Crossfire

"CROSSFIRE is a unique set of rules for World War II company level wargaming written by Arty Conliffe and published by Quantum Printing in 1996. On this website you will find lists of CROSSFIRE websites, FAQ links, hints & strategies, as well as information regarding the CROSSFIRE supplement book 'Hit The Dirt'."

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Crossfire Tactical Advice

"The Band Of Brothers" U.S. 101st Airborne.

"The Band Of Brothers" U.S. 101st Airborne.

Rob Wolsky created the scenario generator in Crossfire, and was its most influential play tester. Rob is an experienced play tester and game developer whose credits include AH’s Squad Leader. His views on Crossfire are presented below.

Introduction

Crossfire is a very different wargame, by design. The lack of rulers, ranges, and artificially established turn durations creates a fluid battlefield without artificial restraint. Much as in life, troops can go where they please and do as they wish, until the enemy starts firing at them! The use of real-world tactics will produce winning results in this game as in no other, for the following reasons…

Duane Warneke's Late WW2 German Infantry.

Duane Warneke's Late WW2 German Infantry.

Most games at the small-unit level drown themselves in empirical data. Every troop, vehicle, and weapon type is quantified by an assortment of factors, all painstakingly researched to be as “realistic” as possible. Each turn is represented as being a number of seconds or minutes, and ground scales are given as number yards to the inch. This mass of data is then collated to give us the archetypical move distances, range bands, rates of fire, and so on. Unfortunately, what we as gamers often find is that this results in a well researched, and sometimes fun-to-play, game that bears no resemblance at all to the actions we read about or the tactical manuals we have available for study.

The underlying problem, of course, is the empirical, deterministic model that has been the norm. We know the capabilities and performances of the troops represented in the game as rated against this model (move distance, range band, rate of fire, etc.). We can therefore easily predict not only what our own troops are capable of, but those of our opponent. The result is well known in the hobby as the “thousand foot general”, the existence of which renders many historical concerns – and associated tactics – useless. Who, for example, would weaken his available forces to provide security to the flanks of his main attack ? Why bother ? In a typical wargame, your troops can react to any attempt by your opponent to take advantage of your weakness at the same speed the attempt is made. In other words, the deterministic nature of the model gives the player a knowledge of the enemy’s capabilities, and a time to react that no battlefield commander was ever afforded. In Crossfire, these luxuries must be earned-tactically.

General Tactical Principles

Tactics in Crossfire model very closely the tactics of WWII. A player who pays attention to the basic tactical fundamentals of this period will be a formidable opponent.

One over-riding feature of small unit tactics throughout the WWII period is infiltration. The attacker would attempt to achieve, and the defender prevent, a general penetration of the “front”, in order to outflank and “crossfire” the defender’s strong points. In other games, this attempt to find and exploit the “holes” in a position is compromised by a model that allows the player the time to react to attacks as they unfold. In Crossfire, any void left in a position will probably make itself known by the appearance of the enemy forces in it! Troops not interdicted by friendly fire have a mobility in this game that makes fast infiltration tactics possible on the tabletop. Players must pay attention to their flanks and rear if they don’t want enemy moving to, and shooting at them, from those superior positions. This leads, quite naturally, into the genuine need for a reserve to react to unexpected enemy moves, fill gaps in the position, and exploit holes in the enemy’s position. If this is starting to sound like a WWII small-unit tactics primer, then you are catching on, and quickly.

Key Points

  • Interdiction by Fire
  • Flank Security
  • Reserves

The use of terrain in Crossfire can not be underrated. Terrain not only provides protection from incoming fire, which might seem the primary benefit to be gained, it provides mobility. This is a fundamental truth in small unit tactics. When setting up, attacking, or defending, you should use fire to interdict the enemy’s movement, or fix him in place, while maximizing your own defensive use of the terrain to provide covered routes of manoeuvre. The use of smoke as “temporary” interdicting terrain is also crucial in achieving comparatively safe manoeuvre.

Key Points

  • Isolation of Objective
  • Dead Zones

Another often overlooked aspect of small unit tactics is the need for unit integrity. While this modelled in many other games, (board games and miniatures), it is emphasized in Crossfire due to the – you guessed it – Fire Group and Crossfire rules. This is a major design feature that cannot be over-emphasized. The proper use of unit integrity will provide a “combat multiplier”, while also having real benefits in Economy of Force. By using platoons as units, instead of moving squads around randomly, you will maximize your effective firepower with the fewest possible units, thereby freeing up squads for the other, crucial, duties.

Key Points

  • Unit Integrity
  • Economy of Force

Many sources confirm the belief that most of the damage done on WWII battlefields was done by the support weapons, and not by the riflemen. Crossfire reflects this belief in two ways – one for HMG sections, and another for “indirect” fire weapons (the mortars and artillery). Properly utilizing these assets is a necessary skill on the Crossfire table, as it was for our real-life counterparts. HMGs should always be firing, and the use of any and all other assets to get them in firing position is key to victory. A well deployed platoon with HMG and off-board support will eventually blow away any number of ill-coordinated enemy squads, as well they should.

Key Points

  • Support Weapons
Soviet 7.62cm Anti-Tank Gun.

Soviet 7.62cm Anti-Tank Gun.

As an extreme example, lets consider a 1941 scenario, Russian defender who is not tactically proficient, German attacker who always obeys the “book”.

We find our erstwhile defender of the mother land strung out in a long, thin line. His heavy weapons are concentrated in a rather dangerous looking machine-gun nest, but with no consideration to covering avenues of approach, or building crossfires. His infantry is not set up in depth, is not in supporting groups by platoon, and does not have a reserve – all his killing potential is up front. While his flanks are seemingly secure (no less so than any other point on his line), they are not defended in any particular fashion, either. His platoon leaders are assigned randomly, and generally centralized, with the heavy weapons – likewise his forward observer.

Our German player, meanwhile, has set up his attacking forces in a typical, unglamorous, three platoon wedge. His two forward platoons each have an attached HMG, his forward observer accompanies the platoon he has designated for the attack. He has been careful to ensure that his PCs are placed where they can see all of their assigned squads and support weapons, and he has placed his third platoon in reserve, covering the flanks of his advance.

As the two forces come together – more than likely at a place the German player chooses – the superior organization and tactics of the Germans will become immediately apparent. It will be relatively easy for the German player to be concentrating maximum firepower each initiative, while the Russian will have an increasingly difficult time manoeuvring as the concentrated German firepower comes to bear. This will have the compound effect of both not allowing the Russian to retreat or rally his outnumbered units, and not allowing him to reinforce with fresh units. Because of the lack of depth in the Russian position, and the lack of a reserve, the German player will be able to quickly infiltrate into the rear of his opponent, further hastening the eventual piecemeal destruction of the Russians. What about that fearsome strongpoint in the middle? The German will of course outflank, smoke, and close assault it into oblivion. While this example may be simplistic, it illustrates just how bad it can be if all the rules are broken at once!! Bear in mind, that while the Russian Command control system is less flexible than the German, the German player can also fall victim to the above scenario if he ignores the key principles of combat.

Key Points – Attacking

  • Concentration of Force
  • Isolation of Objective
  • Fire and Movement

Key Points – Defending

  • Defence in Depth
  • Interlocking Fields of Fire
  • Use of Fortifications

Conclusion

Pegasus Bridge? Normandy 1944.

Pegasus Bridge? Normandy 1944.

Crossfire is one of the few games I have had the opportunity to play that makes the knowledge and understanding of “real world” tactics more useful than memorizing esoteric rules, factors and ranges. While it has its own mechanics, as does any game, they are of minimal concern to the tabletop general. The emphasis is always on the inter-relationship of Fire, Movement and Terrain.

Rob Wolsky