Heretical Gaming is my blog about my gaming life, featuring small skirmishes and big battles from many historical periods (and some in the mythic past or the far future too). The focus is on battle reports using a wide variety of rules, with the occasional rules review, book review and odd musing about the gaming and history. Most of the battles use 6mm-sized figures and vehicles, but occasionally 15mm and 28mm figures appear too.

Sunday 6 November 2022

The Portable Wargame - Back in Battling: WW2 Scenario

Obviously the best way to get out of a fallow gaming period is just to get something down on the table, preferably a game that doesn't take too great a commitment of resources, either in terms of mental effort or time to set up.  Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame seemed to fit that bill.  I have never actually played the 'vanilla' version of these rules, although I have messed about with the Air version a lot and I have played a bit of the Napoleonic version.  Anyway, it is way past time I put that right! I don't have the C19 colonial armies to do the first game in the Portable Wargame, but I do have plenty of WW2 stuff. The original scenario is set on the Eastern Front in 1944.  I don't have quite the right toys to do that scenario justice right now (I am missing a couple of Soviets bits and pieces) but I have plenty of British stuff, so I have moved the scenario to the Western Front.  The British of "Arrowforce" are attacking a prepared German position defended by Kampfgruppe Frederickson).

The Forces:

British Army ("Arrowforce"):
6 Rifle Units [4]
1 Field Artillery Unit [2]
1 Anti-Tank Unit [2]
4 Tank Units [3]

German Army (Kampfgruppe Frederickson)
2 Infantry Units [4]
2 Machinegun Units [2]
1 Mortar Unit [2]
1 Anti-tank Unit [2]
1 Tank Unit (Elite) [4]

The original scenario had the Germans with a 'Mountain Gun' unit rather than a 'Mortar' unit.  I wasn't quite sure which type of artillery would best fit here, so I used some mortars instead.  Each side also has a commander present (the British commander is represented by a foot command stand, the German Kampfgruppe commander is in a Kubelwagen).

I use one base = 1 Strength Point, so a unit with 4 Strength Points will have 4 bases, a unit with 2 SP, 2.

The other difference is that the original scenario used a 9x8 hex-grid whilst I used an 8x8 square grid.  for those with the rules, I used the stricter line-of-sight rules i.e. terrain covers the corner of the square (so you can't draw an LOS through it if any of the opposite edges has blocking terrain in it).

The Set-Up:

KG Frederickson in position: the darker areas are minefields, the walled areas represent barbed wire defences.

The German right wing: Infantry and Machineguns occupy some bunkers, and are supported by anti-tank guns.  The mortars are hidden behind the high ground.

The German left wing: the Panthers guard the flank, supported by machineguns and infantry.

The German commander takes position on the hill, for maximum visibility.

The Battle:

A Cromwell-equipped tank unit advances to engage the German bunkers from long-range - with no effect.

Infantry and artillery come up to support the British armour

Whilst Colonel Arrow leads the Shermans on a left-flanking attack - their fire forces the German infantry off the hill opposite

British anti-tank guns engage German Panthers in the woods - the Panthers have the advantage, destroying some of the anti-tank guns in short order.  British infantry look on.

The British advance, with the main axis being on the left

The German infantry re-occupy the hill but being to suffer casualties from the Shermans' fire

British Shermans attack the German machine-gunners in the woods

The Cromwells get driven back but the last MG42 teams are eliminated

Colonel Arrow then launches an attack on the flank of the anti-tank guns - but without effect!

Germany infantry move up in support, trying to close assault the Shermans in the rear!

However both sides fight with equal determination and drive each other back, the British tanks into the woods and the Germans towards the hills

Then the German anti-tank gunners cause further casualties amongst the Cromwells

British infantry and German infantry exchange ineffective fire between tree-lines over on the right, whilst the tank duel is equally inconclusive

The German infantry regains the hills, but is under fire from the next British tank unit

Meanwhile, a second attack on the flank of the German anti-tank guns succeeds this time - half the guns are eliminated and even more importantly, the German commander is captured in the fighting.

A closer view

The German infantry attempt another flank close-assault

However the close assault miscarries and the Germans are driven back with heavy losses

Colonel Arrow spots his chance and overruns the German infantry...

and eliminates them!

The British attack develops through the centre

The fight on the right develops further as more British infantry arrives in support

German units attempt to stop the flow...

...but the increased weight of fire throws back the remaining Germans and another unit is eliminated, collapsing the German's morale: the battle is effectively over.

With only 3 units left, the Germans must withdraw.

Game Notes: A very exciting game!  Possibly it felt closer than it was, looking back, although that is no bad thing.  The combination of the gridded board and simple rules led to a really quick game, in terms of being able to play a large number of turns in a short period of time.  Although there are many little points of detail that might be tweaked or questioned, the overall shape of the game was better than I had imagined.  I was expecting something a little cruder but there was quite a degree of hidden subtlety which I hadn't seen just by reading it.  Everything is very well-written and well-explained without being 'chatty'. It really is easy to follow for a new player.

There are a few different optional rules. The sample game in the book included some of them in this scenario but I played it as 'vanilla' as I could.  I think there were only a couple of concepts I had trouble with:

Many of the combat results offer the choice of taking an SP loss or retreating a square.  Lots of examples have units being eliminated rather than retreating but I didn't find many instances where it looked impossible, so perhaps I am missing some of the finer points here. Also, some wording seems to imply no more than one unit in a single area, some wording the opposite.  So I wasn't sure if this was allowed or not.
Does close combat count as 'firing'?  Units can only fire once but can an armoured unit fire then move into close combat?
Mortar units feel a bit strong in close combat
Units which retreated could quite easily move back to their vacated positions; I wondered if they should be forbidden from moving again in the same turn.
Now it is very possible that there are answers to these things in the rules and I have just missed the explanations, and none of them are very serious in any case.  The bottom line is I really enjoyed this game and I think it is capable of some very interesting further development.

Figures by Baccus 6mm, tanks a mixture of Baccus and GHQ, artillery pieces by Heroics and Ros.


  1. Hmmm. Very interesting. Definitely worth a try for WW2 then.

    1. Yes, I think so Geoff. The simplicity allows lots of turns, which allows the possibility of artillery and firepower preparation combine with manoeuvre in a way that other games can't easily do.

  2. Sounds like a very entertaining game. Was the playing area about 2x2 foot?

    1. A little less. The squares are 6cm x 6cm IIRC with a little gap inbetween each.

  3. Great to see you able to get a game in again and these rules are perfect for when you need a quick and simple game with minimal set up. I've never tried the WWII version but found the H&M and Ancients rules OK. I would tweak them if I played them more to suit my tastes, but generally use others rules these days.

    1. Thanks Steve. Yes, it certainly hit the quick and simple boxes!

  4. You got a game in already! Great to see. And in a small space and fast - my favourite type of game :-)

    1. No time like the present and all that! Cheers Shaun

  5. A great adaption of the original scenario … and some great looking models and terrain!

    I look forward to reading more of your battle reports in due course.

    All the best,

    Bob Cordery

    1. Thanks Bob, more coming up soon I, I expect