Tuesday, 27 September 2016

The Men Who Would Be Kings

As wargamer with a long-time interest in Colonial wargaming, it follows that I would have to buy the latest offering from Osprey Wargames ... THE MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS. The rules have been written by Daniel Mersey and were published last week by Osprey (ISBN 978 1 4728 1500 2).


I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon some months ago, and was a little upset when it began to be sold by other retailers ahead of the stated publication date. That said, I did pay a lower price as a result, and in some ways that mollified my feelings of annoyance.

The book is split into seven main chapters:
  1. Introduction
  2. Battle Rules
  3. Building a Field Force
  4. Optional Rules
  5. Playing against Mr Babbage
  6. Scenarios
  7. 24-point Starter Field Forces
It also included a single page Quick Reference Sheet inside the back cover.

In his introduction, Daniel Mersey has laid down his design objectives ... which is something that I wish a lot of other wargame designers would do as it helps readers to understand the decisions the designer has made with regard to the mechanisms they have used. I also like the fact that he has listed a large number of great films (including all my favourite Colonial films!) as part of what he calls 'essential research'.

The rules are split into subsections entitled:
  • Setting up a game
  • Organising your Field Force
  • Important rule conventions
  • Understanding unit profiles
  • Leaders
  • Unit basing, cohesion and facing
  • Terrain
  • What happens during each turn
  • Activating your units
  • Action: At the double
  • Action: Attack
  • Action: Fire
  • Action: Forming close order
  • Action: Going to ground
  • Action: Move
  • Action: Rally
  • Action: Skirmish
  • Action: Stand to
  • Action: Volley fire
  • Pinned units
  • Retreating
  • Ending the game
I found this structure very easy to follow, and it helped me to make sense of the rules and the game mechanisms.

The chapters that dealt with Building a Field Force and Optional Rules were very clear and concise, and as I was reading them I was mentally ticking off how I could use figures from my existing collection of Colonial figures with these rules.

As a mainly solo wargamer, I was particularly interested in reading the chapter entitled Playing against Mr Babbage, and having done so I can see myself using them – or something like them – at some time in the future.

I was less interested in the scenarios that are included in the book as I like my battles to form part of an evolving campaign. That said, they seem to be well thought out and would be an excellent starting point for novice Colonial wargamers and very suitable for experienced players who want to stage a 'one off' battle.

The 24-point Starter Field Forces are a list of basic armies for a variety of different Colonial conflicts, and it was particularly interesting to see that it was not just confined to British Colonial actions. The inclusion of Darkest Africa, French African wars, the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia, potential conflicts with Russia on the North West Frontier, the Old West, and The Pig War Gone Hot all show the range of warfare that fit under the Colonial banner. (I loved the fact that Danny and Peachey's Private Kafiristan Army is also listed, and that it draws its inspiration from the film that inspired the name of these rules!)

'Hats Off!' Two latter-day MEN WHO WOULD BE KINGS: myself (on the left) and Tony Hawkins (on the right) suitably attired at SALUTE 2003. We were running a participation Colonial wargame that used a set of rules that I had written.
Overall I think that the publication of these rules is likely to encourage an upsurge in interest in Colonial wargaming. They will not appeal to everyone, but they certainly meet the design brief set out in the introduction. Time will tell if they will supplant Larry Brom's THE SWORD AND THE FLAME as the most popular Colonial wargame rules in use. I hope not, as I think that both sets of rules have much to offer Colonial wargamers ... and I could even see wargamers buying and using both sets.

16 comments:

  1. Robert, will you be providing a review of TMWWBK after you have had it out on the table a few times?

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    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      I hope so ... but not for some time as I have a work table/wargames table covered in stuff that I am using to complete my Napoleonic project as well as work to do on my PORTABLE WARGAME book.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Thanks, Robert. I will patiently await your verdict.

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    3. Jonathan Freitag,

      Hopefully you won't have to wait too long!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. This was a really good review and sold me on this set (which if I am honest I was going to buy anyway). It was also interesting to discover that you mostly play solo and like your games to be part of a campaign....I do approve and think this is the high end of the war gaming world!

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    Replies
    1. Solo wargaming-on a budget!

      I am very pleased that my review was of help to you.

      I have done the majority of my wargaming on my own from necessity (for a lot of my life I haven't been able to have access to regular opponents) and choice (over the years I have tried joining wargames clubs, but found that my outlook didn't fit in with the pervading attitudes I found there). I do have friends who I do wargame with when the opportunity arises, but those games tend to be 'one off' rather than campaign-related battles.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Bob,

    An interesting set of Rules - always interested in the Colonial period...I might say that Armies In Plastic 54mm figures have a range which can be adapted for the North-West Frontier- this may be something that I will be interested in to attempt down the track. I've always liked the Movies to do with the Sudan, Zulu War and The Boxer Rebellion...small affairs which are within the scope of modelling on a limited budget. Regards. KEV.

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    Replies
    1. Kev,

      If you have a big enough table, then these rules would work well with 54mm figures. All you'd need to do is double all the movement distances and weapon ranges ... and then battle could commence!

      The book contains a set of skirmish rules that use half-size units, and I his would be an ideal entry-level game with which to start.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Bob,

      Thankyou for the recommendations - sounds all pretty straight forwards going to 54mm scale with these Rules. Colonial is a bit of a way off yet for me as fully engauged with my 54mm WW1 Project- though it IS all nice to think about.
      Regards. KEV.

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    3. Kev,

      Don't forget that Indian, Australian, and New Zealand troops served on he Western Front as well as the Middle East, and the Indians could easily be used to fight Pathans on the North West Frontier.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. I hope to try these rules out soon...if I can avoid getting distracted by other games!!

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    1. Gordon Richards,

      Too many disractions! A common problem for all us wargamers!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. I too ordered from Amazon and selected Free Delivery. Saw lots of places selling them a week earlier so whinged at Amazon and they sent them out with Next Day. They look rather interesting and I'm hoping to use them to kickstart my 10mm Sudan painting (again). Not sure if I'm going with single figures or putting 2-3 on a base for each 'figure' in the unit...

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    1. Andy McMaster,

      I am signed up for Amazon Prime, and was not impressed when the book was released by Osprey to other retailers before they supplied Amazon. Not what I expect from either organisation.

      I suspect that 2/3 10mm figures on a base will look very impressive. I hope to use some of my 15mm figures for any play-tests I undertake, but may move up to 25/28mm figures at a later date.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Even just the cover picture has me interested, the Michael Caine and Sean Connery film of the same name is an absolute classic

    What scale

    My fading eyesight shouts out 28mm ;)

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    1. Geordie an Exiled FoG,

      The film is one of my top ten films of all time for a variety of reasons. (Not only is it a great story by one of my favourite authors, the acting is superb and Freemasonry is central to the storyline.)

      The rules are suitable for almost any scale of figure. I already have a large collection of 15mm Colonial figures ... but I am seriously thinking about buying some 25/28mm figures just for TMWWBK!

      All the best,

      Bob

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