EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Published Portable Wargame Review: Last Post (sic)

Having played 3 games in 2 periods using both Sudden Death  and Roster options, I decided to test the rules robustness when tinkered with, after all, tinkering is what I do, even with my own rules!

The Mid-20th Century version seemed like the best starting point, not only because the table was still set but this version covers the widest time frame thus offering a good scope for fine tuning. It is also a period for which I don't currently have a set of rules, just various half tested ideas.

My starting point was to decide how many units I wanted to field and how long I wanted the game to last, then I thought about what aspects of the first game that I thought might be honed to suit what I wanted my game to feel like.

1955 2nd game. The Naryatrians decided to send the light armoured forces and truck mounted infantry on a sweeping left hook leaving the Naryatrian blocking force to the infantry and tanks of the main column. The tank duels continued for much of the game with tanks recoiling and manoeuvring to try and find an advantage or escape from disadvantage. 
For this last game I wanted the majority of my available forces on the table for a game that would last for two or more hours. Before getting more specific I sat down with some spare bases and started reorganising the rabble. Once done I played about a bit and decided that I could live with a pair of heavy tanks being a bit cramped in a square. The result was a similar number of units on table with fewer figures being left in their boxes.

In the previous games Sudden Death had felt a bit too sudden at times but my experience using the strength point system for the Zulu Wargame suggested that the planned game would take too long and that going from possibly sudden death to never sudden death would reduce some of the adrenaline factor. I decided to settle in the middle by giving all units 2 hits and counting lost units for exhaustion. This left the possibility that a unit could be eliminated in a single turn if it was fired at by two units.

I had meant to try giving some Elite units 3 hits while reducing some Poor units to 1 hit but once the game was underway I forgot! In the end I upped the Home Defence units to average and just gave the Elite units their usual willingness to retreat rather than die.

The Shermans were continually forced to retire to avoid being outflanked. The Naryatrian infantry soon ran into problems with too many men in too cramped a space. They didn't expect the local village defences to hold them up so long and ended up sending in human waves without having preplanned it. It wasn't pretty when support Roscian infantry and then the MG's in the Palm Grove opened up from a flank. 

The obsolete vs modern tank question still nagged at me so I tried a new angle. Already infantry, mg's etc cannot knock out armoured units by shooting though such units can do so in close combat. I just extended this so that armoured cars can only knock out other light armour by shooting and obsolete/medium tanks cannot knock out modern/heavy tanks using shooting. They have to get close. I also penalised light armour when fighting tanks in close combat. Special exceptions could be just that.

Lastly I decided to experiment with a Pin result to stop units that are pushed back from simply reoccupying their position as if nothing had happened. After much thought I decided to try having all units become pinned if they take a hit. They would then take a -1 on shooting and combat dice and be prohibited from moving adjacent to an enemy or initiating close combat. A unit which wasn't adjacent could remove the pin by not moving or shooting. Pinned units were marked with red bingo markers, casualty markers will look better.

No retreat! The Naryatrians are stacked up against the wall, held up by a stubborn stand of the Local Defence Force. Unseen here is a unit of Roscian paratroops flanking the village on the far side and an impassible oasis and water tank behind the upper left hand attacking unit.  

The forces for this replay were:
Roscia. 11 units + Commander

  • On table: 2 Infantry.
  • Reinforcements: 1 Elite Infantry with armoured carriers, 2 infantry, 1 MG, 1 Mortar, 1 Engineer, 1 Heavy Tank (Centurion), 1 Medium Tank (Sherman 76mm), Commander.

Naryatria. 16 units + Commander

  • 1 Armoured car, 1 Patrol car (as  Armoured car but not armoured), 1 Heavy tank (T##wannabe), 1 medium tank (T34/85), 1 Heavy artillery, 8 infantry (inc 2 Elite), mortar, 2 trucks, Commander,

Just before the last push. The Naryatrians finally took half the village only to be driven out by a counter attack. Their light armour and truck mounted infantry have driven back the Roscian Elite armoured infantry and are about to make a push for the pass.
 In the end the game lasted about 2 1/2 hours (not that I had noticed, I had thought it closer to one hour until the hounds started hooting for their dinners and I checked the time ). The advantage swung back and forth with Roscia just missing a decisive win but managing to hang on for a technical victory, being exhausted but clinging to their positions with the Naryatrians having too little left to force the pass before the game was over. Most of their units had lost 1 stand already so the next hit would have brought them to exhaustion. Presumably Roscian reinforcements were now at hand or something but in any case turn 15 was next and even if the Roscians retreated at full speed and hadn't planted a minefield across the road, the Naryatrians had been pushed back far enough that even unopposed they couldn't reach the pass.

This balance and the fact that tactical errors caused as many or more losses than unusual runs of dice both contributed to my enjoyment of the game. Of course with a 4'x6' table and double the stands per square its not as portable as it could be but then it really has no where it needs to go. Of course the game would play the same with 1 stand units on my portable board.

End game. Once again the Naryatrian artillery has been deadly but this time their mortars also kicked in, finally clearing the town. Under pressure from an all arms assault the Roscian Centurions were forced back and finally destroyed along with their MG, Mortars and HQ bringing them to their exhaustion point. The Naryatrians hovered just above their exhaustion point but had the luck and space to allow units to fall back rather than being destroyed. However, early in the game I remembered that the engineers I had thrown in to make up Roscian numbers had the ability to plant a minefield. Leaving  the hard pressed infantry to hold back the enemy the Sappers hoofed it across the field wishing the government would build some of the truck kits that are in storage. The minefield was finished just in time to stop a mad dash for through the pass before darkness and Roscian reinforcements arrived. (ie Turn 15)

And so ended the long series of border wars between Roscia and Nariatria. The Naryatrian President was faced with unrest following heavy casualties in defeat after defeat and applied to the UN for arbitration. With the growing threat from the Republic of Lital, Roscia was only too glad to agree  so that they could focus on the real enemy.  Undisclosed sources report that Lital is buying up surplus equipment from the Naryatrian army and even recruiting their discharged soldiers to swell their ranks. There are real fears that some serious Portable Wargaming between Lital and Roscia could break out as early as this summer.


  1. A great looking game and interesting post.

  2. Ross Mac,

    Having read your battle report after seeing the rules changes you made, you have shown how the basic rules structure and mechanisms are sound enough to be adjusted to suit a much larger tabletop without making the games too long to be enjoyable.

    Thank you for everything that you have done. You have helped me to formulate quite a few ideas for the development of the rules featured in my book, and I hope to incorporate many of them in the next book that I am already beginning to put together.

    All the best,


    1. You're welcome and thank you for the enjoyment I've had this last week and more.

  3. Great Game. I really enjoyed reading this and your revisions for the larger board.

  4. I've enjoyed reading these reviews, Ross, and this one makes a fine finale for this series.