Sunday, May 3, 2015

A scrimmage at a border station

It's all gone a bit Maiwand frankly...

Afghanistan 1878: Lieutenant MacKenzie of the 117th Infantry ("The Royal Mallows") has been dispatched with a patrol into the Chamla valley on the Northwest Frontier.  In the valley there is a small abandoned outpost at the Multani crossroads.  Orders are to investigate the outpost and ascertain whether or not it can be rebuilt and re-occupied. 

Shall I have your uniform pressed and the usual Webley laid out Sir? 

MacKenzie surveys the field of battle

I've been itching to give "The Sword and the Flame" a go and the opportunity presented itself the other day.  We've played some games with these before but they've always been with the Sikh Wars variant, so this was the first time the rules were played straight. I sent my pal, the Unlikely Douglas MacKenzie, the above invitation and he responded that he would be delighted to come and play. 

We had a very pleasent lunch laid on by Mrs Kinch and then set to business.  I snapped a couple of pictures while we were at it. 

Suddenly the wily Afghan appears from ambush

The Mallows objective was to get to the end of the valley within 24 turns and determine what state of repair the outpost was in. Lt. MacKenzie, whose biography is something of a mystery to me (a Scottish connection, I think?), had been given a patrol of 18 men to accomplish this.  With his trusty Sergeant O'Savage at his side, what could possibly go wrong? 

As it turned out - plenty. MacKenzie sent two scouts forward and split his patrol into two ten man sub-sections.  The scouts spotted a group of tribesmen in ambush overlooking the road, but were immediately felled by jezail fire. 

Fine beard acting on that man

This did not sit well with MacKenzie who maneuvred to bring fire to bear on the tribesmen as he was damned if he was going to leave those chaps to the kyber knives. 

Egads - we've been over run

Unfortunately at this juncture, while Sgt. O'Savages men were moving to outflank the Afghans they were charged by a group of swordsmen who were also lying in ambush.  These wily frontier sorts charged and treacherous forgot the turn sequence, the net result being that the Mallows didn't get to shoot before they were engaged. Several were cut down and the remainder fled, I didn't realise my mistake until O'Savage was about to remove the stragglers from the board edge.

We resolved this by allowing them to rally automatically and they returned to rescue their wounded, but sadly not before O'Polemarch was put to death. Poor fellow. The Martini's of his friends took swift revenge and sent the surviving swordsmen running for the hills.

I wonder what's over there? 

MacKenzie reformed his reduced command and made for the hill overlooking the outpost. Spotting the Afghans inside, he re-read the rules on going prone and ordered his men to get their heads down.  

As this as this happened, a troop of spearmen lead by the tribal leader, moved to outflank them. 

Riddle 'em Ted!

The Mallows slithered back below the crest of the ridge and MacKenzie ordered independent fire as they were charged by the tribesmen. This is an optional rule in the Anniversary Edition of TSATF that allows the player to expend two ammunition counters for a bonus to his shooting.  This proved very wise.  If the spearmen had made it to contact the isolated and prone Mallows would have been in for rough handling. 

The torrent of fire downed half the spearmen and the tribal chieftain triggering a morale test for the whole force. 

The Mallows take charge

With the last native charge broken, MacKenzie sent his men crawling forward on their bellies, while continuing to snipe at the demoralised men in the outpost.  These took flight leaving the outpost and the field to MacKenzie and his men. 

A group photo of the Royal Mallows 

These are Italeri (ex-ESCI) figures that I picked up from eBay with some other painted Colonials. Not the nicest work in the world, but they'll serve. They came with some Gunners and Natal Native Horse - which I shall endeavour to work them into the mix somewhere.  I shall have to pick up some more British infantry if Lt. MacKenzie's career to advance much further. 

I enjoyed the game immensely, even if I did make a hash of the turn order, for which I feel quite guilty. Capability Savage showed up briefly for a glass, but was called away on urgent business. I hope that we'll be able to get a few more games in over the summer.  A very welcome distraction from my studies.

Now that MacKenzie  is in possession of the outpost, we shall have to see what comes. 

Although at quite a cost.  Five dead and three wounded - the tribesmen of the Chamla valley are not a gentry to be trifled with. 


  1. Great report and illustrations! Takes me back to my days when I first played TSATF with some friends decades ago. A little Zulu Wars action.

    1. I fear South Africa may be the mallows next posting. It definitely left me with a desire for more.

  2. A splendid start for McKenzie and the Mallows. A very dependable set of rules TSaTF. I like the steep hills in this context, the table looked just right.

    I like the shots of the room too!

    1. Thank you Ross - it was the debut of my brown mat. There's a lot to be said for tsatf. The room is coming along well - I just put up a new curtain rail.

  3. Stirring stuff as always, Mr Kinch.

  4. I've had been greedily eyeing Blue Moon's Afghan range for some time and from reading this report The Sword and the Flame would seem to be an eminently suitable set of rules for the period. Mind you, I need to bring my current project closer to conclusion before embarking on anything else! I must be firm...

  5. Great AAR , recognise the scenario from the rule book . TSATF must be one of my all time favourite rule sets , great fun to play and easy to use , Tony

    1. We got our heads around them fairly quickly despite the long gap. The question is now - what next?

  6. Replies
    1. Thank you very much Gordon. It was the brown mats first outting.

  7. There is a very good reason that "The Sword and the Flame" rules have been around for so many decades . . . they generally give a very entertaining game.

    They are still my 'go to' rules for Colonial actions.

    -- Jeff

    1. They don't get much play in my neck of the woods - but they certainly hold up. Very happy with them.

  8. We'll done to MacKenzie - stirring stuff!

  9. Extremely cool. Can't talk about the minis, but the overall aspect is really great :)

    1. Thank you very much Suber. The figures aren't in your leagues - but I'm glad to you liked it.

  10. Fine looking beard and table. A jolly good game for stout chaps.

  11. Nice looking game, these hills are so impressive!