Monday, May 18, 2009

First Impressions of "Crossfire" and 10mm WWII wargaming

Last week I met up with Michael (aka Chgowiz of; that's him in the photo) at Games Plus in suburban Chicago. We had resolved to try out Crossfire, a tabletop WWII game that I've owned for about a year but never played. I finally got rolling with the game after running across a hefty pile of cheap 10mm-scale German and Soviet infantry figures (to go along with my small army of 1/144-scale WWII tanks).

A couple weeks of frenetic painting later, and I was ready to go. You can see some pics of my Soviet efforts here.

Crossfire is a unique game in that it doesn't use rulers for measurement. Every unit is assumed to be within range of everything else; if you can see a target, you can try to attack it. This makes cover and positioning very important--just like in WWII.

Moreover, Crossfire doesn't use fixed game turns; rather, players alternate actions based on how successful they are in their attempts at moving, firing and rallying. Subsequent successes allow more actions--but a failure means the initiative shifts to your opponent, who is then free to implement his own tactics.

In practice, this meant that our game developed its own ebb and flow, as Michael and I tried different tactics on the battlefield. I might get lucky and score a string of successful attacks--only to fail at a rally attempt and have the initiative swing back to Michael. It was a lot of fun, because you never knew when you opponent might fail at a particular actions, which would then award you the intiative.

Perhaps most satisfying was the fact that Crossfire makes it tough to pull of "killer kombos" by stringing together multiple successful maneuvers. This particular element of game play is pretty common in Warmachine, which lets players set up devastasting attacks on their turn by layering different unit effects in a complicated string of bonuses and penalties. Not so in Crossfire--players must react on the spot to an ever-changing battlefield. It felt great.

That said, we made a few mistakes in the two games that we played. Our first duel was a simple platoon-vs-platoon learning game. We probably put out too few pieces of terrain (Crossfire calls for almost half the table to be covered with woods, hills, cities and walls) and that might have contributed to Michael's victory in that first game. Still, it helped us learn the rules and concluded fast enough for us to squeeze in another larger game, this one inspired by a scenario I'd printed off from a Crossfire resource page.

This second game featured almost a full company of soldiers per side, as well as a couple of vehicles and anti-tank guns. Again, we made a few mistakes--including overlooking the fact that my Germans were supposed to be veterans, a point that might have effected the outcome--but we had a great time overall. The game played fast and we really didn't have to spend all that much time flipping through the rulebook. The handy double-sided game reference sheet was really all we needed for most arbitrations.

Next week I'm going to meet another player up at Chicagoland Games and try out Crossfire again. This is all building toward a June 13 demo that I'll run at Games Plus for the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society.


Michael S/Chgowiz said...

I had a lot of fun with this game! It definitely "felt" WW2 without being as intense as Squad Leader.

Did you get a chance to ask about if being next to the STuG was an "end game" condition?

Chris Kutalik said...

Crossfire is easily the greatest, most elegant set of WW2 rules--that I never play. I have a copy and love dearly the whole no-ruler, momentum-emphasis dynamic, but like you mention, I just plain don't have enough terrain to stock out a table under its aegis.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@ckutalik - Diehard used colored felt for some of the terrain, and I thought that was an excellent option. It's not too expensive and gives you some options to play without spending on the big bucks for terrain.

Patrick W. Rollens said...

Yep, I played a second game last night, with even more cheap homemade terrain. I found a spray can that instantly replicates a "textured rubble" appearance on foam pads, which allowed me to easily create ruined city blocks.

Add in a few squares of colored felt to represent fields and forests, and you've got your whole tabletop done!

I'll do a post about cheap and easy Crossfire terrain soon.