Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Portable Wargame marches on!

Whilst I was away on my recent cruise Nick Huband (a fellow long-term member of Wargame Developments and enthusiastic solo player of my PORTABLE WARGAME rules) sent me an illustrated report of a recent Spanish Civil War battle that he had fought. As he does not have a blog of his own, he gave me permission to share it with my regular blog readers.

Guadalajara revisited
This was a second opportunity for me to pit my Italian CTV against the Republican hordes. I found a spare piece of MDF in the garage which was just the right size to make a board of 12 x 8 squares. The board is still small enough to count as 'portable' but gives a little more depth for deployment when used along its long axis.

I confess to a sneaking fondness for the CTV, the kit is very 1930’s and a little bargain basement but they have a doctrine of Guerra di Rapido Corso (War of Rapid Movement). It results in a sort of Primark blitzkrieg.

The action I fought over the weekend was a further attempt by a motorised column to break through to Guadalajara. The terrain was quite simple but with plenty of opportunity for the Republicans to dig in behind the various stone walls and buildings.

Opposing forces
  • 2 x Motorcycle Reconnaissance stands
  • 3 x CV 33 Light Tank stands
  • 6 x Infantry stands
  • 1 x Mortar stand
  • 1 x MG stand
  • 1 x Command stand (with motor-tricycle!)
  • 2 x Truck stands (for troop transport)
  • 1 x 65mm Infantry Gun stand (and prime mover)
Republicans (anarchist militia)
  • 1 x Armoured car stand
  • 9 x Infantry stands
  • 2 x MG stands
The flimsy Italian tanks are classed as armoured cars for shooting, giving the Republicans a chance of knocking them out with machine guns.

Initial set up
For a change, rather than line everyone up on the start line, the Italians approached in column of march preceded by two stands of motorcycles for reconnaissance. The Republicans had set up a defence in depth with four infantry stands using the stone walls around the first house and the remainder ranked back towards the village.

Turns One to Three
The Republicans hit the Italians first, knocking out one motorcycle stand with the other dismounting and trying to get into cover. Meanwhile the Italians try to take the position on the run without waiting for the rest of the column to deploy. The result is one Italian and two Republican stands lost.

Turn Four
Before the Italians have a chance to overrun the position, the Republicans counter-attack one of the tanks with Molotov cocktails and dynamite bombs. Fortunately (at least for the Italians) the tank manages to bring its guns to bear and knocks out the Republican stand.

Turn Five
The Italian commander realises that he’s going to have to deploy his forces and carry out a prepared attack on the Republican position.

Turns Six to Nine
This is a fine example of the time taken to deploy a force into an attacking position, despite me taking a few liberties with the rules and allowing two infantry stands to stack in one square after debussing.

While this is happening the Republicans are wishing they had some air support or artillery (my I-16s are painted but not based yet) as the Italians present the sort of target rarely seen on a wargames table outside Flames of War™.

Turn Ten
The Italians finally move out with the CV’s leading supported by infantry, but the first CV is almost immediately knocked out by the Republican MG dug in alongside the road. Nevertheless, the Italian infantry clear the woods on their left flank but realise they can’t get any further without knocking out the Republican MG.

Turn Eleven
On the Italian right flank the infantry push forward supported by the CV on the road. Meanwhile on the left flank the Italian infantry clear the first Republican position and the infantry guns tries to knock out that troublesome MG, without success. Fed up with all this attention the Republican MG withdraws.

Turn Twelve
As the Republican mg continues to withdraw, their armoured car moves out of hiding to confront the CV moving up the road. By this time the Italian CO is beginning to realise that he’s just been dealing with a screen and that he is now facing the main Republican position. On the Italian right flank the CV33 starts to clear the Republican position with MG fire.

The Italian CO is also realising that he’s been focusing too much on his centre and right while his left lank is lagging behind. What did Moltke say? ... 'Errors in initial deployment cannot be rectified!'.

Turn Thirteen
The Italian CV opens up on the armoured car but without causing any damage. The Republican response however knocks out the CV leaving the Italians with just one tank left. Meanwhile the attack on the Italian right flank moves in against faltering Republican opposition.

Turn Fourteen
The Italians finally manage to bring their infantry gun into action and it knocks out the Republican MG. At this point the Republicans, realising that the Italian gun and MG can shoot up their right flank at their leisure, decide to withdraw leaving the field to the Italians.

Mussolini trumpets a glorious victory for Italian arms, the members of the motorised column take a different view.

A fun game with again the result in doubt right to the end when the Italians just managed to scrape a Phyrric victory. The CTV on its own is simply too lightly equipped for serious Blitzkrieg-style warfare. With a couple of Nationalist T26 stands or some heavy artillery, they could have made a much better showing. I must buy some 100mm guns!

Another option would be to give the Italians some air support. This would be slightly unhistorical as during the actual battle I recall that the weather made the Nationalist airstrips unusable whereas the all-weather Republican airfields remained open, still the sight of an SM-79 escorted by Fiat CR32 fighters would be worth the effort.

Something that still impresses me about the Portable Wargame is that, despite its quite stylised approach, it gives a very believable result. The game described above reflected well the difficulties encountered by a lightly equipped force without adequate support trying to push its way through dug in infantry.

Possible amendments to the rules?
Perhaps two infantry (or similar small) stands could stack on a square if they were debussing, with the downside that a hit on the square could destroy both stands simultaneously.

Could two units swap squares if adjacent (passage of lines)? It is quite fiddly otherwise to try and get a unit forward if the unit in front is blocking its way. I would suggest that this manoeuvre cannot be carried out while under fire.

Next instalment – The Mannerheim Line!
I had originally planned to try another action using the longer board with my Chaco War troops and a Bolivian convoy tying to break through to a besieged fortin. After my experience with the CTV however, I felt like using armies with a little more muscle, Finns and Russians in 1939, still not Leibstandarte and 6th Guards Tank Army, but a step in the right direction!


  1. Bob - where can I download the rules from?


  2. Hi Bob,

    Every time I see the Portable Wargame on a 12 by 8 square grid it has me thinking about what i can do with the two boards you donated to me!

    The game looks really good and is an object lesson of the 'feel' being more important than overly complex game mechanics.

    It almost had me reaching for my copy of Ultima Cruzada by that Cordery chap....;-)

    All the best,


  3. Phil Broeders,

    The various versions of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules can be downloaded from here although the 'modern' version has yet to be added (I will try to add them as soon as I can if you are interested).

    All the best,


  4. David Crook,

    You know that you want to ...

    Nick Huband is an excellent modeller and has turned my ideas into something that looks so good ... and I am very envious!

    All the best,


  5. Bon - interested in the modern as well.

    Thanks for the link. They look like a great set of rules and I love the various battle reports that have appeared. Really exciting project and great to see how people are using the rules.

    I will review and see if I can adapt for my 16C Japanese (which involves arquebus, bow, sword and spear) as well.

  6. Very nice board and minis, and the scenario seems to be a good one! I hope you get a report on the Russo-Finnish game as well.

    I need to send you some pictures of my Normandy Hedgerows Portable Wargame. I've been running a solo campaign with 3rd Canadian and 21st Panzer, with some real "white knuckles" action.

    Put me down for the Modern Rules as well!

  7. Phil Broeders,

    I will try to find the latest version of the 'modern' PW rules and add them to the PORTABLE WARGAME website later this week.

    I should think that the Colonial version of rules could be used with 16th century Japanese without too many modifications. Good luck with giving it a go.

    All the best,


  8. Steven Page (Steve),

    Nick Huband is a great modeller and he tells me that he will send a report on his Russo-Finnish War battle in due course.

    I would be very interested in seeing the photographs of your solo campaign ... and no doubt other readers would also be interested.

    All the best,


  9. Bob, I will look at both tonight. Given that we do a lot of Renaissance wargaming there may be scope for tweaking the 'musket' rules to the Age of Reason. Just got to think how to accomodate a tercio!

  10. I'd love to see the modern rules and a renaissance tweak too.Another example of loads of fun (not to mention a superb looking set up) to be had with small amounts of figures etc...
    best wishes

  11. Phil Broeders,

    Judging by the various ways in which other people have adapted PW to suit their particular requirements, I should imagine that an 'Age of Reason' version should be possible.

    All the best,


  12. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    All I have to do is to find the 'modern' rules on my computer ... which is easier said than done!

    If Phil Broeders comes up with an 'Age of Reason' version, I would willingly make it available for downloading from the PW website.

    As you state in your comment, you don't need vast armies of figures and huge terrain to have a fun wargame ... and Nick Huband has commented that since he began using my PW rules he has fought (and enjoyed) many more solo wargames than he did previously.

    All the best,


  13. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    The problems has been solved. I just deleted the additional copies of your original comment.

    All the best,