What wargaming rules to use for the Portuguese Colonial War

Of course I’m interested in wargaming the Portuguese Colonial War. The question is what rules?

Key features to simulate

A good wargaming simulation of the Portuguese Colonial War should include some or all of features:

  • Small unit combat.
    • All belligerents basically used a reinforced platoon (called variously a combat group or bi-grupo or just group) as their basic operational unit for much of the war.
    • Occasionally a company a side might be fielded particularly later in the war.
  • Cold War / Vietnam technology
    • Assault rifles – AK47s, G3s etc
    • RPGs
    • Recoilless Rifles – man portable and otherwise.
    • Off road wheeled vehicles, e.g. Unimog
    • Anti-aircraft guns used versus aircraft and versus ground troops
    • Airstrikes
    • Helicopter medevac and air assault
  • Insurgency and counter-insurgency in Africa
    • Patrols, Convoys, Ambushes etc (see Way of War)
    • Jungles, Rivers, Grasslands (see Geography)
    • Concealment, fieldcraft and tracking
    • Animals
    • Civilians – shielding insurgents or just wandering around
    • Looting
    • Bows and arrows, pangas (machete) and spears
    • Mines – lots of them – and mine detection / clearing
    • Parachute drops
    • Untrained soldiers – do the wrong thing compared to regulars
    • Unenthusiastic soldiers – won’t initiate close combat
    • Technology gap between man and weapon
    • Horse mounted troops
    • Macho attitude – notably the Portuguese and Flechas
    • Commissars
    • Magic

Current Thinking

My current preference is:

However Crossfire has some challenges for use with insurgent warfare. Top of the list is unlimited movement which I can’t reconcile with typical ambush situations for this genre.

That led me to 1:1 skirmish games. Top of the list for me is Chain Reaction 3.0 and its variants from Two Hour Wargames. However, I’m not really a 1:1 skirmish kind of guy. I like bases with multiple figures.

I circled back to Fogo Cruzado: A Portuguese Crossfire or possibly Cold War Commander.


Conliffe, A. (1996). CrossFire: Rules and organisations for company-level WW-II gaming. Quantum Printing.

Crossfire is my prefered WW2 set of rules. Although it is WW2 a few people have offered Vietnam period variants which might do for the Guerra Ultramar. A stand is a squad in standard Crossfire and a platoon is 3-4 squads plus a platoon commander; this would give too few playing pieces to make an interesting game in a typical Ultramar engagement. Some people have, however, made 1:1 variants on Crossfire and this would work. I’ve also written up Crossfire Meets AK47 and Crossfire Meets I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum.

Crossfire Meets AK47

My own thoughts on how to bring elements of AK47 into Crossfire.

Crossfire Meets I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum and by Implication B’Maso

My own thoughts on how convert IABSM scenarios into Crossfire with a particular view to converting B’Maso scenarios for the Guerra Ultramar.

Lloydian Aspects: Crossfire at 1:1 Scale

Nikolas Lloyd has been the main advocate of 1:1 Crossfire on the Yahoo Group: Crossfire WWII. He has some, but not all, of his ideas on his website. He plays WW2.

Incoming! Barrie Lovell’s Crossfire for Vietnam

The first of the Vietnam breed. Also 1:1 scale.

David Schueler’s Crossfire for Vietnam

Retained Crossfire’s squads but added Vietnam elements.

HKSW: Vietnam

Features Contre Les Viets: Peter Hunt’s Crossfire for Indochina and various supporting material.

Yahoo Group: Crossfire WWII

Alejandro Ojeda published a Modern variant (in both Spanish and English) – go search the archive. Also has several discussions of 1:1 Crossfire.

Yahoo Group: Modern Crossfire

Offers the Volume of Fire rules pitched at present day Iraq. 1:1 scale. Shades of Star Ship Troopers.

Cold War Commander

Cold War Commander

CWC “is an exciting wargame that allows you to re-create battles from the First Indo-China War right up to the present day using miniatures on a tabletop. Command anything from a company right up to a division and get a result in 2-3 hours without becoming bogged-down in detail.”


RFCM team. (1999). AK47 Republic: Rules for Warlord level Battles in Africa 1955 to 1990. Peter Pig Miniatures.

AK47 Republic (version 1 or old version) is a set of wargaming rules for “Warlord level Battles in Africa 1955 to 1990” and one of a set of Rules for the Common Man (RFCM), i.e. it is produced by Peter Pig. AK47 Republic includes the normal set of battle rules, but also some interesting bits for Political Maneuvering and Force Generation, Terrain Set Up, Deployment, Objectives, Unit level Morale, and Victory Conditions; because it is tongue-in-cheek, AK47 also contains rules for generating the Name of your country and your country Flag. The battle rules of AK47 look alright, but I prefer Crossfire, so I wondered how I could use some of the AK47 extras for Crossfire. That led to my notes on Crossfire Meets AK47.

RFCM team. (2009). AK47 Republic: Rules for Warlord level Battles in Africa 1955 to 1990. 2009 Edition. Reloaded. Peter Pig Miniatures.

I haven’t the rules yet – I’ll pick up a copy when I next see Peter Pig at a show – but I’ve looked at the free downloads.

Ambush Alley Games

Ambush Alley Games. (2007). Ambush Alley! Modern urban counter-insurgency rules. Author.

Think Iraq, now. A squad or section of US or British troops is patrolling a Middle Eastern built up area when swarms of insurgents try to wipe them out. The imbalance between the regular forces and the insurgents seems inappropriate for the Guerra Ultramar, as does the urban setting, but I know that Nuno Pereira is working on a version for the Portuguese Colonial War.

Force to Force

Same core rules as Ambush Alley but with opponents that are on a more equal footing.

And check out an After Action Report set in the Portuguese Colonial War.

Two Fat Lardies: IABSM, TW&T and B’Maso

Clarke, R. and Skninner, N. (2005). I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum (IABSM): Rules for WW2 company level wargaming. Two Fat Lardies.

Favour individual figures per stand for a company. That is a lot of stands. WW2 but as the B’Maso supplement for Africa. I’ve written up notes on Crossfire Meets I Ain’t Been Shot, Mum so I can convert IABSM scenarios to Crossfire.

Clarke, R. (2007). Troops, Weapons & Tactics (TW&T): Where gaming stops and war begins. Two Fat Lardies

Clarke, R. (2008). B’Maso! The winds of change wars in Africa. Two Fat Lardies.

Excellent material both for those just interested in the Modern African Wars and for those who like IABSM. Nuno Pereira has done some nice scenarios for the Guerra Ultramar.

Two Hour Wargames: Chain Reaction, NUTS, FNG

All these rules are man to man skirmish.

Eckles, D. and Teixeira, E. (2006). FNG: The game of man to man combat during the Vietnam War. 2 Hour Wargames.

This is built on an older rules engine but FNG2 is being updated to match CR3.0.

Teixeira, E. (2009). Chain Reaction (3rd ed.). 2 Hour Wargames. [Available on-line Chain Reaction 3.0]

This is the core rules engine and it is free.

Teixeira, E. (2009). NUTS! Europe 1944 (2nd ed.). 2 Hour Wargames.

Basically CR3.0 adapted for late WW2 and including some campaign ideas.

Also see my Comparison of CR3, NUTS and FNG.

Ganesha Games: Flying Lead

Jones, R. and Sfiligoi, A. (2009). Flying Lead: The miniatures game of guns, guts and glory. Ganesha Games.

Based on the “Song of Blades” game engine. Man to man skirmish.

Red Skorpion

Red Skorpion – 20mm Quick Play Rules for Russians vs Afghans. Rules by the Neo Stalinist Reality Wargames Collective (aka Kremlin Miniatures)

Two Page Skirmish Rules

Two Page Skirmish Rules available on the Colonial Angle site

Man-to-man combat in the musket era. What has that got to do with the Portuguese Colonial War – not much but a wargaming mate of mine is keen on them so they are on the list. The mechanisms are fairly similar to those of Ambush Alley but much much cheaper.

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