Great escape games have release a new WW2 game called Iron Cross. I have now played a few games of this and so I thought I would post my comments/thoughts as well and a quick review on this system.
Overall, in summary I like the systems and it has a great feel of a company level game which could be played to completion at a convention or in a evening with some friends. It’s not super detailed and does not get bogged down in the ‘rivet counter’ detail which some do rules. That said though it does have a few wrinkles most of which can be worked around which does not make this perfect. I’ll go through those at the end of this.
So what’s Iron Cross? Well it’s basically small company (or above) sized world war 2 game rules. Each unit on the table represents one tank, truck, anti-tank gun or infantry squad. Those are the smallest commanded units. For each of these units at the start of a turn you get a command token, plus some extra for commander etc. After a straight roll off for who has initiative then the game works that the player with initiative pays 1 command token to activate a squad/vehicle to do something. This is to do things such as move and fire or fire and move. Not firing allows a unit to move a little faster. The first time a unit activates they do that automatically (if they have no morale tokens on them), after that you have to roll above the total number of command plus morale tokens to activate. So this way some units can move 3 or more times a turn, while others won’t do anything at all. This allows a player to move some units multiple times and really develop an attack where they want. Failure to activate just means a waste of a command token.
The real interesting piece of the game is that the non initiative player can try to react to any move attempted by the other player. They play a command token on a unit and have to roll a 3+ (plus command and morale tokens) to react. The reaction is not just to affect the moving units but could be a unit anywhere. This can also can include actions to try to recover morale from units etc.If you roll a 6 on D6 for the reaction then after these moves the inactivate player swaps – i.e. the reacting player takes the initiative. A player can also give up the initiative after making at least 1 move as well. This is waiting for the opponent to do things etc and comes into play as the number of command token get used up towards the end of a turn. There are more rules around this but you get the idea.
This does mean a few counters on the table at the end of a turn – you can see a picture of a game in progress below. The green/black tokens are command tokens and red ones are morale markers. The green and black ones are removed at the end of a turn, while the red ones remain.
The combat is basic but works well. One interesting thing is there are no range limits. A few things like flame throwers and bazookas have a range of 8″ and there is an advantage for firing if within close range (12″) but other than that if you can see it you can shoot it. Shooting involves rolling a D10 to hit with a few modifiers with a target of 5+ and if that hits you might get 1 or more extra D6 to cause more morale tokens on infantry/foot units. For vehicles you roll to see if you penetrate them and if that happens then you roll on a table for the result – which can be everything from not much effect to an instant kill. Things die from instant kills on vehicles or more likely by having too many morale tokens on them.
The other aspect of command is gaining back morale – removing those morale tokens. A player can spend a command token (not on an specific unit) and make a company morale roll. This has an effect from doing nothing to removing all the morale tokens from a unit of the players choice. Units can also withdraw away from the enemy which gives the unit a chance to move out of threat zones and have a chance of getting rid of a single morale token. I have found that after a few turns the game comes easy to most people. The rules are ‘spread out’ a bit in the book even though they are only 32 pages so I created a QRS which helps a lot for players and myself. I’ll post that at some point if there is an interest- it’s already up on the great escape boards.
The rules come with a basic points and stat values for different late war forces, and there are more in a free PDF. However, these are far from a true army list for historically balanced lists. It’s clear that a knowledge of real forces is needed if players want realistic games of forces. This is not a balanced competition game, but one for taking toys out and playing them, especially tank toys. Now with reasonable people and/or players or a GM who is well versed on WW2 this flexibility is a real boon. Also if you just want to grab some toys, roughly balance the forces and then roll some dice it will work as well.
So how does it play? Well actually very well. Overall this rule set plays fast and easy. If someone is wanting an alternate to games like Flames of War and likes the Black Powder style gentlemen of gaming, then this rule set will really work for them. It’s not an expensive rules set and does not take itself too seriously so I do recommend it generally to others. Overall, this game feels very much like a combination of Crossfire and Black Powder for WW2. It’s a game that I will play more of and it has an easy flow to it which allows lots of player choice points which effect the game. But see below for my negative comments below.
In reality the game reminds me of Crossfire, but focused more on vehicle combat while Crossfire is focused more on infantry. It’s also less formal than crossfire in style and so is a more loose game over all. BTW this has got me thinking that I need to get Crossfire out on the table again and compare the two as I always did like that as well.
So for the negative items. After a few games the following are items which ‘could be better’ IMO. Some are easy to fix, other may take a little more work.
- The smoke rules are a little aggressive as written when using smoke against opposing forces. This is easy to fix (you just use common sense for when an opponent moves to get away from smoke fired at them) but a silly item to my mind and it seems a little confusing as written in the rules.
- Iron Cross does not have any specific rules for close combat. Although not in itself a major issue, with the next items this can make for what feels like an unrealistic occurrence of troops being very close together and shooting but not killing each other. Some players have already proposed a simple opposed die roll system which works and should resolve that, as I do like a close combat mechanism in rules.
- Infantry units can take quite a lot of punishment before being killed. There is no chance for 1 infantry unit to kill another in a single shooting action. It will take on average more than 3 actions an infantry squad to kill an opposing one. I have not done the math for the true %, but at best case it’s 3 and more likely 4 or 5 actions. That’s before the opposing player does any morale recovery etc. So infantry vs. infantry games can drag out. There have been comments of players online in that they need mortars and vehicles to really help with this. That’s ok, it should be hard, but it seems a little unrealistic to not be able to do this at all. I have been thinking of tweaking the rules a little to help with this – at least allowing the possibility (although a small one) of infantry vs infantry getting more morale tokens to be put on units hit at close range. We’ll see how that works in future games.
- The only way to move more than 1 unit at a time is to platoon move, where up to 3 elements of the same type move together but then can’t shoot for the rest of the turn. This can lead to odd situations in a turn when only 1 squad/vehicle moves and the others around it stay still. For example a Russian attack on a German defensive line happened squad by squad in one game we played. It was not as a rush of troops. I think this is just a symptom of the action/reaction mechanism but at times can feel a little odd on the table and takes some getting used too.
So there we are Iron Cross. Definitely worth checking out IMO if your looking for a flexible convention style WW2 set of rules with loads of tanks on the table. Not perfect, but is a fun and keeps all the players engaged all the time without having t0o much brian power used on the rules.