Sunday, 12 November 2017

Border trouble: Forcing the defile

As the Shin Hills Field Force approached the entry to the defile that would lead them into the Shin Valley, they had no idea what awaited them.

Being an old hand ans well experienced in fighting the frontier tribes, Sir Hector Boleyn-Green took no chances and covered the advance of his main force by using his two Companies of Frontier Rifles as flank guards.


As his foremost troops could see no sign of any Shinwazi defenders, the Field Force advanced cautiously toward the defile.


Suddenly shots rang out ... and Sir Hector turned to Joseph Warburton (the young journalist from the 'Eastern Star' who was accompanying the Field Force) and said 'That's not muskets! The blighters have got modern rifles! There's going to be some stiff fighting today, of that there is no doubt!'

Unfortunately the Britannic troops were at first unable to see where the shooting was coming from, so whilst the rest of the Field Force deployed into line ...


... the Frontier Rifles began to climb the nearby hills.



From their new vantage points, the Frontier Rifles could see the Shinwazis, who were occupying positions on the slopes above the defile.




As his Artillery Battery and Machine Gun Detachment were not yet in a position from which to engage the enemy, Sir Hector ordered his infantry to advance.


This brought one of the Frontier Rifle Companies into close combat with a group of Shinwazis ...


... and after some stiff hand-to-hand combat the Rifles were forces to fall back.


On the other flank the second Company of Frontier Rifles engaged the Shinwarzis whilst the two Companies of Macfarlane Hignlanders moved forward.


Now that his Artillery Battery was able to engage one of the bands of Shinwazis, it did so ...


... and caused the Shinwazis to withdraw!


Covered by rifle fire from the Company of Frontier Rifles, the Macfarlane Highlanders advanced into the defile, whilst on the other flank ...


... the other Company of Frontier Rifles, supported by two advancing Companies of the South Yorkshire Regiment, engaged the other Shinwazis with rifle fire.


Seeing that the farangi* troops were going to push their way into the defile, and not wishing to suffer unnecessary casualties, the Shinwazis withdrew, leaving the Britannic troops to tend to their wounded and prepare to advance towards the Shin Valley.

Farangi is the Persian word for foreigner, and originally referred to the French (or Franks). The word was later absorbed into Urdu and thence into Hindi, where it is regarded as a rather derogatory slang word for a foreigner.

During this battle I tried a few experimental rules:
  • Units firing uphill reduced the range of their weapons by 1 hex for each contour line their fire crossed.
  • Units expended 1 hex of movement to climb up 1 contour line.
  • Units could not spot an enemy unit unless they had line-of-sight to it and they threw a 4, 5, or 6 on a D6 die. (I decided that the die scores would be modified by +1 if the enemy unit had fired at the spotting unit, +1 if the spotting unit was within 3 hexes of the enemy unit, +2 if the spotting unit was within 2 hexes of the enemy unit, and +3 if they were in adjacent hexes. This meant that units in adjacent hexes had to spot each other!)
These rules seemed to work quite well, and I will continue to experiment with them in future battles.

18 comments:

  1. What scale figures are you using? They look to be a good fit for the Heroscape hexes.

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    1. David Cuatt,

      The figures are a mixture of 15mm figures from Irregular and Essex Miniatures. The figure bases are 15mm x 15mm. (I based these figures a long time ago. If I was basing them nowadays I'd use slightly smaller bases.)

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Hi Bob,

    Now there was a surprise! I was expecting something Sudan related so it was good to see the NW Frontier feature. I recognise the British troops but not the Shinwazi - where did they originate from?

    Good to see a game at last and the ‘tweaks’ seem to make sense.

    All the best,

    DC

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    1. David Crook,

      I don't know why I decided to revisit the Chindian North West Frontier, but as I haven't 'been' there for some time it made sense.

      The Shinwazis have appeared on my blog before, but under another name. They are 15mm Irregular Miniatures that I painted years ago.

      I will probable add these additional rules to any revised version of the PW rules that I produce.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. NWF is a favorite theatre of operations. In the photos, I find the hex tiles a bit distracting. Is the effect less noticeable in person? Perhaps it is only my aging eyes?

    I like your latest experimental modifications. Do think the natives ought to have a better chance of spotting than the foreigners? Enjoyed the etymology lesson on "farangi."

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    1. Jonathan Freitag,

      I think that the hexes look somewhat starker - and thus more eye catching - in the photographs than they do in reality. If they were flocked it might improve their appearance ... but that is something that I won't be doing in the near future.

      I've been thinking about these changes to the rules for some time, and this battle was an opportunity to try them out.

      'Farangi' has entered many south Asian languages in some shape or form, but didn't gain common currency in the western world until a version of the word was used in STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. Excellent and fun report! A great illustrative example of a portable wargame! The 15mm figures and the hex terrain work quite well, in my opinion.

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    1. Fitz-Badger,

      I am pleased that you enjoyed reading this battle report ... which I hope will be the start of a mini-campaign.

      The 9 x 8 hexed board measures under 15 inches in width and depth, which means that it will fit on most coffee tables ... making it very portable indeed.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. A nice brisk little action! Good to see your hex tiles and figures and their Commander in action.

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    1. Ross Mac,

      Cheers! Reading your recent battle reports has inspired me to do some actual wargaming ... and I'd forgotten how enjoyable even a small action could be.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Fine little action. Looks almost like my Ruberian vs Turcowaz gig... sort of.

    One comment I'd like to make in respect of uphill and downhill shooting. Leaving aside the availability of cover to the uphill dudes - let s imagine smooth slopes, though not necessarily gentle ones, it seems to me that there ought to be no negative modifier for firing uphill, but arguably there ought to be one for firing downhill.

    This sounds counter-intuitive, I agree. But reading several accounts of firefights up and down slopes, from Napoleonic and ACW, has persuaded me that the downhill position was advantageous - enough to make a real difference. Instances I can immediately think of are Barrossa, Albuera and possibly Busaco; and McDowell, Brawner Farm (Groveton) and Missionary Ridge. It might also have been an unlooked for advantage of the reverse slope positions often taken by British infantry during the Napoleonic Wars.

    The tendency for even well trained troops during those eras to firing high is well known. Firing uphill might well have tended to offset that tendency; firing downhill to exacerbate it.

    As you have more than one contour line, perhaps the lower unit in a hex adjacent to a contour line could be held to be in dead ground to a unit at least two contours above provided those two contours lie between the units. Of course the reverse would also be true. Such a rule might have interesting effects on the tactics of forcing defiles. maybe. There again, it's equally likely to be one of those ideas that sounds good, instantly to be forgotten in the heat of battle. :-D

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    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      A very interesting and helpful comment.

      As I wrote, these were experimental rules that I wanted to try out, and for a Colonial action where 'fire at will' was more common, I think that they encourage the players to get stuck in rather than to sit back and blast away at each other. However, for a period when volley fire was the norm, I think that it might be inappropriate for the reasons you have given.

      The idea of incorporating dead ground into the rules is something that I must look at ... and as I have ideas for further battles forming in my head, I might do as you suggest.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Yeah, it did cross my mind that technological advances might have tended to mitigate the tendency to fire high - it's not something that 20th century military literature I have encountered ever mentions. Not that that is a whole lot.

      The 'dead ground' thing I'd probably be in two minds about myself, come to think of it. I've toyed with it for my 'open table' games, but even with my favoured contoured hills, the rules have been too complicated to be workable.

      What I discovered anent the effects of uphill/downhill small arms shooting I used to justify ignoring such a rule altogether! One might consider a negative to pre-1865 cannon fire both ways, though, especially if there is a significant elevation differential between shooter and target.

      It also depends on scale, of course. These aspect don't even come in for consideration with my BB4ST game set. It all goes to an article I never did get to write: "In defence of 'unrealism' in war games".

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    3. Archduke Piccolo,

      From what I can gather firing high is certainly a problem that armies still have to cope with, but that with flatter trajectory weapons is has become easier to train soldiers to avoid it.

      It is an experimental rule, and I may retain it as an option that players can chose to use for small arms BUT firing cannons at targets that are uphill should be very difficult unless the ordnance is capable of doing so (i.e. it is a howitzer or mortar). That is as true today as it was in 1865. Artillery firing downhill should be similarly penalised due to restrictions on how far the barrel can be depressed. One only has to look as the special gun carriages that were designed for use on Gibraltar to see that.

      Perhaps it might just be easier to leave the rules as they are!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  7. Oh this Colonial stuff is starting to look interesting!

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    1. Geordie an Exile FoG,

      I suspect that this will turn into a mini-campaign ... so expect more to come!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  8. Interesting discussion above on your experimental rules for PWG - I'll be keen to see where this is going. MJT

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    1. Maudlin Jack Tar,

      I always enjoy the feedback and discussions that some of my blog entries generate, particularly when they relate to experimental rules.

      All the best,

      Bob

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