Sunday, 29 January 2023

Post Xmas "Crossfire" etc.

Delayed Follow-Up..

Alas, seasonal duties and a series of seasonal bugs delayed my experiments (and some deliveries tempted me into some displacement activity), but here at last is the threatened "Crossfire" experiment write-up...

First thoughts were that this would work fine with a terrain-heavy table, say for an ACW or AWI game, where men are not necessarily standing in full view of each other in a "please shoot me" manner, but on a classic 18th, 19th, medieval or Ancient style "open battlefield" - or battles on wide sweeps of veldt or steppe or deserty scrub ?  Hmm.. My thoughts here, for those types of fights, were "This isn't going to work"...

So that, of course, would be the type I would try...

Normal "Hidden Enemy" rules would apply (i.e. test for each Potential Ambush Point approached) and anticipated that these would work fine in generating enemy reactive fire/presence, but my main concern was how I would manage any examples of long movement in the open and broad flanking movements, out of LoS of the other side's artillery and in areas uncontested/uncontaminated with PAPs and hostile troops.

My answer was, in the event of such moves, to test for enemy action for each significance terrain feature crossed/approached as I would for a PAP and also perform a scenario-specific Events Table test per such "move" (standard movement per troop type + 1x6D x inches) to allow for poor guides/getting lost/officer incompetence/ unexpected halts or delays ("Nice strawberries...") etc.


So, to the game. I foresee a simple scenario of two armies facing each other, with me playing one side and the AI the other. A quick set-up, and....

The field is the ground facing a corner of the friendly city of Feroozabad, which, for the sake of the narrative, is being blockaded by the enemy. MY job (coming in from the left of the top of the pic below, on the "Wrong" side of the river) is to see off the hostiles facing me, and get my lads over the bridge and ford.


I expect the immediate action to take place in the area below. There are plenty of potential PAPs, but also some large (in "Crossfire" terms) open areas where long movement could be made.


I must deploy and formulate my Plan and orders first. My troops arrive (below): three infantry brigades, in roughly three lines, two guns (in the centre) and some squadrons of cavalry in two units (one on my left, one in reserve behind the infantry left of centre). I make my plans.

My Right will advance to the ford, supported by the Centre. Once the ford has been secured we will then cross the open ground, dealing with any resistance, take the Bridge and cross with the main force there. No enemy are in sight while i make my plan. 

Oh, there they are (below)....

Six large regiments of infantry (in two brigades; each regiment being half as big again as one of mine) deployed in two lines on my side of the river between the Palace and the Royal Tombs. Also visible are two large bodies of cavalry (each roughly numbering my whole cavalry strength), on the other side of the river: one on a low ridge above the bridge, the other the other side of a nullah within attack distance of the ford. However, these are just the enemy I CAN see......

I dice to see who has the Initiative and I get it.

I move two regiments (one European, one Sepoy) on my right wing towards the mill, so as to attempt to control the ford. Under normal "Crossfire" rules there would normally be no measuring, but I throw a red die (to see how far beyond normal move my guys have to test other than for PAPS) and get a One.

The PAPS they would pass en route (the scrub by the river and the walled enclosures under the hill) prove "safe", however, at move end, approaching the Mill, we test again and get a 6; we must make a card draw for possible enemy action/reactive fire. 



This proves to be a false alarm (red numbered card). We throw to move again as we still have the Initiative. We can move nine inches (red dice) but must test at move end for enemy action (card draw again).



My chaps complete their move, blithely approaching the mill.



Then I draw the card - at the same time dice testing for the flanking PAPs.



Nine of Spades... This produces nine stands of enemy opening Reactive Fire at close range from the mill. Bad result for me.





My guys get nastily hit, their brigadier is killed, they are staggered - and the enemy gains the Initiative. Their two brigades facing my guys test - and will advance.



As the enemy start moving my artillery are permitted Reactive Fire, but I have to decide when to shoot - at long range - and keep them at a distance while reducing hits, and my chance to take the Initiative, or wait till they get closer - maybe even up to close range....

I decide to open up at medium range and my gunners shoot at the enemy.

Great result. Two enemy units are staggered by my guns. as a result. I regain the Initiative

My right flank units come under reactive fire (they don't need that), make a decision test (dice) and elect to fall back. 


Meanwhile, my left wing advances, triggering a hidden Enemy Test at "move end".



A six - I must make a card draw.



Oh dear... Joker - a enemy mass attack by previously unseen assailants. I throw a dice to see how many dice worth of Stands of three I face. 



Five - so five dice loads. 



I score eleven on the five dice - not too bad. But eleven stand of three enemy per stand. Now to discover where they are coming from. I throw three dice - one pip = one inch maximum distance - and get fourteen.



An enemy cavalry charge of eleven stands launches from the graveyard towards my Left.



As they charge my guys shoot reactively at close range, and the enemy are staggered. Excellent.



 

Over on the Right my general trots down the hill to try to stabilize things. He rallies my leading regiment, but his actions prompt reactive fire from the mill, and although more Shock is received it is not enough to allow the enemy to seize the Initiative.




Over on the left the enemy cavalry pull back, and as I still have the Initiative I advance my left wing. I am also able to launch my nearest cavalry at the discomforted enemy horse..

My donkey wallopers take serious casualties in the resulting melee, but the larger body of enemy is routed. 





The enemy perform long range reactive fire at my moves on the left, but to no effect.



I still have Initiative, so move back to my Right. My European regiment opens fire at the enemy at the mill and their Sepoy supports charge home; intent on taking this troublesome building.This action produces reactive fire from the mill.... 



......and THEIR supports.



My Sepoys manage to charge home, but are thrown back, staggered - and I lose the Initiative.



The enemy now have the Initiative, on my Right they continue to shoot at my troops, and stagger my troops. They advance a regiment to the base of the central hill, then attempt to rally other units in the centre, but are only partially successful - so lose the Initiative again.



Over on my Right my men simply take in cover behind some walls - prompting some ineffective reactive shooting from the enemy. I decide not to risk losing the Initiative by a failed rally attempt, so look elsewhere..



I focus on my Left, advancing and opening fire on the enemy's already Shocked infantry.


They respond, but causing only slight Shock, and one of my regiments charges home, as I move my cavalry up to support and threaten the enemy flank.



The enemy Right is discomforted and withdraws.

With most of the enemy army shaken or pulling back, and only the men near the mill seeming determined to contest the field (and a
s this was a one-off, experimental fight, rather than part of a campaign) I decide that will do. I have tried the method as much as I feel necessary with this fight - and anyway have to clear the decks for visitors....    

Thoughts and Conclusions:

I felt that the procedures had definite merits. Certainly the Hidden enemy element worked fine with the "Crossfire" concepts - and would work equally well if applied to the kind of fight the rules are actually intended for. Next time I go down the WW2 skirmish route I will give certainly give Crossfire a solo outing.

I liked the fact that, as with the skirmishes for which the rules were designed, the Initiative aspect meant I spent a lot of thought in considering where and what actions I should carry out; balancing my wishes and needs with the fear of losing the initiative. 

As the game had to be played in spurts (due to other commitments) I did get a little lost at times - so some kind of marker system indicating who had the Initiative at any one time would have been be useful to me. 

When the Initiative lay with the enemy things were a bit scary - not a bad thing at ALL - as at any time a mass attack could come in, with me having to decide at what point to risk using my reactive fire (long, effective or close range). Luckily for me the AI had some dreadful failures in attempting to rally his Centre and Right. 

I'm not sure that the system doesn't make certain moves over-powerful (big, sweeping attacks), on the other hand that may be more realistic than the chess-like conventions of most wargames, where you have time to think and ponder (SO unlike the real world)

I will have to think a bit about the Reactive Fire and Morale aspects a bit, but feel that it will be worthwhile thinking and tweaking the concepts. The game was fun - and certainly MUCH quicker to play than my usual "Activation Draw" way.

So, there are. A worthwhile exercise..



Round-up.

Meanwhile, I have started the new year with some reading, researching and musing over 6mm gaming/Solo campaign priorities for 2023... 

Should it be the "This Ain't The 45" project (which I feel needs more Jacobites. The Irregular Miniatures ones are lovely, but ideally want mixing with the H&R ECW Highlanders, which are sweet and compatible, but which have not been re-issued yet) or the "This ain't Turkestan" one (which needs more folk painting up/converting)...? Hmmm....

Re. the former: an hour or two spent looking at lovely, lovely maps (links) may have swung the balance....

https://maps.nls.uk/military/scotland_text.html#roads

https://militarymaps.rct.uk/other-18th19th-century-conflicts/jacobite-rebellion-1745-46

We history lovers (& gamers) are SO lucky regarding the resources at our fingertips these days.

There will likely be a hiatus here on the old Blog - as we may well be moving house in the next few weeks and my playroom activities are likely to be mothballed as we tidy, titivate and throw all hands to the pumps and attempt to generally make the place look ship-shape for selling..
.  

Meanwhile, as always, comments, snipes and thoughts welcome...




Sunday, 18 December 2022

A "Crossfire" Experiment...

Initial Thoughts for a Crossfire Principles Solo Experiment

Basics:

The principles follow those of the WW2 "Crossfire" rule set in that having "The Initiative" allows an Active Player to fire, spot enemy or move units/formations as many times or as far as he desires in a single move, until an attempted action fails or until action is interrupted by successful enemy reaction/action. There are thus, generally, no measured movements. 

The "Crossfire" rules are, however, intended for small unit WW2 skirmishes where distances are short and real-life weapon ranges, even when scaled to a ground scale, generally exceed the table dimensions. On large scale battles (e.g. in 6mm) and periods where missile weapons have limited ranges within the scale being used this will not the the case and there will therefore be a need for range distances to be applied to firing (as per the conventions of the rules being used). 

In some circumstances measuring movements ("Have they moved into range?") may also need to be occasionally measured. 

Certain periods/conflicts, by their general nature (usually dictated by the scale of operations and command and control issues) involve large areas of open land. Given that "Crossfire" is designed for small (company level) scale actions in close-terrain situations we may find that the rule conventions simply do not work well for the actions I have in mind. However, that is, largely, the point of the experiment. 


1) Hidden Enemy (moving/spotting): 

Clearly, since I will be the "Human Player" I have to make a decision on how the AI will deploy and "act" in advance of playing. I considered using "Blinds" placed on the table, as used in some of my early games and as seen in some videos of certain online games of Crossfire where an attacker is approaching an unknown/unscouted defensive position. While these (a mix of "real" and "fake" Blinds) work perfectly well I have occasionally found them to be an unnecessary (if often visually pleasing) complication in solo games unless the Blinds are themselves called upon to move (i.e. as noisy/careless patrols, search parties,sentries etc.).

I have therefore decided that the standard "Hidden Enemy" conventions used in some of my recent 6mm games will be used initially (being tweaked per game or being Scenario-dependant as usual) i.e. that the Table is "Live" for its entire width and length - as may be its edges (other than, usually, the Friendly Player edge). 

Thus as well as the general "End of Move" Enemy Action test (see below) a unit in the open passing in LoS of a terrain item ("Possible Ambush Point" - hereafter "PAP") providing cover for Hostiles within the scaled "shooting distance "set for the scenario must test for any AI action from said cover (See my Pushna Valley and "Ain't Zululand" reports - among others - for examples).

ANY terrain item sufficient to provide cover for an enemy unit is a PAP and will need to be tested for when approached/passed by any Live Player unit moving with Initiative until "cleared" by a friendly unit (i.e. moved through or Scouted/subject to a successful "Spot" check and thus deemed safe). Once "cleared" no spotting or tests will generally be required for the PAP*.

(*Note however that ranges - and hostile equipment - will need to be taken into consideration and that some Scenario Card Draws may allow for "safe & scouted" locations to become hostile  - the pesky enemy can sometimes both creep about and hide).

Like single PAPs, some linear cover features (e.g. stretches, rather than clumps, of woodland, dongas/wadis, river banks, walls, scubby slopes, military crests of ridges/hills etc. etc) may also have to be tested for as PAPS. This will generally need to be done per six to twelve inches of feature length, depending on scale of figures and scenario being used.

The test is made on a 6D. On the throw of a "6" a card must be drawn from the Actions pack and the results applied. 

The above seems best suited to replicate the "Crossfire" conventions I have seen being used.

2) Hidden Enemy (end of move):

In addition to tests for terrain items, my standard, End-of-Move, card-based "Hidden Enemy" method will be applied at the end of each Human Player Initiative Phase (even if ended voluntarily).

As with PAPs, above, a D6 dice is thrown. On the throw of a "6" each Friendly Unit/Detachment on the table tests with a further D6 to see if it is the unit affected by the possible enemy action. This dice throw is modified as below: 

Units which have carried out an action that Initiative Phase add one to their dice throw (to see if their actions this move have prompted any enemy response).

Units which have taken no action this Initiative Phase have an unmodified test. 

Units which have taken no action this Initiative Phase AND are within one foot of the friendly table  edge take one from the test throw.  

The unit scoring the highest is the one affected and a card is drawn and placed on the table in accordance with my usual Hidden Enemy distance placement rules and the Card Effects Table applied to see what has occurred. 

In the event of a highest scores being a draw ALL the drawing units test ONCE more. 

If a further highest score draw occurs ALL high drawing units are affected and a card is drawn for each unit. 

The affected units draw a card from the card deck and apply the result immediately. 

3) First Move Initiative: 

Unless dictated by the scenario whereby the Active Player is the attacker on the first move Initiative is diced for (1x6D), with the winner commencing the action. The following modifiers to the throw are made: 

+1 to the throw of the Attacker (if any) according to the scenario/campaign, etc.
+1 to the throw of any force consisting of tribal or irregular forces with an Irregular/Tribal commander.

(Note:I had considered a modifier for "Commander Skill", but, seriously, I think that that to do so is best regarded as having an exaggerated effect UNLESS one is talking about a first-rate battlefield improviser/risk taker of Alexandrian or Napoleonic levels with a team of first-rate subordinates. Maybe more a "Boldness" rather than skill modifier needed..? Hmmmm.....)


4) Loss of Initiative:

Initiative passes to the other Player under the following circumstances. 

a) Initiative is always lost due to any of the following negative effects:

Unit/Formation is halted/ by a negative close combat result or fire results ("Suppression", Shock/Disorganisation/Pinning level exceeding the number of Command Stands for the Unity/Formation) or takes casualties.

b) Initiative is potentially lost due to any of the following negative effects. A Test based on the morale/training of the unit is made. Failing the Test results in loss of initiative:

Unit/Formation is Surprised by an attack (i.e. the attack comes from any previously unspotted source).

Unit/Formation is Pinned by negative fire results of more than three Pin Points in any one move.

Unit/Formation takes casualties from artillery fire/explosives (inc. IEDs).

General/subordinate commander falls - even if only wounded. Affects all units/formations in LoS.

Failure to physically cross an obstacle.

c) Voluntary Ceding of Initiative:

Either side my cede initiative to the other. However, the AI Player will ONLY cede initiative voluntarily IF the ONLY moves open to the AI involves exposing one of its units to close range fire in the open.


5) Human and AI Objectives:

The Human Player will have clear objectives set out as part of the scenario (as standard practice).

The AI Player will be working to its own objectives unknown to the Human Player. In general, when the AI is acting defensibly, these will be to hold position and prevent the Human Player from securing his objective/s. Other objectives may be to hold/seize certain terrain features, control/dominate certain access routes, get units off table etc. etc.

I MAY use my "Changeable Battle Plan" card method (a couple of examples on the Blog here) for AI "grand scale" decisions. 

6) AI Tactics:  

In general, tactical terms AI priorities will be:

1) For friendly units at immediate risk to seek cover.

2) To attempt to rally any friendly units suffering Shock/Pinning etc.

3) For friendly units to fire at or close assault any hostile unit currently threatening the safety of an AI unit. 
 
4) When the Initiative lies with the AI player and all actions related to the above have been completed successfully at least once, this action MAY be the action undertaken before any further action (Opportunity Test). 

Whenever there is the opportunity to complete /achieve a scenario objective or to throw units forward safely so as to by-pass or outflank Human Player units, gain a salient terrain feature or gain other advantage (e.g. close combat a weakened enemy, seize a feature offering LoS to attack Human Player forces) then a, Opportunity Test will be made for each unit with such an opportunity. 

If a test throw on a 6D totals 3 or more the testing unit will attempt to carry out that action. Leaders may modify this test throw up or down depending on their quality (Leadership Capability).

If this action is successful then a further such Opportunity Test will be made for every other potentially advantageous AI action. 

IF the AI fails ALL tests, yet still holds the initiative, one last such test for appropriate units to use an opportunity is made. If the AI player fails this last test then Initiative passes to the Human Player.


Pre-Trial Thoughts:

OK, I've set myself a target; time to play. It has struck me that the last "This Ain't Zululand" games would perhaps have proved faster to play using the above conventions. On the other hand I may find that my existing systems work just as well without the "Crossfire" principles. I'm not sure how more "formalised" battles (say, Ancient, Medieval or 18thC.) will work with the "Crossfire" principles. Only experimenting will decide. Watch this space...

Saturday, 3 December 2022

 Time Flies...

Not a lot to report, so just touching base to show I'm still here..

A busy last six weeks.. I was in a play. Our reenactment group marched in Lewes Bonfire March (again - pic) as Highlanders (again). 

Also two birthdays, a family gathering and all the minutiae of life have been getting in the way of gaming. 



I have, however been painting and base-flocking some more 6mms, plus doing some planning, map-making and a little solo board game playing.

Also making some 6mm mid-east-ish buildings and town walls, hopefully soon to see service. I am awaiting a 19thC Russians in Turkestan board game, which I hope to use rather as I used 1776 earlier in the year as a "Battle Generator".  

While painting and modelling I FINALLY got round to watching Game of Thrones - which, of course, set me wondering about a GoT campaign game (based around Risk conventions?) but fighting battles out on the Table in 6mm, which led to me tinkering with a map found online....... 

This would be a big commitment. But we shall see...

Meanwhile, I have this week been wondering about applying/experimenting with some of the conventions of "Crossfire" for some of my games. I rather like the sound of them and have watched some videos. They seem simple and different (though, as so often, I am well behind the curve..).

I don't "do" WW2 (yet) but the system has been adapted for other periods, I see online, and the conventions would, I think, suit my narrative-driven games rather well.

Solo-isation should be simple; my card-driven "Hidden Enemy"  method would be a good start I feel. Watch this space....


So, as may be seen, the old butterfly mind has been fluttering apace...

Hopefully I'll have something more concrete to post - even if it's a modelling update, before Xmas...

As always, any feedback welcome.

Sunday, 23 October 2022

This Ain't Zululand: Part The Last

Part Five: Playing the Home Team

Delayed by two re-enactment events (along with associated broken finger and bruised ribs), being in a play, dealing with a family crisis and a long weekend in Spain....

Basically a re-run of the previous games from a different perspective, as described in the last post.  

The Plan:

OK. My units are initially deployed in "Dintisni" ("brigades"; each of three regiments and a veteran command unit) as shown on the map. All units are initially concealed in dongas and on the plateaux of the kopjes and their scrubby slopes. 

I have covered both drifts with (concealed) brigades.

I have units off-table awaiting instructions by smoke signal.

If the enemy are strung out in column we will wait until they are half across the drift, then launch a mass attack. 

If the enemy are already in defensive formation our plan remains the same but we could attempt to slow the enemy advance more by having troops make themselves visible on the eastern kopjes; hopefully forcing the British keep more men on the eastern bank than they otherwise would. This threat may also slow them down, thus making wagon issues more likely and eating-up the time they have to complete their task. In the event that we launch a mass attack the enemy being concentrated will also allow my men to more easily surround them.

If discovered/once revealed my men in the open on the eastern kopjes COULD of course prompt the enemy into an actual attack on them, hence my men have orders to withdraw in the face of such an attack. Hopefully by then I will be "on scene" to coordinate things.

Basically I seem to have unconsciously planned plan a rerun of the last battle; catch the enemy at the drift to blunt their advance and divide their force, then sweep onto them from all sides. What could possibly go wrong.....?

The Game: 

The British begin (again), with scouting on the east bank of the river (they again ignore the west bank) and my men on Black Calf and Black Bull kopjes are soon discovered - but not before the lead elements of the enemy column appear on the table. 

At this stage I "know" none of this (so do not test to discover enemy deployment). However, an "Attitude test" reveals the enemy as being aggressive; the battle may be starting without me....

Here I need to decide how to handle things. I plump for "Battle Within A battle" mode - a self-contained action over which I have no control until my General is both informed and able to take action. As before, I test to see how the British column commander has decided to enter the field. 


Oh dear (?). The advance elements of the enemy turn out to be some four companies of Red Coated Ones, deployed for battle. These move towards the eastern Kopjes. My commanders here test, and withdraw from the actual kopje edges as per my instructions (Phew..).

The enemy scouts push on to check the patches of woodland near the two drifts. 

The Commander of the Wasps dispatches a messenger at double speed to tell me of developments (good - especially as the commander of The Bees appears too occupied to do so..)


Next move the enemy seem unsure what to do. One company advances towards Black Bull Kopje. The others remain still. Their scouts are still checking the woodland near the drifts.

On my side the commander of The Wasps seems to have misunderstood his instructions, and pulls his men right off the Black Bull Kopje, falling back towards the (off table) Minnows. Maybe he thinks we are supposed to be luring the enemy onto the kopjes? Who knows?


[Technical Note: All British local decisions are based on dice-controlled ad hoc tables, unit by unit at company level (except for scouting detachments) until a senior field/staff central officer appears within Command radius. Actions by those units of my army outside my immediate control are likewise controlled by tests. Friendly units with Standing Orders will generally abide with these unless local circumstances prompt a local decision. However, those with orders are less likely to react contrary to those orders  - or more likely to obey them beyond "the letter of the Law" than those without. Where ad hoc decision tests - single or a flurry - have been involved I will hereafter mark them thus {#}]

The redcoats advance. The scouts continue checking along the river {#}. Strangely the enemy main column does not appear. Not MY problem, they are the ones on a schedule....

However, I come across an unforeseen issue; my messenger from The Wasps cannot cross at either of the Drifts - the enemy scouts are too close. He will have to re-route off table. I hadn't thought of that. Extra friction to be introduced, especially as I have not specified where the nearest off-table drift might be. Let's say he crosses the river off table on a throw of a 6, testing each off table move and adding one to the dice per one full expended turn while off table.

Then, to add to my problems, the Wasps pull off table {#} - they ARE joining the Minnows - and so will not come back until I summon them. My local commander really has got things wrong. The commander of The Bees remains in the dead ground atop the Black Bull Kopje {#}, but I have no idea how he will react to the changing situation.

The enemy scouts carry out their various checks on suspicious ground near the river (on both banks) as an enemy company rushes to the top of Black Calf Kopje (maybe my commander here was right to pull back?), then pushes (next move) towards Black Bull as the enemy line advances and the column makes its appearance on the track {#}.  My men on Black Bull remain in situ {#}, but are meant to pull back if the enemy press too hard.

Luckily my off-table messenger has managed to wade (swim?) across the river and in theory will be with me next move, hopefully allowing me some input into the battle.

However, before this happens a body of enemy scouts cross Little Drift {#} and discover The Elephants hidden in the north donga. My men here (steady veterans) hold position {#}, and the enemy scouts run away, but the sight of another group of scouts, on the west bank, also poking about, prompts The Hornets  into a wild charge {#}. This is NOT in the plan at all, but my bad; I didn't specify "which enemy" in my orders.

[Revealed friendly units now marked in blue on the plans. Note; to make pics/plans/tables bigger right click and open link in new tab.]

The enemy column presses on - now accompanied by a small force of cavalry.

Their forward unit commander is informed by the retreating scouts of the presence of the my forces the other side of the river. The enemy advance companies establish a firing line in the vicinity of Black Bull Kopje and at the southern military crest {#}.

My commander on the kopje sees all this, but does not obey standing orders and withdraw {#}. (Because he hasn't been fired on ?).

My other units, on my side of the river, halt - the Hornets because the enemy now seem to be pulling back across the drift, and the Hornet commander is confused {#}... 

I test to see if a messenger has arrived to update me. No messenger has arrived from ANY of my units - and there is no sound of firing. With there being no cause for alarm I carry on with my breakfast (or whatever..).

Next go the enemy press on again. Then, after some confusion/readjustment on the slopes (their commanders seem spooked or wary), one of their companies opens fire on my men on Black Bull Kopje {#}. My men take casualties, and fall back, down the northern slopes of the kopje.

Messengers arrive (Yay..!! Three from three different units). I am now "Activated" and can start to take command. I now know of the enemy pressing on Black Bull and the general progress of the column (the most recent update coming from The Elephants' commander). Next move I have a decision to make - where do I head to to get the best view.....?

I decide I will head up to Cloud Kopje - which gives a good view of Black Bull, some of the plain and both of the drifts.

Meanwhile the enemy now seem to sort out an east-west Battle Line; anchoring their right on Black Bull (with a reserve to support) and their left on Trail Drift, and creating an enfilading skirmish line of Scouts to cover Little Drift. Other enemy companies push towards the Trail Drift. {#}

As my General gets to the top of Cloud Kopje he can see the enemy on Black Bull (he cannot see The Bees), enemy companies in the plain and covering Little Drift, and the strung-out column.

He can see The Hornets and The Elephants, stationary in position. What he CANNOT see are the cavalry or the enemy reserve (hidden behind Black Bull) or the skirmish line of Scouts. This actually looks like a good time to attack from the east - with the Minnows and Wasps swinging onto the flank of the vulnerable column.

BUT......

My order to the Minnows was to await orders - they are therefore not going to move until I send for them. I reckon it will take eight moves for a messenger to reach them.. Dammit... 

IF I order the smoke signal from Cloud Kopje the Wasps MAY obey it (they may, however, decide to wait with the Minnows) and attack, but the Bees certainly will attack, and, without support, are  likely to be destroyed.

If I summon the Great Bulls (to the west) they can do nothing useful presently without crossing the Trail Drift (like the Hornets). I have no intention of launching my men across a defended drift.

If I order The Elephants in now they will likely be shot to pieces struggling across the Little Drift or  the space between the drift and the enemy line. 

But I MUST make a decision (it is stopwatch time - the longer I take the more "free moves" the enemy get).

However, all this becomes somewhat academic as the commander of The Bees decides, on his own initiative {#} and against standing orders, to attack the enemy moving on his flank and cutting him off from the Little Drift. NOT good. I order the Signal on Cloud Kopje lit - in case this DOES prompt the Wasps into action...

The enemy company being charged by The Bees is in a rough "L" formation, with one platoon on the slopes of Black Bull enfilading The Bees and one in reserve. They have done nothing this move, and so can pour volley fire into my regiments. My men fall in droves and the two leading regiments are pinned. Next move the commander of the Bees rallies some of his men, and sends a regiment though the leading units and crashing into the nearest enemy platoon. There is an inconclusive hand to hand struggle, despite casualties on both sides, and my men pull back - only to be volleyed at again next move by the two uncommitted platoons. Altogether bad news.

Meanwhile the enemy have deployed a company by the Trail Drift, shifted a reserve company to cover the valley between Black Bull and Black Calf Kopjes and brought more troops onto the field {#}.

While The Bees attempt to rally, another enemy company arrives on the field and some of the column escort move further towards the centre of the table. However, the enemy commander is till being cautious - as appears to be the company commander on Black Bull. Were the latter to move his platoons to the kopje edge and shoot down into the Bees' flank I fear that that would scatter them; but either the officer in charge doesn't see this opportunity, or is too cautious. It is too soon to see if The Wasps or Minnows have heeded the smoke signal. 

[Technical Note: It has probably been noted that British Line Companies deployed independently for battle usually separate into three platoons, deploying two forward and one in reserve as if ready for skirmishing. 

British Platoons can fire independently if circumstances dictate, but do not not move as separate entities (other than minor facing adjustments)  unless specifically detached from their companies or as a result of enforced actions (morale, combat etc.).

It is taken as read that once a company so deployed sees a mass enemy target in potential charging range it automatically closes ranks (for volley fire/to receive a charge), but the platoons themselves remain deployed as if in skirmish mode unless the forward platoons are commanded to close on the reserves/the reserve advances to form line with the advance units. While the former has the disadvantage of leaving two platoons potentially exposed to close combat while separated, it has the advantage of leaving the reserve still capable of volley fire into overlapping attackers between or either side of the forward elements. Once a platoon/concentrated company is involved in close combat it loses the volley fire option that move.]

The Bees are fired upon again by a single company, but to little effect and their commander pulls them back between Black Bull and the river {#}. This is still a potential deathtrap as next move the enemy on Black Bull shifts to the military crest commanding this patch, but The Bees' options are limited - and the commander is, at the end of the day, obeying MY orders; just not in the way I had hoped.

Surprisingly the enemy companies flanking the column push forwards towards the eastern kopjes and the company that has been shooting at The Bees decides to concentrate by the small kraal at the north west edge of Black Bull, rather than shoot again {#}.

Again, the enemy commander seems unsure what to do. Although he has secured against attack over the drifts and from the east, the column and it's escorts have halted on the trail and are sitting there exposed.

Perhaps unexpectedly The Wasps (off table) HAVE been activated by the smoke signal, but {#} move up behind The Bees - i.e. the "valley of death" between Black Bull Kopje and the river. There is no sign of The Minnows - and I am still sitting on Cloud Kopje trying to decide what to do next. I WANT to ride over on my pony to take command of my east wing - but the river is in the way and the enemy commands the Little Drift. I would have to go off table to reach them, which adds another element of uncertainty to the equation, PLUS I lose control of the smoke signal on Fat Pie Kopje, The Hornets and The Elephants. 

Dammit... I bite the bullet and ride east.....

Meanwhile, the enemy commander still hesitates, the enemy on Black Bull fire on The Bees (to little effect) and an enemy company advances and takes Black Calf Kopje {#}. An enemy Native Auxiliary company arrives on table. The Bees pull off table. My figure leaves the table. 


Next move the Law of Sod comes into play; the enemy general decides to do something while I'm travelling. He tests on the table below.

He elects to hold the Drifts & East Kopjes. Form Laager. Then force one of the Drifts with 1xAve.D Companies. His men move to effect this and the Laager begins to form. His men on Black Bull dig in {#}. The tail end of the column (the Naval Company) enters the field

While my general is still struggling to get to his off-table troops the British form their laager and begin mustering for an assault across a drift. They will deploy three companies for this. The enemy general pulls back the company at the foot of Black Bull for this. That is possibly good for us IF I can get my guys moving. He also orders the Gatling Gun to Black Cow Kopje and pulls back a company to support.

Next go my general crosses the river, but it will be at least two moves before he can do anything useful.

In my general's absence the British sort out their laager and it's supporting troops/Gatling on Black Cow, then rush three companies across the Trail Drift. Two of these manage to form up before The Hornets, provoked by their arrival, charge {#}.

As the warriors rush into close range the redcoats unleash rapid volleys into their packed ranks. Two regiments of The Hornets are stopped in their tracks, but the third crashes into the line of bayonets. There is a sharp and bloody tussle - and the Hornets are forced to fall back. Not good.... 

Then worse; the following move enemy non-volley fire breaks the two shaken regiments and the third regiment is pulled back by its commander to allow it to rally, after it comes under volley fire from the (previously uncommitted) enemy company {#}.

Meanwhile, my general has arrived at the force off table to the east.

He scouts forward, where he can see enemy soldiers on Black Bull and Black Calf Kopjes. He will leave The Minnows in sight of these, while moving the The Wasps and Bees as swiftly as possible round the south of Black Calf (off table) and entering the table close to the track. This could take up to nine moves - long enough to lose the battle - if his movement dice are bad, so it's a risk, but the troops on the eastern kopjes are interdicting practically all the east table edge save the two "death valleys" (by the river and between the kopjes) and I'm not throwing my men away down those (I do not know about the company the enemy has withdrawn from north of Black Bull. Mind you, I don't know about the bloody Gatling on Black Cow either...). 

My general also sends a messenger to light the beacon on Fat Pie Kopje to Summon The Great Bulls, off table to the west..

While my general is faffing about off-table the British west of the river drive off The Hornets, then follow them up as they retreat towards their original position in the westernmost donga {#}. They also place one company to control part of the western table edge, opposite Trail Drift. This occupies about three moves. 


The west bank seemingly secure, the enemy general orders the column to reform and make towards the drift {#}. The troops who had been in the laager stay in square for the moment. All this takes another couple of moves to sort out. Meanwhile my general and his off-table force is making good time (due to lucky dice).

The enemy column reaches the drift and begins to cross, but is then halted as a company of redcoats and one of native auxiliaries jump the queue, followed by the cavalry {#}. The British general now heads for the west bank, and crosses to take command here {#}.



While all this is going on the two companies facing The Hornets have kept up a harassing fire at long range on them - enough to keep my men's' heads down and cause casualties among the regiments on the slopes of Fat Pie Kopje {#}.

So, the situation, as my general approaches the south side of the table, is that the enemy have seemingly neutralised The Hornets and established a force on the west bank, which is being reinforced. 

However, the Hornets will likely have to be winkled out of their donga with the bayonet. This could cause a headache for the British, whose real strength lies in their firepower (and who will have the uncommitted Elephants on their flank if they assault the area south of Fat Pie). Also, their column is strung out and potentially vulnerable to a thrust from the south, where my general and two brigades are lurking.

  
However, I only really have a chance of catching the column if the British begin to withdraw more forces from the east bank. I expect the Great Bulls to be activated by smoke signal soon (WHEN it gets lit). They too will run interference on the enemy on the west bank. 

I am feeling reasonably confident that I will be able to maul the column, IF the enemy are distracted by the action on the west bank. We shall see...... 

Next move the enemy still do not move their troops from the eastern kopjes {#} - not good for me. I wait, holding my men in check. The cavalry and the companies in front of them cross the drift.

However, on the plus side someone on the east bank seems to have blundered - the two companies who had earlier been acting as column escorts and the rearguard (prior to the forming of the laager/square) move off alongside the column {#}. There is now no rear guard. Also, the Gatling moves off Black Cow and heads for the drift {#}. There are still companies on all three kopjes my side of the river (are THESE meant to form the rear guard? That sort of makes sense), but it looks like some confusion has set in as the enemy force moves off.

Not so good for me is the action of The Hornets - who pull back to the top of Fat Pie Kopje {#}. Or will this draw the leading enemy infantry further away from the column? We shall see.

It does...!  The enemy on the west bank move towards Fat Pie {#}. They now have four companies, the auxiliaries and the cavalry - plus ALL the Staff on that side of the river. On the east side one company has deployed as rearguard to the column, but two are marching towards the Trail Drift and another towards Little Drift. In addition the companies of Black Calf and Black Bull have pulled off the kopjes and are marching to rejoin the column . I think this is probably my moment.... 

Or do I wait a move...? Decisions, decisions....

I hold off - but the Great Bulls don't, and rush onto the field south west of Trail Drift {#}. Likewise The Elephants, presumably prompted by the arrival of the enemy below Fat Pie Kopje, shift position - luckily with most of them ending the move in dead ground {#}. None of my other guys move.

On the west back the British react {#}. The two companies below Fat Pie open fire on those of The Elephants they can see, causing casualties and pinning them and the company nearest the Great Bulls deploys to meet this new threat. The cavalry close on the units below Fat Pie and the Gatling crosses the drift {#}. 


On the east bank all bar the Scouts (who remain dismounted in skirmish line) and one foot company crossing Little Drift, move towards Trail Drift {#}.

I let loose my men in the south. Luckily, at the same time, The Minnows enter the field between Black Bull and Black Calf. By sheer chance (lucky dice) all of my men, bar The Hornets (on Fat Pie) are moving or attacking.... Not only do I have this stroke of luck, but also good movement dice. The Elephants crash into one of the enemy companies below Fat Pie, while The Great Bulls strike the British company facing them. Meanwhile the Minnows rush along the valley between the eastern kopjes and my personal command (The Bees and The Wasps) race across the plain from the south. In theory I am doing well.....




And then even better.

In close combat the Great Bulls cause the company they have charged to run for the Drift - but not before bringing down all but a scatter of men.

Even worse for the British; The Elephants, by sheer weight of numbers, overwhelms the company facing them - taking them down to a man.

The Hornets do nothing{#} .

But now the British strike back... On the west bank volley fire from the units below Fat Pie pin and cause casualties to The Elephants. The Gatling unlimbers, the enemy supply units start to scatter. The company which has crossed Little Drift, unaware of the problems beyond the woods at the elbow of the river, cross the drift and approach the donga on the river's north side {#}. 

 

On the east bank a rough laager begins to form around the two companies (redcoats and naval) near the drift {#}. They are joined by the rearguard {#}. The company which had been on Black Bull rushes to join them {#}. However, the company from black calf - isolated in the plain and facing The Minnows and my command, halts and fires {#}.  The enemy scouts seem confused, and do not move {#}.

In my move the Great Bulls get among the enemy wagons at the drift. The Gatling crew, the remains of the enemy company and several wagon/column elements are destroyed. The Elephants scatter another enemy company, and kill the enemy general. All is looking good here.

The enemy company caught on the plain below Black Calf in a pincer by The bees and The Minnows are overwhelmed. They die hard, but die they do.


The Hornets STILL do nothing {#} .

On the east bank the enemy form a laager and a SE-NE skirmish line with the company from Black Bull and the scouts {#}. They are clearly in no mood to go down lightly. The enemy rearguard company pours volley fire into The Wasps and Bees {#}, causing casualties and shock.

On the west bank a scratch laager is formed; manned by the cavalry and stragglers from one of the broken redcoat companies. The native auxiliaries and other redcoat stragglers bolt for the nearby woods.

Then an act of sheer heroism (or desperation) {#}. Two platoons of the remaining enemy company on the west bank, below Fat Pie, charges the flank of The Elephant's Loins (command unit), forcing it back, while the other pours fire into one of the other Elephant regiments. The Elephants' Loins are driven back in confusion and fails to rally next move. It pulls back, and the rest of the Dintisna withdraws to match. The Hornets remain on Fat Pie. The Great Bulls wipe up the column units still on the west bank, then halt, facing the western laager {#}.

The one isolated enemy company makes for the kraal - seemingly unaware of happenings elsewhere {#}. 

The west bank is entirely out of my control. We have badly mauled the enemy here and killed their general - but I don't "know" this. I also don't know about the enemy company blithely heading for the kraal. 

On the east bank I have a choice; launch my regiments against the laager here, or stand off. But I  hesitate. Then, while I am rallying my men on Black Cow, the Minnows charge the enemy skirmish line without orders. The enemy at the laager and the skirmish line open up - and I see myself how deadly their volleys can be. The Minnows withdraw at speed up Black Bull Kopje.

The remaining enemy company on the west bank runs to man the laager there {#}. The enemy company on the north bank - seeing the The Elephants and The Hornets unmolested to their left flank, turns and heads back across Little Drift {#}.

My men are weary. Losses have been heavy - and will only get heavier if I force the issue. The enemy have been badly hurt, and are now huddled down in their laagers like a warthog in a hole.

Almost half the British column of wagons and pack animals has been destroyed.

Four Redcoat companies have been massacred and two others mauled. Their auxiliaries have fled.

We have the head of their general and their Gun-That-Goes-Ha-Ha-Ha.

I fully expect that, left to themselves, they will pull back tomorrow.

I think we can safely say we have given them a bloody nose and seen them off and, while setting a watch, tend to our dead and wounded in the knowledge of a job done....

Summary:

Another great game - if frustrating (in a good way) - and again (unsurprisingly) a defeat on points for the British - but another sharp lesson for the home team.

Most of the battle "fought itself", as my general figure was absent or too far away to affect matters. There were a LOT of ad hoc dice decisions made by local commanders (on both sides - the British having their own C&C problems), which I feel reflects the reality of a lot of actions (no matter what the generals' memoirs say).

The "Butcher's Bill" was high for both sides.

I lost about 150 five dead and about 270 seriously wounded out of a total of just over 460 casualties). A lighter loss when compared with the previous action, but still steep. 

How many of my seriously wounded would survive, with little or no medical provision, is moot at this stage.

For the British the overall number of casualties (higher than in the previous action) was lower than mine, but what with my men overrunning or breaking four  companies - and taking no prisoners - their loss in dead exceeded mine considerably: somewhere in the region of 300 British troops dead (including around fifteen officers, the general and his staff) plus the Gatling crew and forty so wagoneers etc. lost, with around forty walking wounded getting away.

I haven't worked out the fate of the redcoats or Native Auxiliaries who fled into the woods - how THEY fared is anyone's guess... Let's be generous and say they sneaked back to the laagers during the night.

Oh, and the commander of The Hornets...? Let's just say he was "Retired; with extreme prejudice"....

Probably this was an "unwinnable" scenario for the British, but no bad thing for that. However, like the previous "local generals" I learned a valuable lesson - don't charge the redcoated Soldiers from the front... 

That probably ends the current "This Ain't Zululand" project. Watch this space for more fun.... 

As always, any queries, comments or snipes welcome....


Post Xmas "Crossfire" etc.

Delayed Follow-Up.. Alas, seasonal duties and a series of seasonal bugs delayed my experiments (and some deliveries tempted me into some dis...