Tuesday, 8 January 2013

The Battle of Pook's Hill

I had the figures (sort of), I had the terrain, and I had the draft PORTABLE WARGAME rules ... so I thought that I might as well have a play-test!

The Battle of Pook's Hill was fought between two rather motley armies; Those of the King of Redia and the Duke of Yellovia

The King of Redia's Army
  • The King
  • 6 Units of Spear-armed Infantry
  • A total of 25 figures (Exhaustion Point = 9 figures)
The Duke of Yellovia's Army
  • The Duke
  • 2 Units of Heavy Cavalry
  • 2 Units of Light Cavalry
  • 2 Units of Spear-armed Infantry
  • 2 Units of Missile-armed Infantry
  • A total of 27 figures (Exhaustion Point = 9 figures)
The Duke of Yellovia feels that he has been slighted as he has not been appointed to the office of High Constable of the realm, a position that had been promised to him by the King during the recent War of Succession. He has therefore decided that the King needs to pay the price of his perfidy with blood, and the Duke has therefore unfurled his mighty War Banner and called upon his vassals to march forth with him to force the King from his new throne ... and to replace him with someone of the Duke's choosing ... or possibly even by the Duke himself!

The King had not realised what a mistake he had made in upsetting the Duke of Yellovia until the Duke's troops were on the march towards the capital of Redia. The King has so far only been able to assemble an army that consists of his bodyguard and some local militia, and he has occupied Pook's Hill which sits astride the route the Duke's army must take.

The rival battle plans
The King's battle plan was simple; to make a stand atop Pook's Hill and let allow the Duke's army to 'break against the hill like waves breaking on a beach'.

The Dukes' battle plan was to attack the flanks of the King's army with galling fire from his archers and, when the time was right, to smash the centre of the King's army with his cavalry and spear-armed infantry.

Turn 1
The King won the initiative, but chose not to move and of his troops. In response the Duke ordered his Archers forward.

Turn 2
The Duke won the initiative and ordered his archers to fire at the Kings army ... which they did to good effect as both Units they fired at lost Strength Points (SPs).

The King chose not to react to this, and kept a firm, controlling hand on his army.

Turn 3
The King won the initiative ... and ordered his two flanking Units to move off Pook's Hill and to attack the Duke's archers. Both attacks were successful, and the archers were forced to withdraw. The King chose not to allow his infantry to follow-up upon their success as he feared a Yellovian counter-attack.

(Note: At this point I realised that I had made an error on the rules. The Spear-armed Infantry should 'hit' on a 4 or more and the Missile-armed Infantry should 'hit' on 5 or more ... and not the other way around; I immediately changed the draft rules to this effect, as well as rectifying the same mistake where it affected heavy and Light Cavalry.)

The Duke's response was swift. He charged the King's infantry Unit on the right with his heavy cavalry ...

... who smashed into them, causing them casualties. He followed this up by moving his archers so that they could also fire at the King's men ...

... and they also inflicted more casualties. His final move was to charge home with his light cavalry ..

... who completed the task of destroying that Unit of the King's army!

On the other flank the Duke's archers fired at the leftmost infantry Unit of the King's army ... but to no avail. However, this was just for openers, as the Duke ordered his other light cavalry Unit to charge home ...

... which they did, forcing the infantry to fall back.

The King immediately realised that allowing his two flanking infantry Units to advance off Pook's Hill had been sheer folly, and he was determined not to repeat this mistake.

Turn 4
The King won the initiative, but chose to do nothing. The Duke decided to recall his cavalry Units and continue to harass the King's army with arrow-fire ... to no effect.

Turn 5
The Duke won the initiative, and his archers continued to fire at the King's army ... upon whom they began to inflict casualties.

At this point the Duke decided that an all-or-nothing attack was called for. He thought that the King's army was close to its exhaustion point and that one big push would break them.

First he charged his rightmost light cavalry Unit against the Redian left ...

... to no avail. He followed this with a charge by his rightmost heavy cavalry Unit ... which did cause casualties.

This successful attack was followed by an attack by some of the Duke's spear-armed infantry, supported (out of shot) by the Duke himself.

This cause a further casualty on the King's army ... but this was not the last. On the left the heavy and light cavalry charged home upon the right flank of the King's army, and caused sufficient casualties for it to reach its exhaustion point.

Rather than continue the needless slaughter, the Duke called upon the King to disperse his army and 'seek protection of the Duke'. Realising that his army was going to flee at any minute, the King agreed, and was soon enjoying the 'hospitality' of the Duke's castle. In the meantime the Duke was happy to assume the title of High Constable, knowing that the King would swiftly confirm the appointment.

Considering that this wargame was put together very quickly using what was to hand, it was actually quite enjoyable to fight ... especially after the 'error' in the original draft of the rules had been corrected!

I don't think that I will ever become an ardent player of Ancient wargames ... but I might now dabble occasionally.


  1. I can only assume the Prince of Orange will be riding to the King's rescue at some point.

  2. Hi Bob,

    A neat little action and the LOTR figures served well - I fully expect that this will be picked up across the PW spectrum in due course and I have to ask the question - could this be the beginning of the Cordery descent into the world of not only ancients but also fantasy?!

    Questions will be raised in the house for sure!

    Seriously though, these are a set of rules that at first glance look deceptively simple but personally I think they have surprisingly hidden depths....;-)

    All the best,


  3. " The Spear-armed Infantry should 'hit' on a 4 or more and the Missile-armed Infantry should 'hit' on 5 or more "

    I did wonder about that when I skim-read the drfat. I assumed there was a clever mechanism of some kind in play that I hadn't picked up on :)

    It's a little known fact that Redia and Yellovia are the precursors of the 18th century nations of Riskovia and Sans Couleur :)

  4. It's not a 'little known fact' here-they teach it in school.

    I think there was a whole chapter devoted to the highly improbable sequence of incredibly improbable events that led to the formation of Riskovia and Sans Couleur. I think the next chapter was on the Bicholim Conflict.

  5. A good effort Bob, seven out of ten for an 'ancient' novice.

    As DC has mentioned there are some hidden depths to explore here and I'm sure that the attendant 'mob' will do so in due course.

    Well done!


  6. The generic armies allow you to concentrate less on national characteristics and history and more on the nuts and bolts of game play, good for you. Back in the 70s we were playtesting MiG Killers (published 1977), we played around with a non-historical series of semi-campaign games between two pseudo-mideast countries called Alpheria and Betastan. Each side had points to build parts of an airforce as well as defense systems and air bases (for ground attack scenarios). Generally we just had air encounters, though. Each side could choose to be Warsaw Pact or Western allied, which determined what kind of aircraft they would fly. In a few cases, they switched sides and so might have had a few old MiGs mixed in with new NATO aircraft. By having wholly fictitious countries with custom geography, you didn’t have to keep up a historical mindset of country origin. Myself, I generally flew Soviet stuff like lots and lots of MiG 21s and maybe a few MiG 17s tossed in. Although I didn’t fly to Soviet doctrine, it was well … more Israeli in mood and the mix served me well, with cheap aircraft mixed with hotshot pilots. Generic, non-historical wargaming can be fun!

  7. David Crook,

    I think that the figures were a better choice than cardboard bases, and although they were not all ‘spot on’ for what they were supposed to represent, they were close enough for me to be happy using them.

    That said, I don’t think that you will be seeing me go down the Fantasy route soon – if at all – although acquiring some proper Ancients figures is a slim possibility.

    I have tried to keep the rules simple – as I have with all the other PORTABLE WARGAME variants – so that players can adapt them to suit their own needs. They seem to work … and ideas for improvement are already coming in.

    All the best,


  8. Kaptain Kobold,

    The mistake was made because I was sat writing the draft late at night. I knew what I wanted to type … and typed the exact opposite. Nothing clever, I am afraid to say!

    I was unaware that Redia and Yellovia were the precursors of Riskovia and Sans Couleur … but having seen the antagonism between the two yesterday, it does not surprise me!

    All the best,


  9. Jim Duncan,

    Thanks for the generous score! If memory serves me correctly I have only taken part in two Ancient battles in the thirty years before yesterday’s little outing.

    I am sure that there is plenty of things that can be done to expand the rules to suit the needs of most wargamers who are likely to use wargames from the PORTABLE WARGAME stable … and I expect developments to be quite rapid over the next month or two.

    All the best,


  10. SAROE,

    Interesting! I am learning something new all the time … thanks to my regular blog readers!

    All the best,


  11. Kaptain Kobold,

    How right you are ... and I do like the army lists that you wrote for the battle.

    All the best,


  12. CoastConFan,

    I have taken part in similar wargames (and wargame campaigns) and the use of generic armies give you the opportunity to ‘mix and match’ all sorts of different kit and doctrines together. Mind you, some armed forces in the 1960s and 1970s were doing that for real. I can remember seeing photographs of Sherman tanks (some re-turreted with AMX-13 turrets) being fielded next to T-34/85s and SU-100s in the Sinai whilst a mixture of Russian and Western jets flew overhead.

    (By the way I like the idea to crew MiG-21s and MiG-17s with ‘hotshot’ pilots using Israeli doctrine. It would seem to prove the adage that it is not the weapon that wins, but the man behind the weapon.)

    One of the reasons why I like the idea behind Aggressor (the US precursor to OPFOR) was the depth on non-US background the generic enemy had. The kit may have be American … but the thinking was definitely not, hence its longevity as a training concept. I know that the British military has its own generic enemy countries … so why shouldn’t wargamers?

    All the best,


  13. During the Cold War era, client states switched sides and ended up with mismatched equipment and tactics. Add "guest pilots" from the major powers and mercenaries, you get an interesting melange. Mind you MiG 21s couldn't easily stand up one on one with an F-4, but the MiGs cost one third of the F-4 and could stand up to brutal maintenance and conditions, typical of Warsaw Pact and client states of the Cold War era. The F-4 had a slightly larger turn radius but had an excellent sustained turn rate versus the MiG's nice snap roll and quick entrance into a turn. The great liability with Soviet aircraft was that they lagged behind NATO in missile technology, especially once you get into all aspect missiles and "lookdown, shootdown" missiles. Generally I used to hit the dirt and fly very low on the deck, to fool radar missiles. We never got as mix and match as to put NATO missiles on Warsaw Pact aircraft as it never occurred historically to my knowledge.

  14. CoastConFan,

    Very interesting! I knew about the mixing of Western and Soviet equipment within armed forces as a result of regime change, but had forgotten about the role of 'guest' pilots during the Cold War.

    I seem to recall that the good old F-4 needed to be given a gun when it was realised that once its missiles were gone it had no means to protect itself and that guns were better in close-in dogfights than the current missiles.

    Going down on the deck should confuse most radar systems. The background clutter must have been quite difficult to sift or filter out.

    All the best,



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