Sunday, 28 February 2021

Some thoughts about a late nineteenth century version of The Portable Colonial Wargame

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about how I might modify the rules in THE PORTABLE COLONIAL WARGAME so that they can be used with the Army Lists from FUNNY LITTLE WARS.

One aspect that immediately struck me was the need to introduce more Unit Quality classifications so that they reflected the great variance in the quality of units that players were likely to field. At the moment I am experimenting with five classifications, these being:

  • Elite: The pick of the regular army. These are guard units who are very well trained and equipped with the most up-to-date weapons available.
  • Regular: Full-time, regular soldiers who are well trained and equipment with the most up-to-date weapons available.
  • Trained/Reserve: Short-term recruits in conscripted armies or part-time volunteer soldiers or former regular soldiers who are trained and equipped with reasonably up-to-date weaponry.
  • Poorly Trained/Militia: Recently conscripted soldiers or local volunteer soldiers who have minimal training and who weapons are probably obsolete.
  • Untrained: Untrained soldiers who have been forcibly recruited and given little or no training. Their weaponry will probably be obsolete.

The introduction of these changes requires a new version of the chart in the RESOLVING HITS ON UNITS section of the rules.

When I first began thinking about using the FUNNY LITTLE WARS army lists with my PORTABLE WARGAME RULES, I used the example of the British Army (called Army Red in the first book). By adding the new Unit Quality classifications (and making a minor adjustment or two in order to include Reserve units and to remove the Brigade Headquarters), the army list now looks like this:

  • Divisional Staff Group (Commander: 6 SPs)
  • An Infantry Brigade comprising:
    • A Guard Infantry Battalion (Elite, 4 SPs)
    • A Regular Infantry Battalion (Regular, 4 SPs)
    • A Regular Light Infantry Battalion (Regular, 4 SPs)
    • A Reserve Infantry Battalion (Reserve, 4 SPs)
  • A Cavalry Brigade comprising:
    • A Heavy/Guard Cavalry Regiment (Elite, 3 SPs)
    • A Yeomanry Cavalry Regiment (Reserve, 3 SPs)
    • Horse Artillery (Elite, 2 SPs)
  • Engineers (Regular, 4 SPs)
  • Field Artillery OR Garrison Artillery (Regular, 2 SPs)
  • Army Service Corps (Regular, 1 SP)
  • Total Strength Points = 37 SPs
  • Exhaustion Point reached after the loss of 13 SPs

This would be a compact but high-quality army (ten units, three of which are Elite) to field on a tabletop battlefield, and for some of the other armies listed in the FUNNY LITTLE WARS book, the ORBATs, Unit Quality classifications allocated, and SPs will look quite different.


  1. Excellent synthesis of the spirit of FLW with your PW rules. I really feel you are onto something. I am tempted to build a couple of armies, perhaps with minifigs or other old school figures.

    1. Tradgardmastare,

      The more I re-read FLW, the more I can see elements melding into the PW rules without too much difficulty ... and actually improving them.

      Over the next couple of days I hope to organise some of my 15mm figures into an example of what FLW/PW ARMY RED might look like.

      All the best,


  2. Bob, if you want 5 levels of classification, can I offer you:

    Elite (or Experienced)


    1. Trebian,

      Thanks for the suggestions. They are certainly as valid as my current classifications ... and probably truer!

      All the best,


  3. Bob, I think adding more unit quality distinctions to any of the PW variants is an excellent idea to give the different units more individual character - which is surely a large part of creating 'period atmosphere'. At the risk of adding a little more complexity - something we both want to minimise - one could add or subtract a small modifier to the unit's die roll to inflict a hit in firing or close combat or both. So a truly Elite or Veteran unit could add to its hit dice for both fire and close combat, whereas a less experienced or trained unit recruited from hunters or frontiersmen might enjoy a similar fire bonus, but a deduction in close combat. Highland clansmen of the '45 might have poor shooting (to reflect their habit of firing and then casting their firearms aside) but a close combat bonus for their skill with broadsword and lochaber axe. A purely ceremonial 'guard' unit might suffer deductions in both, despite its smart uniforms and parade-ground drill.
    Just a thought. Best wishes, Arthur

    1. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

      Your suggestions a very similar to the ideas I have been playing around with regarding units that might has special characteristics. For example, Gurkhas would rate as Regular and fire normally, but would have a bonus for Close Combat. Afghan tribesmen might rate as Militia but get bonuses for firing and Close Combat to reflect their marksmanship and fanaticism.

      By doing it this way (and it is not that far removed from what I did in the PORTABLE ANCIENT WARGAME rules), the rules can be tailored to reflect the particular strength and weaknesses of units without over complicating the end result.

      All the best,



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