Wednesday, 26 March 2014

“A Mere Question of Pluck”: Talana Hill, 1899



Over the past few weeks, the St Albans club has been returning to the Second Boer War. For various reasons (family illness, work), I’ve missed the first couple of games, but I returned last night for the British assault on Impati Hill, north of Dundee in Natal province.


The scale used was the same as in previous games (6mm figures, courtesy of Baccus 6mm, scratch assembled terrain and a ground scale of (approximately) 1 inch to 50 yards). The rules – “A Mere Question of Pluck” were Rich’s own, and are bound to change as play-testing goes forward.

The actual battle was a very close run encounter, and the wargamed recreation stayed true to form. The result, after two and a half tense hours of play, was a marginal British tactical victory, won mainly by the ability of the British infantry to press on regardless of early casualties.

In one of those historical echoes (for which our games of the Second Boer War seem to be full of), the command of Sir William Penn Symons went strangely absent for long periods of the game. This wasn’t the result of a mortal stomach wound inflicted on his command figure (as historically), but owing to the vagaries of the card deck refusing to bring out his command card. At times like this, improvisation is the British watchword, and the infantry advance ground forward remorselessly, but at a initially glacial pace.


Instead of listing the events on this page, I have added a commentary to the photos. Let me know if you prefer this to a written narrative.





 
















Thoughts and impressions.

1.  The Boer Wars are a wonderful period to recreate, with numerous engagements, balanced but very differently configured opposing forces and variable commanders (particularly on the British side).  The sources are numerous and in English.  Some, perhaps many, of the tactical developments foreshadow, or influence, the tactics used in the opening months of the Great War.

2.  The Baccus 6mm figures are admirably suited to grand tactical battles.  They looked perfect on the tabletop.

3.  Integrating card-driven mechanics into the rules is proving interesting.  We are working on a number of variations involving tactical initiative cards - enabling these to be used in certain situations to provide impetus, or rallying, but at the risk that the initiative card may be lost or "burned".

4.  Playing the British forces (particularly infantry) is hard work.  They are somewhat unwieldy in the face of Boer Commando tactics and can be awkward to deploy.  Once deployed and moving, however, they are formidable.  Getting the British infantry to deploy and move forward aggressively is the main drain on the British command.

5.  Playing the Boers requires finesse and skill.  There are numerous tactical opportunities, but the forces are small and fragile if poorly deployed.  British artillery is a killer once finally deployed.


I'll finish by mentioning that we're hoping to run through other Boer War engagements over the next few weeks.  Hope you can join us for those!  


32 comments:

  1. So, after years of talking about the Boer War Rich has finally bitten the bullet and started serious playtesting? Well, I'm glad to see that happen. :-) Neither do scale nor conflict appeal to me, but it's always good to be remembered that TFL isn't your "mainstream" rules publisher.
    I would absolutely love to join you and Rich for a game (or a couple). Maybe one day we can convince you to come over to Germany…

    Cheers, SG
    mountainsoflead.com

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    1. SG, thanks very much indeed for the comment! It has indeed been years since we started the journey to the Second Boer War. At first sight it seems pretty dry and unprofitable ground. But over the various games we have played, I have to say that I've had some of my most interesting wargaming experiences. Nothing beats the strange sensation of playing the British and finding out that the mistakes made almost exactly replicate those of the generals in the field!

      You would be most welcome in St Albans any time for a game, or a beer! And I am sure that one day we'll get over to Hamburg for Tactica (I certainly hope so!!)

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  2. Looks really interesting. 6mm is the just the right scale for the Boer War!

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    1. Thanks Simon. It is a very good scale for the size of the actions, the integration of reinforcement columns and the manoeuvring between the forces.

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  3. Good looking and sounding game Sidney, looking forward to more!

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  4. What a beautiful report, this table is really fantastic...sounds like a great game!

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    1. Phil, that's very kind. It was a fun game!

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  5. Very nice report and great pics! I'd definitely like to see you guys in Hamburg too.

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    1. Thanks Moiterei. I promise we shall get there one day!

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  6. Not only does that look good..it is very atmospheric and, no doubt, very well thought out.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

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  7. I have to say I rather enjoyed that, especially with the text on the images. Great presentation Sir.

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    1. Thanks Michael. One vote for the text on photos - duly noted Sir!

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  8. This looks great; there is something very persuasive about 6mm...

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    1. Thanks Monty. 6mm does take some adjusting to. It is persuasive, and it forces you, as the gamer, to think of things in a wider context. Put simply, it makes the battle maps from most history books come to life. It's not as radiant on the eye as 28mm, but it makes you feel like a general. I'm kind of a convert!

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  9. 6mm looks to give the potential for exercising a satisfying degree of generalship. A very enjoyable report and period. Aye, Rusty

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    1. It's a great period, Rusty - loads of potential in an overlooked war.

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  10. Good photos and interesting reporting. Sadly though, not a scale of figures which interests me at all.

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    1. David, thanks very much for the comment. And thank you in particular for commenting given that its a scale of figures that isn't (yet) for you! I very much appreciate that. Glad you enjoyed it.

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  11. A great looking table. I will borrow some of these ideas for my WWI Palestine games in 10mm.

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    1. John - many thanks! Please borrow anything you like the look of!

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  12. Greate AAR and very nice photos!

    minis might be a bit to small for the pictures and my taste, but the scale makes it possible to game large battles...even if tempting they are to small for me to paint...

    Looking forward ti here more about the development of the rules.

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael. Believe me, I felt exactly the same way as you about the miniatures. It's a natural reaction for a miniatures fan - the 6mm figures look tiny, you struggle slightly to see the detail, they blend with their bases.....at first it doesn't quite feel "right"...

      But somehow, on the table, playing the game, it really does all make perfect sense. The ground scale works admirably, you can assemble the formations in accordance with the drill books of the time, the tactics really shine through and as you cast your eyes over the table you could be looking through field glasses at the real action.

      I know, it sounds heretical and somewhat crackers, but it really does work!

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  13. Sidney, that's a fine moustache you are wearing. Next time leave your red coat at home and put on khaki. Other than that you really looked the part!

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    1. I always try my best, Rich. I'd hate to let the side down by turning up in a polo shirt...

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  14. Great looking game even if it isn't my scale of choice. I look forward to hearing more.

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    1. Thanks very much! Even if its not your scale of choice (which I can completely understand...), I hope you enjoy the various reports of the actions we'll be doing.

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  15. Nice to see bigger battles rather than skirmish. Will be interested to see how this develops.

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    1. Thanks Dave. Not as pretty as cowboys.....what is??....but it's been fun. Great to have you around and dropping by!

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