Not Quite Madrid

This game was set up for our regular Quarterly Shedquarters meet up. The game was supposed to be Ottomans v Austrians, but I had some supply problems (which I may write about later) so the kit I wanted wasn't ready. I therefore needed a substitute. 

Chris K and I talked about using NQM to run a big SCW game over the summer. I have wondered about running an operational SCW game using Chris' system for a long time, almost as long as I've had the figures. As we've played a lot of NQM recently and as Chris has moved the rules onto squares then hexes I've felt that the game has become more within my grasp.

I started off looking at doing the Belchite battle, but I struggled to get both a map and an orbat in the time I'd allowed myself (about two days). I had bits and pieces but not a clear enough picture.

Eventually I decided to run the Brunete attack by Republican forces in early July 1937. There's a full orbat for the Republic in Charles Esdaile's excellent military history of the Spanish Civil War, and enough on the Nationalists in George Hills' Battle for Madrid.

Chris had given me a copy of the printed NQM rules he handed out a COW last year, which was very handy. [These are available here: NQM Squared ]. I wanted to play the game as close to how Chris wrote it as possible, but there are some exposed edges in the system (not surprising - the rules are really an aid to umpires, not a player hand book). However there are some things I needed to modify for the SCW, and I realised I would need to use markers more than Chris does to keep track of what was happening.

For the game I went with Chris' "Corps Scale Option". Each square is 3km across, and each infantry base is a battalion. The Republican forces are in the left hand corner, waiting to burst forth. Brunete is in the centre of the table. Most of the villages had a small Nationalist "garrison". 

Richard and Chris A ran the Republicans, Phil & Chris K ran the Nationalists. Chris K has said more than once that what he really wants to do is play NQM, not umpire it. When he found out what we were playing (I'd given no one any warning) he got quite excited. The look of glee on his face was a joy to behold.

This is turn one, morning of 6th July. Each day is three turns. Morning, afternoon and overnight. Aircraft can't recce and bomb at night.

Chris K has been kicking around air recce as an idea for a while. I decided for this game, due to C&C issues, that air recce and ground recce were separate. Air recce is best for calling in bombers, and ground recce is needed for shooting artillery at anything you aren't in contact with. Chris A's ground recce was singularly useless for most of the game. Their inability to identify ANYTHING became legendary throughout the game.

However, in this turn the air recce - the Republic has total air superiority at the start - was effective. You can see I have marked areas where the enemy has been spotted with green marker, so I don't forget.

Recce phase over, in come the bombers.

The ground recce - the small armoured cars - did spot Nationalists in a couple of towns, so shelling commenced.

If I do this again I will get more sophisticated with the recce marking. Recce units are allocated by Division, so when they spot a target artillery from that Division can shell it. Artillery from other Divisions have to find it themselves in order to do so. I'm quite keen on brigade and divisional artillery only firing in support of units in their respective brigades and divisions.

The Republicans storm forwards. As historically the villages are hard to crack. They count as Heavy targets. The Republicans expend a lot of ammunition in the attacks. The red counters are out of ammo markers.

Afternoon, and the second wave of air attacks. Now they have recce'd the target, the fighters have turned to ground attack mode.

Richard moves up his Corps armour in support of his attacks, and he throws Phil out of one of his defended towns. Chris A's armour is with the Corps reserve division, off table.

Being evicted from the town will cause Phil problems. Usually you need a Med unit (with a red cross on it) to re-org and recover casualties. For this scenario, Nationalist units in towns and villages where they start the game can re-org without a med unit, making use of cellars and local population to improvise hospitals and casualty clearing.

Richard in the centre of the table is preparing to hook left and cross the two rivers, establishing the bridgeheads that are in his orders. Chris A is supposed to have overrun the villages on his flank and be heading for Brunete. It's all turning out to be a little more difficult than expected.

Richard is across one river, and applying pressure on the Moroccan-led defences on the next village. His worry is his logistics support. That red die means he has one last remaining re-supply action available to him.

Lister & El Campesino (who command Chris A's divisions) are falling out over whose fault it is things aren't going smoothly.

You see, at the end of each turn the commanders have to report back to Corps & Army on their progress. Alas both Chris and Richard may have been a bit over enthusiastic. Having announced the fall of his first turn objectives, Chris is struggling to explain why he is still fighting there. He can't get air support, as the bombers won't bomb a village that's already been "captured".

Apparently some fascist provocateurs have infiltrated the town after its liberation.

Finally Llanos falls.

Things are looking up. The next village falls in short order too, to a combined assault from both Lister & El Campesino's Divisions. Lots of ammo has been expended. Chris K is laying out the blast markers on his figures so he can see that his troops have indeed been overwhelmed and destroyed.

The view from behind the Republican positions. The road to the south is now open!

It is getting serious for Richard now. Full leaning over the table in thought mode. Phil is wondering when lunch is coming. His blood sugar is a little low.

Decisions having been made, both Chris and Richard surge forwards.

Richard is expanding his bridgehead, and pressing on to his next objective. He's lost one of his two tanks, and the other one has been hit, but they've been an effective spearhead.

We're just back after a lunch break. Some people haven't finished their Rioja yet. Richard is forming up for his attack on his last objective..

It's a hard fought action, but the Nationalists are still clinging on.

Chris now has a large number of forces lined up to take Brunete. He pours in a lot of fire, incurring numerous out of ammo markers. Will it be enough?

Not quite, and he's held on the threshold of success. And then it gets worse. The arrival of Condor Legion aircraft, notably their ME-109s, sweep the Republicans from the skies. Has the tide of battle turned?

The Nationalist air recce has found Chris' forces, and their Heinkel 111s deliver a heavy payload. However the Republican Corps commanders have released their reserve divisions. Chris A is finally receiving some armour support.

Brunete falls, and Chris A presses on to the defended river crossing, despite being under heavy bombardment from the Condor Legion.

But then the Nationalists get their act together and their reserves arrive too. [This is earlier and more than I think happened historically, but I thought it was needed to keep all the players interested as I wasn't going to do the full Franco counter attack].

Richard has hooked round and secured both villages across the river. Chris A is holding his forward objective on the right, but he's running low on ammunition.

He's also been spotted and bombed and also hit by Nationalist Divisional artillery.

Chris K has forced Chris A back and encircled the most forward of his troops.

Richard tries to stall Phil's counter attack, but loses out to the dreaded 6:1 die roll on combat outcome.

As night falls on the 8th July - close of day 3, turn 9, the Republicans are on the back foot and digging in to hold onto their gains. The Nationalist counter attack hasn't exactly stalled, but they've blunted the Republic's offensive, and with air superiority and more reinforcements on the way there'll be no breakthrough for the Republic.

This was about 5-6 hours of play with a break for lunch. It ran really well, and gave plausible results. It was interesting to look at a battle from an operational point of view. The area covered was much bigger than I'd normally play with "For Whom the Dice Rolls". Squares here are 3km, in FWTDR they're about 400 metres, so I'd need a room bigger than Shedquarters to play it all.

What it showed is that with careful management NQM can work with the SCW and the slightly less sophisticated armies. 

I think that I will repeat this experiment again at some point.


  1. What an excellent battle report! I always thought that NQM would work well if applied to the SCW, and you have certainly shown that it does. What next? Crossing the Ebro, perhaps?

    All the best,


    1. The Ebro? The thought hadn't even crossed my mind. Not.

  2. I've done a few operational SCW games using Megablitz et al and they generally work out really well. They make a welcome change of pace from WW2, but still have enough fun stuff (planes, tanks, cavalry) to make them interesting.

    1. I think it worked well, and it is truly not quite mechanised.

  3. Interesting! So what SCW adaptations did you make aside from the recce restrictions?

    1. A bit too much to go into in a comment. It was mainly around less flexibility in the command structures and unit operations.

  4. Did this game feel a bit strange playing SCW at a different level and with different rules from what you are accustomed to playing?

    1. Not really. The rules are complementary not alternatives. Some FWTDR ideas turned up in the game. I've got a set of rules for multi division games as well and I used RFCMs BAIT for company level.

  5. Great looking action - just the LOOK of the thing piques my interest. I'm not sure why this is, but it puts me in mind about how one might conduct the action in contemporaneous wars, such as the Sino-Japanese of the 1930s, and Soviet-Japanese border clashes of 1938-9. Sometimes the overture is more engaging than the whole opera...

    1. NQM will work for most 20th century modern conflicts. You need to get the orbats and the terrain right and then consider if there's anything in the generic system that needs a bit of a tweak. Like in WW2 radios are ubiquitous and recce can recce for anything, more or less. In the SCW I didn't allow that to be the case.

  6. Chris has posted the original NQM squared on his blog. I have added the link to the blog bove.

  7. Thanks for an excellent day Graham.

    I liked the Scenario rules and thought that they added a lot of period flavour, but I liked Chris A's Ba-20s swanning around missing everything in plain sight best of all! :-)

    Regards, Chris.

    1. I could tell you were enjoying yourself 'cos you never stopped smiling and didn't complain once. Well, maybe once. I may have to look at the recce rules again for the next game. I'm thinking of shifting the defender value up a notch if they aren't properly recce'd.


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