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).
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