Tuesday, 8 November 2016

TMWWBK AAR

On Friday evening, I took my brand new copy of Osprey Games' The Men Who Would Be Kings (hereafter referred to as TMWWBK) to the Trumpeter Society's Bonsor Games Night for my first attempt at a game.

I selected Scenario D: Get off my land, with a twist: instead of one native force against one imperial force, the game would have two imperial forces (British and Russians) undertaking a reconnaissance in force in Afghanistan, circa 1880.

The Russians:

The British (with a few support figures in the background):



And the Afghans (already missing one of their groups of irregular infantry!):




The 4'x6' game board was divided into 6 sections (I want to call them quadrants but part of me rebels against calling one-sixth of something a quadrant). There was a significant feature placed in each of the six quadrants.  In theory, each side would get points for either investigating (occupying) each of the features or preventing the other side from doing so.  In practice, it didn't quite work out that way.  The six features consisted of:

  • A flock of sheep
  • A herd of goats
  • Two bridges over the river
  • A small village and
  • An orchard


Hills were declared to be difficult terrain which blocked line of sight (I should also have added that units in the hills would be able to count the terrain as hard cover - next time!).  The village was hard cover, as were the walls around the orchard.  The river could be crossed at the bridges without penalty; crossing was possible anywhere else treating it as difficult terrain.

The Afghans started off hidden in various locations on the board, while each of the imperial forces deployed on one of the short edges.  I feel that I made a significant mistake in setting the game up in this way:  I should have follow my gut and made them come on one of the long edges as this would have brought them into contact with each other sooner!  As it was, the British started off after the livestock and the Russians went after the village and orchard.


The Afghan players noted the positions of their troops on paper.  The positions were quite specific, but I ruled (based on my interpretation of the scenario description) that the troops could be placed anywhere in the specified quadrant, provided other requirements were met (they needed to be one move away from any enemy unit). 


At the British end of the board, the imperial forces attempted to advance on the livestock.  The Ghurkhas succeeded with a move at the double and then waited for a turn to count the sheep.  Things were slower on the right flank as the Gordon Highlanders and the Sikhs slowly moved forward towards the goats, and the artillery dithered and didn't move much at all.  The Highlanders and Sikhs were unsuccessfully ambushed by a unit of Pathan sharpshooters hidden in the rocks.  After a bit of a firefight, the Pathans were swept out of the way.  Meanwhile the Ghurkhas got bored of counting sheep and advanced onto the nearby hill.  Spotting a group of Pathan mounted warriors, the Ghurkhas shot them out of the saddle.

Gurkhas go after the sheep as the rest of the British advance is stalled:
Overall, due to a combination of lackluster leadership rolls and weak opposition, not a whole lot happened on this front.  

Things were much busier at the Russian end of the table. The Afghans decided to focus their response to the aggressors in the prominent terrain features (the village and the orchard).  Two units of Ghazis (tribal infantry) were located in the orchard, and two units of shooters (irregular infantry) occupied the village.

Russians deploy, with Cossacks sweeping around the flank:


On the Russian right, a firefight developed between a couple of Russian infantry units (supported by a field gun) and a couple groups of Afghan sharpshooters.  The Russians eventually won the firefight and gradually pushed the Afghans out of the village, ultimately finishing them off in the open.  

Afghans deploy in the village:

and in the orchard:

On the Russian left, the third infantry unit advanced against the orchard while the Cossacks swung around the orchard.  The orchard was defended by two groups of Afghan tribesmen armed with melee weapons and ragtag muskets.
 Two interesting events occurred:
  • The Russian infantry advanced to the wall surrounding the orchard. The tribesmen charged this wall, and in the ensuing melee they lost heavily, (the Russian advantages from defending the wall outweighed the tribesmen's advantage in numbers) and the Russians were able to push them back.  On following turns, the Russians advanced and eliminated the Afghan opposition.  Shooting first (even with a 6" range and needing sixes) could have gotten a valuable pin.  Alternatively the second mob of Ghazis could have followed up to hit the Russkis a second time.
  • The Cossacks meanwhile swung around and charged into a mob of tribesmen at the rear of the orchard.  Despite taking 50% casualties, the Cossacks were able to inflict more casualties than the tribesmen and drove them back.  The Cossacks followed up the charge, inflicted more casualties but were left with their leader as the only survivor.  A somewhat Pyrrhic victory! 
Some good lessons about melee in those two examples.  Soften up your opponent before pushing in with the bayonet or sabre! 


 Warriors in the village fairing poorly in the exchange of fire with the Russians:

The firefight in the orchard:

Highlanders and Sikhs engage Pathans in the hills:

Gurkhas occupied with sheep:

Cossacks charge into the Ghazis:

Aftermath of the Cossack charge, the Ghazis are pinned but only the Cossack officer remains!

Highlanders advance against the Pathans

View from the Russian lines:

Cossack officer single-handedly occupies an objective!

RA decides to target him for his audacity...

Russians clearing the village


Gurkhas wipe out the Afghan horse.  These horsemen probably delayed their deployment too long, but based on the experience of the Cossacks, they would likely have needed support to really hurt the Gurkhas.

Russian success in the village and orchard, just in time to see...

the arrival of the British army!


Here is the situation when we called the game. The Afghans have pretty much been removed from contention, and the British and Russians are lining up to see who will be last army standing.




Ideas for next time: 
  • In addition to using the long edges of the board, I should allow the Afghans to deploy after the imperial forces are placed on the board, but before they take their first moves.
  • Consider a limber option for artillery.  The 4" move for artillery is based on the crew prolonging the gun.  With a limber, perhaps give them a 6" or 8" move, but they will need to take an Unlimber action before being allowed to fire.  (this would give me a chance to put more models on the table to represent the limbered gun, such as my elephant or a set of mules packing a disassembled mountain gun!)
  • Specify up front that the hills are rocky terrain that provide hard cover to any Pathans located therein.
  • Use a smaller orchard and make sure the nearest wall is more than one infantry move from the table edge.  Same for village:  more than 6" (ideally 10" or more) from the table edge.
  • There were a couple of rules I chose not to mention, but which I will enforce next time:
    • According to the rules, a single shot will take out a cavalryman but in this game it took two shots to kill a horseman, just as if they were in melee.  I let that go this time as the poor horseys were getting badly pummelled.  Next time I'll make it clear that cavalry only get the two-hit defence in melee.
    • I ignored the Discipline modifier for leadership.  The only army that would have been affected was the British army, as all other units had a '0' modifier.  Letting the Brits have a +1 modifier to all their leadership tests would have felt over the top, as they all had pretty good leadership ratings to begin with.  Maybe next time I'll get a wider range of Discipline values for each army.

Lessons learned
  • You gotta soften up the target before charging in to melee, or at least try to team up.  Ghazis charging Russian infantry behind the stone wall were badly beaten up.  The Cossacks charging the Ghazis may have won the combat (just barely) but took so much punishment that they were effectively done as a fighting unit.  And Ghazis should remember that they have short range missile weapons:  when rolling 16 dice, you have a good chance of getting a few sixes.
  • We had some discussion about 'Go to Ground'.  Based on comments from Dan Mersey's Dux Rampant forum, a unit that has gone to ground is focussed on hiding:  if it fires, moves or takes any other action (other than Stand To) it will lose the GtG status