Sunday 28 July 2019

Battle at Boris-a-bad. 1st Anglo-Sikh War

I had a full house on Saturday for this month’s big game. Conrad, Paul S, Richard, Neil and Ian braved the elements  and the elephants for another Anglo-Sikh Wars game. Contrad, Richard and Ian played the Sikhs under the command of Kairne Singh, while Paul and Neil were the British. I was also on the British side commanding their reinforcements.

So the table was set out with the town of Boris-a-bad in the centre, held by Sikh irregulars. A mass of irregular cavalry held the right flank, guns were deployed en masse across the centre supported by two brigades of regulars, and the elite brigade of ‘Avitables’ were in reserve. A large hoard of Akali were on the Sikh right as were a few zambureks. More Sikh troops were off table. If the Sikhs were doing well they would be rewarded by reinforcements. If not, they’d get nothing. Every time a Sikh brigade was broken the CinC and the player controlling the broken brigade would have to take a break test. Pass and they’d carry on. Fail and they’d have to withdraw or flee off table, never to be seen again. The British were allowed to see the Sikh deployments as they were being fed intelligence by traitors in the Sikh army (probably the CinC).

The battlefield. The SW corner is top left for orientation purposes. 
I used the usual ‘house rules’ for Black Powder 2, including the swapping of the firing and movement phases (shoot then move rather than move then shoot) which so incenses some of my mates who’ve not actually tried it. In addition, if the European unit of a brigade failed a break test, the native units would also have to take a test. However, European units would not have to test if supporting a broken native unit and ignored the broken brigade rule so long as they weren’t shaken themselves. There was also a random chance of commanders being hit by stray shot etc. The entire table was deemed to be covered in low jungle, impeding line of sight (i.e. an unclear target at anything over point blank range) but otherwise no restrictions on movement. The dried up river beds provided cover for those in them, took half a move to get in or out, but did not block line of sight. The big jungle pieces represented thicker jungle that blocked line of sight and provided a degree of protection.

The main British force under Gough (Paul) and Hardinge (Neil) would  advance from the SW quarter of the table. Both cavalry brigades and four troops of Bengal Horse Artillery (BHA) were alreday on the table. I commanded a second small column (Gen Littler) that would enter the battle from the SE corner near the "s****y dirty rat infested" village of Trumpapore, dependent time wise on how many ‘black marks’ I awarded to either side for anything resembling ungentlemanly conduct.

Turn one saw Richard unwittingly throw three moves, and his Gorchara horsemen swarmed forward, forcing the BHA to evade. One troop didn’t quite make it and had to fight their way out,
which amazingly they managed. On the other flank the Akali pushed forward and the ‘Avitables’
marched off to cover the left flank, suspecting that more British would at some point join in from that direction.

I will now in the time honoured fashion, allow the photos to tell the story.

The Sikh army looking from the East. Conrad is on the phone to General Gough I suspect!
Troublesome Akalis advancing into the jungle.
Boris-a-bad garrisoned by Sikh irregulars
The aforementioned headlong rush by Richard's Gorchara. They hit one regiment of Bengal Light Cavalry (BLC) at the top of the picture and four troops of BHA, three of which got away.
The fourth BHA troop miraculously survived without having to take a test and it was the Gorchara who had to retreat.
More Gorchara!

The BLC counter charged and drove the Sikhs back before retiring.
More Sikhs threaten Neil's infantry, but they were seen off easily.
Neil's infantry didn't even need to open fire as the Sikhs were hit in the flank by a regiment of BLC.

The victorious BLC followed up but were forced to retreat after hitting a fresh unit of Gorchara.
Paul pointing at something. Oh yes, the Gorchara were by now spent and the survivors had to pull back. Richard's figure went with them for a turn but Conrad as CinC was made of sterner stuff, or couldn't get off his elephant. (see risk to commanders above).
Harry Flashman caught in the path of marauding Akali!
The Akali charged a battalion of BNI. The infantry broke and the Sikhs followed up into the  next battalion, that was pushed back shaken. By this time the Akali were a spent force and pulled back.
Ian's Akali making high speed through the jungle towards Neil's troops.
The Akali charged the BNI but didn't break them immediately. The BNI closing fire was pathetic but so were the Akali hand to hand dice.
On the Sikh left (the east) the Avitabl'es and their supporting artillery are advancing slowly.
Conrad sent two battalions of irregulars from the safety of the town to support the 'Avitables'.
A rather impressive looking line of cannon in the Sikh centre.
The BNI fighting the Akali was dispersed and just in time Paul ordered a 'follow me' with the BNC and smashed into the Akali, forcing them to break.
Meanwhile in the centre Neil's brigade of infantry crossed the nullah and charged the Sikh guns. Mmmm? Actually not a bad idea but sadly it didn't quite work.
Richard also commanded the brigade of Sikh regular cavalry that had been allowed to enter the game  as a result of  some especially dastardly behaviour by the British (or not, I cannot actually remember why). One regiment of lancers charged  the Bengal European Fusiliers. Another went for a battery of artillery.
Conrad rolled for a follow me with his brigade commander but failed. His CinC was allowed a re-roll, and amazingly he passed. Of course that meant that the Sikhs were following Conrad on his elephant into the flank of HM 29th Foot who were driven back in confusion!
Sikh lancers attack the Bengal Europeans and are driven off in rout.
Looking down the table from the West.
The Governor Gebneral's Bodyguard and HM 16th Lancers on the British left. Flashman feels safe behind all those horsemen.
Richard ordered a battalion of Sikhs over the nullah, catching a troop of BHA that was unable to evade, while another had already occupied the hamlet of  Jacobmogabad. The former were promptly charged by the 4th Bengal Irregular Cavalry (Skinner's Horse). The Sikhs lost the melee and were forced to retreat. Sadly, as Paul was to find out when he threw a 1, the nullah was impassable to cavalry so he was unable to pursue. Bum! Paul then withdrew the cavalry and replaced them with his horse artillery and pounded the Sikhs from close range.
The Sikhs were then hit by a fresh battalion of Queen's infantry. Conrad was killed on his elephant (signified by the grim reaper figure).
A regiment of BLC clash with Sikh cuirassiers. The Sikh cavalry commander was killed leaving the brigade leaderless. In the ensuing melee the cuirassier were broken and their supports also broke. The brave Bengal Artillery Battery also beat off successive attacks by Sikh cavalry.
Finally my command arrived but found itself bottled up in and around Trumpapore. My cavalry tried to drive a hole in the Sikh line but were badly shot up by the zambureks and regular horse artillery, although they did manage to break a regiment of Sikh lancers.
The Sikh 'Avitable' brigade advances to box in my command.
At this point the game came to a close. It was declared a minor British victory purely down to the number of broken brigades on the Sikh side compared to the British. All the Sikh cavalry was destroyed as was a brigade of infantry and the still too effective Akali, but the rest of the army was relatively untouched. On the British side, my cavalry were shaken but two brigades of infantry and supporting artillery advancing from the SE would probably have driven the Avitables back and Paul and Neil would no doubt have turned the Sikh right and forced their centre to retreat or stand and die around their guns.

Great game I thought. I'm sure I've missed something or gone out of sequence but it was that kind of battle. The Sikhs did well early on but the tide turned once all their cavalry had been disposed off. BP continues to work well for this sort of game. They are a very marmite set of rules but they do it for me in big multi player games as well as smaller affairs. And there's no figure or base removal either which helps with packing up. Include plenty of period specific tweeks, play in a friendly and relaxed (!!!!) manner, and try to play the period and not the rules. Add to that playing in the Burrow and being fed copious amounts of tea, coffee, sandwiches and pizza and what's not to like!

I have just received some more photos from the official Sikh war correspondent, which I shall post separately (they were taken by Richard).  Once I've fixed any battle damage I shall be returning these troops to barracks for a hard earned rest while I decide what to focus on next. Probably back to the War of the 1st Coalition.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

A bloody nose for John Company.

Paul came over yesterday afternoon for a game. Given the promised heat I decided we’d fight something along the banks of the River Sutlej during the 1st Anglo-Sikh War.

The scenario was based loosely on an engagement after the battle of Ferozshah in December 1845, when a British column marched across the front of an emplaced Sikh army at the village of Budowhal. In reality the Sikhs failed to intervene significantly and apart from some long range artillery fire and harassment by irregulars of the rearguard and stragglers the British were unscathed. But a more aggressive stance by the Sikh commander (who in this case was not involved in any treachery with the British or Palace Politics) would have proven very difficult for the British.

In this game the British had to get down the entire length of the table (almost 14 feet of it) and although there were significantly more British and HEIC troops involved than in the original battle to make a game of it the Sikhs were permitted to try and cut them off, assuming they could get their troops moving of course.

Paul sort of gravitated towards the Sikhs so I took the gallant lads of the Queen’s regiments and those of John Company.

The British on the march. The Sikhs are to their left. In turn 1 my very first command roll resulted in my cavalry blundering, with half of it exiting the table! Not a good start!
The Sikh army. (Part of it anyway)
The village of Budowhal with heavy artillery positioned on its flanks.
Bengal Horse Artillery quick into action against the mass of irregular horsemen  milling about in the distance.

The 12th Bengal Irregular Cavalry attack and drive off two batteries of Zambureks at the far end of the table  on the Sikh extreme left.
More BHA in action against the Sikh centre. It was an unequal fight against two large batteries of heavier guns.
Akalis catch a battalion of Bengal Native Infantry on the hop!
While Sikh matchlock men pour into the dried up riverbed.
The Akali fail to break the BNI immediately but force them back. The BNI can take no more and they break at the end of the next round of combat.
Two Queen's regiments advance against the irregulars.
On the left HM 16th Lancers, supported by Bengal Light and Irregular Cavalry charge the mass of Sikh irregular horsemen. In previous games the European cavalry had gone through the Sikhs like the proverbial knife through butter but not this time, as they were bounced!
In the centre, what was left of it, the native infantry were crumbling and the one European battalion was under heavy artillery fire. Added to that, a large mob of Akali was roaming around in my rear.
The Khalsa sense victory.
Skinner's horse fail to stop the Sikh irregular horse and are pushed back.
The British rearguard finally made it onto the table, in just enough time to cover my retreat.
The cavalry brigade on my far right was now dangerously exposed but in a good position to damage the Sikhs if they were to get too close!
In the village the locals just get on with their lives as usual.
With three brigades broken (two of infantry and one of cavalry) it was all up for the British.
The emboldened Sikh irregulars surge forward.
So, the British had failed to march off the table and would have to make other arrangements. Several native battalions had broken as had one European one (The Bengal Fusiliers). My cavalry and artillery had performed badly and the Sikhs had, for a change, managed get their troops moving in the right direction. The Sikhs would never be able to follow up their victory so the British would extricate their army to fight another day, which is what will happen on Saturday.