Friday 29 December 2023

Large wooded areas require a different approach

Typically, I represent woods on the tabletop by using painted felt along with a few trees positioned on the felt. This method usually works well, and for bigger wooded sections, additional pieces of felt are used. However, in a recent American Civil War (ACW) game I have played over the Christmas holidays there was a need for some quite large areas of woodland. Having insufficient green felt to represent these larger areas prompted me to look for alternative options.

My typical approach to representing wooded areas on the tabletop.

Painted felt is used to show the extent of the wood.

For larger woods additional felt is added.

A larger wood on the tabletop.

Once upon a time, when my tabletop was simply painted green, my method for showing wooded areas used caulk to draw the edges of the wood with a few trees placed inside area. All very old school. Drawing with chalk on my gaming mat would not work out well and be quite messy to clean up. However, thinking about this caulk approach lead me to the idea of using green wool tied in a loop to represent the edge of a wooded area.

Green wood tied into a loop represents the edge of the wood.

Trees are added.

Trees are moved to accommodate units.

A unit emerges from the woods.

Once I have knotted the ends of the wool to create the various sized loops, I added a drop of glue to all the knots as wool has a tendency to undo, even when tied with a Reef Knot.

Monday 25 December 2023

A bag for activation markers

I recently made some numbered activation buttons, replacing my usual playing cards to determine the shooting order in my WW2 games (see here). I have been using a dice bag made by my wife from which I draw them. She surprised me yet again with a specially themed draw bag for my activation buttons as an extra Christmas gift!

New bag for my activation buttons.

The draw bag keeps the buttons safe when not in use.

Friday 22 December 2023

Immobilised tank markers (update)

While writing and testing some simple WW2 rules inspired by Featherstone, Grant, and other sources over the past few weeks (see recent posts). I have decided to include immobilised tanks in the rules. To indicate a tank is in an immobilised state, I opted for a visual marker using a thrown track as a suitable representation. 

The tank in the foreground is immobilised - marked by a thrown tank.

I found the easiest and fastest way to create a thrown track marker was using felt and add some drawn lines with a permanent marker. I might look at some other materials for this purpose in the future.

The plain cut felt on the left and marked up on the right with a permanent marker.


I have tried some brown corduroy material which seems to work better for the tracks.

Brown corduroy material seems to work better.

I will probably dry brush some sand colour paint onto the corduroy.

Wednesday 20 December 2023

Buttons replace playing cards

In my recent WW2 games I have been using playing cards to determine the sequence of units shooting. they are first placed face down during the movement phase, then flipped over later in the shooting phase. While effective, they do add a level of clutter to the tabletop and spoil the general appearance. I was considering buying some smaller playing cards, but then I recalled reading in John Sandars' book "An Introduction to Wargaming," where he used buttons with numbers for his wargame activations.

My original approach of using playing cards to determine the order units shoot.

Buttons, featuring a raised edge, allow for identification by touch when drawing them unseen from a bag, ensuring they are placed with the numbered side facedown. After sifting through my wife's button collection, I found sufficient identical and suitably coloured buttons, onto which I glued bits of circular cut paper on the raised side before numbering them.

I was able to find 12 identical grey-green buttons to be used as counters.

All the buttons have a raised edge, allowed for identification by touch when pulling them from the bag, ensuring they are placed with the numbered side facedown.

A piece of paper is cut and stuck to the side of the button with the raised edge. Once dry these are numbered.

The buttons are significantly smaller than the playing cards and are far less obvious when placed on the tabletop. Their grey-green colour is unobtrusive until they're flipped over to indicate the shooting order of units.

Buttons placed by units that are able to shoot.

The buttons are revealed to show the order of unit shooting.

As an alternative to using a bag from which to draw buttons, I place the buttons facedown and gently swirl them on a flat surface to shuffle and randomise their order. Then, I pick them as needed during the game.

Tuesday 19 December 2023

A hasty defence - a WW2 battle report

This battle report is of a game to test some WW2 rules (see the previous post for full details). In summary, combat possibilities are categorised as poor, average, or good. A D6 to hit roll of 6+ is required for poor odds, 5+ for average, and 4+ for good opportunities. The advantages and disadvantages are tallied up. If there are more advantages than disadvantages, it's a good combat opportunity. If it's the reverse, it's poor. When they balance each other out, it's considered an average opportunity. 

During the movement phase, any unit that stays still or moves less than half of its designated movement allowance can engage in combat. Units permitted to shoot are assigned a face-down playing card beside them during the movement phase. In the combat phase the card's are revealed and determine the shooting order of units.

Scenario - A Hasty Defence


In the autumn of 1944, amidst the sweeping retreat of German forces through Northern France. A small rear guard was hastily assembled, their mission to defend the crucial bridges and impede the advancing Allies relentlessly chasing them.

Order of Battle 

German forces:

  • 105mm artillery and Forward Observation Officer (FOO)
  • Company of two platoons with 75mm AT gun
  • Company of two platoons
  • Stug III

British forces:

  • Mortar and FOO
  • Tank troop (Sherman and Firefly)
  • Tank troop (two Shermans)
  • Company of three platoons
  • Company of three platoons with 6 Pdr. AT gun
  • Mechanised company of three platoons

Battle Report

Two British companies advanced along the roads with both tank troops in the centre, while a mechanised company manoeuvres behind a wooded hill in the southern flank. Their progress, however, is faced with an immediate disruption when one of the Shermans comes to an abrupt stop, struck by an anti-tank round from the northern farm. Simultaneously, the German Forward Observation Officer (FOO) stationed in the central wood directed artillery fire, inflicting casualties on the advancing infantry. The southern flank fares no better, the lead platoon of the mechanised infantry company encounters heavy fire from the farm, resulting in it being put out of action and its vehicles ablaze amidst the chaos.

An overview of the tabletop in the opening turns of the game. The units and their bases are circled.

An early setback for the flanking mechanised infantry company.

The British continue to press forward, focusing their advance on the centre and targeting the Stug III, which erupts, and begins to billow oily smoke. Yet, their initial triumph was swiftly dampened as another of their tanks was disabled, accompanied by heavy losses to the northernmost platoon. The German Forward Observation Officer is seen hastily withdrawing as the British infantry advanced toward their position in the central wood.

The British press forward with their attack towards the northern farm and bridge.

The loss of the Stug III was a set back for the defending Germans, but they were inflicting casualties of the attacking British infantry and tanks.

A veteran crew manning the German AT gun target the two remaining Sherman tanks which become engulfed in flames, and the infantry company make a hasty retreat from the scene. The northern assault which had looked promising, falters and fails. However, the southern advance proves to be more fruitful. The mechanised company pushes on with mortar support guided by their FOO and successfully seizes control of the southern farm and secures a river crossing.

The advance on the north bridge and nearby farm are called off with heavy losses.

Success for the flanking mechanised infantry who capture the southern bridge. Support from their mortars was critical to their success.

With one bridge now in British hands, the remaining German units withdrew. However, the success of gaining a crossing point came at a steep cost for the advancing British forces, necessitating a pause as they await reinforcements before resuming their march forward.

Rule Amendments

The draft rules provided a quick and enjoyable game. Potential enhancements for the next game I am thinking about are to give an advantage when the shooter is within close range (4 inches) of the target.

Additionally, other additions I aim to incorporate are rules for smoke deployment and minefields.

Monday 18 December 2023

Categorising combat chances as good, average, and poor

During recent months, I've been reading (re-reading) some of Donald Featherstone's WW2 rules from his various books, and also delving into Charles Grant's book "Battle - Practical Wargaming”, which was one of my favourites when I first started wargaming with my Airfix WW2. Reading the rules from these books have got me playing a series of small WW2 games where I tested a few rule adjustments with the aim of:

  1. Eliminating hit tracking by immediately removing unit sections when hit.
  2. Introducing a random shooting order for units, adding a layer of unpredictability to the games.

One of the test games about to start.

The alterations in rules prompted me to reorganise how I structure my units. In previous games, each figure base or tank represented an individual unit. However, my units now typically consist of 2-4 bases, or what are better thought of as sections. The exceptions generally being with any Headquarter (HQ) units, artillery/mortar units, and Forward Observation Officers (FOO). Weakened units might only comprise two bases, and infantry units could be supplemented with Anti-tank guns and when combined function as a single unit. Here are a few of examples where the organisation has been influenced by ideas from “Battle - Practical Wargaming”:

  • Tank Troop. 2 tanks
  • Infantry Company. 3 bases
  • Infantry Company with support. 3 infantry bases and 1 AT base
  • Infantry Company with support. 3 infantry bases and mortar base
  • Mechanised Infantry Company with support. 3 infantry bases and self-propelled gun.

A British company with AT support defending a farm.

Organising units containing multiple sections offers a distinct advantage when it comes to using a random shooting order. I will typically have 5 to 6 units per side in a game, executing actions for all a unit’s sections at once, rather than having to randomly actions for 20 or more individual bases.

Before diving into the combat details, here's a brief overview of the movement phase. It's kept straightforward: both sides roll a D6, and the player with the highest score chooses to move first or second. Each player then proceeds to move their units in the agreed-upon order, making sure a unit retains its coherency with all sections within 8 inches of at least one other unit section.

Examples of movement allowances:

  • Infantry, towed guns, and heavy tanks - 8 inches
  • Mechanised infantry, light tanks, and armoured cars - 16 inches
  • Medium tanks - 12 inches.

Once movement commences, any unit that remains stationary or moves less than half of its movement allowance can engage in combat. Units permitted to shoot have a playing card placed face down beside them. If any base within a unit moves more than half of its allowed movement, the entire unit forfeits its shooting opportunity. This final rule can create problems for units where their bases are strung out and they lose coherency forcing a base to move its full movement allowance to retain coherency. Although I do allow for the base to be abandoned and removed from play.

Once both players complete their movement, reveal the playing cards. The unit with the highest card value (Kings to Aces, then in the order of Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, and Clubs) gains the chance for their bases to shoot first. Eliminated units are then removed from play.

A troop of Shermans will get the important first shot against the Panzer IV’s.

The combat ranges have been kept simple with all units having a direct fire range of 16 inches and indirect artillery unlimited. This mirrors the approach taken in Neil Thomas's One-Hour Wargaming WW2 rules where units have limited ranges, emphasising the visibility constraints rather than a weapon's theoretical range. Given that my games are set in North-East Europe, this approach seems to make sense to me. Moreover, it proves advantageous when gaming with 1/72 scale models on a 6 by 4-foot tabletop.

For determining hits, I like to have a simple method than I can easily remember. I categorise chances as poor, average, or good. A D6 to hit roll of 6+ is required for poor odds, 5+ for average, and 4+ for good opportunities. To categorise the combat situation, identify which of the advantages and disadvantages listed below apply.


  • AT guns targeting armoured units (tanks, SPGs).
  • Heavier AT guns (e.g., 88mm, 17 pdr.) firing at armor gain an extra advantage.
  • Attacking the flank or rear of targets.
  • Artillery targeting Infantry (including mechanised infantry) with clear line of sight directed by a FOO.


  • Targets in cover (towns, woods, dug-in) or hull-down positions for tanks on hills (excluding SPGs which may not be hull-down).
  • Heavy tanks and SPGs (e.g., Tiger, Panther, JagdPanther, and Churchill).
  • Artillery targeting armour or guns.
  • AT weapons firing at infantry (excluding mechanised infantry).
  • Infantry weapons firing at armour.
  • The target is a FOO (I will generally use light armoured cars to represent their position)

Tally up the advantages and disadvantages. If there are more advantages than disadvantages, it's a good combat opportunity. If it's the reverse, it's poor. When they balance each other out, it's considered an average opportunity.

Note - Tanks have a choice of weapons. They can either use their hull mounted machine guns or their main AT gun.

An AT Gun shooting with advantage knocks out a Sherman on the road. While the remaining Sherman tanks shooting with advantage are able to destroy the Stug III. The defending German infantry shooting with disadvantage were ineffective against the tanks.

Given that I typically play solo wargames, I follow these shooting priorities for both sides during a game:

  • AT weapons prioritise the nearest armoured target before they can shoot at the nearest infantry or gun targets.
  • Small arms shooting focuses on the closest unit.
  • Artillery targets the nearest unit directly or, if directed, aims for the one closest to the FOO with the most advantageous shooting situation.
The next post will have a small game battle report.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Gradually painting the lead pile

For the moment I am not starting any new painting projects. Instead when I feel like painting I taking the opportunity to add to my existing collections with whatever unpainted figures that I have left over. My current focus being my Blue and Red Samurai armies where I have cleaned up some of my old Samurai miniatures painted in the 1970’s and gradually getting them ready for the tabletop. My approach is to pick out between 4 to 6 miniatures and get them painted with no self imposed deadlines or need to complete the figures to enable a game to be played, which is all very pleasant and relaxing.

My painting over the last couple of months.

The old figures are a combination of a few Dixon figures 28mm, Minifig 25mm and their S-Range figures (about 22mm). Also thrown into the mix are some plastic Zvezda Samurai and supply troops (20mm). I find I generally do not notice the size differences on the tabletop and just enjoy the mix of figures..

While on the tabletop some WW2 games are bing played.

WW2 game in progress

Friday 8 December 2023

An English Civil War remote wargame and battle report

Today I hosted an English Civil War game with Jon of Palouse Wargaming Journal. Jon commanded the Royalist forces against my Parliamentary army.

Early stage of the battle

The briefing and background provided to Jon prior to the game…

Wednesday 6 December 2023

ECW casualty markers

This week, I decided to make some new casualty markers for my English Civil War games. With my Medieval games, I use individual cardboard figures that are placed on the unit's base. This works fine for low numbers of hits, but in my ECW games, units are eliminated after more than 8 hits. I normally use plain green square tokens with numbers on the sides to track the hits, but I thought it would be more interesting to try and improve the look of these tokens.

The current way of tracking hits. Here the unit has accumulated 6 hits.

To make the new tokens, I found some images of dead ECW miniatures and enlarged them to be suitable for 25mm figures. I then printed them, cut them out, and used their shape to paint over them in new colours. After that, I photocopied them and added the numbers, then photocopied them again. These were glued to cardboard, cut out and glued back to back with 1-4 on one side and 5-8 on the other. After drying, the edges were painted green.

The new casualty tokens.

The first step in making the tokens was finding images of dead ECW miniatures and enlarged them to be the right size (approximately 25mm). They were cut out and the shape used to paint over.

A batch of four dead tokens are made.

After photocopying the originals the numbers are written on them.

Additional photocopies were made and stuck to cardboard.

The tokens are cut out ready to be back to back, 1-4 on one side and 5-8 on the other.

The edges are painted green.

Sticking the cardboard the two sides of the tokens back to back makes them thicker and easier to handle.

Saturday 2 December 2023

A surprise dice bag

In my recent medieval wargames I've been using a dice-pull approach for activation of units organised into “Battles”, and have been using a repurposed bag to store and draw the dice from.

A medieval game underway.

Anyway I am no longer lacking a dice bag. My wife has stitched together a very handy, and themed, dice bag for me. The bag also includes a toggle to hold the draw-strings fast so the dice don’t escape when they are not being used.

A new dice bag themed with numbers kindly made by my wife.

Over the past week I have been trying some of the suggestions and ideas made in the comments of the last post (thank you for your insights). In the games played, I have been using single base units, rather than the two base units I often use for the games, allowing me to field double the number of units which are eliminated after taking three hits. This low number of hits allows me to use my homemade cardboard casualty markers to track hits. They are a much better aesthetic than using dice or markers to track hits.

Hits are tracked by cardboard casualties.

Details of how I made the markers are made can be found here.

After quite a few Medieval games I now have an English Civil War game setup for a change of period.

Monday 27 November 2023

Minifig Medieval Mayhem

This weekend I decided it was time to have a medieval wargame with my old collection of MiniFigs. It seems like it has been a while since these miniatures have graced the tabletop.

A flank attack scenario from One-Hours Wargames is set up.

Minifig cavalry on the charge pay no heed to their hypothetical colour schemes.

Over the past year or so, I've tried various activation systems with my medieval games, where units roll dice to determine if they can activate. The required score varied depending on the number of hits they have taken. This system has worked well using a variation of One-Hour Wargames rules where the games have 6 to 8 units per side. However, this weekend, I wanted to organise the armies into 3-4 commanded groups or "battles” made up of different troop types, which would require a different activation approach.

My usual army organisation based on troop types with each unit consisting or two bases.

The army organised into “battles” with mixed infantry types. Each base is a separate unit.

In recent remote games with Jon of Palouse Wargaming Journal, he uses rules that will often use a dice pull activation system. Where each commander and their associated units are activated when their army's coloured die is drawn from a bag. The turn ends when all dice are drawn. At the start of each turn, the number of colored dice placed in the bag corresponds to the number of commanders in an army. The number of dice used are reduced as commanded groups are eliminated during the game. I enjoyed this activation approach because it creates a level of suspense and encourages decision-making as players try to determine which units to activate first to gain an advantage or hopefully momentum if they successfully drawn twice.

A dice bag was found.

When applying the dice draw activation method in my medieval game, for example, an English army consisting of three "battles" and a commanded group of bowmen would have four red dice placed in the dice bag. While a French army with three "battles" only would only have three white dice placed in the dice bag.

Over the weekend, I tested this activation method in one game and for the following game introduced a variation by incorporating a single green die. When drawn, this green die immediately concluded the game turn. To accommodate the possibility of an early turn end, I modified the combat rules from one-sided melees to simultaneous melees, otherwise some units in melee would not have to opportunity to fight back.

A second game is set up.

Out of the two activation methods, I am favouring the approach that allows all units to activate. One reason for my preference is the scenario where a group of knights initiate a charge towards the enemy army but are forced to abruptly halt due to the green die being drawn in the next turn, leaving them paused mid-charge. I find there are enough challenges with the dice draw allowing the opposing army to a cause interruptions to the best laid plans.

Another close up of a the 1970’s painting style - one figure seems to be wearing a kaftan!

Over this week I will be hopefully playing a few more test games in the evenings before updating my home brew rules with my scribbled notes.