Friday, July 27, 2012

Gamer, interrupted

My wife and I have both been busy these last few days, as a number of things happened unexpectedly which require sorting out. I've mentioned before a house move might be on the cards. This is now a probability rather than a possibility. The when and where remain to be decided. 

In the meantime, gaming will continue as-and-when. The poll result and comments have come out firmly in favor of retaining the tembe, and that's the decision I'll go with. More to follow on that. 

The good chaps at Pendraken have notified me the latest AVBCW figures are on their way. With the good graces of the two post offices and a following wind, I should have the new shinies in my hands by the end of next week. Photos to come.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Hedgerows

I think more often than not, after buying figures and models in a new scale, we gamers only realize we need matching scenery too. Since starting A Very British Civil War in 10mm, I've turned my hand to making some typical British hedgerows for the period. 

I've put a batch up for sale on eBay, to help fund my addiction hobby. Click here for details.

 
  A platoon from the Norwich Socialist Militia on the march to spread 
Socialism throughout East Anglia. SCW figures by Pendraken Miniatures.

The tarmac road surface is cut from old roofing shingles. They're easy to cut, durable, and flexible enough to follow the contours of the table where needed. Of course, in the 1930's many roads throughout the UK lacked metaled surfaces, so I might paint some to represent the ordinary dirt farm-track style with the central strip of grass. I plan on making enough for three or four roads, which should be sufficient for my gaming table. 

One of the beauties of this scale is, a lot can be fitted into a relatively small area. As an example of what can be done, check out the wonderful dioramas by Portuguese modelers Carlos Briz and M├írio Laranja. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mini-Campaign aftermath

And so the Raid on the Tembe campaign comes to a close. The last vestige of Sheik Yabhouti's hold on the region has been erased, leaving the British in control - after a fashion. 
It proved a hard little expedition in many ways, especially the actions following the relief of Willoughby Pond's trading post. The Barsetshires lost five men dead, and others badly wounded. 2nd Section received the worst of it, and will need to be reconstituted and retrained. 

Private Hare did not do anything to exonerate his previous blemished record; indeed he retired in the face of the enemy with the rest of the section to which he was attached. As a result he has been packed off on the troopship home. Once he reaches the depot in Barchester, he'll be formally Discharged from Service.

As for the Ukraziland Rifles, their heavy losses have caused something of a crisis. Recruitment has dropped off, due to the natives' belief the British are merely using them as cannon-fodder, and it's unlikely they will field a full platoon in the near future. This leaves something of a shortage of manpower, with commensurate difficulties in holding the newly-acquired territory.  

And what of the tembe itself, that took so many lives, and much time and treasure to seize? As a fortified structure, it can't be left to whoever can claim it. Two solutions offer themselves. The British could destroy it and withdraw. A garrison could be left to hold it as an outpost, but this will draw on very limited manpower. If it is held, perhaps it could be used as the nucleus of a settlement inhabited by friendly natives. Equally, it could prove a magnet for all the hostile forces in the region. Decisions, decisions...

And so I place the decision in the hands of the readers of this blog. I've set up a new poll, with three questions. What shall be done with the tembe? Destroy it, Garrison it, or Other. If you vote Other, please leave a comment stating what other option you'd favor. 

* * *
Now for a word about the rules. Once again Sharp Practice proves itself a versatile set of rules for solo Colonial play, with a few adaptations. My only problems really stem from my limited playing area. Like most (all?) gamers I'd really like a larger, permanent table that can be set up and left, allowing room for maneuver and time to game. One of these days...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Attack on the Tembe

Before the game I had to decide on the politics of the situation. The Ukrazi tribe could offer help to the Yabhouti Arab slavers currently occupying the tembe. Previous heavy defeats at the hand of the British and a long-standing dislike of the Arabs made this chance remote. I decided there was only a 20% chance the tribe would fight, and rolled 23% on decimal dice - close, but no cigar. The Yabhoutians were on their own.

And so to the game. Captain Pike had taken direct control of 1st Section of the Barsetshire platoon, CSM Harrington control of the battered 2nd Section, now down to seven effectives, including the recalled Pvt. Hare. Cpl. Powell's 3rd Section were brought ashore to provide the vital manpower needed for the final assault. 

The terrain in the area is tangled, with stands of scrub, trees, long grass and other obstacles to confuse any white man passing through. I decided to roll 1d6 to see which section of the table the British would enter by from the East. A score of 1 placed them closest to the tembe, 2-3 in the central section, and 4-6 the area nearest the river - which Capt. Pike would prefer.
Needless to say, he didn't get his way. The die decided the British entry point would be close to the tembe. Cpl. Powell led the way through the trees and scrub to within sight of the tembe, standing on its low hill.
Captain Pike with 1st Section followed close on his heels. As ordered, Powell approached the tembe and promptly received fire from its walls. A great wail of fear told the British soldiers slaves were present. 
Powell followed pre-encounter orders and withdrew to the scrub line to conduct a heavy rifle fire upon the embrasures in the tembe walls. 

Pike had two options for breaking into the tembe. One was a bombardment from the Indian Army mountain gun, crewed by Bombardier Lal Singh, but Singh appeared to have been delayed in the brush. The second was a petard placed against the tembe gate. Appraised by Cpl. Powell that slaves were present, Pike decided on the petard. Even though placing it posed more risk for his troops, it would be safer for the unfortunates within than a full-on bombardment.

Girding their loins, Pike and his men rushed toward the gate, as CSM Harrington came up on their left.  

Pike noticed that fire from the tembe had already slackened considerably as Powell's musketry came into play. It helped his aim considerably. He and his men reached the log gate, and set to work with practiced hands to set the charge. 

Meanwhile, CSM Harrington ran into an ambush. On approaching a belt of scrub he and his men were totally surprised by a blast of musketry. As powder smoke filled the air, Harrington could see the dark shapes of tribal musket men dodging and ducking amidst the scrub. He directed his men to return fire, but so rattled were they, their efforts proved negligible.
Pike's men set the charge and Pike himself lit the fuse. Retiring immediately, they were still almost caught by the explosion. As his head reeled and ears rang, Pike made a mental note to brush up on his field demolition techniques.

Not far away, Harrington and 2nd Section were in trouble. Pvt. Alder fell dead, shot through the head, and the shock began to pile up. The section's return fire was still ineffective, and the men began to waver.
As smoke from the petard cleared, Cpl. Powell seized his chance. Standing up, he shouted "Come on, lads!" and with a rush and a cheer they stormed across the open ground and up to the walls. Pike directed fire from his own section upon the embrasures nearest the gate, and was joined by Lal Singh with the mountain gun.

Powell and his men thrust the rifle muzzles in through the embrasures and fired unaimed. Return fire from the tembe all but vanished, as Pike led his men with a cheer to the gaping hole where the gate had been. Behind him, 2nd Section had retired from contact. Harrington began berating them, ordering them to stand fast. Reluctantly, 2nd Section slowly pulled itself together, but the fight appeared to be all but over.  

Even though the Yabhoutians were protected by the stout walls of the tembe they'd suffered from Powell's well-directed fire. Only the leader, Wazir Amini Tago and one of his men survived out of the dozen or so original garrison. Even so, he met Pike at the gate in hand-to-hand combat. 
The fight surged back and forth, with shrewd blows taken and given. Eventually, bloody and rather annoyed, Pike beat his man down and placed the point of his sword at the Wazir's throat. "You will yield, sir!" he snapped.

The Wazir complied. The slaves were liberated, the tembe fell, and with it the last bastion of Sheik Yabhouti's influence in the Ukraziland region.

And so ends the Raid on the Tembe mini-campaign. A follow-up with thoughts on the game will appear soon.
  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tembe on the Hill

A prestigious address, soon to be contested. 


The last act of the Raid on the Tembe mini-campaign was fought today. A report from our correspondent with the column will follow soon.
* * *
In other news, Pendraken Miniatures will be holding their 20th Birthday Bash this weekend. The celebrations include 10% off all orders placed on Saturday and Sunday, so I'll take the chance to order some more 10mm AVBCW figures to bring the Socialist Militia and Flegg Fencibles LDV up to strength. I plan to add artillery and an armored vehicle apiece, along with Vickers and Lewis guns. 

I'm working on scenery in the same scale, and have found a neat method of producing hedgerows. A lack of some raw materials is slowing things up, but I hope to move it along soon.
 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Thoughts on the Jenkin's Mission Game

So, another hot day rolls into evening, and I can write up my thoughts on the recent game. I'm satisfied with the way it played out. A modification to the Sharp Practice rules helped give a more balanced game.

The previous encounters (the Ukrazi Village, Pond's Trading Post) were virtual walkovers for the British column. Heavy rifle fire reduced the warbands to impotence within fairly short order, and afterward it was just a case of mopping-up. Not very satisfying!

The change I made to the rules turned out to be the most significant I've done so far. Under the rules Groups can number up to a dozen or so figures, with a Big Man of sufficient Initiative able to combine three-four Groups to make a Formation. 

The British and Askari have the typical ten-man section, and are rated as Good for the British, Poor for the Askari. Before this game, the natives had operated in Groups of a dozen, and are rated as Regular. I decided to keep their rating the same, but to double them up into permanent Formations of twenty-four or so. This had the immediate effect of increasing their survivability and fighting power. 

Now native warbands can survive rifle-fire without gaining so many Shock points they become totally immobile instead of charging home. With two Big Men in the Formation, the junior in rank can get on with the job of removing Shock (steadying the men). As I count natives as Wallahs, they gain the advantage under the rules of another die per three men fighting when in Fisticuffs. This means another eight dice maximum for a warband, on top of what they already gain for melee. Suddenly, the warband becomes a serious threat to the Red Soldier, especially when he's caught by surprise.

The latest game demonstrated this. Capt. Pike's Barsetshire platoon lost five men in melee, the Ukraziland Rifles section seven. Post-game, I rolled a die, with 1-3 indicating death, 4-6 a bad wound. Of the five Barsetshire lads, three were killed outright, one was badly wounded and died of fever associated with his wounds (this was down to the latest Campaign Event card, which showed a death from fever among the British troops. I reasoned it would more likely affect a badly wounded man than one who was hale and hearty). One man was KO'd but otherwise lightly wounded, and returned to the ranks. 

Of the Askari, the dice were truly unkind: All but one of them were killed in action. Oddly enough, although the odds of a Big Man being killed in the game were quite significant, none on either side suffered so much as a scratch. Such is war...

And so we have the muster.

Lightly Wounded –Pvt. King, Albert.
Died of fever related to wounds – Pvt. Yeats, Richard.
KIA – Pvt. Chapman, Oliver; Pvt. Ward, Jack; Pvt. Monk, Lionel.

Ukraziland Rifles Section
KIA - Askari Anan, Yaw, Otieno, Unathi, Tinashe, Tau.

Although the surviving men of the Ukraziland Rifles were recovered from their rout, the section has ceased to exist as a fighting unit. The slavers' tembe lies ahead, and is likely to prove a tough nut to crack. 

Captain Pike has decided to bring the Barsetshire 3rd Section under Cpl. Powell ashore from the steamboat, and place the surviving askari aboard to guard the vessel. After careful thought, Pike has recalled Pvt. Hare to the platoon, and attached him to the war-battered 2nd Section. Hare has been doing Kitchen Patrol following his flight from the barracoon action some weeks ago, and was serving as such with other supernumeraries aboard the steamboat Lady Cynthia. Pike feels this will give him a chance at redemption. 

With luck and a following wind, I'll play out the last action of the mini-campaign this coming week.   
   

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Action at Rev. Jenkins' Mission


The hellishly hot weather affecting the Midwest curbed any enthusiasm I might've had for being outdoors. I turned my mind instead to fighting the next action in the Raid on the Tembe mini-campaign - the Rev. Jenkins' Mission.
* * *
The gradual opening-up of Ukraziland to British and European exploitation has led to a number of folks trying their luck on the new frontier. One such is the Reverend Charles Jenkins of the Barsetshire League of Anglican Missionaires (BLAM). 

About a month ago Jenkins disappeared alone into the interior to set up a combined medical and religious outpost somewhere on the banks of the Ukrazi River. The steamboat Lady Cynthia recently made a scouting foray upriver ahead of the British column and sighted the mission, located in an Arab house not far from the east bank. Although the BLAM flag flew over the mission's roof, repeated blasts on the steam whistle elicited no response. 

On the scouting report reaching Capt. Pike, OC British Column, he decided that as the mission lay upon his course to the slaver tembe, he'd investigate. Deploying his troops in skirmish order, he approached the area, alert for anything amiss...

Capt. Pike leads 2nd section at a brisk walk through the trees toward the mission house. The Ukraziland Rifles Askari section takes center, with CSM Harrington away to the right.  

Harrington's suspicions regarding the undergrowth are justified when his sharp eyes spot movement. A large native warband lurks within cover.


Capt. Pike approaches the door to the mission house. The flag is missing, and no one answers his call.

Harrington forms his men into line and gets down to doing what he does best - directing rapid rifle fire into an enemy. The cover of the bush proves irksome. His section's fire isn't having the desired effect.

Not far off Capt. Pike gets an answer he wasn't expecting! A large native warband surges out of cover and slams into his section, sending it reeling back with casualties!
Once the Barsetshires win clear of the scrimmage, the Ukraziland Rifles respond to their comrades' distress by opening fire - only to find the attention of the entire warband turned murderously upon them!
The natives are victorious, driving the askari back in confusion. Their NCO manages to rally them, and they give a ragged volley. To their left, Captain Pike takes the opportunity to reorganize his men.
Over on the right, Harrington's volleys have stung the warband into motion at last. They emerge from cover and rush the section, only to run into vicious rifle fire.  
Goaded into attacking the askaris, the warband soon kill or drive off the remaining troops. Their sacrifice allows Captain Pike to ready his men for a counter blow.
Aware his previous performance hasn't been inspired, Bombardier Lal Singh seizes his chance. A well-directed shot causes more casualties to the warband. Their shock is accumulating fast...  
Over on the right, Harrington breathes an inward sigh of relief as the disciplined rifle fire drives off the warband. The rifle barrels are too hot to touch!
 "Bloody 'ell! 'Ees orf agin!" cries an unknown voice from the ranks as Pike leads them in a fierce charge into the disorganized warband. It's nip-and-tuck, with another two men falling to the deadly spears before the warband yields to the bayonets.
As the warband retreats, Pike orders Bugler Bates to sound Assembly. The clarion notes of the bugle summons Harrington across to his assistance.
Safe out of range of the deadly rifles, the Ukrazi leader N'Wenke exhorts his severely shaken warriors to make one last effort.

 The Barsetshires have formed-up, and are coming on with blood in their eyes. Lal Singh directs another well-placed shot into the distant warband, destroying what little cohesion it's regained.
A final volley persuades the tribesmen to withdraw and lick their wounds. Although beaten, they feel satisfied the honors of battle have been more equal this day. They've destroyed the native soldier-slaves of the White Queen, and given her own troops a bloody nose. Perhaps their witchdoctor spoke truth - fighting smarter and not harder is the secret.

As the smoke dissipated, Captain Pike directed a signal to be sent to the Lady Cynthia, cruising not far off on the river. Her commander, Capt. Murdoch, turned her bows to the shore and moored. The casualties were brought to the bank as the medical team went ashore, and a tent erected for their use.

The Reverend Jenkins was found in his mission house, bound and gagged but unhurt. He converses with Capt. Pike as soldiers carry food and water for their fallen comrades.
* * *
Some thoughts on the game and the aftermath will follow soon.

 

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