Chris Harrod, Jamie Wish and I played Crossfiregrad by Doctor Phalanx. Three times in fact. “Cracking” is how Jamie described it. I’d say “Ripping”. We will definitely play this again.
We managed three games in one evening because each game takes only 45-50 minutes with a theoretical hard limit of 60 minutes. The game represents a German company-level attack on Soviet positions. The map is “a very crude attempt to bathtub the whole of Stalingrad” and turns into a table only 3′ x 2′ 3″ given the size of my building sectors.
We had a fantastic time but there are some tweaks I’d suggest.
Why the scenario appealed
I want to play a few Stalingrad games, preferably by different authors, as practice for the big Crossfire event I’ve got planned. Doctor Phalanx’s Crossfiregrad fits nicely.
Jamie has only played a couple of games previously so I wanted a game suitable for a newbie. Doctor Phalanx also intends Crossfiregrad as an introductory Crossfire scenario. Tick.
I’ve been painting a lot of Ruins lately. So I wanted to get some on table. Crossfiregrad gives me a chance to get a mini version of the Gigantic Field of Ruins. [Unfortunately my large rubble piles were not ready in time for the game. So I used my normal terrain templates with small rubble piles on top.]
I haven’t used my Saitek Competition Pro Game Clock much. Crossfiregrad uses one. Tick.
Tweaks to the Scenario
I can’t help it, I have to tweak anything I get my hands on. Crossfiregrad is no exception. Doctor Phalanx lists seven “SCENARIO/HOUSE RULES”, most of which I’m fine with. But I did make some changes:
- changed the map; well, down scaled it anyway to fit my buildings
- changed scenario rule 2 (Tall buildings) for my game
- changed the worker’s cottages to a forest of chimneys
- added the Barmaley Fountain
I’m not a fan of rule 6 (ignore suppressed squads) but left it as is for the game.
Map for 3″x3″ building sectors
Doctor Phalanx supplied a map for a 4′ x 3′ table. However his building sectors are 4″x4″ and mine are 3″x3″. So I have to shrink the map accordingly. At my building scale the tables comes out at 3′ x 2′ 3″. You could also use a 3’x3′ table if you leave some blank space on both base lines. I’ve drawn the map accordingly for the 3′ x 2′ 3″ version. Notice the “Barmaley Fountain” and “Forest of Chimneys” in there – more on these later.
Now I have to admit that 3′ x 2′ 3″ is a strange size for a table. I don’t have one lying around. I do have a couple of 3′ x 2′ urban tables but what about that extra 3 inches? So I put my two urban tables together and used masking table to give the table size I need. Masking table is fantastic for moments like this.
Scenario Rule 2. Tall Buildings (T) Scenario Specific Rule
2. Each single-storey module can accommodate two full-size elements (Squad/CC). One extra full-size element is allowed for each additional storey, all positioned on the top floor. (I.e. taller buildings have more capacity and act as strongholds but all buildings are otherwise treated as single-storey for play purposes). No limit on PCs/Observers.
My building sectors are smaller, at 3″x3″, so don’t have a large physical capacity. In fact I deliberately chose 3″x3″ to match the normal capacity of a Crossfire building (2 squads and a PC). So I’m not sure the +1 storey = +1 squad capacity will work for me. Instead I used 1 storey = 2 squads and 2+ storeys = 3 squads.
Forest of Chimneys
Recently I painted some 15mm chimneys from Ironclad Miniatures. So I changed the worker’s cottages – a single large building sector – to a “Forest of Chimneys”. In game terms this was a “Woods” feature, so provided cover and blocked LOS.
I also recently acquired a 15mm version of the Barmaley Fountain from Stalingrad. Doctor Phalanx’s map doesn’t have this feature but does have a large square near the German deployment zone so I thought I’d put in there. Counts as “Rough Ground” feature.
Battle Report for Game 1
Now that the scenario tweaks are out of the way, what about the game? I’ll only give a battle report for the first game. Chris (Soviet) versus Jamie (German).
Chris massed in and around the objectives (Mill, Apartment Block, Factory). The apartment Block got a full platoon.
The Soviets in the Mill benefited from the increased “Stacking limit”, so they could get three fighting stands in each sector.
Chris kept a platoon back as a reserve and to protect the factory.
Jamie rolled for his objective (Factory) then spread his forces along the base line. In truth the Germans don’t have much scope for alternative deployment schemes as they can only deploy in seven features, most of which are in LOS of the Soviet deployment zone.
The Germans get a few tall buildings and Jamie took three of them up to the stacking limit. The remaining stands went into the piles of rubble between buildings.
Jamie chose to advance in the apartment complexes in the south, away from the objectives.
The table is not very big so it doesn’t take long before there is some shooting. In this case the Soviets shot at the Germans entering the complex.
The first kills didn’t take long. A Soviet in the Apartment Block.
Jamie is getting a bit of a reputation as a dice rolling fiend. Demonstrated in this game by more Soviet loses in quick succession.
But, being a Crossfire novice Jamie made a few mistakes. First up was crossing a road in full view of unsuppressed defenders.
The evening featured a few big hits by mortars. A natural kill with accompanying suppressions to neighbouring stands. The first was when Chris landed a shell amongst
Despite the losses Jamie’s troop pushed forward and came parallel with the Apartment Block.
Jamie found that the Germans run out of troops pretty quickly. So he tried to rally the squad stuck in the street. He smoked off the street and moved his Company Company up to conduct the rally. All very sensible but he missed his rally roll. So now both the squad and Company Commander were stuck in the Street. Oops.
Chris took the opportunity to reinforce the Apartment Building.
Jamie took another risky move and tried to get a HMG stand into the Barmaley Fountain in the square. It didn’t end too bad … one of two Soviet stands shooting at him went No Fire and the other scored a Pin.
Jamie tried again with a couple of rifle squads. The other Soviet rifle squad that had just shot went No Fire. I’m thinking “This is getting interesting!” I’m expecting Jamie to assault. I’m sure Chris is thinking the same thing.
Instead Jamie moved something to the south of the Apartment Block and the last defending squad goes No Fire. “Woohoo,” I was thinking. This is the time. Go, go, go. I’m pretty sure most experience players would have assaulted at that point. With all defending stands No Fire the attacker can do the numbers and figure out where they can hit the enemy with most effect.
But this was only Jamie’s third game and he chose to shoot instead. Mind you it scored a Suppress, stacking the odds of close combat further in his favour. If he hadn’t charged before he must charge now! At least that is what I thought. As it happens Jamie chose to shoot again, missed, and the No Fires were removed. I’m sure I heard Chris breath a sigh of relief.
Then another mortar bomb wrecks havoc amongst the Germans.
Continuing his previous plan Jamie pushed his HMG to the fountain.
The resulting No Fire in the defenders encouraged Jamie to finally charge.
The fight was brutal. Two German stands and two Soviet were destroyed in the Apartment Block. But the Germans still had a squad to take the ground.
Jamie thought he’d soften up the neighbours and the firefight restarted.
All this activity near the Apartment Block meant Chris pulled troops out of the Factory to reinforce the southern sector.
Finally Jamie saw his chance. The entire attack on the Apartment Block was a feint to draw Russians away from the Factory. He’d succeeded and started his real attack. But to get to the Factory he had to go through or past the Mill. Jamie’s first attempt was a frontal assault on the Mill covered by smoke.
Unfortunately, Chris had line of sight to the attack path and the assault stalled.
So Jamie decided to go around the Mill. And to do that he had to go through the Forest of Chimneys.
I had my doubts about this as a strategy. Chris had a lot of troops in the Mill. Sneaking past them was not really an option.
As soon as the German smoke cleared the Soviets opened up with mortars and machine guns. Yet another mortar bomb went off with a natural kill and suppressed a neighbour.
Any Germans that poked their noses out of cover were likely to get them blown off.
Back on the other flank the Soviets cleared the Apartment Block of Germanic intruders.
Chris then brought in extra troops to hold that part of the line.
Jamie tried again at the Forest of Chimney but again Soviet guns stopped the German advance dead.
And that was that. The German clock wound down to zero. Chris still had 11 minutes 22 seconds on the clock.
Jamie was aiming for the Factory but was no where close. Chris was still firmly entrenched in the Mill and Apartment Block. The Factory itself was empty but Jamie never had a chance to sneak in.
Battle Report for Game 2
Game 2 had Chris and Jamie swap sides. Chris played the German attacker targeting the Mill. He set up with his force spread along the front.
Jamie defended with the Soviets. His deployment was similar to Chris’s in the first game with a platoon in each of the Mill and Apartment and another behind. Jamie was, however, a little careless about keeping his platoons together to maximise firepower.
The game started with some spectacular successes by Soviet Mortar and machine gun fire. Chris lost quite a few stands when he was still in his deployment area. He conceded after 15 minutes of play.
Battle Report for Game 3
I joined the fun for Game 3. Jamie was the Soviet defender and set up in a similar fashion to the previous two games. I took the German attacker with the Apartment Block as my objective. I deployed one platoon facing the Apartment Block across the square. The other two platoons were massed on my right to conduct a right hook on the Apartment Block.
Part way through Jamie also managed to surprise me by running an FO out to the building to the north of Barmaley Fountain so he could bring indirect fire onto my troops in the Apartment Block. A bold move that I could do little about because of the FO was covered by friendly lines of fire. Great move there Jamie 🙂
It was a brutal game but I managed to clear the Apartment Block just as the German clock wound down to zero.
Conclusions / observations
Crossfiregrad is a really great scenario. Crossfire is tense anyway but the chess clock added an extra element that really made the games engrossing. Regardless of wins or losses, playing or being a spectator, everybody really enjoyed all of the games. Absolutely recommended. A much better game than, for example, the Stalingrad Scenario from the Crossfire Book.
Although called “Crossfiregrad”, and being based on Stalingrad, the scenario easily transfers to another theatre. British or Canadian attacking into German held Caan in June 1944, for example.
It was interesting for us old grognards to be playing with a Crossfire newbie, and watching him make innocent mistakes. For example, Jamie didn’t spot the obvious moment to assault and chose to shoot instead. And Jamie also got his platoons mixed up a few times, so his shooting wasn’t as efficient as it could be. However, these are things that will come with experience. And already he seems a quick learner. He was making less mistakes by the third game of the evening. And as I mentioned Jamie managed to surprise me with his bold FO manoeuvre.
Barmaley Fountain seemed a nice atmospheric addition to the scenario. Not essential but not detrimental either. Only include it if you have a suitable centre piece for the square.
The Forest of Chimneys also worked well. And very nice for me to have these blighters on the table after 10 years in storage.
My variation on the tall buildings scenario rule seemed to work well. And all players used the tall buildings to advantage, taking the occupants to the “stacking limit”. I think having a higher stacking limit would have been too generous.
30 minutes per player seemed about right. Of course it is the attacking Germans that ran out of time and in every game the Soviet player had ample minutes on the clock at the game end. So games were about 45-50 minutes long. Game 2 was shorter, about 20 minutes, because Chris got blitzed on the base line; but this was due to spectacularly good dice luck by Jamie.
Despite being great fun we do think Crossfiregrad could be improved. The big problem is that Crossfiregrad seems biased against the Germans. Not massively but somewhat. Games 2 was a decisive Soviet victory despite the Soviet player being a novice (Jamie) and the German player having considerable experience (Chris). Admittedly there was a fair bit of dice luck in that particular result but this was only possible because the Soviets could target the Germans on their base line. Game 1 was also a Soviet victory with 11 minutes still on the Soviet clock at game end. Game 3 was the only German victory but was a near run thing. Jamie was literally removing the last Soviet stand from the Apartment Block as my timer went. It should have been a resounding victory for the Germans as I had everything in my favour: (1) an experienced player attacking (Steven); (2) who was familiar with the scenario as he’d read it many times and drawn a map for it; (3) who had watched two games previously and hence had developed a good strategy; (4) playing against a newbie (Jamie). But I only just barely made it. So, despite having three great games, we think the scenario is biased to towards the Soviets. In two of the games the Germans just ran out of troops.
With this in mind I ran the numbers. For a small game with Germans as the attacker they should get 80 points. Crossfiregrad gave them 82.5 points (up 2.5 points). Similarly the Soviets (using German command & control ) should have 76 points; this scenario gave them 70 (down 6 points). So in terms of points the Germans have an advantage. But the Soviets have a distinct positional advantage. They have more troops, have big platoons with massive firepower, occupy the objectives, so don’t have to move too much, have a small frontage to cover, so have internal lines of communications, and line of sight to most of the German deployment zone. This combines to give the Soviets a huge advantage.
We recommend either giving the Germans more troops and/or the Soviets less troops. I’m not sure how much to add/remove but here are some options:
- Remove one Soviet HMG (-6 points)
- Reduce all Soviet Platoons to three rifle squads (-9 points)
- Remove one Soviet HMG and one rifle squad (-9 points)1
- Remove two Soviet HMG (-12 points)
- Add a veteran German SMG squad2 (+3.5 points)
- Add a veteran German Combat Engineer squad2 (+5 points)
(1) Probably the option I’ll try next time. Probably lose the HMG and rifle squad from different platoons. So the Soviets will end up with asymmetric forces: 4 squad rifle platoon plus HMG, 4 squad rifle platoon; 3 squad rifle platoon plus HMG.
(2) Added to one of the platoons
I’ve also found, with experience, that it is a good idea in a scenario to give attackers some way to redeploy. This gives them a chance to try attacking down one line, then change their mind and go another way. The Crossfiregrad map as drawn does not allow the Germans lateral movement. Any movement in the German deployment zone will attract reactive fire. Lateral movement would have been useful for Jamie in our first game when he was finished with his feint towards the Apartment Block and wanted to deliver the main attack towards the Factory. Similarly it would have been useful for Chris in Game 2 when he found himself a sitting duck in front of the Soviet HMGs; without a means to move somewhere else he was forced to sit and take it, which led to a short and less satisfying game. There are two ways to provide lateral movement to the Germans in Crossfiregrad:
- Give the Germans the option to move off their base line and, next friendly initiative, move on again anywhere on their base line. This has the big advantage that the map doesn’t have to change.
- Add more depth to the map with some covered lines of lateral movement. Probably only another 3″ depth is need, making a table 3′ x 2′ 6″, with some building complexes. This would be aesthetically more pleasing but won’t appeal to Doctor Phalanx who has built a customised base board for Crossfiregrad.
Rule 6 “Ignore suppressed” didn’t seem to add anything to the game so I won’t use it again in the future. Some people play this house rule to speed up the game. I don’t see a need. The answer is use a different tactic in the game not to change the rules.
We will definitely play Crossfiregrad again. Ripping good fun.
Doctor Phalanx. Crossfiregrad. Author.
All posts related to Crossfiregrad.
Doctor Phalanx. (2015, January). Crossfiregrad Scenario. Author.
6 thoughts on “Crossfiregrad – A Battle Report of the Crossfire Scenario by Doctor Phalanx”
What a great report and lovely looking game. I follow your weekly reports which are all good, but this one has taken it a step higher. I need to get my xfire out of the box and this scenario would play great at a club night… Thanks for this.
M J I’m glad you enjoyed this battle report. It takes quite a lot of effort to do one of these so getting positive feedback is much appreciated. And yes, this would be a great little game for a club night … assuming you have all the buildings.
It’s splendid to see this scenario propagated but a little uncanny to see it with someone else’s buildings! I’ll respond in more detail next week.
Thanks for writing such a cracking scenario.
Nice work and thanks for sharing. Good learning tool for beginners.
Steven: I was very pleased to see the game run and reviewed in such detail. I like the Barmaley Fountain (must get one) and the Forest of Chimneys, I am happy with allowing the Germans to leave and return via their base edge, and your more cautious approach to ‘stacking limits’ for multistorey buildings is probably advisable and something I shall take on board.
My previous experience of Crossfire is that being allowed to ignore suppressed stands as a target priority makes the course of the game less deterministic and helps to keep things moving, but maybe this is something I should reappraise.
The existing game balance was simply the trial-and-error result of the colletive play-testing we did. I am open to further tweaking if and when more games are reported. At the moment, however, I believe the game favours the German player if the objective is the Mill or Flats, though perhaps less so if it is the Factory.
I haven’t really worked on a ‘best Soviet strategy’, but I have a pretty good idea of the best ways for the Germans to capture the Mill or Flats. (Taking the Factory generally requires overcoming most if not all the Soviet forces, but it has been done.)
The German player does need to be very aggressive, to maximise use of dead ground and smoke, and to concentrate the attack. It’s not a role for a novice or passive player. If everything is done properly the German player can win. If not he runs out of troops.