Ground Scale in Crossfire with Maps

In my previous post on Ground Scale in Crossfire I concluded that anything 1:300 to 1:1700 is defensible, but my own preference is 1:1000. I’ve taken that further and compared my preference with the extremes. What do 1:300, 1:1000, and 1:1700 look like on table.

Ground Scale

Now scaling a map is trivial, you really don’t have to do anything, just declare the map drawn to a different scale. The trick with ground scale is to match the new map against real measurements. In our case small arms range and company frontage.

The relevant sections of the Crossfire rules are:

  • CF1.0 Prepare to Play, subsection Ground Scale/Time scale (p. 1): “The action takes place within the effective range of small arms”
  • CF Scenario Generator (p. 31) recommends a 4’x4′ table for one company battles and 4’x6′ table for a two company battle; in the latter case the battle could be fought either length ways (4′ wide) or across the table (6′ wide)

Maximum small arms range was accepted as 400 metres. More typically small arms fire would be at 200 metres, often less. Some say 100 metres was normal combat range. That really isn’t far.

CF Scenario Generator (p. 31) recommends a 4’x4′ table for one company battles. Unit frontages varied by nation – see Infantry Unit Frontages during WW2 (covering Soviet, German and British) and USMC Unit Frontages in Late WW2. The official defensive sector of a Russian Rifle company was 700 metres wide. The Soviet figure is in the middle of the range of frontages for a German company defensive position (400-1,000 metres). British frontages were up to Up to 925 metres. USMC frontages were similar to these with a defensive frontage 1000 yards (914 metres) in open terrain, 500 yards (457 metres) in close terrain. I’ve gone for 400 and 1000 as indicative min/max frontages with a typical frontage being 700 metres. By the way, I’m using defensive figures here, not attacking, because I think the frontage of the defending force dictates the size of playing area.

For a two company battle, the CF Scenario Generator recommends a 4’x6′ table. The two company unit frontages assumes 700 metres for each company, with a 100 metre gap between. The gap could be much wider as the Soviets, for example, could allow up to 1,500 metres between companies.

I elaborate on that a lot on this in my previous post on Ground Scale in Crossfire. In this post I take existing maps and see what they look like in 1:300, 1:1000, and 1:1700. The example 4’x4′ map is that from Crossfire For Novices – A Scenario to Introduce Newbies. The example 4’x6′ map is from SU-76i in 1902nd SAP – A Crossfire Scenario.

Crossfire at 1:1000 Ground Scale

I start with 1:1000 as I think it is the most likely ground scale represented in the rules. You can look at my previous work on Ground Scale in Crossfire for why I believe this. My preference is mainly because the historical company frontages match the guidelines from the Crossfire rules: One company on a 4’x4′ table and two on a 4’x6′ table. I also think this reflects how the figures are deployed on table. An on table Crossfire force – whether a company or two company – will take up the space indicated on the the maps. It looks right.

Crossfire at 1-1000 Ground Scale
Crossfire at 1-1000 Ground Scale

Crossfire at 1:300 Ground Scale

Hit the Dirt says 4′ map edge is anywhere from 400 to 600 metres. This corresponds to ground scales from 1:333 up to 1:500 so on the small end of the scale. Looking at the Crossfire forum 1:300 seems to the most commonly accepted ground scale – amongst those who have an opinion. This is the low end of my analysis on Ground Scale in Crossfire.

Unfortunately 1:300 ground scale does not align with historical company frontages and the guidelines from the rules. Only if a company was on a compressed frontage would it fit on 4’x4′ table. Typical company frontages (700m) are much wider, let alone the maximum (1000m). Same problem exists with a two company frontage; a 1500 metres frontage doesn’t fit on a 4’x6′ table at 1:300 scale, not even close.

Crossfire at 1-300 Ground Scale
Crossfire at 1-300 Ground Scale

Having said all that, I can imagine this scale being appropriate for a Crossfire Scenario. It all depends on the context. If the historical combat was on a narrow frontage, with a small/weak/understrength unit, then 1:300 might be appropriate.

Crossfire at 1:1700 Ground Scale

1:1700 was at the upper end of my analysis on Ground Scale in Crossfire. Personally I think this is to big, so I’m just including it for completeness.

As you can see from the images, the company frontages (min, max, two company) are small on a table at 1:1700 ground scale. Now, that could work on a thinly defending front, which is why Soviet doctrine allowed for a gap of up to 1700 metres between companies. But generally this isn’t going to work. Particularly as the figures on table will spread, and ignore that official gap.

Crossfire at 1-1700 Ground Scale
Crossfire at 1-1700 Ground Scale

Crossfire at three Ground Scale

Finally a comparison of the three ground scales. 1:300 is a table 360 metres across, 1:1000 is 1200 metres, and 1:1700 is 2040 metres across.

Three Crossfire Ground Scales on 4x4 Table
Three Crossfire Ground Scales on 4×4 Table

It might just be me, but 1:300 is too small, 1:1700 is too big and 1:1000 is just right.

24 thoughts on “Ground Scale in Crossfire with Maps”

  1. Oh, I love thought experiments like these and had taken notice of your previous posts when I was researching CF to see if I wanted to get it. I ended up getting it largely do to your site, but didn’t comment back then as I hadn’t played it yet. So, please keep in mind, that the following comments are of a CF newb who, honestly, has become maybe slightly disillusioned with the RAW. So adding my thoughts to the thought experiment, if I may.

    One of the first things you mention is 400m accepted ‘combat range’. First, what is that? What defines, or what is the definition, of ‘combat range’? Maybe suppression or morale effective fire, but not lethality surely? But from personal experience and modern weaponry… nah. Why I say that is, again in my experience, 300m is max for a good experienced shooter with modern weaponry to be lethal, assuming unsupported chaotic ‘two-way rifle range’ engagements. Heck, even in ideal; supported, groomed range, no shooty back targets, many modern instructors suggest skipping the 300m popup targets and saving those rounds to be able to re-engage closer targets that are missed for troopers who are ‘average’ (first time firers and ‘experienced’ firers who have ‘bad habits’) in hopes of increasing qualification acceptable scores. Additionally I’d add the thought that 300+m is hard to find without cover, or more likely concealment, in combat environments. Anyway, if the ‘book answer is 400m, so be it,’ just something I thought when reading the post.

    Now, as I understand it, based on the terrain guidance of CF – if there isn’t intervening terrain, an ‘average’ soldier can shoot all the way across the map. If we assume that they are ‘effective’ at such a ‘combat range’, then that is something to consider with regards to the 1:300m map. ‘Defensive Front’… well, I have thoughts about that as well, but not a rabbit hole necessary for this discussion. Suffice it to say, that’s not linear man-to-man arms outstretched. More like what might be patrolled, with the company covering a much smaller area, based on the enemy’s most likely avenues of approach. Anyway, anyway, I digress. Thinking of what I actually recall as ‘official’ guidance, as company frontage isn’t mentioned as I recall in the rules, I believe there is some wiggle room on explaining why you might find two companies occupying a given CF map at a smaller scale.

    Since CF, with its movement rules, exemplifies ‘the tip of the spear’ contact it would also go to a rationalization, that the second company may be support or a flanking deployment for the defense? Not the original defensive force. Makes for interesting paradox for scenario writing, explaining why one Company might have fortifications where the second may not, why the second Company could deploy further on one side than the other in the defense (flanking support), etc. Maybe, for justification sake, the second Company is a reserve force called up, or an unengaged flank force flexing. There’s a myriad of reasons to explain both.

    That all being said, and removing my ‘Devil’s Advocate’ hat, I agree; 1:1000 seems right based on scale of models and terrain conventionally used, 1:300 is justifiable, and 1:1700 is a stretch. If 1:300 was used, I’d go with the corresponding miniature and adjust BUA accordingly. Just fun thoughts for discussion. Love the site by the way.

    • Chet, I’m trying to address Crossfire’s comment that “The action takes place within the effective range of small arms”. “Effective range of small arms” is not very far; I’ve seen people argue anywhere from 100m to 400m. Your 300m is in that range. The question is, is that 300m the entire Crossfire table or a subset. I think this it is a subset … where the “action takes place” is.

      • “The action takes place within the effective range of small arms,” implies, and I believe you’ve broached the subject in previous post, that it is easy to believe based on terrain guidance and layout of CF games, that that is from terrain feature to terrain feature, supporting a 1:1000 table scale.

        However, am I not mistaken (see response below to Martin and you), that that is a sub-question to your actual crux of how to design scenarios? As I tried to explain there, in that context, I am currently leaning with the apparent masses, that though I agree weapon’s effective ranges and ‘by the book’ frontages support 1:1000, everything thing I SEE contradicts that.

        What I know is often and easily replaced with what I see.

        • Chet, I’m not sure what you are referring to when you say, “everything thing I SEE contradicts that”.

          • Sorry, I am terrible at conveying what I am thinking to text. I will attempt to be more succinct. When I look at a normal CF table I don’t SEE an area of 4×6 kilometers because of the scale of miniature and and corresponding scale of terrain. You can SAY that the scenario represents 4×6 kilometers, but when the tools-of-the-trade hit the table, it all shrinks down visually from 4×6 kilometers to 400×600 meters, or there abouts. Until CF’s regularly used model scale, on the majority of the tables the scenario is being played on shrinks, then visually it will APPEAR to not represent the intended scale that the scenario intended. We don’t see miniature rounds flying across the table , we see the scales of the miniatures. We don’t see the actual physical lay of the land in kilometers suggested in the scenario, we see the out of scale representation of that terrain, to the 1:1000 scale scenario, we’ve built. Which, is to the miniature scale not the scenario scale.

            Well crap, that probably is no better an explanation, sorry.

          • Ah, I get what you’re talking about.

            Personally I don’t have that problem. When a Crossfire game starts, I don’t see the 15mmm figures. I don’t see there are only 3 figures on a stand representing an entire squad. I see a company or battalion attack going in. And I fight it like that.

    • In terms of shooting across the table, I address this in the earlier post on Ground Scale. Basically terrain density impacts range and the community guideline is about 6 terrain pieces across a 4′ table. That severely constrains “effective range of small arms”.

      • 😉 Oh, I’ve read it. There probably isn’t a page I haven’t read on this site after discovering CF. I am just finding myself reevaluating my conclusions of scale as I read more and discuss. Thanks for that. As a result, and thankfully before going whole-hog into actual table top play of CF, I am now reconsidering miniature and scenery scale I want to pursue.

    • Yes, scenarios could have second companies in reserve, I do this occasionally. In one scenario I have an entire battalion in reserve on a 4’x6′ table. But that isn’t what the guideline in Crossfire is referring to.

    • Hey Chet, thanks for the discussion, I find this interesting!

      I think your concerns are general to most wargaming, right? At some point, miniatures and scenery in tabletop wargames are no more than tokens; possibly more “realistic” tokens than counters in a hex-and-counter game, but tokens nonetheless. If you think about it, even if you got the scale 1:1, it’s still an abstraction: real soldiers are not static figures, standing frozen in the location you place them; they are actually moving, crouching, shouting orders, and generally “covering” an area that is larger than the physical stand. All wargaming is necessarily an abstraction, so I wouldn’t count this against Crossfire or any specific scale. Like Steven, I don’t see stands of 3 figures (except when I’m painting them and I’m made painfully aware of my limitations), but rather I imagine 10 men running, crouching and shouting.

      You say you’ve become slightly disillusioned with Crossfire (which is understandable, since it does have limitations). May I ask if you’ve found a more satisfying ruleset, or is it maybe Crossfire+house rules?

      • Andres, I am finding the discussion interesting as well. As I often say though, I get to waxing philosophical rather easily and some of my points, well, let’s say, many people often find them ‘unnecessary’ or me detracting from the topics at hand. (I take tangents and bird walk, looking for squirrels).

        Steven suggests, for many valid reasons I agree with, that the ground scale, or table scale, is 1:1000. My meandering mind, got philosophical, and started thinking why do so many people, considering Steven’s valid points, assume more of a 1:300-1:600 scale then. Maybe because that is the typical scale other similarly scaled (model count/company level) games claim. Maybe it’s because they are like me and adjust to what they see. I really hadn’t thought about table scale previously to this detail honestly. I, like you, just envisioned my men (digital PowerPoint representations in my case) fighting it out over the countryside.

        This led me to my thoughts that maybe, like me – who is very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSWYG) kind of person, it was driven by abstractions. I find it interesting where we draw the lines of abstraction in regard to wargaming, and thought maybe that was the mitigating factor to the scale discrepancies of people on the topic. We demand properly armed miniature representations, often exquisitely painted, but abstract their size and quantity. We build and paint terrain that are dioramas (sp?) of a farm, but can call it, and for some envision it, a village. Maybe I lack imagination, or too much of a realist, and that bleeds into my play and discussion?

        I guess when I start drilling down into particulars, that becomes more apparent. My mind says, ‘if we are going to drill down into this, to find an answer, let’s find it and ‘fix’ (address/come to a consensus) it so we, or others, don’t have to ask or address it again.’ I admit, it’s not broken though, so there really isn’t anything to fix (no one really plays wrong). As Steven remarked, “It is up to them. They should do whatever they like.” It’s just how my mind works and what I am driven to do.

        I thought, if the goal is to figure out, for example what sections of a historical map to use in a scenario, let’s address or remove those abstractions so we can. If not, if we are okay with other abstractions, then why or does it really matter what portion of that map we use? We can continue to abstract an additional part of our play, or we can match the scale of the scenario to the terrain we model on our table, or vice versa (change our terrain), my mind says. Of course there are other options, but that’s where my mind went. Again, none of it, or anyone, is wrong, it is just my thoughts as they unfolded. If you’re good with recreating the fight of Stalingrad with a couple buildings representing a city at a Battalion+ level, groovy, go for it. I’d say, if your playing against me, I am going to be fighting platoons over maybe a few city blocks, and that is what is great about wargaming IMHO. You can be across the table from me abstracting that each building is a city block and each stand is a platoon or company, and I can see a building and a squad, and we can both have a great experience playing the same game.

        Well… @#$%, I meant to answer your question, El Oh El. I will try to remain on point and as succinct as I can be then, now that I have rambled on et nauseum. I was excited about CF because of its novel movement. Though novel, it in my limited play experience, didn’t address issues I have with wargaming movement as much as I’d hoped. As I’ve mentioned, I tend to lean much more toward a simulation wargamer I suppose, vs an abstract one.

        So, though I really enjoy CF, I am still looking for my personal ‘holy grail’ rules set. That might very well be Crossfire + House Rules, and honestly probably is due to the way I play (electronically, which isn’t very conducive to measuring). But I also found a few others I am hopeful of as well, that I want to try, for example; Fight Your Own Battles, Nuts! and Fireball Forward, to name a few, but those three are on the top of my ‘to play/test’ list.

          • I don’t know if I was meaning for it (simulation and abstraction) to be a ‘versus’ measure, or paradigm. (Thinking) Did it appear that way? I can definitely see the corollaries between simulation, abstraction and playability that you mentioned in the linked post, in regard to game design. I believe we can have high or low levels of simulation with high or low levels of abstraction. I do think that these are also subjective though as to their impact on playability. But yeah, different area of discussion, but one I will probably enjoy ruminating on for a bit though too.

  2. That is an interesting analysis Stephen, but I think some of those estimates for company defensive frontages are extreme. More likely to be a series of company defended localities garrisoned at the recommended density (typically 4 to 600 yards with two platoons up and one back) and the gaps between localities covered by fire and patrols. These sorts of positions don’t work well in tactical games unless you model the flanking fire onto the table from the adjoining localities. So in a roundabout way I’m saying I tend to view CF as having a smaller ground scale than 1:1000. Some between 1:300 to 1:600. In practical terms, it doesn’t matter too much, but obviously it impacts the translation of maps onto the tabletop.

    • Martin, Totally agree that, for the game, ground scale makes no difference. I only care about ground scale when converting maps of the historical battles to scenario maps for the tabletop.

      The company frontages I give are from official sources of various nations. This gives the numbers a certain level of credibility. From my perspective there is also quite a lot consistency. 700 metres for a company frontage seems the norm, with a gap between that and the adjacent companies. Mind you, being official, this is probably full strength companies and weaker companies would cover less ground. It would be great if somebody had done an analysis of actual company frontages, but I’m not aware of any such source.

      All the sources I used assume the platoons are in an appropriate formation, usually 2 up with 1 back. Obviously with gaps between. So the position of the platoons doesn’t reduce the company frontage.

      I’ve explained (in the two posts) why I think 1:300 is plausible but unlikely. 1:300 just doesn’t align with historical company frontages; a 360 metre frontage for a company is half the official frontages. I can think of three instances where this size of table, hence company frontage, might be appropriate:

      • If the defending company is massively understrength, e.g. has only two platoons or perhaps 2 squads in each platoon; but in CF such a company will struggle to hold a frontage on a 4′ table
      • If the company we are focussed on is attacking, not defending; 360 metres is entirely okay for an attacking company, but personally I think the CF guideline is about defending companies
      • Now a 1:1 variant of Crossfire, with fire teams and platoons could justify 1:300; but that isn’t what I play.

      1:600 seems more likely to me, but still less likely than 1:1000.

      • “In practical terms, it doesn’t matter too much, but obviously it impacts the translation of maps onto the tabletop.” ~ Martin Rapier

        “Martin, Totally agree that, for the game, ground scale makes no difference. I only care about ground scale when converting maps of the historical battles to scenario maps for the tabletop.” ~ Steven Thomas

        I’d like to ask a question then, that I hope isn’t misconstrued as rude – as it really is not intended to be, “In terms of the game; if ground scale doesn’t matter, model scale doesn’t matter, and terrain model scale doesn’t matter other than to appear correct with the miniatures, why should the map scale matter?” I mean we handwave everything else when wargaming, right? Often we say 3 figures equal 10-12 men, one tank equals 2 or 5 tanks, a house is a village, etc.

        I guess, for me, and I eluded to it in my first response I believe, if I am going to go through with making scenario maps represent actual historical maps, then I would want to go all the way, because if I do represent 1:1000 historical maps, and that’s the ‘thing for me’, I want the minis and the terrain to match that scale too, or I am not going to visually believe, or care when playing, that the scenario map is accurate if what I am seeing on the table, created from it, isn’t. Maybe, people seem to gravitate to answering “1:300-1:600”, because that is more in visual relationship to what they are seeing on the table?

        You can design a scenario on 4×6 kilometers of… the bulge, based on a historical map, for accuracy, but when the table is laid out and people start fighting “The Battle of the Bulge” scenario with a company or two of out of scale miniatures and out of scale farm houses, will it matter? Visually at least for me, I am not fighting in a forest, I am fighting in a copse of trees. No matter how many times I try to remind myself differently, I am fighting over a farmhouse and not a village, because that is what I am seeing.

        So, as I typed that and thought it through, I guess I would have to update my original post, and say though ‘by the book’ the table is still more 1:1000 than 1:300, if we play at 1:300 I’d rather go with what I see vs what I know, rationally? So, currently, my answer is, “Pull from a historical map what I will actually see on the table, or what the majority of players will see on the table if they are using 15-20mm figures and correspondingly scaled terrain.”

        • The only time ground scale can match figure scale and terrain scale is when playing 1:1 skirmish gaming. As soon as a wargame moves away from 1:1, the various scales start to diverge. I play with 15mm figures because I like them, not because I expect everything to be 1/100th scale. Restricting everything to 1/100th scale would limit my options too much.

          Crossfire makes few assumptions about figure scale. Players can use whatever size of figures on a base. And any number of those figures. And the Crossfire community takes advantage of this with 28mm appearing and 3mm appearing. And the occasional block. Similarly for my own Tilly’s Very Bad Day and Download Twilight of the Britons. Player can choose what size of figures and how many to a base. Entirely up to them.

          Some gamers like figures and terrain to match, but others regularly down scale their terrain. 15mm figures and 6mm terrain. It is up to them. They should do whatever they like.

          4×6 km is probably too big for a Crossfire game. And I certainly wouldn’t try to do the Battle of the Bulge on a single table using Crossfire. But I have a draft of a Foy scenario on a 4′ x 4′ table. To draw the map I looked at the actual terrain and maps of the historical battle. My table corresponds to 1.2 km x 1.2 km. The terrain is not 1:1, but it is indicative and has the features relevant to a two company attack on the town.

  3. Interesting discussion. I tend to come at the issue from a slightly different point-of-view. The bulk of ‘Crossfire’ that I’ve played was set in the hedge-rows in Normandy, which were we played as about 18″ on a side. This seemed to give about the right density of figures on the table with about 1 plt per hedgerow for the defender. This is in contrast to games of ‘FoW’ or ‘I A’nt Been Shot Mum’, where the table was virtually edge-to-edge figures. Those latter games were seriously unrealistic looking & played just as unrealistically. Though the folks that put those on were really unconcerned with the fact that troop densities were much too high.

    Now Normandy hedgerows averaged 200–400 yds on aside (Closing with the Enemy pg 41), which argues for a lower ground scale. More in the 1:300 range than the 1:1000.

    Hmmm. I guess I’m more in alignment with Chet’s feelings. That wasn’t really what I was thinking when I started posting this.

    I do think though that figure density is an important aspect that should be more considered than it is in miniature games.

    • Mage, I’m puzzled why you think your games support 1:300 over 1:1000. German and Russian Platoon frontage in defence was 200-500m; others probably similar. That aligns with your 200-400 yards for a hedge row, which you put a platoon behind. 200-400 yards for a platoon frontage is exactly what led me to 1:1000.

  4. My math slipping with age. It’s 1:600. 18″ for 300 yd or 18″ for 10,800″ or 1:600. Sigh. 🙂

    • you went with the average. If I cheekily go with the high end of your numbers, i.e. 400 yards, then you’re playing at 1:800 ground scale. 🙂


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