Subedar PBJ Singh Widj raised the binoculars once again to scan the horizon. He could now make out the lorries at the base of the dust plumes advancing across the plains. Those lorries carried angrezi soldiers intent on arresting his prince, the Djelli of Jhamjar. Subedar Widj was not going to let that happen.
It is the summer of 1919. Amir Amanullah Khan of Afghanistan has declared war on the British in India, and the Indian Army (i.e., the army of British India) has mobilised to the North West Frontier to face him. Throughout India, discontent with British rule has been simmering, especially in reaction to the General Dyer's massacre of unarmed protesters at Amritsar in April. And in the Princely State of Jhamar, the Djelli has decided that the time has come to take control of his own destiny.
As far as the British Raj is concerned, the Djelli of Jhamjar has a token bodyguard - not a real army by any stretch of the imagination. What the British don't know is that the Djelli has quietly recruited a force made up of veterans of the Great War - experienced soldiers who have seen action in East Africa, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Gallipoli and the Western Front. These soldiers have taken the King-Emperor's salt, travelled across the black water and shed their blood in the service of the King-Emperor. They have also heard the grand words of President Woodrow Wilson and compared these grand ideas to the reality of the treatment they received alongside British and other Imperial soldiers.
Subedar PBJ Singh Widj is typical of these veterans. An accomplished soldier, he witnessed the incompetence of British generals at Tanga, Gallipoli and Kut. He found that, despite being a good soldier, he could rise no higher than Subedar-Major in the Indian Army, while he would have to jump to the orders of any Angrezi subaltern. And now, as he moved his platoon of the Jhamjar Rifles to the border of Jhamjar, he anticipated teaching the Angrezi some of the lessons he'd learned in the King-Emperor's service.
The lay of the land: the river (more of a muddy ditch) marks the border of the Princely State of Jhamjar. The small compound by the bridge is an abandoned police station, and a small bakery is located a short distance down the river.
Patrol phase. The Jhamjars have occupied the police station, and Ockerforce has attempted to circle around the building. This was an education for me - I thought the Jhamjars had limited themselves too much by bunching all their JOPs into the police station, but I found as I carefully read the rules that my JOPs would have to be pushed back to the table edge.
2nd Lieutenant Francis Ocker was in a foul mood. He wasn't supposed to be here in bloody India. He was supposed to be on a troop ship on his way be to Australia. His men weren't supposed to be here. They, too, were supposed to be on the bloody troop ship with him. They weren't even his men, not really, not the mob he'd spent the past four years with, not his mates who'd been with him in Gallipoli and then on the Western Front. No, these were just a random assortment of blokes who'd been on the same bloody ship when it stopped over in Karachi. When, instead of a day or two on shore before carrying on their way home to 'Straya, F. Ocker had received new orders. He told them he wasn't a bloody soldier any more, he was done with the whole bloody business. But no, some jumped up local nabob had decided to mess up Ocker's homeward voyage, and that left him in a particularly bad mood. "No one else to deal with it, Lieutenant. Got to be you and your lads." Ocker tried to tell them that these weren't his lads. He didn't know these ones. They were a mix of Ozzies and Kiwis, infantry and light horse (sans horses, of course), and even a Pommy Lewis gun section that was supposed to be in transit to Hong Kong. And so it was into the lorries and off to Jhamjar.
Results of the patrol phase. I thought I'd been quite clever, moving my patrol markers around to allow an opportunity to flank the Jhamjars. Unfortunately, on a more careful reading of the rules we realised that the jump off points needed to be in cover and at least 6" from the marker. As a result, the Ockerforce JOPs ended up back at the table edge.
Ockerforce JOP1 - a commandeered civilian lorry.
Ockerforce's first command roll. Three points towards a command die, one section with junior leader and one junior leader with section. There is a subtle difference between these results - the 2 just allows the section to deploy, but the 3 allows the section to take some action, other than moving. We misread this at first, so a couple of sections incorrectly moved in the phase when they deployed.
Another Ockerforce section deploys and dashes for cover behind a rock outcrop (they should not have been able to move in the phase when they deployed - next time we will be better). This is the Pommy Lewis Gun section (Copplestone).
Jhamjar's first command roll. Three pips toward a command die, an option to deploy a senior leader (which was declined) and a wasted 6.
Ockerforce command roll. Three junior leader activations and a senior leader, plus a wasted 6.
ANZAC Lewis gun section advances toward the police station from JOP3.
Jhamjar command roll: two 1s allow individual teams to deploy, the 4 allows a senior leader and the pair of 6s means that the next phase also belongs to Jhamjar.
Jhamjar deploys the Vickers gun onto the roof of the police station. The Havildar (sergeant) is at ground level beside a Jhamjar JOP. Jhamjar JOPs are all visible in this shot: two horse-drawn carts and an elephant.
Jhamjar Vickers gun lines up on the Ockerforce rifle section.
And the results of the Jhamjar MG barrage: two dead and three shock. Shock is indicated by livestock - three goats means three shock.
And then Ockerforce gets a chance to roll the dice.
The corporal in charge of the rifle section rallies off one shock (so the three goats are swapped for two sheep) and the section goes tactical.
I'm am going to stop showing the command rolls. Partly because it is getting a bit old, but mostly as I'm not sure whose roll was whose anymore.
In the upper corner of the shot, you can see Jhamjar's force morale and command dice tracking board. Force Morale is 8, they have earned one command die and are one pip along the track for a second command die.
I am definitely going to solo game through the patrol phase a few times to get a better understanding of how that works. I'll balance the forces a bit better for next game as well. I based the forces on the lists for Abyssinia, which I found on the TFL blog. These lists gave a crew of 5 for a Lewis gun, which seemed to me to be too big; next game the Lewis gun will have a crew of 2 (as per the lists for WWI CoC from the 2014 Lardie Xmas Special). And I'll put a LOT more terrain on the table. Ockerforce got pinned down quite easily wiht lots of open ground between them and the police station.
I'm also going to limit participation to two players only. I had lots of interest in this game, but many of the players had little or nothing to do. This game is really not suited to team play, not like TMWWBK or TSATF.
Frank Ocker lay on the ground, cursing heartily. He'd been hit twice by that bloody MG. His men were pinned, and spread out over half of creation. It was time for Ockerforce to pull back, lick their wounds and regroup for another go at these bloody curry munchers.
Subedar Singh Widj watched as the angrezi pulled back. He ordered his men to hold their fire. The enemy was retreating and he was no butcher, but he knew that this was just the first test. They would be back.