Sunday, 12 June 2011

The portable wargame: The Spanish Civil War

Last March I wrote a blog entry about a battle that Nick Huband had fought using the then current version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. Nick is a fellow member of Wargame Developments, and in that past we have often discussed our shared interest in some of the more obscure wars that have been fought during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The wargame that Nick fought was an action based on the Battle of Homs (1832). Since then he has been building up a couple of small Spanish Civil War armies, and yesterday he sent me a battle report about an action he fought using the modern version of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I was so impressed by both his report and the photographs that he sent with it, that I asked for – and obtained – his permission to share it with my blog readers.

Report on an action using the modern version of the portable wargame
CTV vs. Anarchist militia on the opening day of the Battle of Guadaljara

Opposing forces:
Italian CTV
  • 2 x Light Tank Units (CV33)
  • 7 x Infantry Units
  • 1 x HMG Unit
  • 1 x Field Artillery Unit
  • 1x Command Unit
Anarchist militia
  • 1 x Light Tank Unit (FT17)
  • 6 x Infantry Units
  • 1 x HMG Unit
It is the opening day of the Battle of Guadaljara, the advance guard of the 4th Infantry Division “Littorio” is jumping off to seize the monastery of San Pedro which is believed to be held by anarchist militia.

Special rules: the tanks involved are either very light (CV33) or very old and slow (FT17) and are treated as tanks for movement and close assault and armoured cars for all else meaning that they can be knocked out by ranged fire from HMG’s or close assault by infantry (Molotov cocktails and dynamite bags).

Turn 1
The CTV gain the initiative and jump off down the road with a flanking force moving off on the right using their full activation roll of 9.
The Anarchists start to move their tank across to meet the threat.

Turn 2
The CTV artillery opens up on the Anarchist HMG behind the wall to the front.
Shells hit the target but to no effect.
The CTV again have the initiative. The tanks roll forward but the right flank supports lag behind with a poor activation roll of 5.
The Anarchists continue to redeploy their tank.

Turn 3
The CTV artillery again opens up on the Anarchist HMG position behind the wall to the right of the road. Shells hit the target but again to no effect.
The CTV tanks open up with their HMG’s on the monastery and HMG position to no effect.

The Anarchist HMG knocks out the right hand tank and the infantry in the adjacent houses knock out one stand of CTV infantry – first blood to the Anarchists.

Turn 4
Poor shooting by the CTV artillery as it misses the Anarchist HMG again.
The Anarchists gain the initiative and move their tank onto the road
The CTV now have only four activation dice and roll 5. With their right flank attack slowing down, they try to regroup for a push straight down the road. The tank on the road fires into the monastery knocking out the Anarchists defending it.

Turn 5
The CTV artillery now tries to hit the Anarchist tank and fails.
The CTV tank and HMG now fire at the Anarchist infantry beside the monastery but roll 1 and 2 so no effect.
The Anarchists now reoccupy the monastery and move troops up to support their tank.

Turn 6
The CV artillery tries again to hit the Anarchist tank but fails.
With the CTV tanks within striking distance of the monastery it now need a good activation roll to push through and take the objective. Unfortunately, they throw a dismal 1.
In true Anarchist fashion, the troops in the monastery close assault the lead CV33 with dynamite, blowing it up. The Anarchist HMG also knocks out an infantry stand.

Turn 7
The CTV artillery, ignoring the proximity of their own troops tries again to knock out the tank and, to the relief of all concerned, fails.
The Anarchists continue their attack and knock out the infantry supporting the CV33. The CTV has now lost 50% of their starting strength and with both tanks lost have no chance of reaching their objective. They pull back to their start line.

I had a very enjoyable game with the outcome in the balance until turn 6 when the CTV threw a truly dismal activation roll and their attack fell apart. The rules were easy to understand and produced a fast flowing game which reached a result in under an hour. My only query with the rules is whether the artillery fire at the start of the turn should count against the activation roll.

As you can see, I reclassified the tanks as essentially slow armoured cars, might it be useful to add a “light tank” row to the table?

The rules seem particularly appropriate for WW1, interwar and WW2 games where tanks do not dominate the battlefield and can be disabled by infantry and HMG fire.

I am a great fan of having appropriate buildings on the battlefield as I find that nothing “sets the scene” better. Admittedly, the buildings here were Italian and built for my 1848 game but they were designed to fit into the 55mm squares I use. They were made of 3mm art board for the walls and lighter card for the rest.


  1. Nice report, the Spanish Civil War is, to my mind, one of the most interesting periods of history to study.

    And one of the most tragic!

  2. Il Cattivo,

    I totally agree with you. Interesting and tragic ... and people have only just come to terms with it's aftermath.

    All the best,


  3. brilliant, brilliant, brilliant! love it Bob - the whole thing - terrain, figures, game!

    Well done.


  4. Mark,

    All I did was write the rules. It was Nick Huband who did the rest ... and a very nice job he made of it, didn't he?

    All the best,


  5. He did Bob, but for want of a nail........


  6. Mark,

    Many thanks for the compliment!

    All the best,