Sunday, 15 March 2020

As one Project Ends....


Moving on...



I have had a LOT of fun with the "Not North West Frontier" project and can see that this will come out to play again, as well as providing thoughts on other movie-themed games (a list is already bubbling away in my butterfly mind).
The PDF of the rules I used for the Journey is available on the Solo Wargames With Miniatures Facebook group or if you send me a request via "comment" (which I will not publish) with an e-mail address I'll send a copy.



If I'd had more time the rules would be shorter and I'd have done a QRS but they work for me. I used my "House Rues" for the on-table shooting. Nothing fancy.


Putting this together reminded me of MacDonald-Fraser's short story "Night Run to Palestine" train from the McAuslan stories, about another OIC train.... Totally recommended reading...





NOT I hasten to add, an inspiration for another solo venture - rules for a junior officer coping with possible terrorists while overseeing choleric Colonels, Flighty WAAFS, military prisoners and babies emitting noxious substances from both ends would test even my rule-jigging patience....Before I put the Station table away I had a couple of quick games to work on my "Colonial Skirmish" house rules using bods from my old "Sanders of the River" campaign (pics).. I really need to revive that sometime.....











While doing so I realised I needed to put together some unobtrusive markers for Pinning and Morale.
For my Ancient and medieval games I use ikkle spears, shields and bodies (pic) as morale markers (I like my markers to blend with the scene a bit) but was stuck for more modern stuff..





Have thus been messing with twigs and coloured  "tufts" from the
excellent "Boontown Metals" scenics range....





.....and scratchbuilt "pinned" markers (Hollywood style bullet puffs).





Both seem to work, but watch this space...

I note that Blogger is being ridiculously unstable this morning, so apologise for what appear to be unchangeable font variations and spacing above..

The next couple of weeks may prove problematic, with all hands to the pumps at work due to the virus thang but there are lots of thoughts bubbling away in my brain..

An always, comments & queries welcome...




Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Another Test Game....

"Not North West Frontier" Second run-through....

The train, again, got to Bivandi-Pura without an issue, but while the station was being checked out, first one, then another sniper took pot shots at the soldiers and the train. Both rebels were neutralised (one by Cpt. Scott on the Maxim, one by the doughty Khamal) - but not before Cpt. Scot was badly injured (leading from the front)....



Once the train was watered (and this time, what with the shooting, nobody had the stomach to do any sightseeing) the party moved on as quickly as possible...

Once away from the station Victoria was halted and the Battering Ram taken off (BEFORE the hills this time).

After a false alarm in late PM the train slowed as (at 20:00) rocks were seen on the line ahead, and had to be cleared. No enemy appeared and things went well.

During this time Cpt. Scott asked Dhaktar to learn how to operate the Engine, as the train approaches the hills.


The hours to midnight pass peacefully, then, at 02:00 fire signals were seen on the bluffs above the track (this means that on the next "Rebel Activity Test" two cards will be drawn instead of one). Before three hours have passed there is a call to test again, but all that seems to be happening is another signal fire lighting the hills.... The natives are evidently restless, but thereafter the night is uneventful..

By dawn the train is clawing towards the plains, but now a heliograph can be seen signalling (again, doubling the next test draw). The train's presence has been noted, but still it remains unmolested... "Victoria" steams on, approaching Mara in the early afternoon. So far so good..

But.... Just outside Mara another tests is called; "Sabotage"; a rail has been deliberately vandalised. All (male) hands have to get out and help...



The dice say it will take an hour to clear - but Lady luck is still with the Train. No snipers or enemy appear.. (! Seriously, the dice are being VERY kind..)

Job done the train steams of and reaches the Mara Watering Stop unhindered....... 


At this stage the "Romance Score" is +2 (giving Mrs. Whyatt orders - bad. Being heroic, giving responsibility to Dhaktar and being wounded - good).

Cpt. Scott's Victory Point Score a meagre +1 (killing one of the snipers personally) but Mr. van Leyden's a fat zero....

The watering stop at Mara proved uneventful and, again, everyone stayed on the train - possibly because of the fear caused by the sniping at the previous stop.

The train moved on from Mara through the afternoon without any Events (!!) and into the second night.



At 11pm a couple of volleys of shots hit the train (Wandering marauders? Angry residents - the timetable is getting really random...?), but nobody was hurt and the rest of the journey to dawn was again peaceful. Lady Luck seems with the party (but we know from experience how swiftly THAT can change..).


Towards Midday the train approached the Kupra Bridge, over the Kala-Ab River gorge...




There is a test, and the ever-watchful Gupta spots a problem ahead with the bridge.
A decision is made. Cpt. Scott decides the passengers will go ahead of the train on the rails (there ARE other options) and they are disembarked...They will have test individually to both gee themselves up for the attempt and then try to cross using the one good rail without falling off..


(Technical note; I scribbled out an oversized "Kupra Bridge" plan and used the tables below. Folks have to test for the "rail-crossing gumption", then for how successfully they manage to cross - with or without others holding their waists/ supporting part of the way. )



Cpt. Scott and the two soldiers cross without incident.




Mr. Peters crosses without a problem....

However, while Mr. Peters is crossing the gap, there is a call for an Event test on the Events table.. Bad luck.. This activates Mr. van Leyden.




Mr. van Leden tests on his Action table. He will move Kishan away from the group, with evil intent..
Mr. van Leyen persuades Kishan to move away from the others to "look at the view". He is spotted by Lady Windham and Mrs. Whyatt, who, both already being slightly suspicious, follow him.



However, will his resolve hold...? 

Next move van Leyden activates first and tests for resolve; he will try to kill Kishan "accidentally" even if there is a risk he will seen by the others.

Moving more quickly than either of the women, van Leyden shoves Kishan - who resists in vain - towards the edge of the bridge. Kishna stumbles - reaches for the handrail, misses - and falls into the gorge below....

The women screech - too far away and too slow to intervene. Mr. van Leyden loudly protests it was an accident - a terrible, terrible accident..

Meanwhile Cpt. Scott is involved with helping Mr Bridie over the gap, but with a supporter on only one side Mr. Bridie hesitates, twice, and only succeeds on his third attempt. Because of this Cpt. Scott has missed the whole incident with Kishan..
By the time Cpt. Scott rushes back across the gap, but the damage has been done.. Kishan lies dead on the rocky floor of the gorge, the women are making wild allegations, but nothing more can be done for the Prince...

HE'S DOWN THERE SOMEWHERE......

All the other parties cross the rail without issue - as does the train....

On the strength of the accusations by Lady Windham and Mrs. Whyatt, Captain Scott places Mr.van Leyden under arrest and the train moves off. No further Events are encountered and the train steams into Kalapure without incident..



For Captain Scott the whole episode has been a professional disaster; Mr. van Leyden's VPs total 20 - the evidence against him is pretty strong, but with a good brief and the press behind him...? Who knows..?  Cpt. Scott's score is a meagre 9. Plus any chance of a romantic entanglement with Mrs. Whyatt is RIGHT off the cards....

And so the journey ends.... Again..


Once more this was a tense little adventure which could have gone either way at any time. I will have another run-through; I may have missed some necessary tweaks here and there, but it seems to be working... 


Thursday, 20 February 2020

The Second leg....

The Journey Continues:

Having moved on from Bivandi Pura the train crosses the plain without further incident. However, at 20:00, just as light is fading and the train pushes into the Nagil Uplands, 10 riders approach and shadow the train, half their number shooting. 

The sepoys return fire with the Maxims but the rebels follow the train for almost an hour (still encumbered by the "Battering Ram" Victoria is struggling at half speed once in the hills). During the exchange Dhaktar is badly hit, and incapacitated, but the Maxims kill or wound six of the enemy, and they give up as darkness falls.....

(This was a Train Tile, dice & paper exercise, not fought out on the table)

At 22:00hrs Cpt Scott orders the train to stop and the passengers and crew disassemble the battering ram. While they are doing so Gupta spots something up with the line ahead (another event throw). There is a fault on the line. This consumes another full hour moves to sort out, so that it is midnight before the train can move off again. Cpt. Scott stays on the footplate in order to gain the rudiments of train driving (Yes, he should have thought of this before - Gupta is knackered and will need a rest very soon).  I also realise that he has STILL not unlocked and distributed rifles to the passengers - and with Dhaktar hors de combat THIS could be an error, but Cpt. Scott is now tied up with the engine.

The train chuffs on.



At 01:00hrs. Mr. van Leyden attempts to lure Kishan out onto the forward viewing platform, with the intent to "accidental" throw him off the train, but the Prince resists.  The other passengers wake up.  Mr. van Leyden fails a "Killing Resolve" test (too many witnesses - and he is not yet desperate enough) but there is a verbal altercation with Mrs Whyatt and Mr. Bridie, during which Kishan slips away from van Leyden's grip.  Mr. v. L. backs down and tries to make light of the "misunderstanding". Everything calms down, but he is now under suspicion.  



Steaming on through the night with Gupta and Cpt. Scott catnapping in turn, the hours of darkness are uneventful. Dawn comes, and the train leaves the hills at about 07:00. Mera should be a scant four hours away. 

But as the train reaches the plain, horsemen appear - about 14 of them. They pursue the train - but with only one Maxim shooting, and the rifles still not having been unlocked (Doh!) this could prove a problem. As the rebels shoot at the train Sepoy Khamal, operating the rear Maxim is lightly wounded.  Cpt. Scott scuttles to the central Maxim, but is also lightly wounded. Two burning brands land on the train. Mr. Bridie leaps into the breach, kicking one off the rearward platform, Cpt. Scott deals with the other, but both are hit before they can take cover, Mr. Bridie seriously, Cpt Scott slightly, again. The Maxims take down two of the enemy. Mrs. Whyatt picks up Dhakta's rifle and takes down another horseman..


The enemy pursue into the second move, but four more of their number go down to the Maxims, then another two - with no loss to the train. As the race towards Mera continues half the riders are now down, killed or wounded, and they give up the chase at the end of the second move....  

The train steams into Mera... But all is not well... Cpt Scott has two light wounds, Havildar Dhaktar is badly wounded, as is Mr. Bridie, with Khamal lightly so. All will need treatment.  Cpt. Scott allows Mrs. Whyatt to keep Dhaktar's rifle, but he has now been told about Mr. van Leyden's earlier behaviour, and so keeps the other rifles under lock and key.  

As the train pulls into Mera there are sudden volleys from either side - 19 rifles from one side, 15 from the other.  In the first volley Cpt. Scott - on the forward maxim - is hit three times and goes down, incapacitated. Gupta receives two minor wounds, then a shot to the head, killing him instantly. Khamal, in the Service room, at the rear Maxim, is stuck and falls mortally wounded. 

With no driver the train slows to a halt just outside Mera station. The rebels shoot again, then rush the train.





Despite The heroic efforts of Mrs. Whyatt and Mr. Peters with the two rifles tken from the fallen sepoys , both drop to enemy fire, Mr. Peters shot dead and Mrs. Whyatt falling with two wounds. 




As the rebels push in to the carriage (Cpt. Scott is being butchered where he lies wounded outside) pukka memsahib Lady Windham picks up Mr. Peter's rifle and empties the magazine into the leading rebels. Three of them fall before she is rushed and cut down. A general massacre of all, the wounded, Prince Kishan - and Mr. van Leyden ("Just another Farangee") follows.

The journey is over....





Well, that was FUN..... Not the end I anticipated given how well things had been going....

The combination of the "On the Table" for complex actions, "On the Tile" for actions on the moving train/within the train seemed to work well...

I will have another couple of play-throughs and then type up the PDF with all the decision tables, character notes etc. . I can see this system being useful for any train/convoy type "journey saga"...


Any comments or queries please feel free.. 


Friday, 14 February 2020

"Will All Passengers for....."

Not North West Frontier; Part One

As per the previous post: the train left Haserabad in the wee small hours (as the film) and proceeded across the plains, testing at every Waypoint on the map..

The Dice were kind (see Events Table on previous post) and the group arrived at the first Watering Stop, Bivanda-Pura just after Middday, without incident.


A test revealed that the preceding refugee train was in situ (again, as in the movie), and seems to have been ambushed, so Cpt. Scott took his sepoys to check out the station area before allowing the engine to proceed....




After some slow sneaking, going into Overwatch and testing (dice throw) every four moves for suspicious activity, the soldiers moved through the Station building; "checking out" (basically "kick in the door and look, with the safety off") each room and the train carriages. 




It is clear there has been a horrid massacre... Things are tense as the trio move into the station area...




Despite the grim sight - and a noisy whistle malfunction on "Victoria" (swiftly dealt with by ever-reliable Gupta) - nothing positively hostile reveals itself, so Cpt. Scott waves Gupta to bring the train forward to allow it to take on water.... 


















Once the train pulls up the soldiers stay on alert (there is still an Enemy Activity Test every four moves).

Despite orders to stay on the train Mrs. Whyatt and Mr. van Leyden get down from the carriage (there is a test mechanism for this) and, again, things seem to be following the movie script.



While Gupta and Sepoy Khamal water "Victoria", Mrs. Whyatt searches the train, while Mr.van Leyden watches from a distance (he failed his "search the train" test) and Cpt. Scott quietly has kittens....

Still no enemy appear (the dice do not even call for an Activity Type check) but Mrs. Whyatt discovers, hidden beneath the bodies, a wounded European, the "Loafer" Mister Random. He is helped out of the refugee carriage and escorted to our heroes' train. 




Mrs. W. searches the rest of the train, but finds no other survivors. Mr. van Leyden simply observes and makes notes for his next article. The watering operation is completed.



With relief, Captain Scott orders "All Aboard" - he wants out of here as soon as possible...





Everyone scurries onto the train and, after a final test (even a single sniper could upset things even at this stage) the train steams off towards the Hills - and its next encounter.....



The Watering Stop has had an effect on the Victory conditions (the point of the game being Captain Scott's reputation and future career prospects) in that Cpt. Scott gets some reflected glory (1VP) in the saving of Mister random (had he or his soldiers found the guy he would get more VPs). Nobody injured or lost, so no negatives..

There is also a "Romantic Sub-Plot" re. Cpt. Scott and Mrs. Whyatt; the final result of which can affect Cpt. Scotts personal VP score. As the train pulls out it is realised that nobody properly searched (as opposed to the cursory, if soldierly, "checking out") the Station Buildings for survivors. Cpt. Scott will not go back despite Mrs. Whyatt's complaint, so loses -4 on the Romance Tally. However, Mrs Whyatt found a survivor herself despite instructions, so there is an "I told you so" bonus (Cpt. Scott manfully accepts he was wrong) of +6 which makes up for the spat.

All in all this was a tense little encounter. No rebels appeared, but it was still exciting - at this point of the journey no firearms have been issued to the civilians (an oversight - the rifles are still locked up on the Service Area of the train) so that things could have turned very nasty very quickly...




The train will steam into the plain west of 
Bivanda-Pura, then up into the Nagil Uplands - where movement will be reduced and the train more vulnerable to attack.. More to follow.....



 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

All Aboard.....

A Movie-led Project....


A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a film I hadn't seen for ages; a staple of Sunday Afternoon TV in my childhood, "North West Frontier" (aka "Flame Over India". For some reason...). A cracker of a film - and much more than the simple adventure it seems to be at first glance..

Anyhoo, as is the nature of things, it got me pondering on how to "recreate" certain aspects of the story in Solo Game Play.. Thus...



"Not North West Frontier";

Some action is map-based. Some "abstract" using an (oversized) RPG-type plan of the train itself. Some action (potentially) will be on-table skirmishes. Any late 19th/early 20thC skirmish rules can be used for the mechanics of on-table action (the shooting, fighting and moving and so on), so that in my "rules" I have just sketched out the "campaign" elements and some "personality chrome" to add some colour. Once playtested I'll put out a PDF.

First I sketched a rough sketch map of the route (as usual, click on the pics to make them bigger), drew up a rough, oversized "Train Plan" for on-board action, assembled the crew and models, and drafted some rules..... 



On the sketch map above waypoints are marked roughly (and I mean roughly) at hourly intervals along the rail track (more in hilly ground, less on the flat). The train is travelling from the Right to the Left (Let's say North to South. I'm not sure if the film actually makes this clear, but the train IS going from right to left across the screen most of the time, and East to West seems unlikely, so good enough for me..).

There is likely to be enemy action and other problems while travelling and there are also two watering points. At least an hour must be spent at each Watering Point to replenish water (and fuel?), stretch the legs and possibly search the environs.


There will be three "Action Arenas" for the game;
1) The Map where the Mission progress is tracked and Events may be triggered
2) The Train (the RPG type plan)
3)The Wargame Table, for skirmishes and other activity.

Most action will take place on the Map and the Train, transferring to the table only when the the train is stopped AND potentially under attack or when the passengers get off to carry out an action (e.g. watering, carrying our repairs, removing blockages to the line etc. etc.).
There is also potential action by the "villain" of the piece, passenger Mr. van Leyden....


The passengers (above). From Left to Right; Mr. van Leyden the journalist, Mr. Peters the Armaments Salesman, Engineer Gupta (behind), Mrs. Whyatt the governess (OK, on the train she is in all white, but this looked too dull, so I coloured her dress as in the first couple of scenes in the movie), Prince Kishan (the maguffin - in fancy dress), Lady Windham the pukka memsahib (I "purpled her up", as the grey dress in the film looked dull on a small figure), Mr. Bridie the secretary (behind), Cpt Scott and his doughty soldiers Havildar Dhatka and Seypoy Khamal.

At each Way Point a simple 1x6d check is made as the train progresses. On a throw of 6 there is a possible "Event". Two dice are thrown and the table below consulted....


A supporting "Rebel Activity" table allows for a card-driven "choice" of Heliograph Signals to be seen, snipers (of variable number) shooting at the train, volleys ditto and pursuing horsemen..

The train has to get from Haserabad to Kalapore with its precious cargo of Prince Kishan, as per the movie.  The Main Player is Captain Scott. He has a set of Victory Conditions, one of which - the safe transporting of Prince Kishan - is obligatory.
Mr. van Leyden, the "villain" (anti-hero?) can also accrue Victory points which could "outshine" Mr. Scott' endeavours on even a successful transit IF Prince Kishan arrives injured and Cpt. Scott can be shown to have abused his authority. 

Thus the train potters along on it's eventful (or uneventful) way...

As well as line problems and rebels there are potential issues at the Watering Stops and the possibility of encountering
(or not) yesterday's "Last train out of Haserabad".


The "rules" are a Work In Progress (being tested) but "Victory" (for Captain Scott - the C.O. Train) will depend on points accrued (or lost) due to Events and his actions. 

Mr. van Leyden will have his own struggle with his conscience to put a spoke in Cpt. Scott's wheel (or not), the various personalities, including the feisty Mrs. Whyatt, can also add to the burden of command.

There will also be a "romance" element to add (or otherwise) to Captain Scott's victory....


We are looking at a typical Denyer "chrome-laden" exercise tinkering with introducing imponderables, using dice, tables and cards to make solo play hair-pullingly good fun.... Well, MY kind of fun....

I have already played through the first half of the First Journey - tweaking rules as I go. Feeling good thus far... All aboard who're coming aboard..



As one Project Ends....

Moving on... I have had a LOT of fun with the "Not North West Frontier" project and can see that this will come out to play...