Thursday 30 April 2020

The first of my World War Two renovated 20mm-scale Russian army vehicles

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been working on and off on renovating some of the vehicles in my Russian 20mm-scale World War 2 collection. I began by mounting the vehicles on bases before undercoating them, and I am now beginning the process of applying the topcoat and painting the bases.

I began with some of the artillery tractors, and so far I have completed three Komsomolets light artillery tractors and three Komintern medium artillery tractors.

The models come from a variety of sources. Two of the Komsomolets light artillery tractors were manufactured by Skytrex and the other is a resin kit of unknown origin, whereas the Komintern medium artillery tractors were scratch-built using parts from broken ROCO Pzkpfw IV tanks and from a number of Airfix kits.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

A map for my Barbarossa Campaign: Rivers and mountains

I’ve managed to add the main rivers and mountain ranges to my campaign map.

I hope to add the main cities next, and then to define the different geographical and climactic zones.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports ... and ideas for a game in a pizza box!

Alan Saunders has been revisiting the English Civil War, and has fought a couple of battles using his variant of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules. His battle reports can be read on his blog, and here a few of the photographs of his battles in progress:

Meanwhile, Marc Pavone has been working on putting together a truly portable version of the game. He described how he had done it in an email to me:
'My little setup came out nicely. I made basic hills out of 1/2" polystyrene, foliage is made from green pompoms glued to small circles of poster board. I make roads and streams from masking tape. The houses are cut from some pine wood I had laying around. The tan squares are corrugated cardboard with one side of the paper stripped off and glued to a backing to make plowed farm fields. I made some geomorph tiles like Peter uses on Grid Based Wargaming. That gives me over a million possible random battlefields! Paper minis and a copy of your rules finish the whole thing.'
He illustrated his 'game in a pizza box' with some very interesting photographs:

The figures.
The terrain tile masters.
A hill, some ploughed fields, some 'pompom' woods, and some small wooden buildings ... all homemade!
A battlefield designed using the terrain tile masters can quickly and easily ...
... be turned into a tabletop terrain..
The pizza box of delights ...
... contains everything one needs to fight a tabletop battle.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Alan Saunders and Marc Pavone.

Monday 27 April 2020

An unsolicited review of the Portable Napoleonic Wargame

Over the weekend I received a very unexpected email from Dale Munz (AKA Dale the Wargamer) who wrote the following review of THE PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME:
'I just tried your Napoleonic Portable Wargame rules at the "Corps level" for the first time. I have been playing a solo campaign of two opposing sides each with a corps of 4 divisions (each division having infantry, cavalry and artillery). I came across a situation where each side had 2 entire divisions fighting in the battle against 2 opposing divisions. I had been using your division-level rules, but thought my battlefield (hex-gridded 12 x 12) would get too crowded. So I pulled out the Corps-level rules. I merged each side's 2 divisions into one force, arriving at a composition that resemble your Corps-level example (French v. allied) in your book. I fought two battles this way. I was completely blown away by how realistic each game was and how much fun! I'd start playing the battle and simply could not stop until either it was supper time, or my hands hurt from throwing dice. It was really exciting, and I never knew which side was going to win. I particularly liked the command and control (CinC giving orders to each corps each turn, and testing to see if they were carried out). It really gave me a feel for how difficult it is to command large units, and get them to do your bidding. These rules are simply (as well as being simple) the best rules I've played yet in terms of excitement. I enjoy the other rulesets, and even other author's rulesets, and like some variety. But I can't say enough about these rules.'
I love getting emails from people who've enjoyed using my rules, and I know that Dale wanted to share his reactions to using my Napoleonic rules with a wider audience. (I know this because he stated it elsewhere in his email, and before publishing it above, I asked his permission to reproduce what he had written.)

In reply, I wrote:
'Thank you very much for your email. It was very, very humbling to read.

This comment might surprise you, but your enthusiasm was extremely gratifying to read, especially as you have ‘got’ the idea behind the Corps-level rules. The C&C rules came about as a result of long discussions I had with Arthur Harman, who is a much greater expert on all things a Napoleonic than I am. He pointed out just how difficult it was for generals to control troops on a large battlefield, and the rules evolved from his suggestions.
It's feedback like Dale's that makes all the effort I have put in to writing and publishing my rules worthwhile.

Thank you, Dale. You really made my day!

Sunday 26 April 2020

A map for my Barbarossa Campaign: The start

During a lull yesterday (I was waiting for some paint to dry, I'd read and answered all my emails, and there was nothing worth watching on TV), I decided to begin work on a campaign map for my Barbarossa Campaign. I looked at all the maps that I have of the area over which the Barbarossa Campaign was fought, and they were either too detailed or lacked the sort of detail that I wanted. I finally settled on the maps in Bruce Quarrie's TANK BATTLES IN MINIATURE: 2 A WARGAMERS' GUIDE TO THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN 1941-1945 as the basis of the map I needed to draw.

I began by scanning in an image of the map showing the railway lines in western Russia.

As it is my intention to use a version of the simple campaign system that I featured in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME book, I overlaid the map with a red 28 x 26 squared grid and printed it off

I then created a 28 x 26 squared grid in MS PAINT and using the printed overlaid map as a guide, I began to transfer the details onto my map.

The joy of a project like this is that it is one that I can come back to as and when I want to as well as allowing me to add the sorts of detail that I want included on my campaign map. I addition, as there is no deadline to meet, I can take as long as I like to complete it ... so it looks like a win-win project for me!

Saturday 25 April 2020

Both hardback and softback editions of The Portable Colonial Wargame are now on sale on Amazon ... but the hardback is 'Temporarily out of stock'!

Amazon are now listing both hardback and softback editions of THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME for sale ...

... but the hardback edition is listed as being 'Temporarily out of stock'.

Amazon states that customers can:
'Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we dispatch the item.'
They are even offering the book at a discounted price ... by knocking a whole 2p off! This sort of offer is bound to push up sales ...

Friday 24 April 2020

My current projects

As we move into the middle of the fifth week of the COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to set down some information about the projects I am currently working on.
  • Renovating, repainting, and re-basing some of my 20mm Russian World War II tanks, soft skin  vehicles, and artillery
  • Producing a short lecture (with associated PowerPoint slides) about the early history of Freemasonry in Hertfordshire
  • Doing preparation work for my next PORTABLE WARGAME book.
The latter was going to be a book of rule variants for periods that have not already been covered by earlier PORTABLE WARGAME books ... but it has been suggested that I might have enough stuff to create a book that deals with wargaming the wars of the seventeenth century (e.g. the Thirty Years War, the English Civil Wars). The book will contain contributions from several authors, and I will act as editor and publisher,

Thursday 23 April 2020

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: More from the Schleswig-Holstein War

Martin Smith has fought another battle set during the Schleswig-Holstein War. As on the previous occasion, he substituted Confederate American Civil War figures for the Danes and Union figures for the Prussians,

A full report of can be found on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page, but the following are some photographs of his battle:

The rules used were taken from THE PORTABLE WARGAME, with a few amendments, taken from Alan Saunders’ English Civil War variant.

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Martin Smith.

Wednesday 22 April 2020

The Portable Colonial Wargame is now on sale on Amazon!

After what seemed like a very long time (it’s only a matter of weeks but it felt like a long time), Amazon are now listing THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME for sale.

They are currently listing the paperback edition as being available for delivery in six days ...

... but not the hardback. Hopefully this will be listed as available in due course.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Give me back my legions!: My legions

The following map shows the start positions for my legions:

The legions under my command are:
  • II Legion Augusta
  • XIII Legion Gemina
  • XIV Legion Gemina
  • XX Legion Valeria Victrix
Please note that although all these legions existed during the timeframe of the campaign, they were not all serving in Germania Superior under Silius.

Monday 20 April 2020

Give me back my legions!: A wargame fought using WhatsApp

For some weeks I have been taking part in an online wargame involving approximately thirty people. It is set during the period at the end of Augustus's rule in Rome, and the rise of Tiberius.

I am Silius (Gaius Silius, who was probably the son of Publius Silius Nerva), military governor of Upper Germany (Germania Superior), and whilst machinations are taking place back in Rome, my task is to keep Upper Germany safe from the German tribes. I am serving under the command of Germanicus and my main base is Mognotiacum (modern-day Mainz, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany) with another at Vindonissa (modern-day Windisch in Switzerland). Directly across the Rhine from Upper Germany are the areas occupied by the Chatti and Hermenduri.

The game is being run by an old friend of mine, John B. He is the umpire as well as acting as Emperor Augustus up until the latter's death. All communication within the game takes place using WhatsApp, and John B has set up several groups to facilitate this. For example, I am within the Rhine Army HQ group which allows me to communicate with my fellow Romans in Germany as well as the main group where I can communicate with Rome and pick up on what is happening elsewhere. We are also allowed to communicate privately with other players using emails etc.

To date, two of my four legions have marched north into Lower Germany to assist in the suppression of the troublesome Cherusci, who seem to have been encouraged to attack Roman Germania by the turncoat Arminius*. Now that they have been suitably chastened, I have moved back to Mognotiacum with one of my legions in order to deal with the Chatti, who have used the absence of the two legions I took north with me to come across the Rhine and to menace this fortified Roman base. (The base had been fortified and is occupied by a legion. The legion has been using a mobile column to try to keep the Chatti at bay without getting themselves involved in a major battle.)

Each turn lasts three or four days in real time, and covers a period of several months in game time. The pace has been quick enough to keep the participants interested without becoming onerous, and using WhatsApp means that an ongoing record of who did what and when has been easy to keep. I'm not sure how long the game will last, but it could easily go on for quite some time.

* Arminius (or Hermann) was the son of a chieftain of the Cherusci tribe who had been taken as a hostage of the Roman Empire as a child. He was brought up in Rome and joined the Roman military during his youth. He was eventually granted Roman citizenship and became a Roman equites (or knight). After gaining distinction during a revolt in Illyria, he went to Germania to serve under the governor, Publius Quinctilius Varus. At this point he changed his allegiance, and began plotting the overthrow of Roman rule in Germania. This culminated in the destruction of three Roman legions in the Teutoburg Forest.

Sunday 19 April 2020

Other people's Portable Wargames: Ideas and battle reports

Whilst I've been playing my own online PORTABLE WARGAME battle and trying to sort out the latest NUGGET and VCOW, other wargamers have been developing their own PORTABLE WARGAME collections and fighting wargames with them.

Alan Gruber's Portable Wargame box
Alan Gruber (who writes the wonderful THE DUCHY OF TRADGARDLAND blog) has developed what he describes as 'Here is a box, a wargaming box,filled up and ready to play...'.

He has taken a simple three-draw filing unit and converted it so that each draw can hold the figures, terrain, etc., for a PORTABLE WARGAME.

Like all great ideas, it is essentially simple ... and I can see other wargamers following his example and creating their own.

Mike Lewis's online North-West Frontier battle
Mike Lewis (who writes the LITTLE WARS REVISITED blog) wrote a very interesting report about a battle that he fought against his regular opponent using Zoom. As usual, the figures were drawn from his very extensive collection of 54mm figures, and the terrain was home-made. (It should have been on show at this year's cancelled SALUTE2020.)

It is interesting to note that he also used a square grid with lettered and numbered coordinates.

Martin Smith's battle report on his re-fight of the Battle of Alton, December 1643
On THE PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page, Martin wrote a detailed and well-illustrated battle report on his recent re-fight of the 1643 Battle of Alton.

David Crook's Napoleonic Battle of Chimay, 1815
David Crook has recently been renovating a large collection of pre-painted Del Prado 25/28mm Napoleonic figures, and recently he had the opportunity to use some of them to fight a Napoleonic battle. A two-part report of the Battle of Chimay can be read on his A WARGAMING ODYSSEY blog (Part 1 and Part 2).

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Alan Gruber, Mike Lewis, Martin Smith, and David Crook.

Saturday 18 April 2020

My first online Portable Wargame: The Battle of Hill Crossroads

Earlier this week I took part in my very first online Portable Wargame. It was organised by Gary Sheffield, and he provided the scenario, ORBATs etc., as well as the expertise. (I suspect that he might say that he was not an expert in this sort of thing, but as he had more experience than me, that made him an expert in my eyes!)


Northern Mississippi, 1st April 1863. The Union Army under Ulysses S. Grant and the Confederate Army of John C. Pemberton are manoeuvring for position. Both have realised the strategic importance of Hill Crossroads, and have sent advance guards to capture the area. The two sides collide in a classic encounter battle ...

The map of the battlefield

  • The Union (USA) force deploys first, up to 3 grid squares from the northern table edge (the roads runs north to south and east to west, and the hill is in north west part of battlefield)
  • The Confederate (CSA) force deploys second, up to 3 grid squares from the southern table edge.
Game length and Turn Order
  • The scenario lasts for max 15 game turns. The USA player goes first in each turn.
Victory Conditions
  • Victory is achieved by the side controlling both the hill and the crossroads at the end of the battle.

As anyone who has had dealings with the UK military will know, they work on what is known as the 7P principle*. Before the battle started, I drew up a Record Sheet for both sides on which I could record each side's moves each turn. The blank Record Sheets looked like this:

I wrote the initial deployment positions for both sides on the Record Sheets, but in the heat of tabletop battle, I only managed to keep mine (the USA side) up to date during the game. This is a pity, as it would have helped afterwards to retrace how the battle developed ... and where I went wrong!

I also printed out a 14 x 14 grid on pieces of green card. I glued these together to form my battlefield.

Each square on the grid was allocated a letter & number coordinate so that we could track each other's units ... and as the battle showed, this was a vital ingredient in its success!

I also made up unit counter for both sides.


Union Army (Major-General Ambrosia Sideburn)
  • 1st Brigade (Colonel Chamberlain L. Joshua)
    • 1st New York Zouaves (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 2nd New York Zouaves (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 3rd New York Infantry (Poor, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
    • 4th Maine Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 5th Maine Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 6th Rhode Island Infantry (Poor, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
  • 2nd Brigade (Colonel Elisha Rhodes Hunt)
    • 7th Sharpshooter (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 8th Iowa Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 9th Iowa Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 10th Iowa Infantry (Poor, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
    • 11th Minnesota Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 12th Minnesota Infantry (Poor, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
  • Cavalry
    • 1st US Cavalry (Average, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
    • 2nd US Cavalry (Average, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
    • 3rd US Cavalry (Average, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
  • Artillery
    • 1st Artillery (Average, 2SP)
Confederate Army (Major-General Scraxton Scragg)
  • 1st Brigade (Colonel K.F.C. Sanders)
    • 1st Louisiana Tigers Zouaves (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 2nd Louisiana Tigers Zouaves (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 3rd Kentucky Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 4th Alabama Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
    • 5th Alabama Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
  • 2nd Brigade (Colonel the Reverend Leonidas P. Kolk)
    • 6th Mississippi Infantry (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 7th Mississippi Infantry (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 8th Mississippi Militia (Poor, Musket Armed, 3SP)
    • 9th Mississippi Militia (Poor, Musket Armed, 3SP)
    • 10th Arkansas Infantry (Elite, Rifle Armed, 5SP)
    • 11th Arkansas Infantry (Average, Rifle Armed, 4SP)
  • Cavalry
    • 1st Mississippi Cavalry (Elite, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
    • 2nd Mississippi Cavalry (Elite, Rifle Armed, 3SP)
  • Artillery
    • 1st Arkansas Artillery (Average, 2SP)
    • 2nd Mississippi Artillery (Average, 2SP)
Initial Deployment
The following extracts from the Record Sheets show each side's initial deployment.

When seen on the two respective tabletops (mine and then Gary's), the deployments looked like this:

It was at this point that I realised that I had placed the east to west road in the wrong place. It took a matter of seconds to correct this error, as will be seen in following photographs.
Gary's collection of American Civil War figures in action on his tabletop.

In order to communicate with each other, Gary and I used Skype. This allowed us to see each other, talk to each other in real time, and to see what was happening at the other end ... so to speak.

The connection did go a bit flaky at times, but whenever the connection was lost, we arranged that Gary would contact me rather than me try to contact him in order to avoid needless 'the user you are trying to contact is busy' messages.

Rather than try to give a blow-by-blow narrative of the battle, I will use the Record Sheet to show what my units did along with photographs that both of us took during the battle.

The Union Army's Record Sheet

The Union Army's plan
My plan was to seize the hill with half of my infantry and to menace the crossroads with my cavalry and the rest of my infantry. I hope to lure the Confederates into attacking the hill, where I hoped to destroy them piecemeal.

Turn 1

The positions on my tabletop. (The road has yet to be moved to its correct location.)
The equivalent positions on Gary's tabletop.
Turn 2

The positions on my tabletop.
The equivalent positions on Gary's tabletop.
Turn 3

The positions on my tabletop.
Turn 4

The positions on my tabletop.
The equivalent positions on Gary's tabletop.
Turn 5

The positions on my tabletop. (I tried an overhead shot of the battlefield to see if the results were better ... but they were not.
The equivalent positions on Gary's tabletop.
Turn 6

The positions on my tabletop.
Turn 7

The positions on my tabletop.
The end of the battle
At this point things seriously began to go wrong. The Union side's loss of SPs was taking it closer and closer to its exhaustion point, and it had already lost two infantry units (8th and 9th Iowa Infantry Regiments), its artillery (1st US Artillery), and a subordinate commander (Colonel Joshua), whereas the Confederates had only lost two infantry units (3rd Kentucky and 5th Alabama Infantry Regiments) and a subordinate commander (Colonel Sanders). I therefore conceded the battle, and we both adjudged it to be a marginal Confederate victory.

The positions on Gary's tabletop at the end of the battle.
The positions on Gary's tabletop at the end of the battle shown from a different point of view .

Gary and I had a short discussion after the battle about what we had learned from it.

First and foremost, it had been great fun, and we decided to fight another battle (possibly not an American Civil War one) in the near future.

Secondly, using a common grid with agreed coordinates made it easy to track the movement of the various units during the game. We also agree that trying to do that same with a hexagonal grid would not have been as easy, and would probably have led to confusion during the cut and thrust of a tabletop battle.

Thirdly, good and reliable communications is important before, during, and after the battle. Gary set up the scenario and sent a copy to me (along with his American Civil War variant of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules) in plenty of time for me to reproduce everything that I needed. We agreed to use Skype to talk to each other during the battle, and that he would throw the dice for both of us and adjudicate the outcomes. (We both kept a track of the SP losses, and at several points during the battle we checked each others tally.) Gary also took the initiative whenever the technology went wonky. (We had several instances of 'freezing' [i.e. the picture would freeze, and voice communication would be lost], which was usually followed by a loss of connection. When this occurred, Gary re-established the connection by Skyping me.)

Fourthly, the PORTABLE WARGAME rules lend themselves to fighting tabletop battles with a remote opponent. They are quick and simple to use, and because no measurement is involved, there were no disputes about things such as weapon ranges, how far units X or Y could move etc.

Finally, we discussed Gary's changes to the rules. The two main differences that Gary made to the original PORTABLE WARGAME rules were:
  • To introduce the 'Rebel Yell' factor into Close Combat. This came into play when three Confederate units in a contiguous line were attacking Union units. The 'Rebel Yell' gave the Confederates an additional +1 on their D6 die scores, and in my opinion, it added an interesting element to the battle.
  • To introduce some simple morale rules that came into play when a unit was about to initiate Close Combat with an enemy unit. Depending upon the quality and current SP of the unit initiating the Close Combat, it might be reluctant to actually engage in combat. Gary's morale rules determined whether or not it would. Now, I'm not a great lover of morale rules, but in this instance, I could see the point of including them. They did not drastically slow play down or affect the outcome, and only came into play a few times. Furthermore, when they did come into play, it was only already weakened units that were reluctant to engage, and this seemed to feel right in the context of the American Civil War.
(We also discussed a 'Foot Cavalry' rule that Gary had been considering adding to the rules. This would enable certain Confederate infantry units to move further in certain circumstances, rather like Native Infantry and Cavalry can in the original PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I agreed that this might be an interesting variant, just as long as players did not expect to field entire Confederate armies drawn from Stonewall Jackson's 'foot cavalry'!)

I really enjoyed taking part in this tabletop battle. The much larger grid (the 14 x 14 grid we used as opposed to my original 8 x 8 was 300% larger!) gave us more room to manoeuvre, and showed that the rules can be used to fight tabletop battles involving significant numbers of units.

It proved (yet again) that the basic core of the rules can be adapted to fight specific conflicts without loosing their simplicity, and that you do not need a table groaning under the weight of a thousand plus beautifully painted figures to have a fun and enjoyable time fighting a wargame. A good opponent is much more important ... and in Gary, I could not have wished for a better one!

* The 7Ps are : Proper Prior Preparation Prevents P*ss Poor Performance

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Bob Cordery and Gary Sheffield.

Thanks for a great write up, Bob, and for your kind comments. I thoroughly enjoyed the game. Just to add a few more points:
  1. A handful of Confederate units were musket- (as opposed to rifle-) armed. These were the ones with a star token – you might be able to see these on some of the photos. This was to reflect the general Union advantage in terms of production of technology, and also to try balance out the Confederate advantage of the Rebel Yell rule.
  2. In the event there wasn’t very much cavalry action. Perhaps this reflects that I gave cavalry a distinct disadvantage when attacking rifle-armed infantry, to try to reflect the realities of the ACW. In previous games, cavalry have been used to get forward and then dismount and open fire. Sometimes that has been quite effective.
  3. Normally my PW games are played on a green mat which I have drawn a grid. For this game I improvised a mat out of Christmas wrapping paper, which conveniently has a grid printed on the back. I did was enlarge the squares, which made life much easier, although it did make the terrain look as though the armies were fighting through a snowstorm.
  4. Normally I would have a lot more terrain features; at a minimum squares of brown and green material, partly for aesthetic reasons, but in some cases (such as ploughed fields) terrain would have an impact on movement and cover. For this game, to keep things simple I only went for the roads and the hill.
  5. The figures are a mixture of 25mm from 30 odd years ago and some modern Perry plastics. I haven’t done very much American Civil War gaming until quite recently. About 20 years ago somebody gave me a small collection of 25s, some very slender, others more chunky, and they sat in a box for a very long time. I dug them out perhaps five years ago when I was playing trying out the ‘One Hour Wargame’ rules. I didn’t really like these, although the scenarios are great (the one we played was from this book) but when I discovered PW two years ago my Civil War figures came into their own. I have supplemented them with Perrys, and eventually will replace the more manky 25mm toys altogether.