Cross of Iron

Cross of Iron (COI) was a "gamette" - an expansion module for the Squad Leader game published by The Avalon Hill Game Company.  COI was released at ORIGINS '78.

The concept for the gamettes had undergone great changes since we first proposed them a year (previously). Not just hastily thrown together collections of new maps and counters, CROSS OF IRON with its massive new armor system grew into a major design and testing process that matched or exceeded the development of SQUAD LEADER itself. As a consequence, the project grew until it took on all the physical and time costs of a full scale AH game - which it is, except for the oddity of being a game based on another game. In any case, CROSS OF IRON didn't take 6 months as was initially planned, but an entire year. The second kit...A RISING CRESCENDO (since renamed CRESCENDO OF DOOM) was set back accordingly, and due to the many changes in CROSS OF IRON will now have to undergo a second playtesting period. Don't expect it before next spring (1979). As for CROSS OF IRON, although many expressed surprise at the cost ($12.00), we sold out of the 350 copies on hand during the first 4-1/2 hours. Reports of the game being scalped thereafter for $25.00 a copy were probably exaggerated, but did lend a considerable buzz to the exhibition gossip.1

According to Al Bisasky, the concept of the gamettes actually went further back than even the release of the first game:  

Even before Squad Leader made its debut at ORIGINS '77, the braintrust at Avalon Hill was already hard at work developing ideas for future expansion games that would transform it from a game unto itself into an entire gaming system with literally endless possibilities. Each of these expansion games, called 'gamettes', would concentrate on a particular theme such as the Russian Front, France 1940, etc., and each would build onto the basic system and its predecessors. These future gamettes would introduce the personnel and weaponry of the major and minor antagonists that took part in the Second World War.2

The concept, however, was not popular in all quarters if a letter to Don Lowry, the editor of Campaign is any indication:  

I'd be interested to hear your opinion of the latest Avalon Hill sales tactic, the "Gamette." When I heard of Squad Leader and its sequellae, the Gamettes, memories of Dungeons & Dragons and its interminable supplements immediately came to mind. I began to consider: "Squad Leader costs $12 for the basic rules, counters and four mapboards. Then comes the first Gamette, Cross of Iron, also $12, with one additional mapboard, more counters and some charts, to be followed by - Great Ghu! - five more Gamettes."

At that point I sat back in awe, pondering the brilliance of Avalon Hill. I smiled ruefully and shook my head in wonderment. The equations were so simple, so elegant:

(a) Squad Leader x 1 = $12
Squad Leader x 1 + Gamette x 6 = $843

The gamette expanded the German and Russian4 orders of battle, including also Axis Minor infantry types (troops from Romania are featured in one scenario but theoretically a number of nationalities could be represented by the "Axis Minors".) The original handful of vehicle and ordnance types in Squad Leader were expanded to include just about every type that saw service on the Eastern Front. COI expanded the armor and artillery systems considerably. The "design for effect" philosophy that had guided Squad Leader's development gave way in the case of tank combat to "actual data" taking priority over "effect data." An initial intention to simply provide a few extras not contained in Squad Leader, such as SS troops, the Tiger tank, and the T-34/85, gave way in the face of requests by playtesters to what amounted to a complete order of battle for both nationalities for the entire war, including dozens of different models of Sd Kfz 250 and 251 halftracks and Pz Kpfw I through VI tanks. John Hill and Don Greenwood admitted afterwards that the project got away from them, Hill sensing that he was too easily persuaded by playtesters who probably had a higher threshold for complexity than average gamers, and Greenwood saying that had he known from the beginning that the gamette would end up so large, he would "have broken it into two expansion kits - it simply is too much for one."5

The focus in the series, then, had firmly changed. Armour enthusiast Lorrin Bird was thrilled:

After wading through the infantry-oriented scenarios of Squad Leader, where the occasional rare appearance of one of the really bland and nondescript tank types was widely cherished, the first Squad Leader gamette, Cross of Iron (a particularly catchy title in view of the book/movie's great popularity, but don't look for Sgt. Steiner 'cause he ain't there), had changed the value of the game system immensely. Now, instead of being a good infantry game, particularly with regard to support weapons and leadership effects, the system represents one of the best combined arms representations available from either a boardgame or miniatures approach.


In comparison with the SL system, the new game mechanics for tanks are both terribly involved and interesting, since the degree of tank trivia has both exceeded the infantry and approached a level that only Tractics has previously attempted in the field of miniature armor rules.6


The General

Vol.15 No. 6 Mar-Apr 1979 ►"First Impressions: An Introduction to Squad Leader Plus One" by Bob Medrow (Analysis)
►"Cross of Iron Designer's Notes" by Arnold Hendrick (Analysis)
►"Counting Down the Scenarios: An Introduction to Squad Leader Plus One, Part Two" by Bob Medrow (Strategy)
►Scenario A, B, C, D
Vol.16 No. 3 Sep-Oct 1979 ►Series Replay (Strategy) - Joe Suchar and Jon Mischon play Scenario 102 from the Series 100 pack. A short Series Replay by the standards of the The General - being concluded in a single issue - and by COI standards, with the game ending on turn 3.
Vol.16 No. 4 Nov-Dec 1979 ►"East Front Asides" by Jon Mischon (Strategy) - a playtester's study of scenarios A, B, C, D as well as the Series 100 scenarios 100-110 (inclusive).
Vol.17 No. 2 Jul-Aug 1980 ►Scenario E, F, G, H, I
Vol.17 No. 3 Sep-Oct 1980 ►Series Replay (Strategy) - first of a two part replay of The Niscemi-Biscari Highway, a scenario involving US and German forces on Sicily, but played with COI rules. The scenario was included with Vol. 17 No. 2.
Vol.17 No. 4 Nov-Dec 1980 ►Series Replay (Strategy) - conclusion of the two-part series replay.
Vol.19 No. 5 Jan-Feb 1983 ►Scenario T1, T2, T3, T4


No. 88 Nov-Dec 1978 ►"Cross of Iron: A Review" by Lorrin Bird (Review)
No. 89 Jan-Feb 1979 ►"Brazen Chariots: A Review of the Cross of Iron Armor Rules" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)
No. 93 Sep-Oct1979 ►"Cross of Iron and the Battle of Sidi Rezegh" by Lorrin Bird (Variant)
Special Issue #2 1981 Reprints of various articles from earlier magazines, including:
►"Cross of Iron: A Review" by Lorrin Bird (Review)
►"Brazen Chariots: A Review of the Cross of Iron Armor Rules" by Lorrin Bird (Analysis)
►"Cross of Iron and the Battle of Sidi Rezegh" by Lorrin Bird (Variant)
►"1942: A Cross of Iron Armor Variant" by Lorrin Bird (Variant)

Fire & Movement

No. 16 Mar. 1979 ►"Profile: A Cross of Iron" by Al Bisasky (Analysis)
►"Designer's Notes" by John Hill (Analysis)


  1. "Avalon Hill Philosophy", The General, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Jul-Aug 1978). This observed behaviour does not seem unusual to 21st Century eyes. Pre-orders for Valor of the Guards topped 1000 in a number of days, and new ASL releases are often seen on ebay shortly after release, though speculation or "scalping" is generally more lucrative with out of print products than newly released items.

  2. Bisasky, Al. "Profile: A Cross of Iron", Fire & Movement, No. 16 (Mar. 1979).

  3. Mail Call (Letter to the Editor by Rich Bartucci), Campaign (No. 89, Jan-Feb 1979). Lowry's answer, incidentally: "As for the gamette idea, I believe that all values are relative. There is at least as much material, as far as counters, etc, and research & design effort in COI as in SL. Whether it's worth as much to you, or me, depends on our own tastes and values. Personally I wouldn't pay $12 for either one, because I'm not interested in tactical boardgames. But if you really like that sort of thing, I would think they're both well worth it. Anytime you can get hours and hours of fun for $12, you've found a bargain! A few years ago everybody was making and selling variants to AH games. Why shouldn't they be allowed to make and sell them themselves? Those that don't want them don't have to buy them! Meanwhile, invest your money elsewhere, for nobody in the wargames business is getting rich, I can guarantee it."

  4. The term "Russian" was used as shorthand in place of the more technically correct "Soviet" or "Red Army."

  5. Hill, John. "Designer's Notes", Fire & Movement, No. 16, Ibid.

  6. Bird, Lorrin. "Cross of Iron: A Review" Campaign (No. 88, Nov-Dec 1978).


Cross of Iron

Developer: John Hill
Publisher: Avalon Hill
Date of Release: 1978
Scale: Squad level
Players: 2
Campaign Type: Personal Campaign Game introduced for Armor leaders
Components: ► 1 isomorphic mounted 22" x 8" map
► 36 page rules book
► 5 cardstock scenario cards
► 2 cardstock reference cards
► 520 1/2" counters
► 576 5/8" counters
► Some editions has unmounted reprints of Squad Leader boards 1-4
Follows: Squad Leader
Sequels: ►Crescendo of Doom
►G.I.: Anvil of Victory
►Advanced Squad Leader
Add-ons: ►Series 100 Scenarios

Early print ad.

Listing of Official Scenarios
(including re-releases for Advanced Squad Leader)






The Capture of Balta


Journal 2


The Paw of the Tiger


Gen 23:5*


Hube's Pocket


Gen 23:5*


Sowchos 79




Debacle at Korosten


Annual 97


BV v.2


The Defense of Luga


Gen 32:3


A Winter Melee




Breakout From Borisov


A Burzevo ASL R Gen 28:3
B Hill 253.5 T07 Gen 27:3
C The Bukrin Bridgehead    
D Delaying Action A49 Annual 92
E The Niscemi-Biscari Highway T09 Gen 28:1
F The Pouppeville Exit T05 Gen 27:2
G Devil's Hill T10 Gen 28:1
H The Attempt to Relieve Peiper T11 Gen 28:2
I Hunters From The Sky T12 Gen 28:2
101 Blocking Action at Lipki A44 Annual 92
102 Slamming of the Door A7 Annual 89
103 Bald Hill    
104 The Penetration of Rostov A17 Annual 90
105 Night Battle at Noromatyevka    
106 Beachhead at Ozereyka Bay A26 Annual 91
107 Disaster On The Dneiper Loop    
108 Block Busting in Bokruisk J8 Journal 1
109 Counterattack On The Vistula A21 Annual 90
110 The Agony of Doom A8 Annual 89

*Also included in "ASL Classic" scenario release 2008-present    email: The Tactical Wargamer