Friday, 16 November 2018

The Men Who Would Be Kings: Far the Calling Bugles Hollo...

So as promised the refight of Take The High Road scenario from The Men Who Would Be Kings with George's stabby spear armed Mahdists taking the role of the attackers and my gallant sons of Empire the role of defenders.

For my 27 points I took three units of Regular Infantry, a cannon and spent the remaining 3 points on some Irregular Infantry Bazingers downgraded to poor shots. Would this be enough to stop the advancing 36 point Mahdist horde?!

We rolled up the terrain as previously and it was clear the wargaming gods were going to be against me as I ended up with a hill right in front of my position blocking lines of fire and some rough ground that would half the movement of any of my troops trying to advance onto the hill in front of them.

Unlike previously when I was the Attacker, George's Tribal Infantry do not have to pass an Order to Move and quickly started to advance up the table in 8" chunks.

This did quickly bring them into artillery range and I opened fire on one unit of Beja killing two at long range. Unfortunately, they shrugged off the Pinning test.

Unsurprisingly George was using the terrain to his best advantage to shield as much of his army as he could. That said his army has a lot of figures and it would have to be a very big hill to shield them all!

His left flank was soon in rifle range and the 1/66th and 2/66th opened fire inflicting several casualties  on a River Arab unit which was then Pinned and subsequently failed a number of Rally tests, effectively taking it out of the game.

The Beja cunningly hid behind the hill whilst the other River Arabs continued to take casualties, another unit being Pinned...

The remaining River Arab unit decided that being shot at wasn't much fun so decided to try and Charge in on the 2/66th. Some impressive dice rolling saw them move into contact!

The 2/66th were fortunately in Close Order which limited the number of stabby sticks the Arabs could bring to bear and this also meant that the Thin Khaki Line was more effective in melee. The fighting was brutal with 8 Arabs being bayoneted but 5 of the 66th falling in combat. The Arabs were pushed back and Pinned.

However this was a numbers game and as Tribal Infantry can move through friendly units even when charging, a unit of Beja decided to Charge in on the seven surviving 2/66th. Again their ability to bring their superior numbers to bear was negated as the British were still in Close Order.

Unfortunately my dice rolling let me down at the crucial moment. George rolled 6 kills on 7 dice (!), whereas I managed just 3. The 2/66th were down to one man (their officer) who was pushed back and Pinned...

Whilst he Rallied next turn, the Beja charged in again and took this brave son of Empire down....

Meanwhile the 1/66th were having problems of their own due to my poor dice rolling. They volley fired at a unit of Beja that had attempted to charge over the hill at them, but had come up short. Twelve Martini-Henries killing on 4, 5 or 6 only managed to inflict just 4 casualties on the Beja who laughed off the Pinning test (George's Pinning roll tests throughout the game were almost invariably passed, much to my detriment).

Faced with two units of Beja (one now of 12, one at full strength of 16) both potentially within Charge range, the 1/66th Volley fired again killing 5 of the nearest unit, who again shrugged off the Pinning test!

The second unit of Beja then attempted to Charge in on the 1/66th and successfully did so. Again due to the British being in Close Order the number of stabby sticks they could bring to bear was limited, so both sides has 12 dice, both killing on 4, 5 or 6.

Fate deserted the 1/66th and me. The brave Brits took down 5 of their native foes, but the Beja killed 9! The 1/66th were forced out of Close Order, back three inches and Pinned!

The Bazingers (who I had stationed on the hill as I had little hope of being able to order them to do anything than Fire which is a free order for them) tried to help the beleaguered survivors of the 1/66th, surprisingly shooting down 4 of the Beja, but failing to Pin them.

A unit of River Arabs then charged through the Beja, wiping out the last few of the 1/66th. The situation was now officially grim.

Next turn the Beja charged the Bazingers in an attempt to avenge their fallen comrades, killing 3 for no loss and forcing the Bazingers back down the hill.

The River Arabs, their blood up after wiping out the 1/66th, then charged in on the remaining Bazingers killing 6, forcing them back and Pinning them.

My final hopes laid with the 3/66th who were in Close Order and within Volley Fire range of the River Arabs. If I could inflict enough casualties on them, and use my cannon, which had been trying to pick  off two Irregular Rifle units George had slowly advanced down the right, I might be able to seize an unlikely victory, or at the very least a draw...

However my run of bad luck continued. The Mahdist Irregular Infantry got within Long Range of  the 3/66th and managed to inflicted one casualty on the British unit. My Pinning roll should have been easy but of course I rolled low and failed it! 

The 3/66th were forced out of Close Order, Pinned and unable to shoot at the River Arabs standing brazenly atop the hill!

George's black flag Beja finished off the Bazingers which meant the remaining British units had to roll for Pinning which the cannon failed!

I managed to Rally the 3/66th but the respite was brief as he charged his River Arabs in on them.

It was 13 versus 10 with the Brits only hitting on 5 or 6 against the 4.5 or 6 of the Arabs, but maybe a good roll of the dice would favour the British and see the Arabs pushed back so I could bring rifle fire to bear next turn.

As you can see below I managed no hits whatsoever whereas George rolled 7!

The remnants of the 3/66th were pushed back and unsurprisingly Pinned.

They did Rally next turn but the Mahdist Irregular Infantry inflicted another casualty taking them down to 2...

Before some Beja charged in...

Finishing off the remnants of the 3/66th for no loss!

The black flag Beja then charged the Pinned cannon and you can guess what happened there...

So, another sad day for the British Empire in the deserts of the Sudan...

Cleary the terrain had played an important role in the game with the second hill reducing my ability to bring all my firepower to bear. I should have agreed to George's initial suggestion we set the board up as per our previous battle using this scenario as I would have been able to deploy the cannon on the hill and had clear field of fire across a large area!

With a 36" range compared to the maximum 24" of the Regular Infantry the cannon seems to be an attractive option, but it only rolls 2d6 per crewman so maybe it would have been better to take another unit of 12 Regular Infantry with 12d6 to roll and put them in Close Order asap.

Deployment of units was impacted by the terrain. I had wanted to put the cannon on the hill objective but as it requires an order to Fire (unlike the Infantry units) I could not risk its crew refusing to Fire when they might only get one chance as the Mahdists burst out of cover in front of them. 

Despite (another) defeat it was an enjoyable game, my dice rolling letting me down at crucial times and once things started to go wrong, as we have both noticed with the game, things began to unravel rather quickly...

Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Men Who Would Be Kings: Blow The Bugle, Draw The Sword...

For our latest adventure with The Men Who Would Be Kings George brought along his new native army - Afghans! So now not just some fanatical guys with slashy swords (instead of stabby sticks) trying to kill the sons of Empire, but a whole load of ones with guns!

His army is a mix of old Foundry, Perry, Artizan and Studio and whilst there is some size difference they mix together really well and even in their currently undercoated state look really nice en masse...

We decided to play the 'A Sigh of Relief' scenario that we'd played previously in the Sudan. As we had found it be a tad unbalanced so we decided to play length ways (otherwise the central forces would be in rifle range immediately) and allow the Afghan relief forces to start rolling for arrival from turn one not two.

Again we played 36 points, George starting with 16 points in the centre with the captured 66th Foot's mascot Bobby! We used the terrain rules from Principles of War and somehow managed to generate the flattest area of the North West Frontier with some rough ground, farmland and forests but no mountains or hills!

The game did not get off to an auspicious start for the British Field Force with half of the units refusing orders to advance on turn one!

A couple of turns in I had managed to get most of my guys to move up, although Amir George's relief party was also moving up the table and I forgot that Afghans had rifles and lost one of my Sikhs!

My attempt to return fire was pathetic - this was one roll of 12 dice attempting hits on a 5 or 6 at long range... Needing two hits to cause one casualty George insisted I take a photo!

As I was failing at my dice rolls, Amir George was not and now all his reinforcements were on the table...

Next turn the 2/66th opened up on Bobby the dog's nefarious kidnappers, killing three and Pinning them. They failed a Rally test and retreated three inches (something they continued to do all game).

My dice rolling subsequently improved and I managed to Pin four of Amir George's units in one turn.

Amir George's dice rolling was now not so good and his Ghazis guarding Bobby rolled 2 on a Rallly test and routed!

Things got worse for Amir George next turn as the other Pinned Irregular Infantry who had kidnapped Bobby also routed. Suddenly no one was guarding the objective!

The 1/66th moved up to try and help form a bulwark against the advancing Agfhan relief force but walked into a mass of fire from the Tribsemen, lost three soldiers and were pinned with a unit of Ghazi Fanatic Tribal Infantry advancing towards them.

The 2/66th move through the 1/66th to protect them form the advancing Afghans and the 15th Sikhs advanced to rescue Bobby!

Technically this fulfilled the scenario objective, but as the bulk of the Afghan force had not got anywhere near the fighting we decided to continue the game to see if the British could successfully get Bobby to safety off their table edge.

Amir George immediately took advantage of this extension by charging a unit of his Ghazi fanatics into the Sikhs...

Killing all but two!

Elsewhere Amir George shot at the 2/66th causing one casualty. Incredibly they failed the Pin test and he then charged his other unit of Ghazis in!

Wiping out most of the 2/66th and forcing them back...

The rest of the British Field Force then swung into action. The 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) who were in Close Order fired a devastating close range volley at the Ghazis who had attacked the Sikhs, almost completely wiping them out...

The 3/66th (also in Close Order) similarly fired a volley at the other Ghazi unit killing a large number of them and some Herat mercenary Irregular guides (looking somewhat like Bazingers...) attached to the British force joined in the firing, resulting in the 18 man unit having just 3 left standing at the end of the turn.

Next turn another volley from the Gordons took out the remaining Ghazis who had attacked the Sikhs and after several turns failing Pin tests and retreating the unit of Irregular Rifles Pinned right at the start of the game failed again and Routed.

With three Ghazis and just two units of Irregular Infantry facing two British infantry units in Close Order and several others at varying degrees of reduced strength, Amir George decided discretion was the better part of valour and conceded victory to the British...

A good game which could well have turned out differently if the terrain generation had not resulted in a very atypical North-West Frontier table.

The scenario does work better played lengthways - it can be played starting on either long or short edges but if the Attacker enters from the long edge they can either reach the centre of the table or fire at the enemy there before the relief force gets out of bed. Having the attackers try and retreat to safety after rescuing the objective I think also improves it...

A couple of other tweaks might be to have the objective able to be moved on a Move order away from the Attacker or the Defender's relief force randomly appear from any table side on their half of the table not the opposite to where the Attacker comes on.

Playing against the Afghans was interesting and on a couple of occasions I forgot they were better shots than the Sudanese and lost troops I shouldn't have. This wasn't a major problem this time, but in the future is something I need to remember...

Next week we intend to try the 'Take The High Road' scenario again back in the Sudan with the Mahdists trying to seize the hill guarded by a smaller British force. Don't mention Isandlwana...

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Men Who Would Be Kings: While Their Bayonets Shone Bright...

Apologies for the lateness of the report of this week's stramash in the Sudan against George and his Mahdists, real life and all that...

We decided to try the Take The High Road scenario from The Men Who Would Be Kings, with my gallant British Field Force attacking and George's Beja stabby guys defending. The scenario is based on 24 points v 18, so we upped that to 36 v 27. Once again we used the Principles of War terrain rules which saw George place two oasis and hill in front of my deployment line and me some rough ground off to one side.

The objective of the scenario was to seize a hill within 12 turns. As I had lots of guns and George not very many we both thought this would be a walk in the park for the British.

Unfortunately it did not work out that way...

As you can see, George decided to mitigate my firepower advantage by hiding the bulk of his force behind the hill. As Attacker I would be going first each turn so he had an advantage in the last moves would be by his force - if they were able to!

The British Field Force slowly moved down the table with the 1/66th, 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) and 15th Bengal Native Infantry (Ludhiana Sikhs) all refusing to move at one point or the other much to my chagrin wasting the limited turns available.

George sat and drank his tea and checked his emails (for the first six turns!).

My "cunning plan" was to advance down the battlefield flank and hit the hiding guys with stabby sticks in the flank. I threw two units down the other side in the hope George might be tempted to ally forth and attack them (under the Victory Conditions, whilst he would get 2VP for destroying two units - if he did - the hill gave 5VP).

As I neared the hill my troops encountered some Mahdist Irregular Infantry in some rough ground. The 92nd opened fire killing just one.

Next turn the 3/66th and 15th Sikhs got within range and opened fire inflicting some more casualties...

I have to confess that, given their impact in previous games (I am sure George has equipped them with Dragunov sniper rifles!), I was slightly fixated with pinning or destroying his only firearm equipped troops and probably spent a turn too long trying to get rid of them with four units shooting at them!

The Bazingers eventually finished them off, but by turn 8 the bulk of George's army was still safely protected by the hill! (1-0 to Steve)

With four turns left, the battlefield looked like this... I needed to move my guys quickly up and start firing into the mass of natives hiding behind the hill.

As George has not taken the bait on the right flank I decided to move the 3/66th up to Beja charge range, with the Highlanders of the 92nd protecting their flank. Unfortunately the 15th Sikhs (again) refused to move up the flank allowing them to fire into the flank of the Beja.

Having finished his tea, read his emails and checked out a neighbouring game of Bolt Action, George decided he needed to roll a few dice so charged one unit of Beja over the hill into the advancing 3/66th...

A flurry of bayonets and stabby sticks saw casualties on both sides but the bulk of the 3/66th lay dead and bleeding...

Next turn the Beja followed up their attack wiping out the remnants of the 3/66th out (score now 1-1)

The 92nd them opened up on the victorious Beja killing all but one...

Then the Bazingers skirmished forward, finishing off the Beja (2-1 to Steve) and gaining a foothold on the objective!

As you can also see the 1/66th and 2/66th on the right had been firing away of one of the Beja units from their flank and the Sikhs had some success shooting up and pinning another unit.

To make matters worse for George all his units within 12 inches of the destroyed Beja had to take a Pinning test and two failed.

However turn 11 saw him Rally ALL his Pinned units and advance one unit of River Arabs onto the hill...

As the game entered its final turn I only had one chance of securing victory. I had to blow away the River Arabs on the hill and hope their destruction would cause George's remaining Beja to Pin...

Unfortunately this Hail Mary didn't come off, whilst I inflicted some more casualties on the River Arabs and the Black Flag Beja, it wasn't enough and George was subsequently able to charge one unit of Beja into the Bazingers forcing them off the hill and advanced another into the hill.

The game ended with George in charge of the objective, winning the scenario 6 VP to 2.

This was something of a strange game with George having little for do for 2/3 of the game! (We both discussed his options at the start of the game and agreed hiding behind the hill was the best one).

Things may have gone my way if some of the Mahdists had failed their pinning rolls on Turn 11 as this would have prevented them moving on Turn 12 but c'est la vie, in retrospect I should have spent less time worrying about the Irregular Infantry rifles and moved by force up the flanks quicker.

I've offered to replay the scenario with the British defending the hill but I'm not sure Goerge likes the idea of his Mahdists advancing onto a line of Martini-Henry's... though I did say it would probably be just like Isandlwana given my track history! :-)