Portable Wargame Ancients – house rules

I had a very enjoyable Portable Wargame Ancients with Martin Smith by Skype.   There were some internet connectivity issues but not enough to stop us running another session in the future!

Following the game, we had a few ideas on some house rules as follows:

  • Only allow pulling out of combat if you are faster than the enemy, and only if directly away from enemy front face, and not hard flanked. 
  • Only apply having to turn to face rule if in enemy’s front’ square.  
  • Massed bows (not skirmish bow fire) add +1 to die roll, take away the general -1 for  shooting if moving but apply the -1 for moving to massed bows only.
  • For hits on elephants, use the normal hit resolution table but apply the flee/retreat rule only when the last SP is lost.
  • Do not to apply the “-1 if attacked by elephants” modifier to light infantry. 
  • Light troops may retreat one extra grid after a ‘retreat’ outcome from shooting or Close Combat to pass through friends behind – but only if facing same direction, and not into enemy front square or impassable terrain. 
  • Evade option for light troops (LI / LC).  When testing for result of a hit, add +1 to dice for light troops, so they’re more likely to retreat than take damage. Also, MUST choose retreat whenever able, rather than dig their heels in and take an SP loss.  
  • LI bows /slings may not be activated to engage in close combat.
  • Troops MAY shoot (rather than CC) if enemy is in adjacent square to front. 
  • When a retreat reaction is received, first must turn to face the shooter or CC opponent before the retreat.  Retreat reaction when flanked/reared – unable to retreat, lose an SP, but still turn to face the cause of SP loss. 
  • End of Game – pinched from Alan Saunders’ ECW set – ‘Break Point’ is 1/2 army’s SPs, rounded up (or 1/3 rounded up). When, at end of turn, an army has suffered enough SP loss to reach that, dice D6. Adjust by +1 if objective attained, -1 if Commander lost.  Score of 3 or less, army morale fails, and game is lost. If survive the test, retest at end of each turn thereafter.  

Here are a couple of photos from our game – Alexander v Porus.   The figures are 20mm on 80mm frontage bases with a grid of 80mm.  The uncluttered plain table made it easier to play by Skype.

PWA ancients blog2PWancients blog1

Trying out Bob Cordery’s Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules for ACW

I thought I would try out the Portable Napoleonic Wargame rules by Bob Cordery for the American Civil War.

The scenario was loosely based on the early morning assault at Antietam by Hooker’s Union First Corps on Confederate General Jackson’s Corps, which formed the left wing of Lee’s army.  This was the part of the battle that featured the very bloody fight over Miller’s cornfield.

Although this was a Corps level battle, I used the Division level rules from Bob’s book – the book having rules for Brigade, Division and Corps level games.

Each side had 10 brigades spread across three Divisions.  On the Union side, there were the Divisons of Doubleday, Meade and Ricketts.   On the Confederate side, the Division Commanders were Lawton, Hood and Jones.

All Brigades were average apart from one elite Brigade (5SP) in each army – Hood’s Texans and the Iron Brigade in Doubleday’s Division.

As far as the rule changes were concerned,  the key ones were:

  • The activation system involved having X counters, each with a different number from 1-X with X being 1/2 of all the units on the table.   Each side could place a number of counters face down, equal to half the number of units it had on the table at the time.   The counters were then turned over and that was the order in which the units were activated.   Units could save their activation for firing later in the turn if they wished.
  • There was no separate artillery phase – they were activated like other units.
  • Rifled artillery had a longer range than smoothbore but was less effective at closer range to take into account smoothbore grapeshot.
  • I scaled the grids at about 300 yards – about the same frontage as a typical 900 strong brigade.  Each brigade had two bases and I allowed two brigades in a grid.
  • I have read that troops were rather lessing willing to charge or stand a charge in the ACW.   To take this into account and introduce a bit of the to and fro action,  units had to throw less than or equal to their SP (strength point) to charge in and likewise to stand if the enemy was charging them with a bonus if a commander was present.  If they failed to charge or stand, they could fire instead but at -1.  Failing to stand meant the unit had to retreat.
  • I limited musket and rifle fire to one grid.    With all the smoke around, I am not sure that rifled muskets were shooting effectively at much more than a couple of hundred yards anyway!
  • If attacking, brigades got a +1 if there was a brigade lined up behind them and in the same grid.  This is meant to represent wave attaks but I am not sure about this!
  • Although not relevant to this scenario,  I treat cavalry as more or less mounted infantry and took out any references to forming squares and all that milarkey!  (Although I did recently discover that,  apparently,  squares were very occasionally formed, but this, like cavalry charges, was very rare).

All in all, the changes seemed to work well in a brief solo game, with the bloody attacks over the cornfield being well replicated.

Here are a few pictures of the game:

Antietam deplyment all units

Here is the initial deployment from behind the Confederate lines and looking North.  Dunker Church is in the foregrouns and the green felt is the cornfield.

Dunker church with Hood in reserve
General Jackson by Dunker Church with Hood’s reserves close by.   The 6mm scale church is a free paper download from http://docshare01.docshare.tips/files/23969/239695307.pdf
Initial deployment Antietam
This shows the activation counters.  The small dice are the current Strength Points and the colours of the dice differentiate the Divisions.
Cornfield battle
The fight over the cornfield with Confederates being driven back.
Hood's reserves move up.
Hood’s Texans move up to stabilise Jackson’s line.

A fun little experiment that I will try again.   The Portable system can cope well with being played around with and,  I believe, can also be good for historical scenarios.

Simple ACW ironclad rules

With my new interest in ACW naval wargaming, I thought I would try out a few different rules with a scenario based (very loosely!) on the CSS Arkansas running down the Yazoo River to get to Vicksburg on the Mississippi River.  This is where she was met by the USS Carondelot, Tyler and Queen of the West – the latter being a ram.

This post will describe a very quick game based heavily on the ACW rules published in Bob Cordery’s excellent book:

Gridded Naval Wargames

I really like the use of grids as it makes movement and ranges for firing so much quicker and easier.  I used a simple square grid but broke the cardinal rule and allowed diagonal movement with no penalty – ie you could move just as far as orthogonally.    Clutching at straws, I guess I could justify this on the grounds that there are strange and unpredictable eddies and currents in the Mississippi!

The main changes I made to the rules were for firing.   Here I was making a couple of assumptions:

  1.  Although some of the guns in use had a very long range (eg 11 inch Dahlgrens), in practice, most shooting was done at much shorter ranges.   Ths means I could argue that both light, medium and heavy guns could shoot at the same ranges but with different results.
  2.  I also wanted to cater for the very different ship profiles that existed.    It was not unusual for a vessel to have as much, or even more, firepower in the bow or stern arcs as they did firing to port or starboard.

To develop the profiles, I used David Manley’s supplement to his Dahlgren and Colombiad rules,  By Sea and By River:

by sea and by river

This book has information on most of the ships and gunboats in the ACW.   As an aside, it also has a very nice solo campaign system, which I would like to try sometime.

Inspired by this, I gave the ships involved in the scenario the following characteristics:

CSS Arkansas – 12 Flotation points, Critical stage at 4 points, Ram, 2 movement points and medium guns in bow and stern, heavy to port and starboard.

USS Carondolet – 12 Flotation, 4 critical, 2 Movement and heavy guns bow and stern and medium port and starboard.

USS Tyler – 6 Flotation, 2 critical, 2 movement points + free turn, medium guns bow, port and starboard, no guns in stern quarter.

USS Queen of the West 6 Flotation, 2 critical, 2 movement and 1 free turn, ram and light guns bow, port, starboard and stern.

The sequence of the game turn followed Bob’s rules – Decide activation order, simultaneous shooting and then movement and ramming.  I decided activation by blindly giving a chit to each ship numbered 1 – 4,  with that being the order they moved in.

Shooting was with variable numbers of D6, depending on the range:

Range 1 – 5 D6, range 2 – 4D6, range 3 – 3D6, Range 4 – 2D6, range 5 – 1D6.

Light guns scored a hit on a 6, medium guns scored a hit on a 5 and 2 hits on a 6 if a subsequent roll of the die was 4,5,6 else 1 hit.  Heavy guns scored a hit on a 4,5 and 2 hits on a 6.   1 D6 was subtracted if the ship was at critical stage (ie 1/3 of original flotation points.   Each hit caused the loss of one flotation point.

I pinched the idea of the “All at Sea” table from Nick Wright’s Galleys and Galleons rules.

So – when a ship reaches critical point throw a D6:

1  –  Crew loses heart and heads away from the enemy as quickly as possible.

2 –    Confusion reigns – opponent may move the ship legally wherever he/she wants.

3 –    Panic – ship turns hard to port and moves one grid forward.

4 –    Panic – as above but to starboard.

5.     Wrong target – the ship fires at nearest friendly ship if it can – otherwise treat as 6 below.

6.      Don’t panic and carry on regardless!

If a ship moves into a grid containing another ship (enemy or friendly), then throw 4 D6 if the moving ship has a ram, otherwise 2D6 – 4.5 = 1 hit, 6 = 2 hits.   The moving ship also rolls a D6 – lose 1 flotation point on a roll of 6 if equipped with a ram, if no ram – lose 2 flotation points on a 6 and 1 point on a 4 or 5.

So, how did the game go with the rules above?

Here is the initial set up:

Yazoo start of game
Union ships to the left, CSS Arkansas to the right.   The “Muddy Waters” river is brown – for some reason the pale green land has come out pale blue, which is a bit confusing in a naval wargame!


In Turn 1, all the ships advanced towards each other.  Queen of the West used her free move to point to starboard.

Yazoo end of turn 1
End of Turn 1

In Turn 2, all ships were still out of 5 grid max range.   As the Union ships advanced, CSS Arkansas decided to attempt her dash down river through the narrow channel by the island.

yazoo end of turn 2
End of Turn 2

At the beginning of Turn 3, ships were now in range for the simultaneous shooting phase:

Queen of the West shoots at Arkansas – range 3 so 3 D6 needing sixes as equipped with light guns –   3,3,5 so no hits.

Tyler shoots at Arkansas, Range 3 so 3 D6 needing 5 or 6 as medium guns.   1,2,4 so no hits again.

Carondolet fires on Arkansas – Range 3, 3D6 needing 4,5,6 as heavy guns – 5,5,1 so 2 hits.

Arkansas decides to target the Tyler as she is in the path of her planned escape.    Range 3, 3D6 and needing 5 or 6’s as she has medium guns in the bow.  A deadly roll of 5,5,6 meaning 4 hits, which takes Tyler down to critical state.  (The score of 6 was followed by a roll of 5 to make it 2 hits rather than just one.) This means the Tyler has to make a roll on the All at Sea Table.  A roll of 4 means she has to turn 45 degrees to starboard and move one grid forward – so she runs aground on the south side of the channel!

In the movement phase, Queen of the West and Carondolet turn towards the Arkansas while the latter continues her rush for the island passage.

yazoo end of turn 3
Position at end of Turn 3.

So far the activation order hasn’t been important but this changes in Turn 4.  Unfortunately,  Arkansas receives a higher numbered chit than the Queen of the West.  Not good news as Queen of the West is a ram heading straight for her!

But first there is the shooting phase:

Carondolet rolls 4 D6 as the range is 2 grids.   1,3,5,6 = 3 hits reducing the the Arkansas to 7 flotation points.

Queen of the West is also at 2 grid range and needs 6’s – 1,2,2,4 – no hits.

Tyler is at 1 grid range but loses a dice for being in critical condition and 1,1,4,5 results in another hit on the Arkansas, now at 6 flotation points.

The Arkansas decides that the Queen of the West and her ram are the main threat but a roll of 1,2,3,3, results in no hits.

In the movement phase, the Carondolet moves first and moves astern of the Arkansas to give the Queen of the West (the next to move) a clear route to ram the Arkansas.  This duly happens.   Equipped with a ram, the Queen of the West rolls 4D6 – 1,2,3 6 resulting in the loss of 2 more flotation points, reducing the brave Arkansas to critical point at 4 flotation points.   A roll of 4 on the All at Sea Table means she turns to starboard in a panic and runs aground on the north shore of the passage.   Her dash to Vicksburg fails!

yazoo end of turn 4
Position at the end of Turn 4

My thoughts?   The game did seem quite quick but it was 3 ships against one.  I need to go back and check that the shooting isn’t too powerful.  This was a time when ironclads could pound away at each other for hours – but that would make for rather a boring game!

I’d welcome comments!

I am planning to re-run the scenario with an adaption of Galleys and Galleons and David Manley’s Dahlgren and Colombiad rules in the next few weeks.





Ironclads – the toys arrive

Excellent service from NavWar.  As they don’t have internet ordering I posted my cheque and order form with a 2nd class stamp on Thursday 23 January and got the goodies in the post on the following Monday morning.  That means they turned them round the same day as receiving the order.

I like the castings they look clean and seem to be accurate.

Here is a photo – the models are USS Cairo, Tyler, Queen of the West and CSS Arkansas.  Now looking forward to painting them.

navwar ACW



I think that 2020 may be the year if the ship!    My attention has recently been grabbed by Ironclad naval warfare in the 1860s.

I have bought David Manley’s ruleset for the various naval conflicts around that time in Europe, principlally  the Italian/Prussian War (Battle of Lissa 1866) and the Prussian/Austrian war with Denmark over Schleswig Holstein (1864).  There is the core rule book Broadside and Ram that also has a campaign leading up to Lissa lots of ship stats and a supplement for the Danish War called The Schleswig Holstein Question, which has info about the warsand more ships stats, including for a hypothetical Franco Prussian naval conflict.

Broadside and RamBroadside and Ram - The Schleswig Holstein Question (supplement)

We played a four player game of a sort of Battle of Lissa the other night with each player commanding one of the Prussian or italian Armoured or Wooden ship divisions.

On the left the players are deloying with the Prussians to the left and the photo on the right shows Nick (Commander of the Italian Wooden ship division) wondering whether he will ever get into the game with his -2 AP modifier!  The game is a bit like DBA and you through a D6 to get action points to manoeuvre your ships.  If a ship or formation doesn’t get an AP it just continues on the same course at cruising speed.   It costs APs to repair ships, change formations or change course or speed.  Ships have a shooting factor and a defence factor and is resolved by opposing rolls as in DBA.  The critical hit table, used when a shooter rolls a D6 and the target rolls a 1, adds extra excitement and fun to the game.  Overall, we thought that the rules worked very smoothly and intuitively and were good for larger fleet actions.  On re-reading the rules we got a couple of things wrong, but nothing to spoil the fun.

I probably started the fleets a bit too far apart so it took some time to get into action but it then soon turned into a furious melee in the centre between the ironclad armoured ships of both sides.  We modified the ramming rules a bit so that a ram was only counted as such if it was with 45 degrees of the beam and we gave a +2 modifier if the ramming ship had a ram (as most of the ironclads did).  We also used the critical hit table from the amendments siuggested at this site to up the destruction level!


The ships were paper downloads from the JuniorGeneral site:

https://juniorgeneral.org/naval/lissa/lissa.html – (excellent source for scenarios and paper soldiers, ships etc) and the cloth is a paper tablecloth from Asda for £2.00.  I think I will be getting some NavWar 1/3000 ships for this period as they are good value and cover most of the ships needed.

I have also bought David’s rules for smaller naval actions in the American Civil War – but more of that next time as I am just waiting for the toys to arrive to play them with!

Portable Wargame – Ancients

We had an enjoyable game yesterday between Macedonians and Indians using Bob Cordery’s Ancient Rules from his  Developing the Portable Wargame book.  There are some photos below.  The toys were 20mm HAT and Newline Designs mounted on 8cm wide bases.  Having recently moved house, I couldn’t find all the figures I wanted and so the armies were mainly based on what I could find!  Alexander had 1 x Companions (Elite/4SP),  1 x Greek heavy cavalry, 1 x Hypaspists (Elite Phalanx 5SP), 5 x Phalanx, 2 x Light Horse Archers,  1 x Peltasts Light Infantry Javelins, 2 x Light Infantry Bow.

Porus had 3 x Elephants, 6 x Heavy Archers ( Light Infantry Close order Bow), 2 x heavy Cavalry (Poor/2SP) and 2 Chariots (3SP).   I gave the chariots an extra SP to make them heavy.

We played the standard rules and didn’t use the elephant optional rules – but see comments about this later.  Each side had 13 units and we used median card activation method (as described in Bob’s earlier Portable wargame book), but giving Alexander a +1 to his median to reflect his brilliance!  This meant that Porus had a deck of 4 x 6/7/8 cards and Alexander a deck of 7/8/9.  There was also a joker in the deck.  The table was 12 x 8 square grid of 4″ squares.

The game played quickly and smoothly.   Alexander routed the Indian left wing quickly but the Indian right held up well with the Horse Archers being seen off.   There was something of a grinding match in the centre but then Alexander had a lucky run of activation cards without the Indians being able to respond and this led to the Indians reaching Exhaustion point – although Alexander also became exhausted the turn after.   One thing we weren’t sure of was how the winner was decided.  We called it a draw and headed off to the excellent Bakewell Thornbridge Brewery taproom for a couple of lunchtime pints!

We enjoyed the game and discussed a few house rules we might consider for next time.  These included:

  • Having to use an another activation if you want to advance and fight again after a combat
  • Only allow pulling out of combat if you are faster than the enemy
  • Only apply the having to turn to face rule if you in the square adjacent to the enemy front.
  • Allowing light troops to retreat one extra grid to pass through friends behind.
  • We would like to find a way of making massed bow fire more effective than skirmish bow fire – perhaps +1 to die roll and remove the commander +1 firing if in same grid.
  • Some sort of evade option for light troops but not sure how that would work.
  • Limiting number of turns a unit can make if not lights – eg heavy cavalry and heavy infantry 2 turns, Phalanx, Elephants, Heavy Chariots can only change direction at beginning of move.  Perhaps allow a diagonal drift if maintianing the same facing. – measured orthogonally as usual.
  • We thought you got to move a lot of units with the median card – perhaps make the middle card 1/3 rather than 1/2 total number of units rounded up?
  • For elephants, use the normal hit resolution table but apply the retreat rule when the last SP is lost.

Playing on a grid certainly speeds things up and didn’t spoil the look of the table.  Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on the rules as it is a good game engine.

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The initial deployment – Macedonians in foreground


PWA Hyd2

Indian cavalry and Heavy Chariot

PWA Hyd3

Porus on his elephant

PWA Hyd6

Alexander and his Companions

PWA Hyd8



Bakewell Leg of the GBnU HoTT Tournament – Part 1

There was a good turnout at the Medway Centre in Bakewell on Saturday 16 November for the local leg of the Good, Bad and the Ugly HoTT Tournament.

The core principle of the GBnU tournament  is to have fun and share a common event with others around the world.   The theme this year was “Old School” which could be (and was) interpreted pretty liberally!

Fourteen players took part and six rounds were played.

The final scores rankings and armies were:

  1. Pete Duckworth              The Enemy Within
  2. Mark Johnson                  Chinese
  3. Tony Green                      Elves
  4. Baldie                                Badly drawn Baldie
  5. Simon Wilson                 Leonardo da Vinci Old Art School
  6. Owein Mason                  Lords and Ladies
  7. Tim Sharrock                  High Crusade
  8. Neil Mason                      Buster Keaton’s The General
  9. Stevie Andrews              Them!
  10. Nick Wright-Carter        Semi-historical Arthurian
  11. Kevin Casey                     King Arthur
  12. Rob Rush                          Orc and Goblin
  13. Philip Donald                  Sheep
  14. Frank Shaw                    Rat Army

The Bakewell Leg nominated Pete Duckworth’s Enemy Within (1980s protesters and rioters) as the best Theme Army and Neil Mason’s The General steam locomotive as best stronghold.

Here is most of the team: ( I was taking picture so happily for readers not in it!)

Team photo 2

Left to right – Baldie, Kevin Casey, Pete Duckworth, Mark Johnson, Rob Rush, Nick Wright-Carter, Frank Shaw, Stevie Andrews, Tony Green, Tim Sharrock, Philip Donald, Neil Mason.

.. and here is the action underway:

Games underway

I hope to be getting some more photos over the next few days and will post them in Part 2.

Bakewell DBA October matched pairs tournament

Saturday 12 October saw the latest Bakewell DBA event – the matched pairs tournament.   This involved players bringing along two historically matched armies – sometimes you played with your own pair, sometimes with your opponent’s.  The way it works is that if you are playing with your own pair of armies, your opponent generally gets to choose which army.  This encourages players to make the armies as matched as possible and also results in battles between weaker, but still interesting armies.  I REALLY like this format!

Room 1

Here is the action getting underway – the Medway Centre is an excellent venue in the centre of the historic market town of Bakewell in the Peak District National park.

team pic

Here are the players – there were 20 in all + me as organiser/umpire:

Front row left to right – myself, Tim Kohler, Phil Johnson, Craig Allen and Martin Myers.

Rear row left to right -Rob Rush, Richard Pulley, Mark Johnson, Pete Duckworth, Tim Rogers, Baldie, Paul Murgatroyd, Stevie Andrews, Colin Alcock, Scott Russell, Nick Wright-Carter, Kevin Casey, Phil Donald, Frank Shaw, Richard Madder.  (John Saunders attended but had to leave just before the team photo).

Here are the overall rankings.  The scoring system was 3 win, 1 draw, 0 lose with sum of opponents’ scores being used to break ties and, if still a tie, net elements killed.

  1. Pete Duckworth            IV/55b Ottoman and IV/61 Italian Condotta with Albanian     Allies
  2. Richard Pulley              IV/18 Lithuanians and !V/65 Wallachians
  3. Baldie                          I/52b Spartans and !/60 Early Achaemenid Persians
  4. Paul Murgatroyd           II/19d Seleucid and II/20c Ptotolomeic
  5. Scott Russell                Feudal English and Navarrese
  6. Rob Rush                     I/3 Nubian and I/7a Libyan
  7. Kevin Casey                 IV/83a Tudor army and IV/83c Rebel Army
  8. Tim Rogers                   II/19b South Welsh and II/19c Nort Welsh
  9. Phil Johnson                  Palmyran and Middle Imperial Roman
  10. Craig Allen                    Communal Italian and Papal Italian
  11. John Saunders              IV/9 Forest Indians and III/19 North Welsh
  12. Mark Johnson                Sea peoples and Later Hittite Imperial
  13. Martin Myers                 II/25 Bosporan and  II/48 Mithridatic
  14. Philip Donald                II/32a Later Carthagenian and II/33 Polybian Roman
  15. Frank Shaw                  III/40 Vikings and Leidang
  16. Stevie Andrews            Polybian Romans and Gauls
  17. Richard Madder            II/4a Chine Chinese and II/4c Chao Chinese
  18. Colin Alcock                 II/32a Later Carthagenian and II/33 Polybian Roman
  19. Tim Kohler                     II/17a Lysimachid and II/5d Thessalian
  20. Nick Wright-Carter        IV/59b Samurai and IV/78 Korean

Nice guy Gavin at Alternative Armies kindly provided packs of figures as prizes.

The next Bakewell event will be HoTT Good bad and Ugly Tournament – places still available!


Midland Open DBA competition Bakewell

A great turnout with 28 people, including myself, playing.  I do not recommend organising and playing in a tournament!!!

the hall full of people.jpg

Here is a hall full of DBAers!!

Final rankings as follows:

1 Arnaud Marmier             Tamil
2 Martin Smith                    Tamil
3 Tony Green                       Lydian
3 Martin Myers                   New Kingdom Egyptian
5 Scott Russell                      Late Tang
6 Craig Allen                        Ariarathid Kappadokian
6 Phil Johnson                      Palmyran
8 Colin O’Shea                      Zanj Revoly
9 Paul Murgatroyd             Hindu Indian
9 Tamara Fordham             Italian Condotta
11 Phil Steele                       Timurid
12 Richard Pulley               Palmyran
12 Patrick Myers                Lydian
14 Graham Fordham         Early Achaemenid Persian
14 Mark Skelton                Wu
16 Keith Murphy                Italiot
17 Tim Kohl er                   Late Achaemenid Persian
18 Philip Donald                Late Roman
18 Keith Brown                 Mongol Conquest
20 Simon Wilson              Early Polish
21 Reese Bettison             Later Carthagenian
22 Baldie Storey                Ancient British
23 Dale Needham             Norman
24 Tim Rogers                 Alexandrian Macedonian
25 Rob Rush                     Hatra
25 Nick Wright-Carter     Post-Monol samurai
27 Tris Gale                       Marian Roman
28 Andy Wheeldon          Norman