Assaulting Bunkers in Crossfire – Possible House Rules

I’m not happy with bunkers in Crossfire. In normal Crossfire you just have to wait for the garrison to No Fire and then close assault. I think they should be harder to assault. Historically flame throwers, demolition charges and big guns were used to deal with bunkers. I’m inclined to introduce house rules to encourage this. So here is a possibility for bunker busting.


Bunker busting in reality

Bunkers can be destroyed with powerful explosives and bunkerbusting warheads. The crew of a pillbox can be killed with flamethrowers. Complex, well-built and well-protected fortifications are often vulnerable to attacks on access points. If the exits to the surface can be closed off, those manning the facility can be trapped. The fortification can then be bypassed.

Wikipedia: Bunker

Australian Flame Thrower Clears Japanese Bunker

Australian Flame Thrower Clears Japanese Bunker

Satchel charges, sometimes called Demolition charges, are a useful against bunkers:

In World War II, combat engineers used satchel charges to demolish heavy stationary targets such as rails, obstacles, blockhouses, bunkers, caves, and bridges.

Wikipedia: Satchel Charge

Flamethrowers are also effective:

[The Flamethrower] is primarily used against battlefield fortifications, bunkers, and other protected emplacements. A flamethrower projects a stream of flammable liquid, rather than flame, which allows bouncing the stream off walls and ceilings to project the fire into blind and unseen spaces, such as inside bunkers or pillboxes.

Wikipedia: Flamethrower

It usually took a combination of weapons to destroy a bunker:

Many German Westwall bunkers had limited fields of fire and where blind on three sides. However, the double set of heavy steel doors were located in the front and covered by the bunker’s machine gun. To attack such a position the assault team stayed out of the MG34’s segment of fire, suppressing fire from the embrasure with automatic weapons and bazookas. Smoke might be used to blank the bunker crew, as the M2-2 flamethrower and 2.36in M9A1 bazooka teams closed in. Flame bursts and bazooka rockets might not knock out the compartmented bunkers, but they would drive the defenders away from embrasures to allow satchel charges to be flung in.

Rottman (2008, p. 63)

I also find the fact about German bunkers with the entrance on the side facing the enemy quite interesting.


Bunkers in standard Crossfire

CF4.4.2 Hardpoints, Bunkers and other Structures
CF10.3 Entrenchments, Bunkers & Hardpoints

Crossfire uses the phrase “Bunkers/Hardpoints” but that includes pillboxes and block houses.

Here is what standard CF has to say about Bunkers/Hardpoints:

  • Each Bunker/Hardpoint has a capacity, from one to four squads. The default is two squads.
  • A Bunker/Hardpoint provides cover from fire attacks, but also applies a -1 pip penalty on each attacking dice. Effectively fire attacks must get a 6 to hit rather than a 5+.
  • The garrison of a Bunker/Hardpoint can shoot from only one side but can be attacked from any side.
  • A Bunker/Hardpoint provides no benefit in close combat.

What that means in practice is attackers wait for the garrison of the bunker to go NO FIRE or smoke then off, then close assault. As the fortification gives no advantages in close combat you’re much better off charging it than shooting.

Assault engineer squads, those with flame throwers and demolition charges, get a +1 in close combat. US Marines get a +2 in close combat because they were well equipped for bunker busting.

In summary bunkers in standard Crossfire provide good cover to fire but provide no protection from close assault. It seems to me that normal squads would really struggle to deal with a bunker, that is why they called in the specialists.


Existing House Rules related to Bunkers

I’ve already got some Balagan House Rules that cover Bunkers.

Firstly big guns. I favour direct first HE into structures:

Targets in structures (Buildings, Building Complexes, Bunkers/Hard Points) or in Entrenchments or Prone do not get the -1d6 Protective Cover Bonus from Direct Fire HE weapons. Bunkers still get the -1 pip though.

I also clarified the standard rules for Bunkers/Hardpoints and added some:

Characteristic Hardpoint / Pillbox Bunker (or strong building)
Number of open sides At least one side None
Number of protected sides At least one side All
Firing Slit can be located Any protected side Any protected side, except rear
Sides occupants can shoot from Firing slit or open side Firing slit only
Sides vulnerable to direct fire Firing slit (protective cover) or open side (no protective cover) Firing slit only
Protective Cover modifiers -1d6 -1d6 and -1 pip
Sides vulnerable to close assault Firing slit or open side Firing slit or rear
Sides stands can enter/exit Any open side Rear only

Musing on Flame Throwers

Crossfire is pretty bland about flame throwers. They are included in the +1 for close combat awarded to combat engineers. Some people try to simulate flame throwers separately, presumably with specialist flame thrower teams. Here are a couple of comments from the Crossfire Forum:

Tim Marshall suggested this rule for man pack flame throwers:

Man Pack Flame Thrower stand has an arc of fire 360o, basic dice 4, and range two stands. No penalty for cover, except as described for concrete. An enclosed target in a building or dug in with overhead cover is +1 pip. Against concrete fortifications it is -1 die, -1 pip unless an embrasure is blown open (p20), in which case it is +1 pip. Treat as crew stand in close combat.

Number of Attacks: It may make two attacks, after which any attack that does not achieve three hits means that the fuel is gone. Remove the stand unless there is some scenario allowing it to return to a supply point of some sort for refills.

Stephen Phenow suggested something similar:

we give them three base length range and four dice. They can only be used twice (two shots)

These suggestions are reasonable depending on the ground scale you are using. Both of these rules assume that flame throwers are distance weapons, although with a limited range. From previous discussions I know Tim and Stephen assume crossfire is about 1:333 scale and a squad (stand width) is 11 metres. Their house rule suggestions would allow a flame thrower to shoot 22m or 33m which is probably fair given their ground scale.

As I have explained before I think a much bigger ground scale is justified, up to 1:1700. Most of the time I assume 1:1000 ground scale. At that ground scale a squad (stand width) is 32 metres. So the proposed ranges for flame throwers become 64m and 96m, which I think is too long. This is, presumably, why Crossfire includes grenades, flame throwers and demolition charges within close combat.


Musing on Demolition Charges

I had an ideas for demolition charges inspired by Advanced Squad Leader.

Squads and commanders can carry Demolition Charges. A PC can carry a single Demolition Charge but Squads and Company Commanders can carry up to three.

Placing and setting off a Demolition Charge takes several actions. The stand carrying the Demolition Charge must

  1. Use Move Actions to get within a stand width of the target. The target is usually the wall of a structure.
  2. Use a Place Demolition Charge to place the demolition charge. This is subject to Reactive Fire.
  3. Explode Demolition Charge. This is a 5/2 HE/EFF attack on the target, i.e. 5d6 attack with potential to SUPPRESS two neighbouring stands. The attacking stand is automatically PINNED and can be SUPPRESSED due EFF of the explosion.

Musing on Close Combat on a Bunker

In standard Crossfire some squads get bonuses in Close Combat because they are equipped with flame throwers and demolition charges:

  • Assault engineer squads get a +1 in close combat
  • US Marine squads get a +2 in close combat

Bunkers do not give the defender a bonus in close combat. My impression is that it was very hard, and dangerous, to close assault a bunker. That is exactly why attackers used specialists with flame throwers and demolition charges, or brought in the big guns.

So I’m tempted to change my clarification/house rules for bunkers and hardpoints. The bold bits are new. The bits that that have strike through are deleted.

Characteristic Hardpoint / Pillbox Bunker (or strong building)
Sides can be Open, protected (closed, firing slit) Protected (closed, firing slit, door)
Number of open sides At least one side None
Number of protected sides At least one side All
Number of firing slits One One
Number of doors None One
Firing Slit can be located Any protected side Any protected side, except rear
Door can be located Not applicable Any protected side including the side with the firing slit
Sides occupants can shoot from Firing slit or open side Firing slit only
Sides vulnerable to direct fire from Squads or HMG Firing slit (protective cover) or open side (no protective cover) Firing slit only
Sides vulnerable to direct or indirect fire from HE Protected side (protective cover) or open side (no protective cover) Any (protective cover)
Protective Cover modifiers -1d6 -1d6 and -1 pip
Sides vulnerable to close assault Firing slit or open side Firing slit or reardoor
Close combat modifiers for occupants +0 Attacked from open side
+2 attacked from firing slit
+2 attacked from firing slit
+1 attacked from door
Sides stands can enter/exit including successful attacker in close combat Any open side Door only

In addition I’d dish out more +2 bonuses to attacking squads, assuming they have been equipped with flame throwers and demolition charges.


Conclusions

I don’t really like the explicit rules for flamethrowers and demolition charges. They seem terribly specific and contrary to the feel of Crossfire.

I much prefer the tweaks to the close combat rules. These make it much, much harder to clear a bunker. Even with a +2 for flamethrowers and demolition charges an attacking squad is on even odds. Without that support they are likely to lose. I think it makes bunkers much more scary.

But to really make bunkers a force to be reckoned with they also need the ability to fire along fixed lines of fire and hence ignore smoke. But that is another story.


References

Rottman, G. L. (2008). World War II Infantry Assault Tactics. Osprey Elite 160.

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