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..


  1. Sounds an exciting project. I love those old Sunday afternoon classics too. Where did you get those amazing little 20mm "Character" civilian figures from ? Are they your own conversions ?

  2. Many thanks.. The rather nice civilian figures are from A C Stadden (link below). They're OO scale - which matches the train stuff and also the (tiny) HaT WW1 Indians/Airfix HO/OO bods pretty well.

  3. Thanks very much for the link, they have some interesting figures indeed. I may very well end up buying some of those.

    1. My pleasure.. They really are very good quality figures, and fun to paint..


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