Hiding Hidden Forces in Crossfire

Being hidden helps a lot in Crossfire. But if the attacker knows the defender’s order of battle they also know how many enemy stands are still hidden on table. With few remaining hidden defenders the attacker can be more aggressive. With lots the attacker will be more cautious. But real attackers could never be certain of the size of the defending force so couldn’t number crunch their way to victory. The question is, how to introduce that uncertainty into a game without an umpire?

Caution for Unhidden Hidden Enemy
Caution for Unhidden Hidden Enemy

There are two parts to the problem:

  1. Determining the defender’s order of battle
  2. Keeping the attacker ignorant of defender’s order of battle

Determining the defender’s order of battle

In most of my Crossfire Scenarios the order of battle for each side is predetermined. The attacker knows what force the defender has in total even if he doesn’t know the location.

It is possible to insert some uncertainty into the game by giving a defender a more or less random order of battle. I did this for my mini-campaign Race Through Normandy (see also the huge order of battle for the Normandy campaign). I prepared nine options, all with the same points value, but with a different amount of infantry, of different morale, and with different assets. At the start of a game the German team throw 1d6 and add the number of the campaign round being played (1, 2, 3 or 4) to determine the option used. For example if you are playing the second round then throw 1d6 and add 2. The options are:

1d6 + Round Infantry Morale Assets
2 Static Defence troops Green Fortifications, 1 x 75mm Pak40 ATG
3 Static Defence troops Green 2 x French tanks
4 Regular Infantry Regular 2 x 75mm Pak40 ATG
5 Regular Infantry Regular 1 x StuG III G
6 Regular Infantry Regular 3 x Panzer IV G
7 Panzer grenadiers Regular 2 x 7.5 cm PaK L/46 m SPW S307(f)
8 Panzer grenadiers Regular 1 x StuG III G
9 Panzer grenadiers Regular 3 x Panthers or 3 x Tiger I
10 SS Panzer grenadiers Veteran 1 x Panther or 1 x Tiger I

The only problem with this, in terms of keeping the attacker in the dark, is that the option becomes pretty obvious when the morale of the defenders is revealed or an asset is revealed.

Keeping the attacker ignorant of defender’s order of battle

It doesn’t take a lot to keep the attacker ignorant of what troops the defender has. You just need a closed box (Mark on the Crossfire forum suggested this). The order of battle is determined in secret and the troops put into a closed box. They stay in the box until they are revealed and appear on the table. Only the owning player(s) is allowed to look in the box.

Hopefully that will keep the attacker guessing on whether there is more in the box.

And if you keep dummies in the box, i.e. troops that aren’t in the Order of Battle, then you protect yourself from the occasional glimpse – intentional or not.

5 thoughts on “Hiding Hidden Forces in Crossfire”

  1. One of the greatest difficulties in playing miniatures is recreating the “Fog of War” (which is why I don’t like Bolt Action). Keeping your force structure a secret is a challenge is always a struggle for either side and the Game Master,

  2. It’s a lot of work, but setting up a scenario where all the players are on one side and the umpire runs the “enemy” gives a great sense of fog of war. i set up a scenario one time where each player had a platoon of US paras on the night of D Day. Each piece of terrain had an associated set of events 92) – one if recon’d by fire, one if not. i gave each US player their objective (control of the village in the middle of the table) and let them start from a random edge of their choice. A very tense game – one US player gave me the quote for the game “Way too many hidey holes!”

    • Sounds a great game.

      Lots of things are possible when there is an umpire. Bit trickier when there is none.

  3. I run all of the games for our group and play as well. So I unfortunately always have to take a back seat command. I also act as if I am uninformed as to the scenario, objectives and unit strengths. Never being able to take command only orders. I do try to give the opposing side dice roll for commands, units and objectives. Still I have a good sense of my collection so the moment I see a piece I usually know what they rolled. Really stinks for me the host, game provider and game judge/player.

  4. Steve, I find your idea of adding randomness to the order of battle a very compelling one and I will explore further. I am currently reading Mark Zuehlke’s book on the Scheldt estuary campaign, and the bad quality of information or arrival of unexpected reinforcements keep coming up. The Canadians were told the enemy was in very low numbers on the other side of the canal? They face a very strong and organized defense. They are told the German troops are now mostly old and untrained people? They were just relieved by young and fully indroctinated paratroopers who are now mounting a counter-attack.
    Adding a random force to a basic selection is clearly unfair in terms of gameplay, but this is the nature of war: holding to your objective against overwhelming odds or be crushed.
    And by the way, thanks for sharing all your experience on Crossfire – they are extremely useful for the beginner players!


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