Saturday, June 8, 2019

IRON CROSS: Crossing the Merderet River!

  In honor of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day, Ken pulled out all the stops and threw his outstanding 20mm kit on the table for his first-ever Iron Cross game!  The reader may remember Dave and I played Iron Cross a number of years ago and it was great fun.  [click]  So much fun that I'm surprised we waited THIS long to play it!

We played the "capture" scenario from the book with me playing the Yanks and Ken playing the Germans.  The Yanks are battling their way inland storming Hitler's Reich.  In this game there is a swampy area across the bridge that the US forces must seize.  I have roughly double the amount of gear that Ken has, including a US infantry company, and a tank platoon.  I start with 1/3 of my forces in reserve (an important thing to remember later...) and Ken starts with everything hidden.

US Forces in the "assembly area" waiting to move out!

US forces doing their pre combat checks prior to attacking "Ramelle" 

Ken laying out the Germans.
I start off with the infantry attacking through the woods, taking a more covered and concealed approach towards the initial town and an MMG covering them in the center.  The Armor moves through the open fields up to the town.  Ken has an MMG in one of the buildings, along with 2 x squads that will act as a sort of covering force to buy time for their Kamaraden to deploy!  I like Ken's strategy, shooting then leap-frogging back towards the "friendly" side of the Merderet River.

View from the US side towards the river / bridge and the ultimate objective!
 I love how in Iron Cross at the beginning of the game you have the ultimate flexibility to do what you want, especially as your troops are fresh and don't have morale markers on them.  As the battle grinds on and progresses, things get much tougher to do.  The concepts of fatigue and suppression are both handled in a very effective manner.

Village in the lower left will have to be taken - there's no way around it Captain!

US infantry squads move into the woods by the town.
 We used dice as command tokens.  Simple but effective and hard to miss.

Armor moving up to support.  I quickly learned the lesson of having infantry support my tankers.
 Ken fires the MG42 at my advancing infantry and breaks contact!  Surprisingly, his infantry with their deputy commander take a shed-load of morale markers, but do well on their morale tests on following turns.  It is remarkably hard to kill infantry squads in this game but I think that is perfectly reasonable.

Ken's MG team making its way back towards friendly lines.

Note the cool look of the roads.  we played on Ken's painter dropcloth / homemade game mat.
 I also learn how darn effective support weapons can be and we both use our MMG's to good effect - perhaps one of the most casualty producing weapons of the battle today?

American MMG team banging away at the enemy.
I realize, too late probably, that there are reactions you need to make at certain times, like when your squad is on the ropes and needs a morale check badly and the enemy keeps shooting at him, or when you have an MG team covering your forces and the enemy is whittling away at them on the edge of the objective.  What I really love about Iron Cross is that it forces you to think "realistically" and "set up" your attack with your most advantageous and casualty producing weapons.  You need forces to cover your advancing units, all the while ensuring you have a fresh reserve to put in at the right time.  This game is about timing, decisions, and combined arms more than anything else and it's a ton of fun.  The game takes place very much in the realm of "the close fight" and things you might expect from "company level" rules are not in here.  Instead you're thrust into the role of a company commander and your resources and attention are stressed to the max.

Not enough room in the building, eh?  We'll wait outside guys, sure.

Ken's deputy command squad breaking contact.  Ken and I also learned about the value of the "fallback" order.  My Sherman drives in closer to the field to finish these guys off but they ultimately escape.  I think they were almost knocked out like 3 times!
US Infantry advancing through the woods to put fire on the Germans
 My attack finally reaches the outskirts of the first village but I'm running out of steam and there are only 3 turns left!  Gotta make something happen or we'll throw off the whole Division's timetable!

US Armor reaching the outskirts of the village

MMG laying covering fire
 I send a bunch of units forward but it's too little, too late.  Ken has plenty of hidden units remaining guarding the bridge.  This isn't going to be a walk in the park!  I send up armor to the riverbank to fire at the Germans on the other side.  Ken's Panther makes an appearance!  Holy Moly!

My Sherman 76mm firing at the infantry but he'll have a much juicier target soon enough!  Ken's Panther comes out to shoot at the Ami's.

I pre-empt the Panther's shot and it gets killed this or next turn.  Can't quite remember but it was exciting!  

Come on, guys!  They need us up there at the bridge!  US Forces rally and move out

Americans at the river bank.  Ken has more nasty surprises waiting for them.  My squads start taking casualties waiting for the other squads in their platoon to show up!
 Ken makes a bold move and counter-attacks with an infantry squad at the bridge!  They have Panzerfausts and move in to 8 inch range and open fire, knocking out my Sherman at the bridge!  Crap!  Meanwhile Ken's Support MG stand is racking up the morale markers on my US infantry!  Crap!

The AT gunner who fired the Panzerfaust earns an Iron Cross today!

A Sherman goes up in flames from a Panzerfaust hit!  I need to put more fire on those Germans!

I bring up some of my remaining infantryo n the table (still have an entire platoon in reserve) and knock out Ken's command group in the swamp on the other side of the river.  Good shooting, team!

Ken's infantry defending the village.  We called it beginning of Turn 7 - there was no way I was going to capture the swamp this turn which was my scenario assigned turn limit.

Wow what a great game!  Iron Cross is a blast and always gives an exciting, tense game.  I really like how the rules play and I like how few modifiers there are.  You're constantly making decisions and I had a token in my hand during almost all of Ken's later moves in the later turns.  One of the worst positions you can find yourself in is out of command tokens.  You have to keep a reserve of them to react to the enemy's moves or else he'll walk all over your troops during his own turn.
This game was great and I will add it's really hard to kill enemy troops, as it should be.

For me, I probably should have had my squads a little closer together in order to provide mutual support.  I also realized halfway through the game I never once used my mortars!  I also realized I should have been taking morale checks, making more reactions, and conducting more aggressive thrusts towards the objective.  I feel like Iron Cross rewards the use of good planning and good tactics.  Mission Accomplished!


  1. Any house rules here? Also, did you see that Seven Days To the River Rhine is out? I've heard it cleans things up a bit. I wasn't a fan of IC when I last tried it so I'm really curious if a wwii game using the SDTTRR mods will be more my speed.

    Oh, I'll also note that I'm convinced IC should be played with 20mm or larger. The designers play in 28mm pretty much exclusively and it makes the extra dice and markers on the table look less significant in comparison.

    1. Hi Brandon,
      No, no house rules this time around this being Ken's first game (and my second!). I actually bought a copy of SDTTRR but have not yet played it. I am wondering if the authors will publish a second edition of IC, based off of some of the mechanics in SDTTRR.

      We played using Ken's excellent 20mm kit today and it was a great game. Since I only have 15mm and 6mm I will be playing my games in 15mm and yes all of those markers can be obtrusive I think. 20mm definitely gave it a more "epic" feel today as well if that makes any sense?

      I sold all of my 20mm kit off at the last 2 conventions I attended! Crap!

    2. No, you did it right. Sell off all the inferior 20mm stuff as 15mm is the one true scale, but then use a friend's very well done 20mm stuff when appropriate. ;)

    3. I got advice from a smart wargamer years ago to only use 2 x scales for my hobby. I've sort of deviated from that advice a little over the years but for the most part I've consistently gamed with 10mm and 15mm. (with a dabble into 1/285 for microarmor games of FoW and TY).

  2. Great stuff! The table and figs look awesome

    1. Thanks Paul! The table, terrain and troops all belong to Ken.

  3. Lovely looking game, with the table big enough to allow the 20mm to breathe. I have the rules and think the mechanics are very interesting, though I felt that the rules felt more like a final draft rather than the finished thing as there were things that I felt could have done with some better explanation.

    The nature of the system does result in units dragging markers around with them, which in a way makes the bigger scale a preferred, as visually as the markers don't overwhelm the bases.

    From memory, I seem to remember that the role of cover was an issue ... Am I recalling that correctly?

    I did contact the company about the future of the system and they said that the Desert expansion was almost done, but that was some time ago.

    Anyway, your table looks lovely and he game looked an exciting contest, enjoyed, thanks.

    1. Cover has an effect. It reduces the severity of the results of being fired on. Whether it’s enough of an effect is debatable.

    2. Norm - Ken said the same thing about how things could be better explained. I will say that we got the hang of things pretty quickly and the game moved along. That is not to say that the game was quick - but we did learn quickly. It was a fun game and we enjoyed it. It reminds me of Crossfire a little.

      I did like how a target's cover did not affect your chance to hit but rather the potential morale consequences of the hit itself. That's a neat feature.

  4. The 20mm has a certain old school charm, but practically speaking the game works just as well in 15mm. SDTTR adds some things that are missing IC, like terrain rules. Actually we got on fine without them just using our experience as wargamers.

    1. Ken your 20mm figures were lots of fun and a real treat to game with. I'd like to play Bolt Action with them, too! The bigger scale adds to the visual spectacle. I have only ever played IC in 15mm (almost all of my WWII games are in 15mm because I liquidated my 20mm collection).

      I'm looking forward to playing SDTTR and I assume we will both use our extensive Team Yankee collections. I also have a large micro armor collection for COld War so there's that. I wonder if anyone plays IC or SDTTR in 6mm?

    2. 20mm is God's own true scale, I say ;)

    3. You know what I love most about 20mm / 1/72 stuff? $4.99 boxes of plastic figures at hobby stores! :)

    4. That's the thing, yep. I've spent a lifetime collecting the plastics. I have British commandos from the 1970s in my collection lol

  5. What a superb game sir, and looks fantastic.
    I'm setting up a small 10mm game to try the WWIII version of these rules, but you're making me want to get the 20mm stuff out for a second game.
    Wow - great commentary on the rules too.

    1. THank you Duc! My thoughts? If you have the kit, terrain, and most importantly the space then have at it in 20mm!

      Regarding the WWIII version SDTTRR, I'd go with 10mm but that's just me. You already know if I could do it ALL over again, every mini and figure I own would be 10mm.

      Glad you enjoyed the post, sir! Looking forward to your SDTTRR playtest.

    2. Yes, I've had the WWIII 10mm stuff for a while - but inspiration from the Sabre Squadron game last year, and the new rules, is prompting me to finish them. I'll post a pic up on the blog to give me some impetus.

    3. Just saw your post, Darren. Headed over there to comment now!

  6. Steve / Ken, you have had me reaching for my rule set ... Have I got this right, tanks cannot claim cover and infantry just get a slight uplift on that second roll? If that is true, I would question the former and consider the latter too weak.

    1. I believe you are correct, Norm. I wonder what the logic there is behind AFV not claiming cover?

    2. No, there is cover for vehicles. A vehicle that has "terrain coverage" over 50% of its profile counts as hull down and penetrating hits deduct 1 from the damage table. (See page 12). So, as with infantry, cover doesn't make it harder to hit vehicles. It reduces the severity of the effect of a hit.

    3. Cover for infantry means the firing unit needs a 5+ to inflict a second morale token instead of a 4+ for a target in the open. If the target is in fortifications or trenches a 6 is needed.

    4. THanks Ken - is that on the QRS? (Cover for vehicles). I cant remember. Seems like it should be.