North West Frontier Portable Wargame

On Wednesday afternoon my regular opponent, Anthony, and I met up virtually for another game using The Portable Wargame using Zoom video conferencing software. This time I setup a small North West Frontier scenario using my 54mm AIP collection of figures.

The screen setup was the same as last time with a mobile phone suspended above the table to give an overhead view and a laptop position on the other side of the table to give the illusion of playing across a table with an opponent.

The table setup was a little larger than before with a grid 8 deep by 12 wide. There was plenty of rocks providing cover and ruined fort which was the objective for the game. Whoever held the fort at the end of turn 15 was the winner…

The Afghans had 9 units including a 2 cavalry and 3 units armed with firearms. The Afghans have a fire range of 2, but can double move if they roll a 5,6. They are rated as average.

The British had 7 units including a gun. They have a fire range of 3 and count as elite.

The British deployed first and also took the first move, concentrating their Infantry on the fort, the Afghans deployed with a diversionary force on the other side of the river. The river is fordable but you have to stop when you enter it.

In the first turn, the afghan cavalry charged a double move hoping to score an easy early victory but forgot that they wouldn’t be able to retreat, lost the melee and were destroyed..

The Afghans evened up the score after that with a British unit who enter the fort taking hits and also being eliminated.

The melee and shooting are inconclusive for a few turns with just one Afghan unit being eliminated and noone holding onto the fort. But the Afghan diversionary attack on the flank manages to eliminate the British gun without losing a unit.

The British have taken the fort, but how long can they keep it?

The British unit outside the fort are surrounded and finally their luck gives up as they are also eliminated.

There is just one British unit left and they are driven out of the fort by concentrated Afghan fire.

And the Afghans manage to gain control of the fort. Surely it is all over for the plucky British?

But no, on the very last turn (turn 15), the British charge the fort and push the afghans out – thereby winning the game!

It was a very close and exciting game in the end with the British just taking it on the final move.

I have a copy of the new Portable Colonial Wargames book but have some reservations about the new rules as written, so we used the original Portable Wargames rules with sudden death elimination and the ability of the natives to move twice if they throw a 5,6 after moving.

I will put together a post on my throughts about the Portable Wargame and why the original rules seem to suit our style of games rather than the newer ones… We are planning on trying out the new rules in a full game to see how they play.

Gaming using Zoom

As Anthony, my regular opponent, and I are unable to meet up for a game, I decided to try and create a setup which would let you play a game using the Zoom Video Conferencing system. I decided on The Portable Wargame as a grid based game is easier for the player on the end of the video link and it stops problems with movement and fiddling with facing.

The setup was devised after a discussion with my wife, Sarah, who devided a system using bamboo canes across the table which would allow smartphone to be suspended above it.

I setup the table with a grid of letter and numbers down the sides and setup for One Hour Wargames Scenario 4 – Take the High Ground.

The smartphone above the tabel gave the following view enabling Anthony to plot his moves and see the whole table.

I setup a laptop on a chair on the opposite of the table to me so Anthony could see the table from a normal view and it appeared that we were playing a normal game.

Once Anthony joined, we had a 3-way conference call and Anthony was able to switch between the overhead view and the straight on view – though he most used the overhead one.

We used large foam dice for rolss which showed up well and Anthony was able to see them from the overhead camera.

The sides were 4 infantry, 2 cavalry, 1 artillery and a general each. We found that one the small table that the artillery was a little too powerful and for the second game dropped the artillery pieces.

Sadly, even though I was throwing all the dice, Anthony managed to win both games as the British!

But it was a successful test of technology and we are able to have two games of the Portable Wargame while maintaining social distance… We will definitely be repeating the experience.

PS> The photos are rather dark as the overhead lights shone too much on the shiny table tiles and made the overhead view harder to see,

Stuart Asquith Big Wars Memorial Game

Stuart Asquith very kindly sent me a copy of his Big Wars rules after I had mentioned them to him on the telephone when he had rung up to order some paint. I hadn’t had chance to play them up to now but Anthony and I both thought that a game using the rules would be a fitting memorial on the day of Stuart’s funeral.

The scenario chosen was Scenario 25 from the “Scenarios for all ages” book by Stuart and Charles Grant. The two armies are identical and coming along a road from east to west. The aim of the game is to seize a river crossing and deny a crossing to the opponent. The middle bridge is a footbridge only and is not one of the objectives.

We used my 19th Century Little Wars Revisited 54mm figures organised into 8 man infantry, 4 man cavalry units. Both forces were 4 infantry, 2 cavalry, 1 light infantry and a gun.

Curiously, both of us organised our column of march identically! We also both rolled so that the head of the column was level with the first bridge when the game began.

We soon discovered tht artillery was fairly ineffectual in the rules (though we did miss the rule to do with firing at structure which would have made it slightly more effective at infantry hiding in a house).

The first cavalry clash came by the far bridge with the Germans coming off the worst and being wiped out in the two rounds of melee.

The game developed with both sides moving along the river with occasional potshots at the enemy. The British were driven back from the first bridge by the German light Infantry.

The Germans then moved across the central bridge in column and were attacked by a cavalry unit who wiped them out to a man. This cavalry unit then crossed the bridge and wiped out another infantry unit before succumbing to a charge by the remaining German cavalry.

The loss of two units to the cavalry proved to much and the Germans were eventually forced to concede as they no longer had enough forces to hold a bridge.

The game was fun and both of us enjoyed it, having not played the scenario before, but we did have some problems with the rules:

We added an initiative roll to determine who moved first, with all shooting and melee being simultaneous after movement as there is no turn sequence described.

The major problem we had was with Cavalry. Even if we had been using the suggested 10 men Infantry units, they would have still been eliminated by cavalry as Infantry shooting at Cavalry halve their hits, so struggle to eliminate a figure when being charged. Then, in the melee the Cavalry are +2 for cavalry, +1 for charging, +1 for lance against an infantry of +1 for bayonet…

In both melees, the infantry were almost completely elminiated in the first round of combat…

I don’t think we read the rules incorrectly, but cavalry seem too powerful for 1870 onwards.

First 54mm Napoleonics Game

I bought a large collection of 54mm Napoleonics last year from Andy Duff’s widow (Andy sadly died in December 2017) and I have slowly been working through it making sense of the figures an rebasing them into my planned arrangement for 12 man units based on 4 stands of 60mm x 40mm. The figures are a some what eclectic mix (as Andy himself admitted) and contain a fair amount of austrians repainted as other nations which will evntually be restored to their white coats and correct uniforms.

I have also bought a fair number of Prussians from Anthony who has decided to move to metals for his napoleonic collection.

I now have enough based up for a game and so Anthony and I met up to play a game using Neil Thomas’s Napoleonic rules with 8 units a side.

Each side had 1 cavalry, 1 gun, 5 line infantry, 1 poorer quality infantry, 1 general and 1 officer.

The game worked very well and we both enjoyed it – simple victory conditions were to claim the crossroads or reduce the enemy to 2 units. After a hard fought battle which swung both ways at times, the prussian jagers managed to almost completely destroy the last intact French unit with some lucky die rolling and I admitted defeat.

I need to finish the bases off for the figures but was keen to get them on the table as I always find that playing a game keeps up my interest in a project…

A Gentleman’s War playtest

“A Gentleman’s War” is a new set of rules that Howard Whitehouse has been working on for a while. They are shortly to be published as a book but I used the playtest rules from April 2018 for a test game.

AGW is a deliberately old school set of rules for playing with toy soldiers on a table top. It used card activation, quite a few dice and single figure removal.

I am planning on running this at the Little Wars Revisited Forum Games Day on March 16th in Woking, so wanted to try out the rules ahead of time and test out the Hook’s Farm scenario to see what tweaks I would need to make. As always, Anthony gave me a hand by playing the British side…

The table laid out for the game, complete with Gizmo the cat surveying the scene…

The Prussian setup at the start of the game.

The British setup at the the start

AGW uses 12-man infantry units, 6-man skirmisher units and 6 man cavalry units. Guns are crewed by 4 figures.

The Prussians advance.

The game uses activation cards which determine which side moves and how many units it can move (it is possible to brigade units together) – you can also have hold cards in your hand which enable you to interrupt the other person’s go before they have taken an action.

The British Cavalry

Shooting is fairly straightforward, rolling a D6 for each figure in the first two ranks and the number needed depending on range. Hits can be saved which is modified by cover.

The melee around Hook’s Farm

Close combat is a little more complex and there are a number of factors which determine whether one side has an advantage or not. This affects the number you need to roll to cause a casualy. I did like the fact that casualties are counted and that determines the winner of the melee and THEN the outcome determines what number you will roll to save your casualties. People running away are more likely to bayoneted!

Hook’s Farm

Terrain does disorder units which restricts what you can do and we have too much terrain on the table for this game – I will run the LWR game on a wider table which should allow for freer movement.

Firefly Church

I also got the melee rules wrong – partly by reading a table incorrectly and also for a couple of other reasons. This seemed to make skirmishers in a building too strong but in retrospect I think that they are about right with the correct rules!

I enjoyed the game – it has an Old School feel and gives a good game with larger units and probably larger forces than The Portable Wargame…

Shambattle

Anthony and I tried out the Shambattle rules this week using my LWR 19th Century figures.

The rules were originally published in 1929 and draw on some of the ideas on H G Wells’ Little Wars with some other changes. The interesting thing about the game is that the table top represents two countries divided by a river with 3 towns each and the game involves attacking the other country. The version of the rules we used are the set published and enhanced by Thor Shiels (who sadly died late last year) which have some suggested amendments and updates.

There are 3 levels of game – Lieutenant, Captain and General – we played the middle sized game. The Captain’s game involved 25 figres a side plus a gun and 2 crew, of which no more than half could be cavalry. We settled on 6 cavalry, 18 infantry, an officer and a gun with crew. The enhanced game includes victory conditions and Anthony was charged with capturing both the east and west bridge and holding them for 3 turns, while I had to capture the opponent’s frontier town and hold it for 4 turns.

The photo shows the setup at the start of the game.

The game is very luck based as there is no shooting, just combat and artillery fire. Combat involves rolling a D6 for each of your own men and on a 1-3 they die, 4-6 they survive. My die rolling was fairly poor and my men died in droves..

Artillery fire only hits on a 1 (and only Anthony managed to hit all game) but all figures under the arillery template (which could cover 4-5 men) are killed.

Eventually, Anthony eliminated all my troops and won the game.

The General’s game with some additional terrain, 40-50 figures a side and the use of field hospitals which enable you to recover wounded troops looks the most interesting variant.

Not something I can see us playing as regularly as The Portable Wargame or other rules but something that makes a nice change of pace and scale.

Isandlwana Refight

Anthony and I met up in his games room to christen the new gridded battlefield he had ordered from me and I had recently delivered. This is based on the style of battlefield I created for the Portable Wargame demonstration game but with 5″ tile rather then the 100mm ones I used. He gave me a copy of the Battle Cry map for isandlwana and we converted that to a grid from the hexes used in Battle Cry.

Anthony contemplating the battlefield and the initial British and Zulu deployments.

The game was played using the Portable Wargames Rules, the sudden death variant, as usual. We rated Zulu units as raw and the British as Elite. Each side had 3 commanders.

The British are heavily outnumbered and there surrounded on 3 sides. The river is fordable but a unit has to stop when it enters the river, melees at -1 whilst in the river and can only move one square upon leaving the river.

The game started with the British firing their gun and forcing a Zulu unit back a square (The Zulus needed a 5 or 6 to retreat rather than dying and I managed to roll a remarkable number of 6’s). The Zulus needed to kill 6 British units to break them and the British to kill 10 Zulu units.

In the end, the game was very close with the Zulus getting victory having lost 8 units to the British – a number of poor British shooting rolls and the outflanking by the Zulus lost it for the British.

It was a fun game completed in 1.5 hours.

The Battle of Hooks Farm, Woking

Saturday September 2nd saw the Battle of Hook’s Farm take place in the Woking between the forces of Army Red and Dark Green (in my side garden).

The game was played using the Funny Little Wars rules with 6 infantry, 2 cavalry and 3 guns aside for a total of 120 infantry, 24 cavalry and 3 artillery. Each side also had one sniper.

I umpired.

Anthony with the forces of Army Red deployed on their baseline.

The battlefield of Hook Farm, showing the farm, firefly church, the cottage and the hovel. A small stone wall provides some cover in the middle.

Brian with the deployed forces of Army Dark Green.

Army Red start their initial manouevres.

The catering corps observing the action

Army Red send a cavalry detachment to seize the farm.

On the other flank the cavalry dash towards the church

Army Dark Green advance more cautiously having refused one flank

Army Red advance in a steady line

Both sides cavalry contest the farm

First blood to Army Green as a well placed shell kills some cavalry

General view of the battlefield

Army Dark Green deploy the guns

And the artillery duel begins

Army Green advance to line the wall

Army Red Sniper hides by the Hovel

Slavs skulk in cover – unfortunately they were hit by their own guns just after this as a stray shell landed in front of the woods…

Forced into retreat by their own artillery…

The action hots up with a firefight developing

By firefly church the Red cavalry threaten the Dark Green heavy gun.

And over run it

Dismounted cavalry fight over the farm…

The game was fun and eventually, Army Red got the better of the firefight and having spiked their guns Army Dark Green withdrew from the battlefield. We were very lucky with the weather.

We played from 11am to 5.30pm with an hour or so’s break for lunch at 1pm and another short break for cake and tea…

Zulu Wars: Portable Colonial Wargame

Anthony and I played this game a few weeks ago at the Guildford Club but I have been so busy with work that I haven’t had chance to sort out the photographs and write it up.

The game was played on a 6′ x 4′ mat from Deep Cut Studios with a 6″ grid on it using Anthony’s collection of Little Legion 54mm glossy figures. Units were 6 figures strong.

The game was played down the length of the table and very, very loosely based on the Isandlwana scenario for The Sword and the Flame.

The rules used were Bob Cordery’s Portable Colonial Wargames rules using the “sudden death” option without strength points for the units. A unit when shot, or losing melee either dies immediately or falls back a square.

Native units can move twice in a turn if they manage to throw a 5 or 6 on a die before moving, which gives them a mobility advantage.

For the first game, Anthony took 2 infantry, and artillery piece and a Gatling gun which proved slightly overwhelming in its firepower.

The gatling gun proved so effective that the Zulus were unable to close the left-hand horn around the flank (only having 6 units, I opted for a chest and one horn) and they were mowed down in their hundreds leading to a British Victory.

For the second game we reset and Anthony replaced the Gatling with a third Infantry unit and I again took eight units of Zulus.

The artillery piece on the flank proved much less effective than the gatling and the flank envelopment worked this time leading to a resounding British defeat as they were wiped from the map.


Again, another fun game which was quick enough to allow us to play two games in an evening.

19th Century Portable Wargame

I played another 19th Century game using The Portable Wargames rules this week. My hardback copy of the rules appears to have been lost in the post, so we played using the downloaded version. But, actually, we would have used that version anyway as I prefer it to the version published in the book. I will expand on that in a review of The Portable Wargame once I get a chance.

I chose Scenario 14 – A Static Defense from One Hour Wargames by Neil Thomas and we rolled up our forces from the same book, adding 2 infantry to the totals for a total of 8 units.

The game was played on a 4′ x 3′ mat with 4″ squares so I adjusted the map slightly to allow for the extra width over the 3′ x 3′ map in the One Hour Wargames book.

The scenario places the Red player (British played by Anthony in this case) in defence with the task of defending a hill and a town. They must start with hald their forces near each location and keep at least 2 units within 3 squares of the objectives at all times,.

The Blue Player (myself playing with German troops) has to take one objective and be the sole occupant at the end of the game on the 15th turn.

I added some extra cover to the map as we are playing a version of the Portable Wargame where a unit eiher dies or has to retreat if it is hit. If it can’t retreat then it also dies (as we shall see).

Unusually, Anthony and I both rolled a 1 for our force composition which gave as each 2 artillery, 1 cavalry and 5 infantry. We designated the rifle troops on each side to be elite, all other units were average.

The initial deployment – the Germans had to enter the table on the southern edge on turn one.

The British left wing defending the town with the general.

Defence of the hill.

The initial deployment of the German attackers.

The second turn saw an artillery exchange which destroyed both the German guns (as they were unable to retreat) and caused the British to lose one gun (as it couldn’t retreat) and one British foot unit was eliminated when the German gun overshot its original target.

The Germans advancing on the hill – the plan was a small nuisance force on the right flank and a main thrust at the hill.

Continuing to advance on the hill while the Bavarian unit threatens the town.

Germans advance on the hill fairly unhindered.

Just after this point the german cavalry were hit by artillery fire when the gun on the other flank missed the intended infantry target and hit the cavalry when they were unable to retreat.

The Bavaran infantry were able to extract revenge and destroyed the artillery the same turn.

The British cavalry finally move off the hill and get stuck in.

The Bavarians attempt to win the game all by themselves by finishing off the only British unit on that flank and taking the town. Sadly they pushed he British back but then failed to take the town and were destroyed.

On the other flank, this was the final result at the end of turn 15. The remaining German unit was unable to take the hill or force the remaining two British units from it.

It was a very close game with Anthony convinced he had lost about turn 8 when the hill looked likely to fall but his cavalry was able to survive a melee from two units and then turned that to their advantage to destroy most of the German attackers on that flank before being shot down.

Once again we managed a fun, very close game in just over 2 hours including set up and packing away – One Hour Wargames Scenarios with The Portable Wargames rules are proving a winning combination.