Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, Legends of the West (modified), 28mm
Once every four months the “League of Gentlemen Wargamers” gather somewhere for a big game. The November one is usually played in Stonehaven, just south of Aberdeen, and is usually less serious than the two earlier games of the year. This one, laid on by Peter Nicholson, was set in the Indian Mutiny, and used a modified version of the Legends of the West cowboy rules, modified of course for such things as stampeding elephants and sunstroke.Twelve players took part, six on each side, while Peter did his best to umpire the colonial mayhem that ensued.We actually had two tables. The main one was about 16 feet by 16 feet, with two pop-up hatches in it so that players could reach their figures. for game purposes these hatches were declared to be impenetrable jungle.General Wheeler (played by Charles Grant) set up in Cawnpore in the centre (the town with the turquoise mosque in it), while various Indian Mutineer factions began in towns around the periphery of the table. these included one Indian Maharajah who remained neutral – or at least he did until the British arrived, when he quickly hoisted the Union Jack and joined the fray. Dave O’Brien was a natural choice for the backstabbing, unscrupulous turncoat.On the second table – an 8 foot by 6 foot one, I was besieging the British residency in Lucknow, defended by Kevin Calder. Unfortunately Sir Colin Campbell’s relief column appeared on turn 2, and as the local mutineers I spent the rest of the day trying to hold my ground against a British onslaught. The residency proved too tough a nut to crack, but I whittled most of the garrison down – and had my own force depleted in the process. One building was fought over for six hours of real game time – surely the longest-running melee any of us have ever fought!In the end it came down to a fight on the steps of my scratch-built Dilikusha, where the mutineers and their commander were finally cut down, although they took a spectacular number of British troops down with them. One of the quirky Warhammer-esque rules we used was the “surgeon”, who gave a saving throw for up to three killed British troops who fell within 12″ of him. Those two surgeons were the key to victory in Lucknow, damn them!Over on the main table Cawnpore was attacked from four sides, but Charles held on, even though he was driven back to the main building – a pink-roofed monstrosity dubbed “The Call Centre” (these days most British corporate help lines are answered from Indian call centres). Peter McCarroll assaulted the town from one side, and Dale Smith from the other. Peter was slightly distracted by the appearance of the British behind him – commanded by Dave Imrie), and an assault in his flank by the back-stabbing Maharaja.The Rani of Jhansi) was kept from the fray by the appearance of another British column led by Andrew Nicholson, Peter’s brother. In other words, by the end of the first day, Charles was still holding out in his call centre, and fighting was raging around Cawnpore, on all parts of the big table. It was utter mayhem!I actually had to leave at the end of the Saturday, but the fighting continued until Sunday afternoon, by which stage it was clear that the Great Mutiny had been thoroughly crushed. An attempt to recapture Lucknow from the British ended in disaster for the Mutineers, while everywhere else the forces of the Empire swept all before them, relieving the beleaguered garrison of Lucknow, and crushing the last pockets of Mutineer resistance – all the while aided and abetted by their turncoat Indian lackey.The rules might have been quirky, but at least they were simple, and everyone had a great time. for most players this wasn’t a period they were particularly interested in, but the game was both spectacular and enjoyable – exactly how a colonial game should be, and rarely is. My hat goes off to Peter Nicholson for organising such a great weekend, and for playing the umpire.