Horse and Musket Crossfire – Crossfire for the Horse and Musket Era

I wrote this about five years ago because a couple of my projects, i.e. Albuera in the Peninsular and Sipe Sipe in South America, had stalled because I didn’t like any of the available horse and musket rules. Inspired by Roland’s WW1 experiment I wondered if I could make a horse and musket variant for Crossfire. These rules have now remained raw and unplayed for some time. I stopped work on them because I decided I had bent the rules so far that it is no longer Crossfire. But rather than having it lurk on my hard drive any longer, and because Jamie asked about it, I thought I’d share. What do you think?


Dice Rolls

Normal Crossfire uses different dice rolling mechanisms for Anti-personnel fire, Anti-tank fire and Rallying.

In Horse and Musket Crossfire all dice rolls use the same mechanism, which is similar to anti-personnel fire in normal Crossfire. Generally an attribute of the unit dictates the number of dice to throw: 2d6 Poor, 3d6 Okay, 4d6 Good. Modifiers add or remove dice from the roll. The player making the roll throws the dice and scores a “hit” on 5+. Unless otherwise noted at least one hit is a success.


Distances

Normal Crossfire has three distances:

  • Unlimited unless constrained by terrain (used for movement and shooting)
  • Base Width (used for rallying)
  • Point Blank Range about 1/4 base width (used for SMG fire and failed attempts to charge to close combat)

Horse and Musket Crossfire is more constrained. Movement, Shooting, and Rally distances are all now limited to multiples of Base Width.

In my case Base Width is 80mm because I have 12 infantry to a stand and 24 infantry to a two stand Battalion.


Stands and Units

In Horse and Musket Crossfire units are either single stand or two stand. For simplicity single stand units are cavalry squadrons, wings of infantry battalions and artillery sections. Called “Squadrons”, “Wings” and “Sections” respectively.

Two stand units are also allowed. Cavalry can form two stand Regiments, infantry can form two stand Battalions and artillery can form two stand Batteries. These are called “Regiments”, “Battalions” and “Batteries” respectively. The stands of a two stand unit are assigned at the beginning of the game and operate together for the duration of the game.

Units have the following attributes rated as Poor, Okay or Good:

  • Morale: Use for rally and close combat.
  • Training: Use for manoeuvring
  • Fire discipLine: Use for short range fire. All artillery are “Okay” fire discipLine.

Formations

In Horse and Musket Crossfire units form into Line, Column, Square or Limbered. Single stand units are assumed to be in Line all the time. Batteries can be in Line or Limbered. Regiments can form Line or Column. Battalions can form Line, Column or Square.

Unit formations
Unit Line Column Square Limbered
Squadron, Wing, Section X
Battalion X X X
Regiment X X
Battery X X

Each army has a Commander-in-Chief and subordinate commanders. There is no hierarchy amongst Subordinate commanders – these represent the significant Division or Brigade commanders. Commanders are stands but not units. They are rated for Command and Control on the Poor, Okay or Good scale; this replaces the +1/+2 of normal Crossfire commanders.

Line

Individual units are always in Line. Two stand units are in Line when both stands are touching, side by side and facing the same direction. Battalions and Batteries in Line can group fire. Any unit in Line can close combat the same enemy on the same face.

Column

Battalions and Regiments are in Column when both stands are touching, facing the same direction, with the rear stand Lined up behind the front stand. A Column can only fire with the front stand.

Square

A Battalion is in Square when both stands are touching, back to back, with the stands facing opposite directions. A Square can fire in any direction but with only one stand.

Limbered

Batteries are limbered when both stands are touching, facing the same direction, with the rear stand Lined up behind the front stand. A limbered Battery cannot fire.

Facing

Facing isn’t very important in normal Crossfire but is much more significant in Horse and Musket.
Stands shoot straight forward and in an arc 45 degrees to each side.
Battalion Squares have no flank or rear; all faces are to the front.
Stands close combat at a disadvantage if fighting to flank or rear.


Actions

The key mechanism of Crossfire are the actions and reactions within player phases.

Actions as the Phasing Player in Horse and Musket Crossfire:

  • Move (including March and Charge)
  • Close Combat
  • Short Range Fire
  • Long Range Fire
  • Rally
  • Reload

The non-phasing player has an much expanded list of reactive actions.

Reactive Actions

In normal Crossfire the non-phasing player can only conduct Reactive Fire. In this variant there are more non-phasing reactions. Reactive actions are:

  • Reactive Fire: Non-phasing player makes a Fire DiscipLine roll when friendly infantry or artillery reactive fire at enemy that move within range and Line of fire – the normal Crossfire rule
  • Hasty Square: Non-phasing player makes a Training roll when a friendly Battalion attempts to reactively form Square when the target of a cavalry charge.
  • Evade: Non-phasing player makes a Training roll when friendly infantry attempt to flee to nearby difficult ground when the target of a cavalry charge.
  • Reactive Charge: Non-phasing player makes a Morale roll when friendly cavalry attempt to reactively charge enemy infantry or artillery that move within charge distance. The non-phasing player chooses the moment for the charge and the enemy movement halts at that point.
  • Counter-Charge: Non-phasing player make a Morale roll when cavalry attempt to reactively counter-charge when they are the target of an enemy cavalry charge. The non-phasing player chooses the moment for the counter-charge and the enemy movement halts at that point, with the caveat that point of contact must mean the charge distance is longer than the counter-charge distance.

Move Action

In normal Crossfire terrain is the only constraint on movement. Horse and Musket Crossfire introduces movement allowances. The movement rules apply to any movement whether part of a Move action, Evade, Reactive Charge, Counter-Charge or whatever.

Movement allowance
Unit and formation Movement allowance
(Base Width)
Infantry Line 1
Infantry Column 2
Cavalry Line 2
Cavalry Column 4
Horse Artillery limbered 4
Foot Artillery limbered 2
Artillery unlimbered Pivot only
Commander 4

March Action

The second and subsequent Move action (or Charge Action) by a unit or commander in a single initiative is a March action. March actions require a training roll. Success means the move action happens. Failure means the move does not happen and the player loses the initiative. Columns add 1d6 to this roll making it more likely to succeed.

Charge Action

A Move action to contact is a Charge. A Charge action enables a subsequent Close Combat action, but the two are separate actions.

Close Combat Action

Units have to be in physical contact to fight in close combat. There are two exceptions:

  • One commander within a base width of a unit in line of command can support the unit in melee
  • One infantry unit within a base width of an artillery in melee can support the artillery

Only one friendly unit can count in contact each face of an enemy unit. This is true despite the formation of either unit.

Even if only one stand of a two stand unit is in contact, both stands in the unit fight in close combat. This is true for both attacker or defender

Morale dictates number of dice for each stand: 2d6 Poor, 3d6 Okay, 4d6 Good.

Fire Action

Short Range Fire Action
– Both infantry and artillery can fire at short range.
– Fire DiscipLine of infantry dictates number of dice for each stand: 2d6 Poor, 3d6 Okay, 4d6 Good
– Artillery fire 2d6 per stand
– Stands in a Battalion are a “fire group”. No other fire group.
– Brigade commander can form a “crossfire” of own infantry stands and artillery attached to the brigade.
– Roll the dice (including for any group fire); each hit inflicts a disorder marker on the target.
– If initiative is retained then all firing stands go “No Fire” (hence must Reload to fire again)
– Failure loses the initiative.

Long Range Fire Action
– Only artillery can fire at long range.
– Artillery fire at 1d6 per stand
– Brigade commander can form a “crossfire” of artillery attached to the brigade.
– Success means all firing stands go “No Fire”
– Failure does lose the initiative (similar to indirect fire in normal Crossfire)

No Fire
– Unlike normal Crossfire No Fire applies to both phasing fire and reactive fire.
– No Fire is automatically applied when a unit fires.
– No Fire is automatically removed at the end of the initiative that it is incurred, whether own initiative or enemy’s.
– A successful Reload action also removes a No Fire from a phasing unit.

Rally Action

Rally Action
– Make a Morale roll to recover from disorder.
– Morale of unit dictates number of dice: 2d6 Poor, 3d6 Okay, 4d6 Good
– Success is when the number of hits equals or exceeds the levels of disorder. Remove all disorder markers.
– Failure to “Hit” means the unit stays disordered and loses initiative.

Reload Action

A Reload action requires a roll on the training attribute of the unit. Success removes any No Fire marker from the unit. Failure loses the initiative.

6 comments to Horse and Musket Crossfire – Crossfire for the Horse and Musket Era

  • Duc de Gobin

    This is fascinating stuff. Thanks for these ideas.
    So much potential here.

  • Bill Hupp

    What is Roland’s WW1 Experiment (no link)? As to the rules above, it seems like this is quite a bit above the normal sized units of Crossfire. Should this be more at the small unit action level for the horse and musket period. I was thinking the units could be companies or maybe even platoons. FPW units clearing out a woods or a farm as an example action.

    • Steven Thomas

      Bill, thanks for pointing out the link was empty. Now fixed.

      I was referring to 1914 Experiment in Large Scale Crossfire. This is a much higher scale of game than normal Crossfire.

      I’m sure a low level game horse and musket game is possible using Crossfire. And it would require less changes being closer to skirmish. But I was looking for a battle level game, like Roland’s WW1 experiment.

  • Bill Hupp

    Thanks Steve.

  • Stefan

    Three things I missed in post- maybe you can help to clear this up….
    1. What are the ranges for short and long range fire?
    2. What about close combat outcome? Each side rolls several D6, but how to win and what happens?
    3. Are the disorder markers for fire actions treted like in Crossfire? Pinned, suppressed, dead?

    • Steven Thomas

      Stefan, well spotted. I kind of just stopped writing these rules mid-flow and left some gaps.

      Short range = base width
      Long range = longer. Depends on how generous you are. In my own Tilly’s Very Bad Day artillery have unlimited range. They didn’t, of course, but it makes the game simpler. The same could apply here.

      I’m not sure I’d decided on close combat. Either
      – Instant kill like normal CF. Roll dice. Count hits (5-6). More hits wins. Instant kill loser.
      – Disorder like shooting: Roll dice. Each hit (5-6) causes a disorder.

      I think I had this in mind:
      1 disorder = pinned
      2 disorder = suppressed
      3 disorder = dead

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