Monday, 20 June 2022

Dresden in the Barn


Off to Francis' for the weekend for the more or less annual "wargame in a barn". This year's subject was the Battle of Dresden (1813), with about 8000 (!) 20mm figures and 20+ players. Francis hates two table battles, so we played on a horseshoe arrangement, with Dresden itself being in the missing middle.

Looking from Allied lines to our Right Flank at STARTEX

I was Marmont on the French right flank. In reality I only turned up on Day 2, but Francis had me turning up from about Turn 3, but for much of Saturday the left flank was so think with my Corps, St Cyr and Victor that we had little room to manoeuvre whilst the enemy (can't call them Allies!) swept in. By mid pm we were beginning to sort things out and starting to go on the offensive. Sunday morning saw St Cyr being pulled off us to go help in the battle for the Grosser Garten (image above, beautiful) which actually gave us even more space so we went all out. Helped that we had about a 4:1 advantage in cavalry. The battle on our flank ended up with three elements, right to left:

  • On the extreme right we pushed across the stream and a combined arms attack gradually pushed him back behind Drescherdorf so we were right on his table edge and gradually started to roll up the enemies flank.
  • In the centre there were a series of cavalry exchanges, involving both the Grenadiers a Cheval and Cossasks at various stages, all of which gave my infantry on their left free reign to manoeuvre
  • On the left I pushed my infantry aggressively forward. There were two gun batteries against me, as well as the infantry, so I adopted a do or die approach. On the left gun I was intercepted by infantry sallying forth from Lodba, but by the time I'd beaten them back the gun had to withdraw as its Brigade got a Retire result. For the other gun I valiantly advanced my infantry in line (to save at least one +1) and the gun luckily decided that the cavalry on my flank was a juicier target. By the time I was in charge range he had just one firing opportunity for each of the gun and protecting skirmishers - and both missed! I crashed into the gun and carried it, and then carried on through at least another battalion. Several other battalions, and even my Hussars did similar excellent service in melees around Lodba. 
By game end we had taken Drescherdorf and we had two Bn in Lodba to his one, and we had about 75% of the table spur - so we were happy with our weekends work. Just awating the overall result, but hoping for a Marginal French victory.

The Allies Advance

As ever with Francis' games the terrain, the detailing and the figures (mostly A&M, but we spotted at least one Airfix battalion!) were superb, the company and location great, and the rules a joy to play.

Two views of the fight for Lodba

Austrian guns in the evening light

Austrians stand ready

The woods on the left flank

Two more views of the lovely custom made Grosser Garten model

Our lancers go into the attack!

Supported by our valiant guns

The Allies swarm over Grosser Garten

Austrians on the advance

A final view of the Grosser Garten model!

Wednesday, 15 June 2022

Christmas in Hell AAR


Another PhD game. I came across the Battle for Ortona in several urban warfare sources. It was an "epic" Canadian battle of WW2 in Italy (1943) but little known in the UK. I hunted for a game about it and came across this one from High Flying Dice Games, in Canada of course. Paul Rohrbaugh (HFD MD) and I looked at various options at short notice for me to pick it up during my trip to Canada in April, but in the end it was easier just to get him to ship it over.

It's a solitaire game with an AI/blinds mechanic similar to Hue/Ramadi, but which I think works much better - it felt far less of a slog. I loved that it uses areas not hexes for movement and combat - but unfortunately is then let down by a dreadful map (lots of that green above was about a 60 degree slope and not fought over!). The real star though is the way that is manages rubble. I had a whole load of questions about the rules (which as other reviewers have noted are not as clear as they could be) but Paul was very patient in answering them all - although I'm still left with a few niggles about the combat and reinforcement systems. Again reflecting other reviews I think there's a great little game there that's struggling to get out.

I decided a few weeks ago to run Christmas in Hell as my first COW game in July, so I'm busy working  up a 1.1 version to take there with a better map and some streamlined rules - we'll see how it plays.

My full academic review for the game is at

Just search on YouTube for Battle of Ortona and you'll find lots of videos about the battle, including a UK MOD training/documentary film and original war reporter footage from CBC reporters at the battle.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

ConnectionsUK 2022


Spent a great day in Bristol yesterday attending ConnectionsUK 2022. This year, I expect due to COVID planning constraints, it was run as a one-day event alongside the DSET Defence Training and Simulation Conference, rather than the 2 day event at Kings back in 2019 (the last physical one). Also it was purely a games fair, there was no plenary game, lectures or workshops - but great fun all the same. Attendance was complete military, professional and academic wargames as far as I could make out.

There were around 20 games set up to play at various times. The bigger games were more talk throughs than play throughs, but some games were short enough that you could play to completion. There was no structure and you were just free to dip in and out of games as you chose.

So here are the games I played, and the ones I just looked at/talked to designers about.

Games Played

RCAT - Falklands

I've been wanting to play RCAT for a while - hoped we might get it as GFX on a project but failed. It seems to be the Armies "go to" operational level manual wargame. Bn level manoeuvre units, Bde-Div force. Although its using a detailed map the map is divided into zones, reflecting ~ a days movement. The combat system uses attack/defence type factors which are then summed, plus modifiers, and then ratios compared to the a force risk table (simplified copy in Successful Professional Wargames by Graham Longley-Brown - who happened to be running the game) with a CRT then giving for each ratio a spread of results based on a D10 roll. The CRT is sufficiently hidden that it doesn't become too much a game of min/maxing the counter ratios, and it was interesting that very few of the games on show used a ratio style CRT (good news as far as the hobby me is concerned). The game only used D10 and D100 on the basis it's a lot easier to present risks/outcomes as simple percentage chance to military people (agree again), even if they may not find the D10s as familiar as D6s.

We only played the initial air attack on San Carlos Water (only lost the Fearless), and then the attack on Goose Green (lost the whole para bn!), but enough to get a sense of the game. I must admit it was a lot better than I feared and I can see why its been so widely used. The system has been well validated in the Army, and the Falklands scenario has even been played by the commanders of the real battle.

I'd hope I can get my "operational" level rules to a similar level of playability and validity as the PhD evolves.

The Long Village

This was an "influence" game by Stone Paper Scissors, set in an English village not a million miles from Ambridge, which is a flashpoint between left and right wing extremists in some Uncivil War type Britain. Players play the different factions, each with their own aims, and with the UN trying to keep the piece. Each round an "issue" card is drawn and players work out whether to back or counter the issue, whilst also trying to meet their own goals. So its mostly discussion between the players with some basic voting and other actions. As factions become stronger their allowed actions increase, rising up through demos to sabotage, terrorism and insurrection. Nice system, very generic and you can see how you could use the engine for a whole host of different (and more serious) games. Some lovely 6mm UN models too!

Decisions and Disruptions

A very nice "Lego" game by Dr Ben Shreeve set around the issues of protecting a company from cyber attack. Each turn you have a budget to spend on kit, training and software, and then each turn you get told what happened and how much money it cost the company. The game plays over 4 rounds - I think we suffered about £120k of loss, about average I think. The game is very simple, but enough to get the basic idea across. The responses are fixed, so play the game twice with the same  choices and you get the same outcome. Version 2 is under development with far more options and far more interlinkages and random, so should be more "realistic" but probably not quite as accessible. The use of Lego just to show the network layout, and then the stuff you deploy, is insprired.

Shooting Daedelus 

Shooting Daedelus was an MA project from Kings by Ares Compagnoni and Evan d'Alessandro. It was a very different take on a CQB game as it represented BOTH the vertical and horizontal layout in one grid of cards. It was a bit like being in Inception at first but you soon got the hang of it. There were some nice touches in the combat model (damage meant losing cards, so restricting options, and then save rolls based on cards left once under 6). Really nice game. Interesting to compare it to Tango Down which has a slightly more developed combat system, but no vertical dimension. I wouldn't want to over complicate Shooting Daedelus (and I know Evan had to throw loads of ideas away), but a couple of steals from Tango Down (eg range and DM for shooting through doors etc) might round the game out nicely. Interesting both games seem to come down to a grenade slug-fest. Once you're up close you realise that grenades are the best way to go, but if you don't kill the other person they just throw some back, and so on. Something tells me real-world CQB isn't like that. I'm guessing grenade lethality in both games needs to be wound right up - but then it comes down to who's quickest on the draw. Will hopefully get another game in soon on our Discord group.

Games Seen

USMC Operational Wargaming System

A HUGE map of the Ukraine with about a 15km grid and Bn manoeuvre units. This is the USMC's new general purpose manual wargame and was used by them to examine the Russian invasion before it happened - see

The counters are VERY dense with information:

Units are rated D4-D10 (as in Ambush Alley games etc) and again its a Dice+modifiers game rather than ratio CRTs. Looks way complex though with "a day" to train a player, "days" to train umpires.

Would be fun to actually play it some time, but I think that RCAT is closer to what I'm after.

Air Strike

Maj Tom Moaut (aka all sorts of things) ran Air Strike. One team decided on aircraft and load outs, whilst another decided on air defence systems. The air players then had a quick visual recce to decide which target to go for, the defender could then move mobile systems and arrange the detail of their defense layout. Then the airplanes came in, tried to suppress air defence, beat off  the CAPs and finally release some ordnance and get it on target. Looked fun.

Strike! - Kestrel's Hover

A company force with Section/Squad manoeuvre units of a British assault on a remote airfield somewhere in Africa. Looked pretty conventional, no sign of a ratio CRT again and extensive use of decoy blinds (about 3 decoys per real blind!). Surprised that snipers weren't model as "not at that level" since my reading is that snipers have an effect out of all proportion to their numbers, and even if abstracted ought to be included at this scale in some way.

Space Control

A game based about space situation awareness and offensive action presented by Jim Wallman of Stone Paper Scissors. Two teams, red and blue, with charts representing the layers of ground HQs, ground segment, LEO, MEO/HEO and GEO. You spend your budget to launch stuff and to buy offensive/defensive/ISR kit, and then see what you can do to the other side and what they can do with you. Pity I just missed the start of a session as in principle (if not topic) was not dissimilar to a game I've been working on.


A game developed by Outreach Group, 77 Bde as a training aid for anti-corruption and stability operations. You assign staff to G1-G9 desks and then draw incident cards to be dealt with. "Time" and "Resources" are your resources, and you can choose cautious and risky approaches to deal with them, and have to balance resource use with availability and progressing your various stabilisation projects. Again something that could easily be re-skinned.

Don't Fear The Reaper Drone

A really thoughtful game by Edward McEvoy from Kings. One player is Carrie Mathison a CIA analyst and the other a remote Drone pilot. The CIA player has targets to meet and kill and hang the consequences. The pilot has a family and morals. Who's going to crack first! An almost black game touch is that when a strike ends up hitting civilians the pilot has to draw a card from a deck to see who they just killed. Very thought provoking and in considering how to represent and play the civilian population and moral choices in urban conflict some useful food for thought.


A great day with a wonderful breadth of games considering that they were all serious military games. Great to meet up with my supervisor, one of my fellow PhD students and various professional  wargaming friends and colleagues. Hopefully by 2023 Bath Spa will hav as many games running at Connections 2023 as Kings students did this year!

Postccript: Official photos and report up at

Friday, 22 April 2022

Battle of Hue - AAR


Battle of Hue by Tiny Battle Publishing is the last of their print and play games I bought for playtest at the start of the PhD. I also knew nothing about Hue when I started, but I've since read the chapter in DiMarco, the Osprey book and have Mark Bowden's magnum ops on the bookshelf. Hue has 8 entries on my urban wargames database, second only to Stalingrad, so I may well get to know a lot more about it!

This Hue game is based on TBP's Battle for Ramadi - see my review. It adds some extra complexity, some of which is good. The biggest change though is that you have to attack or suppress every hex you are adjacent to, and with little Fires at the start it's a very tough job. Not sure it adds to the overall experience.

You can read the full review at:

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

My Medieval Base/BOD Rules Development Test


Having given everybody else's medieval rules a hard time, it's time to move on to my own! I've currently got two versions - a base/bucket-of-dice set and a Fate Dice set. I've also been toying with a D10 version, but that would probably just be a variation of the base/BOD set using D10 instead of D6s to give a bit more granularity between weapon types.

Both sets of rules share an order system similar to Poleaxed, and I've just added their idea of commander "aggressiveness" ratings (as well as competency) - so a unit gets given an order and then carries it out every turn - no hanging around waiting for command points. Lots of the other mechanics are borrowed from SLS, so per Battle card based activation, King+CPs for the CinC, troop quality. Movement is base+random. The games are, as ever played on a 10cm grid. It's really just the  firing/melee/casualty/morale model that's different.

For this version firing/melee is 1D6 per base, with standard DMs, and then an armour saving throw - seems sensible/suitable for medieval. Casualties are in bases, but I tend to mark them rather than remove them just to make the clearing up simpler (although for medieval shrinking frontage may be more important to show). 

I stole the morale model from Battlegroup:NORTHAG, so your break point is the number of units in a battle, and you roll D3 for each unit lost. So on average your Morale Hits == Break Point after 50% losses, but you could do better or worse.

Set Up

Battle of Tewkesbury again, straight fight. There was some drawing of fate cards before the game, which delayed part of the Yorkist Rear, and weakened some of the Lancastrian Van.

How It Played

The battles paired off against each other. Yorkists moved forward on Attack orders, Lancastrians stayed put on Defend. Both sides loosed a few arrows and then switched out missiles for bill for the melees. This went well for the Lancastrians in the Van and Main, less well in the Rear. Currours squared off against each other, the Yorkists getting by far the better of it before the cavalry broke to recover.

After a couple of melee turns things began to shake out. The Lancastrian Rear was the first battle to go. The Yorkist centre was very dicey, but held on with a morale/control test at 50% casualties. The Yorkish Van was almost completely wiped out though.

Both Commanders were getting stuck into the action, although neither brave enough to lead from the front rank. Both took flesh wounds, but as the Lancastrian Rear melted away for a brief moment Lord Wenlock was left exposed, but managed to hasten away before the Yorkists could take him. It was then Edward that ended up exposed as he had only his MAA around him as his center Battle failed. 

The Lancastrian Courrors came racing back, aiming at Edward but their Yorkists counterparts managed an intercept and finally wiped them out.

With two battles down it was time for Edward to withdraw, protected by what was left of his Rear.

Rules Impression

OK, I know they are my rules, and there's certainly past evidence on this blog of me being harsh about my own rules, but I think these played pretty well, and better than most of the sets I've tested. Certainly give me the sort of game and the sort of decisions I want when playing Medieval. Needless to say I tinkered with various things along the way, and still more to do. Particular areas to look at are:

  • Orders state post melee, and exploitation
  • Effect on battles when other battles break
Both of these I can look at also in the DFate version of the game.


So heading in the right direction. I'll update the 1 page QRS/rules-set if anyone wants to take a look.

Friday, 18 March 2022

The Three Wargame Table


Busy justifying the three 2'6" x 6' tables I bought when I set up the wargames room!

The figure game is a development/play test of my Medieval rules, after playtesting all those commercial ones over the last couple of months. Must admit it's going very well so far.

Near the camera is "Advance on Fitzlar" - the introductory scenario form my new (to me) copy(s) of NATO Division Commander (seen stacked). You can see the big black box of counters I've got to sort through at some point. Vague business reasons for playing it as it's one of the few commercial/SPI wargames which has two maps (for hidden movement) and rules for ISR (you have to get so many ISR points on a target before you can react/fire on it - I think)

Finally the smaller yellow/red countered game is Brian Train's Ukrainian Crisis (2014 version). I'd hoped to play this before the war started, but Russia beat me to it. Again business play (rather than hobby/PhD) as it has a large element of polmil/grey zone in it.

Hue lined up for after one of these finishes to get me back on the PhD track.

Monday, 14 March 2022

NATO Division Commander


About 40 years ago I lusted after SPI's NATO Division Commander. I had The Next War, but NDC just kept being delayed, but the rumours that it had a PC companion made it seem like the game to have. But a combination of price, delays and starting to soldier for real meant that I never got around to buying it.

Fast forward 39 years and I started tracking NDC on eBay, most copies where £150 and in the US (so add £30 postage!), but Hind Figures had one, looking battered and "only 1 map" for £100. Then a week or ago so someone had a map on its own, I picked that up for a bargain, debated whether I could survive with just the map, PDF rules, and self-printed PDF counters, but once I had the map in my hands I decided I really needed (wanted) to bite the bullet and get the whole thing. 

Discussions with Ian at Hind to confirm the state also revealed that it was actually 2 (!) sets he was selling, but the boxes were so battered and counters so intermingled that he couldn't face trying to divide it up to confirm 2 sets. So in the end I decided I might as well be the one to sort out 1200 counters so I made him an offer and the sets were mine.

Yep the boxes are pretty battered, and there is a bag of ~700 counters, but the rest are unpunched, and it does look like there are 4 maps there (NDC is one of the few games with a double map set for hidden movement/umpire play).

I've already got the starter scenario - Advance on Fitzlar - laid out, ready to be played over the next week or so.

So the plan is try create two separate sets, and sell one. As long as most of the counters are there I'm not too bothered by completeness (will probably create some UK ones anyway), so I'll give the "for sale" set the mostly unpunched counters. I will probably keep the better box (still tatty) but make the second box at least usable. Then I'll put it on eBay and see if I can recoup some of the cost. And then there's always the 5th map! Given my schedule don't expect me to get it done til late summer though!