Sunday, 5 June 2011

The portable wargame: The Battle for Long Ridge

I managed to find enough time this morning to begin the process of play-testing the latest draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. As I needed to set it up as quickly as possible, and because the space available was rather limited, I used my Heroscape™ hexed terrain for the battlefield.

The battlefield is dominated by a long, low ridge – called Long Ridge – which has a small hill at one end of it – One Tree Hill. The ridge is bisected at one end by a narrow valley that leads to White Farm, which is the attacker's objective.

The forces involved are a Prussian (the attackers) and Austro-Hungarian (the defenders), and the battle will end once one side is reduced to 50% of its original strength in Units.

The Prussians have:
  • 1 x Command Unit
  • 8 x Infantry Units
  • 2 x Light Infantry Units (who can be moved as if they were Native Infantry)
  • 2 x Field Artillery Units
The Prussians start the battle being able to throw 5 Activation Dice and will end the battle once they have suffered the loss of 7 Units.

The Austro-Hungarians have:
  • 1 x Command Unit
  • 4 x Infantry Units
  • 1 x Light Infantry Unit (who can be moved as if they were Native Infantry)
  • 1 x Field Artillery Unit
The Austro-Hungarians start the battle being able to throw 3 Activation Dice and will end the battle once they have suffered the loss of 4 Units.

Turn 1
The Austro-Hungarians have occupied the Long Ridge, with their Field Artillery Unit close to the centre of the ridge, flanked on either side by an Infantry Unit. The Light Infantry have taken up a position on the left of the Austro-Hungarian position on One Tree Hill. The Command Unit is positioned to the rear of the Field Artillery Unit, and the two remaining Infantry Units are held back in reserve.

The Prussians deploy facing the ridge, with the bulk of their Infantry units in the centre and the Field Artillery Units to the left of the centre. The Light Infantry units form the right of the Prussian line.

As all the Field Artillery Units are in range of each other, the turn begins with an artillery barrage. Both the Prussian Units undershoot, but the Austro-Hungarians are on target and 'pin' one of the Prussian Units.

Both sides throw for initiative, and the Austro-Hungarians win, but decide not to do anything further this turn so do not throw their Activation Dice.

The Prussians throw their Activation Dice, and can activate 10 Units. The first activation 'unpins' the 'pinned' Artillery Unit. The next 4 are used to move both Light Infantry Units forward twice (they can do this because for the purposes of activation they are being treated as Native Infantry), and the final 5 are used to move 5 of the Infantry Units forward.

Turn 2
The artillery duel continues, with the Austro-Hungarians undershooting this time ... but the Prussian are on target and the Austro-Hungarian Field Artillery Unit is destroyed.

Both sides throw a D6 for initiative, and the Prussians win. They throw their Activation Dice and can activate 8 Units. They use 7 of these to move Units forward along the whole line (including the Command Unit, which is now just behind the right wing of the Prussian line.

The final activation is used by the left-hand Light Infantry Unit to fire at the Austro-Hungarian Light Infantry Unit on One Tree Hill. It can fire because it has not moved this turn. Even though the target is in the open, the Prussian Light Infantry are unable to hit it.

The Austro-Hungarians now throw their Activation Dice and can activate 3 Units. They choose not to move any of their Units, but use their activations so that the Infantry Units on the ridge and One Tree Hill can fire at the nearest Prussian Units.

Their shooting is far more effective, and the Prussians lose 1 of their left-hand Infantry Units, whilst another Infantry Unit and the right-hand Light Infantry Unit are 'pinned'.

Turn 3
The Prussian Artillery Units now begin to pound the Austro-Hungarian Infantry Units on the ridge ... but to no effect. One of the Units undershoots ... and only just misses one of its own side's Infantry Units(!), whilst the other is on target but does no damage.

Both sides throw again to determine which has the initiative, and the Austro-Hungarians win. They throw their Activation Dice and discover that can only activate 2 Units. They again choose to stand their ground and to fire at the oncoming Prussians, as a result of which they 'pin' two further Prussian Infantry Units.

The Prussians then throw their Activation Dice and can activate 9 Units.

The Prussian Commander decides to take a gamble, and uses 2 activations to move his unpinned Light Infantry Unit forward and up the first contour of the ridge so that it can attack the Austro-Hungarian Light Infantry on One Tree Hill. He uses 4 more to remove the 'pins' from his Units and 1 more so that his only leading 'unpinned' Infantry Unit can fire at the left-hand Austro-Hungarian Infantry Unit on the ridge ... which it destroys. The remaining activations are unused.

The Close Combat between the opposing Light Infantry Units takes place.

Both Units have a Close Combat Power of 4, but because the Prussian Unit is attacking an enemy Unit that is one hill contour above it, its Close Combat Power is reduced by 1. (Note: Even though the Austro-Hungarian Unit is one hill contour above the Prussian Unit it does not increase its Close Combat Power by 1 because it is defending and not attacking. If it had initiated the Close Combat it would have qualified for the increased Close Combat Power). The Prussians throw 1 and the Austro-Hungarians throw 4, with the result that both Units are destroyed. The Prussian Commander's gamble seems to have paid off even though he has had to sacrifice a Unit in order to attempt to gain a foothold on the ridge.

Turn 4
The Austro-Hungarians are now in a precarious position. They only have an Infantry Unit and the Command Unit on Long Ridge, and are unlikely to be able to stop the Prussians from getting troops onto the ridge in the near future. Furthermore, the loss of the Light Infantry Unit has reduced the number of Activation Dice they can throw to 2. To further complicate matters, they only have to lose 1 more Unit and they will have to concede the battle.

The Prussian Field Artillery Units open fire on the sole remaining Austro-Hungarian Infantry Unit they can see ... and both overshoot, hitting the hex occupied by the Austro-Hungarian Command Unit ... which is destroyed. The leaderless Austro-Hungarians have now lost over 50% of their initial strength, and must withdraw from the battlefield.

Both sides throw a D6 to see which of them will have the initiative this turn. Unfortunately for the Austro-Hungarians, the Prussians have the initiative. The Prussians throw their Activation Dice, and can move 7 Units, and these activations are used to mount a general advance along the whole front.

The Austro-Hungarians throw their Activation Die (they only have one left!), and can only activate a single unit. The Infantry Unit on the ridge could withdraw or it could fire ... and it chooses to fire ... and 'pins' the nearest Prussian Infantry Unit.

Turn 5
The Prussian Field Artillery Units open fire on the remaining Austro-Hungarian Infantry Unit ... and both undershoot!

The two sides throw for initiative, and the Austro-Hungarians win. They throw their Activation Die, and can activate 3 Units. All the Austro-Hungarian Units withdraw, and the Prussians are left in possession of the battlefield.

First and foremost, the rules – including the newly added ones – work and produce an interesting battle. The actual playing time was less than an hour, but the need to take photographs for this battle report (and to write the battle report ‘as things happened’) meant that it took me just over 3 hours from start to finish.

It was hardly likely that the Austro-Hungarians were likely to win the battle, as they were outnumbered and had not had time to dig any fortifications. I therefore intend to re-run the scenario at some time in the future with the Austro-Hungarians in entrenchments. I suspect that this will make the result of the battle a little less predictable.


  1. Ya boo hiss the dastardly Prussians!

    Good to see you get a game in, Bob. I don't think I could be so patient as to record one move by move.

  2. Conrad Kinch,

    It was great to actually fight a wargame! It seems a long time since I managed to make enough time to do so ... and boy, do I feel a lot better for doing so.

    It takes a bit of time to get into the swing of recording each move of a battle, but it is a vital part of the play-testing process. I don't intend to do it for every battle report but ...

    All the best,


  3. Good to see troops and the rules, in action on the "home front" as it were. An attractive little game.

    My hats off to your discipline on recording. I'ev found that I can just about manage it until the game gets interesting!

  4. Hi Bob,

    Great report Bob and it all seemed to work very nicely. Actually I suspect that even if it had not gone to plan you would have still enjoyed the experience in any event given the amount of time since you last rolled a dice in anger!

    For my various naval play tests I used an order template for each side and plot maps which usually worked. Time-consuming as you rightly say but a vital part of the process.

    All the best,


  5. Ross Mac,

    I greatly enjoyed fighting my first wargame in quite a long time.

    I was pleased with the way the rules worked, including the new ones. I find recording what happens move-by-move helps me understand how the various mechanisms interact, especially if I need to make changes at a later date.

    All the best,


  6. David Crook,

    I did get a lot of enjoyment out of actually fighting a wargame at long last, and the fact that it went well was the icing on the cake.

    I also use a basic template for my battle reports. It sort of follows the Turn Sequence, and using it makes the recording process quicker and easier.

    All the best,