Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Rangeworthy Heights: January 1900 - Second Boer War AAR


Happy New Year!

It’s been a while! My blogging, and painting, has rather fallen off a cliff since November, but I’m hoping to get on track during the start of the New Year. Although I am still painting figures (in a slow and disjointed fashion), I thought it might be more fun to start out with a couple of AARs featuring the forthcoming new Boer War rules from TooFatLardies.

You may remember we used these for several playtests a few years back. We took a break from working on them, but Richard Clarke has placed them back on the front of the line for completion later this year.


Called “A Mere Question of Pluck”, they simulate the field actions of the Second Boer War. They have both a “tactical”, and a “grand tactical” mode, and represent brigade actions and upwards. As such, they are perfect for the various battles of the War, such as Colenso, Talana Hill, and Spion Kop (among others). Our figures are 6mm, produced by Pete Berry at Baccus 6mm. We think they look excellent on the table, and have the major benefit of being easy to paint.


The battle we fought last night was the action on the 19th of January 1900, on the Rangeworthy Heights to the south west of Ladysmith in the colony of Natal. We played this action before, in the “tactical” scale of the rules in 2011. Rich produced a report on his blog HERE



Last night’s game was using the “grand tactical” scale of the rules.



The table for the game we used last night was 6’ x 5’. The game took 3 hours and 45 minutes. Rather than produce a “they moved, then we moved, then they moved and fired” report, I’ve placed the main actions of the game as captions to the pictures below. I hope they are easy to follow, but please let me know in the comments if you prefer something else.




























I thought it might be useful to try and gather a couple of the themes from the game:

  • We played through the game in just under four hours.  This was a large game, but easilt fitted into an evening's play.  We placed the British under a time clock - they had to achieve their objectives by 6pm (in game time), after starting the deployment at 8am.  
  • Time constraints focus the players. The time clock we used (christened by Rich as being "Tick, Tock, Dong") is wonderfully simple, but speeds up game as it progresses.  The "clock" is actually 6 cards, held in a separate deck.  One "Dong" and five "Tick Tocks".  At the end of each turn, a single card is drawn.  If the card is "Tick, Tock", the hour (in game time) does not advance.  If the card drawn is "Dong", the hour does advance (8am...9am....and so on).  On a "Tick Tock" being drawn, it is removed from the Clock deck permanently.  The result is that there are multiple times at the start of the game when time seems to be moving slowly - essentially, being when "Tick, Tock" cards are being drawn at the end of each game turn.  However, once the "Tick Tock" cards are used up, time moves very quickly indeed.  A wonderfully simple device for propelling time faster towards the end of the game - precisely when the British want, and need, more time to complete their objectives.
  • Boer vedettes - memorably described by Rich as "scruffy blokes smelling of horse p*ss with a rifle" - are as entrancing to the British players as a hypnotist's pendulum.  They inflict shock (only) but can harass, fragment and dislocate a smooth British advance.  Dealing with them slows the British players' advance, but ignoring them is nearly impossible - as was the case historically.  All British players, so far, have struggled to deal with them effectively (including me).
  • British artillery is a battle winner.  Correctly deployed and commanded, it is devastating.  However, the command structure of the guns, requiring draws of a "Staff Card" is (as historically) cumbersome unless the British commander remains with the guns.  Command choices such as these are critical to British success.
  • Commanding the Boers requires sure-footed thinking, and good anticipation.  Once deployed, they are costly to move and/ or redeploy.  They can be tough, but they are not regulars.  They can trade land and positions for time, but eventually they have to stand and fight.
It'll be fun to see how these themes develop as other groups of playtesters worldwide enjoy the rules.  
Head over to the TooFatLardies forum for more details if you're interested in playtesting.  The best post for that can be found HERE.

Also, you may well be very interested in Rich's report on this very same game, which is available at the Lard Island blog HERE and was posted within minutes of this post.

                                                                   *****************

Next up, (finally) contributions from me for the Painting Challenge! (after posting on the Painting Challenge blog site in a day or so).

36 comments:

  1. A great looking game and I love the idea of the clock speeding up. Lovely to see you posting again and looking forward to seeing what you've got lined up for us later in the week.

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    1. Thanks Michael ! Fingers crossed for the weekend!

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  2. Love the clock idea - duly nicked.

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    1. Thanks Phil - it worked really well....simple, but effective.

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  3. Great report, and tick tick dong sounds a great idea.

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  4. Looks very interesting, sounds like there are some simple and elegant mechanics, particularly the tick tick dong. Great AAR mate. I'll be following these rules with interest.
    Ben

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    1. Ben, you will really like the rules when they come out - right up your street! Cheers!

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  5. Evocative stuff. The terrain and the figures work wonderfully together.

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    1. Thanks Conrad. And thanks for dropping by! Best wishes!

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  6. Ah, wonderful to see you back Sidney AND with such a excellent AAR!! Fantastic stuff to start off the year.

    I may be wrong but I seem to remember that the 'tick, tock' time mechanic mentioned here is one that was introduced in 'Through the Mud and the Blood' (I say this as I remember using it during a recent TTMATB scenario where it worked very well, keeping up the tension). I also look forward to your future submissions to the Painting Challenge (where, I must add, I am thrashing you in our points duel). ;)

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    1. Curt, thanks so much! You might be right about "tick, tock, dong" being used before. Richard revealed it on Tuesday with some panache, and I thought it was a new fangled idea. It worked beautifully, and perhaps even better it worked without really being noticeable as a game mechanic.

      Thanks for your endless patience with me on the Painting Challenge! I thought I'd give you a head start :)

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  7. Mr. Roundwood I do adore your blog and your skills are superb. I only wish that the USA and England were connected by a giant land bridge so that it wouldn't be so expensive to travel their and participate in your games. I was wondering however, if you could be so kind as to post the Operation Gericht scenario along with bigman profiles in the right hand side documents section.

    Also the clock idea done by Too Fat Lardies is very interesting and has me thinking on a possible Through the Mud and Blood adaptation for when I get my own Verdun project rolling (I'm currently working on a Madrid 1936 scenario).

    Also I don't want to sound rude, but would you consider that once your done with your French projects about potentially doing a American 1918 scenario either for the battle of Cantigny or for Belleau Wood and Hill 142?

    Will

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    1. Will, thanks for the very kind comment and suggestions. You are very welcome indeed.

      I will be posting the "Operation Gericht" scenarios and backgrounds soon. In fact, I have been meaning to do that every week since June 2014! I am very sorry indeed not to have done this (a pretty small task after all) - knowing that there are people interested is great as that encourages me to get a move on!

      Thanks for your suggestions regarding an American 1918 scenario. You'll be happy when you read this reply, as I've actually got the 28mm Great War Miniatures figures to do a series of American scenarios. A few people have contacted me in the past about adding the Americans to the forces we have at Lard Island. I am very keen to give this a go, and I know a few of the chaps at my local club are enthusiastic as well.

      Some of the games we'd talked about recreating were the Seicheprey raid (at which the Germans first encounter American troops, and which leads itself to being a really great game, with confusion all round), as well as actions in Belleau Wood, the "Lost Battalion", Montfaucon and the Meuse Argonne generally. There's also some great potential for some "what-if" scenarios with the AEF in 1919, beaering in mind Pershing's enthusiasm for driving into Germany.

      As to precisely when we get around to doing this is really, to be honest, anyone's guess. I expect that, even with the fairest winds in the world, it would not be during this year, and probably not in 2016. However, there's something which is very exciting about planning to put some games together for 2017, in time for the centenary of the AEF's arrival in Europe. Would that work?

      Rest assured, we will be covering the Doughboys of the AEF, and their incredible contribution to Europe's history.

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    2. Thank you for answering my questions. Again I am not asking you to do anything, just asking you if had floated the idea.

      thanks again, will

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    3. Will, that's a great pleasure answering, and you're most welcome.

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  8. Hello Sidney:

    Very pleasant to see you update your blog with this fine report. From the TFL list I knew that Richard was turning his mind again to what he rather mordantly calls the least popular set of rules he will ever publish. I hope that's not true. This game report makes the Boer War (rather an obscure period by most people's lights, which is odd, given the popularity of the Afghan, Zulu and Sudan Wars) look like a fascinating tactical problem - all that open ground and those terribly modern weapons, though mercifully in small numbers so far, only a foretaste of the war to come.
    Given that Canada was a part of this war, as was my old Regiment, the Royal Canadians, I could see myself talking up this period in this scale.
    I hope all's well with you.
    Cheers,
    Michael

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    1. Thanks so much for he comment, Mike! Richard has said a number of things about the possible popularity of his own “A Mere Question of Pluck” rules, but to someone who has played in almost all of the play test games, I can’t fathom it at all!

      I appreciate that the Anglo-Boer Wars seem pretty unattractive as a period to recreate on the table, at least at first, or even second, sight. The Wars have some obvious aspects which still today trouble many people (as they did contemporaries). I think that’s very understandable that certain players might want to stop there.

      However, once on the table as a wargame, especially at the brigade level, the various engagements offer a fascinating problem to recreate. You put your finger on it perfectly. How, as the British, do you engage the enemy across the “beaten zone” and force the Boers to yield their positions? How, as the Boers, can you prevent this?

      I’ve mentioned it before, but the perfect accompaniment to the rules is Dr Spencer Jones’ exceptional book “From Boer War to Great War” in which the historical story of how those two questions were answered. Dr Jones’ book came out during the play testing, and it was one of those ‘shivers down the spine’ moments reading how we were, as a club, confronting the same tactical issues on the wargames table that the combatants faced historically. Very much hope you give them a try sometime.

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  9. Excellent write up and a great looking board to boot! I love the idea of a card deck that dictates real time, we have been trying to think of a way to come up with something similar for our Rapid Fire games.

    I have a passing interest in Ladysmith as one of my ancestors fought there, he died of disease, rather than KIA and was only 16 at the time. The problem is, he changed his name on entry into the army, so I have very little information about him. But I did manage to visit Ladysmith when on a trip to Spionkop a few years ago.

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    1. Alex, great to hear from you! The tick-tick-dong idea should fit into almost any set of rules. The "clock" deck is separate anyway, so you can use it with non-card driven rules as well as card driven sets. I imagine you can also use the "clock" deck with various board games as well.

      Thanks also for the information on your ancestor. It can sometimes be an odd feeling (and, also, almost an uncomfortable feeling) recreating a battle or campaign at which an ancestor has fought. But it's also a rewarding one - the past seems much closer, the memory and remembrance so much sharper.

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