Thursday 30 November 2017

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 30th November 1937

The Republican Government moved from Valencia to Barcelona.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Why didn't I think of creating one before? ... a hex grid with co-ordinates

During Arthur Harman's recent PORTABLE WARGAME-related visit it became apparent that it would be extremely useful for players to have a hex grid available to them that had co-ordinates so that they could plot the position of any hidden units etc. After a bit of trial and error I managed to create such a grid ... and here it is:

Due to the non-linear nature of the grid the horizontal rows of hexes go up and down slightly, and in the example shown above I have shaded in alternate rows of hexes to make it easier to understand.

When the co-ordinates are added to an existing map (in this case the Battle of Hook's Farm), the resulting map looks like this:

Using such a grid makes it possible for a player to make a note that – for example – a unit has been placed in hex D4, as shown below.

For the life of me I cannot understand why I haven't done this before, but now that I have, I can use it for any future battles that I fight on a 9 x 8 hex grid.

The two illustrations shown above are both in .jpg format, which not everyone can easily download and then use to draw their own maps on. I have therefore provided a .gif format version below. This can be downloaded into a program like MS Paint and used 'as is' or saved into .bmp format, and then used.

Although I retain the copyright on this particular grid, I give permission for users to download it for their own personal use. If it is used in any publication (printed, electronic, or in any other format), I expect my copyright to be acknowledged.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

A problem with La Ultima Cruzada!

Last night I received the printed proof copies of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA ... and discovered to my horror that during the printing process some of the formatting has been removed or altered, with the effect that a number of blank spaces have appeared in the text where they should not be and the pagination has been altered, leaving the Contents page with incorrect page numbers for each section and chapter.

I compared the printed version of the book with my original .docx file, and I could find no reason for this to happen. I then contacted in the hope that they could sort the situation out, because until it is, I cannot release the book for publication.

Some time later ...

Amber, one of's online support workers, spent a hour helping me to solve the problem. It appears that if I upload the book as a .docx format file, the conversion process can alter the publication's formatting. She advised me that this can be avoided by uploading the book in PDF format. However, when I tried to do this there were problems with the upload, which kept telling me that there were errors relating to embedded fonts in the file. In the end I sent the file directly to Amber, who was able to upload it for me.

On her advice I downloaded and checked the PDF file that will be used to print the book, and I have ordered another printed proof copy to make doubly sure that it is exactly the way I want it to be before releasing it for publication. Hopefully this printed proof copy will arrive within a week or so, but if it doesn't I might miss the Christmas deadline I set for the book's publication.

Monday 27 November 2017

Other people's Portable Wargames: Some of Stephen Briddon's battles

Stephen Briddon has been using my PORTABLE WARGAME rules since before they were published, and was one of the wargamers who gave me very useful feedback during their development. He has continued to use them, and what follows are some photographs of some of his battles.

The Battle of Hook's Farm ... using 54mm figures on a squared grid

The Battle of Hook's Farm ... using 54mm figures on a hexed grid

(The corners of each hex are marked with a dot, which makes them almost invisible in these photographs.)

A desert battle ... using 20mm figures on a hexed grid

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Stephen Briddon.

Sunday 26 November 2017

Nugget 304

The editor of THE NUGGET sent the latest issue of the magazine to me yesterday afternoon, and I hope take it to the printer on Monday morning. This should mean that it will be printed and posted out to members of Wargame Developments by next Friday or Saturday.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the fourth issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2017-2018 subscription year, and that members who have not already re-subscribed can do so by visiting the relevant page on the Wargame Developments website.

Saturday 25 November 2017

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Seven Years War

Ross Macfarlane and his friend Ron have been at it again. This time they have been using an adapted version of the Ancient rules from DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME to fight a Seven Years War battle!

The battle report makes for interesting reading, and has given me several ideas regarding the possibility of writing a Seven Years War version of my own NAPOLEONIC PORTABLE WARGAME rules. These are currently in the very early stages of development, and I hope to publish them at some time in the future. In the meantime I recommend that anyone interested in using my PORTABLE WARGAME rules for other periods should read Ross Mac's excellent battle report.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Ross Macfarlane.

Friday 24 November 2017

A visit from Arthur Harman

Yesterday Arthur Harman (a regular contributor to the pages of MINIATURE WARGAMES) paid Sue and I a visit, and this gave me the opportunity to get some toy soldiers onto my tabletop and for Sue to exercise her skills as a hostess.

Arthur is currently writing an article about adapting my PORTABLE WARGAME rules for use as a kreigsspeil, and one of the reasons for his visit was so that we could set up and go through a couple of scenarios that we could photograph and use to illustrate his article. The scenarios we chose were 'Forcing the defile' from my recent mini-campaign and 'The Battle of Hook's Farm' from H G Wells' LITTLE WARS.

The first was set up using the same figures and terrain as those featured on my recent blog entry, but using a more distinct colour scheme for the Heroscape terrain tiles in order to make the various contour level more obvious.

The second scenario was set up using my Hexon II hexed terrain and figures from my 25/29mm Napoleonic collection, and was the first time these particular figures have been used in a tabletop battle.

We had a great time, and I hope that Arthur's article will appear on the pages of the magazine in the near future. Even if it doesn't, we still had a great day pushing toy soldiers around on my wargame table, and I look forward to wargaming with Arthur again at some time in the New Year.

Wednesday 22 November 2017

The periodic sort out ... is sort of finished ... for the moment

I have just finished the periodic sort out I began yesterday and I have finished ... for the time being. The toy/wargame room now looks like this:

During the process of sorting out the detritus that seems to have accumulated over the last couple of years, I have realised that I must seriously consider downsizing my current stock of figures etc. I have figures, buildings, and other wargaming bits-and-pieces that have not seen the light of day for years ... and are not likely to again in the foreseeable future.

So why keep them? If I can sell them or pass them on to someone who will use them, it will free up space in my toy/wargame room and generate a bit of cash to spend enhancing the collections that I do keep.

I am going to wait until after Christmas before I do anything further, but it is something that I now know that I have to do.

For those that are interested, the photograph above shows some (56 to be precise!) of my REALLY USEFUL BOXES in use. The majority are 4 litre boxes, with a few larger ones used where necessary.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

A periodic sort out

Looking around my toy/wargame room on Sunday, I was stuck - for the umpteenth time - by how untidy it had become over recent months. After some further deliberation I decided that rather than put off sorting it out - again - I'd seize the nettle and actually have a go ... and that is what I have been doing today.

I suspect that I am not going to finish today, but I plan to do as much as I can and complete the job as soon as I can.

Monday 20 November 2017

Miniature Wargames Issue 416

The latest issue of this magazine arrived on Friday, and I have been reading it over the weekend.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: The Last Picture Show by Conrad Kinch
  • Reinventing an old friend: Part Four by Jon Sutherland
  • Who would live in a house like this?: A ruinous construction somewhere – somewhen – on the Eastern Front by Dave Tuck (who wrote the text) and Malc Johnston (who took the photographs)
  • Street fighting man: Down in the ghetto there's petrol bombs to be thrown Jim Webster (who wrote the text) and Malc Johnston (who took the photographs)
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Gaslands: Campaign rules for Osprey's new dystopian death sports game by Mike Hutchinson (who wrote the text and took some of the photographs) and John Treadaway (who also took some of the photographs)
    • Building Fenris Descending: Scratch building robots by Jeremey Claridge
  • Worlds apart: A show report about Derby Worlds 2017 by John Treadaway
  • Recce
  • Bridge over foaming water: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Up the palace: A show report about SELWG 2017 by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
So what did I enjoy in this issue?

There were no 'stand out' articles this month, but there was plenty of them that were worth reading. For example, Conrad Kinch's column pointed me towards several things on YouTube that look of as if they might be of interest to me, and Jim Webster's article and rules about street fighting made me realise that I really ought to consider trying to wargame urban fighting one day.

One feels that after a period of hiatus this magazine is beginning to find its feet. Its layout seems to have improved considerably over recent months and one pleasing development is the fact the the Club Directory has shrunk to just two pages.

Sunday 19 November 2017

So just how portable is the Portable Wargame?

After the recent Colonial mini-campaign I fought, I received an email asking how portable the PORTABLE WARGAME was.

That isn't a simple question to answer, so I decided to see how much space the terrain, figures, and playing equipment I used to fight the mini-campaign. The results can be seen below:

The figures, dice, playing cards, casualty markers (in reality clear plastic Roman blind rings), and Exhaustion Point countdown recorders (in truth, knitting stitch counters!) can be stored in two REALLY USEFUL BOX trays that fit into a 4 litre box ...

... and the Heroscape hexes fit into a number of WESTON plastic boxes.

When the lot is stacked together, it looks like this:

From experience (I know, because I tried it!) I can carry this up and down two flights of stairs without any problems ... and it will fit into a normal-sized sports bag or holdall.

The 9 x 8 painted hex baseboard measures approximately 13.75" x 15" (35cms x 38cms).

For carrying about, this will easily fit into one of the 'bag-for-life' plastic carrier bags sold in most large supermarkets.

I could easily have made the game even more portable by using paper or cardboard figures, a cheap cardboard chess board, and cardboard terrain tiles, but I wanted to show a setup that I have used.

I did not point out in the above description that there was room enough in the REALLY USEFUL BOX trays to store another small army. The photographs show a small Egyptian army of the General Gordon era in one of the trays ... and there is still enough to store at least another one or possible more two small armies.

Saturday 18 November 2017

Grids and scales

David Crook – who writes the A WARGAMING ODYSSEY blog – is designing a naval wargame set in the early twentieth century, and in an exchange of emails we have been discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using a grid of Hexon II hexes for naval wargames … something that I have done in the past but in an abstract rather than a realistically scaled way.

This set me thinking, and I sat down with a pencil and paper and started playing around with the numbers … and what follows are the results of my thinking.

Assuming that the distance from face-to-face on a Hexon II hex (which measures 10cms from face-to-face) represents a nautical mile, a ship travelling at a speed of one knot would take one hour to move from one hex to an adjacent hex.

This gives gun ranges of one hex representing 2,000 yards, two hexes representing 4,000 yards, three hexes representing 6,000 yards and so on.

If the ship were doing a speed of six knots, it would take ten minutes (i.e. one-sixth of an hour) to move from one hex to an adjacent hex. I chose six knots because during the period David is setting his rules in this seems to work as a common denominator for most major classes of warships; on average battleships do 18 knots (3 hexes), cruisers do 24 knots (4 hexes), and destroyers 30 knots (5 hexes). All the thoughts and ideas that follow are based upon this six knot common denominator assumption.

Now ten minutes can be a long time in a naval battle, with even slow-firing guns being able to get off two or three salvoes, so if we reduce the time scale to five minutes, this has consequences.

For example, if we change the ground scale to one hex representing half a nautical mile (i.e. 1,000 yards) from face-to-face, the move distances per turn will not alter but the gun ranges will, with one hex representing 1,000 yards, two hexes representing 2,000 yards, three hexes representing 3,000 yards and so on. As the Battle of Tsushima began with the ships firing at 10,000 yards and hitting each other at 7,000 yards, the tabletop distances would be between 100cms and 70cms.

As the average heavy gun salvo rate in 1905 at the Battle of Tsushima was about one salvo every three minutes, it would seem to make sense to use that as the basic element of the time scale. In this case the ground scale reduces to one hex representing 600 yards from face-to-face, the move distances will not alter, but the gun ranges do, with ten hexes (i.e. 100cms) representing 6,000 yards.

Now all of the above works well if one assumes that one wants to fight a salvo-by-salvo naval battle … but as naval gunnery was still relatively inaccurate (most sources seem to indicate that only about three to five percent of shells actually hit their target and did any damage) this might end up as being a rather tedious wargame to fight.

So if we return to the original timescale where one turn represents ten minutes of real time, our pre-dreadnought battleship will fire three – possibly four – salvoes per turn. Assuming the latter, the ship will therefore fire sixteen shells and possibly – if they are very accurate and achieve a percentage hit rate of 6.25% – score one hit. In reality they are more likely to score one hit every two turns.

This begs the question as to whether or not the time scale needs to be changed so that more firing can take place each turn … and this opens yet another can of worms.

I cannot for the life of me come up with a way of realistically balancing the constraints of ground scale, time scale, and realistic gunnery … which is why I have always tended towards designing naval wargames where these elements are abstract rather than definitive.

Does anyone out there have a solution to this … or is it one of those wargame design problems that is best just ignored?

The Battle of Tsushima as depicted in a painting ...

... and my attempt to model something similar to it!

It may not be art ... but I know what I like!

Friday 17 November 2017

Border trouble: Into the Shin Valley!

As Sir Hector Boleyn-Green led the Shin Hills Field Force out into the flat land of the Shin Valley, the reason for the apparent precipitant withdrawal of the Shinwazis who had been defending the defile was clear ... it had been done to entice the Britannic troops into a trap!

Arrayed across the valley floor and centred on a stone-built tower atop of which could be seen the leader of the Shinwazis – Emir Abdul Ifran – praying for divine assistance and encouraging his troops to destroy the farangi.

In response, Sir Hector formed the Shin Hills Field Force into a line, with his Artillery Battery and Machine Gun Detachment in the centre. On his right he placed the two Companies of the South Yorkshire Regiment and one Company of the Frontier Rifles, and on his left he had the two Companies of the Macfarlane Highlanders and other Company of the Frontier Rifles.

Sir Hector decided that he would wear down the Shinwazis with artillery fire before attempting any sort of advance, and ordered his Artillery Battery to concentrate on destroying the opposing Shinwazi Artillery.

The experienced Britannic gunners knew their stuff, and their first shells hit one of the Shinwazi Artillery batteries and caused casualties.

The return fire from the Shinwazi Artillery Batteries was ineffective, but it was the signal for the tribesmen the charge!

The Britannic response was devastating. The sound of rifles being fired in volleys, mixed with the rattle of the Gatling Gun, could be heard across the Shin Valley. The Shinwazis suffered terrible casualties before their charge had reached the Britannic line, and several bands had been forced to withdraw.

The opposing Artillery Batteries continued to exchange fire, and the Britannic gunner managed to score more hits on the already depleted Shinwazi Artillery Battery, knocking it out of the fight.

The Shinwazis were also more successful than they had been, and caused casualties amongst the Machine Gun Detachment.

Although some of the impetus of their charge had gone, several of the bands of Shinwazis reached the Britannic line and considerable fierce hand-to-hand fighting took place.

With both sides still refusing to give ground side, the casualties continued to mount.

Despite suffering casualties, the Machine Gun Detachment continued its deadly work, and one of the bands of Shinwazi tribesmen was obliterated.

At this point Sir Hector turned to the commander of the Artillery Battery and said 'It's time to end this slaughter! Can you hit that tower and put an end to that jackanapes who's atop it?'.

The young Captain replied 'With you here sir, I think that we can'

'Then do it!' replied his superior officer.

The Britannic Artillery battery fired ... and hit the tower ... but the Emir was untouched. The remaining Shinwazi Artillery Battery fired back ... but the gunners were poorly trained and their rounds landed nowhere near their target.

Meanwhile the hand-to-hand fighting continued along the whole of the Britannic line.

Neither side would give ground, and the casualties began to mount.

Sir Hector again spoke to the young Artillery Captain. 'Things are getting desperate and I don't know how much longer the men will be able to hold the line. I'm relying on you to end this ... and to end it now!'

The young officer – whose name was Crook – gulped and stammered out an answer. 'Yes, sir! Right away!' He personally selected the next round from the nearby caisson, loaded the cannon, and aimed it himself.


The Bombardier in charge of the gun pulled the firing lanyard ... and after what seemed like an age (but which was a matter on milliseconds), the gun fired.

The shell flew towards it target ... and hit the very top of the tower!

All of a sudden the Emir's voice could no longer be heard echoing around the battlefield.

'Well done, young man!' said Sir Hector to Captain Crook. 'I wouldn't be surprised if you have something important to tell your dear mama in your next letter home ... Major Crook!' The young officer looked away, embarrassed by the fact that he was intensely proud of what he had done.

All along the line the Shinwazis were falling back. The loss of their beloved Emir seemed to have taken all the fight out of them, and they now seemed more concerned with their own personal preservation than fighting the accursed and ungodly farangi.

The Major in charge of the Macfarlane Highlanders sent a message to Sir Hector to ask if his men should advance after the retreating tribesman, but Sir Hector's reply was in the negative.

'See to your wounded, Major. The men have been fighting hard these last few days and have won a close-run battle today. They need to have some rest and a hot meal. We'll camp here tonight, and tomorrow we will begin punishing the Shinwazis.'

And punish them they did. All the new rifles that the Shinwazis had bought were collected in and taken away. (The maker's markings had all been filed off, but the design was one used by the Rusland Army so there was little doubt of their place of origin.) A levy of five thousand Maria Theresa thalers (a currency that was widely used amongst the frontier tribes) was imposed on the Shinwazis, and a new, more friendly Emir was appointed to lead them in the future. He also agreed that a representative of the Britannic government would be welcome to stay in the Shin Valley for the foreseeable future.

As for Captain (acting Major) Crook ... well his promotion to the rank of Major was confirmed and he was awarded a Military Medal for his actions during the Shin Valley Campaign.

Thursday 16 November 2017

La Ultima Cruzada ... is about to be uploaded to!

The proof-reading of the text has been completed thanks to the efforts of my wife, Arthur Harman, and Robert-Jan Maycock. I have made the changes that this process identified, and this morning I did a final check to ensure that the layout was they way I wanted it to be.

I have also selected the illustration I want to use on the book's cover and written the blurb to go on the cover. All that now remains is for me to upload the files to and to have a proof copy printed. Once that has arrived and the absolutely final checks are completed, I can approve the book for publication.

Tuesday 14 November 2017

Border trouble: The fort in the defile

Having secured the entrance to the defile that led into the Shin Valley, Sir Hector Boleyn-Green chose to push his force forward as quickly as possible. The defile proved to be narrow, with tall precipitous hills on either side. A small fort could just be seen guarding the far end of the defile, and Sir Hector was in no doubt that this would be defended by the Shinwazis.

Using his two Companies of Frontier Rifles as his flank guards, Sir Hector moved his troops forward, with his Artillery Battery to the fore.

Whilst the Artillery fired at the fort and its defenders the Frontier Rifles began to slowly advance ...

... along the tops of the hills.

As they moved closer and closer to the fort ...

... they expected to be attacked at any moment.

They were right to be apprehensive.

Just as the Artillery inflicted its first casualty on the fort's defenders, two bands of Shinwazis emerged from concealment.

Whilst on one flank this resulted in an exchange of ineffective rifle fire ...

... on the other flank some fierce hand-to-hand combat took place ...

... which resulted in a Company of the Frontier Rifles having to withdraw.

Whilst the remaining Britannic Infantry Companies began to move slowly forward and the Artillery battery continued to fire at the fort, ...

... one of the Frontier Rifle Companies continued its firefight with a band of Shinwazi tribesmen ...

... whilst the other sought a way to gain the upper hand over its opponents

One of the bands of Shinwazi riflemen moved forward and fired at the leading Company of the Sheffield Regiment, ...

... inflicting a casualty.

This gave the Company of Frontier Rifles the opportunity they had hoped for, and climbing above the Shinwazis they were able to engage then from the flank, ...

... causing them to fall back toward the fort.

The Artillery Battery had continued to pound the fort, and caused a further casualty amongst its defenders.

Under covering fire from the Artillery Battery, the Infantry Companies of the Macfarlane Highlanders and the South Yorkshire Regiment cautiously advanced up the defile.

The reaction of the Shinwazis was – to say the least – unexpected. The bands of tribesmen on the hills began to withdraw, and the fort's defenders could be seen streaming towards the Shin Valley.

Sir Hector had expected them to put up much more of a fight ... so why hadn't they?