Anti-tank Rating – Revising Crossfire Anti-tank Rules 5

Time for the heart of the matter … revising Crossfire’s anti-tank rules and make them more like infantry combat. I want to do this as a bit of journey, from Crossfire’s ACC and PEN, through my mods for that, touching on earlier Gun versus Arm matrix thinking, before landing where I want to today.


Crossfire’s ACC and PEN

In standard Crossfire a tank/gun has to make two rolls to get a hit: Accuracy (ACC) and Penetration (PEN). The accuracy roll succeeds on 4+, with the tank/gun’s ACC as a modifier. The ACC modifier for a tank/gun is primarily based on muzzle velocity. The penetration roll succeeds if it exceeds the target’s front or flank/rear armour (ARM), with the tank/gun’s PEN as a modifier. PEN is based on muzzle velocity and size/weight of the shell. If both rolls are successful the target is KILLED.

Lots of players are unhappy with this mechanism but the two major grievances are:

  1. This is a totally different mechanism to infantry’s shooting, which is hit on 5+ with multiple to hit dice
  2. It inflates the significance of muzzle velocity and ignores other factors

Balagan Armour House Rules: Modified ACC

In 2003, not content with using muzzle velocity for ACC, James Doty suggested Modifying accuracy (ACC) for Crossfire. A version of this made it into my House Rules as the revised ACC rules.

As a result I replaced the Gun Accuracy modifiers (ACC) in Crossfire with this scheme:

ACC Weapons
+1 Anti-tank gun, field gun, etc
0 Vehicle with 3 gun crew1
-1 Vehicle with small gun crew2
All Infantry Anti-tank Weapons

Notes:
(1) Vehicles has a specialist in the three main roles of a vehicle gun crew are: Commander, Loader, Gunner.
(2) Vehicle has 1 or 2 crew who struggle with multiple roles of a vehicle gun crew. If a particular crew member plays multiple roles then the gun crew will be smaller and the vehicle less efficient.

Other ACC Modifiers:

  • -1 Target is in protective cover (including hull down).
  • -2 Target is dug in.

This has lasted me 20 years without undue annoyance. But retains the weird bolt on ACC+PEN rule or the original rules.


2002 Gun versus Arm matrix

In my earlier musing Gun versus Arm Matrix in Crossfire I presented a table with gun rating against target armour. This gives the number of firing dice, from 1d6 to 5d6.

Gun versus Armour Matrix (Sep 2002)
Gun Light Armour Medium Armour Heavy Armour
Light Anti-tank Gun 3d6 2d6 1d6
Medium Anti-tank Gun 4d6 3d6 2d6
Heavy Anti-tank Gun 5d6 4d6 3d6

I never used this system and thinking about it now, it makes for a pretty impotent anti-tank capability. 3d6 which is the norm in this table, which is what a Panzer IV and Sherman would sling at each other. Having a look at the probability of success, 3d6 has a 22% chance of a SUPPRESS and 4% chance of a KILL. That means most shots will be ineffectual. That just doesn’t seem like armoured combat to me. My impression was that tank combat was short and brutal. Contrast 3d6 percentages with that for 6d6: 33% chance of SUPPRESS and 32% of KILL. Now that is short and brutal.

Hit on 5+ Probabilities
Dice Miss (0 Hits) PIN (1 Hit) SUPPRESS (2 Hits) KILL (3+ Hits)
1d6 67% 33% 0% 0%
2d6 44% 44% 11% 0%
3d6 30% 44% 22% 4%
4d6 20% 40% 30% 11%
5d6 13% 33% 33% 21%
6d6 9% 26% 33% 32%

[Adapted from Crossfire Probabilities: Percentage Success in each Die Roll Mechanism]


2022 Gun versus Arm matrix

So, 20 years later, I’m thinking the matrix should use my Revised Calibre Bands. Which actually means there is no Gun versus ARM matrix at all. Bigger gun, bigger bang.

Bigger bang

My Revised Calibre Bands give me a bigger bang for my tanks and guns.

Steven’s anti-tank calibre bands
Anti-tank rating Gun Calibre Band Gun Calibre Examples (with nothing set in stone)
3d6 Super Light Gun (“Door knocker”) up to 44mm German 3.7cm ATG;
Soviet 45/46 ATG;
British 2 pounder;
US 37mm ATG
4d6 Ultra Light Gun 45-64mm German 5.0cm ATG;
Soviet 45/66 ATG;
British 6 pounder;
US 57mm ATG
5d6 Light Gun 65-84mm German 7.5cm short;
Soviet 76mm; Soviet 57/73 ATG;
US 75mm
6d6 Medium Gun 85-104mm German 7.5cm long;
British 25 pounder; British 17 pounder ATG
7d6 Heavy Gun 105-124mm German 8.8cm;
Soviet 85mm; Soviet 100mm; Soviet 122mm
8d6 Ultra Heavy Gun 125+mm Soviet 152mm
STTTF28 Panzer III knocks out T-34 in south
STTTF28 Panzer III knocks out T-34 in south

My Revised Calibre Bands are a good starting point but not enough.

Superior Anti-tank guns

Some guns are rated as “Superior” in anti-tank combat. These are guns have long barrels, high muzzle velocity, and hence better accuracy and penetration. Superior anti-tank guns are much more common in the late war. In my revised anti-tank rules, they get a bonus anti-tank dice (+1d6).

German:

  • 7.5cm L/43 (1942-43): Pz IV Ausf. F2, Pz IV Ausf. G; StuG III Ausf. F
  • 7.5cm L/46 (1942-45): Pak 40
  • 7.5cm L/48 (1942-45): Pz IV Ausf. G, H, J; StuG III Ausf. F, F/8, G; StuG IV; Jagdpanzer IV
  • 7.5cm L/70 (1942-45); Pz V Panther; Jagdpanzer IV
  • 8.8cm Flak 18/36/37/41
  • 8.8cm L/56 KwK 36: Pz VI Tiger I
  • 8.8cm L/71 KwK 43: Pak 43; Pz VI Tiger II; Hornisse/Nashorn; Ferdinand/Elefant; Jagdpanther

British

  • 76.2 mm (3 inch) Ordnance QF 17 pounder (1942-45)1: 17-pdr anti-tank gun; Sherman Firefly; Cruiser Mark VIII Challenger; 17-pdr SP Achilles (17-pdr M10C); Comet2

US

  • 76 mm gun M11: M18 Hellcat gun motor carriage; Medium Tank M4A1(76)W (Sherman IIA), M4A2(76)W (Sherman IIIA), M4A3(76)W (Sherman IVA)

USSR3

  • 85mm D-5T tank gun (1943-45): SU-85; T-34/85 (Model 1944)
  • 100mm D-10T tank gun (1944-45); SU-100
  • 122mm D-25T tank gun (1944-45); IS-2; ISU-122S4

Notes:
(1) The Shermans armed with the 75mm had better HE capacity than those with the larger calibre QF 17-pdr.
(2) The QF 17-pdr was called the “77mm HV” when mounted on the Comet. It was the same weapon but they rounded up the millimetres.
(3) The Soviets had many very effective anti-tank vehicles (“Animal hunters”) but most relied on super heavy HE rounds rather than specialist anti-tank weaponry, e.g. SU-122, SU-152, ISU-152.
(4) The D-25T was based on the 122 mm gun M1931/37 (A-19). Many ISU-122 were armed with the A-19, but it is only the ISU-122S, armed with the D-25T that get the superior bonus.

Inferior Anti-tank rating

Calibre isn’t everything and not all guns were great in the anti-tank role. I have had to downgrade the anti-personnel rating for some tanks/guns and I need similar penalties for anti-tank fire. These are the penalties are for:

  • -1d6 Low Velocity weapon (perhaps 500 m/s is the cut off point)
  • -1d6 Poor anti-tank shells
  • -2d6 No anti-tank shells

The 122 mm M-30S howitzer on the Soviet SU-122 Assault Gun packed a punch when firing at infantry (8d6), but wasn’t so good in the anti-tank role. It had no anti-tank shells and solely relied on the weight of the shell. So I give it a 6d6 against tanks. This would rise to 7d6 when the new BP-460A HEAT projectile was introduced in May 1943.


Direct Fire with tanks / guns

Anti-tank direct fire with tanks / guns now works like normal infantry. Look up the anti-tank rating for that vehicle and throw that number of dice.

Shooting Dice Modifiers:

  • Cover: Cover provides the normal -1d6 modifier.
  • Armour: In my new scheme I’m giving armour rating of light (0d6), medium (1d6), heavy (2d6), and ultra heavy (3d6). Effectively armour is a modifier on the shooting dice. For example, when shooting at a tank with heavy armour then subtract 2d6 from the shooting dice.
  • Flank/Rear: Shooting at the flank/rear of the tank gives a +1d6 bonus to the shooter. This does way with the need for two ARM ratings.

Like Infantry shooting, each dice hits on 5+. Hull down vehicles are hit on a 6.

The more hits the more the impact:

  • 1 Hit = Pinned. Tank engine has stalled and/or the turret has jammed and/or the crew are rattled. Vehicle cannot move or rotate turret (if any) but can fire.
  • 2 Hits = Suppressed. Tank has minor damage and/or the crew is shaken. Vehicle cannot move, rotate turret (if any) or fire. Two Suppresses cause the crew to bail out and the vehicle is Killed.
  • 3 Hits = Killed. Tank is KO and/or the crew have bailed out. Either remove the model to reduce clutter or leave the smoking ruin on the table for aesthetic appeal.

That Gun vs ARM matrix again

When I said there is no Gun versus ARM matrix, it isn’t quite true. There is a matrix, but it isn’t an interesting artefact. The number of dice to roll and the armour dice are more interesting. But for those who like matrices …

Gun versus Armour Matrix (Jul 2022)
Gun Calibre Band Calibre Light Armour (0d6) Medium Armour (1d6) Heavy Armour (2d6) Ultra Heavy Armour (3d6)
Super Light Gun (“Door Knocker”) Up to 44mm 3d6 2d6 1d6 0d6
Ultra Light Gun 45-64mm 4d6 3d6 2d6 1d6
Light Gun 65-84mm 5d6 4d6 3d6 2d6
Medium Gun 85-104mm 6d6 5d6 4d6 3d6
Heavy Gun 105-124mm 7d6 6d6 5d6 4d6
Ultra Heavy Gun 125+mm 8d6 7d6 6d6 5d6

Now, going back to the Sherman and Panzer IV slugging it out … now they get 4d6 when firing at each other. Not a lot more than my original 3d6 in the Gun vs ARM matrix. But an improvement.


Example of anti-tank fire

In the recent game of Monaldini and Monticelli we had an exchange of fire between a German 7.5cm Pak 40 and a Kiwi Sherman 75mm. It went like this:

  1. The Kiwi player moved a Sherman forward, crossing an open patch between two fields.
  2. The German player revealed a Pak 40, which then shot at the Sherman in the open. 6d6 for anti-tank fire, rolling 4, 4, 3, 2, 2, 1, gave a clear MISS.
  3. The Sherman moved into a field (thus getting cover) and the Pak 40 rolled reactive fire with 5d6 (less 1d6 for cover). Rolling 6, 4, 4, 4, 3 gave a PIN on the Sherman. Not that it was going anywhere
  4. Now it was the Sherman’s turn. It threw 4d6 (5d6 less 1d6 for cover) scoring 6, 5, 4, 3, 1. That meant the Pak 40 got SUPPRESSED.
  5. In the next German initiative the Pak 40 rallied and shot at the Sherman again still with 5d6 since the Sherman was still in the field. Rolling a 6, 5, 5, 5, 3 meant the Sherman was knocked out (KILLED)
  6. While having a bit of a celebration, the crew of the Pak 40 where then blitzed by a Kiwi 3″ Mortar scoring 6, 5, 5. KILLED. No more Pak fun in this game.
Monticelli-128 Pak rallies and knocks out Sherman
Monticelli-128 Pak rallies and knocks out Sherman

Ooops, I’ve just realised I forgot the tank’s 1d6 armour. Next time.


My Sherman examples

As you might recall, I have the models for the Squadron HQ troop, A Squadron, 20 Armoured Regiment, 2 (NZ) Division, who fought in Italy. This troop has two Sherman IB (M4/105), a single Sherman VC (M4A4/17pdr) aka “Firefly”, and a Sherman III (M4A2). These are all Shermans but they have radically different shooting capabilities. The Sherman III, like most Shermans, had good HE from its 75mm gun but only adequate anti-tank ability. In contrast the Sherman Firefly was a tank killer, but is pants at anti-personnel because it didn’t carry HE and had no hull machine gun. And the Sherman IB had a 105mm howitzer mounted, which means it was great at anti-personnel but had terrible anti-tank capability. I want/need to differentiate these Shermans for anti-tank and anti-personnel shooting.

Sherman III (M4A2) (ARM 1d6; AT 5d6; AP 5d6)
Sherman VC (M4A4/17pdr) aka “Firefly” (ARM 1d6; AT 6d6; AP 3d6)
Sherman IB (M4/105) (ARM 1d6; AT 2d6; AP 7d6)

All three models have the same armour rating (1d6). The Sherman III has the 75mm gun giving a 5d6 for both anti-tank and anti-personnel. The Firefly has a superior anti-tank gun (+1d6) but it had poor HE (-1d6) and there were no hull machine guns (-1d6). The Sherman IB, with the 105mm howitzer, would get 7d6 for anti-personnel. I gave it 2d6 for anti-tank including a -1d6 penalty for low velocity gun (472 m/s) and the -2d6 for no anti-tank shells.


Observations

I reckon it could work. But it will be brutal so might be a shock for any players using an more moderate Gun vs ARM matrix.

Some might think this is complicated. We now have vehicles with Armour rating, Anti-Personnel Rating, Anti-Tank Rating, Superior Anti-tank Rating, and Inferior Anti-personnel Rating. The way I look at it, it is complicated for the person doing the data sheet but after that there are only the three ratings for a particular vehicle. The Superior and Inferior ratings just folded into the final tank/gun ratings. And I for one, won’t remember any of this. I’ll just look up the data sheet.

Because both the anti-tank rating and anti-personnel rating are based on the same Revised Calibre Bands, they will have the same base ratings. But some tanks/guns will have different ratings. My go to example is the Sherman Firefly. Good at anti-tank (6d6); not so good at anti-personnel (3d6).

So far I’m happy with how this is shaping up. At least my Sherman example works for me. It also distinguishes the Soviet SU-152 from the later ISU-152.

19 thoughts on “Anti-tank Rating – Revising Crossfire Anti-tank Rules 5”

  1. Good work. Now some more play testing to see if it is too brutal. I must admit I like it.

    Reply
  2. Hi Steven, I posted a long comment here but it hasn’t come through. Did you decide not to publish? I won’t repeat it if it wasn’t helpful but if it was a glitch I’ll try again

    Reply
    • Not sure what happened there, Andrew, but I’ve seen nothing. No alerts. And checking in the system now, no post waiting for approval. Very sorry about that. Please recreate / repost your comment, if you have time.

      Reply
  3. Thanks Steven. I’ll break it down into a series, in case that helps.

    I’ve been reading your posts about this with a lot of interest because I think this is a really good project that could add a lot. I do have some concerns/issues that I wanted to raise. I’m not sure whether these are just a reflection of different ideas and would take the thing away from your design goals, so feel free to ignore any of my issues that you want to. I also have some suggestions which (obviously) if you don’t agree with the issues you won’t agree with the suggestions either, but they are only offered in the spirit of trying to be helpful.

    Reply
  4. Issue 1 is that I don’t think your calibre bands produce historical results. I can see from the example of the 105mm Sherman that you maybe have more plans to depart from the calibre bands than you’ve told us about so far, so this may be premature but I’ll go for it anyway.

    British 6pdr/US 57mm was a better AT weapon than US dual-purpose 75mm. With APDS ammunition it was a *much* better AT weapon. British 17pdr was a much better AT weapon than British 25pdr (and again, with APDS a much, much better AT weapon). For me personally, I’m not usually bothered when two weapons that clearly weren’t the same are treated as the same. For instance British 2pdr was a better AT weapon than German 37mm but I don’t think I’d want to play a game which was detailed enough for that to make a difference. When an inferior weapon is treated as better, that irks me more and would spoil my enjoyment of these rules.

    I think this issue can be completely solved by you either considering muzzle velocity as well as calibre, or otherwise loosening your calibre band approach.

    Reply
    • A fair point. But, oh, no! You are forcing me further into tank geekdom … I’m not that up on anti-tank guns to know better. Can you point me at a good resource to make my research easier?

      Reply
  5. Issue 2 is that I worry that when throwing so many dice, gun and armour factors will swamp tactical factors. This strikes me as both bad from a game perspective and a history perspective. If I understand your factors correctly, I think in-game I should be broadly indifferent when shot at by 88mm whether I am in a hull-down M5 light tank, or a Sherman in the open. In reality I would *much* rather be in the light tank because either way our armour is outmatched, but hull down (and not calling attention to myself by anything stupid) I’ve got a good chance of not even being seen by the gun crew.

    It may need separate terrain rules to achieve (for instance I can’t see a Sherman tank should be able to hide very well in a wheat field), which I can understand you would be unwilling to add, but I think the aim should be for terrain and tactical factors to matter as much to tanks as they do to infantry.

    Reply
    • Well, hull down uses the standard CF modifier i.e. “Hull down vehicles are hit on a 6.” That is roughly equivalent to ARM of 2 or 3 just by itself – I haven’t done the maths. So I think the Stuart will be happier than the Sherman.

      In terms of tanks and terrain, I do see a justification for more developed visibility rules. In fact I experimented with this in my Armour Fest. Although it adds complication and for most games that isn’t necessary.

      Reply
      • Thanks Steven. Hadn’t understood that that rule was still in play. That makes sense. The visibility rules in Armour Fest seem to have worked well too, judging by the report you wrote.

        Reply
  6. Issue 3 is that armour appears to be too effective. The first Tiger tank encountered by the British in Tunisia was knocked out by a 6pdr, which I don’t think can happen in your rules even firing from the flank. At Rauray in Normandy, 6pdrs coped handily with Panthers that were able to break into the position but completely unable to break through. Given how poorly the British were organised for this defense (their frontline was basically just where they had gotten to at the end of their last attack), and how poor the relevant battalion was (the Tyneside Scottish were broken up for reinforcements only a few days after this battle) this doesn’t speak to spectacular use of an inadequate weapon. There are plenty of other examples. Real tanks are put out of action by mobility kills, turrets getting jammed, destroyed optics, a whole bunch of things that armour can’t actually prevent.

    I think fewer calibre bands might help. Do you really need more than 3? (British 2 pdr/6 pdr/17 pdr or German PAK36/PAK38/PAK40)

    Reply
    • Fewer calibre bands would be good, but I struggle to squeeze all the game effects into less bands. CF effectively already has 4 calibre bands for indirect fire. And the currently CF rule has PEN ranging from -4 to +3, which I see as being equivalent to 8 calibre bands.

      Reply
      • Hi Steven

        There’s a penetration table at https://nigelef.tripod.com/anti-tank.htm. It only covers UK guns and ammo, but you can’t compare across countries very well anyway, because the test standards are so different. As you’ll see, armour is almost irrelevant when a 17pdr (or even a 6pdr with late-war ammo) fires at Crossfire-like ranges of a few hundred yards. So I don’t think you need any calibre band higher than that really. By contrast the current CF PEN ratings wildly exaggerate the effectiveness of armour at CF-like ranges.

        Reply
  7. An idea taken from the Fivecore rules: why not focus on comparative rather than absolute calibre bands?

    E.g. a 6 pdr in 1942 might be a ‘strong’ AT weapon against a Panzer II, but the same gun in 1945 against a Tiger II would be ‘average’ at best.

    Why not produce several sets of tank/gun tables for each period? Early war, mid war and late war can all have revised stats. That way you don’t need an absolute table with extremes at either end.

    Basically, at any point in the war there are really only about three or four gun/armor matchups: obsolete, poor, adequate and exceptional.

    It seems more ‘Crossfire’ to take this utilitarian approach to guns/armor rather than trying to come up with a system that lets you shoot 2pdrs at Jagdtigers. The in-game rules can stay simple – just pick the table that fits your period and combat zone.

    Hope this makes sense.

    Reply
    • Most people who do the Gun vs ARM matrix do a relative thing with different rating over the war. But that ignores that early war kit was used throughout the war e.g. anti-tank rifles and Soviet 45mm anti-tank guns. Which is why I went for absolute.

      Both approaches have their complexity (for the person generating the data) but I think the absolute approach is more likely to meet my design goals.

      Reply

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