Sunday, 17 February 2019

A Brief Encounter - A Portable Wargame AAR

Earlier in the week I set up another small Portable Wargame, nominally set in the mid 19thC. I chose a fairly simple scenario, with both sides advancing towards the objective of a small town on a main road. For this game I wanted to try the card activation system as set out in the book, plus some random force selection, using the one created by Neil Thomas in his excellent 'Wargaming 19thC Europe 1815 - 1878'. The forces created were as follows:

6 x Line Infantry (1 x Elite, 1 x Poor)
1 x Skirmishers (Rifles)
1 x Cavalry
2 x Rifled Field Artillery

4 x Infantry (1 x Elite)
1 x Skirmishers (Rifles)
3 x Cavalry (1 x Poor)
2 x Rifled Field Artillery

I allowed each force to have one Elite unit and one Poor unit, purely decided by my whims and nothing else.

With everything set up, I managed to find some time for the game whilst SWMBO was out for an hour or so in the evening. The following will hopefully give an idea of how the battle unfolded.

The Red force decided to concentrate its artillery either side of the road, with a stronger right wing, with the weaker left wing hoping that the woods would help protect their flank. The Blue force put their artillery more towards their flanks, with a cavalry heavy right wing, with which they hoped they might be able to turn the Red's flank.

The Ref force got an early run on the cards, managing to push forward in almost a straight line. The Blue force had to make do with some patchy turns, but managed to get their Elite infantry into the town, which they hoped would be able to hold out whilst the rest of their force moved up.

The Red force managed to get some fire superiority going, which led to the loss of a Blue force artillery unit as well as pushing the Elite Blue infantry unit back towards the rear of the town. The Blue force was having more luck with their cavalry, slowing pushing the Red force's left wing back, but both sides die rolls in close combat were pretty poor.

The Blue force was struggling under the combined weight of artillery fire, which caused their centre to move towards their left wing to seek some shelter behind the town. Both Blue cavalry units kept up the pressure on the flanks, but their hits were pushing them towards their Exhaustion Point.

In the end the Blue force were unable to inflict enough hits on the Red force before they reached their Exhaustion Point, leaving them unable to prosecute their attacks. Also they had several units close to breaking, so wisely decided to make an orderly retreat from the table, which Red allowed them to do as they consolidated their postion.

Well that was another highly enjoyable game, which gave plenty of interesting decisions to make as the game progressed. For the most part both sides were tied on taking hits, but once Red got the advantage on Blue, they didn't let go. So it could have gone either way which was nice.

Post Game Thoughts
My usual post match musings in no particular order:
  • I really enjoyed using Neil Thomas' random force table, which gave a nice subtle difference to both sids forces. I will certainly use this again and will probably create my own variant, with based one upon Prussia, the other Austria.
  • I think 10 units a side is about as much as my board size can handle, without it becoming over crowded and static. 8 units might be ideal as it allows for a little bit more manoeuvre, but might result in a too quick game. Some more play testing required on this one. 
  • In all of the game so far, close combat has taken ages to resolve, mainly due to some really poor die rolling by both sides. I might tweak things a bit to speed things up, but will hang fire until I've got more games under my belt. 
  • Skirmishers will be a requirement for future games and these will be based upon the rifle armed infantry as per the rulebook. I think I will penalise them slightly in close combat and make them ignore terrain penalties, other than rivers etc. Again testing required on this.
  • Artillery needs some rules for canister. I think the Napoleonic book has some rules on this so will check. If not, some bonuses to die rolls or results at say 2 squares range to reflect the effects of a whiff of grapeshot. 
  • The game lasted about 45 minutes tops, which was perfect for this evenings game. It didn't feel too quick or too simple, but would be nice to play against an opponent to see what, if any, difference this would make. 
  • The card activation sequence I really liked as it gave a nice feeling of command and control issues for both sides to deal with. I will certainly be using this sytem in future games. 
  • I have the Napleonic version of these rules and hope to have a more detailed read through of them soon, to see if there is anything I can use with the original rules. I have some Commission Figures mdf Napoleonic figures painted up, plus some other somewhere amongst my lead mountain. I need to dig these out to see if there is enough to make 2 forces, which if I'm lucky there might be. 
  • Previously I wondered whether to go down the square or hex route. After some games I am firmly  in the square camp. The game play is simple to work out and I prefer the visual look.
So my next task it to put together two painted forces plus some bespoke terrain to really get things going. Given the small nature of the forces required, this shouldn't be too much of a challenge, even for a slow painter like myself. Famous last words of course!
Other things on the gaming front include setting up a small BKCII  campaign to be played with Adam as and when time allows for us to meet up. Normandy is easy to do, but I'm drawn to sicily again, purely so I can use my Italians and some of their hopelessly outdated kit. A glutton for punishment springs to mind.
I have also ordered a copy of Bob's Gridded Naval Rules which should arrive any day now. I've never really been taken with naval wargames, but these look like they will float my boat, if you'll excuse the pun. They can also be combined with the Portable Wargames rules for some combined actions, which always gives a nice look and challenge. There is also the temptation of scratch building your own fleet, which fits in rather nicely with my Imagi-Nations ideas of the protaganists having a shared border along a lake, similar in size to those that you see in Austria. 
Lots to do so until next time.


  1. The Neil Thomas book seem a good companion for both force selection and interesting scenario situations. Though in his system, if elites get into a building feature, trying to winkle them out is very difficult.

    I saw the MDF Commision Figures at a wargame show last year and was very impressed at their look and vesitility.

    1. The Neil Thomas book is a great resource as you say, as is his 'One Hour Wargames.' Luckily in these rules units in towns aren't too hard to dislodge. There is plenty of scope for tweaks if you feel they are too easy to shift etc.

      The Commission Figures are great and are more 8 rather than 6mm. I think they're perfect for this sort of game and an old school look. I've dug out my figures and bar some skirmishers, have enough to make 2 Napoleonic forces. However I'm trying to concentrate on my mid-19thC ones first...

    2. I spoke with the Commission Figures owner at the show and of course was able to look through his display and the results were very eye catching, on some bases, he had used bases that looked to be somewhere in the region of 2 - 3" square, very reminiscent of Volley and Bayonet units.

  2. Hi Steve J,

    Loved it, loved it, loved it! The blocks look really good and marrying it to the Neil Thomas system is a great idea. I did similar with his 19th century book for force generation and scenario ideas.

    I am looking forward to seeing more of this in action in due course.

    All the best,


  3. Really glad you enjoyed it David:). There are lots of good ideas spread across many rulesets, it's remembering to use them that's the problem.

  4. I like the look of the blocks.

    Not the same as figures, but perhaps simpler for a really quick game - esp. setup and storage.

    1. I'm glad you liked the blocks as they have a certain appeal. Certainly great for quick games across a broad historical time frame.