Tag Archives: onside report

Welcome to Cold Steel Games!

Welcome to Cold Steel Games! This is a fork of my main blog Themself to split out the military history and game related stuff from the reading and writing that has come to dominate it over the last two or three years.

Why Cold Steel?

It’s a re-purposing of a domain I’ve held for a decade that was originally used for hosting a game design of a WW1 game about night patrols in no man’s land called ‘Hot Blood & Cold Steel’. The game still exists, and I’ll be adding a page with the contents of the old website (spruced up a bit) and a link to download the Hot Blood & Cold Steel game rules and printable tiles.

Posts here will be ocassional rather than to a fixed schedule (Themself typically has posts Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week). All of them will be game or military history related, and I intend to stick with that. Some of the posts here will probably be re blogged on Themself as well, keeping it a one stop shop for all my public writing.

You’ll probably notice that there are already a load of articles here. I imported all the relevant stuff from Themself so that all my military and game related material is here, apart from the stuff over on my Full Moon Games wiki.

All that remains is to write more wargaming stuff!

CLWG July 2013 Game Reports

There were five of us at July’s CLWG meeting, myself, Nick, Mukul, Dave & John. There were three game sessions presented:

  1. I went first with a two part committee game called “The High Ground” about the consequences of cheaper surface to orbit space travel;
  2. Nick presented an economics card game for educating people about markets and the effects of money and credit;
  3. Mukul’s session on the 1914 campaign on the Eastern Front.

Continue reading CLWG July 2013 Game Reports

Another side of the COIN

I ran my game of being an Afghan farmer “The Other Side of the COIN” at the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group’s (CLWG) annual conference yesterday afternoon. This was its second outing, you can see my onside report from the first run here.

Since the last outing the game has developed further to address some of the comments that the players made then. In particular I had a set of individual objective cards to drive some behaviours and give the players something to focus on that was essentially different each time the game gets played (and also makes the farmers all slightly different from each other, there is a danger that they all do the same thing). The other advantage of the cards is that it stops a purely economic rationality setting in immediately and just converting to grow poppy (because the income levels from this are a couple of orders of magnitude higher that any other sort of crops – the real reason that the Afghans grow so much opium).

Another development was the introduction of a set of cards to represent improvements or capabilities that the farmers can invest in. for example, securing a fuel supply, or building schools etc. These were supposed to form a pyramid of improvement, in that each of the items was allocated a level, and to buy a level 2 improvement then you need to support that with two level 1 improvements. Some of the improvements had pre-requisites, but apart from that it was simply building your pyramid that counted. Each improvement had some icons on the bottom that told you what sort of improvement it was, whether it benefited the whole community or just an individual. It also told you whether or not it promoted the Islamic lifestyle and/or used fuel. The individual briefings, and the farming mechanics, remained completely unchanged from the previous run of the game. I also didn’t get an opportunity to properly document some of the changes.

The improvements were all documented on the cards I produced, and there was a price list to make it easier to know what was available. In this run of the game the valley was a lot more peaceful. We played through two years of farming and in that time two of the four played farmers decided to grow opium, one on a small scale (a couple of fields) and the other as his major crop. In addition there was a bumper crop on the first summer.  This injected quite a lot of money into the game, and so resulted in some significant improvements in the town, a new well and a Madrassa were established as well as regular fuel & medical supplies and a specialist seed supply.  A shortage of time and players meant that there wasn’t any external tension to make different decisions about things, and the local cleric focussed on good works (establishing the water supply and madrassa from the funds raised).

Lessons learnt from this session:

  • the amount of money needs some careful calculation and appropriate denomination notes produced to make it easy to count out the correct sums;
  • the farming mechanisms need to be significantly streamlined to make them work faster, and the task allocation piece removed (or at least built into other mechanisms unobtrusively) as it wasn’t a real constraint on activity;
  • I need longer than two hours to run the game, at least double that, and I also need more players, at least seven, with clearer briefing for the police and the taliban as well as an external agent to foment trouble (or be the catalyst for it);
  • the mechanisms need to be properly collected into a well signposted reference document, ideally quite short. There also needs to be a revision of the play aid for farmers to put all the key mechanics on it.
  • I need a mechanism (or at least a trigger) for involving external authority in the area should there be a widespread growth of poppy. So some research on the eradication programmes and their timings would be useful.

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The Other Side of the COIN

Today was the September CLWG meeting. My game used the whole session and was looking to explore some of the things that might drive farmers to becoming insurgents in modern Afghanistan. I’m not quite sure that I achieved that, but it was a fun session and mostly worked as a game, although the economic model was quite broken. I’ll leave it to some of the players to tell us the story of what happened. I had Jim, Mukul, Dave & Daniel as ordinary farmers, John R was the leading farmer and the acting Governor of the valley (not that he managed to persuade the others to do what he said much). Nick Luft was the local Chief of Police and Rob Cooper was the local cleric, and also a Taliban representative.

On the whole the things I learnt from today were:

  • this is a game that probably works better in an annual turn basis rather than trying to do monthly real time, the agricultural decisions can be made quite rapidly and it is just a distraction to try and string it through the game. Also the turn based structure makes it easier for a single umpire to keep everyone at the same point in time.
  • – I need to indulge in quantitative easing, or alternatively sort the economic system to make it easier to scale things up from basic subsistence farming to full on agriculture. So things to look into are the rate at which more land can be brought into production, and reasons why the level of productive land is so low. I also need to look at a valley wide weather effects as well as the localised stuff. That way there is a higher community effect as all the agriculture is co-dependent.
  • Another things is looking at the relationship between the town and the farming hinterland. There needs to be a a two-way relationship, the town needs the food the farms grow, and the farmers need the services the town provides. Some thoughts in the post-game discussion were around levels of infrastructure in the town being necessary to support some of the things that the farmers might want. e.g. needing mechanics to support tractors.
  • consumption from the farmers could be delivered by a range of quality of life indicators, perhaps allowing for a tension between the Islamic and non-Islamic natures of some of them. So there could be an ‘easy’ western track and a more ethical Islamic track. Either way some sort of geometric progression would probably do it and also give the players some sort of indication of how well they were doing compared to the others.
  • there is probably a triangle of technology, belief & opium that can be used to give specific flavour to the game, and perhaps also draw out the conflicts in a more three dimensional way.
  • – I could also give players a qualitative objective or attitude to help them along with decision making and getting into character. E.g. go on the Haj, or an admiration for motor vehicles.
  • – there need to be more women to make more scope for marriages to take place.

Generally there is a lot of streamlining that I can do, which will improve the game. Much of this is pretty obvious from the tryout and not much needs to be said, stripping out some of the layers of complexity and perhaps ignoring the task allocation part of the game except for those that have roles that might change during the course of the game. Also perhaps having a slightly different family tree style approach to the record keeping. You’ll see how it changes by the bits that get posted up on my website at http://www.full-moon.info/doku.php/rules/clwg/coin

And a final governing thought in streamlining things is to keep Jim’s question in mind. “Why is this Afghanistan rather than Ambridge?”

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CLWG Games Weekend 2007 Reports

Some reports from the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) games weekend.

Siege of Yendor Tryout

Jim put on a session to try out the mechanisms for the upcoming megagame. We spent some time trying to bring down a section of wall, and also seeing whether or not it was possible to directly assault the wall without first undermining or demolishing it.

Jim’s Breeding Idea

This was a design session rather than a game, but we gave it a good go none the less. Jim had come away from the Light of the Trees megagame with an idea that it ought to be possible to do a sub-component of a game about breeding heroes using some real genetics theory. The main aim was that, like in real life, the players managing the breeding programme wouldn’t actually know what the actual genetic make up of their characters were. Over time those players that were keeping an eye on things and using the evidence that they were accumulating would be able to make some educated guesses about the best pairings that would drive their breeding programme in the direction that they wanted to take.

We all started off with a single individual each, although without worrying about whether that individual was male or female (as this was thought to over-complicate things). The idea was to work with a bloodline rather than a series of individuals, although each generation would be split into separate individuals representing the main lines. This was felt to be necessary to allow the breeders an opportunity to selectively breed those with the correct traits with individuals from the other bloodlines.

The fact that we rapidly bogged down was fairly predictable as we tried to track several individuals. There was a fair amount of mechanical detail involved in generating the offspring as well as the players not having enough information to make good decisions about which individuals to breed with which others. There would have been a better handle on it if we’d played out a bit more of the game before moving into a general discussion of the issues, approach and suggestions of how it could all be achieved.

As a design session it was very thought provoking, and I carried on thinking about it for almost a whole week, on and off. Jim’s conclusion from the session was that it probably wasn’t practically possible to achieve what he set out to do. At the time I would have agreed with him, but a few days of thought have changed my mind on that.

I come to this with more than a smattering of background, I studied “Genes, Organisms & Evolution” as an undergraduate, the course forming a major part of my degree. That said I’ve forgotten most of the detail in the intervening 15 years since I graduated. However the text books are still on a bookshelf nearby.

I think that the general premise that Jim was trying to attain is a sound one and that with some streamlining and appropriate background that it can be achieved. The key is to stick with Jim’s bloodline idea and not get drawn into dealing with individuals, except where heroes or other primary characters are required, and these Heroes should have nothing to do with the breeding stock, although their characters will be determined by it.

The key assumption I am working on is that that this is a sub-component of a game that plays over generations rather than a game in itself. As part of the background the designer of the main game needs to make some decisions about how many characteristics need to be tracked, whether these have any inter-relationship or are independent and also how often he wants particular characteristic levels/attributes to feature.

For example let us assume that a game designer wants to track both personal bravery and intelligence in the hero bloodlines. He might decide that these will not be related to each other. For bravery he might decide that there are four possible states, Heroic (no morale required), Brave (positive modifier to morale), Normal (no modifiers) and Cowardly (negative modifiers). Of these outcomes he might want Heroic to be quite rare, Brave to be common but not a majority, Normal to be the majority position and Cowardly to be less common than Brave, but more likely than Heroic.

Taking the assumption that bravery is a hereditary characteristic how does this translate into genetics?

Well you could specify three variants of a bravery gene (alleles are they are known), H, O & C. HH would be the Heroic types, HO the brave, OO and OC the normal and CC & CH the cowards. In these cases the H allele is recessive (so only those with two copies are heroic). The C allele is also recessive, but dominates the H allele. The O allele is dominant over C but not over H.

This takes you into a method of at least allocating a characteristic based on genetics, but it doesn’t address either simplicity of recording it nor of proportions. Not all genes are evenly distributed in the population. Those that confer survival advantages propagate more widely and those that lead to disadvantages rapidly leave the gene pool.

In this case you would expect O & C to be widely distributed, possibly equally. H is likely to be less frequent as though it confers an advantage when hunting it becomes much less advantageous once farming is available, and in fact becomes a positive disadvantage over time. If 10% of the population carried the H gene then 1% (i.e. the proportion with two copies of it) would be heroic. If the O allele was 50% of the population and the C allele the remaining 40% then you would have a distribution as follows:

H (10%)

O (50%)

C (40%)

H (10%)

1 (Heroic)

5 (Brave)

4 (Cowardly)

O (50%)

5 (Brave)

25 (Normal)

20 (Normal)

C (40%)

4 (Cowardly)

20 (Normal)

16 (Cowardly)









Let us also assume that there was a decision to track intelligence as a numeric score also with three alleles generating a score when summed. The alleles being 0, 1, 2. These would be distributed as 10%, 80%, 10% in the general population.

Tracking Bloodlines

The method I thought you would use to track each bloodline is a table with each of the attributes to be tracked down the side and the alleles to be tracked along the top. Each allele would have a score between 0 and 10 to show its relative proportion in the population of the bloodline. An example of this is shown


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




In each generation the player running the breeding would be given some feedback of their bloodline’s characteristics. In this case they would be told that they were of average intelligence and not especially brave. The breeder player would then make a decision about trying to improve the bloodline either from the general population, another player’s bloodline (with the specific approval of that player) or from within his own bloodline.

The general population bloodline should be determined before the start of the game and remain constant for the duration of the game. Player controlled bloodlines are very likely to change over the course of generations as the genealogists recommend good matches for strengthening the bloodline based on observed characteristics of other bloodlines.

Breeding from the General Population

There is a general assumption that there are other bloodlines that the genealogists are aware of but which are not part of the played groups. These probably represent the minor nobility or some other class that the main bloodline knows but are lower than those represented by player teams. When breeding from these it is assumed that the characteristic which is sought to be improved is always manifested in the individuals that are to be added to the bloodline for breeding purposes.

Using the general bloodline track (see example above) the umpire checks whether the person has one or two copies of the appropriate gene. In the case of characteristics which are recessive then there are always two copies of the gene. (e.g. If you were trying to breed heroes into your bloodline then you would start off with two copies of the H allele to breed in).

For each of the genes recorded (i.e. Bravery and Intelligence in these examples) you would determine which alleles were to be incorporated into the new bloodline. Roll 1d10 for the copy to be imported (except where we have previously determined that recessive characteristics give an exact gene). We’re already getting an H from the hero, we need to roll 1d10 to see which intelligence allele will be passed on. This is most likely to be an M result.

These alleles will then displace one of those in the general bloodline. If a 2 is rolled for the Bravery gene then the new H allele displaces an O allele. Another 2 for Intelligence has the new M allele displace another M allele, so no real change. The new bloodline track looks like the example below.


H (r)


C (r)

Bravery alleles





L (0)

M (1)

H (2)

Intelligence alleles




The feedback to the player would be that the family was of average intelligence and above average bravery, although with a larger number of cowards than one would expect. (There are now 4% heroic, 16% brave, 32% Cowardly). This might prompt an attempt to breed out the cowards, harder than might appear as the C allele is largely recessive.

What this system needs is a proper game to sit within. Ideally one of dynastic succession and involving at least a bit of individual character impact on the outcomes. Sadly that isn’t something on my current project list.

Religion in ‘Hapsburg Ascendant’

Brian started off a discussion of the role of religion in games set in the 17th century, particularly his upcoming megagame. His wish was to get some roleplaying of the religious motivations that were what made the 30 years war happen and to get the players to warp their rational decision making process (if you can describe wargamers as rational) to fit the religious mindset prevalent at the time.

We had a fascinating discussion, aided by Arthur having a stack of relevant textbooks to hand in his classroom. We talked around the issues of not giving perverse incentives and not making it too easy for players to work out how they got advantages from religious behaviour.

The conclusions that we came to were that each of the major sects needed to have its own set of rules, that there ought to be a league table so that there was a visual incentive to act correctly (this being a lesson from the Sengoku megagames) and that once a defined level of behaviour had been reached that there ought to be a direct umpire driven reward for the correct behaviour. The reward needed to be strong enough to show that it was ‘God’s work’ but also not so strong that it caused problems. Also we felt that because ‘god works in mysterious ways’ that the players should not get to determine what might happen if they had their god’s favour.

Orange or Lemon? – Onside Report

This game was intended to show the political goings on in the attempt to get a revolution settlement in Scotland following on from the English parliament’s declaration of Prince William of Orange as their King in February 1689 (new style).

The game we played was a highly entertaining roleplay of some of the issues and certainly gave a good flavour and reached, more or less, the historical outcome. I certainly enjoyed it immensely, and I think the players did too.

I designed the game with almost a board game like level of mechanism for winning the support of the non-played members of the Convention (which is essentially an unofficial Parliament as it had been called by Prince William of Orange and not King James).

Almost none of those mechanisms were tested in the game we played, but it worked as a game anyway – almost a proof of the old saying that you could stick a bunch of CLWG members in a room with some game money and an a game would break out. Instead of money I gave them a map of the Edinburgh High Street and an idea. I’ll leave it to the players to tell you how the game actually went.

In terms of future development I will refine the player briefs (I was still working on these when I started the session and a couple are not yet fully complete). This will improve player understanding of the period and importantly make their personal objectives a bit more tailored from the generic ones of:

  1. Stay alive.

  2. Ensure that the clan/family remains in being and in control of its territory.

  3. Increase your/the clan wealth (either through plunder or by increasing territory).

  4. Increase the influence of Clan Cameron.

  5. Have your King accepted as de facto sovereign.

  6. Ensure that your enemy is diminished.

For the lowlanders you can replace ‘Clan’ with ‘family/heirs’. These do work, but there need to be a couple more triggers to get some of the characters to get stuck into being active. There is also a need to explain the general apathy of the population in their support for the King who has antagonised most of them in the last decade, even before he became the King.

Blitz Firefighting

An end to the weekend with an extended bout of firefighting during the London blitz. This game actually started at the same time as my session and I joined in when we’d finished playing Orange or Lemon? I ended up as one of the LFB professionals sent along to bolster the firefighting force.

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Hot Blood & Cold Steel – onside Report

This was a design session on how to do a WW1 skirmish game, focusing mainly delivering a participation game for Jerry Elsmore’s 50th Birthday con. I’d already done a first darft of the rules but wanted to talk through some of the principles about what I wanted to achieve.

I found the discussion particularly useful in clarifying my methods for running a participation game at a show. Gone is the idea of having all the action in a static circle of squares that represented all that could be seen (I may do this at CLWG sometime as I still like the idea, although it would be too time-consuming for being run at a show). I did get some ideas for making changes to the terrain though so that it would only become clear when figures entered the square in question.

Also useful was the discussion on how to simulate disorientation and when that might be appropriate. This means that I have some ideas for retaining the confusion that can happen when patrolling at night, especially when shooting starts.

The next version of the game in a complete and playable form will be around at the January meeting and again in February so that it will have had a couple of outings by the time Jerry’s birthday convention comes round. Any volunteers to help run the game on the day will be more than welcome.

In the meantime the draft rules (which are an evolution of Jim’s Starship Solder rules converted to work with 2d6 and have a WW1 flavour) are on the web. http://www.cold-steel.org and there is a fledgling mailing list (using my usual server) at list@cold-steel.org (send a blank e-mail with ‘subscribe’ (no quotes) in the subject line).

Also if anyone has photos (preferably aerial ones) of trenches or shell craters (regardless of period) then I wouldn’t mind if you could send me some scans. I need to make up a stack of terrain cards for the game and one of the things that impressed me at the conference was Jim’s use of laminated card pictures for counters. I reckon that terrain cards made up the same way would look pretty good.

Revolutionary Warfare

When I played Andy Grainger’s A Month in Country I immediately thought of some of the parallels with the Revolutionary Warfare (RW) game that I have run myself a couple of times, although with only a few players. I would particularly like to re-do my Palestine game as the players I ended up with (well one player in particular) didn’t give me the sort of game that I was expecting as they couldn’t cope with the whole concept of the role that they were given. (I won’t name names, but those that were there know who I am talking about – the British Governor wanted to hold elections for a PR power sharing assembly between the Palestinians and the Jews).

Anyway, the concept I was playing with was similar to Andy’s but played on a slightly larger scale. At the time of design I had been toying with the idea of producing ‘Lion Comes Home’ as a megagame and the RW module had to work very smoothly. It is essentially one sided, there would be a small group of roving revolutionaries that would start a new revolution when their current one had been crushed, or at a point determined by the political control team. I haven’t completely shelved LCH, but development has stalled over the last couple of years. Anyway I’m not volunteering something like this as a megagame until I’ve written it all.

In the RW module the resolution is at province level, in the Palestine tryout there were 16 provinces. This could be too low for a megagame but I didn’t want governments suddenly losing control of entire colonies as that just didn’t happen historically. The Government players would set the rules of engagement and the alert levels for the police forces and any military units in the colony.

Each province has an unrest level that can be affected by the actions of both the government and the revolutionaries. If the revolutionaries are successful (or the government inept) then the tension levels can escalate from content to ungovernable via stable, unrest & tense.

The forces of revolution will normally start out with a small amount of support to get them going. They can gain support from the effects of their actions. They also use up support to perform actions as there is only so much support that can be called upon at any time. Revolutionaries may espouse peaceful or military action or a combination of both. At different stages of the revolution different strategies will reap the best rewards in increased tension levels and the downfall of the government. The stages of revolution are broadly:

1.Raising Awareness: getting the people to realise that there is a problem with the government and that they can help to change this;

2.Low Intensity Struggle: starting to make small demonstrations against the government and perhaps attacking key figures or installations;

3.High Intensity Struggle: making the country ungovernable and forcing the government to make concessions to the revolution;

4.Open warfare: becoming a government and opposing the old regime openly to ensure its downfall.

In Andy’s game the revolutionaries are somewhere between stages 2 & 3 depending on where they are in the country. Some parts are probably even in stage 4.

The role of the government is not a purely reactionary one, it is possible to be proactive and prevent terrorism before it has any great effect. The setting is such that there will be an overall political framework to be worked within and the government players will represent the colonial governor and possibly the garrison commander. There may also be scope for the home government to become involved in solving problems. For the purposes of a tryout I would either play it one-sided (more accurately with several revolutionary factions) or have a couple of reliable players to play the local governor and military commander.

 Government actions are determined on a matrix of the current alert state and the general intention of the active units under command. Each police district and company sized unit can be given an intention and an area of responsibility. Doctrine for dealing with internal trouble is of police primacy unless a state of emergency has been declared. Declaration of a state of emergency is not something that should be done lightly, and certainly not before the police have lost the ability to deal with the situation.

 Anyway if there is sufficient interest, and the dates are finalized early enough to let me book cheap flights, I could run this at the Games Weekend. It would need five or six players and would take about three hours all told. If interest was very high I could even run two simultaneous colonial engagements. I would also like to do a design session on modeling opinion polls and elections.

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What you missed at the January meeting of CLWG

The Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) January meeting (Sunday 9th January) was in Jim’s office near Holborn. This one had 14 members in attendance.

When I turned up there was a promotion board going on for one of the characters in our long-running Starship Marine campaign (details of the campaign and a history of the 130th Regiment). To make this more interesting for the players who were on the board (i.e. the interviewers) there were a couple of candidates for promotion, including one marine Captain who brought a bomb in with him to prove how easy they were to defuse. A nice piece of live role-play from Jerry (who improvised the bombs immediately beforehand.)

I was called upon to defuse the device which consisted of an ice-cream box with an anti-tilt device on it and a fuse inside which had to be unscrewed without disturbing the rest of the device. The fuse was a marker pen and the anti-tilt device was a post-it holding it onto the side of the box, if the box had been tilted or nudged then the pen would have fallen off the side of the box and set the device off. Similarly if I had pulled the pen off the back of the box it would also have set the device off.

We also had a tryout of a convoy destruction game intended for wargames shows which Michael Dollin and I are working on. This involves players attacking a convoy in successive waves of torpedo bombers, dive-bombers and perhaps also PT boats and high/medium-level bombers. We mainly tried out the torpedo and dive-bomber mechanisms. These appeared to work very well and played in around twice real time, so a full torpedo run took us around 5 minutes to do. We managed to do dive bomber attacks much faster, around one every minute or so.

The torpedo attacks were done in a conventional figure game way. You fly up with your torpedo bomber, getting shot at as you come in, and launch your torpedo on a likely track when you feel that you are close enough for it to count.

The dive-bombing was a bit different. We had two possible methods for this, but the one we tried most was a co-ordinate system (ripped off from Graham Hockley). As you start your descent you are shown a grid with a slowly moving ship on it (which was magnetic). You can also see your altimeter (a modified clock). When you have got as low as you want you say “Bombs gone” and the grid is turned round so that you can no longer see it. The ship keeps moving the same way it had before and when the altimeter gets to 0 (i.e. then the bombs hit) the umpire stops moving the ship. The player tells the umpire what co-ordinates he wanted the bomb to hit. The grid is then revealed (and with it the position of the ship) and the position of the bomb compared to the ship.

Hits to aircraft were delivered using playing cards. We would print the actual outcome onto cards to speed things up if we did it for a wargame show. The players don’t get told what the effect of a hit is unless it is obvious (or becomes so). This represents the fact that pilots often don’t know how badly damaged their aircraft is except where it affects the handling of the aircraft.

We also developed a bombsight to simulate level bombing. This used a small periscope attached to a wooden arm and a level to release the ‘bombs’ (pieces of chalk). The test target was a block of wood painted matt black so that the chalk marks would be obvious. We did find that the bombing was a too accurate, especially given that level bombing was notoriously inaccurate and the bombs being over-scale didn’t help much. It had a good feel though.

The other game that was run at the same time was called ‘Directory Enquiries‘ by John Rutherford and was a political role-playing game about the French foreign policy immediately after the revolution in 1789. I didn’t take part for the obvious reason that I was running the convoy tryout so can’t really comment on how well it went.

After that another tryout was run, this time as a feasibility for a megagame on WWI. It was “A Great War” from Brian Cameron (an associate member of the Warlords). It ran fairly well as a game but had some pauses in it, which gave Brian doubts about how well it might run as a megagame without more work on the design of the game. I wasn’t involved in this tryout because I was too busy playing a network game of Warcraft with Jim, excellent fun if you can get your hands on it. That was pretty much all of it, we finished up around six and headed for home.

CLWG December 1999

What you missed at the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG) December 1999 meeting.

English: Wreckage of a Fairley Battle shot dow...
English: Wreckage of a Fairley Battle shot down by the Wehrmacht, France, on May 1940. Deutsch: Trümmer einer von der Wehrmacht im Mai 1940 in Frankreich abgeschossenen Fairley Battle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The CLWG December 1999 meeting started from 12 at John Rutherford’s house and we played until after 9pm. Afterwards we chatted, with the aid of several bottles of wine, until almost midnight. In total we had 13 members at the meeting. It started with a fairly light-hearted game called ‘Battling Druids‘ which was originally designed by Trevor Farrant as a participation game for wargames shows for another club that he is a member of. This involves four 100mm models of druids, four fountains, a cloud with a lighting bolt, hordes of hedges, magic spells and a whole lot of fun.

A sergeant air-gunner mans his Vickers 'K' gun...
A sergeant air-gunner mans his Vickers ‘K’ gun from the rear cockpit of a Fairey Battle. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Next up was an RAF Aircrew RPG which I ran with the help of a couple of others. This involved the layers creating themselves characters, setting off in their Fairey Battles and hamming it up big style. Every stereotype was there, from the Australian bush pilot (who was a real-life Quantas Jumbo Jet pilot) to the terrible ex-public schoolboy who drove his Morgan nearly as fast as the aircraft. All the players ended up in enemy hands (what do you expect when you take a Fairey Battle to bomb a bridge in Maastricht?) They were separated, interrogated and then combined in a prison camp (except for the Aussie who broke out and ran for it like a man).

This led us nicely into our next game from Jerry, which was set in a POW camp near the Swiss border in the later part of 1944. It was based on one of the exercises that the regular army uses to test its potential officers reasoning ability. We split into two groups for this, and although both groups came up with reasonable plans neither of us managed to get the ‘DS solution’ which is what the army consider to be the correct answer. Admittedly the set problem does tie your hands a bit and railroads you towards a sub-optimal solution (at least in my view). This also ran alongside another session of the ‘Battling Druids’.

Next up was the club quiz, run by me. It came in two parts. The first part was where I asked people ten questions about their ideal game, its title, what it would feature, what it wouldn’t feature, where it was set, its subject and who the dream designer would be and a couple of other things too. The interval was filled by Chinese takeaway and some wine. After that I read out the answers to each of he questions and people had to guess who had written which answers. Given the rather silly nature of some answers (e.g. one of the games was titled something like “Manchurian Kung-Fu Space Marines vs. Psycho-Alien Death Nazis from Mars”, another called “Charles & Die” – about the English Civil War naturally) this was a highly amusing game where people were accused of all sorts of things.

After the club quiz things degenerated further into hilarity with a game of Starship Marine. The game was different from normal because each player had to write down what actions the player on their left did (which rotated round the table each turn). When you got the bit of paper telling you what had just happened you announced what you wanted your character to do next (and hopefully the person who was writing down what actually happens was listening to you). This game involved teddy bears, VR porn, scantily clad women, large alien robots, leaking steam, a system failure in a suit of powered armour, accidental grenade throwing and a host of other improbable and hilarious outcomes that wouldn’t normally have happened in one of our usual games using the rules.

All that happened after that was that we sat around and talked for an hour or so before deciding that we had to leave to get last buses/trains/etc home. In all it was a good session.

Invasion of the West – Onside Report

Invasion of the West was a Cold War turned hot alternative history game that I ran at the March meeting of Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group (CLWG). 

Having cast around for someone to do a plan for Invasion of the West Mukul volunteered, even though he wasn’t able to turn up on Saturday. Mukul’s plan is at the end of this report along with the umpire briefings, but in essence it was for a pre-emptive chemical strike on 1 British Corps near Hanover followed by a mad dash for Antwerp.

Division of Europe during the Cold War. Blue =...
Division of Europe during the Cold War. Blue = US led NATO, Red = USSR led Warsaw pact. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the day Andy Reeve, John Rutherford, Dave Boundy, Terry Martin and Brian Cameron turned up. Andy and John played the Soviets/Warsaw Pact forces with Dave Boundy as their LU. Terry controlled the NATO forces with Brian joining in when he arrived.

The players weren’t entirely happy with the chemical strike but did it anyway. The results were disappointing as the combat capacity of the NATO forces wasn’t degraded terribly as had been hoped, although the civilian casualties were horrendous. (As a game fudge I deemed that the chemical strike would take a step loss when it hit and also inflict a step loss on any units remaining in the area. Fighting in an afflicted zone would be twice as deadly and all combat factors would be reduced to one). The main game effect of the chemicals was to stiffen the resolve of the German territorial forces to fight.

The Warsaw Pact advance hit the slightly softened NATO forces and punched their way past them with a few casualties. NATO correctly guessed the main axis of Warsaw Pact attack and concentrated their air effort, reserves and logs support on the thrust. In a bloody second day the Warsaw Pact air were swept from the sky. At the same time the West German Northern Corps counter-attacked and inflicted a serious stop to the follow-on forces. The forward Soviet thrust bypassed Hanover and almost reached the Ruhr before being annihilated by a British counter-attack heavily supported by aircraft and LSPs. The West Germans died with the Soviet follow-on force in a bitter slogging match.

Down south all was quiet, relatively speaking. The Czechs having been given no orders decided not to play. NATO forces dug in and fortified their positions waiting to see what happened. In the meantime the all the reserve formations were diverted north. The arrival of the Reforger air-deployed division tipped the balance. Although arguably the lack of activity in the South allowed the LSPs that might have been used there to be used in the North. As my mechanism translates LSP use directly into combat step losses this was disastrous as the forces involved very quickly lost all their offensive combat power.

I was reasonably happy with how the mechanisms worked, although I still have one or two reservations. Given that this was the second outing for the game this doesn’t surprise me. The main thing that I got from it was a few ideas on scenario generation. In the post-game discussion it was reckoned that there was some mileage in a political game set in the final throes of the Soviet Union which would provide the background for a game like this.

A Short Victorious War – Forthcoming Game

Given that everyone there seemed keen on this I intend to try and run an invitation game at the June meeting of CLWG, possibly in John Rutherford’s house. The game will need 15-20 people, which means that I need to go further than CLWG for players. The main teams will be NATO, Warsaw Pact and a few other key states to represent the UN Security Council in a time of crisis. I’ll also need a few umpires as well.

Each team will have 4-5 members which means I need around 15 players, 3 Liaison Umpires, a military umpire and myself as Game Control.


The background to the game is that the Soviet Union has realised that its collapse is imminent unless it can do something to relieve its economic position. The choices open are either reform, which has a risk of getting out of hand, foreign aid or a relief from the pressures of the Cold War and the level of funding that the Arms Race requires.


NATO This will have representatives from Britain, USA, a European state and one of the peripheral members. Their role will be to try and resolve the tension by bringing the Cold War to an end and negotiating market reforms with the Soviet Union and other WP countries.

Warsaw Pact This will have a Soviet Union, East German, Polish & Czech players. They will be looking for ways to relief the economic pressures that they are under.

UN members To bring some sense to things I want to have a few unaligned states to represent the UN and the peaceful influence that it may have on the events. This is likely to have 5 players.

Umpires Each of the three teams will have an LU umpire to advise and also to relay orders to map control. The game will also use the telephone system for communications between teams (although letters and face to face will also be allowed).

This means I need a total of 17 people to play the game. If you are interested, or know anyone who is then please let me know as soon as possible.