Hit the Dirt
Hit the Dirt is a book in the same format as the main Crossfire rule book, with scenarios for Crossfire based on actual historical engagements. The book has a number of extra rules, for use in these scenarios, and each scenario includes a map of the board; a detailed list of the forces each side should have; historical notes on the way the actual engagement went; and a set of objectives and victory conditions which make the scenarios much more interesting to play than the usual "meeting engagements" where both sides have the same simple set of orders: "engage and destroy the enemy".
Unfortunately, I spotted a number of things which seemed wrong, or in need of clarification, and so I contacted one of the book's authors, Bill Rutherford, who was able to make things clear. For the benefit of other purchasers of Hit the Dirt, I set out below the various errata and clarifications which came from that correspondence. Many thanks to Bill for supplying the answers.
The book introduces a few new types of terrain, without any hints as to how to represent these on the table top.
- CRESTS: While these can be represented by specialist ridge-backed hills, the most usual way the play-testers represented crest lines, many of which are shown on the maps as crossing through fields, walls, and other terrain, was with lengths of string or wool. These can be curved as desired, and can run over or under other pieces of terrain on the table.
- RUBBLE SPILLS: The playtesters used a patch of cloth (grey camo-pattern cloth was preferred) with a scattering of cat litter on top.
- MAJOR CONTOUR LINES: The playtesters had access to lots of nice Geo-Hex terrain, which allowed them to raise areas of the board. Other methods might be to use very large hills, built up in layers; to use string or wool to mark the contours; to use different colours of base cloth to represent the levels.
- CLIFFS: These are also a problem for many gamers to represent. Lacking excellent three-dimensional terrain, a player might mark a section of contour somehow, as representing a cliff edge. Bushes, cat litter, or cork might do the trick.
- BOULDER FIELDS: These were represented the same way as rubble spills, and Bill points out that no scenario has both of these two types of terrain.
- BLOBS OF ROUGH GROUND: Cloth patches with rubber lichen on top, to look like a bushy area.
Rules for all scenarios
- P. iv, rule 7 (indirect fire versus vehicles) makes no distinction between one type of armoured vehicle and another. This is for simplicity. In reality, a heavy tank would be far less vulnerable than an open-topped half-track. Players who wish for more realism are of course free to come up with rules which cater for such distinctions.
- SCALE: P. iv, under "terrain key" says that the maps are "to scale" without saying what that scale is. The playtesters used 15mm figures, and the grid lines on the scenario maps divide the maps into one-foot squares. The ground scale is somewhat abstract in Crossfire and so such things as the "tank park" in the Sadzot scenario (p.35) will not be to scale with the figures.
- "OVERHEAD FIRE": There are several mentions of "overhead fire" (such as p.v under "natural features" (which, questionably, includes such things as orchards), where it says that out-of-season fields do not give cover against overhead fire). By "overhead fire" the authors meant "indirect fire". Note that some of these terrain types DO give cover against direct fire. Out-of season fields do not block line of sight, nor give cover against indirect fire, but do give cover against direct fire. This makes them unlike any type of terrain described in the main Crossfire rules.
- FENCES: The effect of fences is not consistent from scenario to scenario, nor is there a "default" definition offered in Hit the Dirt. The default rules for fences, which apply where no other rules are specified, are that fences do not block line of sight, nor do they offer cover to troops, but they take one movement action to cross. The fences in other scenarios function as follows: Breakout at the Hinge (p.4) - fences function as walls; Dung Farm (p.16) - fences are barbed wire; Scottish Corridor (p.24) - fences are barbed wire; Hardt (p.38) fences are barbed wire; Sadzot (p.35) - default rules apply.
- AFV PLATOONS: Several scenarios have these, but only once (p.10) are rules for their command, control, and co-ordination mentioned. The playtesters decided to avoid more new rules to cover this subject, even though such rules can be very simple. The rules on p.10 are offered as scenario-specific, to make Soviet AFVs especially awkward. In other scenarios, the AFVs, though in platoons, are meant to be moved and fired individually.
Scenario specific errata and clarifications
- P.12, Victory Conditions: Victory Points are scored for occupying a section of a building AND for having been the last unit to occupy other building sections. A multi-section building might have opposing forces in different sections at the end of the game. If so, then those forces score the sections they are in for themselves, and the sections they were the last to occupy for themselves, while sections never occupied by either side score for neither.
- P.12, rule f states that the station is a two-story building complex. The reason for this odd statement is that this makes it distinct from the default multi-section buildings, as they are defined on p.iv under "buildings". The other buildings all follow the rules as laid out on p.iv, so you might like to write "see p.iv" next to rule f on p.12. Individual building sections are one or two-story based on the colour of their background, e.g., the station's two sections are both two-story because their backgrounds are both grey. The nameless three-building complex next to the station has two two-story sections and one one-story section. The two buildings across the street from it are NOT a complex but are both 2 story.
- P.14, rule b says that AFVs might bog down in the stream. It should say that AFVs might bog down in the stream or (unsurprisingly) in the bog.
- P.14, rule e: surrendering troops do not tie up any opposing troops. It is assumed that a couple of men from a platoon march the prisoners away, without depleting the fighting strength of the victorious forces.
- P.16, rule a. This rule is used in a few scenarios, and is very important, and might be misunderstood. A more unambiguous wording would be: "Squads may not, in the same move action, exit one terrain feature, cross open ground, and then (in this specific order) enter another piece of terrain". This seriously affects mobility, because a stand of troops starting in cover will not end the same move action in cover.
- P.20, Reconnaissance before Potecorvo scenario allows the Germans to deploy anywhere on the map. This means that a devious German player might deploy all his forces within line of sight of the east edge of the board, where they could shoot Canadian forces as they arrive, which could spoil the scenario. Players may chose to make the Germans deploy in the west half of the map, or out of line-of sight of the table's eastern edge.
- P.20, Reconnaissance before Potecorvo scenario says “Canadian observation of a German position - building or emplacement” which refers to a building, trench, or bunker, which is occupied by German troops. It does not refer to mine fields, barbed wire or any other terrain feature. The discovery of unoccupied trenches, buildings, bunkers, or wire and mines does not score any Victory Points. The term emplacement in this context means entrenchment or bunker. These, like the wire, can be placed in terrain features such as woods (see extra notes at the bottom of this page).
- P.20, Reconnaissance before Potecorvo scenario makes avoidance and infliction of casualties a priority in the orders, and yet casualties seem irrelevant in the allotment of victory points. One must realise that each Canadian casualty is an opportunity to score Victory Points (by leaving the table alive) lost. A suggestion for an extra rule is -1 Victory Point for each stand of any sort lost by the Canadians. This way, even if the Canadians are in the process of withdrawing when the clock strikes noon (game end), they'll not only fail to get VPs for stands left on-board, they'll lose them for Canadians killed.
- P.22, under "Reinforcements" mentions "FFE". This should read "FM" (Fire Mission). The battalion commander can order these FMs to be used against targets which he can see.
- P.23-24, Scottish Corridor scenario: each British platoon should have a PIAT. These were mistakenly left off the list of available forces. The German forces are listed as having "1PzVg", which is gobbledigook for "Panther tank".
- P.25 shows an area of bocage, and p.26 talks of fields, and of clearing fields, but no fields are shown on the map. Every part of the map, except the verges of roads, which is not shown as having some other terrain, is meant to be fields, with no gaps between the hedgerows of the bocage and the fields.
- P.26, rule a, says that Panzerfausts can fire into an adjacent field from "ambush" at +1 ACC. But to ambush at all, according to the Crossfire rules, the firer has to be in the same terrain feature as the target. The use of the word "ambush" here is confusing, as it not being used according to the strict definition in the main rules. This is a scenario-specific rule, which was added to make the Sherman tanks VERY cautious. The rationale is that the Germans were prepositioned and that all of their troops were essentially in ambush positions waiting for the Americans. This bonus is ONLY for troops firing HEAT weapons from bocage into immediately adjoining fields, and NOT firing from a field at a tank in that same field, nor bocage to bocage.
- P.28, Monte Altuzo scenario, Victory Conditions, says that the American player wins by having one rifle or HMG stand survive in each platoon by the scenario's end. The German player might devote all his forces, initiatives, and efforts, into destroying one American platoon utterly, making victory impossible for the U.S. player. This would lead to an unhistorical strategy. This scenario is hard for the American player to win. A suggested alternative to the victory conditions is to say that the USA troops win if they have one stand from each platoon alive OR 5 stands in total. That way, they can still win even if one platoon gets wiped out early on.
- P.29, Deadman's Moor scenario map shows three pillboxes on a map, with arrows on them. These arrows indicate the direction in which those pillboxes can fire. Each has an arc of fire the edges of which are lines from the pillbox's centre out through the corners on the side indicated. On the same map, some woods are shown straddling a cliff. Players are free to interpret this as one or two sections of wood, but be sure to agree before starting the game.
- P.29 lists "assault engineers". These are armed with rifles.
- P.30, deployment section, says that forces may enter from the "north" edge of the game board. This doesn't make sense, as north is one corner of the board. For "north" read "top" (the north-east edge).
- P.32, rule g. This says that PIATs can be used versus soft targets, with 3 dice, like rifles. It should read "German forces in buildings" instead of "soft targets".
- P.34, German Forces, lists the Stug III platoon as "regular". As said above, rules for command and control of vehicle platoons were considered to be outside the scope of the scenario book. This reference to the quality of the vehicle crew is an accidental reference to extra rules used by the playtesters.
- P.34, Deployment section says "... One company enters, in the depression, from the east game board edge, and may not leave the draw until American forces are spotted". The word "draw" is used in the USA to mean "depression", and may be unfamiliar to readers from the British Commonwealth.
- P.34, rule c makes it near impossible for vehicles to get through some of the terrain. The figures are correct as printed.
- P.38 rule c says that a Stug IIIg, off board, will fire at enemy targets at -1ACC. This means that only AT firing is affected adversely, and that fire at soft targets with HE is at the usual deadliness.
- P.40, deployment section for the Germans, says that they may deploy at points A, B, and C, none of which is marked on the map. Point A is where the road meets the northern map edge. Point B is where the road meets the eastern map edge. Point C is where it meets the southern map edge.
- P.41, rule b states that Soviet forces may fire across the centre line of the board "at will" in the Race for the Reichstag scenario. This does not include shooting rival Soviet forces (although this happened historically) It means that they can engage Germans across the centre line.
- Also in Race for the Reichstag, we see on the left side of the map lots of blobs marked "wreck". Wrecks are treated as rubble spills but are impassable to vehicles. The original artwork portrayed these as ruined tanks and SPs. In game terms, they're there to channel the Soviet AFV movement. Limiting their capacity to a single squad + a single HMG + a single leader is recommended.
More on the scenario "Reconnaissance before Potecorvo".
While I think that the basic idea for this scenario is a good one – having to scout the enemy’s positions rather than fight the enemy – I feel that the scenario could be improved for game play quite a bit. As published, the scenario is very easy for the Canadians to win. They get so many points for leaving the board early, that they need discover hardly anything of the enemy, as long as they do this quickly, in order to leave with a victory. This encourages a very short and dull game. Three of the buildings to be scouted are shown on the scenario map, and so are already known about by the Canadians when the game starts. The German player would be a fool to put men in the buildings, as this would be handing out Victory Points for free.
The German player is rather limited in what he can do. He can deploy thinly spread or in a clump. If in a clump, he will allow the Canadians free rein on most of the table, if thinly spread, he will be attacked piecemeal. If he occupies the buildings and emplacements, he offers points to the Canadians, who may discover the occupying troops either by receiving fire, or by reconnaissance by fire. Though the defender has the advantage of hidden defence, he has very few men, and the main advantage of hidden deployment – suddenly firing at the enemy when it moves into the open – is more than counteracted by the fact that reactive fire reveals troops, and revealed troops give away points. If he hides and does nothing then he's not getting much of a game.
I think that the location of the German troops should be irrelevant. What matters is the location of non-mobile things like mines, wire, and trenches. The buildings marked on the map should not count. Only things not on the map should count for VPs. The job of the scouting mission is to discover where the enemy mines, wire, and bunkers are.
This way, the German player could deploy his wire, bunker, trenches etc, away from the Canadian start line, and deploy in depth in front of them, shooting reactively, then falling back using the retreat move rule, perhaps at last to occupy and use the trenches and bunker. The difficulty the Canadians have in coming forward would be the game. If one trench covered the approach to the others, then the attacker would have to take a trench in order to discover the others, so it would be worth occupying it. Similarly, the wire could either be deployed so far back that it was difficult to get to see it without being shot, or it could guard the approaches to the trenches, and be so well-occupied/covered as to be death to look upon.
I suspect that giving the German player a few more trenches etc. would help too.
Adding a point or two to the numbers the Canadians have to score may help the scenario a bit too, requiring the Canadians to be a bit more aggressive.
A rule is needed for spotting mine fields by some method other than blundering into them and being blown up. A suggestion is that the Reconnaissance-by-Fire rule be used, to represent scouts sneaking ahead and having a look. If a success is rolled, then roll 1d6, and on a result of 4-6, the mines are discovered before the minefield is entered. In other words, the chance of success is half the chance of normal recon by fire. If troops wander into a minefield but do not get blown up, then they should have some chance of spotting mines, but not so good as engineers get in the Crossfire rules.
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