I’m lucky to have some regular opponents (Chris, Jamie, Adam) but some folk are not so privileged. Inspired by a conversation with Brett Simpson I thought I’d write some rules for playing solo Crossfire. I want a game, played solo, that feels a bit like Mac’s Crossfire Missions. As it happens Nikolas Lloyd already has a Scenario for Solo Play and there is tons of good stuff in there. Lloyd wrote a specific scenario but my goal is slightly different, wider. That means I can’t use Lloyd’s scenario directly but I can pull out some lessons from his offering.
Nikolas Lloyd’s Solo Crossfire
Nikolas Lloyd wrote a Scenario for Solo Play. This establishes a solo system for a specific scenario. It is great but as Lloyd admits, the snags with this approach are:
- you need someone else to write the scenario for you
- it is quite a lot of work
Scenario Set up
The player is the defender. The non-player is attacking and a bit of a robot.
The defender gets a reduced battalion with two companies.
Spoiler alert: The attacker, although it isn’t obvious at the start, gets a battalion with three companies.
The defender deploys around the objectives. Non-player starts off table. Non-player starts with initiative.
General policies for non-player actions
Lloyd outlined some general heuristics for how the non-player forces behave. Lloyd’s list suggests things I’d also have to cover as general policies:
- Reactive fire
- Phasing fire
- Close combat
- Forward observers
- Officer replacement
- Ground hugging
Scripted list of non-player actions
It seems to me that non-player actions are the trickiest bit of solo gaming. Some solo gamers don’t even bother and just play both sides. Lloyd goes the other way and scripts the actions for the non-player. The scripted actions are in one big list. Which action is attempted depends on die rolls. On every non-player initiative you start from the top of the list, skip those actions which have already been done, find the next action that has not been completed, check whether the action will be attempted, do it, and cross off the action when it has been completed. I thought I’d copy Lloyd’s instruction make that clearer:
Enemy orders are numbered in sequence. Each has a number from 2 to 6 in brackets after the sequence number. If this number or higher is rolled on 1d6, the instruction is skipped. Keep rolling for each order in sequence until you roll lower than the bracketed number for an order, at which point you make one attempt to carry out that order. If you still have the initiative, then you roll again for the same order, perhaps skipping to the next order, or perhaps giving that order a second go. So, if your orders are to fire at a certain position, and you fire one action and retain the initiative, then you might repeat the order and fire again.
If an instruction is completed, cross it off (a print-out of the orders would help). Keep going until initiative is lost. When initiative is regained, go back to the first uncompleted instruction and roll to see if that instruction is to be carried out.
Naturally, if an instruction is impossible, skip to the next.
The script is in two parts (Onset; Hammer) which is to allow a natural check point in the middle of the game.
Part 2 is a scripted set of non-player actions. I want to see if it is possible to generalise the scripting so thought I’d pull out interesting phrases from the list. This is not all of them but indicative:
- [Platoon] enter from the [non-player base edge]
- [Platoon] enter [X] at its most westerly point
- [Platoon] enter [X] from its most westerly point, proceed to deploy in NW corner of [Y]
- [Platoon, HMG] enter at point [P] south of [X] and using cover of [Y] [then] surmount hill [Y] at its easterly end and deploy in [Z] facing largest visible threat
- [Platoon] proceed through [X] and from its NE tip make their way to deploy in [Y] its westerly end
- [Platoon, FO] enter [X] at its easterly end as a group move, and deploy facing N
- [Platoon, CC, HMG, FO] enter [X] as a group, moving in that order. Deploy facing N.
- If [FO] has been stationary for an initiative, he calls in smoke to cover a move from [X] to [Y]. Biggest fire action of [2 Platoons] will fire at any enemies that might hamper a move from [X] to [Y]. If there are no such units. All units in [X] make their way to western end of [Y] and deploy facing biggest threat, [FO] at rear.
- [Any platoon] fire at any [friendly] units that might hamper moves from [X] to [Y]. If there is none or only one enemy rifle stand in position to prevent the move, all [X] units move to [Y].
- [FO] fires indirect [Barrage] and direct with largest [any platoon] fire action upon any units that can oppose moves N from [X]. This continues until it is possible to move all units from [X] to [Y]. Smoke is called in if this makes the difference. When the move is possible without resistance, it is made.
- [FO] drops smoke if possible and directs largest [any platoon] fire action against those who would oppose a move from [X] to [Y]. If it is possible to move unopposed, then all units in [X] proceed to [Y].
- [Company] fires at any of your forces that have LOS to [X] (includes targets in [X]).
- [CC] enters the board in [X], together with three attached [3 x HMG]. He directs fire against any of your forces that might oppose his moving to [Y]. If the way is clear, he moves to [Y], rallying any stragglers on the way. If you have forces that could oppose the move, but which are out of sight from his entry position, he first moves into [Z] and directs fire from there. Once in [Y] he directs all HMGs to fire at the nearest non-suppressed of your troops. If you have one or less non-suppressed rifle stand who can see him, he’ll rally any pinned units in [Y].
- [Company] will move all forces from [X] to the W tip of [Y] if possible.
- If the enemy has lost 26 or more stands, and you have lost 6 or fewer, then you may declare yourself the victor.
Part 3 has the second half of the scripted actions. It introduces a few new bits:
- [Bonus] heavy bombardment on [X] and [Y]. No, this isn’t fair, but neither is it fair that you get to do what you want, while your foes are locked to a pre-set plan. Any and all stands of yours in [X] are hit by bombs, rockets, shells equivalent to 5d6 (no Kill Effect) each. Any and all in [Y] suffer 4d6.
- [Bonus] heavy artillery smoke missions that smoke off [several spaces between terrain features]. Never mind putting down half a hundredweight of cotton wool, just understand that LOS is blocked from EVERYWHERE for an advance from [X] to [Y]/[Z].
- [Company] advances en masse to [X]. … Any of your forces in [X] may fire point blank, in the smoke, counting targets as in cover. [Lead stands] will close-combat anyone in the southern half of [X]. … this one mega-group move which breaks the usual Crossfire rules which only allow for group moves up to platoon size. I’m writing this scenario, and I can do what I like. … Your enemies will do all in their power with shooting, charging and generally making a fuss, until you or they are masters of this concentric wood.
- [Company] will deploy with [Platoon] in [X], facing N. [HMG] will attach to [Platoon] and take up residence in the centre of the N half of [X], facing your biggest concentration of forces. [And then other Platoons deploy around [X] as well]
- FO if he has LOS to [X], calls down HE on it.
- FO if he has LOS, calls down HE on your nearest forces in [X], [Y] or [Z]. If there are no such forces, or [FO] cannot see them, he will attempt to smoke off any with LOS to the nearest of these features.
- (Optional) Tea break. Have a nice cuppa and a few biscuits, and consider how things are going. Did you find Third Company’s entrance a surprise? Did you really think that you’d be defending against equal numbers, when you have the ability to alter plans at will?
- All forces in [X] move to [Y]. Never mind the opposition. They just don’t care any more.
- Your enemy fires and smokes in support of attacks on any remaining forces in [terrain around objective]. Once opposition has been crushed and the area secured, forces will deploy in [X] to secure the area. Once this objective is taken, assess the attacker’s losses. If he has lost 26 or more stands, his attack falters. You have saved the day. Otherwise, keep going.
- Assessment. If enemy has 10 or fewer stands of all types remaining, you have won. If enemy forces now hold [some terrain objectives], and no friendly forces remain in stone enclosure [other terrain objectives] then you have lost. If the enemy holds two of these three and has eleven or more stands remaining, you have forced a draw. If enemy now has one or none of these objectives, you have won.
Generalising Lloyd’s scripted list of non-player actions
Based on that analysis I’m going to need a number of rules for non-player actions.
Lloyd has rules for positioning support troops but the script list also mentioned:
- FOs at the rear of moving formations
- Rifle Squads deploy closer to known enemy stands than the HMGs, but allowing the HMGs a good field of fire
Game Set up
Two things about game set up are in the scripted list
- Choosing what support (CC, FO, HMG) each platoon has
- Choosing axis of attack (and I might like a secondary axis), and reserve location
But mostly, of course, the scripted actions are moving and shooting:
- Choosing which company and/or platoon to act
- Direct or Indirect Fire:
- Platoons within Company direct fire at nearest
- Using indirect fire and direct fire to allow unimpeded movement:
- into a destination feature
- between two features (current, destination)
- between two features (current, destination), and then doing the movement
- Note: As Lloyd points out, “Remember that it is not a requirement to kill off opposition. Suppression, LOS blocking, smoking off etc. will suffice. Smoked off troops of yours will simply be by-passed if possible.”
- FO choosing whether to use barrage or smoke from indirect fire to cover movement
- FO calls indirect barrage fire onto objective
- FO calls indirect barrage fire onto features or, if that isn’t possible, smokes off the approach to those features
- Moving stands:
- Platoon (and supports) entering the table
- Platoon (and supports) moving to a better position
- FO moving to a better position
- HMG moving to a better position
- Choosing level of risk to accept for a movement:
- no opposition
- or 0 or 1 rifle stands
- or regardless of opposition (more likely later on)
- Choosing a facing (or position in feature) for stands. Options are:
- Facing nearest enemy
- Facing biggest threat
- Facing towards enemy base line
- Facing direction of attack
- Player choice of subset of above
- Redeploy to hold captured objective in all around defence
- Unexpected reinforcements
- Rally stragglers
- Assess victory conditions
Lloyd’s scenario contained lots of inspiration for a more general version of Solo Crossfire.