Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Battle of Naushera

I picked up this up from Robert over at the Wargaming Command Post.  I've had a copy of "The Sword and the Flame" for quite some time, but have never actually sat down and played a game. Tim Tilson's book covers the First and Second Sikh Wars and is a bit of departure from The Sword and the Flame's comfort zone as it takes place in the first half of the Victorian era rather than the more typical second. The units are smaller (eight men as opposed to twenty) and there a couple of special rules (pausing to reload muskets being a notable one), but the bones of the game seem relatively intact.

Now as it happened, I don't have the figures to do the Sikh Wars and probably won't have for quite some time. Formerly this would have been fatal to the prospect of getting any games played - however, I fell in with young Unlikely McKenzie while returning home from evensong and he pointed out that there was a considerable overlap between the Sikh campaigns and the rise and fall of the Princely State of Kaala-Akaata.

I was pondering this with some skepticism when he produced a copy of "With Fire and Sword in India: battles and skirmishes with the Irish Brigade in the states of Chintal and Kaala-Akaata" by Sir. Felbrigg McKenzie. On leafing through this delicate hardback, I discovered that there were considerable similarities. Douglas very kindly loaned me the book (I believe the author is a distant ancestor) and I intend to read it further. In the mean time, I learned of the battle of Naushera which occurred between the forces of the state of Chintal and the Rajah of Kaala-Akaata in 1818.

A somewhat fanciful depiction of the battle of Naushera

Taken from "With Fire and Sword in India: battles and skirmishes with the Irish Brigade in the states of Chintal and Kaala-Akaata" by Sir. Felbrigg McKenzie.  

"The battle of Naushera was a product of an expansionist impulse in the princely state of Kaala-Akaata. There is little doubt that while the Rajah himself was no enthusiast for military adventures, he considered them  preferable to unrest at home.  In the autumn of 1814, Belit Rao, a great favourite of the Rajah's seized the city of Halla from the Rajah on Chintal.  The Chintalese unable to resist the steady European trained infantry of the Kaala-Akaatans and the considerable siege train surrendered. In the intervening years, the city was taxed heavily and in the Autumn of 1818, Rao ordered that the city be illuminated in his honour on the occasion of the Royal wedding. Rao departed the city to attend the festivities taking a considerable number of his infantry with him.  The inhabitants of the city seeing their chance rose in revolt. 

The revolt was led by Azar Khan, a nobleman who had raised a Corps of Ghazi from his Mohammedan co-religionists.  These had been driven beyond endurance by the exactions of the Rajah's tax collectors coupled with the insults of the apostles of the Weasel God, who were to exert such a baleful influence on the history of the state. 

Belit Rao returned at the head of his army to find Azar Khan occupying entrenchments outside the city.  The Rajah of Chintal had made no attempt to relieve the rebels as it was believed that he did not wish to attract the ire of the Kala-Akaatans before he could be sure that uprising would succeed. 

Belit Rao, who was a whiley strategist, had hoped to delay attacking the defences outside the city as his siege train had yet to arrive. However, his army was accompanied by a number of Sredni-Vashtar cultists who began to speak loudly that Rao was secretly in league with the Rajah of Chintal and that this was the cause of the delay.  Rao who had  been warned that he might be murdered in his tent began a precipitate and  sanguinary attack."  


The Unlikely Douglas McKenzie moving his troops forward

With the War Room out of commission and with a special dispensation from Mrs Kinch, I set up in the kitchen, extending the table with some small tables that I generally use for painting. The Unlikely Douglas McKenzie took the part of the rapacious Kala-Akaatan's while I commanded the Chintalese.  McKenzie refused his flank and decided to concentrate his forces on my left hoping to punch through the entrenchments on the heights.

McKenzie's cavalry thunders forward

Overall with a little care, we found the rules worked well.  The card activation kept things moving along and the shooting was interesting.  The chances of a hit were quite low, but those hits that occurred could be game changers. Tom Tilson's book uses eight man units, which means that carrying wounded isn't really practical, though we found that the melee, which is particularly bloody, made for some interesting game play choices.  We particularly liked the rolling to charge and rolling to stand mechanic. A game we'll play again I suspect.

I had expected to find using single based figures annoying, but the game moved so quickly that it never really became a factor.

These are poor camera phone snaps as I was too occupied with the game to dig out my camera. McKenzies cavalry have advanced in a hail of fire from the Halla militia, which levelled almost a complete squadron. However, the second line swept over their entrenchments and put the defenders to flight.

The Kala-Akaatan cavalry exacting a fearful toll
(Zvesda Turkish lancers, though we counted them as regular sword armed cavalry)

We discovered that units on the flanks are particularly brittle as they run towards the nearest table edge and this means that they often have no chance to rally. Unfortunately, those cavalrymen swept into the militia unit beside them and in the process unhorsed Azar Khan.  Records are sketchy and it is not believed that he survived the battle.

At this point, McKenzie had pierced my line and his regulars were beginning to get uncomfortably close to my militia. Not only that, but on turn three, two units of Sredni Vashtar cultists jogged forward from his back line (Lord knows where they had been before that, probably pulling the legs off spiders or something) while my Ghazi's were proving elusive.


Rather concerned by the appearance of the red clad cultists, my militia and artillery hammered them causing an unlikely number of hits and sending them scurrying for the rear. Unfortunately there were also rather a lot of regular infantry left...

...and my army failed it's major morale roll which meant it couldn't move.

The Ghazi arrive

With my left flank almost completely smashed, I managed to get my Ghazi on the field. They attempted to close with McKenzie's regulars who were crossing my defences. Sadly, it proved too little too late as McKenzie's regulars dropped their muskets and closed with the tulwar.

The struggle rages back and forth

Unfortunately, McKenzie's regular managed to overcome my Ghazi who were pinned by another failed major morale roll. It was a savage combat that cost him one of his regular infantry paltans (battalion), but left my reinforcements either dead or fleeing for the rear. 

The Kaal Akaatan guns see the threat...

....but too late, my cavalry manage to sweep toward and wipe out the undefended guns. Both batteries were taken one by my cavalry and one by counter-battery fire. 

A close range firefight

With my Ghazi's nearly broken and McKenzie's regulars in my entrenchments, the battle degenerated into a vicious close range firefight that ended when he managed to convince his chaps to charge and finish me. When we counted up the victory points at the end, it was closer than I anticipated - 8-6.  

I enjoyed the game and would definitely play it again - though I wonder what it would be like with fewer, but 
larger units.  We finished up by cleaning the table as Mrs Kinch had made a magnificent Sunday roast which we made short work of.  The rest of the evening was spent in convival chat.  During which McKenzie mentioned that he had recorded another HP Lovecraft story, in this case "The Nameless City". Should you care to listen to it (and you should it's rather good) you can find it here.  


  1. So where does one acquire this "Sikh Wars" scenario book?

    -- Jeff

    1. Depends on which side of the pond one is on. There is a link to the British distributor at the beginning of the post.

  2. Conrad Kinch,

    A very interesting and different 'colonial' wargame! Thank you for sharing it with your regular blog readers.

    All the best,


    1. You're very welcome Bob and I definitely think we've taken to the game, though it will require a few more playthroughs before we're really comfortable with it.

      I was surprised to discover how little there is available in English on the campaigns in Chintal and Kaala-Akaata. Thus far McKenzie's book is the only one I can find. Alan Mallinson has dealt with Chintal in fiction, but there's nothing else to be had!

  3. Looks like a very credible recreation of the original event.

    Strikes me that any thing that covers the Sikh wars would be suitable for various Anglo-Mahratta campaigns.

  4. I was actually going to give those a shot with Command & Colours, though I shall have to get more Irregular Cavalry.

    Bloody Pindari - there are millions of 'em!

  5. Very nice report! Looks like it was a fun little game. I have played TSATF many years ago and have the rules (repurchased more recently). I like the idea of this variant.

  6. I learned something here! I thought this Kaala-Akarta place was one of them there Imagi-Nations, and was wondering if I had time to create the maharajate of Kurripooda-Jamjar...

    Interesting and lively little set piece action. Just the thing for a play test, and, by the sound of a it, a very successful one.

  7. Well, I had completely missed this post. Thanks a lot, and I think I now want to play something in India.