Old schools toys … and old school miniatures

After being converted by Sheffield wargaming chum Tim Gow to the Fistful of Lead skirmish game engine by Wiley games ( https://wiley-games.myshopify.com/ ), I got both the Core Rules and the Mexican Revolution supplement with scenarios and additional rules. Looking around for toys to play the rules with, I chanced on a nice “old school” 20mm range produced by Jacklex Miniatures https://www.jacklexminiatures.com/

The excitement of the figures arriving was increased still further by the great looking packaging:

… and some good old fashioned sawdust for further protection:

The figures themselves are crisply moulded with no flash – and look as if they will be easy to paint.

I got some US Intervention figures and some of Pancho Villa’s men. I hope to paint them soon and will post the pictures.

Starting with napoleonics

I have recently bought the DBN rules as I would like to start in this period without the need for loads of figures or complex rules. So – I bought DBN https://dbnwargaming.weebly.com/

The rules look very promising and Alex, one of the authors, has been very helpful in responding to a couple of questions I had. As an enthusiastic DBA player, I found the rules quick to grasp.

As for figures, I saw some 6mm mdf miniatures at the Reading Wargames show at Ascot race course recently. I bought a pack to see how my eyes would get on with painting them. Others will no doubt be able to paint them a lot better than me but I was quite pleased with my attempt. Cavalry, artillery and a French army have now been ordered. I do like the fact that you can buy them either in acks or individual strips of 8 infantry or 3 cavalry. These can be found at http://www.commission-figurines.co.uk/ They also do ancients and ACW and some very cost effective buildings.


I look forward to painting the rest of the armies when they arrive and having my first game of DBN!


First UK DBA Tournament for a while!

I was very pleased to be able to host the first UK DBA tournament for a while. Due to the rule of six Covid rules, the twelve players were divided into two permanent teams for the day – one team playing at my house and the other in the function room at the (very) nearby pub, The Farmyard Inn in Youlgrave. As the weather was good, we were all able to get together at lunchtime in the pub garden for an excellent ploughman’s – and in some cases a beer!

The Farmyard Inn

The format was “open” so any legal DBA v3 army with or without allies could be used and these ranged from Biblical armies to late 15th century European. The scoring system was 3 for a win, 1 for a loss and 0 for a draw and any ties were decided by taking into account net equivalent elements lost or won. Prizes for the tournament were kindly donated by Gavin at Alternative Armies https://www.alternative-armies.com/ and were from their 15mm scenic range. Thanks also to Mark Johnson for helping out before the tournament and on the day, managing things for the “pub team.”

The Alternative Armies prizes

The Myers clan -Martin (father) and Patrick (son) came joint first – an overall winner could not be determined in this case as they had the same net enemy destroyed won! Here are the overall results:

1 = Martin Myers (II/32a Later Carthaginian)
1 = Patrick Myers (II/76 Koguryo Korean)
3 Simon Wilson (II/52 Dacians with Sarmatian Allies)
4 Colin O’Shea (IV/82 French Ordonnance with Venetian allies)
5 Tom Whitehead (Greek Kyrean I/56a)
6 Mark Johnson (III/15 Tibetan)
7 Mark Skelton (IV/65 Wallachians with Polish allies)
8 Andy Wheeldon (II/32a Later Carthaginian)
9 Martin Smith (I/28 Sea Peoples)
10 Keith Murphy (1/58 Meroitic Kushite)
11 Baldie (III/54b Qaramita)
12 Phil Johnson (Late Roman Eastern with Pre-Islamic Arab allies)

And – here are the players –

They are:

Back L-R – Andy Wheeldon, Mark Skelton, Colin O’Shea, Martin Myers, Patrick Myers, Keith Murphy

Centre L-R – Simon Wilson, Mark Johnson, Baldie

Front L-R – Martin Smith, Phil Johnson, Tom Whitehead.

Here are some other photos of the action at my house: (Martin Smith has created an album and uploaded more photos on the Groups IO SBA site at https://groups.io/g/DBAList/album?id=265935

Martin Smith watches Martin Myers’ intricate manoeuvres with concern!
Martin Smith adjusts his glasses to better read the rules small print while Phil Johnson and Andy Wheeldon
try unsuccessfully to contain their amusement
Tom Whitehead looks on in despair, anticipating another killer move from Martin Myers.

Now I need to start planning the Bakewell Paired armies tournament in late September!

Hexing Lion and Dragon Rampant.

hex lion rampant

I really enjoy Dan Mersey’s rules and I have Dux Bellorum, Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant, The Men Who Would be Kings and Rebels and Patriots.

After joining the Sheffield Wargames Society about a year ago, I was introduced to some great miniatures games on hex or square grids. I liked the speed of play that these brought rather than lots of fiddly measuring. When COVID reared its ugly head and we started playing games over the internet, it rapidly became clear that grids were the way to go when playing with Zoom or Skype.

So, taking both the above into account, it seemed to make sense to have ago at seeing if Lion/Dragon Rampant could be played on a grid. What follows are my thoughts on how this might be done. These are based on Dragon Rampant but could easily be applied to Lion Rampant.


There are four movement rates in Dragon Rampant. Foot move 6 or 8 inches and mounted move 10 or 12 inches. One of my design criteria was to be able to play on a small Kallistra hex grid eg 8 x 8 with each hex representing 6 inches. I decided to have a 1 hex move rate for infantry and 2 hexes for mounted. In order to give lighter units some advantage in movement, I introduced some turning restrictions. Heavy foot (basic 6″ movement) and heavy mounted (10″ basic movement) can only turn 60 degrees or about face for free. Other turns cost a hex of movement. Light foot or mounted (base move of 8 or 12″) can make two such free turns in a turn. Scouts/skirmishers can turn as often as they want for free.


The original rules have 1/2 movement rate in difficult going such as woods. I can’t have 1/2 hex movement so the rule is that most troops who are allowed in such terrain must remain stationary for a turn after they move in. Those with the Fleet Footed trait can move freely as usual.


Troops can only shoot or charge into their front 3 hexes. Also, Armour is reduced by one if shot at or charged into their rear three hexes.


This was relatively easy – just divide the existing ranges by 6 to give the range in hexes. Eg Foot missiles (18″) are 3 hex range and Short range missiles (6″) are 1 hex.


In order to maintain the ratio between shooting ranges and movement, I decided to make it the rule that a unit must charge into the enemy hex to initiate close combat. The alternative was to add a hex to missile ranges. If you don’t do one of these, troops may be able to charge straight in without taking any fire when they wouldn’t be able to do this in the original rules.


Units retreat 1 hex. If this is blocked, the normal rules apply.

Size of units.

As it is really unit strength points that matters in this game rather than numbers of figures, I generally made one figure = 2 strength points and used markers to indicate casualties. I made large monsters etc 6 or even 12 points per model. This helps make sure that there is enough room in a hex, particularly when two opposing units are in close combat.

The trial game worked well – it ran smoothly and quickly – and seemed to maintain the feel of the original rules. I look forward to any comments or further ideas!


CRIPES!!! It is nearly six months last my last blog. I thought I had better write something before this blog dies altogether.

Well, I guess I do have some excuses. Going through a major house development during a pandemic being the main one. But, we are now at last in the new house with a gaming room nearly sorted. On the wargaming side, there has been the occasional face to face game when allowed with Sean, my long standing (and suffering) wargaming mate. He recently introduced me to Osprey games “Dauntless – North Africa.” This is an excellent little game that combines simplicity and speed of play with the need for some complex and challenging decision making. It is sort of a card deck building game with board wargaming aspects. The scenery is made up of terrain tiles that can be re-arranged in various ways to fight the scenarios that are included in the game. I really enjoyed the way it is asymetric with the LRDG mainly attempting to blow things up or evade and the Italians wanting to hold buildings/airfields etc or drive their opponents off. I am thinking of playing it with 15mm miniatures rather than counters. Well worth checking out.

LRDG game

My main wargaming activity has continued to be the virtual games with guys from Sheffield Wargames Society. We have now really got the hang of playing by Zoom or Skype – Zoom having been found to be better for us. The games have been mainly ones using rules developed by the guys – principally Tim Gow, Martin Rapier and John Armatys – all wargaming royalty! A great range of games ranging from the Cold War in 1980s Germany, North African deserts of WW2 to the Eastern front of WW1 and the Austrro-Prussian War of 1866. ,.. and not forgetting the AWI and Naploeonic Naval games.

People say that COVID may permanently change some things. I have been very much converted to grid/hex systems after using them to facilitate Zoom games. I suspect I will be continuing to use them. I am currently working on hex variants for Lion/Dragon rampant and AK47 Classic. More posts to follow soon on this subject.

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