Sunday 31 October 2021

My return to regular monthly wargaming in central London … I hope!

Some years ago a group of wargamers began to meet in central London on a Sunday once every month. It was not a wargame club as such, just an ad hoc group of likeminded wargamers who know each other, and who enjoy playing a wide range of different (and sometimes experimental) types of wargames.

Over the years (and pre-COVID-19) these games have included:

  • Multi-centre wargames where players in London, Sheffield, and other locations across the UK remotely took part in the same wargame
  • Naval battles using Fletcher Pratt’s rules and 1:1200th models
  • Committee games
  • Operational-level World War I battles using Richard Brooks’ OP-14 rules
  • A variety of role-playing games

The whole thing is very civilised and starts with the participants meeting up in a nearby café at about 11.30am before going to the venue to set up the game or games. A break for lunch takes place at about 1.30pm, and everyone contributes to the meal in some way. The gaming usually winds up by about 4.00pm, and is followed by a trip to a nearby pub for a drink and a chat.

I used to be a regular attendee, but for some years before the recent pandemic started I was finding it difficult to get enough free time on a Sunday to take part, and once the COVID-19 restrictions began, the meetings of the group had to be suspended. Things are now beginning to return to something approaching normal, and as I am free today, I will be going up to central London to take part in some wargames. The sessions on offer include:

  • ‘The posse rides out’: A western gunfight
  • ‘Cyber Warfare’: A game that how cyber attacks are mounted, and how they can be thwarted
  • ‘Dallas: The role-playing game’
  • ‘In Warmer Waters’: A speech writing game about an incident in the South China Sea
  • ‘1549’: A skirmish-level game set during the Prayer Book Rebellion
  • ‘Show and Tell: 3D printing for wargamers’

I am taking my copies of MANOEUVRE and MANOEUVRE: DISTANT SHORES with me as one of my fellow attendees has a copy of the game and uses it regularly. I am hoping that he will be able to talk me through how the game works so that I have a better grasp of its mechanisms. We might even manage to fight a battle or two … and I am sure that some of the other attendees will enjoy trying the game out.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Thinking about Strength Points

One of the basic components of the PORTABLE WARGAME is the allocation of Strength Points (SPs) to different types of unit. In general, these are as follows:
  • Infantry unit: 4 SPs
  • Cavalry units: 3 SPs
  • Artillery units: 2 SPs
  • Commanders: 6 SPs

These are used to calculate an army's total Strength Point value, which in turn determines its Exhaustion Point.

As part of my work on designing an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War operational-level version of the PORTABLE WARGAME, I have recently been looking at a slightly different way of allocating SPs that will better reflect the different levels of training, equipment, and experience.

  • Before the battle begins, each unit is allocated a Strength Point (SP) value that is based on its training, equipment, and experience.
  • This is calculated by adding numerical values that represent the differing levels of training, equipment, and experience to the basic unit Strength Point value
    • Basic Strength Point value for all units: 1
  • The additional numerical values are:
    • Combat unit that is smaller than a regiment/brigade -1
    • Equipped with obsolete weaponry: -1
    • Poor quality General*: +0
    • Poor quality infantry and cavalry: +0
    • Average quality General*: +1
    • Conscript infantry and cavalry: +1
    • Transport: +1
    • Motorised/mechanised: +1
    • Good quality General*: +2
    • Equipped with light AFVs: +2
    • Regular infantry and cavalry: +2
    • Artillery: +2
    • Exceptional quality General*: +3
    • Equipped with medium AFVs: +3
    • Elite infantry: +3
    • Equipped with heavy AFVs: +4
    • Equipped with very heavy AFVs: +5
  • Note: The starred (*) additions to the basic Strength Point value only apply to command units.

  • A regular Russian infantry reconnaissance battalion will have a Strength Point value of 2 (its basic Strength Point value minus 1 for being smaller than a regiment/brigade plus 2 for being regular infantry [1 - 1 +2 = 2]).
  • A German motorised anti-tank battalion will have a Strength Point value of 3 (its basic Strength Point value minus 1 for being smaller than a regiment/brigade plus 2 for being artillery plus 1 for being motorised [1 - 1 +2 +1 = 3]).
  • A conscript Russian rifle regiment will have a Strength Point value of 2 (its basic Strength Point value plus 1 for being conscript infantry [1 + 1 = 2]).
  • An elite German motorised infantry regiment will have a Strength Point value of 5 (its basic Strength Point value plus 3 for being elite infantry plus 1 for being motorised [1 + 3 +1 = 5]).
  • A Russian T-34 tank brigade will have a Strength Point value of 4 (its basic Strength Point value plus 3 for being equipped with medium AFVs [1 + 3 = 4]).
  • A German Pzkpfw VI Tiger I tank battalion will have a Strength Point value of 4 (its basic Strength Point value minus 1 for being smaller than a regiment/brigade plus 4 for being equipped with heavy AFVs [1 - 1 + 4 = 4]).
  • A Hungarian artillery regiment equipped with obsolete artillery will have a Strength Point value of 2 (its basic Strength Point value plus 2 for being artillery and minus 1 for being equipped with obsolete weaponry [1 + 2 - 1 = 2]).

Friday 29 October 2021

Newly-acquired Spanish Civil War books

Yesterday’s post brought two new Spanish Civil War books to add to my collection, WARSHIPS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR and ARMAS Y UNIFORMES DE LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPAÑOLA. The former has just been published, but the latter has been around for a few years.

WARSHIPS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR has six chapters, a short bibliography, and an index, and is particularly well illustrated. The chapters etc., are:

  • Introduction
  • The pre-war Spanish Navy
  • The Navy during the uprising
  • Command and manpower
  • The naval war
  • Specifications
    • Battleships
    • Cruisers
    • Destroyers
    • Submarines
    • Gunboats
    • Smaller warships
  • Further reading
  • Index

This is a good primer on the naval aspects of the Spanish Civil War, but I feel that other than the excellent illustrations, it does not offer anything more than my own book, LA ULTIMA CRUZADA.

ARMAS Y UNIFORMES DE LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPAÑOLA is a much more substantial book and is chock full of coloured line drawings and photographs. The text is in Spanish, but I suspect that most English-speaking readers will find little difficulty understanding the captions that accompany the lavish illustrations.

The book is divided into several sections, each of which contains a number of chapters:

  • Introducción
  • Vision global de las armas y uniformes de la Guerra Civil Española
  • El Arma de Aviación
    • La aviación en la Guerra de España
  • La Marina
    • La Marina española en 1936
    • La evolución de la Flota nacional
    • La Marina republcana
  • El Ejértico
    • Carros de combate y vehiculos blindados en la Guerra Española
    • Las armas individuales y colectivas del combatiente
    • Las piezas de artilleria: cañones y orbuses

The book also contains an extensive bibliography.

(For the benefit of those of my regular blog readers who do not understand enough Spanish to fully understand the contents listed above, here is a rough English translation:

  • Introduction
  • Overall view of the weapons and uniforms of the Spanish Civil War
  • Air Forces
    • Air power during the war in Spain
  • The Navies
    • The Spanish Navy in 1936
    • The development of the Nationalist fleet
    • The Republican Navy
  • The Army
    • Tanks and armoured cars during the war in Spain
    • The individual and support weapons used
    • Artillery: Cannons and howitzers)

I wish that I had had access to this book when I was writing LA ULTIMA CRUZADA, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants detailed information about the weaponry used during the Spanish Civil War. The reader may well need to acquire a Spanish-English dictionary in order to understand some of the more detailed text, but the illustrations alone are worth the cost of the book.

WARSHIPS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR was written by Angus Konstam and illustrated by Paul Wright. It was published in 2021 by Osprey Publishing (ISBN 978 1 4728 4866 6).

ARMAS Y UNIFORMES DE LA GUERRA CIVIL ESPAÑOLA was written by Lucas Molina Franco and José María Manrique Garcia and published in 2009 by Susaeta Ediciones S.A. (ISBN 978 84 305 7036 2).

Thursday 28 October 2021

Nugget 339

Yet again, the printers did an excellent job and turned around the printing of THE NUGGET in a matter of a couple of days. I collected it from them yesterday and will get it out in the post to members tomorrow. In the meantime, members can read this issue online.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the third issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

The first meeting of my Mother Lodge since 2020

Today I will be attending the first meeting of my Mother Lodge (The Grove Park Lodge No.2732 in the Province of Hertfordshire) since February 2020.

The crest of the Masonic Province of Hertfordshire.

We have been very lucky in that none of the members has died during the COVID-19 pandemic, although at least one of them has caught and survived the virus. As a result, today's meeting will not be a sombre one, and we can concentrate on getting back into the swing of regular Masonic meetings.

The crest of The Grove Park Lodge No.2732.

Every Lodge is rather like a small club, and as in all clubs, friendships develop and grow over the years. We have tried to keep in contact with each other during the gap since early 2020 with regular Zoom meetings, but although this is a great way to stay in touch, it is a poor substitute for actually meeting each other in the flesh.

The main business of today's meeting is to hear a talk by one of our members about the Masonic Knights Templars (or The United Religious, Military and Masonic Orders of the Temple and of St John of Jerusalem, Palestine, Rhodes and Malta to give them their full title). He is currently the Commander of the London Provincial Prior’s Bodyguard and has visited various sites in the Middle East that are associated with the history of the original Knights Templar.

So today's meeting is going to be an interesting one, with friendships being renewed and a little Masonic learning thrown in for good measure. It will also be the first time I have attended my Mother Lodge since I was promoted to Grand Rank, and no doubt I will be expected to buy everyone a drink to celebrate!

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Manoeuvre and Manoeuvre: Distant Lands

I belong to several WhatsApp groups, one of which discusses wargaming. As a result, I was introduced to GMT Games’ MANOEUVRE and MANOEUVRE: DISTANT LANDS, both of which use an 8 x 8 square gridded playing board.

I was intrigued by what I read about the games, and after some searching (and with the assistance of another member of the WhatsApp group), I managed to buy a second-hand edition of MANOEUVRE via eBay and a new copy of MANOEUVRE: DISTANT LANDS from Amazon.

MANOEUVRE contains:

  • 8 x 8 sets of national army units (Austria, Britain, France, Prussia, Russia, Spain, Turkey, and the USA)
  • 12 geomorphic 4 x 4 square gridded map sections
  • 8 x 60 nationality cards
  • Two player aid cards
  • A rule book
  • 4 D6s, 4 D8s, and 4 D10s


  • 4 x 8 sets of national army units (China, India, Japan, and Sweden)
  • 8 geomorphic 4 x 4 square gridded map sections
  • 4 x 60 nationality cards
  • Two player aid cards
  • A supplementary rule book
  • 4 D6s, 4 D8s, and 4 D10s

They have yet to be delivered, but I am looking forward to giving the games a try out so that I can try to understand how another wargame designer has approached the idea of producing a simple, portable wargame.

The games were designed by Jeff Horger and originally published by GTM Games in 2008 and 2017 respectively.

Monday 25 October 2021

Nugget 339

The editor of THE NUGGET sent me the latest issue on Saturday, and I passed it to the printer this morning. With luck, it should be ready to be posted out to members by next weekend.

IMPORTANT: Please note that this is the third issue of THE NUGGET to be published for the 2021-2022 subscription year. If you have not yet re-subscribed, a reminder was sent to you some time ago. If you wish to re-subscribe using the PayPal option on the relevant page of the website, you can use the existing buttons as the subscription cost has not changed.

Sunday 24 October 2021

It started as a rewrite of Hexblitz … but it seemed to be evolving into something different

I recently wrote a blog post about the problems I had experienced when writing some workable logistic rules for my HEXBLITZ rules. As I cannot do any work on my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY KEPI ROUGE until I have primed the figures, I thought that I would occupy my spare time by starting a fundamental rewrite of HEXBLITZ … but when – after a couple of day’s work – I looked back at what I had written, I realised that the rules were gradually evolving into something quite different … an operational-level version of the PORTABLE WARGAME that – with a few minor adjustments – should be suitable for fighting wargames over quite an extensive time period.

I suspect that writing my recent PORTABLE BALKAN WARS WARGAME rules and reading Mark Cordone’s and Ion Dowman’s big PORTABLE WARGAME battle reports on Facebook may well have subconsciously influenced my thinking. What I have ended up with is a draft set of rules that I want to play about with over the next few weeks. Rest assured I’ll write more about my ‘new’ rules as they continue to evolve.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: Mark Cordone's Battle of Leipzig

I recently mentioned that Mark Cordone was intending to use a tweaked version of the PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME to refight the Battle of Leipzig, and over the last week he has done just that ... and shown that although the rules were originally designed for an 8 x 8 or an 8 x 9 grid, they can be used on a much larger playing surface.

I would love to be able to reproduce Mark's entire battle report, but it is so long and detailed (and very well illustrated with lots of photographs) that it is best read either on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page or on Mark's own Facebook page.

Here are some examples of the photographs of his battle:

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mark Cordone.

Friday 22 October 2021

My latest book sales

The way that and Kindle Direct Publishing report the sales of my books to me is in two rather different formats and collating the information can be a bit time-consuming ... which is why I only look at my latest sales figures every two or three months.

As of today, my sales figures look like this:

I have sorted them figures out so they represent my output in terms of those book that fall under the PORTABLE WARGAME label (7405), other wargames rules (1122), imagi-nation campaign books (324), Masonic books (137), and my one novel (23) ... about which, the least said, the better!

One book that is not included on the list is my CENTENARY HISTORY OF THE HERTFORDSHIRE MASTER'S LODGE NO.4090. This should have been published in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic its publication has been held back until early in 2022. I know that over 500 have been printed, and they are sitting in storage awaiting the delayed centenary meeting of the Lodge.

Thursday 21 October 2021

Making progress on Army Kepi Rouge: Waiting for good weather

I have been making slow but steady progress with my FUNNY LITTLE WAR/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY KEPI ROUGE, and have four mounted officers, eleven officers on foot, six gunners, four machine gun crewmen, eight cavalrymen, three field gun, and two machine guns waiting to be painted. Unfortunately, the current round of wet and windy weather means that I am unable to prime the figures as I must do it outside. What I need is a couple of hours of warm, sunny weather … and at present the forecast is not looking very encouraging.

Once I have primed the figures, I expect that it will take me three to four weeks to get them painted and varnished. I will then be able to base them, along with the figures I already have in store. I hope that this project will be completed by Christmas … and then I can look at using them and the other armies in my collection on my tabletop.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

What if … ? Queen Charlotte and Prince Consort Leopold?

It was not until I wrote yesterday’s blog post about Shrewsbury House that I realised that had she survived, Princess Charlotte of Wales might well have succeeded her father – George IV – to the throne when he died in 1830. If she had, we might well have thought of the last two-thirds of the nineteenth century as the Chalottean era rather than the Victorian one.

Princess Charlotte of Wales.

She had married Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in 1816, and he would no doubt have occupied a similar situation as his nephew Albert did after his marriage to Victoria, namely being the spouse of the Queen of England but not allowed to be king. (He did become King of the Belgians in July 1831 … but that is another story.)

Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Having read about him, I somehow doubt that he would have been happy with the situation, but bearing in mind the reception Albert got, it seems unlikely that parliament would have agreed to Leopold becoming joint monarch with his wife. Probably he would have become Prince Consort, but never King Leopold.

In these circumstances, might he have accepted the throne of Belgium when it was offered to him? If so, would his son have ended up being both King of Britain and Belgium? It’s an interesting possibility that might have seriously altered the history of Europe in the latter part of the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth.

He was certainly a believer in marrying off the members of his family to other royal families. In real life he remarried after Princess Charlotte's death (to Louise-Marie of Orléans, the daughter of Louis Philippe I of France) and his three surviving children were:

  • Leopold, Duke of Brabant (later King Leopold II of Belgium), who married Archduchess Marie Henriette of Austria in 1853.
  • Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders, who married Princess Marie of Hohenzollern in 1867.
  • Princess Charlotte of Belgium, who married Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian Josef Maria von Habsburg-Lothringen (later Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico) in 1857.

Had he had a similar number of children by 'Queen' Charlotte, there is little doubt that they would also have married into the other royal families of Europe, just as Queen Victoria's children did.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

I have been to ... Shrewsbury House, Shooters Hill, London

On Monday morning, Sue and I went to our local community centre, which is housed in Shrewsbury House, to listen to a talk about the history of the house.

The house is just over five minutes away on foot, and the present building was erected in 1923 in the grounds of a house of the same that was sited a little to the north-east of the present building.

The original Shrewsbury House was built in 1789 by Charles Talbot, 15th Earl of Shrewsbury and 15th Earl of Waterford (1753 to 1827). From 1812 onwards, he created the gardens at the recently renamed and remodelled Alton Towers, Staffordshire (it had previously called Alveton Lodge, a hunting lodge that had formed part of the recently demolished Alton Castle), which had been held by the family since the 15th century. Alton Towers was sold in 1924 to a group of local businessmen, who formed Alton Towers Limited, and who opened the house and grounds to the public.

The original Georgian Shrewsbury House.

Ten years after it was built, Shrewsbury House was leased by the Prince Regent (later George IV), for his daughter, Princess Charlotte. She often lived there during the summer months so that she could visit her mother – Queen Caroline – who lived in Blackheath. Princess Charlotte married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who later became King Leopold I, King of the Belgians, in 1816, and had she lived, she would have become Queen of England on the death of her father in 1830. Unfortunately, she died in 1817 as a result of complications after a stillbirth.

The house was later sold to a private owner, and over the years it was sold and resold several times. By 1896 the building was being used as a convalescent home for children, and in 1908 the London County Council bought nine acres of the house's grounds to be used as a park (Shrewsbury Park).

In 1916 the house and its remaining grounds were bought by Fred Halse, a Borough Councillor, Alderman, and later Mayor of Woolwich (1931 to 1932), a London County Councillor 1925 to 1934), and Deputy Lieutenant of Kent (1926 to 1934). Fred Halse was a builder, property developer, motor engine dealer, billiard hall owner, and racehorse owner, and owned the building company Halse and Sons Limited. Halse was also the honorary colonel of 20th (County of London) Battalion, The London Regiment (Blackheath and Woolwich) in the period up to, during, and immediately after the Second World War. He demolished the original building in 1923 and built the existing one in its place, and it became his home.

Fred Halse's 'new' Shrewsbury House.

However, in April 1930 his business was declared bankrupt, and in 1933 he sold the house and an acre of its grounds for £9,000 to Woolwich Council, who intended to use it as the site for a local museum and a library. The rest of the grounds were sold to another builder - Laings - who then erected an estate of houses on the land.

The plans for a museum and library came to nothing, and the house remained empty until the international situation deteriorated, and it became a Civil Defence Control Centre. It fulfilled this role right through the Second World War and into the Cold War, and was only decommissioned as such in 1968, at which point it became a local community centre.

The entrance to Shrewsbury House today.

Shrewsbury House has been listed as Grade II for the following reasons:

  • Architectural interest: A handsome and substantial early twentieth-century country house with varied and well-articulated external elevations and interiors in a Jacobean, early eighteenth-century, and Adam style.
  • Materials: Constructed of good quality brick and stone.
  • Craftsmanship: Fine plastered ceilings, good quality joinery including staircase, panelling, doors, and wooden or marble fireplaces. Two bathrooms retain decorative ceramic tiles.
  • Intactness: An unaltered exterior and the interior is intact except for one plastered ceiling.
  • Subsidiary features: The attached pergola, terrace walling, gazebo, and boundary walls with cast iron gates and railings survive intact and contribute to the building’s interest.
  • Historical interest.

Monday 18 October 2021

Other people's Portable Wargame reports: A plethora of new stuff!

My sister's recent death and her funeral have rather preoccupied me of late, and it was only yesterday that I realised quite how many players had written reports on the PORTABLE WARGAME Facebook page. These include Mark Cordone's Battle of Leipzig project, for which he has created a special playing board ...

... as well as painted several armies made up from replacement figures for the game of RISK.

At the same time, Slorm Chaplain has been using a slightly tweaked version of Alan Saunders' ECW rules from the PORTABLE PIKE & SHOT WARGAME book to fight a Horse & Musket battle ...

... and Auston Jeff Butler has been fighting an Alien Bugs vs Neo-Soviet Red Army Brigade battle in the irradiated wastes of Tibet!

Finally, Barry Carter has fought a Romans vs. Britons battle ...

... and a battle from the Russian Civil War using the rules.

The sheer range of battles being fought using versions of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules is staggering, and I am extremely pleased to see people getting so much fun from their wargaming!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Mark Cordone, Slorm Chaplain, Auston Jeff Butler, and Barry Carter.

Sunday 17 October 2021

The Wargame Developments Virtual Autumn Gathering

Yesterday saw the first of what we hope will be a regular occurrence ... a virtual gathering of some of the members of Wargame Developments.

The idea behind this 'gathering' arose as a result of the successful VCOWs (Virtual Conferences of Wargames) that were held during lockdown, and after quite a lot of planning, the following programme of online events was held yesterday:

  • 14.00 to 14.15: Introduction
  • 14.15 to 15.45: The Second Battle of St Albans: A virtual battlefield tour
  • 15.45 to 16.15: Break
  • 16.15 to 16.45: The WD Handbook
  • 16.45 to 17.00: Break
  • 17.00 to 18.30: Wargaming the 1980s: A discussion forum
  • 18.30 to 20.00: Break
  • 20.00 to 21.00: Paddy Griffith's 1974 Operation Sealion game at RMA Sandhurst: A presentation
  • 21.00 to 21:15: Break
  • 21.15 to 22.30: From Roman times until Protestantism: How British military life and military history have been shaped by the Catholic faith, including a minor excursion on the US Marines against the slavers in Tripoli

All the times shown are UK time.

As can be seen, this was a somewhat varied programme of events, and it attracted a sizeable number of attendees from the ranks of WD's membership. It started at 14.00 (2.00pm) so that members in the US were able to take part without having to get up in the middle of the night, and there were plenty of short breaks (and one longer one) to ensure that attendees could get refreshments and attend to their personal comforts.

The virtual battlefield tour was conducted by one of the group's members who is a resident of St Albans as well as being a member of the Battlefields Trust and co-author of a book about the battle. He made good use of maps and photographs to show the course of the battle and the terrain as it is today.

The WD Handbook discussion looked at the outline, structure, and contents of what will be the third edition of the Handbook. It is hoped that this edition will be published early in 2022 and will serve as a guide and reference book to hobby and professional wargamers.

Wargaming the 1980's looked at the sort of games that were already available, many of which were in the 'Cold War gone hot' genre, as well as other conflicts of that era that might be worth looking at some forty years on.

The talk about Paddy Griffith's 1974 Operation Sealion wargame looked at how the game was structured and the German team's seeming inability to exploit the fact that hindsight should have prevented them from making some of the mistakes that they did. For example, not realising that radar ground stations could be quickly repaired as could grass runways, and that large-scale parachute drops over a wide area lead to the dispersal of elite troops at a time when concentration of force was a priority.

I cannot personally comment about the last session as fatigue and problems with my stoma meant that had to miss it, but from what I can gather, it was yet another classic mixture of history and singing!

All in all, it was a great success, and I hope that it will become a regular feature of WD's contribution to wargaming.

Saturday 16 October 2021

I have been to … Tiverton … for a funeral

As regular blog readers will know, over that past year my wife and have been stay in Tiverton several times. We rent an ‘apartment’ (it is actually a small house called ‘Castle Lodge’ which is situated at the entrance to Tiverton Castle) and spend a few days visiting friends who live in the West Country and exploring the local area. We had intended to pay Tiverton another visit before Christmas, but events brought our plans forward.

My sister, who was twelve years younger than me, had lived in Wiveliscombe (near Taunton, Somerset) with her family for many years. She had suffered from Crohn’s disease since the early 1980s, and at that time the treatment for severe cases involved the removal of parts of the colon. This is what happened in her case, and since then she had never enjoyed good health. She had numerous problems with blockages and lesions, and every few months she would have to spend time in hospital when the effects of her surgery and the disease flared up. Over recent years, these flare ups seemed to be more frequent and more intense and required longer and longer stays in hospital. When she was not in hospital, her ability to have anything approaching a normal life was almost impossible, and she had to rely on her family and carers to do most things for her. Although she could just about walk a short distance in order to get around inside her home, she required a wheelchair to get about outside.

A few months ago she began to experience bleeding from her stoma as well as a major flare up, and this resulted in a much longer stay in hospital than on previous occasions. As the COVID-19 pandemic was still having a major effect on the National Health Service, once she was stabilised, she was transferred from the local hospital in Taunton to one in Bridgwater. This made it difficult for her family to visit her and did no not aid her recovery. She eventually returned home but was even more dependent upon others for even the most mundane of daily tasks. Plans were being put into place to move her from her existing home into a specially-designed one where she would be able to cope better when she seemed to develop peritonitis.

My sister was rushed into hospital, and during the early hours of the morning they operated on her … only to discover that the problem was not peritonitis, but a number of ulcers and abysses that needed to be removed, along with most of what remained of her colon. She was left in a seriously weakened state, and when the newly-joined sections of her colon started to bleed, she and her family refused the option of further surgery. The hospital made her as comfortable as possible, and she died on 26th September ... on what would have been our mother's 94th birthday.

My sister’s funeral was held on Wednesday 15th October in Taunton, and Sue and I decided that rather than drive down from London on the previous day, stay overnight in a hotel, and then drive back home after the funeral, we would see if we could stay in ‘Castle Lodge’ for a few days so that we did not have to rush our visit to the West Country. 'Castle Lodge' was available, and on Monday 13th we drove from South East London to Tiverton using the M25, M4, and M5.

Tbe journey took five hours, including a thirty-minute comfort and lunch break at a service area between Swindon and Bristol ... and was much less fraught than our previous journeys using the M25, M3, and A303!

On the Tuesday of our visit, Sue and I spent part of the day relaxing from our previous day's journey, part of it at the Clark's Retail Village in Street, Somerset, and part talking to my niece, who has been doing the bulk of all the work to arrange her mother's funeral.

My sister's funeral took place at 2.00pm at Taunton Deane Crematorium in Taunton, followed by a Wake at the Bear Inn, Wiveliscombe, to which the family and my sister's friends were invited. Besides my brother and his family, I was able to meet several other members of my extended family, some of whom I had not seen for a very long time.

On Thursday Sue and I decided to return to Taunton to have a look around. The journey took just under forty minutes, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours exploring the centre of Somerset's county town. During the early evening we were visited by the elder of my sister's two sons, and we spent a pleasant couple of hours chatting with him about the funeral, sorting out my sister's estate, and his plans for the future.

On Friday morning we left Tiverton for home at approximately 10.45am and used the M5 and M4 to reach the M25 junction to the west of London. Due to several major holdups on the M25, we did not travel around it towards the Dartford Crossing. Instead, we continued towards the centre of London on the M4 and then followed a route that took us through Earls Court and along part of the Chelsea Embankment. We crossed the River Thames at Battersea, and made our way towards the South Circular Road, which we joined at Clapham Common. After that our journey was punctuated by a series of minor holdups at major junctions, but we were still home by a little after 3.45pm.

Friday 15 October 2021

Army Kepi Rouge gets some supply units

Over the past week I have managed to varnish and base some supply units for my FUNNY LITTLE WARS/PORTABLE WARGAME ARMY KEPI ROUGE.

I have also varnished enough infantry to form six more units as well as three half-battalions of engineers. As yet they have no officers ... but I have ordered what I hope will be some suitable figures, and once they are painted, I can base up the infantry and engineers. I can then source and paint the artillery, cavalry, and commanders that I need to complete this army.

Thursday 14 October 2021

‘If I was going there, I wouldn’t have started from here!’: A cautionary tale of wargame design

'Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.'

This (or something similar to it) is quite frequently quoted, and there is more than an element of truth in it. As Nathan Bedford Forrest is often (incorrectly*) supposed to have said, 'git thar fustest with the mostest', which requires good logistics, and can be vital to winning a battle.

As the majority of hobby wargamers are ‘amateurs’, logistics tend not to be covered in most sets of wargame rules. My HEXBLITZ rules did include some simple logistic rules, but to be frank, they were probably too simple and certainly incomplete.

I recently decided to revisit and revise HEXBLITZ and writing a proper set of logistics rules was the first task I set myself. After a lot of thinking (and two days of writing later) I had a comprehensive set of logistics rules to include in the revised book ... but on re-reading them, I realised that I had designed a monster that only the most ardent wargaming accountant would have found even mildly interesting.

I had done something that all wargame designers need to be very wary of, and that is trying to write a set of rules or devise a mechanism that is so all-embracing that it ends up being too complex and/or too burdensome on the players and was therefore likely not to have been used.

On reflection, this particular 'horse' fell at the fence of 'Cordery’s Rule of Wargame Design', which states that 'If players consistently ignore a rule because it does not make sense or hinders the flow of the wargame, then the rule should be discarded. If players do not notice that it has gone, then it probably should not have been there in the first place.'

I have therefore gone back to the drawing board, slightly chastened and determined not to make this mistake again ... I hope!

* Bruce Catton, the well-known American Civil War historian, wrote in his book THE CIVIL WAR in 1971 that 'Do not, under any circumstances whatever, quote Forrest as saying 'fustest' and 'mostest'. He did not say it that way, and nobody who knows anything about him imagines that he did.'

Tuesday 12 October 2021

The Paulista War: Volume 2: The Last Civil War in Brazil, 1932

I am always on the lookout for small wars that can be a source of inspiration for wargames, and when a copy of THE PAULISTA WAR: VOLUME 2: THE LAST CIVIL WAR IN BRAZIL, 1932 arrived in the post from Chris Jarvis, I realised that this was such a war. (The war got its name from the fact that the main support for the uprising came from the population of the Brazilian state of São Paulo.)

The war was a relatively short one (it lasted from 9th July to 2nd October 1932) and was mainly fought in the Brazilian state of São Paulo and some parts of Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro, and Rio Grande do Sul. Approximately 40,000 soldiers, police, and volunteers fought for the Constitutionalists (or Paulists) against 100,000 army, navy, and police personnel under the command of senior officers who were loyal to the President of Brazil, Getúlio Vargas. It is interesting to note that both sides deployed small numbers of aircraft and armoured vehicles.

As one might expect, the forces loyal to the President prevailed, bringing to an end a period of political instability in Brazil that had seen a series of civil wars fought between 1889 and 1932.

I must admit, that having seen the uniforms worn by both sides (mainly a mixture of Colonial and First World War style uniforms with the odd Iberian touch), it struck me that the forces involved in the Paulista War could form the basis of a couple of small PORTABLE WARGAME armies, and that if I wasn't currently working on other projects, I would be tempted to develop this idea further.

Constitutionalist/Paulista troops. Note the varied headgear, which included examples of the French Adrian helmet, the British Brodie helmet, cloth versions of the Colonial-style sun helmet, and fore-and-aft forage caps.
Loyalist/Government troops. Note the variety of headgear worn by these troops, who seem to be armed with Mauser 7mm carbines and rifles as well as Czech-built ZB vz. 26 Light Machine Guns. 1,080 the ZB vz. 26 were ordered in 1930 for the Polícia Militar de Minas Gerais (Military Police of the State of Minas Gerais) in 7mm Mauser calibre.
Loyalist/Government FT-17 tanks in action.
An example of an improvised armoured tractor used during the Paulista War.

THE PAULISTA WAR: VOLUME 2: THE LAST CIVIL WAR IN BRAZIL, 1932 was written by Javier Garcia de Gabiola and published in 2021 by Helion & Company [ISBN 978 1 913336 37 0).

Sunday 10 October 2021

The Balkan League: The Kindle edition is now on sale!

Having had several requests for a Kindle edition of THE BALKAN LEAGUE book, I bit the bullet, and it is now available on Amazon for £4.99.

As predicted, the maps are rather too small, and the graphics on the Order Counters in Appendix III have disappeared. The later are, however, copied from the PORTABLE NAPOLEONIC WARGAME book and should not be too difficult to reproduce from the following image:

Click on the image to enlarge it.

I am still trying to find a way to make the text available as a PDF, but this is proving to be more difficult than I expected.

Saturday 9 October 2021

Other people's Portable Wargame battle reports: A Portable Fantasy Wargame in the garden

Tom Baynham recently sent me some photographs he took of a fantasy wargame he fought in his garden using his slightly tweaked version of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

The figures are 10mm Orcs and Elves from Irregular Miniatures ... and mighty fine they look!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © Tom Baynham.

Friday 8 October 2021

The Balkan League ... is now on sale!

Last nigh I was informed that both the hardback and paperback versions of my latest book are now available to buy online from Amazon.

THE BALKAN LEAGUE is both a Matrix Game Campaign that can be played by a group of people as a standalone game and as a means of generating tabletop battles that can be fought using THE PORTABLE BALKAN LEAGUE WARGAME rules.

This book is divided into three parts, a set of Appendices, and a Bibliography.

  • Introduction
  • Part One: The Matrix Game Concept
    • The origins of the Matrix Game concept
    • What do you need to run a Matrix Game?
    • How to conduct a Matrix Game
  • Part Two: The Balkan League Matrix Game
    • Historical introduction
    • Maps of the Balkans in 1912 and 1913
    • Player Briefings
    • General rules
    • Specific rules
    • Resolving battles
  • Part Three: The Portable Balkan League Wargame Rules
    • Introduction
    • Land warfare rules
    • Sea warfare rules
  • Appendices
    • I: Map sections for the First and Second Balkan Wars
    • II: The Balkan League Matrix Game Playsheet/Prompt Board
    • III: Order Counters
    • IV: Orders of Battle and notes about the armies
  • Bibliography
    • Books
    • Magazine articles

The paperback is on sale for £9.99 and the hardback is on sale for £14.99.