I have many home-made rules for Crossfire. Those who want to see these in bulk can download the file with them in, but they are in very brief note form. On this page, you will find what I hope are clear explanations of the most significant changes and additions I have made to the rules. All these suggestions have been thoroughly play-tested (unlike some you will find in the downloadable file), and all, in my opinion, improve the game.
1. PENALTY DICE
In the published rules, there are only two means of making it harder to hit a target with small arms' fire. One is to use one die fewer (such as when firing at troops in cover such as woods), and another is to count only sixes as hits, rather than fives and sixes (such as when firing at troops in pillboxes). I use a third method also. A extra die is rolled, called a "penalty die" and the highest or joint-highest result thrown is ignored.
Example: some troops advance to and occupy a stone church. It is considered that this building is good cover, but not so good as purpose-built defensive positions such as pillboxes. These troops come under fire from a machine gun. Normally, the machine gun would use four dice, modified to three dice by the target's being in cover. Instead, four dice are rolled, plus a penalty die = five dice total. The results are 2, 6, 5, 4, 6. One of the two sixes is ignored, and the result is that the target troops are suppressed.
This system has a number of good points. First, it offers something between the harshness of dropping one die, and of dropping a die and only counting sixes. See my page on probabilities for the facts and figures on this. Second, it preserves the simple purity of the d6 system. Third, it means that it is always still possible to get lucky results, and the full range of results. If you were to drop two dice from a rifle attack (three dice), then you would only be rolling one die, and so a suppression result would be impossible. If instead you roll a penalty die, then a roll such as 5, 2, 6, 5 would still be a suppression. With very lucky rolls, using the penalty die system, suppressions remain possible.
Suppression in my opinion represents troops being forced to dive for cover. Suppressed troops cannot shoot, because they are all head-down behind whatever piece of cover they can find. It could be that the troops who caused the suppression can no longer see the target troops at all, since they are all now hidden behind rocks and bumps and the like. To be suppressed is to be comparatively safe from fire, but unable to act.
In Crossfire, troops who are suppressed are no more difficult to hit than troops who are advancing. Since a second suppression result is a kill, this encourages people to choose to shoot at suppressed troops, in order to finish them off. This is not historical. In reality, people tended to shoot at people who were shooting at them, offering them some threat, suppressed troops were usually finished off in close combat, not by direct fire.
2.1: Suppressed troops are NOT compulsory target priority. This means that while a player may still choose to fire at suppressed stands, he is not forced to by the target priority rules, and he may instead direct his fire against enemy troops further away, who are not suppressed.
2.2: Suppressed (enemy?) troops do not block line of sight. I play that no suppressed troops block LOS, but you may lesson the alteration to say that no enemy suppressed troops block LOS. This means that if you fire at an enemy stand of troops and suppress it, you may then shoot at other enemy troops behind the now-suppressed stand. If three stands of troops are arranged in a row, and enemy fire suppresses one on the end of the row, then whereas in the rules as published, an attacker might approach to close combat with the end stand, using it to block the fire of its fellows, now the attacker must beware the defensive fire which can come over the suppressed stand, from the middle stand of the row. The furthest of the three would still be blocked by the middle, unsuppressed, stand.
2.3: Suppressed stands are harder to hit. A player shooting at a suppressed stand rolls one penalty die (see above). This means that people will seldom choose to risk their initiative firing at suppressed troops.
3. REACTIVE FIRE
Attacking can be difficult in Crossfire. Imagine this situation: on one side of the table, little is happening. On the other, the defending troops are in a merry pickle. The attacker masses troops for an advance, and unleashes his forces against some apparently hapless defenders. From across the board, a defending rifle stand has line of sight to this attack, and fires reactively against the advancing troops, and the attack is halted. The defender didn't mind using this stand as he did, because he didn't care if it missed and became No Fire, because it was miles from the action. The fact that there were many nearer attacking troops within line of sight of the rifle stand made no difference, because the target priority rules are ignored for reactive fire. I believe this to be unrealistic, and detrimental to the flow of the game.
3.1: Troops reacting to enemy movement in front of them, when the enemy is not phasing target priority, use one die less.
3.2: Troops firing at enemy moving from out of LOS to out of LOS via a gap through which never can the whole target base at once be seen, use one die fewer.
3.3: Troops firing at troops moving behind them, use one die fewer.
3.4: Two causes of -1 die, such as rule 3.2 applied against target troops in woods, combine to make one penalty die. Three causes would mean drop one die and roll a penalty die. Four causes (very improbable) would mean two penalty dice.
3.5: A penalty die is rolled when reacting to troops moving behind the firers, and which are not target priority.
Example: The attack described above goes ahead, and attacking stands move to close-combat their foes. It is noticed that a defending rifle stand has line of sight to the advance. However, the stand has other attacker's-side troops which are in LOS and nearer, and which would be phasing target priority. It is likely that these troops would preoccupy the rifle stand, and so one die is dropped from the stand's three dice (3.1). Also, at the point when the rifles can see the line of advance, this is through a tiny gap between two buildings, so a second die is dropped, since the rifles would only glimpse the attack for a second (3.2). Also, the rifle stand is pointing away from the target point, and the riflemen would have to notice the enemy advance, even though it was behind them, and would have to turn to bring fire to bear, if the lie of the land allowed it. For this reason, a penalty die is rolled (3.5 - remember that the enemy target troops were not phasing target priority). Rule 3.4 means that the two dropped dice are replaced with a penalty die. So, three dice are rolled for the rifle, plus two penalty dice = five dice. The results are 3, 2, 6, 6, 4. The two sixes are ignored and so the attackers are unaffected and the reacting rifle stand is now marked No Fire.
This may seem complicated, but the good news is that the rules seldom have to be applied. Knowing them, players will seldom react with inappropriate units, since the risks of No Fire are significant, and one only gets a limited number of reactions to the actions of the attacker.
4. PHASING FIRE
Another frustration when attacking in Crossfire, is that over-whelming numbers can be difficult to exploit. Imagine this: a defending rifle stand shelters behind a wall. The attacker fires some of his troops - a full platoon - at it, and fails to get a suppression, and he loses the initiative. Next time he has the initiative, he decides that it is very important to shift this one defending stand, so he moves up a tank to within LOS of the defender, and then another full platoon of troops. He now has two platoons of troops and a tank all within LOS of the defender. He fires with the first platoon again, and fails to get a suppression again, and loses the initiative. The tank and the second platoon did him no good at all. No matter how many barrels he brings to bear against this one target stand, he chance to cause a suppression and so keep the initiative, is never better than with his single best fire action alone. I believe this to be unfair. Numbers should count.
4.1: After one fire action versus a target has failed to suppress, initiative is lost, but a player may use direct fire from other forces ONCE at the same target before passing the initiative. He picks a second force which might fire and rolls a die. The force may fire if he rolls a three or better (two or better if it is veteran, four or better if it is green or a vehicle). Target priorities still apply.
Example: In the situation described above, the first platoon fires and fails to cause a suppression. Cursing, the attacker rolls one die to see if his second platoon (of regulars) can get a shot. It can, because he rolls a three. The second platoon fires and causes a suppression. He then rolls to see if the tank can fire. he rolls a three, and so it cannot, nor could any other of his forces with LOS to the target, because once it is ruled than a unit may not fire, no others may either. Also, since target priority rules still apply, units of his closer to other enemy targets would not be eligible to join in. Despite the fact that a suppression has been caused, the initiative still passes.
In Crossfire as published, smoke is very neat, and very predictable. It always lands exactly where you want it to, and disappears exactly when you'd expect, so you can plan ahead very neatly. I use a different method for calling in smoke, and it adds a great deal to the game. Smoke is not better or worse than in the published rules, but it is a great deal more unpredictable, and a great deal more interesting/frustrating as a result. To use my suggestion, you will need to make some specialist dice, or learn a table of results. I have made specialist dice by getting blank white dice, and leaving two sides blank, painting an arrow on one side, a little puff of smoke on another, a bigger puff on another, and a dense dark puff on the last.
5.1: To call in smoke from mortars, artillery etc., a player rolls a die. The results are as follows:
5.1.1: Blank face (1 and 2) - no smoke arrives. No more smoke may be requested this initiative from that source.
5.1.2: Little smoke puff (3) - smoke arrives on target. At the end of this initiative, a saving roll will be made.
5.1.3: Bigger smoke puff (4) - smoke arrives on target. It will stay in place during the next initiative, as normal, after which it disappears.
5.1.4: Big dense smoke puff (5) - smoke arrives on target. It will stay in place during the next initiative, after which a saving roll is made.
5.1.5: Arrow (6) - smoke arrives off-target. Roll to see how far off target the smoke is, in the direction indicated by the arrow. Smoke from direct fired sources (2" mortars, tanks etc.) is 1d6" off target. Smoke from indirect sources is also 1d6" off-target, but rolls of 1 and 6 are added and re-rolled (example, a 3" mortar fires indirect and lands off-target; the die rolls are 1, 6, 1, 4 = 12 inches off-target).
5.2: When it comes time for a saving roll for the smoke, the smoke die is rolled again, and the faces on it have different meanings.
5.2.1: Blank face (1 and 2) - smoke disappears.
5.2.2: Little smoke puff (3) - smoke shrinks by a stand's width.
5.2.3: Bigger smoke puff (4) - smoke stays.
5.2.4: Big dense smoke puff (5) - smoke stays.
5.2.5: Arrow (6) - smoke drifts in direction of arrow 1d6".
5.3: Players may not choose to land smoke on top of friendly troops, but if troops end up in smoke created by friendly fire, then that smoke may be renewed/stoked. The reason for this rule is that in reality, high-explosive rounds were used to get the range for smoke screens, and people didn't fire HE at their own troops. Once an area was zeroed in, however, then smoke could be fired to that target. Much of World War Two smoke was white phosphorus, which was very nasty stuff. It burned very hot and created a smoke screen very quickly, but its two drawbacks were that it tended to rise upwards rather than drift along, and it burned friend and foe alike. For this reason, players might forbid even stoking the smoke on friendly troops.
5.4: Vehicles in smoke are -1 in close combat. A tank in smoke was even more blind than usual. Enemy troops could sneak up much more easily to plant mines and the like. Keep your tanks in the open.
5.5: Troops may retreat-move from smoke. The retreat-move rule which allows troops to melt back into woods and other terrain features, I extend to smoke.
5.6: Troops may not enter enemy smoke. In reality, troops did not wander into enemy smoke. For a start, it was a scary thing to do. In smoke, you are near-blind, and it is very likely that enemy troops are about. In an instant, you might find yourself in the open after a gust of wind, and disoriented. If the enemy guesses or sees that you are there, then he will find it very easy to kill you, since his artillery/mortars are already zeroed in to that spot, and just need to fire again with HE rather than smoke shells.
5.7: Some scenarios may specify that certain terrain types may prevent smoke from being effective. Examples are bogs, into which smoke shells sink uselessly, and steep slopes, off which smoke shells roll and wind whips. If a player forgets this and calls in smoke onto a bog, he gets no smoke and has lost his chance to call in any more smoke this initiative.
5.8: Smoke covers a disc with the radius of the lengths given in the rules for lines of smoke. In reality, smoke did not form neat lines, but big blobs. At the scale of Crossfire games, the idea of the long straight smoke screen is rather out of place. Those existed on big battlefields, and were created and maintained by big batteries of artillery for set-piece battles, but a couple of 3" mortars throwing down smoke, unplanned, during an infantry skirmish would create an area of smoke, not a line. The ability of a player to choose the ideal angle of line for his smoke is also an unrealistic convenience.
5.9: Rules are needed to make it clear when troops can see each other, when big areas of smoke are around.
5.9.1: Troops inside an area of smoke are considered hidden to troops outside the smoke, only if their bases are entirely within the smoke. If part of their base protrudes, then the troops in the smoke can be seen and do not count as in cover from the smoke.
5.9.2: Troops with centre of their stand in smoke, may not see out.
5.9.3: Troops inside smoke may see other troops in the same area of smoke at point-blank range, and both are "in cover" from each other.
The effect of the above rules is to make smoke much more of a double-edged sword. In games, I often find myself cursing that my own smoke has drifted, or that smoke I needed desperately when I called it in, is now lingering and to my disadvantage. Rules 5.9.1 and 5.9.2 combine to mean that it is very dangerous to charge through smoke, because as you emerge the other side, there will be a moment when the enemy can see dark shapes in the smoke emerging, and may shoot them (and they do not count as in cover) while the targets are still blinded by their own smoke.