Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Battle in the Chamla Valley - circa 1879

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". 

Considering what he calls his own men, the Hairy Herberts isn't actually too bad.  Capability Savage on the other hand is quite capable of coming up with names that would have this blog the subject of a fatwa from The Guardan.

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. 


  1. A very entertaining report! Quite old school. Love the excellent use of the table cat.

    1. Thank you very much. Getting an appropriate table cat is increasingly difficult these days.

  2. Hiya CK,

    A splendid little affair with much doing of derringer and manly japes. I am delighted that the the table cat acquitted itself with its usual nonchalance and suspect that the legend that is Du Gourmand will have a stirring chapter to add to his memoirs.

    Great fun for all concerned and one noted the exemplary use of the steam mop packaging.

    More of the same please - my early morning catch up of the world of blogdom - not to mention those readers that appreciate the finer points of wargaming skill and tactical ingenuity - was made that much more enjoyable!

    All the best,


    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it. The packaging was a last minute thing when I realised I'd run out of hills. I actually think I might keep it.

  3. TSATF always gives a good game ! , Tony

    1. At least I've always found it so. Benedicamus Domino.

  4. Conrad Kinch,

    A very enjoyable battle report which shows that with the right rules and the right scenario, you can stage a great wargame in a relatively small space and with not a huge number of model soldiers.

    All the best,


    1. Absolutely Bob. I've been thinking about raising a single battalion of British regulars, either the Mavericks or the Royal Mallows. They should be plenty for almost any game. I think a trip to the Sudan might be next.

  5. Enjoyed your write-up, Mr. Kinch. "The Sword and the Flame" (written and published in the 1970's) almost always gives a good game. And at its age certainly has to count as at least semi Old School.

    It is lots of fun to play, which is why it is still the most-played Colonial rule set (according to a number of polls).

    I also loved the comment on "learning their names" . . . good stuff indeed.

    -- Jeff

    1. General Du GourmandJune 12, 2015 at 1:23 AM

      I take the same approach with my students

    2. Have you lost any students to jezail fire recently?

    3. Jeff, it was good fun and lots more to come I hope.

  6. A very enjoyable read and I have to confess I have been quite neglective with my use of table cats. I'll make sure to fix that as soon as can be.

    1. JB,

      I thought it might be rude to mention it directly, but I think they add tone to what otherwise might be a vulgar brawl.

  7. The best Colonial games do call for a table cat and the young fella seems to have done a capitol job. Hector would be proud of him.

    The new troops and mountain look good as does the fort in the Packin Pass.

    Love the cards.

    1. Hector shall always be a shining light in the pantheon of table cats.

      The cards were a gift from a Hungarian friend. They are rather pretty aren't they?

  8. Lovely, I enjoyed this one pretty much, and it certaily looks like you did too!

    1. I'm glad we entertained you. More adventures on the border lands to come I hope.

  9. Where have you been hiding all that terrain?


    1. The mats are all stored on top of the table. The hills are my standard hills, a box of lichen and a one a4 file box worth of aquarium vegetation completes the set. It doesn't take up too much space as it happens.

  10. Upon following your Cancan Khan link, I was pleasantly surprised to discover, instead of the educational link that I was expecting, an inspirational video of gentleman pensioners and their charming fitness instructors taking dancercise. I may try to introduce this therapy to the NHS :-)

    Kind regards,