Musing on Japanese house rules in Crossfire

My Japanese leg infantry battalion for Crossfire is now painted and based. All very exciting! The more I read about the Japanese, the more I realise they had a completely different mind set to western armies. I wonder how much of that difference should flow through into Crossfire. So I’ve looked at other rule sets to see how they have handled the Japanese in WW2 and, from that, possible implications for Crossfire.

Help Wanted

Please let me know about any other rules that give the Japanese a special treatment


It seems to me that the Japanese had a completely different mind set to other armies in World War 2. John Masters, who commanded a brigade of Chindits in Burma, wrote about the Japanese in his book “The Road Past Mandalay”:

Lastly, there was our common, single enemy – the Japanese. They are the bravest people I have ever met. In our armies, any of them, nearly every Japanese would have had a Congressional Medal or a Victoria Cross. It is the fashion to dismiss their courage as fanaticism but this only begs the question. They believed in something, and they were willing to die for it, for any smallest detail that would help to achieve it. What else is bravery? They pressed home their attacks when no other troops in the world would have done so, when all hope of success was gone; except that it never really is, for who can know that the enemy has suffered, what is his state of mind? The Japanese simply came on, using all their skill and rage, until they were stopped by death. In defence they held their ground with furious tenacity that never faltered. They had to be killed company by company, squad by squad, man by man to the last.

By 1944 many scores of thousands of Allied soldiers had fallen unwounded into enemy hands as prisoners, because our philosophy and our history have taught us to accept the idea of surrender. By 1944 the number of Japanese captured unwounded, in all theatres of war, probably did not total one hundred. On the Burma front it was about six.

For the rest, they wrote beautiful little poems in their diaries and practiced bayonet work on their prisoners. Frugal and bestial, barbarous and brave, artistic and brutal, they were the dushman and we set about, in all seriousness, to task of killing every one of them. (Masters, 2002, p. 162-163)

To get a feeling for whether the standard Crossfire rules reflect that Japanese difference, I had a look at both the standard Crossfire rules and the rules specific to the Japanese in other rule sets.

Standard Crossfire rules

Standard Crossfire has some built in rules which are unique to the Japanese:

Japanese Officers

The Japanese Organisation section (CF p. 24) makes it clear that Japanese officers get average modifiers: +1 for Close Combat and +1 for Rallying. That makes them comparable to British and German NCOs (who also get +1), better than US or Soviet PCs (+1/0), and worse than German officers (+2)

Japanese command & control

Japanese command & control is like British US

CF4.0 Movement/Command Control; Sub-clause US/British/Japanese:

A Squad must have LOS to its PC if it wishes to move. It may end the move out of LOS of its PC but may not move again until LOS is re-established.

Japanese knee mortars

Crossfire treats Japanese knee mortars differently to other mortars (CF) and to other on-table mortars (HTD).

CF Organisation for the Japanese Leg Infantry Battalion (1939-’42), p.24]:

The Knee Mortar uses only 2 Dice with 1 Squad Kill potential; no ammo limit; no Smoke. It may move separately (i.e. it does not require a PC to move). Otherwise, it fights crew-served (-2). Only the appropriate PC function as its FO in addition to his other functions.

I have my own thoughts on Japanese Knee Mortars in Crossfire. Basically I’d treat it like my other on-table 50mm mortars.

Japanese HMG

Crossfire also treats Japanese HMG differently to other HMG.

CF Organisation for the Japanese Leg Infantry Battalion (1939-’42), p.24]:

All Japanese HMG in all their organisations count as Crew-Served weapons except that they use only 3 firing dice; they do not apply the -2 Crew modifier in Close Combat and may initiate close combat. They do however, cost the same as HMGs of other nationalities.

Again, I have my own thoughts on Japanese HMG in Crossfire. Basically I treat them exactly like HMG of other nations.

Reckless (Banzai) charge

Finally, Section CF8.1.1. Japanese and Russians (p. 14) has the Japanese recklessly charging to close combat like Russians.

When entering Close Combat only, Japanese and Russians ignore Pin results (reflecting their tenacity), but a Suppression result becomes a Kill result (reflecting their vulnerability). Note that although this Pin is ignored for movement purposes, it counts for purposes of maintaining a Squad’s ability to continue performing Reactive Fire.

This is Crossfire’s Banzai charge. It isn’t called that but that is the intent. These reckless charges can be used by individual squads or as part of a group move.

Surprise Encounters

The Close Combat Modifiers in CF8.3 Close Combat Procedures (p. 15) includes: “Surprise Encounter: -1 to mover; -2 vs Jap. defenders”. Surprise Encounters are explained in CF8.5 (p. 16). What this means is that a Allied stand moving into terrain with hidden Japanese is going to get a nasty surprise. -2 in close combat is a big disadvantage.

Ideas from other rules

To get inspiration I looked at Blitzkrieg Command (IV), Flames of War, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum (IABSM), and Fireball Forward. I then tried to covert each of the rules peculiar to the Japanese into something Crossfire. I had a lot of success, but I confess I couldn’t interpret some of the rules I found. For these I just listed them and moved on.

Banzai Charge

Both FoW and Fireball Forward have explicit “Banzai charge” rules.

Platoon Banzai

Crossfire already has a Banzai charge. It is the Japanese reckless charge to close combat, which they share with the Russians (see above).

Japanese-02 1st Company Banzai
Japanese-02 1st Company Banzai

Company Banzai

A rule with a bigger scope is the Company Sized Group Moves for Crossfire. That post has three different suggestion for a company group move, but I’ve reproduced Nikolas Lloyd’s one here which he calls “BIG group moves”:

I allow BIG group moves, using an extension of the command system. Just as a PC can order all his subordinate squads forward if he can see them, so a CC can order all the platoons forward, if he can see all his PCs. You could go up to Battalion if you wished. However, this is no good unless you also do the same thing for reactive fire. This would mean that a Battalion human wave charging a platoon would probably suffer a fair few casualties, but then wipe out the platoon. A Battalion human-wave charging a Battalion, though, would be mincemeat in seconds. (Nikolas Lloyd, Crossfire-WWII discussion forum, 14 June 2002)

More recently Stephen Phenow shared his version of the Banzai charge. It is also a company group move but appears a bit more complicated than Lloyd’s with more new rules introduced:

Model a Banzai Charge thus: Each squad and CSW may be involved a Banzai. (LMGs had bayonets attached for this purpose.)

This a company level group move and may be carried out only by squads touching or within 1 base length of each other up to two bases deep.

The charge may be any number of squads/CSW bases in the group move. Chargers ignore all “Pins” inflicted by defensive and offensive fire. A 5,6 is a Suppress” and the squad goes to ground and no longer is counted in the charge, if a second squad is behind it moves over the first squad with no penalty. Two 6-6 become “Kills.” Three die Kill chances remain the same. Again a second squad is behind the killed base moves across with no penalty. There is no initiative shift until the Charge is completed. There is no backoff for close combat. There is no minus for Japanese crew served weapons in close combat.

If the attacking total force reaches 50% or more casualties (Bases lost) before reaching the target or is in close combat and has not inflicted at least 50% casualties on the defender, the Charge has failed and any remaining chargers must retreat during their next movement phase back to their line of departure.

(Note a company that has lost all its Platoons in a Banzai Charge is allowed to reconstitute 1 squad per Platoon, at its original line of departure. This representing returning survivors.) (Stephen Phenow, Crossfire-WWII discussion forum, 15 May 2023)

Swords and Flags

There are a bunch of possible rules about swords and flags. After all swords and flags make the Japanese armies look cool.


“Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, cites a Japanese slogan from “soldiers of the sun, the rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army”, by Meiron and Susie Harries: “My sword is my soul” (p. 350). Maybe this is why FoW has a “Kendo” rule or perhaps it is just to give a significance to all those katana wielding officer figures.

Japanese-05 1st Company Commanders
Japanese-05 1st Company Commanders

In Crossfire the “Kendo” rule could give a Japanese Commander with sword (i.e. all of them) a +1 in close combat, in addition to other modifiers. That would make them super crunchy and encourage Banzai charges. A typical BC, CC or PC would be +2 in close combat, from the normal +1 for close combat and another +1 for the sword. They would still rally on +1. Of course, we don’t actually need a “Kendo” special rule for this; we could just rate Japanese commanders as (+2/+1).

Japanese-07 1st Company Commanders
Japanese-07 1st Company Commanders

Company and Battalion Banners

FoW has a “banner” rule.

In Crossfire this would mean a Japanese Commander with a banner (i.e. BC and CC) ignores the first PIN result in a particular shooting action (whether direct, indirect, phasing or reactive). The second and subsequent PIN results from the same shooting action would have normal effect. Snipers ignore this rule, so all PIN results from sniper fire take effect on stands with banners

Regimental Banners

FoW has a “Regimental Standard” rule.

A possible variant in Crossfire would mean stands within one base width of their Regiment Commander (RC) automatically passes all rally rolls. If the RC stand is destroyed, immediately destroy a subordinate stand in addition. Otherwise RC stands are like BC stands.

Bravery tending to Fanaticism

It is common to view the Japanese of WW2 as fanatical. John Masters, who fought them, saw it differently. He thought they were brave, following orders despite the risk to their own lives.

Fanatical Initiative

Blitzkrieg Command IV gives the Japanese “Fanatical Tactical Doctrine”. The rule has various elements which I’ve separated for this discussion. Improved initiative is one of them.

In Crossfire, this would allow Japanese stands that would normally not be able to move because of the command and control rules, to still make a move action if the move action gets them:

  • closer to a terrain objective
  • into close combat with enemy

Fanatical when Dug in

Blitzkrieg Command IV gives the Japanese “Fanatical Tactical Doctrine”. The rule has various elements which I’ve separated for this discussion. Improved morale while dug in is one of them.

The Crossfire version of this would give Japanese in fortifications a +1 to rally rolls.

Seishin, No Surrender, and Last Man

Because they fought to the last man, in IABSM Japanese can always shoot even if they have no initiative. In Crossfire stands can shoot until initiative shifts, so I’m not sure what what the equivalent “last man” rule would be. Cool name though.

Similar in principle but completely different in game effects are the FoW rules for “Seishin” and “No Surrender”. They seem to tie together very closely so I’m bundled them here.

Note: the Japanese word “Seishin” means spirit (also mind, soul, heart and intention).

Seishin would work in Crossfire when the scenario is using Casualty Objectives for victory conditions. Rather than losing the game immediately when a Japanese unit reaches the causality limit, the unit “draws on its Seishin”, remains on table, and fights on.

Immediately upon drawing upon Seishin:

  • Destroy all Japanese tanks
  • Convert all Japanese HMG and Heavy Weapon teams into Rifle Squads; they remain Rifle squads for the rest of the game.

Subsequently, after drawing upon Seishin:

  • Japanese stands with LOS to any Terrain Objectives get a +1 on rally rolls
  • Japanese stands may reactive fire, but may not shoot in phasing fire
  • Japanese fight on until all Japanese stands are destroyed.

Here is an example to drop in as a scenario special rule:

Japanese Special Rule: Seishin and No Surrender

The Japanese count casualties until a limit is reached, then “draw upon Seishin” and subsequently fight fanatically to achieve the Terrain Objectives or to the last man.

The Japanese automatically “draw upon Seishin” when they accrue 14 casualty points (CP):
+1 Each lost Squad, Heavy Weapon, or CC
+2 Each lost AFV

When the Japanese “draw upon Seishin”, immediately destroy all remaining Japanese tanks. For the rest of the game, treat all Japanese HMG and Heavy Weapon teams as Rifle Squads. Japanese stands may reactive fire, but may not shoot in phasing fire. Japanese stands with LOS to any Terrain Objectives get a +1 on rally rolls. The Japanese fight on until all Japanese stands are destroyed, so you can stop counting casualties.

Japanese-04 1st Company
Japanese-04 1st Company


Several of the rules are about sneakiness. Ambushes. Infiltration. Envelopment. That kind of thing. I’ve included night fighting in here although I don’t have a good Crossfire version of that.

Fanatical Ambush

Blitzkrieg Commander IV has quite a lot to say about Ambushes. The Tactical Doctrine of the army specifies how many ambushes they can get, from 1 to 4. The Japanese, with their Fanatical Tactical Doctrine, get 3 ambushes.

In Crossfire, ambushes are a side effect of deploying hidden, which conceptually all defenders can do. So perhaps the Japanese get more flexibility on deployment instead. Scenarios can allow the Japanese to deploy a small number of hidden stands in the area between their own deployment zone and that of the enemy (i.e. in no-mans land).

Envelopment and infiltration

FoW has an “Envelopment” rule. The FoW rule lets rifle squads and light gun stands to move faster on-table. But in CF that isn’t a thing.

More usefully Blitzkrieg Commander IV allows the Japanese to conduct “Infiltration”. The BK rule gives them a great chance of flank deployment. That sounds like what the “envelopment” rule should facilitate (but doesn’t).

In Crossfire, scenarios could allow the Japanese to enter a proportion of their force (e.g. a platoon) from an enemy flank. The unit must be kept off table until it arrives. The player must secretly record the flank of arrival before the game starts. This flank marching unit arrives on the table edge on a roll of 6 at the start of the Japanese initiative. Alternatively the Japanese deployment zone could include areas encroaching on the enemy deployment zone.

Another option completely is for a Crossfire scenario to assume the Japanese have surrounded the Allies. The on-table game is played as normal, but certain weapons would have limited ammunition e.g. HMG.

Hell by Day, Paradise by Night

“Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, cites a Japanese slogan from “soldiers of the sun, the rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army”, by Meiron and Susie Harries: “The night is one million reinforcements” (p. 328). Maybe that is why FoW has a “Hell by Day, Paradise by Night” rule. Cool name but I really don’t understand the FoW rule so can’t suggest a CF version.

The HTD night fighting special rule would be the starting point for “Hell by Day, Paradise by Night”. The special rule is summarised as:

Stands are limited to one move action per initiative. A stand that is in cover and has not yet fired during the scenario may not be fired at, except from within the same terrain feature. A stand in the open is fired at normally. All stands get the direct fire cover bonus, regardless of where they are located.

To give a side an advantage at night, a scenario could let that side:

  • Ignore the night fighting rules completely
  • Ignore the movement limitation (unlimited movement rather than one move action)
  • Ignore the shooting limitation (targets in open do not get cover)
  • Ignore the really hidden rule (targets in cover can be shot at normally even if they haven’t shot themselves)
  • Increase movement (two or three move actions per initiative rather than one)

To be honest, I’m not sure I’d give the Japanese a universal night fighting ability. Different sides viewed night fighting differently at different times. I suspect a side that regularly practiced night fighting got better at it and a scenario should reflect that. For example, the 14th Army in Burma viewed themselves as proficient in night fighting and the Japanese as poor at night.

Tanks and Anti-tank

Rules writers seem to like special tank and anti-tank rules for the Japanese. I’m no exception with my own musing on Japanese Tank Hunter Teams in Crossfire.

Nikuhaku kōgeki (Human Bullet)

FoW has a “Human Bullet” rule corresponding to the Japanese infantry tactic of nikuhaku kōgeki, i.e. “human bullet” assaults.

I have discussed Japanese Tank Hunter Teams in Crossfire before. Tank hunter stands are those with infantry close combat anti-tank weapons (e.g. mines on sticks, lunge poles, satchel charges). Nikuhaku stands get +1 in close combat with tanks, in addition to any other bonuses.

Japanese-10 1st Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Platoon
Japanese-10 1st Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Platoon
Japanese-11 1st Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Platoon
Japanese-11 1st Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Platoon

Budmash grenade bundles (Rule 26)

“Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, mentions anti-tank grenade bundles, called “Budmash” by the British. These are homemade bombs filled with picric acid. A soldier would attempt to detonate them against the tank.

In Crossfire, a scenario could give some or all Japanese squads anti-tank grenade bundles. These squads get +1 in close combat against tanks, in addition to any other bonuses. This is just a variation on Japanese Tank Hunter Teams in Crossfire.

Japanese-12 Destruction Squad - Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Squad
Japanese-12 Destruction Squad – Tank Hunter Engineer Assault Squad

Ta Dan Rounds

“Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, mentions that Japanese artillery used Ta Dan rounds, special “shaped hollow-charge” shells, at close range.

In Crossfire, depending on your CF armour rules artillery with Ta Dan rounds either get +1 PEN (following a hit) or +1d6, but only against tanks. Each gun stand get only one of these Ta Dun rounds per game.

Japanese-08 75mm Guns
Japanese-08 75mm Guns
Japanese-09 75mm Guns
Japanese-09 75mm Guns

Duty to the end (tanks)

FoW has a “Duty to the end” rule for Japanese tanks.

In Crossfire suppressed Japanese tanks ignore the -2 modifier in close combat, the crews being assumed to remain with their vehicle and continue fighting.

Japanese Turret MG

FoW has a “Japanese Turret MG” rule.

In Crossfire, this would prevent Japanese tanks shooting both their turret MG and the main gun, which is an advanced rule anyway.

Hip Shot (Tanks)

FoW has a “Hip Shot” rule. Given the name, I’m guessing this is for any stand that can shoot on the move. In this case it is just about Japanese tanks, which is ironic because a tank cannot “hip shot”. The rule means Japanese tanks would be better at shooting when moving. I have no idea why.

Doesn’t seem to fit Crossfire.

Glory Roll

Fireball Forward has a “Glory Roll” rule. According to the design note, this rule is to stop players using jeeps to block King Tigers. Under the “Glory Roll” rule the King Tiger destroys the jeep and then has a chance to go again. I’m not sure why “Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, gives the Japanese the “Glory Roll”

As it happens, in Crossfire, everybody gets the chance to go again so putting a jeep in front of a King Tiger, or even a Japanese Type 97 Te-Ke tankette, is pretty silly.

Bombs and shells

Air Superiority

Blitzkrieg Commander IV gives the Japanese air superiority until 31 December 1942.

That fits nicely with my house rule for Aircraft and Air Superiority in Crossfire.

Naval Guns

Blitzkrieg Commander IV has gives the Japanese the option of Naval guns Outside Manchuria and China

This really doesn’t require a change to Crossfire. A scenario can give Japanese, outside Manchuria and China, an FOs who directs the fire of naval guns. Treat at normal indirect fire by heavy artillery using an FO.

Fire Burst

FoW has a “Fire Burst” rule. I’ve no idea what the FoW rule means.


Company Wire Cutters

“Burma Master Stroke”, the Fireball Forward supplement, mentions Japanese wire cutters.

In Crossfire, a scenario can give wire cutters to one Rifle squad in each rifle company. This squad can cut wire like engineers.

Manchurian Cavalry Platoon

FoW has a “Manchurian Cavalry Platoon” rule. This is a rule the cancels other rules. Manchurian Cavalry units do not use the Japanese special rule and have no special rules of their own.

Conclusions and observations

I suspect I don’t need most of these special rules for the Japanese. The result of me musing on Japanese Knee Mortars in Crossfire and musing Japanese HMG in Crossfire is to ignore the standard Crossfire rules and treat the Japanese exactly like HMG and small mortars of other nations.

Having said that, I might consider these rules:

And these could make interesting scenario special rules:

I’m really not sure I need these ones although the banners are cool:

And I don’t know what these are for:


Blitzkrieg in the Far East: Japan in I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum

Fastoso, M, and Miller, J. (2012). Fireball Forward! Tactical World War Two Wargaming (3rd Ed.).

Fry, M. (2018). Blitzkrieg Commander (4th ed.). Pendraken Miniatures.

Masters, J. (2002; First Published 1961). The Road Past Mandalay. Cassell.

Tilson, T. (n.d.). Burma Master Stroke: The British Reconquest of Burma 1945 – Fireball Forward Scenario Book.

Tilson, T. (2022) Far East Fury: The Japanese Invasion of India – Fireball Forward Scenario Book.

Turner, W. and Yates, P. (2017). Special Rules and Warriors 1939-41 and 1944-45. Flames of War. [Available on-line


6 thoughts on “Musing on Japanese house rules in Crossfire”

  1. I always like how cautious your approach to new rules is. It’s easy to get too enthusiastic and go down a route that is counter to Crossfire’s simplicity and bog down the game with special rules. I share your conclusions that possibly no special rules are necessary — but the research you did is enjoyable to read nonetheless!

    I would probably pick one (or two) rules to give the Japanese flavor, at most.

    PS: I’m impressed that your Japanese troops are already painted up. It would take me years to accomplish the same 😉

  2. In many circumstances, the great bravery of the Japanese infantry just meant more of them died, and in Crossfire it makes little difference whether a squad is removed because all the men represented are dead, or just some of them are dead and the rest have surrendered.

    I think the stubborn resistance when entrenched is worth representing, as the allies seem to have been much better at overcoming fortified troops in NW Europe than in Burma (for instance) so something like your ‘fanatical when dug in’ rule could work. But against that it may just be that the allies outside NW Europe had fewer of the cool tools (see Monte Cassino for how much tougher fortified Germans seem to be when you can’t call on 79th Armoured).

    Could you just rate most Japanese troops as veteran, so they rally really well, but usually give them poor command and control? While almost all Japanese troops were very brave, levels of training and tactical skill varied a lot.

  3. Looking through my collection of old WWII rules, PBI II allows a Japanese player to declare a platoon is a ‘Banzai’ unit at any point. From that point on it may only fire at short range (1 square), cannot be pinned and don’t take morale tests. However the rules also tell you that if they fail a break test (which is a kind of morale test) they are removed as normal, so I’m not sure they were that carefully play tested…

    Not much use to you, sorry

  4. A couple comments. Concerning: 1. Give a Katana to officers. These means that there is a good chance the officer is killed since he’s leading his men. To represent that, all Platoon and Company CS fight as if a rifle stand. This would mean you couldn’t overrun platoon Command Figures like in Regular Crossfire. You’d have to fight them. 2. Rising sun flags. Unlike the West the Regimental flags never went into combat, being stored in a military temple of the Regiment’s province. Usually when you see flags displayed in Japanese combat pictures troops are around them, with the two fisted up right Banzai proclamation. To me this is a possible morale and indication of the command structure position. Remember Japanese troops had no personal communications. They depended on hand signals. If I’m waving a flag, I’m telling my troops look at me!. Allow +1 to all rally rolls to bases in LOS. The Goddess smiles at you!

  5. A recent game meant I discovered the Japanese are good at surprise encounters. They impose a -2 on the mover rather than the normal -1. I have updated the post to reflect that.


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