Guidelines for Creating Crossfire Scenarios

My Scenario Template outlines the things to consider in creating a new Crossfire scenario. But that is the easy bit; the hard bit is filling in the gaps to create a balanced and fun game. I’ve some advice on bits of that process:

Missions and/or Historical Situation

There has to be a reason for the scenario. This can be based on a historical situation, or just a generic Mission. Missions dictate the Objectives, orders of battle, deployment, reinforcements, and possibly special rules. When creating your mission, you have to be conscious that there must be some reason for the defender to actually defend – see Making the Defender Defend.

Common Crossfire Missions are:

For most of these missions – with the exception of Meeting Engagement – there are three types of Defensive Deployments to choose between:

(The Eastern Front Scenario Builder inspired some of the variations given in this section.)

Meeting Engagement Mission

Purpose:

Essentially this is an unexpected encounter where enemy forces are probing towards each other. The aim for both sides is to find the enemy, seize ground before the enemy does (thus protecting troops following up behind), and inflict casualties. .

Objectives: Terrain and/or Casualty.

Meeting engagements are quite tricky in standard Crossfire as the free movement means the first side on the table will control the table. Scenario specific rules are necessary to limit this.

Rob Wolski outlines how to run this type of scenario in the Crossfire Rules (p. 32). I’d only add that on the assumption the attacker knows what they’re headed for, but the defender is closer, the attacking player chooses the objectives and the defender player takes first initiative.

Although Tim Marshall highly recommends Rob’s Meeting Engagement rules, he also suggest some alternatives

  • Phase line approach. This is marking on the table specific “lines” of which forces may cross only one during an initiative.
  • Limited approach moves: Set up normally but troops are limited to one move action per turn until first reactive fire, where upon normal initiative rules take over.
  • Both forces hidden: Curtain off the table and set up each side, then pull away the curtain. What you need to do here is either have players choose their own objectives before hand or, as the referee, cunningly craft objectives so that forces end up concentrated in different areas;

Another idea idea based on the Eastern Front Scenario Builder which I haven’t tried is to have both sides enter base edge. Recce units arrive in first initiative but other units test entry time (dependent on type of unit).

Attack Mission

Purpose:

The attacker is trying to capture a local, tactical feature such as a village, minor bridge or high ground, and/or destroy the enemies capability to resist.

Objectives: Terrain, possibly combined with Casualty and/or Search and Destroy.

Typically the defender deploys on 1/2 to 2/3 of the table, and attacker enters from their table edge. The attacker is likely to have numerical superiority to offset the defender being hidden.

Several variations are possible here: Exploitative Attack, 2nd Wave Attack, Counter Attack.

Exploitative Attack Mission

Having already breached the enemy line the attacker is trying to drive into the defenders rear. The defender has second echelon units ( HQ, supply and artillery positions). Both sides will have depleted orders of battle due to earlier casualties. It is possible the defender will have on-table artillery.

2nd Wave Attack Mission

Having already breached the enemy line the attacker is trying to destroy any remaining enemy resistance left in the front line. Both sides will have depleted orders of battle due to earlier casualties.

Counter-Attack Mission

Having lost an earlier fight the attacker is trying to dislodge the enemy from the attacker’s original positions. Both sides will have depleted orders of battle due to earlier casualties.

Breakthrough Mission

Purpose:

The attacker is trying to breach the enemy defences and push on into the rear of his positions, i.e. off-table.

Objectives: Breakthrough, possibly combined with Casualty.

Normally a more deliberate form of attack, against a more prepared defender.

A couple of variations: Encirclement and Fighting Withdrawal.

Encirclement Mission

The attacker is trying to avoid being cut-off and escape with as much equipment as possible. Both sides will have depleted orders of battle due to earlier casualties.

Fighting Withdrawal Mission

The defender is fighting a rear guard action to hold up the enemy offensive

NOT PLAY TESTED.

Suggestions for Crossfire:

  • The defender deploys all troops on table (no off table reserves). If they can deploy hidden they can have only 2/3 the point total of the attacker.
  • As the moving clock advances the defender must remove terrain objectives from the table and withdraw a platoon from the table. For a small game this occurs every 40 Clock Ticks, for a medium game every 20 Clock Ticks, for a large game every 10 Clock Ticks and for a huge game every 5 Clock Ticks.
  • There must always be one terrain objective on table, and this must be one of those originally selected by the defender.
  • The defender cannot remove a terrain objective which is currently captured by the attacker.
  • If the defender has more platoons on table than there are terrain objectives on table, they must withdraw another platoon (and not remove a terrain objective).
  • If the number of on-table defending platoons is equal to or less than the number of terrain objectives, then the defender can choose which to remove/withdraw.
  • Mobile stands in a withdrawing platoon must attempt to exit the defender’s rear table edge – this compulsory movement happens before other optional actions. Mobile means unpinned and unsuppressed. All movement is using the normal rules, so retreat moves and reactive fire are possible. Once off table, a stand can not return.
  • Company level assets are withdrawn with the last platoon of the company. Battalion level assets are withdrawn with the first platoon of the last on table company (i.e. they aren’t the last to leave).
  • The game finishes immediately when either of the following occurs:
    • The defender has no mobile troops left on table. This results in a victory for the defender.
    • The attacking player captures terrain objectives worth more than half the possible victory points (VP). This results in an a victory for the attacker. Remember, as terrain objectives are removed the number of possible VP reduces.

Attack / Counter-attack Mission

An Attack / Counter-attack is really a mini-campaign with two phases: the Attack Mission and the Counter-Attack mission. Both phases are fought on the same table. Both players try to capture the table, the player who controls the Terrain objectives at the end of the counter-attack phase wins the mini-campaign.

At some defined moment during the the Attack Mission one side’s morale breaks and it withdraws. The break point could be any of the following:

  • after a certain number of Casualties
  • at a certain time of day
  • the capture by the attacker of certain Terrain objectives

The victorious side then deploys over the whole table, and, with the advantage of defence, but the disadvantage of having by this time suffered losses. The victorious side, has to fend off the counter-attack of the losing side, which is has now been reinforced (perhaps gets half or all its lost units back).

You could fight back and forth over the same ground a few times this way, which forms a sort of micro-campaign.

Defensive Deployment

For most of the Missions described above – with the exception of Meeting Engagement – there are three types of defensive deployments to choose between:

Hasty Defence

An impromptu defensive positions. The defender has had only a day or so’s preparation, so has only dug a few holes in the ground. Neither side has much intelligence information.

Guidelines for Crossfire

  • At least 1/3 of the defenders platoons start off table in reserve; a whole company is kept off table for every three platoons in reserve. The reserves arrive as reinforcements on a 5+ at the start of each friendly initiative after the attacker gets LOS to any of the objectives.
  • After the terrain is set up and table sides decided, the players choose the Terrain objectives. A small game has 2 objectives; 4 for medium game, 6 for large and 8 for huge. The attacker nominates half of the terrain objectives and the defender the other half. All must be in the 1/3 of the table nearest the defender’s base edge.
  • The attacker secretly notes which of the terrain features is “vital” (one only).
  • The defender then sets up (visible except for Snipers) in the 2/3 of the table nearest their base edge. (Optionally the defender can deploy hidden, in which case they get 75% of the points of the attacker.)
  • Finally the attacker sets up (visible except for Snipers) in the remaining 1/3 of the table and takes the first initiative.
  • The attacking player wins if they gain more than half the victory points (VP) possible from terrain objectives, without sustaining 50% causalities in stands; any other result means the defender wins. Capturing each normal terrain objective is worth one VP; the “vital” terrain objective is worth two VP when captured (for example, if there are only two terrain objectives, there are 3 VP possible). A terrain feature is captured if occupied and undisputed. PCs & FOs do not count toward casualties.
  • A moving clock is in use, using Clock Ticks. The game advances 1d6 clock ticks at the end of the defender’s initiative. The game finishes when the clock reaches 120 ticks. (Each “tick” nominally represents 3 minutes, so the scenario spans about six hours of combat.)

Prepared Defence

The defender has had a week or so of preparation allowing for trenches to be dug, mines to be laid. Both sides have reasonable intelligence.

Guidelines are as a Hasty Defence, but:

  • A preparatory bombardment and/or bombing of the enemy line is likely. This can be handled through Pre-planned Bombardment (see Crossfire p.44), off-table artillery, and/or an already depleted orders of battle for the defender. For example, the Attacker might get 6 PPD Fire Missions for a small game, 12 for a mid-sized game, 18 for a large game, and 24 for a huge game. The target features are noted in secret, and only revealed and adjudicated after both sides deploy.
  • Defender gets a number of defensive fortifications. They get 7 points of fortifications in a small game, 14 points in a mid-sized game, 21 points in a large game, and 28 points in a huge game. Points cost is:
Type Cost
Bunker (4 Squad capacity) 4.5
Bunker (3 Squad capacity) 3.5
Bunker (2 Squad capacity) 2.5
Bunker (1 Squad capacity) 1.5
Mines (4 Stand Section or 1 feature) 2.0
Wire (4 Stand Section) 0.5
Entrenchment Free
  • The reserves arrive as reinforcements on a 6 (not 5+) at the start of each friendly initiative after the attacker gets LOS to any of the objectives.

Fixed Defence

The defender has had months of preparation such as at the gates of Moscow in ‘41 and at Kursk in ‘43. Expect lots of mines, trenches, tank traps, dragons teeth and excellent intelligence.

Making the Defender Defend

Tim Marshall posed the following question on the Crossfire Discussion forum:

How do you get a defender to “defend”. Often the defender, especially in pick up games where both sides know exactly or have a rough idea of what their opponents forces are, will “collapse” his uncontested sectors and reinforce where the attacker might be gaining an upper edge. It’s not the thing to do in real life because the Defender do not know whether more Attacker is going to come or not, so you don’t dare take troops off the front line to reinforce another sector.

There are several ways of dealing with this problem.

Keep the real objectives secret

The simplest approach is not to tell the defender what the Terrain objectives are, or at least not all of them. This compels the defender to spread his forces and try to understand from the enemy’s moves, what is the objective. The attacker can try to hide his real intentions, and through a series of feints can make the real objective elusive until its too late..

Typically you’d start a small game with 2 objectives; 4 for medium game, 6 for large and 8 for huge. There are various ways of selecting the real objectives from these:

  • The attacker secretly selects only one of these objectives as the real objective of the attack (and writes it down).
  • Ditto but the attacker must choose the real objective randomly. Cards – with the names of the terrain objectives on them – are a good way of doing the random selection as they provide documented evidence at the end of the game of the otherwise secret selection.
  • Have one official/obvious-to-all objective (e.g. hill, command post, farm complex) and then select another less obvious and secret objective chosen by the attacker.
  • The “Death from Above” scenario in Flames of War has the defender place one objective and the attacker places two. After the defender has deployed, the attacker then removes one of their two. This differs from the other variations in making the real objective public knowledge; given in Crossfire troops move as far as they like this is a bit of a problem.

Weight the Objectives

We used another variation at the Shed for a campaign set in Normandy. Divide the objectives into Minor (low points value) and Major (mid points value) objectives. Minor objectives must be placed in the front sector of the defender, whereas Major objectives are placed in the defender’s rear zone. Before the game started the attacker could secretly upgrade some Major objectives to Vital (high points value). Both players then get to decide where to put their energy in attack/defence.

Terrain Objectives Size of Game
Small Medium Large Huge
Number of Minor Objectives 0 1 1 2
Number of Major Objectives 2 3 5 6
Number of Major Objectives upgraded to “Vital” by the Attacking Team 1 1 2 2

Allow the attacker to change objectives

Start with specific Terrain objectives, but allow the attacker to
switch objectives if an opportunity presents itself. I suspect an attacker’s ability to do his
would vary similarly to how command and control does, so Germans can switch objectives at the
start of a initiative on a 4+, but British on a 5+ and Soviets on a 6+ (or perhaps not at all).
Pre-game you’d have to decide if the new objective had to be a
Breakthrough
objective and/or could be an alternative terrain objective.


Use Breakthrough objectives instead

Use Breakthrough objectives rather than Terrain objectives. In a Breakthrough the attacker is trying to get stands off the defenders table edge; this forces the defender to try and hold the entire line.

Alternatively use both Breakthrough objectives and and other objectives, i.e. victory is achieved if terrain objective taken, casualties inflicted, and/or breakthrough conditions met. For example my Russian Scouts scenario does something like this. The Russian gets points for locating Germans and some points for getting troops off the back edge. This dual victory point system is intended to encourage the German to deploy across the table rather than clump.

Map/Terrain

Firstly, how big should your table be. The pattern seems to be 4′ width (not necessarily length) when the defender is 1 company or less, regardless of size of the attacker (could be up to a battalion). 6′ width is reserved for when the smaller/defending side has at least 2 companies.

For a fun game you’ll have to provide the attacker with covered lines of approach – at least on the base line. If not, it will be a quick and bloody slaughter. The defender should also have covered routes on their base edge to facilitate redeployment – otherwise they’ll get ground to a pulp with little chance of reply.

You’ll need a lot of terrain. Crossfire suggests you aim to have 1/3 of the table being covered by features. The minimum size of a terrain feature in Crossfire is roughly 4″ x 4″, however, you can have up to 8″ x 8″ for a single feature. Structures are a bit different because each section should be the same size (4″x4″ or 3″x3″), so bigger structures actually have several sections. You’ll have about 50 terrain features on a 4′ x 4′ table, and 75 on a 6′ x 4′ table.

For example, a suggested 4′ x 4′ table for a novice scenario looks like this: There are about 50 features, and they range from being 3″ x 3″ building sectors through roughly 4″ diameter features to a large wood which is about 8″ across.


Table for Novices
Map produced in CC2

You might also want to see the full list of terrain features possible.

For a pick up game I tend to throw the terrain on the table then adjust for aesthetic reasons. This involves moving features around to improve the “look”, but also adding props to the features themselves, e.g. trees, brushes, rocks, boulders.

Finally, check that there are no stupid lines of sight (LOS) – check from all angles. Nikolas Lloyd suggests about six “layers” of terrain across the table in all directions.

Forces Available

Of course you’ll use what figures you have, but we are also looking for some kind of game balance. Real commanders aimed for 3:1 odds in attack to be sure of victory, but this won’t make a good game. In fact in Crossfire experienced players can have a “balanced” game with 1:1 force ratio.

But 1:1 doesn’t mean parity in actual numbers, it means parity in effectiveness. Veteran troops are, for example, more effective than Green, so in a balanced game a small number of Veterans can face off a much larger number of Green troops (about twice as many). That means I almost always use the Crossfire points system as the starting point for my Orders of Battle. This system isn’t perfect but it is near enough. The point system, however, ignores a few factors which we have to take into account:

  • Using the standard Hidden deployment rule, the hidden troops count for 1.5 times their points. .
  • Using the Hidden troops revealed on any one rule, hidden troops count for 2 times their points.
  • Off table reinforcements count as half points – after all, they might never arrive.
  • A novice attacker will need 2:1 or 3:1 advantage in numbers.

If you’re using armour then ensure the opponent has appropriate weapons (ATG, Armour, IAT) to counter it.

Victory Conditions and Objectives

My analysis of various scenarios highlights a limited set of objective types:

Terrain

Attacker is attempting to capture and hold a number of terrain objectives (e.g. village/building,
minor bridge or high ground). Defender is trying to prevent this. A rough guide is that a small
game has 2 objectives, mid-sized 4, large 6 and huge 8. A slightly more difficult variation on this is to eliminate all enemy LOS to the objective. In this case the objective is typically a linear feature like the table edge.

Both options from the Scenario Generator of the CF rules (p. 31-33) use Terrain objectives.

Often combined with Casualty objectives

Example victory conditions for Terrain:
  • The attacker wins if his forces occupy the three marked features at scenario’s end.

Casualty

One or both sides might get points for inflicting casualties (indicated by an A, D or AD after the type – meaning Attacker wants to inflict casualties, Defender wants to, or both want to). This is often combined with other Objective types, e.g. Terrain.

Example victory conditions using both Terrain and Casualty (D):
  • The attacker wins if his forces occupy the three marked features at scenario’s end.
  • In addition the scenario ends automatically in a win for the defender if the attackers accrue 14 casualty points (CP):

+1 Each lost Squad, Heavy Weapon, or CC
+2 Each lost AFV

Search and Destroy

Search and Destroy is a variant on the Casualty objective where both attacker and defender are trying to eliminate enemy units.

Example victory conditions for a Search and Destory:
  • Each side gets +1 victory point (VP) for each enemy Squad, Heavy Weapons, or CC they kill. A side wins if they achieve the following VP total and the enemy doesn’t achieve their own goal; otherwise it is a draw. .

Attackers goal 12 VP
Defenders goal 8 VP

Breakthrough

The objective of a breakthrough attack is to breach the enemy defences and push on into the rear
of his positions. In game terms the attacker must exit the opposite table edge (ideally whilst
maintaining a good line of communication to ones own base line). The defender is trying to prevent
this. Neither, one or both sides might get points for inflicting casualties (indicated by an A, D
or AD after the type).

Example victory conditions for Breakthrough (AD):
  • At scenario’s end award each side victory points (VP) as follows; the side with the higher total winning:

+1 Per enemy Squad, Heavy Weapon, CC, or BC destroyed
+2 Per enemy AFV destroyed
+2 Per Squad, Heavy Weapon, CC or BC exiting the south edge of game board (attacker only)

Raid

Attackers must get to the objective, stay there for a while, then get off table again. Defenders
must prevent this. The Crossfire
website has some suggested objectives:

  • photograph the technological marvel,
  • find the blueprints in the office,
  • find all the bits to the enigma machine,
  • destroy the mechanism which works the cable car,
  • plant the dead body with the fake plans on it,
  • set the charges on the pipeline junction,
  • break open the safe with the prototype device in it,
  • brief the double agent,
  • bury the homing beacon,
  • paint “Hitler has only got one ball” all over the staff HQ
  • do whatever it was which they had come to do.

Then turning to history, Ivan Kobets, a Russian Scout officer, mentions a few “Raid” type activities that his unit undertook

  • Capture tongues.
  • Search for command centers that went incommunicado.
  • Serve as couriers delivering orders and commands.
  • Search for unit documents and archives lost in combat.
  • Deliver propaganda flyers and posters into enemy territory.
Example victory conditions:
  • Attacker must get some specialist troops next to the objective and leave them there for five of his phasing initiatives. They get a major victory if they can get off table with most of their force.

Recce

Attacker attempts to locate enemy troops and positions in the smallest about of time, and whilst
minimising their losses. Defender attempts to inflict enemy losses, minimise their own losses, and
deny information.
Ivan Kobets, a Russian Scout officer, mentions a few “Recce” type activities that his unit undertook

  • Acquire information about the enemy and terrain.
  • Patrol ahead of the parent unit when the latter is moving.
  • Observe enemy movements.

If you’re using them, then following features some or all of the follow features should be occupied at the start of the game. As spotting these attract VP we need to encourage the defender to use them andhave them on the front line.

  • Bunkers.
  • Entrenchments.
  • Buildings (at least key buildings)
Example victory conditions (from Russian Scouts):

The game ends at 0830 hours or when all surviving Russians have exited the eastern table edge.

The Russians get victory points (VP) as follows:

  • 2 VP for spotting the German bunker
  • 1 VP for spotting each German entrenchment, wire, and/or mine section.
  • 1/2 VP for spotting each German stand of any type.
  • +1/2 VP for killing each German stand. (i.e. 1 VP in total with spotting and killing)
  • 4 VP if any Russian stand reaches the German base edge (line B-B).

And just so it isn’t all one sided:

  • -3 VP for each Russian SMG squad, CC, or HMG killed.
  • -1 VP for each Russian PC or FO killed.
VPs Result
-6 or less Decisive German Victory
0 to -5 Minor German Victory
+1 to +5 Draw
+6 to +10 Minor Russian Victory
+11 or more Decisive Russian Victory

Mission Ideas from Flames of War

Just a note to myself to see if I can find Crossfire equivalents for to these Flames of War missions …

Mission Positional Breakthrough Encounter Recon Raid Crossfire Equivalent
Break Out Y
Cauldron Y
Clean Sweep Y
Close the Pocket Y
Consolidate Y Y
Hold the Line Y Y
Fighting Withdrawal Y Y Y
Fuel Shortage Y
Big Push Y
Breakthrough Y
Cordon Search Y
Deep Battle Y
Deliberate Attack Y
Envelopment Y
Frontal Assault Y
Convoy Attack Y
Dawn Attack Y
Hasty Attack Y
Free For All Y
King of the Hill Y
Meeting Engagement Y
Mud Mud Mud Y
Reconnaissance Y
Get Away Y
Get the General Y
Rescue Y
The Raid Y
The Convoy Y

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