Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Barracoon - thoughts

Here are a few thoughts on the recent Battle of the Barracoon game. I'll include some methods used to run the scenario.
My games are fought solo. The set-up for each scenario derives from the previous one, and so on back to the original idea for a landing to capture a slaver port. The terrain suggests itself, following what I can research online for East Africa around Zanzibar, without being too specific, and allowing for what terrain items I have available or can make. I then analyze the whole idea behind the game from the point of view both sides. I aim to be as impartial - read equally bloody-minded - as possible toward both sides.
My reasoning for the Barracoon action ran that there are few secrets that an occupying power can hide from local natives. Eyes and ears are everywhere, and loyalty to the deposed Sheik Yabhouti still ran fairly high in the town. Sahid Lohar, the Sheik's representative in the area, would soon hear of the British plans to destroy the barracoon, and set out to prevent it. If he could inflict a severe defeat on the British, so much the better.
I laid out the terrain, with the features shown in the photo below. Next up, I decided how many groups of warriors would be available to Sahid Lohar, apart from his own group of Yabhouti musketmen. One roll of a d6 later and it seemed the Ukrazi were not impressed with his blandishments! The effects of British firepower had been felt most keenly in the previous action, and the local chieftain felt leery about suffering a repeat of the drubbing handed out then. He therefore provided a mere two 12-man warbands. Sahid Lohar would have to be canny in the way he deployed his forces - but that decision wasn't up to me.
Several ambush locations suggested themselves, so I assigned each a number and rolled a d6. The potential points were as shown below.

I considered it unlikely any warrior groups would be posted near to the town gate, so I assigned the two nearest ambush spots low numbers of probability. The results gave the hiding places for the three groups. Sahid Lohar set-up in location #1-2, a warrior group each in locations #3-4, and #6. Interesting results. 

Under the Sharp Practice rules, I rated Sahid Lohar as Big Man level 3. The tribal group behind the barracoon was led by a Big Man level 2, and the last group near the gates by a level 1.

The British had a level 3 Big Man in the shape of Sergeant Harrington, and a level 2 in Corporal Gedge. The former wangwana didn't have a leader per-se, being more or less herded into action by the Corporal's efforts.

I ruled the weather to be fine, with a steady sea-breeze from the South-East, courtesy of an 8-sided compass points die picked up at a wargames show some years ago. This had a bearing on the way smoke from the barracoon would drift, with its potential to conceal movement.

The burning of the barracoon is handled by the Sharp Practice rules for tasks, requiring a score of 10 on cumulative dice-rolls for fires to be set. Since the wangwana scored this on their first turn in the structure, it showed they were eager to get the job done and be out of it!

The Arabs were all musket-armed, and the tribal warriors rated as "Wallahs with big choppers" to account for their close-combat prowess. They also gained advantages for "aggressive coves" under the rules, giving them farther advantages in fisticuffs.
The British soldiers, of course, excelled in sheer firepower. The rules give a "Sharp Practice" card in the deck to any group possessing above average competence in musketry. To reflect the British use of breechloading rifles, I included two more Sharp Practice cards in the pack. This proved vital, and increased the period flavor of the game. Where the natives could come to close combat, they tended to inflict damage. Where the British could "slosh 'em with Martinis," the natives tended to suffer.

As for quality, the Yabhoutian Arabs and tribal warriors I rated as Average, the British as Good to reflect the experience gained in the previous actions. The Arabs were a step up in quality compared to their previous efforts, to reflect their status as bodyguard to Sahid Lohar. This had a major bearing on the firepower they were able to bring to bear from ambush, with serious consequences to No. 2 section. 

I nearly rated the tribal levy as Poor, since they were far from enthusiastic about helping the slavers, but in the end I thought it would weaken them too much.

Before the Barracoon game even began, I had a feeling it would prove a bloody little action for the British. The presence of a warband in ambush so close to the gates indicated action would come swiftly before Harrington's men would be entirely ready for it. One of the things I like about the Sharp Practice rules is the card-driven system, which allows for solo play. The fog of war and Richard Clarke's beloved "friction" descended on the game from the start.

Although the British won the action, they suffered four dead, with three severely wounded and subsequently invalided home. No. 2 section will have to be rebuilt. More on the aftermath and current situation vis. Yabhouti soon. 


Jiminho said...


Just dropping in to wish you a happy christmas (even if a day late)! I hope you feasted well yesterday and that you will have a little time for a reprise of your Barracoon game.


A J said...

Coming right up! =)


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