Monday, July 8, 2019

Afterthoughts on Hak-al-Kumara...

The recent action at Hak-al-Kumara, between the RED (Rajistan Expeditionary Division) and TURQUOISE (Turkowaz) brought up a number of thoughts about the rule set I was using, to wit, The Portable Wargame. In recent exchanges, its author, Bob Cordery, has suggested that 'portable' could mean transferable and much as transportable, especially as my own set-up scarcely qualifies for the latter. What I like about the whole concept is its 'accessibility': easy to follow and to absorb; and equally easy to adapt to scenario and situation. Here are some ideas - in no particular order - that occurred to me in this and earlier battles.
A Ruberian gunboat, assembly completed, and awaiting
its paint job.  See Later...

1.  Effect of artillery in direct line-of-sight.  

Early on it became apparent that in certain circumstances, artillery fire can not miss. This is when guns are shooting shooting directly at a target, repeated from the previous turn, with a force commander present. The added bonuses are such as to take even a natural roll of 'one' over the 'five' needed to score a hit.

Not liking the 'gimme' hit, I did consider enacting that a 'natural one' was always a miss, but decided that it were better simply to reduce the bonus for direct fire from +2 to +1. Thus, on p45 of my hardback copy of The Portable Wargame:

     "Increase the D6 die score by 1 if the Artillery unit has a direct line-of-sight to the target grid area."

This will be quite bad enough on the receiving end!

2. Effect of artillery upon grid areas containing more than one unit.

"Any unit or units ... are hit, and a D6 rolled for each..." This I also overrode for the sake of the battle, but this was influenced largely by the direct line-of-sight effect. 

This became a consideration after I added in an extra layer of command (a topic I'll get to later). I felt especially that if hits could be automatic, command stands became much too vulnerable. In the game, I made only the lead element in a stricken grid area liable to take damage.

The jury is still out on this. It makes sense that a denser target is likely to be more vulnerable. That is the trade-off for more celerity in movement, two elements in the same grid area under the same orders require just the one activation 'point'. 

Preferring to retain this feature, I have decided in future actions to revert to the original rule. I think the proposed rule change in the previous paragraph is likely to be sufficient.

The rough design sketch used to guide gunboat construction.

3. Close Combat.

I've never been 100% clear on this, but I have inferred from the PW rule set that all close combats (between forces in adjacent grid areas) are automatic, with the side whose turn it is rolling for each unit in 'close combat' (and the enemy responding).  No orders are required.  By making it thus easier  devote 'activation points' to unengaged or supporting units, 'holding actions' start to make a deal of sense.  Such in many respects became the attacks of 18th and 16th Brigades in that last action, whilst 17th and 6th Cavalry Brigades fetched their flanking hook.

4. Layers of command.

The original Portable Wargame has just the one, overall, commander. When designing the Hak-al-Kumara battle, though, the forces involved seemed to call out for an extra layer of command. It didn't make any difference whether a group of 4 stands was a brigade or a battalion - or even a company - they insisted on their own commanding officers.

So they got them. As brigade command elements, I imagined them as comprising the Brigade command and HQ, with a hand-picked company-sized  escort. I did consider giving them 2 Strength Points (SP), but have begun by giving them just 1SP, but making them 'Elite', and hence harder to 'kill'. 

These command elements offered the same combat bonuses as the Army Commander did.

This does mean that one must think twice about placing a sub-commander with a unit under artillery fire. Such gentry might be best kept slightly back, then join in close combats to lend them extra weight. Or stand with the artillery.

By and large, I found these extra elements seemed to offer something extra to the action overall. I actually envisaged them as fighting elements in their own right (close combat only), but, on reflection there is no need to treat them any differently from the Army Commander.
HMS Shoofly, in Rajistan service.  The Ensign is that of
the Ruberian Royal Navy: The Cross of St George,
with a further Cross of St George in canton.

4. Size of action.

Generally speaking, the size of the action I would have placed at Brigade level, comprising 3 infantry battalions, each comprising 4 companies plus Gatling platoon; one cavalry regiment of 3 squadrons, and 3 gun batteries. The thing could have been conducted that way.

But it shows the flexibility of the system that one could go up a command level. It still  had quite the sense of a Division sized action of the original.

Image result for HMS Firefly Kut
HMS Firefly, Mesopotamia, 1915.

5. Future action.

The Battle of Hak-al-Kumara, intended as a one off, turns out likely to kick off something of a mini-campaign - a sequel, at least. It seems that following his successful check of the Ruberian Expeditionary Division at Hak, Nasr-ed-Din was stripped of his freshest Division, the 37th, detached for service elsewhere. Forced in retreat northwards up the Pardis River, the Turkowaz commander elected to take a stand  at the ancient site of Cpistupon. There, he received reinforcements of two fresh Divisions, 45th and 51st, both of which boasted a company of brand new mitrailleuses

WIP: A couple of pieces of ordnance intended for the
BLUE/TURQUOISE armies.  They were to be mountain guns,
but, having something of the look of mitrailleuses, are to
enter the service of Turcowaz in that role...

General Scarlett followed up in leisurely fashion, somewhat delayed by the late arrival of a gunboat by way of reinforcement.

Having found something about the Battle of Ctesiphon, I discovered the presence there of a couple of gunboats. I thought, then, one at least had to beef up the Ruberian force.  So in the last couple of days, I've made one. This is loosely modelled upon the HMS Firefly gunboat - one of the Fly class of vessels, all which were named for some kind of fly (Firefly, Greenfly, Gadfly etc). None were called Botfly, but, after a bit I decided instead upon HMS Shoofly for this vessel.  HMS Firefly accompanied Major-General Townshend's expedition. My 'model' isn't meant to be hugely accurate - merely to have the 'right' look of the thing. The forward mast I added because it improved this overall appearance, I thought...

To be continued...


  1. Hi Archduke,

    That is one lovely looking gunboat!If I have learned anything from my weekend at COW and following various blogs it is the simple fact that if it looks right then invariably it is.

    I am looking forward to seeing her in action!

    All the best,


    1. Thanks, David -
      HMS Shoofly is now sporting its paintwork, and looking not too bad. It is very tempting to build a couple of slightly smaller gunboats for a nice little flotilla. But then I would have to build some kind of opposition...

  2. Archduke Piccolo,

    I love the model gunboat! It has all the characteristics of a typical river gunboat, and would be suitable for most navies for the period from 1880 to 1945.

    As for your rule changes ... well they all make perfect sense and are totally in keeping with the spirit of the original rules,

    I look forward to seeing your next battle report.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      I'm fairly pleased with my new gunboat. It just fits into a grid area 4" across the flats with a 5mm overlap at either end. At a nominal 1:360 scale, how it looks with 1:72 scale figures has yet to be seen, but my experience with my home made ACW riverine fleets seems promising.

      Still working on the next RED vs TURQUOISE scenario - found, with much searching, quite a nice sketch map of the battle I want to fight. Before then, though, I'll have to write up the 'Portable Napoleonic Wargame' of Quatre Bras.

  3. Looks promising.

    Regards, Chris