Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Ironclad Bingo: A big thanks to Andy Callan

I recently bought a lottery/bingo set and have been thinking about how to use it in my wargaming ... but I need look no longer for ideas, thanks to Andy Callan! (Andy Callan was one of the founder members of Wargame Developments, and although he is no longer a member we have kept in contact over the years. He is one of the best wargame designers I know, and has always been able to create that most difficult of beasts ... wargames that are easy to understand and fun to use whilst still producing realistic results.)

Yesterday's post brought a letter from Andy that contained a set of naval wargame rules that he wrote some time ago. They are called IRONCLAD BINGO and use bingo cards as a method of determining and recording the effects of hits on ironclad and pre-deadnought warships. The rules are designed for fleet actions and each ship in a fleet is allocated its own bingo/damage record card.

The three lines of numbers on the bingo card (starting from the top) represent:
  • Propulsion
  • Gunnery
  • Control
As each number is 'called out' (i.e. comes out of the lottery/bingo ball) it is crossed off a ship's bingo/damage record card. If the number is on the 'Propulsion' line, a ship loses 3 knots of speed; if the number is on the 'Gunnery' line, the ship loses 20% of its firepower; and if the number is on the 'Control' line it affects the ship's ability to concentrate its gunfire on a target and can eventually lead to the ship being unable to steer.

These seem to be a very simple set of rules to use ... and will certainly give me the opportunity to use my lottery/bingo set in a wargame.


  1. I love the use of the bingo cards etc. What an innovative guy Andy is. I first got into hair curler armies when he brought a game to Cow back in the early 80's. I used his AWI rules for many years and my dark age gaming still owes an enormous amount to the DAIS rules he was involved in 30 odd years ago. Nice to see he hasn't changed.

  2. Robert De Angelis,

    I remember meeting Andy Callan at the first ever COW in 1981, and although I never owned an army made from hair rollers, I thought that they were very impressive.

    Andy has always been a very underrated wargame designer, and it is great to know that he is still out there designing innovative wargames.

    All the best,


  3. Bob,
    The idea of a 'bingo card' for each ship, with the different lines representing different types of damage offers much scope for devising cards to reflect the characteristics of individual ships or classes of ship, by adjusting the quantity of numbers on each line. Indeed, one could apply a similar principle to aircraft, tanks or units of troops.

    Experience of playing Bingo using a similar - but cheap plastic - device with my daughter suggests that, firstly, it can take a good many draws before one completes a line/does significant damnage, so one might want to work with a smaller range of numbers in both the machine and on the cards; secondly, that the novelty of turning the handle soon palls and the incessant rattling of the balls becomes irritating - I would be inclined to draw balls from a cloth bag, instead, to spare my ears.

    Some practical questions:
    1. Assume Ship A is firing at Ship B. Obviously if, when Ship A fires, the ball is a number on Ship A's card, Ship A doesn't take that hit. But if the ball is not returned to the machine/bag, thereafter Ship B will have no chance of drawing that number to inflict damage in A when it fires for the rest of the game. Solution: return balls that do not 'hit' to machine or bag?

    2. The chance of drawing a particular number gradually increases as balls are drawn, which seems fine - accuracy increasing with shooting. But suppose Ship B's guns are not yet able to return fire, because they have a shorter range: the effect of only Ship A firing for several turns is to increase - albeit slightly - the likelihood of Ship B hitting when it is able to open fire. Do Andy's rules ignore this, or would it be better to have separate bags of balls for each ship/type of ship?

    I can imagine the wargame 'caller' developing his own idiosyncratic version of the popular Bingo clss:

    '88 - Rommel's favourite!'

    'Number 9 - Hindenburg Line!' &c., &c.

    draw produces a number that is

  4. Arthur1815,

    In fairness to Andy I did not explain in my blog entry that the original rules that Andy wrote did not use a lottery/bingo ball to generate the numbers. What he used was the last two digits of the phone numbers on a randomly selected page from a telephone directory.

    Having made that clear, I think that it covers the very sensible and practical problems that you raise, as numbers would be repeated and not 'lost' when drawn. In a hand-written note at the bottom of the rules Andy suggests returning a numbered ball to the lottery/bingo ball after it has been drawn so that it can be drawn again.

    I think that the bingo card idea has merits for a variety of wargames (e.g. to record a unit's ammo supply and/or command casualties), but I think that your point about it becoming a bit of a bore using the lottery/bingo ball is well made. I saw it as being useful in games with a large number of players (e.g. a demo game at a show) rather than for what could be termed 'personal use'.

    As to the wargame-related calls made as the bingo balls appear ... the mind boggles at what some people might come up with!

    All the best,