Martin Groat’s Three Player Crossfire

I’ve found an odd number of players is awkward in Crossfire. So awkward I haven’t really done it. So I ended up as an observer when our fourth player didn’t turn up for our 92nd Naval in Stalingrad game. It would have been nice to have played so I’m revisiting how to play a three player game. Luckily Martin Groat has a method to play Crossfire with three players.

Martin’s rule

The words are his. I’ve added some minor editing and formatting.

This evolved from having an odd number of players and we found it best suited to attack/defence scenarios-especially where the defenders were deploying hidden.It was also useful for participation games at shows where two “players” would have an opportunity to play one defender.

Hidden defenders are difficult to deal with and usually where there is a troop imbalance in favour of the attackers it sort of makes sense-otherwise one failed action near the start of the initiative leaves the bulk of an attacking force standing around doing nothing when in reality they would have continued to attack even if one part of the attacking force had ground to a halt. It also is handy extra help for the attacker if you use the house rule where a hidden defender is only revealed on firing if one of his firing dice rolls a one. So we treat the idea as a scenario variant where it looks appropriate.

  1. On the attacker’s initiative the two attacking players roll a die and whoever rolls high goes first (attacker 1)…a bit of unpredictability.
  2. Attacker 1 uses his troops in the usual way until he loses his initiative.
  3. Attacker 2 now starts his initiative and carries on until he loses his initiative
  4. Initiative passes to the defender who plays until he loses the initiative-then back to 1 above

Points to watch.

  • Smoke. All attacking smoke is removed at the start of the attackers next initiative. So the second attacker’s smoke is still removed at the start of the next attacking initiative even though it was laid in the second “half” of the attackers’ initiative.
  • Defender’s reactive fire. The specific issue is at what stage defender No Fires should be removed. This can be played 2 ways. No fires accumulated by the defender during attacker 1’s initiative are:
    1. removed when attacker 1 loses his initiative; so all defending troops are available to fire at attacker 2 if eligible to do so.
    2. retained during attacker 2 `s initiative and only removed when attacker 2 loses his initiative.

    My preference is for the second option-there may be 2 attackers but they are still part of the same attack. However-this is a scenario specific device and one may feel differently if, for example, one had attackers coming on from opposite ends of the board.

  • Attackers supporting one another. We allow this in participation games for shows, ie attacker one lays smoke as preparation for attacker 2’s initiative. For beginners attacking a hidden defender life is hard enough as it is….! It’s also quite entertaining in normal games…Otherwise-scenario (and perhaps nationality) specific. If not allowing support one may have to designate zones of control or specify that troops can only act in support of others within their command.


  • Not really a suitable mechanism where a scenario is fairly evenly balanced and/or there is a rough parity of troops-2 initiatives to one unbalances a game in these type of circumstances.
  • Not so good with 4 or 5 players on an attack/defence scenario-“attacker 3” can spend a lot of time standing around …….
  • It’s another device in the scenario designer’s tool box as well as giving everybody a good go when 3 players roll up on a Sunday night …..
  • If anyone else has tried this I’d be interested to know how they have got on-I suspect it’s fairly common.

Steven’s observations

I’ve never tried this but it looks pretty promising. It does change the balance of forces considerably. The defender will have much the same number of troops as the attack despite being hidden.

Initiative Blitz

Lop sided initiatives lend themselves to the Initiative Blitz – something I’m very sensitive to as it makes for dire games. But Martin’s approach does seem to have counter-balancing aspects, i.e. the defenders have lots of troops compared to a normal game.


I’d insist on Operational Zones for each player.

Points value

Martin says:

In an attack /defence scenario it works quite well-especially if the defenders are hidden-on a meeting encounter(attack/attack) perhaps not so good.We started with it simply because sods law dictated we usually had a odd number of players rolling up to play on a Sunday night….But it’s all down to careful scenario planning before the game starts-and it has it’s place if there is an imbalance of forces for one reason or another.

I aim for balanced scenarios. Not balanced as in identical forces but balanced as in each side has an even chance of winning the game. So I use points to check that the forces in my scenarios are balanced.

Martin observed that “2 soviet initiatives to each German helps counterbalance the difficulty of the Soviets dealing with hidden deployed Germans”. I interpret that mean being hidden equates to having the extra initiative – at least in terms of on table effectiveness.

I make hidden troops 50% more expensive than their visible equivalents. So I’d suggest doing the same if using this approach to initiatives. But I’m toying with a couple of ways of doing this:

  1. Ignore it. Give both sides the same points and ignore the fact that the defender is hidden and the attacker has multiple initiatives. This is very simple but doesn’t cope with visible defenders mixed with hidden defenders, off table troops, and revealed-on-a-1 hidden troops.
  2. Cost it out version 1. Troops on the multi-initiative side are worth +50% of their normal point cost. Hidden defenders cost +50% more. Hidden revealed-on-a-1 troops cost +100% of normal cost (i.e. double).
  3. Cost it out version 2. Like “Cost it out version 1” but only some of the attackers are costed more. The larger attacking force is the normal price. The smaller attacking force is costed at +100%.
  4. Cost it out version 3. Like “Cost it out version 1” but the largest attacking force is costed at +100% and the smaller one is the normal price.

It’ll need a bit of play testing to see what gives the best balance.

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