Fogo Cruzado: Crossfire House Rules for the Portuguese Colonial War

Fogo Cruzado is my variant of Crossfire for the Portuguese Colonial War of the 1960s and 1970s. It derives from my general thoughts on Wargaming Rules for the Portuguese Colonial War. All my Crossfire House Rules apply. These house rules are specific to Fogo Cruzado.

Table of Contents

  1. Figure to Man Ratio
  2. Types of Stands
  3. Other Troop Characteristics
  4. Orders of Battle
  5. African Terrain
  6. Fieldcraft, Concealment and Tracking
  7. Transport
  8. Aircraft

Figure to Man Ratio

Fogo Cruzado is more or less 1:1 scale, i.e. one figure represents one man. This is because:

  • All belligerents basically used a reinforced platoon as their basic operational unit, although this was more commonly called a combat group or bi-grupo or just group.
  • Troops such as the Portuguese Commandos and Paratroopers were organised into small teams of five (to facilitate deployment by helicopter) and it makes sense to have this as a smallest tactical unit, i.e. equivalent to the squad in standard Crossfire.

Types of Stands

The implication of more or less 1:1 scale is that a basic stand represents a fire team of 3-6 men rather than a squad of 9-12. The types of stand reflect the range of weapons in use during the Portuguese Colonial War.

The most common types of stands are:

Small Arms Teams

Small arms include rifles and sub-machine guns (SMG). The bulk of of small arms teams will be equipped with rifles of one type or another. Rifle Teams are treated like a normal Crossfire Rifle Squad regardless of the particular composition and equipment. There is little to distinguish the various types of team these under the rules. Examples of Rifle Teams are:

The final type of small arms team is the Scout (or Sentry).

Bolt Action Rifle Team

Less well equipped troops had WW2 vintage bolt action rifles. They are treated like a normal Crossfire Rifle Squad however many will suffer from the Untrained special rule. But not all will be Untrained, for example, UNITA were generally poorly equipped but were considered good fighters.

Assault/Battle Rifle Team

Assault rifles are the default infantry weapon in this period. The AK47 Assault Rifle was the most common weapon amongst the insurgents. The Portuguese uses a heavier calibre weapon, the G3 Battle Rifle.

Assault/Battle Rifle and LMG Team

The Portuguese had the Dreyse MG13, M42-59, and Madsen as the section support weapon. The Portuguese combined a LMG with Battle Rifles in small fire teams, for example, a fire team might comprise a MG42-59 gunner and four guys with G3 rifles. These teams did not break down further. The insurgents also combined their LMG with assault rifles; often the insurgent weapons were Soviet in origin.

Assault Rifle and RPG Team

The insurgents often used their RPG teams as a team support weapon for anti-personnel fire (like a LMG). Same applies for insurgents with Bazookas. They are treated like a normal Crossfire Rifle Squad however will benefit from anti-tank capability as well.

SMG Team

Some Insurgents were equipped with WW2 era sub-machine guns. SMG Teams are treated like a normal Crossfire SMG Squads.

Scout (or Sentry) Team

Scout and Sentry Teams are a new troop type for Fogo Cruzado. They represent one or two men with a specific role and are on a small base. These small teams shoot with 2d6 into the open / 1d6 into cover. They can only initiate close combat with another Scout or Sentry and fight in close combat with a -2 modifier. Scouts are likely to have the Tracker characteristic.

Heavy Weapons Team

Heavy weapons in Fogo Cruzado are treated the same as in normal Crossfire, e.g. arc of fire and penalty in close combat.

There are four types of heavy weapons teams common in Africa:

Bazooka Team

Both sides used man portable rocket launchers including Bazookas and RPGs, however, the Portuguese kept their rocket launchers in separate teams reporting to the platoon (combat group) commander. The Portuguese used their rocket launchers when the target was in cover, e.g. in a bunker, entrenchment, building, or just behind an ant hill. A Bazooka Team represents one of these Portuguese stands, regardless of the specific weapon utilised.

In the game a Bazooka Team represents a guy with the weapon plus another guy who is the loader and/or ammunition carrier. A Bazooka Team:

  • Counts as a heavy weapon in melee (-2; cannot initiate; can be supported by a Rifle Squad)
  • Must be attached to an infantry platoon (combat group) for the duration of the game.
  • Is treated as a part of that platoon for movement purposes.
  • Can be attached (within 1 base width) of rifle team from the platoon and support that team in fire actions.

A Bazooka Team may fire in one of two ways:

  • The stand may fire in the anti-armour role using the normal anti-tank fire rules; admittedly this will be rare in the Portuguese Colonial War
  • The stand may augment the fire of a Rifle Team it is attached to by adding one fire dice to the total number of dice thrown when engaging targets in cover. For example, a Rifle Team throws 2d6 at a target in cover but this becomes 3d6 with an attached Bazooka Team.

MMG Team

The Portuguese had medium machine guns, typically the MG42 or MG42-59 on a tripod and equipped for sustained fire at the company and battalion level. I’m sure the Insurgents could field something similar. MMG Teams are treated like a normal Crossfire HMG stand.

HMG Team

All parties had access to heavy machine guns. They are treated like a normal Crossfire .50 Cal machine gun, i.e. like a HMG stand but with light anti-armour capability.

Recoilless Rifle Team

Both sides used Recoilless Rifles. They were, for example, part of the official Portuguese order of battle. However their use was limited by the difficulty of transport. The Portuguese mounted some 57mm Recoilless guns on trucks so they might appear in a convoy. Recoilless guns might also appear in attack or defence of a base.

They are a direct fire gun with both HE and anti-tank capability. The stands are heavy weapons.

Mortar Team

Mortars were common in Africa. I have my light mortars (50-60mm) on-table and treat them as Forward Observers (FO) in Crossfire. I count any heavier on-table mortars as heavy weapons stands. See my standard rules for Direct Fire Mortars.

Civilian stands

The division between insurgents and civilians is often blurred. From my perspective a guy with a gun is an insurgent. There are three other category of stand that appear in Fogo Cruzado two of which have weapons:

Bow Gang

A stand armed with bows and arrows shoots with 2d6 at targets in the open and 1d6 into cover. They close combat at -2 even if armed with spears and/or machetes.

Machete Gang

A stand solely armed with spears and/or machetes (pangas; the Portuguese called them catanas – a loan word from Japanese) cannot shoot but conducts close combat normally.

They are often Reckless.

Unarmed Civilians

Unarmed civilians are a feature of battlefields in guerrilla wars. Unarmed civilians will behave semi-randomly and may mill about (do nothing), shield friendly forces, flee towards friendly forces, or just run about hysterically.

The umpire or insurgent player controls all unarmed civilians. Unarmed civilians act before all armed insurgents. They are destroyed automatically in close combat and cannot shoot but are shot at normally. Failure of actions by unarmed civilians does not cause initiative to pass. An unarmed civilian stand will act if there is shooting in the vicinity and/or if they have line of sight to an enemy stand.

For each unarmed civilian stand roll 1d6 to determine their intention this initiative:

1d6 Unarmed Civilian Intention
1 Mill about (do nothing)
2 Mill about (do nothing)
3 Move towards nearest cover or next nearest if already in cover
4 Move towards enemy and away from friends
5 Move away from both enemy and friends
6 Move towards friends and away from enemy
7 Move towards friends and away from enemy

Modifier: +1 if shooting in vicinity

Shooting in the vicinity means any of the following applies to the stand when they roll their action die. The stand:

  • was shot at during the just finished enemy initiative or the preceding friendly initiative.
  • has line of sight to a stand that shot during the just finished enemy initiative or the preceding friendly initiative.
  • has line of sight to a stand that was shot at during the previous enemy initiative or the preceding friendly initiative.

A unarmed civilian stand must make a move action if their intention for the initiative is to “Move”. A stand must attempt two move actions if there is shooting in the vicinity otherwise one.

Command Stands

There are three types of command stand in Fogo Cruzado:

The distinction between Commanders and Command Teams is merely the number of men the stand represents not in any responsibilities. Both can have direct control of other stands. Command Teams fight better and, because they include a radioman, can call in off table assets.

A command stand that has direct control of combat stands can direct group fires by those stands. This is comparable to a platoon crossfire directed by a PC and a HMG crossfire directed by a company commander.

Both Commanders and Command Teams can also have subordinate Command Stands of either type.

A Political Commissar is a Commander with special characteristics.


A Commander represents the man himself and possibly one other. Aside from the fact they might command anything from a section to a battalion sized group they are treated like a standard Crossfire Platoon Commander. That means they are:

  • Based like a PC, e.g. 1 figure on a base
  • Cannot close combat except by supporting other teams
  • Cannot shoot

Command Team

A Command Team represents 4 or 5 men including the commander, radioman, medic, runners, etc. Aside from the fact they might command anything from a section to a battalion sized group they are treated like a standard Crossfire Company Commander that can shoot. They:

  • Based like a CC, e.g. multiple figures on a base
  • Can close combat without other teams being present
  • Can shoot like a Rifle Team
  • Adds a +1 bonus when rallying a stand; this reflects the fact the command team has a medic and riflemen to add to subordinate team to bring them up to strength; Example: a +1 Command Team can rally with +2
  • Can act as an FO for any indirect fire or air assets (because the team includes a radioman)

Political Commissars

A Political Commissar is a commander with special abilities. The Commissar provides a +2 modifier in all close combats in which it is involved and provides +3 rally modifier when helping any Communist stands to rally. However, if a 1 is rolled during a rally attempt by a Commissar the failing stand’s state becomes one step worse, i.e. a pinned stand becomes suppressed and a suppressed stand becomes killed.

Other Troop Characteristics

Aside from the stand type and morale there are several other characteristics to describe troops in the Portuguese Colonial War:

Untrained aka Armed Civilians

Armed civilians lack military training so often do the wrong thing in combat. The effects are:

  • They cannot ground hug as the individuals have a tendency to run away when shot at
  • They cannot conduct a crossfire (although they can do a fire group)
  • They must reactive fire if they have the option as they lack fire discipline. They player can choose for another stand or stands to take the reactive shot but somebody is going to shoot if an armed civilian could.

Armed civilians are also likely to be Green troops and suffer that consequences of that as well.

Timid – won’t initiate close combat

Some armed civilians are so unenthusiastic that they won’t initiate close combat.

Reckless: Machismo and Magic

Some government troops liked to close with the enemy and are classified as Reckless, e.g. Fletchas and Portuguese including conscripts.

Many insurgents were animists and some, particularly the poorly armed types from early in the war (typically Machete Gangs), believed they were magically protected from Portuguese bullets. These troops also count as Reckless.


I have moved to this Musing on Looting in Fogo Cruzado until it is play tested. It will probably end up a scenario house rule.

(Technologically) Uneducated

African troops were often poorly educated given the sophisticated technology they had available. In such situations:

  • -1 to the roll for Indirect Fire Smoke and Direct Fire ACC i.e. hit on 3+ rather than 2+
  • -1d6 for Indirect Fire Barrage and Direct Fire HE


Until I have developed more advanced rules for fieldcraft, concealment and tracking, a Tracker gets +1 in RBF, i.e. they spot on 5+ rather than 6+.

Dragoon: Horse Mounted Troops

The Portuguese fielded “Dragoons”, i.e. men on horses. These guys had a certain attitude that the rules have to reflect: they tended to charge with guns blazing. What is interesting is that this tactic was effective against the insurgents who tended to panic and run.

The special rules are:

  • Can fight mounted or dismounted.
  • Dismounted they are treated as infantry in all ways.
  • When mounted these rules apply:
    • Require a successful Rally from Pin roll to dismount – and remember the +1 for being out of sight of enemy; failure means loss of initiative. Once dismounted, they cannot remount during the game.
    • Can’t enter/attack buildings or fortifications, or cross barbed wire, and may not ground hug or use trenches.
    • Shoot with 2d6 regardless of cover
    • Are Reckless Troops, i.e. if moving to close combat Ignore “pin” but “suppress” = “kill”.
    • +2 in close combat

Orders of Battle

See the Orders of Battle page.

African Terrain

All the Terrain Types from Crossfire and Hit the Dirt are applicable.

Four features of the African Terrain need elaboration:

“Long Grass” / “Elephant Grass” Terrain Feature

There is one new terrain type = Long Grass also called Elephant Grass. Treat as an in season field.

Rice Paddy

Guinea-Bissau, but not other theatres, has rice paddies. A rice paddy feature is made up of the paddy field and the surrounding raised dyke. The paddy field counts as a field feature which can be “Dry”, i.e. an out of season field, or “Wet”, i.e. and in-season field. The raised dyke is treated as a series of wall features.

Feature Shape Indirect Cover Direct Cover Block LOS
Wet Rice Paddy Field Area No Yes Yes
Dry Rice Paddy Field Area No Yes No
Raised Rice Paddy Dyke Linear Yes Yes No

Wheeled vehicles are not permitted to cross Raised Rice Paddy Dykes or enter Wet Rice Paddy Fields. Tracked vehicles may do so but must test for bogging down each time they move or pivot.

Very Dense Jungle

Several theatres had very dense jungle. This is not a new type of feature as it is simply represented by lots of woods features close together, just like a dense wood.

Open, Moderate and Dense Woods or Jungle

Mines – lots of them – and mine detection / clearing

?? TODO ??

A Portuguese Rifle Team equipped with Pica counts as an engineer stand for detecting and removing mines.

Fieldcraft, Concealment and Tracking

I have moved this to Musing on fieldCraft, concealment, and tracking in Fogo Cruzado until it has been through play testing.


In Africa cross country transport was provided by wheeled vehicles, helicopters and planes. That corresponds to trucks, air assault and parachute drops.

Off-road wheeled vehicles

Use the Hit the Dirt bogging special rule. Normal wheeled vehicles should bog easily when off road and on road in the rainy season. Specialist vehicles like the Unimog should not bog on hard ground and bog relatively rarely on softer ground. The Portuguese sometimes charged off road on Unimogs to pursue ambushers.

HTD Special Rule 5: Bogging down is in use

  • Difficult going includes woods, rough ground, rock fields, boulder fields, streams, and anti-tank obstacles (ditches, barricades) that is also off road
  • Off road vehicles bog down in difficult going on 2- on 1d6. They unbog on 3+, becoming permanently mired on 1.
  • On road vehicles bog down in difficult going on 5- on 1d6. They unbog on 3+, becoming permanently mired on 2-.
  • On road vehicles bog down off road, and in the open, on 4- on 1d6. They unbog on 5+, becoming permanently mired on 1.

Air Assault: Inserting and evacuating ground troops

Use the Mount / Move / Dismount options in CF11.1.2 APC Passenger Capacity. It takes at least three initiatives for a helicopter to land troops and take off again. In the first they move to the landing zone (LZ). They are now considered hovering about the LZ. In the next initiative the helicopter lands and the troops dismount. In the third initiative the chopper takes off and moves away.

This requirement to hover makes the helicopter vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire. It also makes the troopers dismounting troops vulnerable to ground fire. The main thing stopping the enemy from rushing troops to to the location of a helicopter to shoot at the dismounting troops is the fact that the helicopter is likely to be armed and any enemy moving into range are subject to reactive fire. Troop carrying helicopters were often covered by a helicopter gunship.

A common tactic was for helicopters to land at several different LZ to confuse the enemy about where the troops were actually inserted. Rather than actual stands the player can dismount a Sneaker at each LZ. As usual the player must note which troops if any the Sneaker represents, so the Sneaker might be a dummy or real.

Like other passenger vehicles helicopters have a capacity (load) expressed in terms of slots. A small (2 man) team uses one slot. A large team uses up two slots. A commander (1 man) rides free but a command team (4-5 men) is a large team and uses two slots.

Helicopter Load (Slots) Armament
Alouette III 2 Twin MGs
Puma SA330 6 None or twin 0.30

Parachute drops

A Combat Group of paratroops can drop on each DZ each initiative. For each stand (team, command team, crew served weapon) drop a base sized of paper from 2′ above the DZ. The stand’s fate depends on where the paper lands:

Where 1d6 Result
On structure, orchards or woods feature, rock or boulder fields, cliffs
1-2 Killed
3-4 Suppressed
5-6 OK
Off table or in impassable water (lakes, sea, deep/wide/fast rivers) N/A Killed
Anywhere else N/A OK

Paratroops cannot move in the initiative in which they land. Reactive and Ambush fire is conducted normally with the paratroopers counted as in the open in the turn in which they land.

Initiative does not pass if any are paratroopers are Suppressed or Killed due to the landing itself; initiative passes as normal for other reasons for example reactive fire, failure to rally, etc.


See Tactical Air Support (TacAir) and Helicopters for Fogo Cruzado / Crossfire

Sources of Inspiration

See Sources for Fogo Cruzado.

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