The Portable Tool Kit

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.

11 Responses to The Portable Tool Kit

  1. These are similar to my own working draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME: ANCIENT rules. I’ve included chariots and war elephants, with the latter not being allowed to change direction once they are unleashed.

    Good luck with your play-tests!

    All the best,


  2. acarhj says:

    Hi Bob,
    Some of the ideas, especially the unit stats came directly from a draft of your ancients rules. The Elephants are an interesting idea. I’d allow the elephants to maneuver until they make first contact and then they have to drive on straight.

    I was thinking of having a 1 turn rampage after the elephant took its final hit. Roll a D3-1 so the elephant would retreat 0, 1 or 2 spaces. Then everything adjacent to the elephant would be attacked once. On a 5+ that unit would take 1 point of damage. After that, the elephant would be removed from play.


  3. John,

    If you contact me by email, I’ll send you a copy of my draft.

    All the best,


  4. Very interesting as always, John. When the local hobby shop went under I bought some hard plastic Vikings and Saxons, which present even fewer troop types than usual, so your rules will soon be getting a workout.

    Best regards,

    Chris johnson

  5. acarhj says:

    Hi Chris,
    Long time. No hear! I think you are right. The match-up of Vikings vs Saxons would produce maybe 4 troop types. Depending on how you model Vikings, maybe even fewer.
    Let me know how they work out for you. BTW, are you using the rules from “The Portable Wargame” book or the ones online?

  6. Chris Johnson says:

    The ones online, I think, although I do not recall many if any changes anyway. The main thing for me now is to find 6 Berserkers without having to refinance my house to pay for them–the cost for metal figures has gotten ridiculous!


    On Sun, Apr 2, 2017 at 9:19 AM, John’s Wargame Page wrote:

    > acarhj commented: “Hi Chris, Long time. No hear! I think you are right. > The match-up of Vikings vs Saxons would produce maybe 4 troop types. > Depending on how you model Vikings, maybe even fewer. Let me know how they > work out for you. BTW, are you using the rules ” >

  7. Tony says:

    Hello John. I currently have Bob’s Portable Wagames book in transit and have the Kindle version of his ancient rules. I’m started thinking of how I might adapt the ancient rules to the Crusades. Most troop types are covered except for Knights.
    My initial thoughts for knights would be: Heavy Cavalry, Armored, Furious Charge, Impetuous.

    Your thoughts would be welcome.


  8. Tony,

    That sounds like a good starting point with regard to knights.

    All the best,


  9. acarhj says:

    Hi Tony,
    That is likely what I would do as well. In looking over the furious charge, I think I’d only allow the +1 for the initial move into combat. Followup combat would be a normal combat with no +1. That’s how Bob (the author) did it for the published rules.

  10. Tony says:

    Thanks for the ideas. I think there are a few other areas I’ll need to tweak for the Crusades: crossbows effectiveness, mixed crossbow and spear units, and how to do bow armed mounted – both heavy and light cavalry.

    Bob’s The Portable Wargame arrived in the mail yesterday so I’ve started reading it and then back to Developing The Portable Wargame. And then the fun of the rule modifications.

    A bit of thinking time ahead.


  11. Carles says:

    Hi John,
    I’m very interested on ancient/medieval period having playing with others rules for a log time. I am wonder if the pinned/unpinned Bob’s rule coul be used also for this period, treating the pinned unit as a disordered one.
    On the other hand, as another optional rule, what about the possibility for light troops evading avoiding close combat with heavy units? What do you think?

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