Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, The Men Who Would be Kings, 28mm
This week was a strange one at the club, with most of the usual suspects either unable to come in, or else playing other things. So, it was left to German Michael and I to do something quick and simple. He’d wanted to run the boardgame Junta, but plotting coups between two people isn’t particularly rewarding, so instead we used my North-West Frontier toys, and played a small game of The Men Who Would be Kings. Michael laid out the table, and declare the wanted to play the Pathans. You can see why – the table was dominated by my Pathan hill fort – a Christmas present to myself last year. I was starting to regret the purchase…We played the game on a 6×4 foot table, with a dry wadi on one side, a hill and the fort in the far corner, and a smattering of pine woods, rocks, buildings and fields. Most of the table though, was open. My objective was to scout the table. We’d divided it into six 2×2 foot squares, and in each one we placed a marker. I had to pass through all six to win. As Michael placed two on either side of his fort, this wasn’t going to be particularly easy…Michael deployed around the fort, with his gun on the ramparts, along with an infantry unit, and the rest nearby, on the valley floor. In reserve were two units of Pathan irregular cavalry. Two of his five irregular infantry units had modern rifles – the rest had older rifles. For my part I had three infantry units – two of Sikhs and one of Gurkhas – a mountain gun, and a unit of Bengal Lancers. All my troops were classed as regulars.We advanced into the valley, and the Pathan gun began firing, and hitting. In fact it pretty much halted one of my Sikh units in its tracks. The rest had cover to protect them, and so continued to advance through woods and buildings, until the fort was looming over them. On the way they collected two objective markers – one on the woods on my right, the other in the field in the centre of the valley. Over on my left my unit of 8 Bengal Lancers rode forward to capture a third objective markers. Michael responded by sending his cavalry to deal with them. With this game its often about getting a charge in first. Michael managed it, but his die rolling was appalling, and while we both took casualties, he had to retire. I charged home then, and the lance bonus made sure the Pathan unit was wiped out to a man. Still, Michael had one more cavalry unit, and he launched it in a charge. Or rather, he would have, if he hadn’t failed his activation test!So, the Bengal lancers charged again, and the last Pathan cavalry unit was wiped out. This though, cost be three-quarters of my unit. All the remaining two lancers could do in the game was to ride up and capture a fourth objective marker. That just left the two on each side of the fort. That though, was going to be a tougher prospect, especially now that one of my Sikh units had been badly battered. It managed to unpin itself, and take shelter behind a wall, but it was down to just four men – one third strength – and effectively out of the game. That left me with my gun, a unit of Sikhs, and a unit of Gurkhas. My first Sikh unit got into a firefight with one of the Pathan tribesmen units armed with modern rifles. Soon my Sikh mountain gun joined in, and eventually the Pathan unit was wiped out. Michael had two more though, plus one in the fort. By now my Gurkhas had advanced within range of the Pathans hiding behind a big rock outcrop in front of the fort. While they pinned them frontally, my four-man Sikh unit worked around their flank, and from the cover of a stone wall they began blazing away. the enemy were soon pinned down, and taking a lot of casualties. So far so good. Things seemed to be going well in the centre too – my other Sikh unit was still at full-strength, and it began peppering the last unpinned Pathan unit in front of the fort. However, that’s when Michael struck gold. I was moving my mountain gun forward through a field, and so it was out in the open. Michael fired his gun and hit my one, killing two of its four-man crew. that really clapped a stopper on my plan to shoot my way into the fort. Now all I could do was to assault it – and time was running out. So, the situation was this. Michael had two half-strength Pathan units pinned down in front of the fort. My Gurkhas on the right and Sikhs on the left were both at full strength – or nearly so – and were pouring fire into those two Pathan units. My other units were now too weak to count for much. So, after finishing off the Pathans, my plan was to advance on the fort using the rocky outcrops as cover, and then to rush the gate, keeping close to the fort’s wall so their gun couldn’t fire down on me.I’d begun the advance too, but by then it was clear we’d run out of time. So, the Mamund Valley Force withdrew, and the evil Shanider Khan lived to fight another day. The game, of course, was a Pathan win, as I’d only got four of my six objectives. A fifth was within reach, but to capture the last I’d have had to take the fort, and that really wasn’t happening. The game worked smoothly, and we had great fun with the leader traits too. Each unit had a leader whose rating was used to activate his men. Most of the Indian army were rated highly – the Pathans less so. That’s why Michael’s second cavalry unit failed to charge at a crucial moment, or why he had so much trouble recovering the morale of his pinned units. His best unit though, was his gun, whose gun captain was so skilled he even had a special trait, allowing him to re-roll a failed hit. So, a nice little game – 30 points a side for anyone who cares about that sort of thing, and a real joy to play.