Sunday, July 30, 2023

Crossfire Resurrection, little game by little game

We last tried Arty Conliffe’s WWII infantry game Crossfire in 2014. One of the Fencibles didn’t like moving into the period of automatic weapons and another didn’t get the fluid game turns.  We’re a small group; unpopular rules don’t get played. 

One member is no longer with us, another has moved a good three-hour drive away. Bill and I liked the rules from the few games we played back then. Bill suggested we give it another try with the newer Fencibles. I did a little house cleaning of my moribund 20mm East Front project. We used Steve Thomas’ mini-Crossfire Scenarios  Yes, the 20mm figures are rather packed on those 30mm bases. I may redo the project with Victrix 12mm plastic. Or I might just stick with the 20mm stuff I already have.


I prepared a reinforced platoon of Russians (Revell plastic infantry with Fantassin/Warmodeling heavy weapons) and two reinforced platoons of Germans (Revell plastic, metal as above). It all fit in a small box that went up to the Catskills. I forgot to bring lichen to dress up the wooded terrain features but it didn’t matter since I also left my camera back in NYC. I had felt terrain for the first scenario, entirely in the woods. I had a small hill along for the second scenario. In all the scenarios, if the defender hangs in for 60 minutes of real time, they win.


We started with the first scenario, Bill defending with the Russians, and I on the attack with the Germans. There was a lengthy pause mid-game explaining the difference between pinned (no movement, may fire) and suppression (no movement, no firing, serious problems in close combat). As the allotted hour ran out, Bill said add penalty time a la World Cup Soccer. 9 minutes was added to the clock and I proceeded to mop up the Russians. I was on the verge of dealing with them when the timer went off again. I had lost too much time rallying pinned forces. The attackers lost.


Next game saw Bill on the attack, cleaning out my Russians in about 30 minutes. We then switched to the second scenario with the hill. Both games saw the attackers mop up the Russians in about 30 minutes. One last game saw this happen again. I know we alternated sides but cannot recall who played what side in the last game. The games were interspersed with trips into town, preparing meals, smoking a pork shoulder, etc.


We ironed out a number of oversights and the inevitable imported rules from other games that don’t belong in Crossfire. We both liked the way the rules flowed. And the mini-games are fast. Perhaps we need to work on defensive tactics.


With a better handle on the rules from having played, rather than reading about them in blogs, I set up scenario 1 for Jay. He dropped by yesterday and after lunch we began. Since he had never played before and was working from an online review instead of the actual rules, I used the suggested handicap. He had veteran attackers and I had green defenders. 

Veterans rally easier and have a plus modifier in close combat. Green troops are harder to rally and have a negative modifier in close combat. The first game saw one of his platoons caught in the open while my firing dice were hot. He lost all three squads of the platoon in short order. I then nailed a squad from his other platoon, ending the first game by nailing 4 enemy squads. It was over in 30 minutes without Russian losses. Jay was eager to play it again. The next game saw better German tactics and less heat from the Russian dice. In 30 minutes, he knocked out 3 infantry squads and my mortar while losing 2 squads. The second game  saw one of his squads enter my minefield and get suppressed. But I didn’t have anyone able to finish the squad off. His engineer squad sidled up next to the mines and defused them. He went on to a 4-2 win in about 30 minutes. We still had time for a third game. In 30 minutes, he won 4-2 and was on track to wipe out what little was left of my forces if the game hadn't ended, sparing me that indignity.


Jay liked the rules. Simple, fast and requires tactics rather than just dice luck. Next to see if Carl and Andrew like Crossfire. Perhaps we might even sneak a tank onto the table by Fall.


Only one photo: the battery for my point-and-shoot camera seems to have given up the ghost. Tomorrow I’ll hit B&H Photo video and see if anyone still makes batteries for a Canon Power shot. I hope so, not interested in buying a new camera. The picture below of my imminent demise was taken using my phone, requiring a different method of using Photoshop.  I like my old camera. We’ve been blogging games for over 20 years together.

                                As you can see, I've been backed into a corner.

Edit: the battery charged when put in a different socket (on the same power strip). All is not lost.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Oeversee III, Schleswig-Holstein Action

Saturday afternoon we played the 1864 battle of Oeversee (2nd Schleswig-Holstein War) again. The first two games saw the attacking Austrians roundly thumped. This time was different. Konstantinos Travlos’ scenario can be found here. Rules: Bloody Big Battles.


Andrew and his 9-year-old daughter Emily arrived. Jay had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency. We hope he and family fare well. Andrew, an aggressive player, decided to take the Austrians after being warned of their previous fate. The previous Austrians hadn’t had Emily.

Andrew and Emily were delayed a bit and had a long, hot walk from the subway. After a leisurely lunch, completed by my wife’s cupcakes, we started. I deployed the Danes as before, artillery on the right flank hill, shielded from direct assault by infantry or cavalry by the frozen lake, a pair of infantry regiments covering the center. The photos below tell the story. (Yes, the "Danes" are FPW French Naval Infantry. They are on "snow" bases.)

A previous game of Shiloh saw me rolling snake eyes so frequently that my opponents nearly cried with laughter. The pendulum swung the other way, starting with  boxcars rolled against one of the Austrian artillery batteries. Boom.

And here the boxcars reappeared, three times. On the two Austrian assaults, I rolled a moderate 3 each time. The first assault saw the Austrians roll a 1 and barely drive back my 1st Infantry. The second time they rolled a 5. With modifiers, that sent the 11th Infantry back at a run with losses and allowed the Austrians to overrun an objective.

The Austrians managed to tie the game, losing 4 bases of infantry and one of cavalry. A base of infantry and cavalry had each fled the field. One artillery base was damaged. The Danes lost three bases of infantry, higher losses than in previous games. Good work by the Austrians, especially facing the deadly firepower of the Danish boxcars. The game took 72 minutes. This was the first time we played it face to face. The first game was run via Zoom, the second on Discord (and bi-continental).


I hoped to run the game twice but a late start and lengthy lunch put paid to a second game. The conversation (and beer) was well worth it. We hadn’t seen each other since April.

(Next time I will save edited photos under different names. That way, when I spot typos on the photos I can go back to the originals and correct them. Sigh.)

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Mohawks and Other Woodland Warriors


Many wargame rules treat Native American warriors of the east according to Hollywood stereotypes: fast moving chaps armed with inferior trade muskets, ferocious in hand-to-hand combat. I beg to differ.


When Europeans first arrived, Indians did fight in wooden armor. Often a first open-order rank would shoot arrows, followed by the charge of a second rank in wooden armor. This changed when the warriors acquired firearms. In short order the warriors learned to hunt with firearms, discarding the armor. By the 18th century they had established a stealthy way of hunting and warfare. Depending on hunting for meat, the warriors became better shots than all but the most feral frontiersmen. They preferred to set ambushes and riddle the enemy at close range. On the attack, they would move quietly through the woods. When the enemy was spotted, a war whoop would let the warriors know it was time for action, while possibly spooking the foe. Warriors would zig-zag as they advanced, fighting tree to tree. If the enemy also took cover, they would rush opposing fighters who were reloading. If you are playing skirmish games, this is where the hand-to-hand would come in. Experienced Indian fighters knew to operate in pairs, one always loaded to hold off a rush. Herkimer’s militia managed to survive that way at the 1777 Battle of Oriskany. Warriors spent much of their time hunting, being stealthy in the woods. And often practicing throwing tomahawks accurately within 10-15 yards. Those few without firearms would have bows. 

Oriskany, 1777

Mass charges to contact would happen when the enemy was starting to give way. In 1779 upstate New York militia made the mistake of catching Joseph Brant’s Mohawk raiders at Minisink Ford. The Mohawks survived the volley fired as they crossed the stream. They then turned on the militia, who formed an open-order square in the woods. After a lengthy fire fight, warriors noted that both militiamen guarding one corner of the square had died. They formed up and rushed the corner, pouring into the center of the square. The militia were wiped out.


At the Monongahela in 1755, the final charge only happened when the British regulars started to break, after a prolonged firefight. This is not how you win a game with forces that shoot poorly and are murderous in melee, as many rules rate natives. St. Clair’s US Army was shattered in similar fashion at the Wabash in 1791, ripped apart by Indian sniping.


One early fight with Puritans did see a charge when warriors had been cornered, in an attempt to escape. Otherwise, charges by large numbers of Indians happened when the enemy had begun to turn tail.



In 1763, Delaware, Shawnee, Mingo and Huron warriors had Colonel Bouquet’s column in serious trouble. His force was flank companies, grenadiers and light infantry. Bouquet was the light infantry expert in the British Army. The first day saw the Ohio country natives slowly pick apart the British with incessant sniping. Bouquet tried a desperate stratagem the next day. A grenadier company made a feigned retreat. The warriors took the bait, pouring into the gap. They were charged on both flanks with bayonets. The grenadiers turned and joined the charge, hitting the warriors from three directions at once. The warriors broke, and Bouquet limped on with his numerous wounded.

 Bushy Run, 1763

Indian warriors fought as individuals rather than units. They came and went as they pleased. They fought for trophies and/or revenge. Prisoners would be taken, either to torture as vengeance for a slain friend or family member, or to be adopted to replace a fallen tribe member. Later, prisoners were mostly taken to be ransomed, as most of the soldiers and civilians taken near Fort Dearborn in 1812 were.  Other trophies might be scalps of those killed, or valuable property. Once a warrior had taken trophies, it was usual to head home. Large Indian victories would see most warriors head home. The venerable board game Mohawk featured this. Great victories would see the few French irregulars left alone on the battlefield by the tribesmen.


The Indians had a much smaller population that the colonists. If they suffered heavy casualties, their families might well starve. Indian warriors were not interested in suffering heavy losses. They were usually averse to storming forts, though many films show them coming over the walls until the reinforcements arrive in the nick of time. A rare exception was Fort Mims in 1813, in what is now Alabama. The fort hardly deserved the name, since the gate was jammed open and couldn’t be closed. The alcoholic fort commandant died trying to shut it when he realized the attack was on. Further, the loopholes in the palisade were at ground level. Red Stick warriors were able to stand at unguarded loopholes and fire at those within. Blockhouses to allow crossfire on the palisade had not been constructed, etc. Forts that were properly designed and garrisoned were another story.


Further on the bad shooter/fierce melee trope is this quote from Andrew Jackson, who exterminated warriors in job lots: “The cowardly dogs cannot stand a charge. It is by this way alone the Indians can be killed; to stand and fight they out-hide and out-shoot us.”  This, from a man who fought them first in skirmishes and then leading armies. Jackson had a great capacity for hate; for the British, who scarred his teen-age face, and the Indians, who might ally with the British and who were occupying the prime real estate in the South. And anyone else who crossed him or insulted his wife. But I digress. Even David Crockett (he didn’t like being called Davy) thought Jackson was too harsh on Indians.


When playing Rebels and Patriots, I class Indian warriors as Skirmishers. The Native class (fast, middling firepower, tough melee) seems a better fit for the Highlanders of the ’45, charging with their claymores, and Vendee Rebels with their pole-arms. If the Indians are a majority of the force, defending their homelands, I’d rate them as veterans, at worst average. If they are acting as auxiliaries for Americans or Europeans, I’d rate them as green since they were along for loot, not that motivated. Also depends on if their prophet(s) have them fired up.


Habitants and Highlanders gets it better, with Indian warriors having excellent morale in woods. Most battles of the French and Indian War were fought in deep woods. Your table should have woods as the default terrain, with perhaps a cleared field here and there, instead of the other way around.