Ground Scale in Crossfire

Arty Conliffe’s Crossfire has no fixed ground scale. This doesn’t help when converting historical maps/accounts into Crossfire tables/map so I wanted to know what was a sensible ratio. Most players seem happy with the ground scale advocated by Hit the Dirt i.e. from about 1:300 to 1:500. My own conclusion is that 1:1000 is probably the best fit, although anything in the range 1:300 to 1:1700 is defensible.

Although Crossfire lacks a fixed ground scale, some ground scales are implied or assumed, and various possibilities are discussed below:

What the rules say

The relevant sections of the rules are:

  • CF1.0 Prepare to Play, subsection Ground Scale/Time scale (p. 1): “The action takes place within the effective range of small arms”
  • CF Scenario Generator (p. 31) recommends a 4’x4′ table for one company battles and 4’x6′ table for a two company battle; in the latter case the battle could be fought either length ways (4′ wide) or across the table (6′ wide)

Map and Table Scales

The scale of a map is the ratio of a distance on the map to the corresponding distance on the ground. In a wargaming context this means the distance on the table to the corresponding distance on the ground. Map scales may be expressed in words, as a ratio, or as a fraction.

Folk from North American tend to words with inches as the starting measurement. 1 inch to 40 yards, for example, means 1 inch on the map or table corresponds to 40 yards on the ground.

Where I grew up, in New Zealand, we use ratios for map scales. 1:25,000, for example, means 1 cm on the map corresponds to 25,000 cm (or 250 m) on the ground. A more common wargaming scale would be 1:1000 which means 1 cm on table corresponds to 1000 cm (or 10 m) on the ground.

All scales in this post are in ratios, unless I mention otherwise.

Effective range of small arms

“The action takes place within the effective range of small arms” (p.1). Maximum small arms range was 400 m. More typically small arms fire would be at 200 m, often less (some say 100 m was normal combat range). It is unclear whether this is the table width or how far a stand can shoot (from feature to feature).

Assuming table width is the small arms fire range, and a normal 4′ table width, this gives a ground scale of 1:333.

It is, however, more likely that the “effective range of small arms” corresponds to how far you can shoot in the game, i.e. from feature to feature. This would mean the 1.333 figure is probably too low. Looking at the suggested Terrain Arrangement Density (p. 31) there are 2-3 features in any path across a 2’x2′ table sector. This suggests a 4′ table would have 4-6 features spanning the table. If the distance between each of these features is maximum effective small arms range (400 m), then the ground scale is about five times greater, i.e. 1:1667.

1:1667 is unlikely as the ground scale, however, as some features don’t block LOS (e.g. rough ground and out of season fields). In other words, stands can fire further than just between adjacent features. It is common in a game to be able to fire across one intervening feature into a second; also possible but rarer is to fire across two intervening features at a third. So maximum small arms range has to correspond to firing across intervening terrain; typical small arms fire might correspond to shooting at targets in the adjacent feature. The following table shows the ground scale assuming the distance feature to feature is maximum small arms range (400 m) and assuming various numbers of intervening features. It also shows how many meters (m) the distance between two adjacent features represents in each each ground scale; this is important as most shooting in Crossfire occurs between immediately adjacent features and to be realistics this should be under 200 m.

Range in Features Intervening Features Example on table Ground Scale assuming 400 m max small arms range Distance between features represents 4′ table edge represents
1 0 1:1667 400 m 2000 m
2 1 1:833 200 m 1000 m
3 2 1:556 133 m 667 m

Unit Frontages in Crossfire

The Scenario Generator (p. 31) recommends a 4’x4′ table for one company battles and 4’x6′ table for a two company battle; in the latter case the battle could be fought either length ways (4′ wide) or across the table (6′ wide). We can compare these distances to historical Unit frontages to get a ground scale. The frontage of a real company in defence was about 700 m, and two companies covered a front of at least 1,500 m, but this could be much greater if the gap between companies was wider. Comparing the various table measurement to the various historical frontages, gives a ground scale ranging anywhere from 1:583 through to 1:1500.

Table distance Real distance Ground Scale 1 1/4″ stand width represents … 4′ table edge represents …
1200 mm (4′ table) 700 m (one company frontage) 1:583 19 m 700 m
1800 mm (6′ table) 1,500 m (min two company frontage) 1:833 27 m 1000 m
1800 mm (6′ table) 1,800 m (typical two company frontage) 1:1000 32 m 1200 m
1200 mm (4′ table) 1,500 m (min two company frontage) 1:1250 40 m 1500 m
1200 mm (4′ table) 1,800 m (typical two company frontage) 1:1500 48 m 1800 m

Squad Base Size

The standard base width for a Crossfire Squad is 32 mm. Historical Unit frontages in skirmish line covered a frontage of 30-50 metres, i.e. about 40 m. This gives a ground scale of 1:1250, which is the same ratio given for the minimum two company frontage on a 4′ table. (It is worth noting that skirmish line would be used to close to contact, but after that anything was possible.)

Some of the ground scales deduced in earlier sections mean a stand width is too small to represent the entire frontage of a real squad. For example, with a ground scale of 1:583 the stand width represents only 19 m, much less than the ground covered by a real squad (about 40 m). So presumably for those scales a stand represents the general location, or centre of gravity, of the squad, not the actual area covered by the squad.

I can accept this logic for bigger ratios, but find it a bit dodgy for the smaller ratios. For example, at 1:333 a stand is only 11 m across and given a squad covered about 40 m, the real squad would cover the table area of four stands. Using a ground scale equivalent to the figure scale is even more extreme. For example, in 15 mm (nominally 1:100 scale) a stand would cover only 1/12th of the 40 m frontage the real squad would span. This is a bit too abstract for my taste.

Here are a few possibilities so you get the idea of the range of distances a stand width might represent.

Table distance Real distance Ground Scale 1 1/4″ stand width represents … 4′ table edge represents …
1200 mm (4′ table) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:333 11 m 400 m
1800 mm (6′ table) 1,800 m (typical two company frontage) 1:1000 32 m 1200 m
32 mm (Squad Width) 40 m (Squad Width) 1:1250 40 m 1500 m
240 mm (feature to feature with zero intervening) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:1667 53 m 2000 m

Hit the Dirt Scale

Hit the Dirt says “Though CROSSFIRE specifies no ground scale, one could safely assume any of the battle maps presented herein to measure approximately 500 meters (give or take 100 meters – but who’s counting?) to a four foot map edge” (p. ii).

In other words, for the Hit the Dirt scenarios a 4′ map edge is anywhere from 400 to 600 metres. This corresponds to ground scales from 1:333 up to 1:500. Not that the authors of Hit the Dirt are restricting all maps to this scale, they are only saying that is the scale they had in mind.

As it happens the stated grounds scales in Hit the Dirt are inconsistent with the troop densities given in the scenarios. Hit the Dirt troop densities are consistent with the recommendations for Unit Frontages in Crossfire, but these imply a ground scale between 1:583 through to 1:1500. That suggests the stated ground scale in Hit the Dirt is nominal at best.

Telescoping Ground Scale

Nikolas Lloyd believes the story is more important than uniform ground scales. For him the ground scale varies on the Crossfire table in the same way the Time Scale varies. When describing a particular table layout he had used, Lloyd said:

Now, in my mind, the scale was not literal, and there was a a long fight covering great distances (half the table) through fields and countryside, which then got funnelled into the village, where the scale was different and the troops much denser on the ground. The bridge was vital, and the features around it detailed and dense: buildings (one with a perfectly rectangular depression outside it: a drained swimming pool?), and the like. In terms of the story of the game, this all worked fine. It involved a para-drop and an armoured column. If the ground scale were literal, then the para-drop was blinking accurate and timely, but if you think of vaguer time scales and ground scales (yes – I think of the ground scale as being just like the time scale: whatever you want it to be) then the story made perfect sense.

Ian Hayward also points out that

When you think about it, most wargames distort some ranges to make things workable (e.g. many Napoleonic games increase musket ranges). Most gamers don’t get upset by this, so I don’t see why having a vague ground scale in Crossfire should upset people too much either.

And finally, Ian also points out that some board games use a nice regular hexagon grid, others use an irregular-area movement system. Most traditional wargames are akin to the former, but Crossfire is more like the latter.

Using this logic certain regions on a Crossfire table, a town for example, might be at 1:300, but other areas such as the surrounding fields may be at 1:600 or more.

Personally I find this a pretty compelling argument. It doesn’t particularly help when converting historical maps into Crossfire tables/maps, but it does explain some apparent inconsistencies on the table.

Conclusion

The following table summarizes the various possible calculations described above:

Table distance Real distance Ground Scale 1 1/4″ stand width represents … 4′ table edge represents …
1200 mm (4′ table) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:333 11 m 400 m
720 mm (feature to feature with two intervening) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:556 18 m 667 m
1200 mm (4′ table) 700 m (one company frontage) 1:583 19 m 700 m
1800 mm (6′ table) 1,500 m (min two company frontage) 1:833 27 m 1000 m
480 mm (feature to feature with one intervening) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:883 27 m 1000 m
1800 mm (6′ table) 1,800 m (typical two company frontage) 1:1000 32 m 1200 m
32 mm (Squad Width) 40 m (Squad Width) 1:1250 40 m 1500 m
1200 mm (4′ table) 1,500 m (min two company frontage) 1:1250 40 m 1500 m
1200 mm (4′ table) 1,800 m (typical two company frontage) 1:1500 48 m 1800 m
240 mm (feature to feature with zero intervening) 400 m (max small arms range) 1:1667 53 m 2000 m

Although any of these ground scales is both acceptable under the rules and plausible, I favour 1:1000 because it:

  • Is simple to calculate
  • Is in the middle of the range
  • Corresponds exactly to a two company frontage on a 6′ wide table.
  • Gives a ground scale where the physical stand roughly covers the area the squad it represents is meant to occupy.
  • Means effective small arms range (200 m) roughly corresponds to the distance feature to feature with none intervening.
  • Means maximum effective small arms range (400 m) roughly corresponds to the distance from feature to feature with one other feature intervening.

Ground scales outside the range 1:300 to 1:1700 are hard to justify under the rules, hence unlikely.

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