Sir Harry Flashman VC & Lt. St.John Cuthbert De Gormaine
(De Gormaine on right)
I was lucky enough to enjoy the signal honour of the company of young Du Gourmand, raconteur, pigeon fancier and man about town. We got a game of The Sword and the Flame in and rather well it went to. As with all wargames, I am still finding parts of the rules that I'm sure I've read, but seem to have no memory of.
Now as it happened, I discovered that a distant ancestor of Du Gourmands served in the Chamla Valley campaign. Lt. St. John Cuthbert De Gormaine of the Guards was transferred to Afghanistan having made Mayfair to hot to hold him. The reason for this sudden ejection from the fleshpots of London is not given, though several diarists have recorded it as "unspecified vice."
Who can say?
Note the careful use of a table cat.
Now regular readers will be aware that this blog is nothing if not committed to Old School Wargaming at it's heart and while I have noted with considerable pleasure the arrival of the bounce stick, the matchstick firing cannon and the scatter template amongst the blogging fraternity - I have been dismayed at the lack of table cats.
The table cat, vulgarly called "The Board Moggy" by the uninitiated is an invaluable assistance to the gentleman wargamer. Properly deployed, he can keep key parts of the battlefield warm, ensure that stray dice are batted on the floor where they belong and also serve as a navigational aid.
An aerial view
The scenario is as follows, after McKenzie's patrol, it was discovered that the Multani outpost was not in sufficiently good repair to act as a base of operations. Consequently, another fortification was constructed, the name of which is lost to history. A local Khan, on the losing side in the latest feud has hitched his wagon to the British star and has agreed to provide a platoon of irregulars to supplement the Crown forces in the valley. The Irregulars are returning from a brief exercise and Lt. De Gormaine has been given the job of drilling them. His objective is to hold the fort. It would also be politic if the Irregulars did well - but De Gormaine has little faith in those "Hairy Herberts".
That is if Teh Guardian is still issuing fatwas.
A sentry making for the fort at speed
I took up the cudgels as the wily Pathan, while Du Gourmand planned his defence. He had one platoon of the Royal Mallows, a 7lber manned by the Royal Artillery and a platoon of the Irregulars, who were rated as Egyptian regulars. Capability Savage had originally been nominated to play the Pathans, but was unable to stay. He made up for it by making up awful names for most of my command (which are thankfully lost to history) and issuing wisdom from on high.
Probably one of the best (and certainly the cleanest) was;
"C'mon lads, lets get at 'em - you can't spell Cali-phate without Cali-fight!"
Du Gourmand made use of the Scouts rules to place two sentries outside the fort, something I had not considered when setting up my forces. My original plan called for setting up a Pathan gun overlooking the fort, but masked from the fire of the Royal Artillery. I would then sting the British into leaving the fort and catch them in the open. My main objective was to ensure the treacherous dogs that allied themselves with the redcoats received condign punishment for their sins.
The Afghans unmask their gun
Du Gourmands use of scouts exposed my party of swordsmen before I had been able to spring the trap. With that in mind, I unmasked my gun and began lobbing shells at the Mallows. A thoroughly dismal turn of shooting resulted in one wounded Irishman. I enquired who had been hit, to which De Gormaine replied.
"It doesn't do to learn their names. Start doing that and a chap could get attached to them. Wouldn't do at all. Very upsetting."
It looked like I might be being sued by the Guards Division for libel as well as the Afghan ambassador. Oh dear.
The Mallows catch some swordsmen taking a liberty
While trying to outflank the fort, my party of swordsmen tried to take a short cut, which left them exposed to the fire of the Mallows. This crushing volley dropped nine out of twenty of my stout sons of the Prophet. Bugger.
Accurate return fire from the Royal Artillery causes difficulties
Not only that but De Gormaine managed to get the gunners to man handle their 7lber to the other side of the building. This unmasked my gun from their fire and they wasted no time in making their superior skill tell. Double bugger.
An aerial view
At this point, the Irregulars having made for the safety of the table cat (removed for ease of photography) were just about to make it inside the fort. The Royal Artillery were pummeling my poor gunners and the Mallows had sloshed by lads on the right rather badly. The wheels were definitely beginning to come off this wagon.
Concealed riflemen spring a half hearted ambush
So I sprang my ace in the hole, a unit of concealed riflemen who rose up and gave the Irregulars a volley at close range in march column.
And only managed to score three hits. I was thoroughly disgusted. I had hoped to pin this unit and finish it off.
Casualties are not heavy, but critical
A lucky draw on the casualty cards downed the Irregulars leader, wounded, but out of action. This might just work.
Hooting from the Afghan lines
Finally things were beginning to go the way of the sons of the Prophet, soon we would send these dogs to the grave.
Murphy bolts for the wall
Whenwhile, the second sentry from the Mallows decided not to risk running for the gate and started to climb the wall. Meanwhile, the Royal Artillery failed to silence my gun.
De Gormaine was unsurprised, "What does he expect dressing in blue like that? Might as well employ a bloody tradesman."
The second half of the ambush also fails to cut the mustard
But this rally of Afghan luck was short lived. I sprang my cavalry at the flank of the Irregulars led by none other by than the fierce chieftain (and noted dancer) Ifyacancan Khan. I can only presume that this mighty warrior had indulged in a sneaky bacon sandwich early in the weak, because fortune was not smiling on him today. A botched charge roll (a total of 8 on 5d6) left him hanging in the air, short of his target and worrying close to the Mallows.
Meanwhile the swordsmen moved around the flank
Bloodied, but unconcerned about those of their fellows that had departed for paradise, the swordsmen moved to outflank the gun. The Royal Artillery men, tradesmen though they were, had plied their bloody trade well and made mincemeat of my gun before I could withdraw it.
At least I was now in the dead ground to the gun and would be able to see how the gunners liked a taste of cold steel.
A lone watcher
Meanwhile, a lone figure watched from the hill (packing material from Mrs. Kinch's steam mop - women ask for the strangest things for Valentines Day), taking careful note of all that occurred.
A remnants of the Afghan cavalry pile in
Ifyacancan Khan pursued the Irregulars into the fort, smashing down the door and massacring the wounded that had been left by the Irregulars who had rushed to stop the swordsmen who were scrambling over the undefended wall.
What isn't pictured is the absolutely hammering they took on the way in. The Mallows used Independent Fire (using two ammunition tokens) to pour lead into their flank, emptying half the saddles in a single turn.
Swordsmen cross the wall, the Royal Artillery are shot down
While the Gunners were drawing swords and readying to face the charge, the Afghan Rifles had scurried forward into the crags over looking the fort. They opened fire on the surprised Gunners, laying them all out. It was a bad day for the Royal Artillery, the sergeant in charge and his corporal were killed. The other two gunners were wounded, one of whom subsequently died of his wounds and the other had to be shipped home to Blighty.
As I have aspirations to running a sort of loose campaign, I've been tracking the casualties taken by the Mallows and friends. I doubt De Gormaine will be in good standing with the Gunners after that display.
Could lead to a touch of frostiness in the Mess.
The Afghan cavalry failed their morale and began to withdraw. It was all down to the Swordsmen.
The Irregulars earn their keep
The Swordsmen faced a fight of almost equal numbers, unfortunately a poor straggling roll and a failure to close left their leader out on his own in advance of the rest of the party.
He promptly joined the Choir Eternal in a hail of Snider fire, his shattered command were then pinned against the wall by the vengeful Irregulars, who I suspect dealt with them with the gentility and kindness that they are famous for.
With Ifyacancan Khan fleeing, the gun silenced and the Rifles taking casualties from fire from the Mallows, I decided to withdraw.
On mature reflection, I think I would call this a minor British victory. The Irregulars took a pasting and were on half strength at the end of the game, one figure away from being broken, which would have taken the game to a draw. The crushing losses of the RA turned what would have been a total washout into a loss, but not a complete disaster for Ifyacancan Khan.
Du Gourmand summed up the situation with his usual sangfroid. "Well, I'll be writing this one up as a victory." It was his first game for The Sword and the Flame, which he called "Civilized Force on Force". I am looking forward to the next one.