Saturday, March 28, 2020

Explosive Project (3 - incl The New Zealand Wars)

It was whilst writing up the last couple of postings, and thinking about this one, that the thought occurred to me to draw up a rough schematic of where the original RED vs BLUE 'Little Wars' eventually led. Not all of what is shown here is contemporaneous with the third quarter of the 19th century, when the conflicts between Azuria and Ruberia are meant to take place.

The affairs of Harad and Tchagai happen a century later, as does the bickering among the Latin States on the other side of the Hypermetric Ocean. Gatonegro fights for its independence from Reina de Oro in the first half of the 19th Century, and the wars between Austereia and Severeia two centuries before even that. But it's the same world, even though not all of it has been realised in armies built and campaigns fought. Not all the projects are mine, although I am or have been one way or another associated with them. I have ... sort of ... expropriated the famous Madasahatta island, renamed Madasagascar.

Oronegro is the brainchild of Gowan Ditchburn, one of his blogs being devoted to it (see here). The Harad (linked here)  project was created by 'Evil Uncle Brian', to which Tchagai was added when I finally succumbed to Brian's invitation (bordering on wheedling) to join it. Tchagai has been the scene of my recent (and as yet unfinished) 'Long Live the Revolution' campaign set in the mid-to-late 1940s. The narrative so far may be seen from here...(link).  The core idea for the 'Benighted Continent (Aithiops)' campaign belongs to 'Jacko' of 'Painting Little Soldiers'.

I was going to add a little more, here, about these campaign projects, but...

...I received by way of response to the first of these 'Exploding Project' postings some very interesting remarks by one 'Roughneck', a fellow Kiwi who expressed interest in developing a project based upon the New Zealand wars. It's a good thing I check out the 'for moderation' archive from time to time, else I would have missed it. Now, we both agreed that a rather high proportion of the battles involved attacks, usually unsuccessful, against fortified places. Here's what he had to say.

Hi Archduke
Long time follower of your blog. As a fellow Kiwi I also have a particular interest in our own New Zealand Wars but like Steve have yet to find a ruleset that really suits the conflict. As Ive gotten older I have found myself drawn to less complex games and have become quite a fan of The Portable Wargame rules. Given the varied nature of the New Zealand Wars I actually think TPW might just do the trick. I feel that to really capture the flavour of the whole conflict it probably needs to be played as a series of campaigns rather than just one off battles. Using TPW as a starting point The Flagstaff War could be played as a point to point campaign culminating in Ruapekepeka, the Waikato and Tauranga campaigns could be simple ladder campaigns as could Titokowarus War. The spread of Pai Mairie could be treated as an area control campaign whilst the hunt for Te Kooti could be a set of linked skirmishes dependent upon supply and hidden movement. As for the actual rules themselves obviously some tweaking would be required but nothing too onerus. I agree that attacking a pa might make for an uninteresting game but placed within the broader context of a campaign with variable victory conditions for each side I think it has the makings of something more enjoyable. After reading Soldiers Scouts and Spies I also see an element of military intelligence being incorporated into the game perhaps in the game set up or deployment phase with the Btitish player having variable limited knowledge of the enemy based on local intel and the Maori player having certain intel advantages to begin with e.g. hidden units or units on blinds perhaps. I'd be interested in your thoughts. regards Roger

What Roger had to say was pretty much on the money, I thought, in his view that the New Zealand wars would be better fought as a series of campaigns. There were battles, sure, but those that did not involve attacks upon fortified places were most often a matter of ambushes, subterfuges, and downright sneakiness. At that Maori proved far more adept than the Imperial military, or the colony's leadership. Given larger numbers and advantages in equipment, no doubt the colonial government figured to make up in brute force what they lacked in subtlety.

Suppose one were to campaign the war in South Taranaki, beginning mid-1868.
The genesis of the war had to do with settlers' encroachment upon Maori land recently 'confiscated' by the Colonial authorities, that threatened the livelihoods of the Maori themselves. Maori efforts, led by Titokowaru, to reach an acceptable compromise came to diddly-squat, whereat that leader reversed his pacific policy. Raid and counter-raid involving tens of soldiery and warriors, led to the encounter battle of Te Ngutu o Te Manu (The Beak of the Bird (?); it might mean 'the Mouth of the Holy Man'). This led to a defeat of the colonial forces so decisive that people began to doubt the permanence of European (pakeha) settlement in this part of the world.

What were the sizes of the forces involved? The European expedition comprised some 350 people,  mostly on foot, organised into 3 company-sized 'Divisions'. Maori had at the outset maybe 60 warriors, though it seemed that during the course of the battle, several more, attracted by the ruckus, joined in. The Europeans were chased several miles. Among their 50 casualties was the famous and popular Major Gustavus von Tempsky (or, as Maori are said to have called him, Manurau, which might be translated as 'one hundred birds', or 'many birds' ), killed during the fighting, close by the pa palisade. 

These are the sort of numbers one might expect in New Zealand's battles, tens, maybe a few hundreds. Although there might be thousands of imperial or colonial soldiers available in a given campaign (The Waikato, 1863), not all will be involved in a given battle.

For such a campaign I'd probably be inclined towards 'armies' of individual figures at 1:1. If using one figure to represent more than one, I would suggest 1:8 as the maximum. Of course, a 600-strong force would be represented by 75 figures at that scale, but we're talking there of an unusually large action by New Zealand standards. At the time Titokowaru was building the Tauranga-ika pa, he had maybe 400 warrior followers. Col. Whitmore went after him with perhaps 800 armed constabulary and 200 kupapa - Maori allies - along with a couple of Armstrong rifled cannon and as many Coehorn mortars. Pretty big forces by New Zealand War standards.  

It is probably just as well Titokowaru's campaign petered out in the full tide of (apparent) success, as Col. Whitmore (rightly, in my view) regarded as the fortifications beyond carrying by his force, even at 5 to 2 odds. Historian James Belich is inclined to portray what he calls the 'modern pa system' as something perhaps beyond the ken of European military expertise. Even if my comment overstates his thesis, methinks he at least equally overplays his argument. The star fort at Tauranga-ika, and its external and internal features, would have been instantly recognisable to a student of Vauban, I believe. 

Yet that to my mind goes much further to the credit of Maori ingenuity and adaptability in the face of overwhelming numbers. Similar situations yield similar solutions. The tutelage Maori got was not from mythical renegade Prussians (Belich is right about that), but from their opponents' approach to warfare, the accident of traditional pa design (buildings and dwellings half sunk into the ground), and their own ingenuity in adapting to the circumstances of firearms and cannon.

So a 'linear campaign' of Titokowaru's war might involve
1.  Surprise raid on a small redoubt (Turuturu-Mokai).  Maybe 60 Maori vs 25 Pakeha.
2.  Colonist's counter-raid on a Maori village.
3.  Attack on Nga Ruahine stronghold (Te Ngutu o te Manu)
4.  Motoroa - Titokowaru's  'strategic offensive/ tactical defensive' campaign - first episode.
     Maori build a pa in a threatening position - a common Maori practice - to invite Colonists to               attack.
5.  Tauranga-ika - second episode (A 'what if' action.  This was no mere star fort, having within it             internal defensive features, that would somehow have to be incorporated in the action).
6.  (What if) Attack on Wanganui (Whanganui) settlement. Possibly could include a Waikato Kingite       contingent on the side of Titokowaru.
7.  If Maori forced to retreat, a bush rearguard action (Waitotara River).

At Tauranga-ika, you could probably play out the action (which never happened) with, say, 100 European Constabulary figures reinforced by 25 Whanganui kupapa allies, against, say, 50 Ngati Ruahine warrior figures defending the fort. The Europeans would be backed with a rifled cannon and a siege mortar.

Why the Maori campaign in South Taranaki was so suddenly abandoned is something of a mystery. The usual explanation is that Titokowaru himself - a tohunga holy man - lost his mana tapu through an affair with another chief's wife. No one would follow one who had debased himself in such a way, or had abused a trust.

I would have liked to have been able to read more of Bob Cordery's campaign design for colonial wars from his forthcoming book. But from what I've seen so far, it seems it would be just the thing for the New Zealand's wars, especially, as Roger indicated, the pursuit of Te Kooti ('Teh Kawtee', for a reasonable approximation of how his name should be pronounced).

Incidentally, I am inclined to think that for Maori, the 'European wars' were really a resumption of the 'Musket Wars', which had been, practically speaking, entirely a Maori affair during the 1820s through to the 1840s. In almost every one of the conflicts between Maori and Pakeha,  the latter had Maori allies and supporters. When Colonel Whitmore interrupted his hunt for Te Kooti to face the threat of Titokowaru, a column of Maori opposed to Te Kooti carried on the pursuit.  Note that there was not even a hint of cooperation between Te Kooti and Titokowaru; theirs were entirely separate campaigns. At that, although the former began earlier and lasted longer, it is clear that Titokowaru was seen at the time as the greater threat to colonial security.

For all the anti-colonialism you hear these days, Maori at the time had no objection to European settlement as such, even welcomed it. I rather think Maori took to European ways.  In 1860, even before the conflict over the Waitara Purchase, one enterprising Maori entrepreneur was running a ferry service across the North Taranaki Bight between New Plymouth and Kawhia on the Waikato coast. Another had built and was operating a water mill some miles outside the New Plymouth town precincts.

But Maori got rather more than they bargained for from Pakeha settlement. Even before 1860 the overall European population in New Zealand exceeded the Maori, though most were in the South Island. By 1870 the major conflicts were over. Only Te Kooti remained at large, effectively a fugitive, the pursuit being carried out mostly by Maori.  

Friday, March 6, 2020

An Explosive Project (2)

The transition from Very Little Wars with 16-figure companies to the Horse, Foot, Guns was easy to contemplate, megalomaniac as I am. Imagine: a stand of 4 figures represents an infantry Brigade of some 2000 officers and men. Three of those, plus maybe a command element, you have a Division; three Divisions, with a bigger command stand, perhaps, and you have an Army Corps.  You might be looking at 45 infantry figures, here. Add a Brigade of Horse (3 figures) and a park of artillery (1-3 guns each with a couple of gunners), and you just scrape past 50 figures.  Fifty figures for an Army Corps!  I'll have a piece of that!

Turcowaz regular infantry.  The army now has 21 infantry
elements, 12 of which are irregulars...
An attractive idea. But I wanted armies of about 1875, roughly Britannic and roughly Gallic. What I wanted to see was an army list for either, as a guide line for organisation, but never saw one. What with one thing and another, the project sputtered on for a few more years with nothing much happening. Becoming disenchanted with the whole DBx rule systems - through no real fault of them - it was not easy to conjure up much enthusiasm for carrying on with it.  
Royal Dearg Highlanders in the service of Ruberia.
It was the Portable War Games systems that revived the interest. The whole gig looked simple, a few try-outs indicated very quick, very playable games, and the thing has progressed much more rapidly in the last three years. It has expanded considerably as well. The original intention was a war - or series of wars - between the Kingdom of Ruberia (RED) and la République of  Azuria, upon or near their home territories, with perhaps a side-order of colonial rivalry in, say, Africa or South Asia. But when the notion of something less 'symmetric' came to mind, the Azurian Army suddenly got co-opted into an 'alternative BLUE', namely TURQUOISE, or Turcowaz. 
The latest Bashi-Bazouk recruits.  Actually they are the
Strelets-R 'bonus' Russian Streltsi figures.  Near
enough, says I.
Having fought at least 4 actions, it was clear that the Turcowaz ought to have its own army. For these I chose the Turkish armies of the 1877 war against Russia. Unfortunately these aren't so easy to get hold of.  Strelets-R makes them, but they aren't so easily available. I scored a box of foot Bashi-Bazouks (through Paul 'Jacko's' on-line contact with a distributor), and that was about it. Still, they got painted up. Then a Crimean War box came available, with Turkish foot, Russian Foot and Horse, and some Highlanders. The Turks were pretty much the same as the 1877 lot; they'd do. Unsure what to do with the highlanders, eventually I shared them with Paul and made a formation of 3 stands and a command from what I kept.
The Royal Dearg Highlanders again.  Under the PW system
this lot could be a company, a battalion, a Brigade,
or a Division.
And the Russians? Well, I did have a 'hidden character' nation that was called Porphyria that was to be a Tsardom, but as these fellows favoured green, they became Zelyoniya.  Its army won't be huge; 8 infantry elements and maybe 4 Horse, plus a gun or two.  Enough, perhaps to prove a menace to the northern borders of the Settee Empire of Turcowaz.

Just by the way, I really like the chunky presence of the Strelets-R figures, especially the later sculpts.  They probably require a deal more attention to painting than some other plastic figures of similar scales, but the end result is worth it.  
Flank rear view of Turcowaz regulars.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned 'Jacko' had himself caught the 19th Century colonial warfare bug, and was developing his own armies and nations. His green-uniformed guys become the Imperial forces of Azeitona - vaguely Portuguese (should we call them Azeitonese or Azeitonians?).  Resisting their encroachments are the m'Butu tribesmen (BLACK) and the vaguely Arabic (WHITE?) pirates/ raiders/ really annoying people. Though they are his project, there are - or will be - points of contact between his and my projects, especially in the Dark Benighted Continent of Africa Aithiops.  
Turcowaz regulat foot.
The most promising beginning seems to be upon the east coast of Aithiops. 'Jacko' scored a fine campaign map of the WW1 campaign of German East Africa. The recent battle of the Limpopo Trail was intended as a species of prologue to the conflicts that will develop in that region of the world. The Ruberians will almost certainly take an interest - and it would scarcely be surprising if the Settee Empire of Turcowaz sought some kind of confrontation with the Abyad (?*) corsairs, raiders and suchlike riff-raff...
Turcowaz irregular cavalry.  Actually Stretets-R 17th
Century Ottoman Turks, but OK for my purposes.
The Ruberian Imperial troops of Rajistan will still be mounting operations against the fringes of the Settee Empire, such as the Medifluvia region and perhaps expanding into the area of Tchagai, which itself became the scene of a revolt some 7 decades later...
The beauty of the PW system is that it could lend itself to a wide range of scales. An Infantry stand might represent anything from a platoon to a Brigade; a group of three or four might be a company or a Division, depending on the overall scale of operation or campaign being undertaken. A single cavalry stand might be a troop or a Brigade. I don't imagine any higher cavalry formations larger than a Division.  And a gun might be a troop or a regiment.  The recent action along the Limpopo Trail was a small affair of maybe regimental or brigade sized forces.  The setback to Azeitona is not one to compromise the colony's existence...
Turcowaz army, so far...  Could do with some regular cavalry
and 'modern' artillery.
 I do like flexibility and versatility.
Elements of Ruberian Army: foot, artillery, and the dreaded
Gatling guns.
Now, recent perusals of the Madasahatta Campaign (Eric Knowles and Bob Cordery) has led to the realisation that, distant as the colonial emprises are from their homelands, they require a certain naval presence, if only to protect the imports of vital supplies and equipments, and the colonies themselves from raid, robbery, etc.  Something ... ocean going; not too flashy, something with a shallow draught, moderate speed, and bally great big guns. Say hello to the Queen of the East Aithiopsian waters, HMS Blunderer, coastal battleship, 9000 tons, carrying four 12-inch rifled guns. A gunboat of the 'Fly' class, perhaps HMS Botfly (a sister vessel, HMS Shoofly, operates in Medifluvian waters) might be suitable for riverine work. Perhaps one or two former American Civil War naval units might find their way into the rival navies. I feel fairly sure that Azeitona will welcome the ironclad ram Lafayette, bought from the United States of Anaconda in 1866. No match for the Blunderer, of course, but ... with a certain presence of its own.  Perhaps the twin-turreted monitor Kickapoo, recently sold (in 1874) by the USA to an undisclosed buyer, might yet find its way to the area.  Who knows? 

HMS Blunderer - newly commissioned, still wanting
its lifeboats...
Plenty of scope for small scale inshore and riverine naval and combined operations...

To be concluded...

Abyad*  - My tentative name for the Islamic Arabs, Mahdists and what have you, engaged in raid, robbery, and all-round rambunctiousness... well that's what the Ruberians are saying, anyhow. Probably Jacko already has his own name for them.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

An explosive project...

I never planned to 'do' Colonial warfare.  On the whole, was my attitude, the advantages lay too much with the side that had the 'tech'. Of course I have learned since that it wasn't so much the 'tech' that gave the colonisers the edge, but numbers and a ruthlessness that, once having achieved an ascendancy, extracted every benefit that could be got from it.

As a non-Maori New Zealander (though with Maori and Pasifika relatives) I have gradually over time become more aware of the history of land expropriation in this country. Maori were never conquered militarily - not really - but were simply overwhelmed by the volume of immigration they had no chance whatever of stemming, not that Maori ever really sought to do so. Of course, the immigrants needed land.
An BLUE force, apparently with some TURQUOISE
auxiliary light horse.

The land expropriation from the Land Wars (so called in this country) were cruel enough, but understandable. But the most powerful weapon in the hands of the Colonial government was its legislature, passing laws over the heads of Maori that expropriated lands from them without consent or redress, on the flimsiest of pretexts. Worse, the legislators, wealthy land owners as they were (not until 1879 was universal male suffrage introduced in this country, coming into effect in 1881 with the next general election), they were not above ripping off the lower orders of colonists as well.  It appears that my own family 'benefited' from some of the land expropriation in Taranaki (North Island's West Coast around Mt Taranaki/ Mt Egmont), where they were pretty much dumped by the government and left to it (this in the 1890s, I think). I believe none of that land remains today in the Dowman family, and probably not since long before I was born.

  Image result for tawhiti museumThe above picture is from a display in the Tawhiti Museum, near Hawera, South Taranaki, New Zealand.  If ever you are in that part of the world, do pay it a visit. I recommend it highly.

Years ago, I discovered that a relative of mine - not a direct ancestor - one Lieut. Dowman participated in the Battle of Puke ta Kauere*  This battle occurred in 1860 near the future town of Waitara, where I was born just over 90 years later. It has been seen as one of the three most decisive defeats of Imperial forces during the course of the New Zealand wars. See the following link for a near-contemporary account of the battle.

A RED force - no doubt in some desert emprise.

I mention all this to explain, at least in part, my attitude towards colonial warfare. In the true British tradition of 'rooting for the underdog', these days I tend to come down on the side of the natives. The Colonialists were never the underdogs. Not really. But with the feeling that it was all a bit one-sided, I kept away from Colonial war gaming. The New Zealand Wars aren't really tempting, as most of the battles were attacks, by one side or the other, on fortified places. Usually the attacks failed. Maori in particular eked out small numbers and indifferent commitment from the various iwi and hapu (tribes and sub-tribes in our parlance) with an enormous talent for field engineering, and an effective 'strategic offensive - tactical defensive' approach that saw its greatest expression, I think, in the war fought by Titokowaru. 

All that changed when I read an article in a war games magazine upon the subject of Little Wars, H.G. Wells's concept, adapted for 1:72 scale figures. There being plenty of ESCI Zulu Wars British and French Foreign Legion available, I acquired several boxes. The armies were, of course, to be the traditional RED versus BLUE. But I needed names for their parent nations, and so were born Ruberia and Azuria. Concepts for BLACK (later styled the M'yeusi) and WHITE were considered, respectively represented by Zulus and Arabic types; and Grauheim (GREY) for which methought the Airfix WW1 German figures might be appropriate, but they remained in potentia.  Azuria and Ruberia are traditional enemies, ever hostile towards each other, almost continually at war. The wars were to be more continental than colonial.

The first concept was to organise the forces into Brigade columns, comprising three 50-man battalions, a single cavalry squadron and a battery (company) of artillery. A rifle battalion might take this form:

Battalion HQ: CO, ensign, drummer.
3 Companies of 16 men each or 4 companies of 12
MG detachment.

The cavalry squadron would have an officer, a couple of NCOs and 12-16 troopers.

The artillery battery would comprise 3 or 4 guns.

I had worked out what I considered to be a refinement of H.G. Wells's diceless combat rules, which also included rifle and gunfire without using missile-firing ordnance. I'll explain this in case somebody might be interested enough to give it a practical test.  In any any combat, in any given turn, both sides inflicted upon their opponents a fixed percentage (truncated) of their numbers still in action. The percentage I settled on was 25%, but could have been reduced for a more prolonged firefight, say. When one side was reduced to half the strength they began the combat, they had to retreat or, if escape were not possible, to surrender. There was a good chance the loser would have to yield up prisoners.

Example:  A RED Company of 12 figures runs into a BLUE Company of 16.
Combat round 1: 
RED loses 25% of 16 = 4, leaving 12 - 4 = 8 figures;
BLUE loses 25% of 12 = 3, leaving 16 -3 = 13 figures.
Combat Round 2:
RED loses 25% of 13 = 3, leaving 8 - 3 = 5 figures;
BLUE loses 25% of 8 = 2, leaving 13 - 2 = 11 figures.

Having lost 7 from 12 figures, the RED Company retreats, leaving 2 (half the remainder, again, fractions truncated) prisoners in the hands of the enemy.

I never did give this a practical test, e.g. unengaged forces being drawn into an ongoing fight.  The whole thing was overturned when I discovered Phil Barker's Horse, Foot, Guns.

To be continued...

Work in progress: TURQUOISE irregular cavalry, RED
lancers, and BLUE artillery.
* Puke-ta-Kauere: Having looked this up, I have a feeling this might translate as something a little bit scatological: 'puke' (hill, mound, or just about any geographical eminence, but also mons veneris); and 'kauere' (strong flow of water).  Or it might simply indicate rising ground that has been carved out by a strong river flow.  But a description of the geographical features of the battlefield - see the link above - are not inconsistent with the scatological translation. Perhaps both meanings are/were intended and understood.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Expedition on the Limpopo Trail (2)

The Most Reverend Timothy W. Shoesmith
Bishop of Willoughby-Shawbridge...

My Dear Timmy -
   Greetings from your distant friend, far away in the most benighted region of the Benighted Continent, m'Butuland.  It can not be said that my mission here redounds dazzlingly to the Glory of God; after two years and some months, my congregation might be told off upon the digits of barely half my limbs.  The sin of Pride runs strongly among the
M'Butu, a foe, perhaps worthy of my steel? -or perhaps a lesson to myself in humility.  It is as Providence wills.

The Pride of the
m'Butu was not abated by the encounter a few days ago (as I write) between them and a colonising expedition mounted by Azeitona upriver from their coastal town of Vertiginus.  By the time this epistle reaches you, you will no doubt have learned of the fate of that expedition from other narrators.  I was an eye witness of that horrible encounter, invited - not to say compelled - to join the entourage of King-Chieftain Barra Kuta.  By the Grace of God he did not force an assegai into my hand, but I was rather enjoined to add my prayers to the chants of the shamans to invoke the assistance of what spirits dwelt in the land of the m'Butu.  Having evinced not the slightest interest in my sermons and stories, yet perhaps the King took the view that every little thrown into the scales might be all that was needed to tip the balance in his favour.  So little, of course, does he know the Power of the Almighty.

Placing his few muskets in a blocking position, a short distance beyond a bend in the trail, he detailed his three other bands,
Pili, Wa Tatu and Wa Nne to track through the bush to attack along the length of the column.  The former two became somewhat bunched together, and, instead of attacking the rear of the column tended at first towards the middle.  Meanwhile, Wa Nne had made slow progress.  They did not make contact with the Azeitona until the combat was well established all along the line.

.... (From this point I shall summarise the good Reverend's account in my own words...)

The Azeitona got the first move.  The lead company, rounding the bend where the bush encroached upon the trail, set eyes upon several hundred m'Butu warriors awaiting them across the way. Hastily drawing back slightly down the road, they waited for the rest of the column to close up.  This at once provoked King Barra Kuta to such a pitch of bellicosity, that he waved forward his blocking band. Pausing only to deliver a volley from his muskets - and a surprisingly effective volley it was, too - the whole band waded into a close quarter fight. Along its full length the column lurched to a halt.  In those first moments, the expedition lost perhaps 4SP (strength points) with hardly any compensating damage to the m'Butu.
As they rushed through the bush, the bunched bands of Pili and Wa Tatu shook out into something more resembling a line.  Pausing briefly well back from the forest fringe, the flanking bands planned to close with the column in a quick rush, before the Azeitona soldiers could get off much rifle fire.  One company of Wa Tatu, strayed too close to the forest edge and came under fire, but otherwise the tactic paid off.
Surging out of the bush, three bands of m'Butu laid into the startled Azeitona riflemen, at which the whole column found itself under a close combat of hack, slash, stab, thrust, cut, parry; screams, yells, groans and battle cries. At least twice, King Barra Kuta came close to injury or death; Tenente-Coronel Relaxado, three or more, as the stands they accompanied took hits.
In the early exchanges the m'Butu ignored their losses to keep up the close quarter pressure upon the reeling column - that is to say, I accepted the losses rather than take the 'retreat' result of several of the close combat dice rolls. That couldn't last very long, of course, and it contributed to the casualty rate of the m'Butu fairly closely tracking that of the Azeitona. A couple of early counts indicated that after the initial blows in favour of the natives, the Azeitona troops were giving as good as they were receiving.
After the early attacks, Azeitona has lost 4SP, m'Butu none! 
I'll let the pictures tell most of the story from here. Suffice to say that gradually m'Butu pressed the Azeitona soldiery onto the road among the baggage animals, and even into rising ground within the river bend. The supporting gunfire from Sonolenta was only moderately successful in inflicting casualties, and not at all in keeping the spear-wielding m'Butu off the embattled column.
Part of Pili band has cut the road near the rear of the column.
The Tenente-Coronel had wisely placed his cavalry at the rear of the column, whence they could see and intervene against trouble further up the trail. But they too quickly found their hands rather too full of enemies.  The moment they drove off one company, back would come another. 
Desperately defending the baggage train!  The '5' on the
SP die should actually be a '3'.
All the time, the final band, the Wa Nne were rushing through the forest, only to find it hard to insert themselves into the scrimmage along the road.
At the bend in the trail, Azeitona infantry keep the m'Butu
away from the road.  Heavy losses mounting on both sides.
Here, the m'Butu have lost 7 SPs by my count,
Azeitona at least as many.

Heavy losses towards the rear of the column as well.
Chasing one Pili company into the edge of the forest, the Azeitona horsemen found themselves entangled in a verdant melee among the boles and vines and divers foliage. Eventually they scattered the natives, but one troop at least had taken damage. This was the first stand lost to the m'Butu, but by that time the Azeitona had lost two, leaving the baggage train here and there badly exposed.
Azeitona riflemen forced back onto the road.  Having put
some distance between themselves and the m'Butu, maybe they
can hold them off with rifle fire... 

Never able to mount any concerted attack, the Azeitona infantry made sporadic company sized thrusts to keep the natives from the road. Such was the impetuosity of the m'Butu (I really was having a good deal of the fun!) that the column, much reduced, was being forced onto the trail, and even beyond it into the forested river bend.
Nothing loth, m'Butu charge in again.
Early on, perhaps after 4 turns or so, I asked for an accounting of losses, not in the expectation of either side having reached their exhaustion point, but rather to see how they were tracking. The Azeitona column had lost 12SP, the m'Butu 9, indicating that after the initial surprise, the soldiers were matching their warrior opponents, despite the few opportunities to use their superior firepower. This was, by the way, why, as the m'Butu, I was keen to keep the fight close, despite the losses that policy incurred (taking the loss instead of retreat options). Late in the action, closely pressed as they were, the column was taking losses when 'retreat options' were denied them on account of crowding, proximity to other enemies, or (in the case of the baggage) impassible forest.
Counter-attack at the rear of the column. 
But both sides by now have taken a fearful battering.
Look at all the SP dice showing ones and twos.  Both sides.
By this time the Azeitona had lost two companies (stands)
outright, m'Butu would soon lose their first stand.
Two or three turns later and the SP loss had almost doubled.  Azeitona had lost 20, m'Butu 17. Had we been using the 'per spec' loss of one-third of the original SP, the action could have been called right there: both sides having reached their exhaustion points of 17 (bearing in mind we thought the Azeitona started with 50SP) and 16 respectively. But as we had already determined upon the 50% exhaustion point, the battle carried on.

By the time Azeitona had reached its exhaustion point - 25SP lost - m'Butu were in scarcely better case, having lost 20 or so - still in aggressive fighting trim.  Paul had a run of bad luck shortly before this point, for a whole turn unable to score a single hit.  I was to return the compliment a couple of turns later, but promptly followed that up with a whole string of hits and SP kills that tipped the Azeitona morale over the edge.  

Huddling in the river bend they managed to fight off the attacking warriors long and effectively enough, that they, too, reached their exhaustion point (23SP).  The attacks faded away, the warriors drew off into the forests, and, apart from the dead and dying, the trail was clear.
That was, of course, the end of the expedition.  The losses had been far too heavy - a good half or more of the soldiery were casualties, and much of the baggage train had been destroyed or plundered.  At least the gunboat could carry many of the wounded back to Vertiginus; the surviving column had to straggle as best they could back down the trail.  The m'Butu were well satisfied with their victory...

 (We take up once against the missive of Reverend Juggins)

There is no doubt that the m'Butu have clapped a stopper over the ambitions of Colonel Relaxado and the Azeitona Colonial Office. There is equally little doubt that, despite their grievous losses, the m'Butu think no end of themselves for their victory. The expedition lost a good half of its soldiery, and half its baggage as well, as attested by the booty the m'Butu bands brought away. It will be some while before the Azeitona will mount any similar enterprise; much less are they in a position to mount any time soon a punitive expedition against the natives.

For his part, King Barra Kuta gave no indications of continued hostility against the Veriginus colony itself, going so far to declare his forbearance, his wish for the resumption of good relations, and returning to the colony a number of prisoners, combatant and non combatant alike, taken at the battle of the Limpopo Trail. For a benighted heathen, the King shows a measure of good faith that many a Christian might do well to emulate.  But the line has been drawn in the sand, he declared through his emissary - myself standing as translator - 'so far, but no farther.'

Finally, I thank you for that small consignment of Bibles and tracts that arrived here at the King's kraal six months ago.  I would request that you send more.  The damp climate of the Big Rainy Season is not kind to their bindings nor to their pages..."

Respectfully yours in ... etc
Revd. J Eglington Juggins, DD.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Expedition on the Limpopo Trail

The Limpopo River Trail.

Along the great grey-green greasy Limpopo River, which is as deep as the sea, and bordered with fever trees, there runs an ancient, well worn trail that leads from the Azeitona colony and sea port of Vertiginus, inland to promising farmlands and who knows what riches that lie in the interior.  The prospect of 'what lies beyond' was too much for one Tenente-Coronel Joao Pablo Relaxado, the military governor, who, upon the end of the April-May rainy season of 1875, set off to carve out a settlement far upriver. 

Paul Jackson and I have been working on organising and consolidating several 19th century Imagi-Nations projects that have been more or less ongoing for some considerable time.   My own projects have been the Chromatic Wars, among Ruberia (RED), Azuria (BLUE), and the late comer, Turcowaz (TURQUOISE, the 'other' BLUE).  Recently I have begun building the Turcowaz Army, with Regular Crimean War regular Turks, foot Bashi-Bazouks, and a handful of Sipahis using traditional (17th century) battle techniques.  At one time I had toyed with including a BLACK army, the M'yeusi (Zulu figures) and a WHITE army, which would be vaguely Arabic in nature.

I never did get around to building those armies, and probably never would have done, but then Paul comes up with his own scheme, building the M'Butu and an as yet unnamed force of semi-arid and desert dwellers supplementing the slender resources with raid and plunder.  Another colonial power has arisen to rival Ruberia and Azuria - the Kingdom of Azeitona (GREEN - specifically, olive green).
Map of opening situation, the head of the expedition's column
sees the M'Butu blocking force.

Focusing for the moment upon the Benighted Continent, Paul thought it a fine idea to prologue the campaigns with an incident which brings the Azeitona colonials into conflict with the militant tribe of M'Butu, led by King-Chieftain Barra Kuta, himself harbouring imperial ambitions. 

Prepared to tolerate the existence of the Vertiginus colony for the material benefits, and even status, it brought to himself and his tribe, King Barra Kuta was inclined to draw a line in the sand at its present limited extent - a town and sea port of no great size, and a hinterland that extended no more than five or ten miles from the town's centre. Written and verbal requests from the Colonial authorities to extend the colony by establishing settlements in the interior, the King had disdained to answer at all. Choosing to take the silent snub for tacit consent, the military governor all through the rainy season organised his expedition.

Promptly on 1st June, 1875, the convoy set out, horse and foot, accompanied by His Faithful Majesty's Gunboat Sonolenta, a sidewheeler steam vessel with a pintle mounted 12pr rifled gun fore and aft. As well a providing some artillery during the expedition, the captain and officers were charged with mapping the river Limpopo. The Expedition comprised:

Azeitona Limpopo Expedition
Command: Tenente-Coronel Joao Pablo Relaxado and HQ ..... 6SP
6 Rifle Companies (each 1 stand @ 4SP)  ..... 24SP
2 Cavalry Squadrons (1 each 1 stand @ 3SP) ..... 6SP
6 Transport elements (pack mules, pack elephants and carts @1SP) ..... 6SP
1 Gunboat (HFMS Sonolenta) ..... 2SP.
All elements 'Average'.

Azeitona column and gunboat.

Now, although this force was supposed to be 50SP, and we treated it as such throughout the coming action, the arithmetically minded reader will observe just 44SP here. Paul was allowed to compose his own expeditionary force, the only stipulations being the gunboat of 2SP, and 4 - 8 transport elements (he chose 6). I had some notion of offsetting losses to SPs with transport elements continuing on off the table, but now think that unnecessary. At any rate, I suspect Paul must have double counted something, otherwise unable to account for the missing 6SP. As it transpired the action might well have been fairly well balanced as played!

We also set the Exhaustion point at half, instead of one third, of SPs lost. Memory lapse there. So we had set the Expeditionary force exhaustion point at having lost 25SP.

The Azeitona column marching into the
Benighted Continent interior.

His excellent 'jungle telegraph' intelligence apparat very soon apprised King Barra Kuta of the affront about to be offered him by Relaxado's unauthorised and obviously hostile move, though they were inclined slightly to exaggerate its strength (the 44 vs 50 SP thing?). Quickly he gathered together a force he thought sufficient to stop these foreigners in their tracks.

M'Butu Army:
Command: King Barra Kuta, staff and hangers on ..... 6SP
Kwanza Band: 3 Spear stands, armed with smoothbore muskets @4SP ..... 12SP (all 'poor')
Pili Band: 2 Spear stands @ 4SP ..... 8SP (average)
Wa Tatu Band: 3 Spear stands @ 4SP ..... 12SP (average)
Wa Nne Band: 2 Spear stands @4SP ..... 8SP (average)
Total: 46SP; Exhaustion Point 23SP.

King Barra Kuta's blocking force, the Kwanza band,
several of whom are armed with muskets.

Special features:

1.   Being familiar with the terrain and lightly burdened, the M'Butu could move 2 hexes through the bush.  European troops could move 1 hex in the bush, and the transports only on the road and 'clear' hex-grid areas.

2.  The gunboat could travel 2 hexes per turn, forward (against the current) or astern (with the current)

3.  The hill upon which stood the M'Butu road block (Kwanza) was rocky, rough going, but afforded no cover.

4.  Paul was free to determine the order of march.  Units could be stacked, provided there was no overlap of hex-boundaries.  Further, he had to count the number of hexes along the road from the eastern edge the head of the column had reached; then move the gunboat the same number of hexes.  It was enacted that the the large bend in the river had caused the gunboat to fall a trifle behind the head of the column with which the intention was to keep pace.

5.  A departure from the rules: only one unit in a stacked hex could fight, or would take hits in close combat or being shot at.  There is a potential change here concerning following up a successful assault.  If the attacked unit is forced to retreat, two options present themselves:
(a) that the second unit in the same hex must retreat; or
(b) the attacking unit can at once attack the second unit.
This can have an effect against defended baggage.  The attackers drive off the defenders, then get in amongst the train.  We did neither of these, but it's worth thinking about, I reckon.

5.  The beginning location of the Pili, Wa Tatu and Wa Nne bands were determined by dice rolls, 1 Red and 1 Green for two of them; 2 Red, 1 Green for the last.  The bottom left of the map was designated 1,1.  Coincidentally, the first 2 rolls were 5,6 (Pili) and 6,6 (Wa Tatu).  There being 3 stands in the latter band, the third stand was placed 1 hex behind, at 6,5.  Finally, Wa Nne rolled 9,1.

6.  Finally, the action was played out straight IGoUGo, though it might have been interesting to have rolled for initiative each turn.  The Europeans, suddenly seeing the trail blocked by a force of M'Butu, have to react...
Head of the Azeitona column.

For this action, Paul supplied the soldiery on both sides and the elephants.  I supplied the cart and pack mules, the gunboat and the terrain. 

Next time: how the action unfolded: Reverend J. Eglington Juggins's account.
To be continued...

Sunday, February 23, 2020

One Hour Wargames...

For the first time in a long, long time, Jacko and I visited the club of which, as fully paid up members, we all too rarely avail ourselves. He brought along his WW2 Romanians and Italians; I brought some Russians, a little bit of terrain, and my metre-square 'grass' mat that I originally bought to make hills from, then changed my mind about its purpose.
On this we played several One Hour Wargames scenarios. I don't recall the names of all the scenarios, unfortunately. The first had the Axis forces (a mixed Romanian/Italian battlegroup) defending a river line, crossable only at the bridge and a ford close by a forest. Half the Russian forces began off table, arriving after several turns behind the Axis left flank.  
To tot up losses of strength points, each unit having 15 to begin with, we colour-coded the dice in the holder. The blue dice represented 11-15SP, the purple dice 6-10SP, the red dice 1-5SP. As you might see from the pics, the Russians forcing the river crossing got rather badly knocked about.  
The Axis were split in two, some units striving to reach the bridge, the last skulking in a wood whence they were eventually winkled out.  

The second action was 'The Bottleneck'. I had the defenders in this one, and frankly I made a pig's breakfast of the defence. The Russians comprised 3 infantry units and an AT gun (you might call them 3 infantry companies and an anti-tank gun company) to defend a point along the road that passed between a forest and a lake, or mere.  Beyond the lake was a stretch of open country an attack might choose as an alternate approach.
Unfortunately Colonel N.O. Tverybrightski placed a company in ambush too far forward, out of support from their comrades in rear of the lake. By the time they fetched up where I should have placed them in the ... erm ... first place, they were down to 4SP remaining. Meanwhile, the Axis got pretty much their ideal composition for this operation: 3 rifle companies, a tank company (M13/40, I think), and two batteries of mortars.  The mortars were the killers, once the Axis forces got close enough to call down the support fire. I suppose I ought to have been thankful to have got an anti-tank gun, but I don't recall that I got the better of the gunnery duel. This one was an emphatic Axis victory.
On to the next scenario: 'Blundering Relief' - a kind of antithesis of Don Featherstone's famous 'Auberoche' scenario. The Russians are advancing upon an axis-held town. As in the previous scenario, the Russians had just 4 units: 3 rifle companies with mortars in support. The town's garrison comprised one company of Romanians, with a second company off to their right flank.
To the dismay of the Russians, they found the ridge skyline to their left swarming with Italians: tanks, rifle companies and anti-tank guns. It was probably fortunate they had no mortars. But in this scenario, Colonello Giovanni da Clotta elected to send one company at a time onto the flank of the Russian advance. Perhaps this was less a predilection for piecemeal, penny-packet attacks as an excess of caution. Be it noted though: this was a condition imposed upon the role played by the Axis forces. Without it, we really would have had, potentially, a Russian front Auberoche.
The relief forces led off with the tank, and here, I think might have been the game decider. We simply forgot to take the -2 for infantry and mortars shooting at the tank, though we did remember the +2 the tank got against rifle units. Eventually the Russians saw off the tank, and attacked the town with enough strength to take the place. But that victory was undeserved.  The tank ought to have been an approximate match for mortar and rifle company together, which might well have left the Italians enough strength, if the town were lost, to recover the place betimes. This one we'll have to do again some time.
The final action, according to my gallery of pictures, was this one: an Axis column intending to barge past or through a small Soviet blocking force, when suddenly a second Soviet force appears on the flank of the column. The column comprised a tank company in the lead, followed by two Italian rifle companies, and anti-tank battery and two Romanian rifle companies bringing up the rear.  
A Soviet anti-tank gun and rifle company stood blocking the road: 'но пасара́н!'  Making their stage left appearance were three rifle companies backed up by mortars.  
Probably the Russians had the ideal forces on this occasion.  Part of the column had to be diverted to hold off the flank attack, and part to deal with the road block.  

The axis forces never quite made it. Again, possession of the only mortar conferred a significant advantage. Possibly had the Axis forces gone all out to defeat the flank attack before turning their attention to the road block, they might have achieved a breakthrough. ...Maybe.
Altogether an enjoyable outing, a good lunch meal, and chewing the fat with old acquaintances.  But out of four scenarios, the Russians received not a single tank!