Come on, you knew there'd be a pun in there somewhere, didn't you? ;)
Anyway, I played the Jam'aah Valley game to my usual Sharp Practice (v.1) rules with house modifications, and it went well.
The rules use Blinds for hidden movement, and some terrain features are considered blinds by their nature. I decided the rocky hills either side of the valley were such, but I drew up four cards for slaver forces. Two were for Groups of 12 men, one was a Mob of 24, and the last card was blank. In the game the two 12-man Groups turned up on the first hills the Imperial force came upon. I half-expected the 24-man Mob to show up on the second hill on the right of the valley, but it turned up on the tower hill, raising the strength of the tower garrison to 50 men. Rather a tough proposition!
During the game the British infantry blasted away with rifle fire, and even the askaris performed nicely for a change. The slavers inflicted some shrewd casualties on the British force, which otherwise would've caused them serious trouble, but the Bonus cards appeared quite often in this game where they hadn't in previous ones. In this instance the British got a Stand Fast card while firing on the slaver band upon the hill to the left of the valley. This card allows the British commander to rally off 1d6 Shock points. When the slaver force in the tower let fly they inflicted six points of Shock on the British column. Thanks to the Tiffin card coming up next followed by Captain Pike's card, he was able to rally four points off right away and keep his men in the fight.
|No, the Wali didn't have an astroturf lawn laid next to his tower. I forgot to pick up the Blind card in the excitement of the game. ;)|
Due to this the slavers didn't fare as well as I expected, even behind fortifications. Shock built up quickly under the incessant rifle and shell fire, and the death and/or wounding of their Junior Leaders didn't help their cause. It's a different matter in hand-to-hand combat, where the slavers count as Wallahs with big choppers. Then they're capable of slicing a British Tommy up like a kipper, as I found in other games where the sides closed to melee. I think on the whole it balanced out.
Speaking of shell fire, I hadn't used the screw gun (or mountain gun; it takes various guises) that often in games, and when I did I found it underwhelming in action.
You can go where you please, you can skid up the trees, but you don't get away from the guns! ~ Kipling, The Screw Guns.
Except up to now the enemy had little to fear from this example of the species.
After thinking over the problem I decided the heart of the matter lay in the fact that the rules were written for Napoleonic smooth-bore muzzle-loading artillery, and not the rifled pieces of the 1880s. Yes, it was a bit of a duh! moment. After another bit of thought I uprated the gun to count as Heavy under the rules, allowing it twelve fire dice instead of the usual ten to reflect the power of the explosive shell. To reflect the greater accuracy of a rifled artillery piece, I also gave it +1 to each fire die. This worked nicely in the Jam'aah Valley game, making the screw gun a force to be reckoned with.
So, on to the post-battle campaign book-keeping. Under my campaign system a unit has to perform well for three consecutive games before being uprated on the Sharp Practice chart - Poor to Regular to Good to Elite - or perform poorly to be downgraded. The askaris are fresh recruits and rated as Poor, but they did well in the Jam'aah Valley. If they continue to make good progress over the next two games they'll be uprated to Regular.
The Barsetshires fought their third action as Good troops on this occasion, and are hereby uprated to Elite. They did suffer six men killed in action, a sizable percentage of their strength, but they kept their high morale all the way through so I judged the losses would not affect their being uprated.
They accrue all sorts of nice benefits on the firing and morale charts. As Elites the Barsetshires now count +1 per fire die for every four men firing. The "Cardwell Reforms" I imposed several games ago reduced the section strength from ten to eight men. It gave the company tactical flexibility at the cost of firepower. In most encounters up to now the Barsetshires have had a few rocky moments as a consequence of native or slaver warbands coming into melee with the smaller sections due to the troops being unable to shoot down attacks as easily as they once did. It forced Fred Pike to fight the company as a tactically-stiff Formation in order to deploy useful firepower and melee combat ability. As Elites the company should regain that lost firepower and retain the flexibility.
Morale improves too. They don't recoil as far if they lose their bottle, and it becomes easier to replace Big Men who fall to the enemy, wounded or dead - although I hope Captain Pike and CSM Harrington will be around for a long time yet!