Cinematic Time in Crossfire

Gregory ‘Pappy’ Boyington, a WWII US Marine Pilot, said combat “is hours and hours of boredom sprinkled with a few seconds of sheer terror”. He specifically meant combat flying but the principal applies to any combat. Crossfire concentrates on the terror and, being a game, glosses over the boredom. That means time in Crossfire is definitely not like in other games in which turns represent the passage of a specific number of minutes or hours. Most other games have turns where units take time to move into combat range but no combat. Crossfire gets to the meat of the combat issue quickly.

Scenes in a Movie

Where other rules give an effect like watching CCTV footage, Crossfire breaks the action into scenes as in a movie. According to its introduction, Crossfire is “a fast-paced simulation of shifting tactical initiative, where the action unfolds like a film highlighting the critical events of a battles”. The film-like effect reflects first hand accounts of small unit actions. One common thread of these narratives is that just about everyone in combat thinks time passes by much faster than it really does. Participants often describe feeling like hours had passed when in reality only a few minutes had gone by. Crossfire concentrates on these action packed events – the “brief moments of terror” mentioned above.

One of the implications of this is that Crossfire time is not linear. Because Crossfire runs on events rather than specific finite points in time, a lot can happen on the table without much time passing by, or time can pass by quickly (if you are using HTD’s Moving Clock rules) without many events.

Interpreting Non-linear Time

And just because you perform your actions in a particular sequence does not necessarily mean they have actually occurred in that sequence. And as with reminiscences of veterans accounts of the same event will vary. From the game perspective, any interpretation that makes sense is acceptable. Tim Marshall offered the following example:

Consider the following sequence of events, in a German/Soviet game, beginning with the Soviets with initiative:

1. Soviet T-34 moves forward, stopping near a woods feature.

2. Soviet infantry squad moves near the T-34 and is suppressed by reactive fire from a nearby building. Initiative passes.

3. German squads in building group fire at suppressed Soviet infantry causing another suppression and killing it.

4. Another German squad, armed with panzerfausts behind the building takes a number of move actions, moving around other woods features/buildings out of line of sight of the T-34 so no Soviet reactive fire can take place.

5. The PF squad moves into the woods feature beside the T-34 out of the forward arc of the T-34 which can’t see it and therefore cannot reactive fire (not sure if there are blind spots in AFVs in the vanilla rules or not).

6. PF squad destroys T-34.

Here’s one interpretation:

The T-34 accompanied by an infantry squad moves forward and grinds to a halt when fire from the building sends the infantry to the ground. While the infantry re being fired upon, that’s a signal for another German squad to move forward and manouvre to the flank of the T-34. Once the Soviet infantry has been wiped out, the German squad unlads a PF into the side of the T-34.

Here’s another perfectly valid interpretation:

The T-34 accompanied by an infantry squad moves forward and is destroyed by a PF armed German squad that made its way into the wood feature area while the Soviets moved forward. With their tank burning, the Soviet infantry are then pummeled and wiped out by the Germans in the building.

Moving Clock

Finally, if you are using HTD’s Moving Clock rules, then don’t take time passing too literally. If you set the time increments to 15 minutes and the clock doesn’t move in the game, who’s to say that 14 minutes and 23 seconds didn’t pass.

Nikolas Lloyd has an example to illustrate this:

Imagine this:

1. a platoon charges an MG.

2. The MG makes a reactive fire action and causes a suppression.Initiative switches.

3. The MG fires again and fails to suppress. Initiative switches.

4. The charging men rally, and continue the charge.

5. The MG fires again, but fails to suppress.

6. The platoon charges in, and fights a close combat, and somehow manages to lose. Initiative switches again.

That’s three switches of initiative. If a die roll at the end of an initiative says “move clock half hour forward”, then this series of actions could have taken between 90 and 120 minutes. On the other hand, it might be easier to imagine that the whole sequence was over in a few seconds. Between 2 and 3 there might not even be a pause. Perhaps a couple of men dived for cover, while others continued to run, and some men glanced at their leader for reassurance, saw that he was surging forward undaunted, and inspired by this, they carried on. Between 4 and 5, there might not even have been an interruption to a continuous stream of bullets, but perhaps a new belt was fed into the gun, taking a couple of seconds.

On the other hand, perhaps between 3 and 4, darkness fell, and the men spent the night within range of the enemy, too scared in the moonlight to move. The following day, the men had a second go.

I have heard tales of Russians being mown down by German MG fire during the day, then lying still until darkness, then standing up and charging anew.

See also some thoughts about how to represent Crossfire’s non-linear time scale including Hit the Dirt’s Moving Clock, an Analysis of the Moving Clock, and some variations Turns, Minutes, Clock ticks.

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