapses the terrain is harder to spot for the Russians, hence the Germans can advance with much less damage from the artillery.
• The Russian armor starts arriving rather late in the game. It arrives far from the front. By the time it reaches the front, it can only play a spoiling role by putting the German side in a cautionary mode. The relatively small quantity of Russian armor against the numerically and qualitatively superior Axis armor prevents any hope of an effective counterattack.
• The quality and quantity of the Russian armor is woefully inadequate against what the Germans have deployed. The quantity of the T34s provided was definitely less than that of the German StuGs alone, yet the Germans had in addition a large number of Pz Jg Tiger 88s, StuPz IV 150s, some Pz IIIJs and other armor. The Russians are provided with a large number of totally useless T-70s, and a few equally useless BA-64 armored recon vehicles. The T-34s are barely adequate against the German StuGs and Pz III Js, and definitely can’t compete against the Pz Jg Tiger 88s or the StuPz IV 150mm with a front armor protection of 24 (we played with the armor facing option). The only decent armored vehicle provided was the SU-152. Alas, the Russians are only provided with 4 of them.
• The static ATs provided for the first line of defense were the pitiful 45 door knockers. The more effective 76s arrived much later and had to be slowly deployed mostly at the third line. The more effective AA 85s came very late and only a small handful. Even these have little impact against the German 88s and StuPz IVs. They were effective however against infantry, but very vulnerable and few in number to have any real impact.
• The quality and quantity of infantry is another issue. The Russian infantry is almost useless at a range greater than 1 hex. Traditionally in most scenarios, the Russians have significantly larger numbers to make up for that weakness. In this scenario, the German side actually has at least an equal if not higher number of infantry than the Russians.
• By turn 22, my opponent succeeded in breaking through my third and final line of defense. It was obvious to me that although I still had armor and men, I had no effective means of stopping him from taking the rest of the 500 point objectives and accumulating all the SPs he needed for a victory by massacring at leisure my now exposed troops. Therefore, I abdicated.
• I believe that the order of battle is historically accurate. Also, historically the battle did unfold in somewhat the same fashion. The Germans took the well defended Russian positions at very high cost. If the intent of the scenario was to duplicate the historical battle, then the scenario author succeeded. If however the intent was to make the scenario fun to play, he did not succeed, at least not for the Russian side. The Russian player spends his entire time watching the Germans advance, and his troops get slaughtered without any effective way of fighting back. The troops are no match and the armor is overmatched and outnumbered. The only thing the Russian player can do is ensure that he can place enough artillery spotters that will survive until the end of the next turn to be of value and plot artillery fire with the hope that the German player will cooperate and place his troops in the line of fire. This is definitely not a fun scenario to play. In my opinion, the scenario author should have adjusted the force distribution by reducing the Axis strength in both manpower and especially armor while increasing the number of effective Allied weapons such as SU 152s. The arrival and availability of these units should have been revised as well. Instead the author chose to simply raise the SP cost of victory for the axis side. In my opinion, victory in a well balanced scenario should allow the attacking side to win only if it conquers the assigned objectives or lose if it fails to do so, and give both players a fair chance to achieve their respective mission.
• As much as I hate extreme assault, it would have been a little equalizer for the Russians in this scenario. It may have slowed the Germans sufficiently to make the scenario a bit more balanced. Additionally, I would advise against playing with the armor facing option for the same reason.