2017 Reflections of a Megalomaniac Wargamer and Amateur Historian

I have noticed that my The Confessions of a Megalomaniac Wargamer and Amateur Historian of 2015 was literally a confession, describing my overly inflated ambitions and incomplete projects. But the 2016 edition was more a reflection on my progress against those goals. It has been a 23 months since the 2016 edition and it is time to revisit. But I’m going to split the reflection aspect from the confessions bit. So this is my reflection on the 23 months from the beginning of 2016 to the end of 2017.

Summary of the Year (actually two years)

I have been all over the place in the last 23 months. You’ll find mention of 12 projects below. But really I concentrated on four: (1) Crossfire; (2) Ruins and Stalingrad; (3) Portuguese Colonial War; and (4) Operational Level Wargames.

Megalomaniac 2017

Megalomaniac 2017

#1 Crossfire

Crossfire still dominates my gaming. Most of my games, most of my posts on Balagan, and most of my projects are related to Crossfire.

Part of the reason for having a blog is to share my thinking on game systems. Crossfire is no exception. So I have shared:

I’ve been using my Balagan Point System for Crossfire for years, but it took a nudge from Dick Bryant for me to realise other folk would benefit from seeing it. Of course the Balagan Data Sheets for Crossfire – Tank, APC, and Anti-tank Gun Stats is related to this and I saw this as an opportunity to bring it up to date.

I have got some more kit. In particular, after reading a good book on the subject, I got a SU-122 Battery – 3rd Battery of the 1454th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment. This is for a scenario at Kursk / Ponyri.



Mac, a member of the Crossfire-WWII Yahoo Forum, came up with a novel system for Pick up games for Crossfire now called “Mac’s Missions”. I revised this into a Mac’s Missions v2 and made up Cards to aid using the system. And I ran a Play Test. The system works surprisingly well I still have some thoughts for how this might evolve.

Crossfire Missions v2 as Cards

Crossfire Missions v2 as Cards

But mostly my interest in Crossfire is about playing the game. I’d had a few games although, in hindsight, less than I would have liked:

Doctor Phalanx’s Crossfiregrad definitely provided the most exciting games. We’ll be revisiting this soon.

Crossfiregrad 39 - Gigantic Field of Ruins

Crossfiregrad 39 – Gigantic Field of Ruins

I encouraged Chris and Jamie to Play the Krasny Bor Crossfire Campaign with two players with myself as host. They have played, and I have written up, Paper Factory and Advance from Ian Ishora. They have also played The Embankment but this has yet to appear on my site.

KB1F-29 Spanish ATG snipes at T34

KB1F-29 Spanish ATG snipes at T34

I am always interested in how my material impacts other people. My Eye of the Tiger Scenario inspired Barrie Lovell to do a Big Eye of the Tiger, which is also has a more historical map and order of battle. I’m very keen to play Barrie’s version.

Speaking of Barrie Lovell, I’ve been republishing his material when I find it.



Barrie’s material provides a kind of Vietnam theme to the last couple of years, which others have contributed to as well. In terms of Crossfire for Vietnam we have:

[It isn’t Crossfire but Julian has also provide Platoon – Squad Level Rules for Vietnam Era Skirmish Games and Night Ambush – A Vietnam Scenario for Platoon.]

The biggest contributor in the last couple of years has been Brett Simpson. Brett has sent through a few scenarios and battle reports:

Brett has also been experimenting with Crossfire in North Africa and the Pacific.

BSWD12 Solo Game - British advance on Village

BSWD12 Solo Game – British advance on Village

Anders Christian Böss contributed his The Pontville Bridge / Race for the Last Bridge Crossfire Scenario and Battle Report. Anders provides a useful contrast to my own material; I play as Crossfire’s normal scale (one stand = one squad) but Anders plays at 1:1 scale so a one stand = one team. Anders has given me some more material to share and you’ll see this in the new year.

The last of my contributors was Mark Bretherton who shared his thoughts on Scratch Building Ruins, Urban Boards and a SU-152 Game.

#2 Ruins and Stalingrad (1942)

My Ruins project is for a planned, big, multiplayer Crossfire game set in Stalingrad (an idea from 2014). The idea is to a large (8’x4′) table with urban stuff: houses, ruins, rubble, railway lines, at least one factory.

After many years of collecting and painting I thought I’d take stock of my ruins situation. As it happens, I recently discovered I can fill a 8’x4′ table, and more. So I posed the question Do I have enough Ruins?

You haven’t seen much of the actively but trust me, there has been a lot going on. I mentioned the Lonely 15mm Chimneys from Ironclad Miniatures but what you didn’t see was that I’d finished painting a lot more ruins and repainting my generic building features.

Aside from the Ruins I have also continued my practice games, for example Crossfiregrad and SU-152s Up Close and Personal.

Crossfiregrad 19 - Smoke shields faltering advance

Crossfiregrad 19 – Smoke shields faltering advance

The project isn’t complete. I am still lacking some large identifiable features. I think I need more buildings for a factory complex. Perhaps the Grain Silo or Railway Station 1. However, I do have the Barmaley Fountain.

Crossfiregrad 05 - Barmaley Fountain

Crossfiregrad 05 – Barmaley Fountain

Perhaps the big Stalingrad game will happen in 2018. Of course as soon as that monster is out of the way it will be replaced by an equally insane idea … hmmm, how about Berlin 1945!

#3 Portuguese Colonial War

My Portuguese Colonial War (1961-73) project has been ticking along. I’ve posted a few things about the war in general:

Marines Alouette II

Marines Alouette II
Notice the long grass which undermines claims of “cleared to ground level”

Given the focus on airpower I have dream up some house rules to deal with aircraft in Africa:

And I have based, or rebased, the majority of my figures on Flames of War bases for my 1-to-1 version of Crossfire called Fogo Cruzado. I’ve even got photos of the Portuguese on my site:

Caçadores Combat Group 1 - Close Up

Caçadores Combat Group 1 – Close Up

I painted the Portuguese but didn’t paint the majority of insurgents. I guess that is why they haven’t appeared on my blog.

I’ve also found some interesting resources in the form of 3D Printed 1-144th Scale Vehicles for the Portuguese Colonial War. Fantastic if you are happy with 1/144th scale (which, unfortunately, I’m not).

But the most important thing is … with the help of Jamie I got the troops on table. We played a couple of games by way of experimentation:

The ambush scenario was much better. More experimentation to do.

PCWA07 Portuguese patrol entering village

PCWA07 Portuguese patrol entering village

So, if I’m lucky, 2018 will see some more games in Portuguese Africa. And some more figures painted … Portuguese MG42/59 teams are on the painting blocks.

#4 Operational Level Wargames

Unexpectedly, my interest in Operational Warfare has really kicked in.

I’ve been dabbling with Megablitz for a while so I documented How to use Crossfire Armies for Megablitz and had another got at A Dot in Russia. But something was missing for me. Megablitz relies on honestly for combat, which is kind of cool, but open to abuse. And, somehow, it isn’t grand enough. I have big aspirations. Battalions, and even regiments, are too small for me. I knew I wanted something else. I want to move divisions around.

I posed the question to myself, What Wargaming Rules to use for the Operational Level of War? Then, of course, I set out to answer the question. So far I have looked at 22 game systems including two that I wrote specifically for this exercise:

The Hell’s Gate variant is alright, but it needs more flavour e.g. prepared offensives, armoured break throughs, campaigns in all seasons, and strategic movement. The Drive on Moscow variant has these things, but the combat system might take too much time. Despite the limitations I think I’m close to something worth play testing. Meanwhile I’m buying hex mats and trying to convince a company to make hex side river sections.

Why? Because I have a long standing ambition to play the 2nd Battle of Kharkov (12–28 May 1942) as an operational tabletop game – like I said above, I want to move divisions around. With that in mind I have got:

Kharkov Map for PzGruppe

Kharkov Map for PzGruppe

That last thing, the Kharkov 1942 Map for PanzerGruppe with 10km Hexes, reflects a relatively recent obsession with hexes. Chris is very happy. Other hex stuff:

I suspect my interest into Operational Level Wargame will run into 2018. I’ve very keen to get something on table. All I need is that hex mat.

#5 Minor projects

I’ve been tinkering with a few other projects. Nothing large scale so I’ll lump them all together.

#5.1 One Hour Wargames

I’m on the hunt for a good ancients and medieval set of wargaming rules. DBA and HOTT are my mainstay here but they are deeply flawed. The only reason I play them is that they are not (quite) fatally flawed like the other options I’ve looked at.

454AD-03 Roman cavalry fighting on both flanks

454AD-03 Cavalry fighting on both flanks

I had heard good things of Neil Thomas’s One-Hour Wargames so, after I figured out how to use my Big Bases, Chris and I gave them a go.

Not my thing. Say no more.

#5.2 Rif Wars

I haven’t done much on my Rif Wars (1909-25) project for years. However, Jesús Dapena asked me to republish some of his material:

Briz05 - FT-17 tanks for protection of the convoy to Tizzi-Asa - Cipriano Briz

Briz05 – FT-17 tanks for protection of the convoy to Tizzi-Asa – Cipriano Briz

#5.3 Liberators / Battle of Sipe Sipe / Viluma (1815)

My Liberators project saw a burst of energy in 2014-15 but, after I posted Steven’s 1815 Argentine Army on Big Bases, then fell by the wayside.

Argentine 7th Infantry Regiment - Line

Argentine 7th Infantry Regiment – Line

I still haven’t actually played Sipe Sipe because I’m still musing on what tactical rules to use. There are oh so many options:

I’m still undecided. But, in the meantime, I had a look at Lasalle with Big Bases – Introducing Combat Value.

So close, yet so far. Will I play Sipe Sipe in 2018 and get this project “Done”?

#5.4 Italian Wars

I predict the Italian Wars (1494–1559) will feature in 2018. So, with that in mind, I looked at How the Spanish colunela deploy in battle.

#5.5 Italian Campaign (1943-45)

The Italian Campaign (1944-45) might appear in 2018 as well. So I refreshed my WW2 Painting Guide: Kiwi and British in the Mediterranean.

A group of New Zealand soldiers on the Cassino battlefront in Italy, during World War II. Probably reconstruction for photographers behind the line. 5 April 1944

A group of New Zealand soldiers on the Cassino battlefront in Italy, during World War II. Probably reconstruction for photographers behind the line. 5 April 1944

#5.6 Carlist Wars

The Carlist Wars haven’t seen much action in recent years. But given Capitan Games re-released their 15/18mm 1st Carlist War Range, I purchased a bunch of figures. And I also drafted a Oriamendi Matrix: An Engle Matrix Game set in the First Carlist War.

Fantassin Carlist Infantry

Fantassin Carlist Infantry

#5.7 Steven’s Rules

I republished a set of rules my father wrote … Steven’s Rules 1971 – Wargaming Rules for a Seven Year Old.

#5.8 Moving House

And lets not forget I moved house and moved into my Man Cave.

Portal to the Man Cave

Portal to the Man Cave

Neglected projects

Neglected projects with beautifully painted figures in boxes:

And I’m still tempted by Berlin featuring the Spanish SS “Unit Ezquerra” (1945).

6 comments to 2017 Reflections of a Megalomaniac Wargamer and Amateur Historian

  • Richard (doctorphalanx)

    Thanks for the mention again of Crossfiregrad, especially as I’m finding it difficult to find the time, energy or inclination to play Crossfire or anything much else just at the moment. I remain amazed at your prolific output. I have a number of theories. (1) You don’t sleep. (2) You have cloned yourself. (3) This is your day job. (4) You have a huge staff. Come on, which is it?


    • Steven Thomas


      Didn’t you know? My day job is Santa Clause. There are two advantages of being Santa: (1) I have a lot of spare time during the year and it is pretty slow going at the north pole; (2) I have an army of Elves (and/or Yeti depending on your belief system) to assist with my hobby. 😉

      Actually, although it might not look like it, the last two years have been relatively unproductive for me. I used to manage to squeeze an hour or two every evening for my obsession. Since we moved to the new house I discovered television so my one or two hours are largely devoted to catching up on 20 years of missed movies. However, given I’m approaching my new obsession rather obsessively, I’m sure I’ll have closed the gap in 2018. That will leave me free again to concentrate my full attention back on wargaming. Given my vast array of projects I need that focus to return fairly quickly. 😉

      Crossfiregrad is brilliant. We have tweaked it a bit for our recent replay but you’ll recognise it as yours when we post the photos.



  • MJ

    Steven thanks for a year of interesting Saturday posts. A highlight to my Saturday morning seeing what you have been up to. The last year I have focused on BBB and Fireball Forward, but always kept an eye on doing some more Xfire. My New Years resolution is to actually do some Xfire in 2018.

    Have a Great Christmas and I hope a great year of gaming in 2018.

    • Steven Thomas

      Glad you enjoy the Saturday posts MJ. I’m already having a great Xmas (two weeks off work). Hope you have a great one. And good luck for Crossfire in 2018. You’ll certainly see some more inspiration from me. 🙂

  • It is a great synopsis! It made me go back and re-read a lot of the original postings. It seems to me that if one could live forever, a wargamer would use the time to research, collect and play every possible period that ever existed in depth. I know I would. Merry Christmas

    • Steven Thomas

      I agree Dick, if given enough time I would cover all periods of history and all theatres. With books and wargaming figures. But, luckily I guess, I realised when I was about 20 that I would go mad if I tried to do that. Hence my focus on Spain and Portugal. A focus I’ve pretty much kept to with only minor deviations. Even that is more than enough for one life time.

Leave a Reply