Thursday, 18 October 2012

Aggressor in action!: a Portable Wargame: Modern play-test

I finally managed to set up a play-test of my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules this afternoon. I used my trusty vinyl chessboard as the basis of my terrain, along with some wooden houses, some hills made of cork, and several trees. For troops I used what was closest to hand, namely some Essex Miniatures 15mm-scale US Army figures and some tanks from the range of 1:100th-scale vehicles produced as part of the Axis & Allies Miniatures range.

As the tanks and figures were all American (I counted the Sherman Firefly as a US tank for the purposes of this battle!) I decided to identify one side as being forces from the Aggressor Army and the other as the Defenders. (N.B. Aggressor [or The Circle Trigonists] was the name given to the OPFOR troops used by the US Army for training purposes during the 1950s and 1960s.)

The Aggressor Army
  • 3 x Tank Units (all rated ‘Average’)
  • 5 x Infantry Units (all rated ‘Average’)
  • 1 x Machine Gun Unit (rated ‘Average’)
  • 1 x Self-propelled Heavy Artillery Unit (rated ‘Average’)
The Defender Army
  • 1 x Tank Unit (rated ‘Elite’)
  • 1 x Infantry Unit (rated ‘Elite’)
  • 2 x Machine Gun Units (rated ‘Elite’)
The Starting Positions
The Aggressors lined up on their start-line with their Tank Units (each carrying an Infantry Unit) in the centre, flanked on the right by the Self-propelled Heavy Artillery Unit, an Infantry Unit, and the Machine Gun Unit, and on the left by an Infantry Unit.

With the exception of one Machine Gun Unit, which was deployed forward atop a hill, the Defenders were concealed in the local town.

Turn 1
The Aggressor Artillery fired at the opposing Machine Gun Unit on top of the hill … and missed. The Defenders won the initiative, but chose not to do anything, thus allowing the Aggressors to move forward.

Turn 2
The Aggressor Self-propelled Heavy Artillery Unit fired yet again at the Machine Gun Unit … and missed again … and almost hit some of their own troops! The Aggressors won the initiative, and began by opening fire on the Defender Machine Gun Unit with their left-hand Tank Unit’s gun after the latter had moved forward. This time they were on target, and the Defenders were forced to fall back. The remainder of the Aggressor force moved forward.

The Defenders chose to do nothing, as they were waiting until the Aggressors began to move into the built-up area where their superior numbers would count for less.

Turn 3
The Aggressor commander felt that using his Artillery would endanger his own troops, so he refrained for firing. The Aggressors won the initiative again, and began their advance into the town … and into Close Combat with some of the Defenders.

All the Units involved were hit … but the ‘Elite’ status of the Defenders ensured that the survived the encounter (on e Unit was forced to retreat) whereas the Aggressors lost a Tank Unit and the Infantry Unit they were carrying and the other Tank and Infantry Unit were forced to retreat.

Turn 4
The Aggressor Self-propelled Heavy Artillery Unit fired at the Defender Machine Gun Unit in the town, and destroyed it. The Defenders had the initiative this turn and moved their Units into what they hoped would be more advantageous positions.

The Aggressors responded by dismounting their Tank-borne Infantry Units (one of which was immediately engaged in Close Combat was a Defender Infantry Unit) and moving their other Infantry Units forward.

The Close Combat was drawn, and neither Unit had to retreat.

Turn 5
The Aggressor Self-propelled Heavy Artillery Unit had no obvious targets to fire at so the D6 die was thrown to see which side gained the initiative. The Defender won … and engaged the enemy! The Defender’s Tank Unit moved forward and its fire destroyed the Aggressor Infantry Unit on the left-hand flank

The Defender Machine Gun Unit on the hill now attacked the flank of the left-hand Aggressor Infantry Unit in the centre …

… which it destroyed. It then followed this attack up back attacking the other Aggressor Infantry Unit in the town …

… and destroyed that as well!

Not content, it advanced yet again and forced one of the Aggressor Tank Units to retreat!

At this point the Aggressor Army was down to 50% of its original strength, but before it withdrew it tried to fight back. Its two remaining Tank Units fired at the Aggressor Machine Gun Units that had caused so much trouble, and destroyed it.

The Defenders were now also down to 50% of their original strength, and the battle was drawn … although it could be argued that the Aggressors were likely to gain control of the town if the defenders were not reinforced in the very near future.

This was very much a ‘spur of the moment’ play-test, but it proved that the rules work and produce reasonable results. This battle took longer to photograph and write about than it took to fight … and I look forward to using these rules again in the near future.

One or two tweaks are needed to clarify some of the rules (for example Infantry cannot move and fire in the same turn but this is not obvious when you read the rules), and the ‘house rule’ that I wanted to try out (the use of Tank Units to carry Infantry Units into battle) seemed to work fine.


  1. A sharp little engagement. I hope there will be many more!

  2. Conrad Kinch,

    I hope so as it is the first wargame that I have fought in months!

    All the best,


  3. Really classic Bob, love the use of the vinyl chessboard. I've got one of those and will have to press it into service.
    I wish those nice wooden buildings were available here in the states. They have such a compact footprint that they are ideal for a gridded game.
    I played the first turn of the Portable game I'm doing at Lead Gardens...really enjoyable...though I think I'm stretching the rules by using an 18x18 grid. I am playing all the ranges and movement doubled to compensate for all the added "real estate."

  4. Tank riders will be fun.

    Littlejohn, I played a desert tank battle on a 14x10 grid, with each side running 21 units. It was still fought to a conclusion in less than an hour, with no increase in moves or ranges.

  5. Littlejohn,

    Thanks for your kind remarks.

    The vinyl chessboard might not be perfect ... but it is portable.

    I thought that the wooden buildings were available in the US via Amazon ... but I may have been misinformed.

    I have followed your previous blog entries about your games using the PORTABLE WARGAME, and look forward to reading how your present battle pans out.

    Using an 18 x18 grid gives you the opportunity to field more Units, give yourself lots of room to manoeuvre, or to double the movement rates/weapon ranges.

    All the best,


  6. Steven Page,

    I treated the Tank Riders in the same way that I treat Infantry carried by Trucks ... but with the proviso that the Tank Riders could be killed by Infantry Weapons that could not destroy the Tanks carrying them. I also thought that if they were being carried by a Tank Unit when it was destroyed, the Tank Riders would also be destroyed.

    If I were using a larger grid, my personal choice would be to field more Units ... but that is just my personal choice.

    All the best,


  7. Another splendid game! The vinyl works really well.I have not been to the library yet so I have not had a chance to download and print your new version of the modern rules.
    I am thinking of raising some cyclists.How would you depict them in the rules?
    best wishes
    p.s This portable wargaming inspiration has been a real tonic and inspiration for my solo gaming not to mention painting.Thanks again!

  8. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    The vinyl chessboard is all right ... but I wish that the difference between the colours was a little less stark.

    My first reaction to the use of Cyclists (i.e. Infantry mounted on bicycles) is to treat them like Cavalry for movement and Dismounted Cavalry for Combat. I would also restrict the number of Units that can be fielded in a battle. As my understanding is that Cyclists were used for recce and/or as a mobile reserve, the battlefield should not be full of them!

    I am glad that the PORTABLE WARGAME rules have inspired you as I always enjoy reading your blog ... and I am looking forward to seeing how the battles that you fight using them will turn out.

    All the best,


  9. Bob
    I forgot to ask have you had any thoughts on a portable naval wargame?
    best wishes


  10. Hi Bob,

    Neat little action and glad you are able to pick up the dice in anger once again after what seems like an age!

    Like the tank rider idea - essential for the Russian Front among others - and agree about the starkness of the chess board colours. Does it take permanent marker at all?

    For my own use I am thinking 12 x 8 would be about right in terms of gaming area.

    Brilliant idea though Bob - most enjoyable and with much 'tinker' potential.

    All the best,


  11. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    The answer to your questions is ... Yes and No.

    Yes, I have thought about developing my MOBAS rules (Memoir of battle at Sea) for a squared grid.

    No, I haven't done anything about turning my thoughts into actions yet!

    It is one the next logical steps that I should take, but first I want to get PW:M up and running, then PW:C (PORTABLE WARGAME: COLONIAL) ... and then I can turn my attention to a naval version of the PORTABLE WARGAME.

    All the best,


    PS. I know that there is a game called IRONCLAD DRAUGHTS out there as I used it as the basis of a game that I put on at Salute some years ago.

  12. David Crook,

    It was very invigorating to fight a wargame after such a long break ... and it has left me hungry for more!

    The Tank Rider rules were devised for a possible Eastern Front battle, and it will be one of a number of ‘house’ rules that I will add to the end of the main body of the rules so that people can use them if they want to.

    The 8 x 8 vinyl chessboard is a bit stark, but you can write on it using non-permanent water-based marker pens. The size is a bit constrictive for battles where there is quite a bit of movement, and I think that 12 x 8 (or even bigger) would be better.

    I am going to be very busy this weekend, but I hope to mount another play-test next week.

    All the best,


  13. Hi Bob,
    I fought another game last night and a couple of questions popped up:

    Do mortars firing indirect use the Artillery scatter rule? I have been playing it as a "No".

    Can commanders be any type of unit, firing as the type chosen, but using the "commander" move and Close combat rates? I.E. a tank commander moves 3, fires as a tank, and close assaults needing a 3-6 from either front or flank.

    One question from your playtest: On the first turn your SPG missed. It looks like a direct shot in the picture, and As I read things, a direct shot from artillery always hits, needing only to see the result of the hit.

    On turn two,the shot would be indirect, thus a miss could be the result of scatter.

    I'm going to play David Crook's "Hells Highway" game tonight and see what happens.

  14. Steven Page,

    It is great to hear that you are still enjoying using the PW:M rules!

    In answer to your questions ...

    1) You are using the rule as I intended it to be used. Mortars do not use the 'scatter' rule.

    2) 'Commanders' are a separate Unit in their own right, and are supposed to represent the Army's HQ. It can be represented on the tabletop in any way you want BUT they can only move and fight as a 'Commander' and NOT as the type of Unit that you may have chosen to represent them. (Your 'Tank Commander' is just a 'Commander' and not a 'Tank' that can act as a 'Commander'.) That said, if you want to make your own 'House rule' to say that they are, please feel free to do so!

    3) The photo does indicate that the first Artillery fire of the battle could have been direct and not indirect, but because the MG Unit was on a hill (and towards the back of the square) and had not 'exposed' itself to the Aggressors I decided that it was not fully visible, and thus the fire was indirect. I could have made the fire direct, and in that case it would have been an automatic 'hit'.

    4) The second turn of Artillery fire was indirect because an Aggressor Unit was in the LOS.

    Good luck with the Hells' Highway' scenario.

    All the best,


  15. Thanks, Bob.
    Good explanation on the Indirect fire! Much like Flames of War's "Gone to Ground", this will increase the survivability of the defender a little. I like it.
    I read your explanation of commanders (in your Interbellum rules) after asking the question. This makes a lot of sense, as THEY had the radios, phone lines, etc for "calling in" artillery, air strikes and other nastiness. A nice moving modifier!
    I played David's scenario and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was the first time to use my US Airborne I painted three years ago!
    Tomorrow I launch another blog-"Adventures in Portable Wargaming". I am committed to posting an action each Tuesday, with maps and rosters. First report is a World War One trench battle, fought with and without tanks.

  16. Steven Page,

    I am pleased to read that my answers made sense. Trying to explain rules via the medium of the Internet is not always as easy as some people think it is.

    David's scenario is an interesting one, and both sides have the opportunity to win ... or lose.

    I look forward to reading your next blog entry, especially as it is not a Word War II battle.

    All the best,



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