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The Edinburgh Wargames Journal
Issue 35 - June 2009
Periods featured in this Issue: Darkest Africa, Marlburian, Seven Years War & 1938: The Third Civil War (all 28mm)
Clash in the Congo, Darkest Africa, 1890's (In the Heart of Africa) 28mm
I've said it before - you can't expect a sensible game with a set of Chris Peers' rules, but you can be sure it'll be fun. This rare foray into "Darkest Africa was no exception. A Belgian expedition (led by Bill Gilchrist) had to cross the table, where they were due to rendezvous with their Somali allies (run by Colin Jack). The local tribes - the Ngoni on one side and the HeHe on the other - were out to stop them. The game began with the Ngoni player (Hugh Wilson) learning a crucial lesson about European firepower - it can be deadly! His warriors were slaughtered to a man, and his command was reduced to a witchdoctor, lurking in the elephant grass. That left the HeHe. their army was divided into two wings. the left horn (run by Mikowai Staszek) braved the crocodiles, forded the river (losing some warriors on the way), then hid in a patch of jungle, waiting for an opportunity to attack.
The right-hand horn (run my me - Angus) saw off a charge by Somali horsemen, then went on to drive the Somalis from the He He village they'd occupied. From there the only was was forward, across the ford and into the remnants of the Somali tribesmen. Those HeHe warriors are good, and in two turns they'd chopped their way through the Somali opposition. The Belgian player had been looking pretty smug after his success against the Ngoni, but at this point everything started to unravel. He split his force, to protect his baggage. The left-hand horn of the He He decided to charge the isolated Belgian unit. Simultaneously, Ngoni reinforcements appeared (led by Dougie Trail), who rolled up the last remaining unit of Somalis.
The HeHe took a lot of casualties, but once they reached stabbing spear range of the Belgian askari they came into their own, and the Belgian detachment was cut down to a man. Then the Ngoni witchdoctor made his move. He can force a morale check on native units, and in two turns he "spooked" the Belgian baggage porters, who fled off the table. The remaining Belgians formed up to fend off the HeHe and Ngoni who by now had chopped up the last of the Somalis. The Belgian askaris caused a few casualties, but it wasn't enough to halt the tribal wave. The game ended as the last of the Belgians were submerged by a wave of locals, wielding nasty stabbing spears. You don't get much more decisive than that!
Its been a while since our last African outing, and for an occasional, rather silly game, this hits the mark. The rules are simple, fun, and have lots of period flavour. Like any colonial era game though, its all a balance between small, well-armed troops, and marauding hordes of poorly-armed but deadly natives. It isn't exactly "PC", but it is darned enjoyable, escapist fun!
Darkest Africa page In the Heart of Africa playsheet
Battle of Malplaquet, 1709 (Beneath the Lilly Banners) 28mm
By anyone's reckoning, this was a big battle. The "League of Gentlemen Wargamers' refight of the Battle of Malplaquet (1709) was held over a weekend, up in Kirriemuir, in Scotland. We used 140 18-man infantry battalions in the game (80 Allied, 60 French), plus 150 6-man cavalry squadrons (90 Allied, 60 French), and 44 guns (24 Allied, 20 French). That's over 3,500 figures! It was fought out on two large tables, one about 16 x 16 feet (the French right), and the other 14 x 8 feet (the French left), plus a bolt-on to accommodate the arrival of the Allied flanking force. In a few places we pulled the tables apart a bit, to allow access to the centre of the tables, and this, plus the fact the battlefield was divided into two tables meant that it never seemed quite so big at the time! It always amazes me how, in a game this size, people concentrate on their own little sector.
The French right, looking east from the edge of the first table.
The French left, looking north, from behind the Bois de Sars.
Left: French defences in the Bois de Sars Right: French defences on the right, facing the Prince of Orange's Dutch
If you don't know much about the historic battle, it was the last of the Duke of Marlborough's four great victories. It involved an attack on a strongly-fortified French line, which had a bulge in front of its left side - the defended outpost of the Bois de Sars. Historically, this is where Marlborough concentrated his attack, while on the Allied left the Prince of Orange pinned the French in place by launching repeated (and extremely costly) attacks on the French right. The French denuded their centre to bolster their flanks, and this is where Marlborough launched the Earl of Orkney, who seized the redoubts guarding the French centre. Marlborough also sent a flanking force which hooked round the French left flank, and emerged behind (to the south) of the Bois de Sars. The climax of the historical battle was a massed cavalry battle, which the Allies eventually won through weight of numbers. It was a very costly victory. the question was, would our refight reflect what actually happened, or would we forge our own epic path?
The cavalry reserves (Allied on left, French on right) needed their own separate tables!
Well, after two days of play - 16 hours of gaming, involving 14 people (7 a side), the battle was still undecided. The Prince of Orange's Dutch were launched in brave but futile attacks 0- just like the real thing - and the French force in the Bois de Sars was ejected, although that took an inordinate time. The French proved reluctant to follow the historical example and strip their centre of troops, forcing the Earl of Orkney to launch his British and Hanovarians against a strongly held French line. The flanking force was stalled by the French reserves, and Lottum's Prussians launched repeated attacks, but they failed to pierce the French line. Finally, the cavalry battle only began during the last 1 1/2 hours of play, and when the time came to pack up the French were still holding the Allied horse at bay. The main organiser declared the battle a French victory, albeit a very marginal one. then again, he spent the weekend as a French commander, so he might have been a tad biased! I think it was more of a draw - but a very costly one.
While there aren't any plans to stage a refight to decide the matter, the most important thing is that we all took part in a thoroughly memorable game, and got to command vast quantities of lead in a furious, fast paced and thoroughly enjoyable recreations of one of the great battles of history.
For more on the refight, and a lot more pictures, visit the Malplaquet page
War of the Grand Alliance page
An encounter in Poland, 1758 (Die Kriegskunst) 28mm
Sometimes games don't go according to plan. This one was one of those, a small encounter battle between the Russians and the Prussians, where an outnumbered detachment of Russian grenadiers and Cossacks tried to hold on to a vital road junction. the aim was to escort through a pay chest - actually, in our game we used the vodka wagon, but the idea was the same! The Prussians' aim was to capture it, and to block the road.
The game began with two regiments of Prussian hussars appearing, from opposite ends of the table. My Cossacks have developed quite a reputation, so I wasn't worried. True to form they saw off the Red Hussars, but the Green ones were unscreened, and rode right round the table and blocked the road the Russians needed to keep clear. Worse, a unit of Prussian grenadiers did the same, pinning the Russian escort in the narrow streets of a small village. A detachment of Russian horse grenadiers was driven off by the remaining hussars, but they soon rallied, and bested the Green hussars in a second scrap. By that time though, things were looking bleak. The Russian column was still trapped, and worse, the Prussians captured the vodka!
As the game drew to a close the Prussians were closing in, held back only by the Russian grenadiers and the Cossacks, who unsurprisingly decided not to follow orders and charge into the fray again. With time running out I reluctantly conceded the game to the Prussians, giving them their first victory in several games. Still, my horse grenadiers did well for a change (they rarely do), and the fiery reputation of my Cossacks was upheld!
Seven Years War page Die Kriegskunst playsheet
Die Kriegskunst Discussion Group (off site)
Coldstream, Anglo-Scottish Border, 1938 (The Great War) 28mm
This was another of those silly Alternative history games, part of Colin Jack's Third Civil War campaign, set in 1938. I won't go into the background, as I've explained the premise before. the good thing about it is that you get to use funky inter-war tanks. the bad thing is that - well, it's very silly...
This game involved a raid across the Anglo-Scottish border by the Royalist Army, supported by the British Union of Facists (BUF). The border was defended by a small garrison of the Scottish Republican Army, while reinforcements were somewhere off the table to the north.
The attack wasn't too successful. the Royalist commanders understandably used the BUF as cannon fodder, sending them across the River Tweed to clear the town of Coldstream on the far bank. They were supported by a unit of Belgian facists, who were deemed equally expendable. Following on behind were the regulars of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The main royalist objective was a supply depot on the Scottish side of the river, and the defenders grimly held on, while a convoy of trucks were used to move the munitions before the raiders could capture them. two of the three trucks were either captured or destroyed, and the depot was soon in Royalist hands.
The facists had a harder time clearing the town, as the local militia fought hard to defend hearth and home. the business of clearing the town stalled, and it was clear that the regulars would have to be sent in to finish the job. It was that crucial moment that the Scottish reinforcements arrived, led by the Earl of Kingarth. More importantly, his column led by a brace of medium tanks. The Royalists had nothing that could stop the tanks, save a few machine guns. they ran amok, and within a few turns it was clear that the raiders had no option but to pull back. the game ended as they tried to extricate themselves as best they could, harassed by the Scottish armour. A veil was drawn over the whole sorry proceedings, as the Royalist commanders vowed to search the internet for some armoured support, before the next game.
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