Playing Iron Cross

Last Friday, the lads from the Berzerkers and I gave the new Great Escape Games game Iron Cross a spin. Paul B ran the game for Rossco and myself. I took the dastardly Germans while Rossco took the Soviet horde. He took two KV1s, eleven T34s and some tank riders. I took three Stugs, three Panzer IVs plus a Tiger and a platoon of Panzergrenadiere with their 251s. 

The Russian setup.

Choosing your army is simple: simply pay the points per model from the list. There are no army lists per se, so you can be as historical or a-historical as you wish… I don’t recall any support options (such as mortars or AT guns), but as we were playing ‘get it out the box and points cost it up’, Paul was just providing us with the points for what we’d chosen. 

Here comes the Russian horse!

The game is an alternating turn system (IGOUGO, rolling for initiative each turn), though the opponent may try to react and activate one of his units. Each player has a number of command counters equal to the number of units plus some more for commanders (two, I think). Every time a player tries to activate a unit is activated (the first time is always successful), one of these counters is placed by it. That unit can be activated a second time by rolling higher than the number of counters on it using a D6. Either way, a counter is ‘spent’ on the attempt and placed on the unit. In other words, it gets progressively harder to activate a unit the more attempts you’ve made to do so. The enemy may react by rolling a 3+ (increased by any additional counters on the unit being activated), so you can activate in the opponent’s go but not without burning your own reserve of orders. Clever…

Lone STUG snipes at advancing T34s

Shooting uses a D10 with simple modifiers, generally requiring a 5 to hit. There are no ranges, and if you can see your target, you can hit it (with modifiers for cover and movement). There are supposed to be recommended ranges for 15mm, but we couldn’t find these in the book. Successful hits cause morale loss (one per hit, we marked these on a small die). Accumulate too many of these morale losses and the crew will abandon the vehicle (I lost a Tiger to several hits from T34’s). If the penetration roll is high enough (D10 plus weapon value versus armour value), it can cause a higher morale loss or destroy the tank outright with a lucky shot. Now, I understand why this was done this way - with an activation system which allows multiple actions in a single turn, you have to have some mechanism to give tanks a better chance of survival - if you had a ‘dead ant’ system, the place would be littered with burning wrecks in no time flat. I did think when my Tiger scored high (say five higher than the armour), it should have had some better chance of causing total annihilation - those familiar with Rapid Fire will recognize the issue. Big cats don’t do well, but regular Panzer IVs do - and you know what, that’s something to be commended.

Relentless advance of the KVs.

So, what did we think of this first try? Overall, our reaction was positive. The range-thing, or lack thereof, took some getting used to, but it’d be simple to add in more detail such as range modifiers and let gun strength decrease with range. It’s also a system where your T34s can swarm a Tiger, which is kind of nice.. There are only ten pages of rules which manage to retain the flavour of World War 2 quite well in a simple rule set. There are fair few counters involved, but this is part of the clever activation ‘risk’ system.

On the night Rossco had a clear victory as all I could roll was 1s (makes a change, eh Rossco?). I think we need to play a few more games - never judge a game on bad dice rolls. Iron Cross certainly has potential. If a quick and clever game is what you’re after, give it a go. 

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