Saturday, 26 March 2011

The portable wargame: Another play-tester!

In the midst of dealing with my father-in-law's fall and subsequent stay in hospital, I almost missed reading an email from an old friend and fellow member of Wargame Developments – Nick Huband – about his play-test of THE PORTABLE WARGAME rules. The following part of his email is reproduced with his permission:
'I've been following your chessboard wargames with a great deal of interest, there's a peculiar charm about a game in such a small space, reminiscent of a miniature painting.

Anyway, coming to the point, I dug out a piece of mdf that was 450mm square, sprayed it up and gridded it. Last night I tried out your Frontier/Musket rules with my 1839 Turks & Egyptians using a scenario loosely based on the Battle of Homs in 1832.

The game ran well and the rules were quite clear. One thing that struck me was that combat was very bloody with the cavalry on both sides pretty well wiping each other out early on. Artillery was pretty lethal too. I was wondering whether the introduction of some sort of saving throw might ease this a little. If 5 or 6 was thrown for a unit under fire or a 4, 5 or 6 for a unit in close combat then the unit is not destroyed but is pushed back one square, possibly with a loss in combat power next turn?
'
Nick has made some interesting observations, and I will give his suggestions some thought, although the ideas I am currently working on will – I think – deal with the problems he has identified.

Besides his email, he also sent me some photographs of his battle, and I have reproduced them below with his permission.

I must admit that the board that he has made does make the whole thing look much more like a wargame, and is very much in keeping with the game's Morschauser 'roots'.

18 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    I like the look of the game with the slightly larger units - it has a real 'old school' charm about it.

    All the best,

    DC

    (not typed from a netbook!)

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  2. What a delightful and professional looking game. My hat is off to Nick.

    When I bought a few RCW figures, I thought about a winter setting but baulked at the thought of doing 48 sq ft of winter terrain for a side project. A small RCW portable board done in this manner with patches of snow would be the perfect solution ( albeit not quite as neatly and effectively if past experience is any guide .)

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  3. Glad he's being well looked after (apart from the food!).Don't forget to take care of yourselves too - he'll need your support more than he would like to think when he returns home.

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  4. I like the look of the game board - very nice.

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  5. David Crook,

    Units with more figures do look much nicer, and I am thinking about how I could field six figure Infantry Units for my future games.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  6. Ross Mac,

    Both Nick and another of my Wargame Developments friends have both produced very simple but also impressive gridded boards that they have 'painted' by giving the MDF a light 'dusting' of spray paint from a distance. The patches of colour on the original brown MDF break up the monotone finish and give it a more realistic 'look'.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  7. Jfidz,

    Thank you for you kind thoughts and advice.

    My wife and I managed to take few hours of 'down time' for ourselves today, and both of us feel refreshed as a result.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  8. Paul Leach,

    I agree with you ... and it is quite easy to reproduce.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  9. A very handsome board - bigger units do look better. I settled on twenty strong units for my five inch hexes, but they are the very opposite of portable. The nice thing about increasing the number of figures is that you can improve the aesthetics without changing gameplay.

    Care needs to be exercised however, myself and General Du Gorman were discussing making a Command & Colours Napoleonics board on a floor with two foot wide offset squares. We could field units sixty strong then!

    But then the bar closed...

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  10. Conrad Kinch,

    What Nick Huband has achieved has given me pause for thought. The board he has produced is simple but very effective, and the larger number of figures per Unit increases the aesthetic appeal of the game no end.

    By the way, I am given to believe that someone has already gone down the route of larger hexes and more figures per unit … so your alcohol-fuelled ideas are not so ridiculous after all!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  11. Bob,

    I guess you know when you're a real wargamer when merely the sight of troops on a board set the wheels inside your head in motion. Every time I visit your blog, or Mr. Farrow's, or Ross's, I start thinking, "Hey, I could do that!", followed quickly by, "Then what's stopping me?!"

    Glad to see things are better on your end, and that you still have time to find a little solace in the land of little tin men.

    Best regards,

    Chris

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  12. Bob,

    Nick's game looks splendid. We used to meet regularly to play kriegsspiel with Bill Leeson. Perhaps one could develop a sort of tactical Kriegsspiel-Lite using a separate gridded board for each player and an umpire?

    I tend to agree with his comments about combat being too bloody - unless one wants a very quick game - and also don't like seeing armies reduced to next to nothing, when in reality casualties of 'only' 15-25% were suffered by losing armies in black-powder era battles.

    Rather than go down the route of saving throws, however, I'm thinking of portraying a unit's Combat Power by the number of individually-based officers, musicians, colours &c., which would be removed/placed in a different sequence to indicate loss of CP. That way, units would continue to look like bodies of troops, rather than skirmishers or fugitives!

    I'm not sure about push-backs: I think either a unit fails to close and halts for a protracted exchange of fire, or it will retire - in good order or in rout - back to, or even beyond, its start position to rallly/reform.

    If I've had to put in all the effort of painting the men, I want to see them on the table!

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  13. Chris,

    What a nice thing to write!

    I also get a renewed enthusiasm from visiting other people's blogs ... especially the two that you mention. They both show what a wargamer can achieve within realistic limits of time, space, and money.

    Any escape from 'reality' helps to revive one's lagging spirits ... and I find that the world of wargaming is a great way to escape.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  14. Arthur1815,

    I think that I have mentioned before that I am thinking of both changing the combat results to make them slightly less bloody (possibly by introducing a 'pin' result as a midpoint between 'no effect' and 'destroyed') and using a mixture of multi and single figure bases to record a Unit’s decline (as Richard Borg apparently does in his one 'Battle Cry' games). I think that these two changes might provide an answer to the problems you have outlined.

    At present I do use a 50% casualty limit for my battles (i.e. when an army is reduced to 50% of its starting strength it must retire from the battlefield). I have not included this in the present draft of the rules, but may do in the next draft … if I ever get time to write it!

    All the best,

    Bob

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  15. Bob,

    I wonder whether the Combat Results simply need to be period/level specific?

    Arthur

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  16. Arthur1815,

    That is a very good idea, and I will add it to the melting pot of ideas I am currently working with.

    All the best,

    Bob

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  17. Very nice feel to it :)

    I would even be tempted to make the units even the same size as the squares (I guess the terrain would have to be made flatter to sit on)

    I was thinking the square grid lends itself to the "naval", sitting your forces in the middles with the horizon effect all round

    Maybe a solo gamer affair with card drawn events and the like

    Thanks for the stimulation Bob :)

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  18. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

    I am glad that this blog entry is stimulating such good ideas from so many people!

    In Joseph Morschauser's original game, the figure bases were almost the same size as the grid squares, and the buildings were very like theatrical 'flats' to look at.

    All the best,

    Bob

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