Home Forums WWII Played a Test Game, Need Help with Crossfire!

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    Just Jack


    I recently re-painted and re-based some 10mm Pendraken troops, Canadians and German FJ, in order to give Arty Conliffe’s “Crossfire” rules a go with my seven year-old son. My father and I had played quite a few games several years ago, but we couldn’t quite get it going for us. I was screwing around surfing the internet and started to become intrigued, once again, but the rules. In particular, I spent quite a bit of time on “Steven’s Balagan” blog, which has a tremendous amount of Crossfire-related info on it. This weekend my boy and I got to it. I set up a table, got some 10mm troops out, then spent about 30 minutes walking him through the rules. At the conclusion, he and I played a small test game.

    So, this isn’t a ‘proper’ battle report, but he and I did play a game and I did snap some photos, so I figured I’d share. More importantly, I’d absolutely love for some of you Crossfire veterans/gurus out there on the interwebs to have a look and share some of your insights. The boy grasped the rules fairly quickly, and there was hardly any referencing the rules (just the modifiers for close combat) once we got started. The game was going pretty well, moving right along, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t come out of it with any reservations. The boy moved very aggressively, demonstrating a solid understanding of what we’re trying to do (with me giving some pointers, as necessary, along the way). He ended up on my side of the board, flanking me, pretty damn quickly (what I love about the rules), but he lost the initiative and I was able to shore things up, denying my flank, and there we sat, unable to break the deadlock. Eventually I finally got tired of it and recklessly dashed down from my hilltop position, into close combat, but I was repelled, and the stalemate ensued.

    I’m really hoping that this was a function of me screwing something up, that I did something wrong, that my table was too small, that we didn’t have enough troops on the table, that I had too little or too much cover on the table (I know, in Crossfire you can never have too much cover), and it’s certainly possible. I think I had a goodly amount of cover, but we used identical forces (one rifle platoon, an MG, and an on table mortar) that were kind of small, and we played on a 3′ x 2′ table, and we played with everyone on the table, no hidden forces (but, to be honest, I’m hoping that’s not the issue, as I don’t want to play hidden forces with my 7-year old). I’m hoping it’s one or more of those factors.

    But I sure got a sinking feeling, same old problem I always seemed to have. Help!!! I really want this to work. Don’t worry, we’re not giving up, we’ll be playing more, I just want to see if we can hammer out any problems as quick as possible.

    The table, 3′ x 2′, which I just quickly threw together to try out the rules. My baseline is at bottom left, with my small force in the center, and the boy has the opposite baseline.

    To see the whole thing, please visit the blog at:

    I was really hoping to play company-sized actions on a 2′ x 2′ table, but even with just a platoon and support per side it was feeling a bit cramped on a 3′ x 2′. Not literally cramped, but it felt like if we had a company each we’d be able to create a contiguous defensive line across the whole damn board. So, you guys with experience, what do you think about unit density from the pictures. Do you think we could do attacker four platoons and support vs defender two platoons and support on this 3′ x 2′? How did my terrain density look? And what are your thoughts on the stalemate? Aside from my admitted mistakes, were we doing anything else wrong?

    Please, I’m all ears for some feedback, anything and everything, nothing is off limits. Unless you’re just gonna make fun of my carpet hills and fields 😉


    Victoria Dickson

    I think your game might have gone better with larger forces. Then the game would be about group activation and you would have an attrition effect as groups were reduced in size or straggle as pinned units get left behind.


    I agree with Tim and Victoria.

    1. you need more stuff (the manouvre units in CF are platoons, the formations are companies, the indivdual stands ar ejust the elements which make up the units). If you deploy a full company (or more) the elements will run around in platoons, so instead of one platoon plus a couple of support stands, maybe try two rifle platoons and a company HQ. Thosw extra leaders will make quite  a difference.
    2. it works much, much better as attack/defence, and even in an ‘ecounter’ game, try and start both sides on the table to avoid the starting side just mopping up all the objectives. But maybe try a rifle company (CHQ plus three platoons and maybe one support stand) two two weak platoons (maybe CHQ, two platoons of two stands and one support stand.
    3. Try to avoid having a clear LOS right across the table ie put bends in the roads.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    Just Jack


    Holy @#$%, thanks man!  You deserve a medal, and a dedicated reply.  Oh, and I wanted to tell you: I received an e-mail saying you sent me a PM, but I can’t access it.  Anyway, let’s get down to business.

    “I’m disappointed that you found this a dud. The game sounded exciting to me, albeit with some back and forth deadlocks, but see my notes on those later. I don’t think you did anything that would cause me to flash my crucifix and throw holy water at you. 🙂”
    Nah, not so bad as to be a dud, just reached a point at the end where it got a bit boring due to the deadlock.  I’m not saying that’s not realistic, just that I want some free-wheeling, Hollywood-style rolling up the flanks, penetrating the enemy’s rear (oops!).  So, when the game degenerated to the stalemate at the end, I’m looking at a few things:

    1) Did I screw up somewhere?  It appears the biggest problem was playing with such small forces, and that they were equally matched.  But hey, it was a test game, our first together, and I didn’t want to get too crazy.

    2) Determine if stalemates are a consistent aspect of playing Crossfire.  When my father and I played it sure was; it seems to me the stalemate occurs in two situations: a) the defender has too many troops, or LOS is not sufficiently blocked, so that the defender can cover the whole board by fire and the attacker has no room to maneuver; and b) the stalemate occurs when one side is pretty beaten up and has contracted itself, shortened its lines, so that it’s a rather tough nut to crack.  The first seems easy enough: make sure the attacker outnumbers the defender, and that there’s plenty of LOS-blocking terrain.  The second may also be easy: what about some sort of ‘force morale’-style mechanism, where the ‘beaten’ force that has contracted is forced to withdraw from the map, rather than holding out ’til the bitter end?

    Of course, supporting fires solves that problem as well, but I kind of want to keep everything in the game on the table, and have the outcome of the game influenced by our actions, rather than who got the most fire missions 😉

    “Here are my assumptions on your features:”

    White fields = Field feature, blocks LOS (CF 4.4, p5) – YES

    Striped fields = I’m guessing a hill feature (CF 4.4, p5) – YES

    Dark cut outs = Woods features, blocks LOS (CF 4.4, p5) – YES

    Small squares of walls = Ruins? Rough ground, does not block LOS (CF 4.4, p5) – I PLAYED THEM AS BUILDINGS, BLOCK LOS AND HARD COVER


    There seem to be two larger ruined buildings – are you using these as CF structures or ruins aka rough ground? -BUILDINGS



    “It appears you are doing a meeting engagement and I hate to tell you this, but doing a meeting engagement the way you are often leaves players upset with CF. 🙂 The reason is because, with a lot of terrain, the side that starts first can end up with just about everything at the opponent’s side of the table.”
    Yeah, a few people have said that now, and that’s certainly what happened, with the boy quickly getting into my goodies before I was able to take up proper positions.  Didn’t bother me that much as we had equal forces, but I understand.

    “CF is best for attack defence scenarios and I know a lot of wargamers don’t like those.”
    I don’t mind attack/defense, I just need to get it figured out.  I don’t really want to play with hidden units (he’s so young I’m afraid he’ll screw it up when his troops are hidden; you know, I advance across the whole table and don’t spot anything, then he says “oh, I was supposed to tell you my guys are there when you roll a 5 or 6?”), and I’ve got to figure out force ratios and mechanisms for playing attack/defense with everyone starting on the table.  How do folks do it?  Attacker plots prep fires, places troops, then defender places troops?

    “If you want to do a meeting engagement, see Rob Wolsky’s scenario generator beginning on p31. Specifically, the meeting engagement instructions are on the following page.”
    I’ll take a look.

    “I never bother with points, BTW, but I have used the above method successfully many times over the years.”
    Yeah, I don’t care about points either.

    “On to the game and how it went.  On Captain Star Wars Jammies 🙂 first reactive fire as your group move reached the hill: It should not have been allowed. His LOS was blocked by the white field feature in front of him. See the second bullet of CF 5.2, p7.  I always tell new players to think of features that block LOS as irregularly shaped columns rising to the heavens! 🙂”
    Hmmm.   Gotcha, I let him do it as I figured my guys were high enough up on the hill, but I see what you’re saying about ‘to the heavens.’

    “Some reminders, not criticisms:”
    No problem man, fire away.

    “Let’s assume the field blocking your son’s LOS was not there. I don’t know if you played it that way, but remember that hills provide protective cover, so if your son’s attack dice would have been -1. So he would have rolled 2 dice.”
    Gotcha, didn’t play the hill itself as cover, he got full dice.

    “Did he fire at every squad and the PC? Reactive fire against a group move gets to shoot at every single participant in the move until the squad performing single fire did not achieve a pin result. See p9, examples of reactive fire, the first example. If he had gotten the suppress on the first shot, he could have fired at the other squads in the group move too or until he got no hits (no pin). You may well have done this, I just couldn’t tell from your narrative.”
    Negative, I screwed that up too.  He got the suppress with the first shot, didn’t let him fire at the other stand as he seized initiative.

    “Good show on your son’s actions to suppress then close in to fight (close combat)! And very good advice on your part with the combined close combat with the PC. Assuming both sides were regular and the PC was a +1, he’d have had an overall +4 on his roll. Still… I’ve seen a few unexpected painful losses by the attacking side rolling a 1 and the suppressed defender rolling a 6. LOL.”
    Yeah, we’re tracking there.

    “Question: When you turned your MG stand to put your son’s forces within its arc, did your son reactive fire? Turning in place like that draws reactive fire.”
    Negative, but you’re right, the pivot should have drawn react.  Damn, it appears I’m quite a bit rusty…  I guess it’s been about six or seven years since I played.

    “If your son had tried to close to close combat in a direction outside the arc of your MH, your suppressed squad next to it would not have been able to help, but your PC, if you chose to do so, could have added his bonus. See CF 8.2 and 8.3, pp14, 15 and the plethora of asterisks on p 15. 🙂 Good stuff to keep in mind. Oh wait, you did know this as it happened later!”
    I’m not following you: I didn’t think a suppressed unit could help another in close combat?  And if the MG is charged from outside its arc of fire it can’t fire and it’s -2 in CC (for being a crew serve, and another -2 for being suppressed), but the PC added +1.

    “Again, his mortar could not have LOS to your folks on the hill unless it was actually in the field like his suppressed squad was.”
    Gotcha.  Later on he had guys (a rifle squad and the PC) that were within LOS of the target, but they have to have LOS back to the mortar, don’t they?

    “Excellent sneaking up by your son!”
    Yeah, he did very well.

    “The big advice for CF which you’ve no doubt realized is to perform all the “free stuff” before engaging in any shooting or moving in LOS of the enemy. The free stuff being indirect assets and also the sorts of move your son did to get to that rough cover. DO EVERYTHING you can before performing an action that risks losing the initiative.”

    “Your choice not to fire on his other squad’s move into cover was reasonable, but risky.”
    Certainly, but that’s what I wanted to do, and I walked him through the whole idea so he would understand.

    “ON THE BACK AND FORTH SHOOTING WITH LITTLE RESULT (which happened twice, I believe) – that can happen and especially where you are playing a 1:1 game in terms of numbers, is to be expected. Some people find that enervating, we enjoy it and are usually shouting insults at each other after a couple of rounds. But really, the cure to such a thing is to concentrate elsewhere on the table and, if you have them, deploy reserves or redeploy from other positions (don’t forget the retreat move) to help out.”
    Yeah, I think this is where our test game with few forces bit us, there were no reserves to call up.

    “BTW, the same back and forth deadlocks happen when there are very little unsuppressed forces left – with my buddies, an attacker often leaves suppressed squads behind to press the attack. A company commander often follows up or goes back to rally them when resources are dropping.”
    That’s interesting.  The CC just follows in trace and polices up all the malingerers 😉

    “NOTE – in the close combat at the top of the hill, because your supporting squad was a squad, the MG should not have been -2 for crew served. See my notes above on close combat and check all the asterisks and stuff. 🙂”
    Hmmm, okay, I’ll check.

    “Your son’s rush up the hill can only be attributed to reckless bloodlust after beating up your squad at the bottom of the hill! 🙂 It was not good odds, especially given the above comment.”
    Sure, but his recklessness is what I’m counting on to make Crossfire work, even to the point where I’m hoping to match his.  High risk, high reward!

    “Another thing I’ve noticed: YOU DON’T NEED A PC TO GROUP MOVE! See CF 4.2, pp4 and 5. The only requirement is that it is for squads of the same platoon which are within a stand distance of each other. Often we see a middle squad with a squad to the left and a third to the right. The middle squad becomes the group move leader.”
    Dammit!  I thought you need a PC/CC?  I recall that any unit can be designated as the Group Leader, but I thought that was just because of the proximity/LOS requirement.  Anyway, got it.  And that sucks, it would have really helped him on my right flank…

    “MORE ON THE DEADLOCKS.  A lot of people have and dislike the back and forths you experienced. There are two keys to this – hidden deployment for the defender and superior forces for the attacker. I also referee most of our games and will frequently have either side not have a complete picture of the other side’s forces.  If you have even forces, and especially if you can see both sides on the table (no hidden deployment), then you will encounter the back and forth issue.”


    “I hope this helps somewhat. Again disappointed that you think you’ve screwed up (other than that pin that changed initiative, dammit!). There were a few things wrong as I mentioned above, but to me, you look like you have it basically down.”
    Absolutely it helps, and I just needed a reality check.  Can’t believe I took initiative from him with a pin; I guess I’m a cheater subconsciously 😉

    “And I did not answer a lot of your general questions. I’ll have a go at it another time.”
    Hey, I can’t thank you enough, and it’s clear you’re well versed in Crossfire-dom 😉  I appreciate it, Tim.


    Just Jack

    Vicki – Yeah, I just wanted to play a small test game to cement the concepts in the boy’s head.  And mine, I made plenty of mistakes too!

    Martin – We’ll definitely get more toys on the table, and in more traditional attack/defend scenarios.  I’m looking at a minimum of two platoons and support for the defender, with three or four platoons plus support for the attacker.  I kind of want all the stuff on table, so not sure about supporting fires, but we’ll definitely be introducing vehicles and anti-tank guns, though no more than two vehicles per fight, and I’m thinking only the attacker gets vehicles (defender gets ATGs), no tank vs tank stuff, the vehicles are there in an infantry support role.

    And I will put bends in the roads; those two intersecting corridors didn’t play into this fight, but no doubt could have and will in bigger and better scenarios.

    I appreciate you guys taking the time to read and comment, I think the boy and I will get this straightened out, and I’m probably just panicking a bit on too small a sample size.


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