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CptKremmen12 Jan 2016 2:06 p.m. PST

I thought I would do a review of Iron Cross, but focussed on what it is like to actually play.

I would like to set the scene by saying I believe these are the best WW2 rules I have ever played, bear that in mind when reading some of my critical comments below.

I will do a very recap of what you may have read in other reviews.
You have an activation token for each unit you have (a unit is a tank or a squad of infantry on a single base) plus 2 spares. These are used to activate your units, each activation allows you to carry out two actions, these generally being moving and or firing. You can make a rapid move which is about 50% more than an ordinary move and uses up both actions. There is no option to fire twice in the same activation.

Sounds pretty basic stuff right?

Moving is very straightforward, terrain etc. is handled very simply and does not slow the game down.

Shooting is carried out with a D10 needing 5+ on the D10 to hit with modifiers though there are very few modifiers.
Shooting at vehicles is very simple, you roll 1D10 needing 5+ to hit (with modifiers) if you succeed you then roll another D10 and add it to the gun penetration value to see if you beat the targets armour. Basically similar to bolt action or flames of war but with a D10.
If you penetrate the armour you roll a D6 for damage, 4+ destroys it with lower numbers doing lesser damage, similar to Bolt Action.
If you don't penetrate the armour (but do hit the vehicle) you do 1 morale marker (pin) for hitting and another for failing to penetrate, similar to bolt action

Still pretty basic stuff right?

Bizarrely shooting at infantry is much more complicated though it does not initially look it. You roll 1 or 2 D10 each needing 5+ to hit (with modifiers) and for each hit you then roll a further D6 to see if you get bonus hits (morale markers). Where it gets complicated is whether you count both D10's or D6's as hits or they merely give you 2 opportunities to score 1 hit. Sorry that sounds complicated but it is! You can quickly learn for example infantry firing at infantry, the complexity is when the firer is an infantry gun or howitzer or MG team or sniper or flamethrower or a small tank gun or a big tank gun or a mortar because they all have different rules for which dice count.
You may be pleased to hear this is not as bad as it sounds when playing and I have done a lovely 1 sheet pdf with all the permutations on it that can be downloaded from the great escape games forum

I wanted to be honest and explain the above rather complicated firing at infantry scenario, it seems to work though I just get the feeling less exceptions to the basic rule could have been created to make life simpler.

A major modifier for shooting is if the firer is moving, this is a -2 modifier but does not apply to infantry moving and firing, this is very significant as it makes infantry very mobile and flexible, interestingly they also do not suffer the -2 firing modifier if firing panzerfausts/bazookas etc. this means they make very dangerous roving anti-tank units (if equipped with bazookas etc.). I don't want to overstate this, charging infantry across an open field to shoot up tanks with their Piat's is pretty risky, trust me I have tried it!

One last thing I wanted to explain about shooting (at anything), most weapons have limitless range. Flamethrowers and Panzerfausts/bazookas are restricted to 8"
All other weapons get +1 to hit if within 12" and anti-tank weapons get +1 to their penetration if within 6"
This works well and is nice and simple

Now the bit I really want to focus on, Command and Control and the activation system. Whilst everything above works pretty well, and avoids many of the cheesy problems you get in Bolt Action such as uber snipers, atomic flamethrowers and LMG's that appear to be worth their weight in gold, it is not really revolutionary.

Each turn you start with your full hand of command tokens, let's say 20. Both players roll a D6 to see who gets the initiative. The person with the initiative then chooses to activate a unit. Let's say they activate a Sherman which then moves and then shoots at an enemy Stug, it misses. You place one of your 20 command tokens next to the Sherman.
The same player then declares they are going to use their 2nd command token to reactivate the Sherman and fire at the stug again. This time the German player decides enough is enough and they will react with a Panzer IV and attempt to kill the Sherman (Note even though the Sherman is firing at a stug, a separate unit (panzer IV) may react.) Note the reacting player is restricted to one reacting attempt each active players use of a command token.

If you are Activating a unit more than once you need to roll on a D6 to see if it happens. You place the command token against the activating unit whether you succeed or fail. To activate you need to get one higher on a D6 than the number of command tokens (plus morale markers) currently placed against the unit. As such the owner of the Sherman needs to roll 2+ on a D6. A 4 is rolled and the Sherman is activated. HOWEVER before any action is taken the reacting player rolls, they roll the same as the activating player but instead of needing 1 higher on a D6 than the number of command morale markers they need to get 3 higher than the number of command and morale markers. i.e. it is more difficult and more risky to react than to act.

I said at the top that each activation a unit gets 2 actions usually moving and shooting. If a unit activates AND a reacting unit activates the sequence is Reacting unit takes its 1st action, then the activating unit takes both its actions then the reacting unit takes its 2nd action (if any).

So the reacting Panzer plays rolls a 6 on their dice, this is high enough to pass the reacting roll (3+ in this case) and they get their 1st action. This allows them to fire at the Sherman before the Sherman fires again at the Stug. Give this some thought, it's very important….

The Panzer rolls and hits the Sherman, but fails to penetrate the armour, this gives the Sherman 2 morale markers, 1 for being hit and 1 for the round not penetrating. Action now returns to the Sherman to complete its two actions. If the Sherman had been destroyed then it's action would be over. Assuming the Sherman is firing at the Stug from beyond 12" it would normally have 5+ to hit, this is increased to 7+ because the Sherman now has 2 morale markers on it (on a D10 remember)
The Sherman rolls well and hits the stug, rolls well on the penetration roll and exceeds the armour value of the stug, (Sherman is 8 and I think Stug is 15, so Sherman needs to roll 8+ on a D10 to penetrate front armour of stug). Then rolls a 5 on a D6 for damage, the stug is destroyed.

Normally the owner of the Sherman would now activate another unit, OR decide they have done enough at this time and voluntarily hand the initiative to the opponent, this will usually happen backwards and forwards several times during a turn. If the active player used all 20 command tokens before the opponent had used any then when it went over to the opponent they could do anything they liked without any fear of retaliation, that would likely be a massacre!
However in the example above the reacting player rolled a 6, this means that not only does their reaction succeed but at the end of that action/reaction the initiative moves to the reacting player

Continue the example above, the German player now has a panzer 4 with one activation token on it (from the above reaction). They choose to activate the Panzer IV again needing 2+ on a D6. They roll and get a 1! The Panzer IV now has 2 command tokens against it. The German has another go, this time he needs a 3+ on a D6 to activate. Success! Then rolls high to hit the Sherman, high to penetrate followed by a 4 on the penetration and the Sherman is destroyed.

Read through that a couple of times, it is very clever and interactive but not complicated. Trust me it works superbly

We have looked at one way of destroying an armoured vehicle above, penetrating the armour and killing it in a violent detonation.

There is a 2nd way of killing an armoured vehicle, this method is the ONLY way of killing a non-vehicular unit, e.g. an infantry unit or a mortar etc. I have mentioned above that hits inflict Morale Markers (think of them as pins in bolt action), if the total number of morale markers you have on a unit at any time is HIGHER than the morale value of the unit it is dead.
The morale value of a Sherman is 5, if you can hit it enough to put 6 morale markers on it then it is destroyed. Best to think of this as the crew bailing out or the vehicle succumbing to multiple minor damages affecting the crew morale sufficiently that they flee. As against penetrating the armour which represents that tank suffering a hard kill.
Now infantry squads also have a morale value of 5 meaning you need 6 morale markers to kill an infantry squad (there is no other way of killing infantry), that is quite a lot as most hits end up inflicting 1 maybe 2 morale markers, in rare cases 3 is possible.
Machine gun teams are very effective, but as a support team they only usually have 3 morale not 5 of the larger infantry squad, this makes them more brittle. Inflict 4 morale markers on an MG42 team and it is dead, same applies to anti-tank guns, mortars etc.

The last subject to cover, which has probably occurred to many of you by now…. How do I get rid of those morale markers before I am killed, answer is a Company Morale Check (a CMT) it is a little like a rally action in Bolt Action.
Whenever a player is activating a command token, or reacting, they can use the command token to carry out a CMT. These are NOT applied to a specific unit, you merely declare the CMT and put the command token to one side to show that it has been used this turn. You then roll to see how many morale markers can be removed. The result varies between zero and all the morale markers on ONE unit. Once rolled you then allocate this number of morale marker removals to one of your units.

Morale markers make it more difficult to activate your unit, makes it more difficult for your unit to hit its target and of course eventually leads to the death of your unit. All good reasons to keep the number of morale markers on your units as low as you can, remember though the same command tokens you are using to remove morale markers are also used to activate your units. You could activate all of your units with your command tokens and end the turn with many units probably loaded down with morale markers. You could use almost all your command tokens removing morale markers but that means you will do very little moving or shooting. By now you are seeing the dilemma, there are never enough command tokens and you have to decide as commander how to use what you have.

The whole system hangs together superbly and works as a whole, I really cannot recommend this game highly enough. We play with our old flames of war 15mm figures which are ideal. Smallish games are played on a 6 X 4 board whilst large battles with 15mm figures are played on a 6 X 8 board.
We have not used 28mm figures yet though it should work very well, the only problem I see is that it would really work best with at least a 6 X 8 table for 28mm which is larger than some people have available.

Any criticisms? Well to be honest I think there are too many variations on the number of dice you roll and what counts as a morale marker when shooting at infantry. I am quite good at remembering these kind of details and have now done a prompt sheet so don't personally mind, but some might be annoyed by it. That's it, everything else is pretty near perfect (well good enough for me anyway!)

The book itself come with 1944/45 army lists for US, Brits, Germans and Russians, the lists are fairly lite but enough to get you going. There are also download lists available for US paras, Brit Paras, Volksturm and SS as well as Russian assault troops.
The 1st expansion book being worked on will cover the north Africa campaign, this is due out in a few months.

If you wanted to use other periods now it should not be difficult to bodge up your favourite vehicles.

Andy Watkins

Sgt Steiner12 Jan 2016 4:23 p.m. PST

Ta for this

War Panda12 Jan 2016 5:50 p.m. PST

Excellent review. I just got mine in the mail and it looks extremely good. Reminds me a lot of Crossfire with bells on.

Thanks for posting

coopman12 Jan 2016 7:27 p.m. PST

Thanks for that Andy.

Mako1112 Jan 2016 9:34 p.m. PST

Thanks for the detailed review.

They sound interesting.

Since you mentioned it, how does this rules set handle LMG fire vs. the fire by the rest of the squad(s)?

I see you mentioning they are more brittle when taking fire, but would like to know how they compare with regular troops when firing independently, and/or in support of a squad.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Jan 2016 9:57 p.m. PST

MG teams fire like normal infantry but with a longer range. They use 2 dice at any range (infantry roll 1 beyond 12"). They roll 1 die if they moved. Intrinsic LMGs are simply part of the squad's fire power.

Mako1113 Jan 2016 12:38 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info.

Much appreciated.

alexjones13 Jan 2016 6:58 a.m. PST

Thank you for the in depth review.

The only other WW2 rules with so much interactivity are Crossfire, at least as far as I aware.

How do these rules compare with crossfire if you have played them both?

RetroBoom13 Jan 2016 7:33 a.m. PST

This was a great review, in depth and with examples! I definitely want to give this one a try.

Martin Rapier13 Jan 2016 7:37 a.m. PST

Thanks, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks the infantry combat is unduly confusing!

The activation system is an interesting mix of Crossfire & Fireball Forward, but I'll simplify the combat system to use D6 for everything and add some artillery rules.

Personal logo FlyXwire Supporting Member of TMP13 Jan 2016 7:39 a.m. PST

Thanks much Andy! Thanks also for your "vs. Infantry QRS" for the rules that you uploaded on the Great Escape Games forum (it'll certainly help in my getting a game up and running).

sausagesca13 Jan 2016 9:14 a.m. PST

Fantastic review and echoes my first impressions of the rules. I can't understand why such an elegantly simple game with a wonderful activation system uses such a clunky combat mechanic. Alas, still looks like a good game for a few players.

Martin Rapier13 Jan 2016 9:47 a.m. PST

"uses such a clunky combat mechanic"

Such things are easy to fix, it only needs a combat system to generate attrition results. The IABSM one would work fine.

I don't consider myself particularly thick, but I had to read the relevant sections several time to understand it.

alexjones13 Jan 2016 10:00 a.m. PST

Would it work for singly based figures as well? Or WW1 all infantry actions as well?

CptKremmen13 Jan 2016 10:50 a.m. PST

A few comments

MG teams are basically tripod mounted machine guns such as vickers or MG42. They probably have less men in them than a full squad hence the more brittle nature.

Glad you guys find the review helpful

The game would play fine with individual based figures, there are no area effect weapons so the size of the infantry base or no base at all is irrelevant really.

Infantry combat is unneccessarily confusing but you can house rule if you want to or download my pdf from the great escape forum that explains all the permutations very simply, stuart has checked it to make sure it is correct.

I don't actually think the combat mechanisms are clunky. Ones V vehicles in particular work fine. Infantry one works better than it sounds it just has a lot of exceptions to the basic shooting at infantry rule.

Or to take another approach as the command system in these rules is the best part of them, there is nothing stopping you taking it and applying it to say bolt action or other rules sets.

I am actually very happy with the entire rules as they stand so will just stick with Iron Cross.

They have even inspired me to paint my 1st 15mm army for 3-4 years (British airborne).


SoW Reddog13 Jan 2016 11:28 a.m. PST

The reaction system sounds a bit similar to Force on Force as do the combat rolls. Am I right in understanding that there are no infantry casualties per se? It's a morale effect that can just go up and down till you get the magic 6? Seems a tad odd.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Jan 2016 12:08 p.m. PST

That is correct. No casualties just morale markers until unit is destroyed/routs.

CptKremmen13 Jan 2016 3:43 p.m. PST

Agree it sounds odd but it really does work
Vehicles are normally killed by penetrating hits not exceeding morale values.

coopman13 Jan 2016 4:00 p.m. PST

I did not see any mention of different morale or quality grades for the forces in the rules either. Did I miss it?

thecrazycaptain13 Jan 2016 10:37 p.m. PST

Great Review! I would take it that the morale markers more or less relate to casualties and cohesion leading to combat ineffectiveness, therefore removal.

I like it!

CptKremmen14 Jan 2016 12:59 a.m. PST

Coopman very good point
All the army lists in the book are regulars only
There are now 6 new lists downloadable free on the forum that include veteran and conscript troops
But the chance to hit or be hit is largely not affected by troop quality

Martin Rapier14 Jan 2016 6:32 a.m. PST

I think the design compromises are fine, any sort of highly interactive activation system needs to simplify other mechanisms greatly to keep play speedy, and the attritional morale model for infantry combat is fine.

I am sure it would be possible to make it vastly more complicated. It is always easy to bolt on more chrome.

daler240D14 Jan 2016 6:57 a.m. PST

Martin, you are spot on.

War Panda14 Jan 2016 4:19 p.m. PST

Makes sense. I'm definately playing vanilla first but I can't see why the activation mechanism couldn't be applied to a more skirmish level game with a combat system that uses individual casualties.

vlad4814 Jan 2016 9:44 p.m. PST

"I'm definately playing vanilla first but I can't see why the activation mechanism couldn't be applied to a more skirmish level game with a combat system that uses individual casualties."

True. We have applied IC activation/reaction mechanics to spice up our Bolt Action games in our club and find it works very well.

Martin Rapier15 Jan 2016 12:16 a.m. PST

Yes, with all these sorts of games – crossfire, force on force, fireball forward, iron cross, iabsm etc it is mainly the activation systems I'm interested in. Combat, movement, morale etc have been done to death and you can bolt any of these mechanisms onto the activation system.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2016 12:30 a.m. PST

So what is it that makes this games activation system more interesting than others?


CptKremmen15 Jan 2016 1:03 a.m. PST

Wolfhag I think I explained how the activation system works
Whether it is more interesting is up to you
I believe it has far more thought and decision making than say the igougo system in flames of war and other games

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2016 7:53 a.m. PST

The explanation is very clear. The question wasn't about me, it was to others in the discussion. Of course it's always up to the individual and no one system will ever please everyone.

The response of "decision making and more thought" was what I was looking for. I agree it's better than an IGOUGO.

I understand the idea of a "strategy" in activating certain units before others and being able to interdict. There have been many discussions on this subject.

I guess I should rephrase my question to "What part of the activation system do people like the best and see as an advantage over other non-IGOUGO systems"

I was interested in what they like, not dislike.


christot15 Jan 2016 12:04 p.m. PST

Ordered a copy today.
Will comment when I've read them. Look interesting.

War Panda15 Jan 2016 12:54 p.m. PST

From my point of view Wolfhag (and of course it should go goes without saying but I'm speaking on my own behalf) I've played a lot of different systems and when I'm playing a tactical "wargame" (that is somewhat reflecting the reality of warfare) I want to see that the decisions I would want to make in reality are available to me at some level in the game itself.

I have felt "let down" in my gaming experience when at times the rules limit my ability to make certain decisions that I perceive as pivotal moments in the battle. IMO a tactician is only as accomplished as his ability to identify certain moments in a battle as "pivotal". Now if I identify an event or time in a battle as a priority and I can't do anything about it then I can feel frustrated and find myself asking why.

Are the Gods against me (unfavorable die roll, the wrong card is dealt; well fair enough, life's not fair so why should war) But if the system you're playing insists on not giving you that choice then I feel hard done by.

Now of course if the mechanic that allows this "freedom of choice" is complicated or feels unnecessarily disruptive of a smooth order of play then it will disrupt my enjoyment of the game as well. If the mechanic is double barreled and can accommodate both that freedom of choice and a smooth intuitive gameplay…well…well hopefully that's what we have here ;)

Captain Cook15 Jan 2016 3:25 p.m. PST

Well CptK, you have convinced me to give them a try.

JJMicromegas05 Feb 2016 6:55 a.m. PST

I listened to the review on the Meeples & Miniatures podcast and I was greatly relieved when they said there are no specific close combat rules, it is essentially the same mechanic as firing but with dice modifiers that make it much deadlier.

I never understood why WW2 rules had to add a whole new set of mechanics for close combat and assaults, making it a mini-game within the game and adding a level of complexity.

CptKremmen10 Mar 2016 2:03 p.m. PST

Funnily enough we have added close combat as a house rule :)

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