Tim swears and says “Where is my PC?” He had just tried to do a crossfire at an enemy stand and needed the PC to have line of sight of both the squads in the platoon and the target. His opponent had pointed out that the piece Tim thought was a PC was actually an FO. Tim had got the playing pieces confused. In fact, he’d probably done that about 20 minutes earlier, as his PC was back where the platoon had been at that point. An easy mistake to make as both a PC and an FO is a single figure on a stand that is 16mm x 32mm (5/8″ x 1 1/4″).
The Problem: FO and PC look the same
I’m always watching for things to make games easier, faster and less confusing. The most confusing aspect of Crossfire games is keeping track of which unit is what, which is why I spent a lot of time working on my stand labels.
Stand sizes and the number of figures on a stand are also key clues as to the nature of the stand. But this does not help when considering Platoon Commanders (PC) and Forward Observers (FO). These pieces look identical in standard Crossfire: a single figure on a stand that is 16mm x 32mm (5/8″ x 1 1/4″). It doesn’t even help when the single figure is obviously an infantry officer (pistol in hand, charging) or obviously a artillery forward observer (peering through binoculars with a radio nearby and perhaps a map on the ground). In the heat of battle players don’t look that closely. All they see is a single figure on a long thin base.
Because the visual clues are effectively identical these pieces often get confused and accidentally swapped during the game. At some point the mistake is noticed but usually after some time, meaning some previously taken actions were impossible:
- a PC calling in indirect fire
- an FO coordinating group fire or group moves
- an FO leading a close assault or rallying a squad
All of which leads to confusion and often a fair degree of upset given one or both players feel hard done by.
The Solution: Make the PC and FO look different
My solution is to make the PC and FO pieces look different by changing the shape of the base. I’m a metric guy so my squad bases are 30mm x 30mm and a PC is half of that, i.e. 15mm x 30mm.
I put the FOs on a base that is 20mm x 25mm. The area of both bases is about the same but the PC has the original long-thin base and the FO is on a short-wide base. It is pretty hard to confuse them, even in battle.