Friday, 16 March 2018

Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 16th – 18th March 1938

Barcelona was subjected to round-the-clock bombing by Italian aircraft based on Majorca.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Operation Uranus: PDF of the rules is now available

I have converted the text of Martin Rapier's rules and his battle report into PDF format, and they are now available to read and download here.

Martin has kindly given his permission to also publish his Cambrai rules on my blog, and I hope to do that in the next few days. These were a development of his Operation Uranus rules and involved two German Infantry Divisions vs. British forces amounting to six Infantry Divisions, three Cavalry Divisions, six Heavy Artillery Brigades, and three Tank Brigades.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Internet woes

For the past three days our Internet connection has been very erratic, hence my somewhat curtailed blogging.

What started as an intermittent fault became a total loss of service. Even when this was supposedly fixed, the connection remained unreliable, and by this morning I had given up counting the number of times I had reset the modem/router and input the network password on my computer, our iPads and iPhones, and our Amazon Firestick.

Hopefully the connection will have settled down overnight, and there will be no more problems.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Miniature Wargames Issue 420

The latest issue of Miniature Wargames arrived on Saturday, and I have just finished reading it.

The articles included in this issue are:
  • Welcome (i.e. the editorial) by John Treadaway
  • Forward observer
  • Send three and fourpence: Ruritanian Holiday – A tale of three games by Conrad Kinch, with photographs by the author and John Treadaway
  • Hell by daylight: 20th Century skirmish rules: Part 3 by Jim Webster
  • Pyrenees: July 1813: A conundrum to contemplate by Jon Sutherland, with photographs by Diane Sutherland
  • A Call to Arms: A scenario and other add-ons for Outremer: Faith and Blood by Jamie Gordon
  • Darker Horizons
    • Fantasy Facts
    • Look out Jason: The evolution of a participation game by Peter Merritt
  • The Victorio Campaign: 1870-1886: Part Two: Navajo and Pueblo: Mexicans and Texas Ranger by Robert Watt, with photographs by the author and Kevin Dallimore
  • Recce
  • Dusty Tracks: The continuing tales of a wargames widow by Diane Sutherland
  • Show Report: Vapnartak by John Treadaway
  • Club Directory
So what did I particularly enjoy in this issue?

The stand-out article for me was Conrad Kinch's Send three and fourpence: Ruritanian Holiday ... and not just because he used my PORTABLE WARGAME rules! I have been a sucker for Anthony Hope's Ruritanian stories ever since I saw the 1937 version of the film PRISONER OF ZENDA on our old black and white TV, and any wargame that has Ruritania as its setting is always going to get my vote. In addition to this, the article was illustrated with photographs of some of Julian Spilsbury's collection of wonderfully painted, semi-flat figures, which are so evocative of the toy soldiers that were on sale when the books were written and set.

On a personal note, a very favourable review of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA appeared in the Recce section of this issue, but it is too early to see if it has stimulate any additional sales.

This issue was accompanied by a copy of the SALUTE 2018 wargames show guide ...

... which I also read with considerable interest as I hope to go again this year.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Operation Uranus: An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

An Army Level Game for One (or more Players) by Martin Rapier

Operation Uranus: Romanian briefing

To: Gen. Lascar, Commander 14th Vanatori Division, 3rd. Army, Seramifovitch 05.00 on 19th November 1942

There are strong indications that the enemy is preparing to attack. You must hold your positions at all costs for the honour of the Romanian Army, in particular you must delay or damage any enemy motorised formations to enable armoured reserves to move up and deal with them.

14th Vanatori Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
6 x Infantry battalions (3 Regiments)
1 x Infantry battalion (Jäger)
1 x Cavalry battalion (Reconnaissance)
1 x Engineer battalion
1 x 47mm Anti-tank gun (Anti-tank battalion)
1 x 120mm mortar (Mortar companies)
2 x 100mm howitzers (Artillery regiments)
2 x 75mm gun (Artillery regiments)
6 x barbed wire entrenchments
4 x minefields
25 x dummy counters
Units are deployed (as inverted counters) in rows B to E.

Operation Uranus: Russian Briefing

From: General Zhukov, Stavka representative to the Southern Front, Seramifovitch, 13.00 on 19th November 1942
To: General Bagramyan, 5th. Tank Army

The 5th Guards Tank Army will spearhead our thrust south to seize Kalach and surround the Nazis in Stalingrad. Use your attached Rifle Divisions to enable 3rd Tank Corps to pass through the lines of the Romanian Hitlerite running dogs to your front. The armour must be got through the lines in the maximum possible strength before nightfall.

124th Guards Rifle Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x SMG battalion
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns
1 x 122mm gun
16th Rifle Division
1 x Divisional headquarters
9 x Rifle battalions
1 x Anti-tank Gun
1 x 120mm Mortar
1 x Engineer battalion
2 x 76mm guns
3rd Tank Corps
1 x Corps headquarters
3 x Tank brigades (2 x T-34, 1 x Motor Rifle battalion each)
1 x Motor Rifle brigade (3 x Motor Rifle battalions)
1 x Motorised SMG battalion
1 x Motorised Engineer battalion
1 x Armoured Reconnaissance battalion
1 x Guards Mortar battalion (Katayushas)
Plus air/artillery support as detailed in the rules.

Victory Levels: Based on number of Tank Corps units exited by the end of the day.
Note: the maximum victory level is only attainable if the entire tank corps leaves the table intact.
17: Order of Lenin all around. The Fascists in Stalingrad will be utterly annihilated as the mighty 3rd Tank Corps sweeps aside all opposition
15 to 16: Your mission has been achieved, and it is likely the enemy in Stalingrad will be surrounded by our powerful armoured forces.
13 to 14: 3rd Tank Corps has penetrated the enemy line, but will have a stiff fight to defeat the enemy armoured reserves and complete the breakthrough. Strict adherence to Stalinist principles will be necessary in future to avoid disgrace.
Less than 13: The crippled 3rd Tank Corps is highly unlikely to defeat 1st Romanian Armoured Division, and the success of our offensive now hangs by a thread. Report to Moscow immediately for reassignment to a Peoples’ Mine Clearing battalion.

Operation Uranus: Rules
  • Each stand is a battalion.
  • Turns are approximately three hours (6 tums in a day).
  • Each square is about 2km.
  • The battle lasts a single day.
  • The battlefield is four zones wide by six zones deep.
  • The defender deploys counters face down in his area (rows B, C, D, E).
  • The Russians do reconnaissance (roll 206 for row/column, pick two counters three times).
  • Russians plan and fire bombardment: they have 16 points to fire initially (maximum 2 per zone), plus a further 8 on call (maximum 4 per turn).
  • Place fire points and plot four Target Registration Points (TRP) for on call fire. Roll D6 for each counter in a square per fire point, kill on 6.
  • Infantry/artillery move 1 zone.
  • Motorised move 2 zones (3 if not into combat).
  • Romanians may move D6 mobile units (half D6 if HQ destroyed).
  • Maximum of 6 units per zone at any time.
  • Artillery fire: allocate and resolve support points vs. squares (only vs. TRPs) ... Note: this hits everyone! Resolve as initial barrage (roll per unit in target area, 6 kills). This includes airstrikes generated by random events.
  • Support fire (mortars l square, artillery/rockets 2 squares) may be into friendly squares. Romanians fire first, unmasked batteries cannot be targeted in the turn they are revealed. Fire once, 6 kills.
  • Close Combat (in same zone): Fight three rounds, rolls of 6 kill. Defender fires first on first round. All roll 1D6 except:
    • Engineer/SMG Infantry: 2D6 vs. soft, but die first.
    • Anti-tank: 2D6 vs. armoured, no effect vs. Infantry.
    • Tanks: 2D6.
    • Artillery: 2D6.
  • Each barbed wire gives one defender an extra D6, each minefield gives one defender an extra 2D6. Undefended wire does not impede movement in any way. Undefended minefields kill one unit on a 6, may be cleared by engineers spending a turn in zone. Units may not withdraw from close combat except in direction they came – defenders allowed 1 free shot with 1 unit.
  • Terrain has no effect, it just looks pretty at this scale (it is the rolling Steppe after all!).
Command and Control
  • In real life Red Army attacks were carefully orchestrated.
  • Each rifle division must have a divisional sector, and its forces must be divided into echelons (1st and 2nd).
  • The 1st echelon components are allocated an axis in the divisional sector and must move forwards along it (it may halt).
  • Divisional units may move around freely in the divisional sector.
  • The 2nd echelon is held off table and may be committed to an axis in the divisional sector only on the say so of the C-in-C.
  • Units may not move off their axis (line of squares) at any time.
  • The Tank Corps may be held in reserve and allocated a divisional sector and brigade axes when it is committed. All calls for support fire are also routed via Army HQ, against the TRPs.

Random events (D6 +1 per turn elapsed). Roll at the start of each turn:
    1 to 4: Thick fog, artillery and support fire may only be directed against squares adjacent to friendly units. Event is cancelled whenever 5+ rolled.
    5: Russian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    6: Romanian Air Strike. One support point available against any square.
    7: Extra Ammo. Add one support point to pool of available Russian points.
    8+: No effect

    The Game
    An enthusiastic crowd of Russians was assembled: 16th Rifle (Daniel), 124th Guards (Steve Bridden), 3rd Tank (John Armatys), all under the watchful eye of Comrade General Nick Mitchell and Commissar Tim Gow.

    The Russians deployed as shown on the plan.

    Basically the 124th Guards was attacking on a narrow (1 zone) front, whilst 16th Rifle had three zones to cover. The Tank Corps was kept in third echelon reserve so its divisional sector and brigade axes could be determined once the initial attacks had gone in. The Romanians deployed as piles of inverted counters, although in fact it was a very conventional defence – four battalions in column E with wire/mines, mortars and two reserve battalions in column D, divisional artillery and a few more obstacles in row C, and divisional reserves (cavalry, engineers, Jäger battalion, anti-tank and Divisional HQ) in column B.

    General Mitchell rolled the three recon attempts, two of which either missed the table altogether or landed on empty squares. The final one turned up a mortar battalion in D2. The Russians plotted four target registration points for their on-call artillery, mainly along the 124th Guards axis, and allocated their 16 point barrage in quite a deep fire plan, again favouring the Guards. The barrage was resolved and numerous counters removed, the Hill in E4 was completely cleared, much to the Guards delight, and one hidden loss the Russians were not aware of was the Romanian divisional HQ. Only two of four Romanian front line battalions survived the barrage, and of them, only one (in E1) had any fortifications left intact.

    The Red horde rolled forward, and General Mitchell proceeded to stick pins in his map and shout down the telephone. As might be expected, 16th Rifle ran into opposition along its entire front, the regiment from F1 eventually totally destroying itself in fruitless attacks on the surviving Romanian battalion hiding behind its minefield. Progress further south was better, although again it was 16th Rifle which ran into most opposition, and lacking sufficient concentration of force along its attack axes, suffered brutally, its attack eventually petering out as indicated on the following map.

    The lack of opposition to the Guards prompted the Tank Corps to move into 2nd echelon reserve on turn 2, and then to enter the table on turn three, most of its brigades routed along row 4, while one Motor Rifle brigade moved along row 3. Unfortunately, Corps Commander Armatys had been ordered to 'follow the Guards infantry closely', and like a good Marxist-Leninist, that is exactly what he did – the loaded tanks, trucks and batteries of Katyushas bumping slowly over the Steppe, following the plodding infantry in front.

    By the fifth turn, the 124th had actually reached column A, but General Mitchell's map pins were not indicating any armoured breakthrough, so Commissar Gow came to investigate. He found the Tank Corps motoring slowly along behind the infantry. A certain amount of political reorientation took place, and by shifting infantry units back and forth, it was found to be possible to move the vast bulk of the Tank Corps up at a more rapid rate. Despite firing 3 ammo loads at B3 (on top of an unfortunate regiment of the 16th Rifle), all of which missed (raising shouts of sabotage) in an effort to clear the way, the last Romanian reserve, their Anti-tank battalion, slipped into A4 on the last turn. This prevented the Tank Corps from simply driving off the table, and although the T-34s crunched the Romanian 47mms under their tracks easily, as night fell the Tank Corps was still on the field and not motoring off lo its destiny at Kalach.

    Fortunately, there was still at least one defended minefield left for the Division and Army commanders to clear in their new assignment to a Shtraf battalion ...

    So not a good day for the Red Army. although the Romanians were largely obliterated, significant portions were still holding out at nightfall, and had delayed the Russian Tank Corps significantly. Interestingly one of the operational problems Red Army commanders strove to resolve (with increasing success) was at what point to commit their Army and Front level deep operational manoeuvre groups. Too soon and they would get chewed up in breakthrough fighting, too late and the enemy would have time to bring up reserves. In this case, time to revisit those Pu-36 Field Regulations I think!

    While these rules are incredibly simple, they do actually work, even for a large battle like the one described above – mainly through the uncertainty the attacker faces, and they work even better with a proper command structure superimposed. I hope to use them for other set piece modern battles, although probably at the lower company base scale.

    Saturday, 10 March 2018

    La Ultima Cruzada: Paperback and eBook editions ... are now available

    As I intimated in a recent blog entry, over recent weeks I have been thinking about releasing both paperback and eBook editions of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA.

    The work required to do this took somewhat more time and effort than I had expected, but that task is now over and both editions are now available. They can currently be purchased from for £14.99 (paperback) and £4.99 (eBook), but should be available from Amazon etc., within the next fortnight or so.

    Friday, 9 March 2018

    Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 9th March – 23rd July 1938


    With the failure of the Republican attack upon Teruel the Nationalists were now able to mount an offensive eastward into on Aragon and Levante. The intention was to cut Republican Spain into two parts. The assault, which was led by General Fidel Davila, began on 9th March and by 16th March the Nationalists had forced the Republicans to retreat up to 60 miles in places.

    Lerida, in Catalonia, surrendered to the Nationalists on 3rd April, and twelve days later Vinaroz, a village about half-way between Valencia and Barcelona on the Mediterranean coast, was captured and the Republic was cut in two. The Nationalist sought to widen this gap and on 14th June they captured Castellon de la Plana, 40 miles North of Valencia. Republican resistance was, however, increasing, and the Nationalists brought the offensive to a halt to allow time for their troops to rest and re-equip before the attack on Valencia.

    Thursday, 8 March 2018

    Operation Uranus: A development of 'The Sands of New Stanhall'

    In reply to my original blog entry about Ian Drury's game, Martin Rapier mentioned in his comment that he had developed the basic game into an Army-level game about Operation Uranus. I therefore dug through the archives of THE NUGGET and found the article ... and realised that he had already trodden a path that I was considering going down myself!

    The article – which contained all the rules necessary to play the game – was published in N144 (March 2000).

    Unfortunately this article is not available to download, ...

    ... but if Martin gives permission, I will try to make it available in PDF format.

    The main change that Martin made was to make the playing pieces battalions rather than companies.

    The reason why copies of THE NUGGET published before N193 are not freely available is related to copyright. From N193 onwards authors of articles knew that anything that they wrote would be made freely available online after publication; before that issue they did not know that. Therefore any article featured in THE NUGGET before N193 may only be made available with the express permission of the author.

    Wednesday, 7 March 2018

    My latest book sales figures

    The latest sales figures for my books arrived yesterday morning. It is interesting to note that the sales of THE PORTABLE WARGAME and DEVELOPING THE PORTABLE WARGAME continue to flourish, ...

    ... although Amazon still don't appear to have sold a single copy of LA ULTIMA CRUZADA!

    I have checked with why this apparent lack of sales doesn't match with the fact that there are two reviews on Amazon that have been written by verified purchasers and I have had emails from people who have purchased the book from Amazon. informed me that due to the different sales reporting 'cycles', Amazon sales figures can be up to eight weeks in arrears, so that any book sales from late December onward might not yet be included in the sales figures for the period up to and including February.

    This all sounds a bit odd to me, and I will certainly be checking the sales figures in some detail next month.

    Tuesday, 6 March 2018

    Spanish Civil War: Day-by-Day: 6th March 1938

    The modern Nationalist cruiser Baleares, ...

    ... was sunk by torpedoes launched by Republican destroyers whilst she was escorting a convoy of merchant ships off the Mediterranean coast near Cartagena.