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Return to the Tochi Valley, 1898


Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, The Men Who Would be Kings, 28mm

We were going to do a big Sudan game this evening, but various things conspired to foil the scheme. So, we scaled things back, kept the game in the same period, and moved it 2,500 miles to the north west. This one was set in the Tochi Valley, on the North-West Frontier, and featured a punitive British expedition against a village belonging to a warlike band of Dawari Pathans.The scenario was taken straight from the rule book. A 24-point force of Imperial troops appeared on one short end of the table, while 12 points of Pathans started in the village. Another 12 points-worth would appear from the opposite short table edge. The 6×4 foot table featured a five building village astride a tributary of the Tochi River, and a scattering of hills, pine woods and rocky enclosures. Memo to self – must get some decent NW Frontier terrain next year.Anyway, the Imperial objective was to destroy buildings – that was the “punitive” part of the scenario – while the locals had to stop them. The more buildings you destroy the higher the victory points, while points are lost for Imperial units broken or destroyed. Oh, it also had to be done in 12 turns, before other tribesmen came to the rescue. The Imperial players Alisdair and Peter spent their 24 points on a unit of 8 regular cavalry (British lancers), two units of 12 regular infantry (one of Highlanders, the other of Sikhs), and a gun (Sikh mountain gun). On Turn 1 this lot appeared on the eastern (short) table edge.Meanwhile Bart and I were playing the Pathans, and opted for two units of 12 irregular infantry (Pathans) in the village, backed up by a gun (mountain gun with poorly-drilled crew). Coming on from the western (short) table edge was two units of 8 irregular cavalry, and another unit of 12 irregular infantry (all of which were Pathans). So, the forces was deployed and the British entered the table on Turn 1. The great game was afoot!It began with the Highland and Sikh infantry advancing towards the woods on either side of the village, the gun deploying on a convenient hill, and the lancers cantering forward. This cavalry advance ended later that turn when a unit of Pathans opened up on them, killing three riders. The lancers withdrew to a safe distance, and tried to recover from being pinned.  This was sort of important, as they represented a quarter of the Imperial force on the table.This though, was the best that unit did. the Sikh mountain gun opened up, and started lobbing shells into the nearest building in the village. This happened to be the one occupied by those Pathans, and when the gunners accumulate enough die pips – 10 I think – the building is destroyed. I missed the first round of shooting as I was in the bar (not a particularly Pathan thing to do), so I missed it. So, imagine my surprise the next turn when the building collapsed, burying my dozen Pathans in the rubble! So, this evened the odds a little. The gunners turned to the next gun, and meanwhile I moved up my own Pathan gun. It wasn’t likely to be so successful, but it might do some good. Meanwhile the Pathan reinforcements came on, the infantry heading towards the ford across the river, and the cavalry heading around the southern side of the village. This of course gave the Sikh gunners a new target. The Pathan cavalry were being run by Bart, and he did so with typical Polish flair, launching them straight at the enemy. In fact, one unit contemplated a full-on charge of the Light Brigade attack, charging the guns. Instead the cavalry were wiped out by the Imperial infantry on the flanks, helped along by the gun to their front. By now the Highlanders were ensconced in a little wood to the south of the village – the ideal place to blaze away at the second unit of cavalry. It took enough casualties to be driven off, as did a supporting unit of infantry. By now the Sikh gunners had turned another two buildings into rubble. it was now the end of Turn 12 though, and time to count up the points. it actually turned out a draw – a result everyone felt happy with. All in all it was a good little game, and could have gone either way. The rules too, were a delight.

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