Ponyri Station – A Hit the Dirt Blast from the Past

I was filing old papers tonight when I found a few photos of a very early game of Crossfire. Real photos, you know, the ones on photographic paper, from a shop. It took a while but I figure the game was Ponyri Station. I thought I’d share because, aside from the fact these are the only photos I have of a game of my favourite scenario from Hit the Dirt, they also show how I started out in Crossfire – using anything I had.


The photos

The photos are a bit of a mystery. They are obviously fairly early on, after all they were taken on a film camera. After careful scrutiny I recognised the venue … my old flat in Richmond, UK.

Ponyri Station 12

Ponyri Station 12


The date

I’m guessing the game was 2002 or perhaps early 2003. I got my first Russians and Spanish in November 2001 and by June 2003 I had built my generic building features. And, of course, I was living in Richmond.


Ponyri Station Scenario

Ponyri Station is my favourite scenario from Hit the Dirt. I’ve played it a few times, although not for a few years. The distinctive features are that it is deliberately bloody and has no hidden deployment. I used to use this scenario to introduce new players to Crossfire, before I wrote my Crossfire For Novices – A Scenario to Introduce Newbies.


The houses

I was surprised to see cardboard cutouts with any old building on top for the Crossfire Building Sectors. The buildings are my old solid resin ones. It seems I used all of them as both Dutch town houses, Roman villas, Celtic huts, and New Zealand Wars huts appear on table, despite the fact the scenario is set in 1943 in the USSR. Even my Spanish church is doing duty as the Railway station. Clearly, even using all my existing buildings, I didn’t have enough for the scenario. You can see some cardboard cutouts with no building on top. I have a dim memory that there are 55 building sectors on table.

Ponyri Station 11

Ponyri Station 11

I used carboard cutouts because most of the buildings I had at the time are resin and solid. So I couldn’t put troops inside. The card board cut outs are clearly 4″ x 4″ – so bigger than the standard I eventually opted for when I went for my 3″ x 3″ generic building features.

Speaking of which, I had Ponyri Station in mind when I started making my generic building features. Probably after this game. Initially I made exactly enough building sectors for this scenario. But it took time. By June 2003 I’d re-played Ponyri Station with the guys from the Shed using my generic building sectors.


The base cloth

Evan Allen gave me my green baize to use for a base cloth. I brought it with me from New Zealand. Simple but effective. Now days, however, there are many better looking mats that are readily available. And I like my four wargaming boards from TMterrain because they match my terrain.

Ponyri Station 15

Ponyri Station 15


The railway embankment

I didn’t have a railway embankment at the time. Instead I used my old brown felt road. I have nicely painted resin road – which I still use today – thus my brown felt was relegated to storage. But I clearly dragged it out for the railway line at Ponyri. Now days I have railway lines and an custom built embankment.


The fields

Clearly I’d already started on my campaign to get the proper Crossfire kit – I had already chopped up a door mat to make an in-season field.

Ponyri Station 10

Ponyri Station 10


The terrain templates

I made all my cardboard terrain templates when I was living in Guildford. So only a year or two before this game. Although I subsequently experimented with other materials I still use the same cardboard templates today.

Ponyri Station 13

Ponyri Station 13


The trees and hedges

There are two types of model trees on the table. Some made from bottle brushes that I picked up in New Zealand. These did good service for many years and only got retired because the flock on them went brown.

There are also Woodland Scenics trees on table. I picked these up when I started playing Crossfire and realised I need more. More trees. More of everything. Again the Woodland Scenics trees did good service but got retired because the foliage clumps started falling off.

I now use a bunch of Sams Trees I got from China.

Ponyri Station 14

Ponyri Station 14

As it happens I found the box with all of those old trees today. Perhaps I should refresh them and instantly double my tree supply.

The table also shows my normal hedges.


The opponent

I must have been playing John Mclennan. The date. The venue. Hard to imagine I was playing anybody else. Unless Dave Kenny flew in from the US for a game.

2 comments to Ponyri Station – A Hit the Dirt Blast from the Past

  • Dick Bryant

    Always fun to look back at our beginnings. I must find photos of our chalk board green painted table with the road, rivers, and wood deliniation chalked on them. The only physical items were model railroad buildings, trees and some fences. It was 1968

    • Steven Thomas

      Hmmm, my first real wargames in the early 1970s were on my fathers table. 3 D plaster of paris terrain tiles that weighed a ton. Using home made Roman and Greek metal figures that he sculpted and cast himself. Hardcore by today’s standards. It was a long time (1987) before I had anything of my own, and the terrain was pretty basic because I had to lug it, and the army, around Sydney. Cut up felt was the limit of the collection. As you see from the photos above I invested in terrain during the 1990s. But it wasn’t right for Crossfire. My Crossfire collection came in the first decade of the new millennium. And I continue to grow it.

      Mind you, I’m still using those exact same figures for the bulk of my Crossfire games. My Russians and German/Spanish are fast approaching 20 years of service. My mate Roland was amazed how long my initial figures for Crossfire lasted me. It was more than a decade before before I got more. And that was just greed. 😉

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