Crossfire suits the use of chess clocks pretty well, and here are two scenario suggestions that use chess clocks. For the unfamiliar, a chess clock is used in serious chess competitions. Each player is given an amount of thinking time, and this is set onto his clock. When the game starts, the clock of the player whose turn it is, is started. When he makes his move, he presses a button on the top of his clock, and this stops his clock and starts his opponent’s clock. If one player can check-mate his opponent before he runs out of time, he wins. Otherwise, the first player to run out of time loses. A typical chess clock has two clocks mounted in a single unit with a rocker-switch on the top. Some modern ones are digital, but most are clockwork analogue. I bought mine on E-bay.
In Crossfire, a player has the initiative, and he may stand and stare at the table for some while before deciding what to do, and there’s nothing his opponent can do to hurry him up. All the opponent can do is react. However, in the reality of a battle, if the side with the initiative has commanders that dither, then it will lose the initiative. To put pressure on commanders with the initiative to act quickly, and to make the game a bit more tense, a chess clock can be used. It ticks away during your initiative, and when you lose the initiative, you press your button and your opponent’s time starts ebbing away.
One potential snag with this is that an opponent might deliberately take an age over rolling dice for reactive fire (“Oh sorry, I appear to have rolled them off the table edge again” etc.) in order to eat up his opponent’s valuable time. In the games I have played so far, I have been lucky never to come across someone so unsporting and haven’t had to do anything about it. If you find that the people you play against are capable of sinking this low, then you will have to insist that to qualify for a reactive fire action, a player has to declare it and press the button, so that he does it in his own time.
I had thought, before trying the clock, that a good way to balance the game would be to give the less able player more time on the clock. However, good players tend to keep the initiative better, and so have longer initiatives, and I found that this proved to be self-balancing, so an equal amount of time on the clock is about right regardless of relative abilities.
Scenario One — WILL THE CAVALRY BE IN TIME?
One side (X) has regulars, and the other (Y) has green troops, with veteran reinforcements. The exact forces are up to you. The forces should be such that the greens and veterans combined are definitely more than a match for the regulars, but the regulars should have something like numerical parity with the greens. The veteran force should be the smallest of the three. I suggest 45 minutes for X and 90 minutes for Y to be set on the clock.
This can be run as a meeting engagement, or as an attacker/defender, with either side being the attacker. The front should be fairly central on the table. An attacker will start with the initiative, otherwise you could just pick the first player with a die roll. Troops should NOT be deployed hidden.
When X’s flag falls for the first time, X immediately gets another 45 minutes, for no penalty. However, from this point onwards in the game, at the start of every initiative for Y, Y rolls a die, and gets some sub-part of his reinforcements arriving if he rolls a 5+. The reinforcements arrive in dribs and drabs, perhaps one platoon at a time, or one tank troop, or one support weapon.
This means that X has 45 minutes to get as much done as possible, making the entry for reinforcements difficult, and to destroy as many green troops as he can.
After this point, every time a flag falls, for either player, all his troops drop one morale rating. Veterans become regulars, regulars become green, and green run away. As time drags on in a battle, a feeling of hopelessness and loss of faith in officers sets in among the men, and troops become less and less keen to carry on.
Each time a flag falls, a player gets another 20 minutes added to his clock (I used 20, you might prefer 30). This means that the regulars will fight on for a bit more, and the veterans for a bit longer still.
So, will Y’s veterans arrive to find the situation already hopeless, or will his greens put up a good enough fight so that when the vets arrive the two forces combined can roll over X’s crumbling force?
Scenario Two — THREE WAVE ATTACK
One side defends with hidden troops, the other attacks with three waves.
The defender has two under-strength (two sections per platoon) companies hidden, one FOO with medium mortar (and if you want, an anti-tank gun and a few not very powerful tanks), and 100 minutes on the clock. The attacker has three full-strength companies of troops, each with a FOO with medium mortars, and a MMG/HMG stand (and if you want some tanks, superior in number and in some cases quality to the defender’s tanks, but in one or two units, therefore not enough for every attacking wave to have tank support), and 40 minutes on the clock. All troops on both sides are regular.
The table should be large (perhaps six by eight) so that the defenders have to spread thinly. In one corner of the table, there should be some objective, like a village. In the opposite corner, the attacker enters (draw a line between the centre of one end to the centre of one side, and the attacker must deploy behind that). The defender deploys anywhere outside the attacker’s deployment zone.
The attacker starts with the initiative. He brings on his first wave. He advances with this, and tries to take the objective. When his 40 minutes are up, his first wave runs out of steam and digs in. The troops are all marked with little markers denoting that they can not advance. They can, however, still shoot. When the first wave has dug in, the second wave comes on and gets another 40 minutes, then the third wave another 40.
When the defender runs out of time, his troops change from regular to green. This happens to the attacker when his flag falls (clock runs out of time) for the third wave. If the game has not concluded by this point, more time can be given to the players, but the next time they run out of time, their troops give up and withdraw.
In this scenario, the attacker has forces which, if he could use them all at once, would easily overwhelm the opposition, but this is balanced by the fact that he doesn‘t get to use them all to their full ability for the whole game. He is up against hidden defenders, which will make him cautious, but he is also up against the clock. He might sacrifice a lot of his first wave in trying to find the opposition.
Scenario Three – BREAK THROUGH THE FRONT
This scenario has an easy-to-define line across the middle of the table, such as a fordable river. The defender deploys hidden. It is imagined that he is defending a long front, which is being attacked for some distance, only part of which is seen on the table. The high commands of both sides will send reinforcements to the table if the front is penetrated there. I played this scenario with two companies with mortar and MMG support defending, with three dug-in anti-tank guns, and one Stug III self-propelled gun. The attacker had two companies plus MMG and mortar support, and three Churchill infantry tanks. You can of course make up your own forces, but the attacker should have enough to break through, but not so much that he can ever afford to be reckless.
The clock is set for about 40 minutes a side, although you may choose to favour the attacker, who has the more difficult and time-consuming task (such as 45 minutes for the attacker and 30 to the defender). The first clock to run out grants a boon to the opposite side. The boon I used was the arrival of a bonus FOO who could call down several powerful stonks of heavy artillery. The rationale for this could be that whichever side dithers more may give the other time to set up and zero in his big guns.
The clock could at this point simply stop, but an alternative is that it is reset for perhaps around twenty minutes each, and some other boon is granted to the winner of this time race, unless the front line is penetrated by the required force. If a player runs out of time before the front is breached, again his foe gets a boon, which could be that some or all of his remaining troops gain confidence and are upgraded by one morale class.
If the front is breached, the clock is reset. In my game, the conditions for defining a breach were simply getting a tank across the river. In the game I played it would have been easy to get a tank across the river, but not with enough infantry escort to keep it reasonably safe. If and when this time comes, the clock is set for each side to have the same amount of time, perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes. If either player runs out of time, his opponent gets his reinforcements. In my game, the British got a troop of Shermans (cavalry breakthrough tanks) and the German defender got a troop of Panzer IVs. The rationale for this was that British high command was waiting for a unit to punch through the front line somewhere along the front, and it would send tanks to wherever a breakthrough was reported. Similarly German high command was holding back a “fire brigade” reserve to be rushed to any part of the line where the enemy broke through with tanks. If both players play with the same skill and speed, then the likelihood is that whichever player gets his reinforcements first, he is unlikely to get to make use of them for long before his opposition gets his reinforcements. To make this important and exciting, the reinforcements should be something like a troop of decent tanks – a force which, if unchecked, is capable of wreaking havoc.