The Portable Tool Kit

March 31, 2017

Being that all of the Portable Wargame variants I do will be sharing the same stable of rules, I figure it might be better to make a tool kit from which to design from. Units and special abilities can be separately defined and combined to make new and interesting units for any game era.





Heavy Infantry




Unarmored Infantry




Light Infantry




Heavy Cavalry




Light Cavalry




Special rules

Armored counts as being in cover against missile combat.

Bows have a range of 3 and hit on a 5+. 6+ to hit in close combat.

Furious Charge +1 move space if unit is moving to close combat this move. +1 to hit if unit moved to close combat, including follow-ups.

Impetuous Must follow up if option is available. Must close combat after the followup.

Longbows/Crossbows ignore armor. Treat as bows.

Mixed Missile have a range of 2 and hit on a 5+. 6+ to hit in close combat.

Phalanx Cavalry may not attack a phalanx from the front.

Shield-Wall counts as being in cover against missile combat from the front.

Skirmish In close combat skirmishers must take the retreat option if available.

Vulnerable Flanks flank/rear bonus against this unit is +2.

Some examples:

Roman Legionaires would be heavy infantry. They would have the Armored special rule. At this level, I would not worry about any sort of Roman line relief. This is such a high level game, that sort of detail is not appropriate.

Hellenistic infantry would be heavy infantry with Armored, Phalanx and Vulnerable Flanks special rules. Are they Hoplites or Phalangites? At this level, we don’t care. You could make some fiddly rules to mimic the slightly different fighting styles but ultimately at this level, the net effect would be 0.

Warbands might come in one of two flavors. The common warband might be unarmored infantry while the “soldurii” might be heavy infantry. Either way, they would get the furious charge special rule.

There are a few outliers that need to be considered. Elephants almost certainly would be powerful. But there should be some risk of them rampaging through friendly lines when they have been hit. How does one handle scythed chariots? Should they even be considered at this level? Other chariots both light and heavy? Are they like cavalry that is limited to clear terrain? Should camels fight the same as corresponding cavalry types?

Assuming the above rules are balanced (and that is a big assumption), this is about 80% ready for the Classical and, dare I say, Medieval period.

The Portable Dark Ages – First Whack

March 31, 2017

I want to ultimately make a variant Portable Wargame (Bob Cordery) that covers the Classical Age.  I think a good place to start would be the Dark Ages.  The reason is that there are fewer troop types and therefore fewer options to deal with.  Combat is a real slog in the truest sense of the word.  Most of the rules will still hold true.  The troops will be different.

Warbands are something that can easily be dealt with.  They are potentially powerful, fast moving units that will quickly lose when things go badly for them.   Therefore, the strength should be 3.  Movement can be 2, like most other infantry.  However, they may move a 3rd space if that move would bring them into close combat.  They have no missile ability.  They normally hit on a 5 or more  in close combat but any combat in which they moved into contact, including followups, they get +1 to hit.

Shield-wall troops are the backbone of many armies.  They have a strength of 4 and can move 2 spaces per turn.  They have no missile ability.  They hit on a 5 or more in close combat.  They count as being in cover when attacked from the front by missile troops.

Skirmishers have a strength of 2 and can move 2 spaces per turn.  They have a shooting range of 3 and hit on a 5 or more with missile combat.  They hit on a 6 in close combat.  If hit in close combat they must always take the retreat option if available.

Heavy cavalry have a strength of 3 and can move 3 spaces.  They have no missile ability and can hit in close combat on a 4 or more.

Light cavalry have a strength of 3 and can move 3 spaces.  They may be armed with javelins, hitting on a 5 or more in with missile combat with a shooting range of 2.  They hit on a 6 in close combat.  They may have no missile ability and hit in close combat on a 5 or more.

Instead of spelling it out per unit, I could outline abilities like “Shieldwall” and “Barbarian Charge” for the extra abilities.

I have not tested any of this so some of the units may be too weak/powerful.

Small is good – The Portable Wargame

March 30, 2017

At the end of January, Bob Cordery released his Portable Wargame in a book format called (not surprisingly) The Portable Wargame. The book itself is 108 pages long and covers the history of grid based wargames, a design philosophy, rules for the 19th century, rules for modern warfare and several battle reports demonstrating the rules.

Essentially the rules follow a strict IGO-UGO sequence. Both sides exchange artillery fire with simultaneous effects. Then the players dice to see who goes first. The winner moves and attacks with each unit in turn before going onto the next unit. For instance, a unit could charge, win the combat driving the enemy back. It could then follow up and fight it again. All of this would occur before the next unit. Once both sides have taken a turn, you determine if there is a winner and then start the next turn if not.

I played my first game last night with an excellent little game engine designed to play The Portable Wargame on a computer. I chose the 18th century theme. Rather than playing on a flat plane, I decided to do a river crossing. There was a river that flowed west to east to the center of the board and bent to the south where it then bent again to the east. There was a bridge 1 space away from the bend and a town right next tot he bend. I played in 1 hour wargames style. I had 3 infantry and 1 gun for the defender and 4 infantry 1 gun and 1 cavalry for the attacker. The game played out in a believable manner, first with an artillery duel as well as a prolonged firefight across the river. The attacker crossed at first with a high risk attack. After an initial success, it was halted and then succumbed to flanking fire from both flanks. This maneuver did leave the enemy flanks vulnerable for 1 turn. The defender lost all the initiative rolls. The attacker assaulted a second time. This time, the infantry advanced and wiped out the enemy center unit. It was followed up by a cavalry unit which dispatched the enemy unit in the open. At this point, I ended the game as the defenders were down to their guns and 1 infantry unit still holding the town.

Simple and even simplistic but not in a bad way. I found that I never worried about the rules and never tried to “game” the system. Rather, I was concentrating on strategy and tactics the whole game. I played the game on an 8 by 8 board and 6 units per side comfortably fits on this sized board. I say this because One Hour Wargames uses 6 units per side. You can use this very setup, a chessboard sized board for those that did not pick up that subtlety, to fight out the scenarios in OHW. There is an option for chance cards in OHW as well. With some minor modifications, these can be used in The Portable Wargame too. Most OHW scenarios last 15 turns. In relation to movement, the 8X8 board is about 1/3 smaller than the OHW board. I’d limit the turn length to 10-12 turns per scenario for The Portable Wargame.

After I get a couple of more games under my belt, I think I am going to expand on Bob’s ancient rules. I already have some ideas that don’t fall too far outside the “canon” of his rules. Mainly they will be to provide a small amount of differentiation of units for the classical period. As well, I am going to put some paper armies, board and terrain, all 2.5D, and try to make a truly portable wargame.

The Portable Wargame at Lulu Hardback, Softback, E-Book

Computer game can be found here.

More information and support at the author’s blog.