Wednesday, 23 May 2018

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains....

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

I'm pretty sure it's the law that you have to start any post about a North West Frontier game with a quote from Kipling.  Of course for real artistry and class you don't need to look any further than Scotland's other national bard, William McGonagall...

And the battle that followed at Candahar was a complete victory,
And Lord Roberts’ march to Candahar stands unrivalled in history;
And let’s thank God that sent Lord Roberts to conquer Ayoob Khan,
For from that time there’s been no more war in Afghanistan

Hmmm...I'm not sure McGonagall got that last bit right...

Anyway, last night saw another outing for my 54mm NWF troops.  The game was kindly hosted at Eric the Shed's which meant I was able to use his fantastic collection of terrain and a table big enough to use my limbered gun.  On a normal 6' x 4' table this would look too large but Eric has a massive table...we only used a part of it giving us somewhere in the region of 8-10' x 6' to manoeuvre on.

On Eric's blog you'll find several accounts of a series of Napoleonic skirmish games that we've been playing using A Fistful of Lead: Horse & Musket.  These are a really excellent set of skirmish rules and ideal for multiplayer games where you want a fairly heroic, cinematic style of game, so they seemed an obvious choice for this game.

The rules use a card deck with figures activating in sequence but certain cards give a bonus (+1 on shooting, a free reload etc).  The rules are simple enough that it was possible to have the key points along with info on each character on an A4 sheet.  Each player had 5 characters which feels about right for an evening's gaming.  In each group one of the characters had a bonus skill such as Clever or Fearless but there was also a character with a bad trait such as Cowardly or Unlucky to give a bit of variety.

The rules include scenarios from the French & Indian wars through to the ACW so I adapted some of the later period rules to reflect different weapons such as Martini Henry's, Sniders and Jezzails.

The scenario involved the British running the gun up the length of the table to safety while the Afghans ambushed from the rocky cliffs.  Originally there were due to be 6 of us so each side would have had a cavalry unit but in the event only 4 made it on the evening so the horses never arrived.

The British decided to push the gun forward as fast as they could while the infantry advanced on either side of the pass.  The Pathans on our left took up position in the rocky cliffs while mine on the right hid in some rocks and in the ruined building (the old Airfix Desert Outpost).  Eric's Highlanders quickly realised that they'd have to cross open ground under Jezzail fire to reach me and Eric's Unlucky Private began to attract a lot of rifle fire.  The plucky Highlanders decided to go for glory and striking up 'The Black Bear' advanced within rifle range.  We settled into a long range gun battle which slowly whittled down the Scots and luckily I was also able to knock out the riders on the Gun Limber bringing it to a halt.

The Gordons advance up the ravine

On the other side of the ravine Mark's Pathans opted for a much more direct approach charging into bloody melee with John's British troops who were scaling the cliffs.  This proved a very messy affair with troops charging up and down the slopes and the bodies began to pile up.  The resident vulture spent a lot of the game flapping around the cliff top with plenty of rich pickings!

The battle for the heights

A well fed vulture...

Back in the centre my Pathan leader faced off against the Gordon's Captain as we tussled for control of the gun and limber.  A pistol shot cracked out and my leader fell to the ground!

The Gordon's Captain and Sergeant bravely leapt onto the gun limber and started to ride the gun off to safety but Snider rifles from the outpost and the cliffs made quick work of them, leaving Mark's cowardly Leader to nip out from his rocks and claim the gun and the horses for himself.

The cowardly Pathan finishes  off the riders

The 2 remaining British soldiers beat a retreat back down the pass leaving the Pathans bloodied but victorious.

It was a great game which went down to the wire.  I can highly recommend the rules for fun, cinematic Skirmish games.  They're available to order online as a hard copy or a PDF which makes them a good bargain and can be found here

A write up of the game can also be found on Eric the Shed's excellent blog here


  1. Wonderful stuff. That setup really is impressive.

  2. Lovely, lovely game. The limber looks brilliant, well done. I always thought Kipling captured the pathos of our poor troops, he was a great poet.

  3. I guess the moral is, Nibbles always wins in the end.....

    Great game Alastair!

    Cheers, Anthony

  4. Excellent looking game. Bravo!

  5. Great write up Sir...shame the highlanders did not do as well

  6. A tense game! Great scenery and limber. I'm also reading Dunstan at the moment, not sure i like it that much.

    1. Hi Brian, Having read Dunstan myself some time ago I wasn't overwhelmed by it, and I am normally willing to give novels based in Anglo-Saxon times the benefit of the doubt.

  7. Yes. I'm persevering with it but it's not one of Conn Iggulden's best (and I'm usually a fan)

  8. Thanks for the great report and another excuse to start another period....