Friday 11 December 2020

Q&A with Bob Cordery about The Portable Wargame

I'm interested in "The Portable Wargame" and have a few questions about it.

I would like to play the game using hexagons.
How many hexagons do I need to play the game?


The rules are written for square and hex grids, and I suggest a minimum of 8 x 8 squares or 9 x 8 hexes. You can use a larger grid, and I’ve fought games with a 6 x 9 hexed grid, but 8 x 8/9 x 8 are what the rules were originally written for.

>> And how many figures do you need on each side?

Sides are made up of units (aka bases), and most players mount their figures on multi figure bases ... so there is no pre-set number of figures. I recommend each player has 10 to 12 unit/bases. (Some players use blocks of wood for units.)

>> To play ancient battles do I need the book "Developing The Portable Wargame" or are the main rules sufficient?

To play Ancient battles, then I’d recommend the rules in DTPW. You don’t need the first book in the series to fight wargames, but you might find it useful to read TPW at some point.

>> It would probably be easy to transfer DBA army lists to your game, wouldn't it?

The DBA armies should work with the PW Ancient rules.

>> What is the difference between "The Portable Colonial Wargame" and "When Empires Clash!"?

WHEN EMPIRES CLASH! is a forerunner of TPCW, but is a different set of rules with different mechanisms. That said, the Army Lists in WEC! are useable with the PW rules.

>> Is your book "The Portable Colonial Wargame" also a standalone game?

All my books are stand alone, although quite a few people have bought all of them and ‘mix and match’ from them to meet their particular requirements. For example, I know someone who uses the basic 19th century rules for PW with the naval rules from Gridded Naval Wargames and the campaign rules from PCW.

>> I thought "The Portable Wargame" was your core rulebook and the other books were supplements.

Does "The Portable Wargame" have a historical theme as well or is it a generic wargame?

The PW book was originally intended to be a ‘one off’, and contained a brief history of gridded wargames and several explanatory chapters about the different types of grids available, lines of sight, basing models, solo play etc. There were also two sets of basis rules, one for the 19th century and one for the early/mid 20th century.

The PW rules are generic BUT are designed so that the mechanisms can be adapted for specific historical periods or to meet individual players’ requirements. The DPW shows this as it contains Ancient rules, more detailed mid 20th century, and Air Combat rules. It also has chapters about different ways the rules can be adapted, an example of a mini-campaign, and some examples of Army Lists (including balanced and unbalanced forces).

PCW has two sets of rules for those who want quick games with a few figures and longer games with more figures, a more developed campaign system, and a terrain generator.

PNW has four sets of rules, one that is really very basic and three for different levels of command (brigade, divisional, and corps-level battles). It also looks a different types of card-driven move mechanisms, as well as unit and commander grading.

>> Is it possible to play ancient naval battles with "Gridded Naval Wargames“?

The GNW rules are designed to be used with steam-powered, iron & steel warships BUT I know that several players have adapted them for earlier periods, including ancient naval warfare where ramming was the main method of combat.

I hope that this has been helpful.

All the best,

>> Thanks a lot. This has been very helpful.
All the best,

I got your books The Portable Wargame, Developing the Portable Wargame and The Portable Colonial Wargame on Lulu.

I'm looking forward to reading them and trying out your game.

Friday 27 November 2020

Fimo Monster Rampant

The moment I finished painting Joaquín’s Fimo monster, I was eager to use it in a tabletop game. So last time I was in Dortmund before the second lockdown, I went to Krüger’s house with Joaquín and Hendrik to play Dragon Rampant.

dragon rampant

My sons played an elven army.

Heavy Riders (Leader) / 2 Heavy Foot / Heavy Foot (Wizardling) / Heavy Missiles / Scouts

Krüger played Orcs & Goblins. I played the Fimo monster as a greater warbeast.

Bellicose Foot (Leader + Terrifically Shiny Armour) / Bellicose Foot / Light Riders / Light Missiles / Greater Warbeast

first turn

The map shows the initial deployment of the two armies. We used toy ladybugs as objectives.

The Fimo monster moved forward quickly and attacked the elven scouts, destroyed them and then destroyed a unit of spears with the help of some goblin wolf riders.

This made the elven warlock angry. He cast a fire ball and "neutralised" the greater warbeast, as my son expressed himself. (I don’t know where he picked up this verb.)

Well. I was so much focussed on playing the Fimo monster that I can’t say much else about the game.

Fortunately Hendrik also wrote a battle report:
Wir haben Elfen gegen Orks gespielt. Der Magier hat überlebt. Der Magier hat den Molch besiegt und die Wölfe vertrieben. Die Speerträger wurden zwei Mal in die Schildkrötenformation gestellt. Die Pferdereiter haben die Pfeilundbogenorks eliminiert. Zum Schluss wurde es Gleichstand.
The game ended in a tie.

last turn

This map shows how the battlefield looked at the end.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Fimo Monster

fimo monster

My youngest son made a monster out of polymer clay.

lemon shade 1A

He tried to sculpt a crocodile, but I think his miniature looks more like an eastern newt.

eastern newt

I painted it using Foundry paints and varnished it with Polyurethane Gloss Varnish by Vallejo.

greater warbeast

Now I want to use it as a Greater Warbeast in Dragon Rampant ...

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Things on my Desk

mud hut

Another mud hut.

palm tree

An unfinished palm tree.


Sixteen hoplites and five mercenary commanders from Foundry’s World of the Greeks range, which is my favourite miniature range, and Gladius, an old Citadel miniature.

Tuesday 1 September 2020

Nine Unfinished Projects

my desk

This is a picture of my desk.

I’m currently working on some terrain pieces, chess figures, palm trees and I’m painting a little skeleton man, my son made out of polymer clay. Some of these projects I started many years ago.

I remember my father always kept several piles of documents on his desk and next to it, and although he worked a lot (too much probably), when he died 20 years ago, he left his study in such a state, that only recently I dared to enter it to go through his things.

A hobby is a luxury, of course, especially if you have three young children and in the midst of a pandemic, so time might be a problem, although I consider painting miniatures or gaming with friends time well spent.

I have a list with nine items, old projects, I need to finish before I can start something new.

Now, that I wrote this last sentence, I already have a lot of doubts about it.

First of all: are there only nine items on my list?

Like many people playing games with miniatures, I enjoy starting new projects all the time. I have a friend who can open a cupboard filled with unpainted miniatures if you mention any wargaming related subject and another friend who buys a plastic bag full of dwarves each time he goes to a gaming convention and I’m not much different.

It’s probably healthy to limit the number of unfinished projects on your table. On the other hand, why should I not paint the dinosaur my daughter made out of Fimo or the giant crocodile my other son sculpted, thus expanding my list to ten or eleven items? Or why shouldn’t I paint some orcs or dark age archers for our fantasy campaign? Or conquistadores? They would be more useful now than three palm trees. And then, why should I do any of these things? Instead I could paint the wall of our garage or some chairs and tables to invite friends over for a barbecue in our garden. Or just spend more time working to gain money?

My father’s hobby or obsession was to visit archeological sites and collect books about it. He was also very much focussed on his work and had a complicated family situation since my brother was severely handicapped. I assume he would have liked to spend more time in museums or read more history books, but just couldn’t. So to release some pressure he bought more and more books.

My father read a lot and he could remember most of the things he read, but when I looked at his books for the first time after he died I noticed that many of them had never been touched. He bought books to put them in shelves or on piles next to shelves, so they would gather dust. I used to have the romantic idea that he wanted to tell me something through his collection of books, because he rarely spoke to me. I feel some kind of sorrow looking at his books. Maybe my father imagined to have more time to read them all.

Now, my second question is: Is it bad, an unhealthy waste of resources, to hoard things and not use them? Books you don’t read, miniatures you don’t paint or play with? Shoes you don’t wear?

Do I really need to finish old projects before I start something new?

I can spend a lot of time sculpting or painting a single miniature, but it’s so much fun imagining playing a game with fifty miniatures on each side or more. This creates a tension and to release it I often start buying new miniatures, before my mind wanders off and imagines playing with yet another army.

Is this bad? A vicious cycle? I don’t know. What do you think?

Wednesday 15 July 2020

Mountain Dungeon / One Page Dungeon Contest

Lina, Hendrik and Joaquín wrote a dungeon for the One Page Dungeon Contest. It's called Mountain Dungeon and it's probably influenced by our corona lockdown which lasted two months.

Please keep in mind that they are 12, 10 and 8 years old and that English isn't their native language.

mountain dungeon

Once upon a time there was a family lost in the woods. This family found a haunted mountain and after they entered no one found them. Then some explorers went to the mountain. The explorers are you. Try to get out of the mountain dungeon.

1 If you stand on one of the traps the wall will go away and the arrows will shoot at you.

2 You come in and have to go on the rotating plate where you have to fight with the chicken monster.

3 In this room you have to fight with a big slime monster.

4 You have to try to escape of this room fast because the walls slide together.

5 There are traps with portals where you disappear. There is a giant monster too.

6 There are fireblasters that shoot at you.

7 This room has a pool full of piranhas and you have to cross it on a rope.

8 There are monster plants that would love to eat you.

9 The witch tells you to go into a door, you don't know which is the right one.

Thursday 21 May 2020

SoBH Covid-19

plastic knights

I had all kinds of hobby plans for spring and summer before Corona forced my family and me into isolation for two months.

I wanted to paint some trolls, orcs and dinosaurs for Dragon Rampant or late Romans and Goths. I was still undecided about that. I thought about playing a pirate campaign with Krüger, taking place on the Ivory Coast. And I wanted to play a couple of skirmish games with Alex, a friend from Wesel.

Then the lockdown came.

Apart from homeschooling my three kids, I used the time to continue cleaning up my mother's flat and did some gardening. After a couple of weeks I was already quite exhausted.

Then I found some plastic knights in an old box full of toys and decided to give Song of Blades and Heroes another try.

The first time I played the game many years ago, I didn't understand what it was all about. I was too much into competitive gaming and didn't see the possibilities Song of Blades and Heroes has.

The last two months I have played the game several times with my two sons. I enjoy that it's a real skirmish game which can be played with ten miniatures on each side or less.

The combat system is elegant and has mechanisms 
used by games like DBA or HotT. No bookkeeping is required and few markers.

There is a long list of special rules allowing the players to give each miniature its own character, thus adding a role playing element to the game.

I'm not sure if Songs of Blades and Heroes allows for competitive gaming, but it makes it easy to write your own scenarios and play games with a focus on the narration. This can be lots of fun.

Another aspect I like about the game is that it's generic. It's easy to create stats for your own monsters and characters and there are many supplements in different settings, using the core rules.

Song of Blades and Heroes is available through Ganesha Games as a PDF download or print on demand platforms like LULU. The customer service is great, by the way. I had a problem downloading the rules and Andrea Sfiligoi responded quickly.

So, thank you, Andrea Sfiligoi, for having written this accessible game which has provided my family and me with some home entertainment at the beginning of the corona crisis.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Playing Dragon Rampant with the Kids

In Berlin children get a week off from school in February, to go skiing, I suppose.

I had to take my children to Dortmund during their winter vacation, because my mother passed away some months ago and we have to find out what to do with all of her things now. That's a gloomy activity for children, of course.

We wanted to have some fun nevertheless, so I went to Krüger's house with Joaquín and Hendrik to play Dragon Rampant. (My daughter preferred to stay at home and practice K-Pop choreographies.)

We played elves vs. orcs, using our scenario D3+2 objectives.

the elven players

Joaquín and Hendrik played the elves:

Light Foot (Leader + Spellcaster) / Elite Riders / Heavy Riders / Heavy Missiles / Light Missiles / Scouts

Krüger and I played the orcs:

Bellicose Foot (Leader), Heavy Riders (Chariot), Greater Warbeast, Lesser Warbeasts, 2 Scouts

We used toy frogs as objectives. On the elven side one frog was placed in a forest and one on top of a large hill.

Two frogs were placed in forests on the orc side and the fifth frog was put in the centre of the table.

On our left flank Krüger moved a large ogre (greater warbeast) forward to take the objective hidden in the forest in front of it. This scared Joaquín so much that he moved his heavy riders all the way from his right flank to his left flank. He even made the horses ride backwards.

There the elven elite riders, a splendid looking unit, had been lurked into the woods by a unit of orc scouts. The elves lost the fight and were routed by six wolves (lesser warbeasts) waiting for them outside the forest.

The same thing happened to Joaquín's heavy riders, when they arrived at the forest.

Hendrik loves to play wizards in Dragon Rampant and his favourite spell is Power Bolt!

With some assistance of a bolt thrower, scouts and light missiles Hendrik used his power bolt magic to destroy the ogre and our general (a unit of bellicose foot).

We are always surprised how lucky Hendrik is rolling to see if spells work.

After we lost our general I was able to destroy the elven light missiles with a chariot and then place it next to the objective in the centre of the gaming table.

When the game ended, both armies held the two objectives on their side and in addition to that the orcs held the objective in the centre.

the last turn

This map shows how the gaming table looked like at the end of the last turn.

It was a close, balanced game, but a victory for the orcs.

The game was so much fun that we are planning a little Dragon Rampant campaign during the summer. Orcs vs. elves fighting for magical ingredients in an enchanted forest or something like that …

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Sven's mysterious Campaign Book

Krüger and I came up with most of the background for the armies we play in our Waltrop campaign, sitting in an Italian restaurant in Berlin Friedrichshain, drinking white wine or black coffee and talking for hours. It was great fun. (Although at the time I thought: why does he always want to play Orcs? Why can't I convince him to play Greeks?)

My cousin Sven plays the Aquarians in our campaign. He has a book where he writes down his ideas about them, but he never talks about it.

As a birthday present, last year in May, I asked him to reveal some information about the Aquarians.

He sent me a picture that shows two pages of his mysterious book.

beyond the pillars of Heracles

On the left page it says:

Die Sage des Deukalion 
  • Deukalion war der Sohn des Prometheus (Titan) und der Pronoia ("Fürsorge")
  • im Bronzenen Zeitalter war Zeus derart erbost über die Schlechtheit der Menschen, dass er sie mit der großen Flut austilgen will
  • Prometheus befiehlt ihm und seiner Frau Pyrrha, ein Schiff zu bauen und sich damit zu retten
  • sie landen auf dem Berg Parnassos, später auf dem Berg Othrys, schließlich auf dem Berg Aquarius
  • an all diesen Orten bringen sie die Menschen zurück in die Welt, durch das Werfen von Steinen über die Schulter
  • als Aquarius geht er nach seinem Tod in den Götterhimmel ein
  • die ersten Menschen von Aquarius - Deukalions Volk, stammen direkt von ihm ab
On the right page there are several stars. Depicting large and small islands maybe?

Sven also sent me a text about his book:

"Behold the Codex Pontificis.
The Book of Books.
With all its myths and miracles.
Containing not only the Odyssey of the Aquarians and the founding of our Polis.
But telling where we the sons of Hellas came from and where we will go to.
Written by my priest predecessors.
And given to the people of Spiriopolis to treasure forever."
by Pontifex the Priest
Thank you, Sven.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Joaquín's Killa Kan

seize ground

During our Christmas break, which was otherwise quite stressful, we played Warhammer 40K with Hendrik and Joaquín at Krüger’s house. It was their second tabletop game. They played Space Marines. Krüger and I played Orks.

The scenario was Seize Ground which means we played for objectives. Three, I think. Hendrik and Joaquín were not very lucky and some of their troops arrived late in the game: a terminator squad and a tactical squad in a drop pod. This was an advantage for the Orks. Nevertheless the game was undecided until the end. Then the Orks won.

What I like about playing in this group is that the focus is more on playing the game and not so much on winning or loosing. That's very relaxing. Also there is some basic trust that nobody is cheating. Unfortunately when I play with adults that's not always the case.

Fimo Killa Kan

Last weekend Joaquín made a figure out of Fimo. He says it's an Ork in a robot. A Killa Kan, I imagine.

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Wipeout / Dragon Rampant Battle Report

About once a year my cousin comes to Berlin to play a turn in our Waltrop campaign. On the 26th of May, last year, around noon, one day after my 49th birthday, he moved his Greek army into hexagon 70 on our campaign map to expand the territory of the Aquarians. My cousin divided his Dragon Rampant army into two groups.

group 1: Greater Warbeast (Leader) / 2 Light Foot

group 2: Greater Warbeast / Bellicose Foot / Scouts

Krüger and I played an alliance of wild tribes. Krüger played orcs.

Bellicose Foot (Leader) / Heavy Riders (Chariots) / Scouts

I played Tupí Indians.

Bellicose Foot / Light Missiles / 2 Scouts

Each turn the order of activation was supposed to be: Aquarians (group 1), Orcs, Aquarians (group 2), Tupí, but at some point we got confused, probably because we had consumed too much Tsipouro the night before.

(Next time we play a 2 vs 1 Dragon Rampant game we want to do it differently and try these rules: The player who controls an army by himself does not have to devide his army into groups. He can activate all units, but each unit only once during a game turn. To avoid confusion markers should be used.)

The battlefield was a sandy beach with some palm trees, bushes and rocks.

In the first turn the Greek scouts moved into a piece of rough terrain on their left flank. From there they threw stones at the Tupí indians, destroying all of my units apart from the light missiles. These were destroyed by the mighty minotaur lord instead who was the Greek general.

Krüger, who played the Orcs on our left flank, was a bit more lucky at first. There was a moment when his Orc warband (Bellicose Foot) destroyed a group of harpies (Bellicose Foot) in a piece of palm tree forest. This coincided with our confusion about the turn sequence and my cousin complained utterly.

But shortly afterwards Krüger lost his general (the Orc warband) and his chariot. The remaining orc scouts couldn’t possibly win the game.

So now the Aquarians occupy hexagon 70 on the campaign map.

campaign map

Tuesday 14 January 2020

My new upcycled Waltrop Box

a wooden box

Happy new year!

Going through my children's old toys I found a wooden box which they don’t need any more.

I repainted it, using paints with fancy names like "Lucy in the Sky" and "Cape Town Blue", and glued a map of Waltrop on it.

my new upcycled Waltrop box

I use the box to store some things we need for our Dragon Rampant games: three dice made out of bones to roll for leader traits, a tactical assault & coherency template which was produced by Gale Force 9 in 2008 and a 3" blast template, an object we need when we play with my cousin, because he likes to be very precise with unit coherency.

3 roman bone dice and 2 templates

Unfortunately after painting and varnishing the box the lid bent. I have been trying to straighten it for some time now but it only got worse.

Also, I’m very eager to make a wooden box like this from scratch one day …