Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bombay Dreams 1898

"My it's bloody hot today, eh Khambatta?"  Col. Buckingham took a moment to wipe the perspiration from beneath his pith helmet.  "And only the morning to boot."  "I am confident the other white officers would not share your discomfort, being comfortably situated in Fort Bombay." said Senior Captain Khambatta.  His posture with his colonel was relaxed, belying his long relationship and many battles shared together.  "Do I detect a veiled criticism there old boy?"  A wry smile briefly crossed Buckingham's face.  As a native commander he was used to the subtle jabs and whispered remarks in the officer's mess.  "Let us just note Sir, that the only troops on duty for the day are our 1st Sikh battalion in this advanced redoubt and the Bombay Sappers and Engineers.  They at least are working the wharves and get a breeze off the water."

The post of "honor"
"None the less, there's work to be done.  Get Sergeant Gupta and have him take a company to the watchtower and relieve the Berkshires.  They'll be wanting to get back to town.  You can join them and assume command once we've gone over the daily returns."  Buckingham knew that at the watchtower outpost there would at least be tents for shade plus the covered watchtower itself.  Not everyone needed to sweat.

Fort Bombay, with the morning stirrings of the garrison
Fort Bombay held some strategic importance since the waterways are the source of life in the Sudan.

Cavalry patrol that passed by early on.  Besides their normal duties there was some talk of archaeologists and a survey going on at the nearby ruins.

The first of their horde arrives.  Out of sight of most, our only clue was ominous dust, though in the Sudan the source for that could many things.

Sgt. Gupta reported in and, seeing the dust, aligned his men to guard against a sudden onslaught.  The Berkshires, being proper soldiers, first had to form up and take role.

Form a combined square under the command of the Berkshire officer and advance to the pass as a steady stream of pack animals and scouts pour past.

"I say... oops."

The Fuzzy Wuzzy vanguard impacts the square that has retired to it's starting point.

The first assault is repelled and the two large stands rout away.

But alas, the square is next assaulted on two sides and the gods of war are not kind.  It is pushed back, disordered, then a rout occurs.  It is not know whether the Berkshires ran first, as asserted by the Sikh witnesses, but the end result was the same.  Run to ground they were all wiped out.  The Fuzzy Wuzzys did not long enjoy their victory though.

Buckingham could see that attacks were going in against the walls of Fort Bombay.  They even had ships on the river.  So far they had all been bloodily repulsed but there were new elements in this action.  The Dervishes had some sort of Gatling Gun.  Where had they gotten it?  Fortunately it jammed permanently after a few shots.

A brief respite fell over the field as the Fuzzy Wuzzys and Dervishes fell back to regroup.  Seeing that this would be assault to decide the day, Buckingham pulled the Sikhs back to align themselves against the walls of the fort.  There was not time to get inside, but at least they wouldn't be flanked on the left and could maximize their firepower.

Some decidedly nervous looking Bengal Lancers and Scouts
took position behind the Sikhs.
Little further commentary is needed.

Volley fire at 200 yards!
Independent fire at 50 yards!
Much diminished, they still bravely hit home and
we are pushed back, almost onto the lancers.

And then they are gone.  The survivors fleeing back into the hills.

Some desperate fighting remained elsewhere but in the end...

Rule Britannia!
In the aftermath of the battle the grisly cleanup began.  We can only assume that the crocodiles would feast for some time.  The Bombay Sappers being a tidy lot and all.  For our part, outside of the loss of the square our casualties had been light.  We could only hope against hope that some of our brave lads had survived wounded when the square was overrun.  God Save the Queen.

See also the Campaigns of General Pettygree http://generalpettygree.blogspot.com/
Der Alte Fritz http://altefritz.blogspot.com/ (scroll down for this action) for more accounts of high adventure in 1898.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bloody Valley, 1863

Sunday June 12th a mixed group gathered to play Johnny Reb III in my basement.  One very experienced (me), two regulars, two who had played once, and a total newbie to the rules.  Playing on a 9x6' table a road ran the long diagonal with hills built up on each side to give the sense of a valley.  Tree areas represented woods, rail fences offered some cover, the stream was normally easily passable with a movement deduction, but players were warned that recent rains might have made the banks unstable, and fields were broken ground.
Each side started with two infantry brigades on table and the others due to arrive turn 3 (known only to me) either center of the long edge or short edge.  The need to send couriers or move leader figures into contact to communicate.  This was to have lasting and entertaining results.  The total forces involved were; for the Rebs Benjamin Franklin Cheatham's division in Polk's corps along with Anderson's brigade from Wither's division, and five regiments of cavalry under Joe Wheeler.  The Yankees deployed 6 brigades of 2nd and 3rd divisions from XIV Corps under General Thomas.  The Yankees had a minuscule edge in manpower and an edge in artillery.  It remained to be seen whether the cavalry would have any effect.

Rebs advance in line from left to right.

Yankees race to the center to pin the Rebs in place.

The dice decided that the Reb brigade of Wither's division and the cavalry arrived on the left of the troops pictured above on the short side of the table.  The other brigades of Cheatham's division arrived center on the long side.  Similarly the Yankees got two brigades on opposite sides to the new Rebs.  As fate would have it no one would be swamped or unopposed.

New Rebs on the right.

Reb cavalry on the left.
As the "armies" drew together two things were apparent; unbridled aggression in the form of rapidly closing and some charges in the center and right, and forces forgotten on the Yankee right and Reb left.  While both commanders in the latter sought orders from higher ups, the other began ripping at each others throats.

Having shaken out from column to line the Yankees await.
The Rebs won't keep them waiting long as the on table and newcomers link up.

On the Reb right/Yankee left the line up as well.  Note the courier notes flying!
Meanwhile, the other troops saw each side occupy their immediate high ground and the Rebs dismount a regiment to have it explore the woods.  Couriers were kept busy.

A "green" brigade deploys on the hill while regulars deploy lower.
Forming up ahead on the left, with the cavalry held back.
Armed recon to establish where the enemy is deployed.

A serious scrum developed in the center with each side gaining and losing ground.  On the left orders finally came through although it wasn't real clear what was wanted, so I chose to liberally interpret them and while obeying the letter of it, did it my way.

A successful charge on the right with reserves ready.

On the right the infantry advances off the hill while cavalry deploys.

On the Reb right some have been driven off but others still attack the elite Yankee brigade.
On the Reb left/Yankee right the green troops surprised the Reb with a charge which pushed back one Reb unit but was stalled.  In the center the Rebs began to close the noose and were making it hard on the Yankees.  On the Reb right/Yankee left honors were even as each side had driven off enemy forces, gotten lucky, gotten unlucky when suddenly the Rebs broke through.

The green troops after their charge.

Formations are a little close, but they are coming as a second wave against the Yankee center.

Success!  The troops involved had a mutual charge against each
other.  Note the routed figures.

What had been a very tight and tense battle suddenly unraveled for the Union forces.  Little happened on the Reb left/Yankee right but in the center and elsewhere the Yankees were largely broken with little chance of rallying.
Any chances on the Yankee right were compromised by flanking fire.

While a bit thin (more Rebs off camera to the left) the Yankees are falling back in ruin
and chaos.  The totally ineffective all game Reb artillery look on helplessly.
Although the Rebs had a 1/3 chance of any brigade being elite all the infantry were regular, which is fairly appropriate for the West.  The cavalry was elite but contibuted nothing to the battle.  Also fairly appropriate given the limiting terrain.  The Yankees had one elite and one green brigade in the end.

I think all participants were satisfied with the game and result, except perhaps the Union commander on their right who cried out for orders all game.  The scenario seemed to give a game that satisfied both the experienced and new players.  Hopefully so.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend at Chimera Games

After a long drought I was able to get back into some gaming with a scheduled weekend of historic gaming at Chimera Games in Appleton, WI.  While it didn't pan out quite as expected I think the owners and organizers should be applauded for the effort.  Many new contacts we made and players were introduced to new (to them) systems.

Friday night the magnificent game of Axis and Allies was set up.  The effort and expense that went into preparing it was remarkable.  I didn't catch the name of the person or persons responsible, but my compliments.

Some Flames of War games were played and a tournament of sorts was planned for Sunday.  I painted on my 28mm SYW Cossacks and observed.  This is also the night for Magic, so the din of noise was distracting.

Saturday Wings of War was scheduled in the morning.  Although the set-up was attractive and play-aids available, no one joined in.  The weather was wonderful and I imagine many were enjoying the holiday weekend outside. 

Starting around 1:00pm I put on a Johnny Reb III game, loosely based on the March, 1862 Battle of Pea Ridge.  Regretably I forgot my camera so no pictures.  We had one experienced player on each side and two rookies (including the Reb c-in-c).  Players learned a lot about tactics as each side pushed on their left as the Yankees attempted to throw up hasty works.  For ease of introducing players, all the troops were rated Green and it had a major impact on play.  By the end the Rebs had swept most of the ridge and each force was at or near a breaking point.  I ruled it a tactical victory for the Confederacy.  For the historic report, go here: http://www.civilwarhome.com/pearidge.htm

It had been widely circulated among the players (gossip travels fast) that the store was staying open later than the usual 6:00pm close (on a Saturday night!) for gaming, but that proved false so the anticipated Flames of War games were postponed to the next day.

Sunday players drifted in later than expected so the first round of the 800 point tournament had Italians defending Rome against Falschirmjagers and German tankers and infantry going against an all infantry Russian force.  To my surprise my Italians won (I've only played twice before), and the Germans with armor chewed up and spat out the infantry only Russians.
The left hand village and the Falschirmjagers initial objective

They can land anywhere so I lager the tanks and defend the second village
Sunday also featured an Axis and Allies War at Sea game.  I was very busy but the Japanese-American game seemed hotly contested and great fun to the participants.  I thought I have a picture, but alas no.  Another FoW round was played with four players, but I and another dropped out and were replaced.  There are too many things about the game I don't know yet.  I'll have to cruise eBay till I get a cheap copy of the core rules.
Starting position for the other 1st round game
 We all discovered additional historic gamers in the Appleton area.  Hopefully it will reap benefits later on.  Next weekend I get to play in a colonial game.  With school out for the summer I'm looking to get back into the regular gaming routine.