Saturday, 26 November 2016

Pulp Figures Highlanders

After having these Pulp Figures Highlanders on my painting desk for many, many months, I have finally slapped a bit of paint on them.  They're ready for an inter-war or early WWII conflict.  They don't represent any particular regiment, which is ok since I'd only use them for a pulp-fiction type adventure if I use them at all! 

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Afghan Regular Infantry (1880-ish) (updated 25-11-2016)

 After getting pounded in their last appearance, it's time for the Pathans to get some support!  Here are the first 10 soldiers from the Afghan Regular Army.  I tried to present the idea of faded coats, yellowed leather equipment, and mismatched trousers and headgear.  They still turned out more brightly-coloured than I intended.

My minimal research on the flag (
revealed that Afghanistan had the world's simplest flag from 1880-1901: plain black, no device, just black.

These lads have another 10 mates on the painting table.  I hope they'll be finished in time for the next game!  All are from Artizan Designs (courtesy of North Star Figures).


After reading the comments and looking again at the photos and miniatures, I realised I wasn't satisfied, so I went back and touched them up a bit, mostly by adding a wash to the faces and coats.  Here is the result.  Still not perfect but certainly an improvement!

thanks for the comments, especially Andrei!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016


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

Thursday, 3 November 2016

The Men Who Would Be Kings - prep for game on Friday

The Men Who Would Be Kings Game Prep:

On Friday (tomorrow), I will host my first game of Dan Mersey’s The Men Who Would Be Kings.  Fittingly enough (in my opinion, anyway!) the game will be set somewhere in the vicinity of Afghanistan.  The scenario will be a three-way match based on the ‘Get Off My Land’ scenario.  The British will be invading to prevent the Russians from stealing a march on them. The Russians will be invading to pre-empt any attempts by the British Raj to expand its sphere of influence.  And the Afghans will be supremely annoyed at the presumption of any foreigners to intrude on their homeland!

The three Field Forces (as TMWWBK armies are called) are based off the nominal lists provided by Dan in the rulebook.  I’ve modified them a bit based on my own ideas of how the troops should behave, and also based on my available figures!

The British will have three regular infantry units and one field gun. My variations to the base list are:

  • Highlanders will be rated fierce for +1 point
  • Sikhs will have obsolete rifles (Snider-Enfield) for -1 point
  • Gurkhas will have obsolete rifles for -1 point and will be rated Gurkhas (surprise!) for +1 point

The Indian army notoriously kept Indian soldiers with rifles (and other weapon systems) at least one generation behind the weapons issued to British troops.  So, the Highlanders have brand new Martini-Henry rifles and the Sikhs and Gurkhas have older Snider-Enfields.

The Russians will have three regular infantry units, one regular cavalry unit and one field gun.

  • Russian infantry have obsolete rifles (-1) instead of being poor shots (-1) - just change one penalty for another! 
  • My cavalry are Cossacks rather than Russian regular cavalry because I have Cossack models and I don't have .  I’m rating them as regulars because it makes the points work out, but if pushed I will argue that these Cossacks are in long-term service, and have drilled as needed to be considered regulars.  They lose 2” of movement compared to irregulars but have a better melee value.

In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, the Russian Army figured out that their Berdan rifles were being outperformed by the Winchesters that the Ottoman Army used. This initiated a process that would eventually lead to the famous Moisin-Nagant rifle of 1891.  As we are in 1880-ish, the Russians will still have the obsolete Berdan rifles, so I decided that obsolete rifles is easier to justify than trying to figure out if Russian infantry were demonstrably worse shots than soldiers in other armies.  Russian soldiers throughout history have generally had a reputation to be good, solid troops but notoriously lacking in initiative.  On this basis I accept the unenthusiastic rating as leaderless Russian infantry will not be likely to act decisively.  Because TMWWBK uses leadership for activation as well as for morale, this means they will be more likely to break, which would be contrary to their reputation for endurance, but I’m not about to muck about with introducing different tests morale and activation.

The Pathans will have three irregular infantry, one tribal cavalry and two tribal infantry.  There should be two tribal cavalry if I wanted to duplicate Dan’s proposed Pathan list, but I don’t have enough cavalry for that.  Instead, I’ve taken the points for the extra cavalry to give each of the irregular infantry units fieldcraft.  I think the Pathans need fieldcraft to match their reputation for using terrain, especially to ambush unsuspecting redcoats!  Note that tribal infantry automatically have this skill.
  • Pathan irregular infantry have fieldcraft.  +1 point per unit
This month, I've been touching up the armies.  I've rebased the Afghan cavalry.  I should go through the infantry as well and paint bases there where needed, and hopefully I'll be motivated to do that in the near future.  I've finally based the poor, abused British field gun.  I've added a unit of Cossacks (Copplestone Castings Caucasian Cossacks; Russian Civil War era but only pedants will worry about the difference!).  Sorry, no photos for this blog entry!  Hopefully I'll have some piccies after tomorrow night's game.