On 27th March 2000 I had the pleasure of visiting Barrie Lovell at his home and being introduced to the concept of using a variant of the Crossfire WWII rules system to play Vietnam wargames. Barrie had developed a set of Vietnam rules variants called Incoming! Over the course of an evening, myself and some friends of Barrie’s played out a scenario that had been designed by Barrie for use with the Incoming! rules. I was very impressed by the game and it was not too long after that visit before I was committed to building my own figure collection in order to be able to use Barrie’s rules.
Similar to the original Crossfire, Barrie's rules are designed for use with figure bases - that is, multiple figures on a single stand. The basic unit is the fire-team, consisting of 4-6 figures or a single support weapon. One of the strengths of Crossfire is that it does not have a fixed ground or figure scale as such and that any sized figures, suitably based, are sufficient for a game.The first thing that it was necessary for me to decide upon was a figure scale that would be suitable for the size of game that I wished to play bearing in mind both the cost of purchase and the time it would take to paint and base a large number of figures.
Given that I eventually wanted to be able to play games utilising forces of up to battalion strength I felt that 20mm figures were too large for the table space that I have and would also prove to be too expensive. At the same time I felt that 1/200th scale was too small. The most obvious choice appeared to be 15mm and having seen Barrie Lovell's own 15mm forces, which looked just perfect for this game system, I decided to take Barrie's lead. There are a number of good manufacturers of 15mm figures and I suggest that you take a good look around before committing yourself to any one manufacturer. What I found was that whilst they all produce the standard figures, there are considerable differences in the range of vehicles and support weapons that are available from each individual manufacturer. I found that the best thing to do was mix-and-match, taking what I needed from a variety of manufacturers in order to obtain the best balance of forces. One particular attraction of 15mm is that the figures are generally well cast and also relatively inexpensive.
With regard to force design I chose to follow the organisations as set out in Barrie Lovell's Vietnam Crossfire organisation charts since these are very close to the actual TO&E’s of the countries involved. The two forces that I chose to collect were regular US Army infantry and North Vietnamese Army (PAVN) infantry. One immediate benefit of using the organisational charts to build these particular formations is that, with minimal adjustment, both could also be used to represent USMC and Main Force Viet Cong respectively.
In order not to become overwhelmed by the prospect of having to purchase and paint hundreds of figures straight off, I decided to build each force in 'steps', working from fire-teams and squads up to platoons and finally on to a full Company. Also, in order to be able to see real progress being made I decided to make the platoon my basic unit or 'building block'. To this end, whenever I made a purchase, I always bought sufficient figures which, when painted as a single batch, resulted in a full platoon being added to my collection. I painted, labelled and based each individual platoon before I moved on to the next platoon-sized unit. I found that this 'production line' method, although it required great discipline, nonetheless resulted in a rapid build up of units.
Since I intended to purchase sufficient figures at any one time as to be able to produce a full platoon, it was necessary for me to first find out what each manufacturer offered in their range and also how these were packaged. Once I knew that, I could then calculate how many figures of each particular type I would require for each unit in order to conform to the organisational charts.
Having studied the organisational charts and how these translated into figures on the table, I decided that I would like to have the following figures on the table;
Many of these figures were not required straight away since I intended to start out by building up the rifle platoons and only wanted those figures that were necessary for building these basic units. Support weapons were not a consideration at this stage except to know what was available from the manufacturers.
Once I had found out from the manufacturers precisely what was available in terms of figure types and cost, I sat down and calculated how many figures of the various types I would require.
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