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. By popular vot e it will be set in the mid 18th Century.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Portable Speed Bump

With winter winding down, I made the trek in to Ron's yesterday for our first game of the year. We had yet to try the WWII Advanced Portable Wargame so we decided to give it a go.

When I arrived the scene was set for France 1940 using the Two Sides of A River scenario from CS Grant's Programmed Scenarios.

About 4 turns in, its pretty clear to me that I am not equipped to halt the Blitzkrieg in this open country. Ron however, was still worried about how to get past the woods to my rear.
Boiling down the scenario forces and translating them into SP's  I ended up with roughly a reinforced infantry battalion with 4 infantry, and 1 each MG, Mortar, light ATG and Carrier (Scout Car) units backed by 2 25lb Field Guns and a pair of French Char B tanks. Ron had a gazillion Pzr II, 35T and Pzr III tanks backed by some infantry in halftracks and a Stuka.

It was rapidly evident that we had a complete mismatch between our expectations, the scenario layout and what the rules are designed for.

Our first clue was when I discovered that the 5 mile range of the 25 pdrs translated to a mere 8 hexes  and rather than being able to cover most of the board as I was used to in past games, they could barely fire across the river. That meant I had to move them, a 3 turn process to move even 2 hexes. I think I manged to fire twice all game. If I had checked that before deploying I would have deployed one on either side not that it would have helped much.

The second issue was when we tried to figure out how to classify the tanks. The Char B was obviously heavy and the PZRII light so we made the 35T's and PzrIII Medium. All well and good but since the rules don't cater for varying levels of armour protection, only range, it was soon clear that the 20mm guns on the PzrII's were able to shoot up the supposedly near impermeable armour of the Char B at their maximum range of 3 hexes. Since heavy tanks can't fire and move, it was easy for the enemy to close and shoot the Char B's to pieces with them hardly getting a shot off. We really missed having separation between offensive and defensive capabilities for tanks. Using Elite and Poor attributes might have helped if I'd thought of it before the game but I'd have been happier using the house modification that I adopted when testing the rules last year (See portable-wargame-review).

We also got a bit confused once the Stuka started to fire its machine guns which led Ron to want to fire the machine guns on his tanks at my infantry rather than using their small calibre anti-tank guns. This seemed reasonable, though not covered, but when Ron pointed out that the rules said the airplane got 3 dice per MG he wanted the same for his tanks but I flatly drew the line there. (More on the air rules below )

The whole level of the game is at a higher level than we are used to and we hadn't  made nearly enough mental adjustments or adapted the scenario properly to fit the rules.

Anyway, it was still an enjoyable game and far from one sided though it was over in about 8 out of 15 turns when my forces became exhausted and he had a clear path around my flank.

We turned our hand to a quick air to air game. It was fast and fun but was almost Reallllly fast. Luckily, just as we were starting I noticed that while the air rules state that planes roll 3 dice per MG, the examples show them rolling 1 per MG. I suspect that the 3 dice rule was an error and we followed the example instead. This was lucky for his Stuka as I was only rolled 4 dice per attack not 12 when my fighter got his Stuka in his sights. Even I couldn't have avoided hitting him with that many dice.

The sun was in my eyes, that's my story.
Anyway, a fun day out. Now back to the Great War.


  1. I have completely re-written the twentieth century version of the Portable Wargame and include armour classes for both AT weapons and armour protection. I've also given the artillery rather more sensible ranges (20 hexes for 25 pdrs).

    If you don't want to use armour classes, then varying the SP instead works (give all those German tin cans 2 SP and see how well they do!).

    1. That had occurred to me but I expect we'll be happier with a more conventional assessment of armour and ant-armour capabilities.

    2. I'd be interested in seeing those armour piercing and protection rule sets. I have tended to use relative SP values. Where things get tricky is in the lightness of, say, a Px38(t) gun and armour relative to the tactical unhandiness of the Char B1 (bis).

      Were I take assign SP=3 to a Pz38 (bearing in mind we're talking RELATIVE values, here) then I would give the Char B1 (bis) no more than a 4, and that based upon its protection alone. The problem I would then have is that the French tank is likely to be used in a defensive role, rather than its designed attacking. That might suggest, of course, that it was better adapted to a defensive role.

      I've more than once looked at the question of more conventional AT and protection, but have tended to run into the scale of the actions were are fighting.

      Just yesterday I read an account of a 10-vehicle JagdTiger company in early 1945. Although its commander - a Tiger 'ace' - was vastly experienced, his command wasn't, and went into action inexperienced, nervous (understandably very frightened, withal), and with hardly any training.

      That company's nervousness cost it at least two fine opportunities to do some serious damage, cost one vehicle and its entire crew that turned to withdraw instead of backing out (the withdrawal being unnecessary anyhow), sent a second vehicle irretrievably into a bomb hole (some bomb!), and the remaining eight abandoned and scuttled.

      Suppose we give the Shermans a fairly standard SP of 3. What do we give the JagdTigers? In my view any number from a 1 to a 6, or even more. In this instance possibly a 1 (single company, tanks, scary kit, green - cabbage looking withal - crews).

      Mind you, I am looking at games in which a f-stand unit might represent anything from a company to a brigade, depending upon the scale of the action. At the lower levels armour and AT values probably do come more into consideration.

    3. I think Ron would prefer more the 1 unit is a platoon or less sort of scale but fast moving without too many gimmics. Anyway, his toys, his table, his rules (though we do tend to work by consensus.

  2. It is really very simple and bears a distinct resemblance to NQM. I do the SP calculations based on unit type and quality and strength so eg a Russian Guards battalion gets two stands of 4SP, an average tank squadron (of 9 to 12 vehicles) gets 3SP plus or minus 1 for quality. Bigger units get more tanks so a 22 tank panzer company gets two stands.

    I dumped the quality saving throws (as that is factored in) and the saving throws are based on weight of fire vs protection. M V M is 4+, plus or minus the difference, so eg a heavily protected unit hit by a light weapon saves on 2+, conversely, light hit by heavy needs a 6. If they pass the save they suffer the lesser result (retreat/pin) and can opt to lose 1SP instead.

    So heavy tanks and dug in infantry are quite safe from light fire, be it AP or he respectively.

    I did one version without to hit rolls at all, which I may resurrect.

  3. Ross Mac,

    Somehow I missed this blog entry - and the very interesting discussion it triggered off - when it came out.

    I don't know how the 3D6 per Aircraft MG slipped through the proof-reading stage, but it did! It should read 1D6 and NOT 3D6.

    I like Martin's ideas for allocating SPs and may well look at something similar myself in the future.

    By the way, the artillery ranges are too short ... but I made them so that it could not dominate my normal 9 x 8 tabletop.

    All the best,


    1. Bob, I remembered why the ranges were short once I'd looked them up but that was AFTER the game was already under way! My whole deployment and plan would have been different if I'd known in advance what we were going to play and had looked it up. That's honest friction in action, a poorly trained commander!

      It would have been interesting to try the Elite/Poor SP adjustment but again the idea only came after the serious fighting was over which was too late.