Viewer's Choice Celebration MiniCampaign

It has now been over 20 years since I launched "With MacDuff On the Web" and nearly 10 years since I launched my 2 blogs: Gathering of Hosts and Battle game of the Month.

To celebrate the years and the friends and the million hits I've decided to run a 3 game mini-campaign in late October and I'm asking YOU to help choose the period. It has to be something from my current list but please comment on any post from Sep 12 till Oct 1 or email me : . and to let me know your preference and any suggestions on the mini campaign.

The polls are now open!

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Published Portable Wargame Pt 3b. More Zulus! .

The Second Game: Big Units/Small Board

For some time now I have been debating the relative merits of a small game played with a large number of small, weak units vs a lesser number of bigger, more resilient units. ( This debate presupposes using the same number of miniatures on the same table  ). My head supported the many small units approach but experience, the narrative benefits of a few identifiable, named units and "the look" has been tilting me towards fewer larger units with some sort of roster. 
For the second Zulu game I used 6 units each represented by 2 stands on a 6" grid to replay the same scenario but using the standard Strength Points system rather than Sudden Death.

A Zulu unit with 2 hits.

Knowing that I would probably use strength points at times, I added a marker post when basing up the Zulus. These "posts" (aka finishing nails) can hold at least 3 hit marker rings, usually 4, but if grouped in pairs to form a unit that can take 4 hits only 1 ring is required per base. Each extra hit removes a stand.

Turn 4. The 2nd Zulu reinforcement has arrived. The battlefield looks less congested than it did in the last game but this is partly due to an illusion caused by each grid being 1/2 empty in depth.  

In this game the British benefited from experience to push ahead more aggressively and made more effort to spread out but also benefited from being able to suck up the occasional hit without being destroyed when there was no room to retreat. The Zulus,  however, benefited from having learned the benefits of following up when possible to maximise damage and of keeping close since they were equal in combat but at a disadvantage when shooting thanks to the home rule penalizing their fire. The ability to absorb more than one hit helped with this as well.

Turn 8. Time is growing short! All Zulu units are on board. The British are about to push forward aggressively. Both sides have taken multiple hits but no units have been eliminated yet.

The look and feel of larger looking, longer lasting units with more space in each area worked really well for me. The lack of any chance of sudden death did not detract from the tension at all as the game flowed well with reversals and occasionally units ended up losing several strength points in one turn from a combination of shooting and combat including pursuits. The addition of a turn limit and specific victory conditions also added some tension and made it harder to play safe all the time but that applies regardless of the rules.

In addition, the strength points added a extra decision point at times. Was it better to suck up a hit in order to hold a position or give up the ground to save the strength for later?

Turn 10ish. The Guards have driven back one flanking unit while the artillery risks all to pound the Zulu roadblock. The Guards storm forward with the bayonet eliminating the original  Zulu unit only to follow up into the flank of the reserve unit and be repulsed, falling back into cover. Behind them the Lancers have broken another unit with carbine fire but the Rifles have been over run and the artillery is now under attack from two sides. The game hangs in the balance!

So, all in all I have no hesitation in recommending the Portable Wargame for a quick enjoyable Colonial game. 

Its not the sort of 1:1 low level, semi-roleplaying  skirmish game that some people think of when you mention Colonial game but for this sort of scenario I was happiest considering the units to be Company sized. At this level there are large numbers of suitable scenarios and Tabletop Teasers which are easily obtained in addition to the freedom to design your own.

With a bit of the imagination that is required to get the most out of compact, cardtable type games it would also be easy to go up a level with units being battalions and then you could play some of the famous battles as well.

Turn 15. If the British can exit these last 3 units by the road they win. The General of the exhausted Zulu force is all that stands between the Gordon Highlanders and the board edge. Are they allowed to overrun him? It doesn't matter they are too far from the road. A technical win for the Zulus but it felt like a draw.
There is one last Portable Wargame test to do. For this next one I will break out some mid 20th Century tanks and try the second set of rules. However, with knee deep new snow down mid blizzard and a follow up storm expected Thursday, it may be next week before I can find the time and oomvph to play the game and blog it.

There should be time and mental energy for some painting though. I need to convert and/or refurbish some of my Brits so they look appropriate to face  Zulus!


  1. Ross- Good to see the 54mm in play. We've had a few days of 104 degF temperatures here latley- cooler yesterday and today and feel like getting some things done like the Mowing and - some 15mm Figure painting. I do not know what "knee- deep Snow" would be like - in fact never seen Snow. I'd imagine that it is all cold. KEV.

    1. Well, we get the whole range from Too Hot through Just Right to Too Cold and back again! Snow is usually a good mix of cold and wet.

  2. I like the look of the portable wargame in 54mm,very effective.

  3. Ross Mac,

    I have been thinking about using two-base infantry units for my much-planned for Operation Barbarossa campaign (I'll get there one day!) and having seen how they function with the PORTABLE WARGAME rules, I think that I am convinced that it is the right direction to take. I might also experiment with such units for my own Colonial battles when using my Hexon II terrain as they seem to look better than the smaller single-base units.

    I tend to think of a unit as being about company size for most battles, but the two-base unit will pass for a battalion (or even a regiment), and it the choice I have already made for my Napoleonic version of the rules. The reason I chose two-base units for the Napoleonic era was to make it easier to recreate the basic formations used by Infantry and Cavalry unit. Side-by-side the bases shows a unit is in Line; one-behind-the-other and facing the same way shows a unit is in Column; and if Infantry units have their bases one-behind-the-other and facing in opposite directions, it shows a unit in Square.

    All the best,


    1. I like the look of the 2 stand units. I put the British 2 deep when they used a Road bonus, just for the look of it.

  4. Hi Ross,

    Great looking game as always! I really like the look of your Zulus on the multi-bases! I have been wondering what to do with my Zulus, some were even marked for becoming Sepoys. Anyway, good luck with the snow, ours as all but disappeared now (but was greatly enjoyed while it was here!)

    1. You could probably even throw them against your Waterloo Brits and call it Cape Frontier Wars.

      I'm glad to hear you survived the big snow. We're about to suck up another one on your behalf :)

    2. Oh no, Ross, I sense a new period coming on! Just when progress with the Indian Mutiny was moving along...Hope you are still enjoying your snow.

    3. Oh oh, well you know, a mutiny game that included some of the various tribesmen that supported the mutineers wouldn't be so different. Goodn use for some deetail arabs! Our snow is quietly melting thank you.

  5. Enjoyable read as ever Ross, and I really do like those Zulu's! There are a couple of 'unofficial' C&C scenarios for the Zulu war, and I'm VERY tempted to paint some figures for them, it was my Uncle who took me to see Zulu at the cinema back in the late Sixties when it came out that kick started my love of military history. Anyway, sorry to ramble, I'm enjoying your Portable Wargame experiments. We rarely see snow down here, a mere scattering and the country grinds to a halt!

    1. Thanks Lee, Zulu is probably responsible for more colonial wargamers than any other single source of inspiration. My first introduction to the Battlecry family of games was a Colonial adaptation. Here is a link to the summary of what Ron & I put together , 2013/03/colonial-tabletop-teaser-battlecry

  6. Into the valley of death ran the 15! You need more Zulus, fahsands of'em!


  7. I do like 2 based units, they make a better representation of line and keep the functionality of being able to show other formations (column, disordered, open order and square).

    In my small scale, I made up a few bigger single bases (i.e. two single bases side by side but mounted as one) and while I liked the look, the lack of functionality caused me to revert back to two single bases.

    1. I played with the 2 stand option early last year and backed off but I'm sold now and am using it or planning to with various scales, periods and rule sets.