Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Portable Waterloo - Opening action


Opening clashes on the French right
The Battle of Portable Waterloo began traditionally, with assaults upon the Allied left, and the Hougoumont strongpoint that acted as bastion defending the Allied right. The first attacks upon the plantation south of the chateau itself were carried out by 9th Division from the southeast and the leading brigade of 6th Division from the southwest. The defenders there were fairly shortly driven in, whereat the 9th Division entered the wooded enclosure to assault the chateau itself.  

6th and 9th Divisions attacking the Hougoumont 
Seizing the initiative (higher initiative roll), the 2nd and 4th French Divisions of I Corps quickly occupied the hamlets of Papelotte and Frichemont.  Third Division took up the space between, while 1st Division remained echelonned to the left rear of the line.  The I Corps artillery took up a battery position behind Papelotte, from which position they brought La Haye Sainte under fire.  The Allied reserve artillery there were quickly compelled to abandon the position, which was soon taken up by the British/Hanoverian 3rd Division. Henceforth, all formation identities will be colour coded: French Blue, anglo-Dutch Red, Prussian Black.
General view, looking west from Paris Wood
The seizure of Frichemont gave the 1st Cavalry Division the opportunity to swing through the defile between that place and the Paris Wood, to fall upon the Allied Flank. However, the 5th Division commander had detached betimes his trailing brigade, the 5th Hanover, which, hastily forming square, stood off the French light horse. The Cavalry of 4th and 6th Allied Brigades waiting overlong to respond, left the inexperienced Hanoverians on their own, not only against the French light horse, but also the cuirassiers of Milhaud's leading Division.
General view looking SW.  
As the 5th Hanover Bde fought its private little battle against heavy odds, the rest of the 5th Division, together with the 2nd Dutch-Belgian and the 6th Divisions, began a series of assaults upon the French positions about the villages. This had the effect of stalling the French attack altogether, the Allies unable for a considerable time to break in, but the French unable to break out.  
The battle on the east flank.  In the hands of 5th Hanover Bde 
lies the safety of the Allied left flank.  Where are 4th and 
6th cavalry brigades?
About the Hougoumont,  9th Division, having cleared the plantation, was beginning its assaults upon the Chateau complex itself.  On the road to its left, a brigade of Jerome Bonaparte's 6th Division was also engaged in the same emprise.  The prolonged fighting tended to draw in the 5th Division as well, so that the beleaguered garrison was for a time facing adds of at least twelve to one, almost the whole of the II Corps infantry.  That not all II Corps could assault at once reduced the odds to seven to one, but that simply meant the attackers had plenty of reserves available.
Two and a half French Divisions attack the Hougoumont
at odds of at least seven to one
This did not, of course, account for the large bodies of Allied troops unengaged behind the Hougoumont, available for reinforcement or counterattack as the Allied chose.  They were not long choosing.

For the moment the action looked deadlocked along the whole front. Then the 4th and 6th Cavalry Brigades lurched into motion, and thundered down upon the French 1st Cavalry Division. Stuck in a salient hemmed in by the Paris Wood, Milhaud's Cavalry and the Hanoverian square; already having taken heavy losses, and now facing odds of five to one into the bargain, Jacquinot's light horse stood no chance. They were scattered to the winds.
Allied cavalry - 4th and 6th Brigades - charge a 
much depleted French 1st Cavalry Division
Having taken so long to get going, the British light dragoons were now hard to stop.  On they went, straight for the 13th Cuirassier Division, led by General Milhaud himself.  The heavy weight of the French horse was enough to bring the lighter Allied to a standstill.  They fell back, alongside the relieved Hanoverians, both congratulating themselves that, for little loss (1SP lost to 5th Hanover)  they had smashed an enemy cavalry Division, and shored up the open flank. For their part, the cuirassiers also drew back where they united with the 14th Cavalry Division.
Charging ever onward...

The Allied left now safe, the opposing horse there 
fall back to regroup and keep watch and ward
I should probably mention at this point that were I to do this again, I rather think I would place the Hougoumont two hexes closer to the western edge of the table. It seems that there was historically very little action west of the place, the chateau and its grounds practically forming the battlefield's boundary on this flank in the same manner that the Paris Wood formed one on the other flank. So it was, in this incarnation of the battle, that on the French side, Jerome was to detach a brigade from his Division, whilst the whole of Kellermann's III Cavalry Corps would join 2nd (Light) Cavalry Division to protect the flank of the assault upon the Hougoumont.  With Milhaud's heavies also drawn to a flank, there would be no charge of the heavy horse upon the Allied line between Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte.  And yet, a mounted French attack would eventually be directed thereto, late in the day...
Kellermann's Cav Corps moving off to the west flank...
The allies were already in motion.  The inexperienced but numerous 3rd Dutch-Belgian Division (12SP in 2 Brigades) were moving up from Braine d'Alleud, to join counter-attacks by 3rd and 5th light cavalry Brigades, and 2nd Infantry Division.  It was not long before Jerome found himself fighting off the attentions of Allied horse and foot, and no time for the Hougoumont.  In any case, surely the place must fall soon, even without his Division?
The fighting on the flanks left rather a vacuum in the centre.  The rival artilleries settled down to what was largely a counter-battery duel (much to my annoyance: I hate counter-battery!).  I and II Corps largely syphoned off to the flanks, General Count Lobau's VI Corps, weakened by detachments to Marshal Grouchy's command, began moving slowly up to fill the space between the Guard artillery in action along the road up from Maison du Roi, and the right flank of II Corps.  A lucky salvo from the Allied II Corps artillery gave a check to the trailing 20th Division - a gap opened up between the columns, and Lobau was finding it difficult to get the Corps united again (a really bad activation die roll).
For their part, the Imperial Guard remained motionless in and about Maison du Roi, when they might usefully have moved forward even a short distance, that it's masse de rupture might be thrown in in a timely fashion.  Only the Guard artillery were in action - at least for the time being.  The only other move was to bring in the Guard heavy cavalry closer to the main body of the Guard infantry.
So matters stood, perhaps a couple of hours into the action, the opposing forces heavily engaged on both flanks.  D'Erlon's I Corps continued to cling on to Papelotte and Frichemont, without being able, yet, to force their way beyond.  Allied attempt to wrest the villages from the enemy were proving equally fruitless, as losses mounted on both sides.  The garrison of the Hougoumont refused to be shifted, and II Corps was equally stuck fast.  The French build-up in the centre was proceeding much too slowly.
General view, just before...
So matters stood.  But now a dark cloud began to appear in the east, a shadow spilling over the ground between the Paris Wood and Maransart Village.  It might have been Marshal Grouchy's command, so far south along the battlefield edge did the shadow appear.  But Marshal Grouchy this was not.  The lead elements of the Prussian Army had arrived.
... the arrival of the lead elements of the Prussian 
IV Army Corps...

To be continued - The Prussians

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Portable Waterloo - The set-up


The Waterloo battlefield, looking from directly 
behind Wellington's position.

I thought I would begin here by describing the set-up, special rules and any administrative matters that cropped up in the course of this little project. Just by the way, the hardest part of all is turning out to be this write-up! I have decided upon a series of instalments to narrate this battle, rather than go for a very long single posting. I hope this will better engage their readers.

First of all, allow me to refer you to the beginning of the project, with the orders of battle in my posting of over 2 months back: Waterloo PW Orbats

As it happens I added 2 units to the Anglo-Dutch army, namely the defenders of the Hougoumont and the plantations attached to it, one stand of 2 figures at each of the 2 hex-grid areas, each with 2 Strength Points. It would not have been a bad idea to make them elite into the bargain, though, as it happened, the French assailants were to find chateau garrison very hard to shift. These stands represented not only the garrisons, but also of the reinforcements filtered through during the course of the battle.

Reille's II Army Corps, Kellermann's III Cavalry 
Corps, with the leading Division (19th) of 
VI Corps, and the Guard Heavy Cavalry

Summary of Armies

Army Command (Duke of Wellington) = 6SP
Cavalry 'Corps' = 30SP (Includes Corps command @3SP)
I Army Corps = 45SP (Includes Corps command)
II Army Corps = 28SP (Includes Corps command)
Reserve 'Corps' = 40SP
Garrison of Hougoumont and grounds = 4SP

153SP total, exhaustion point - 51SP

If we exclude the 15 command SP, leaving 138SP, at c.500 men per SP, the army's strength comes out at 69,000 - pretty close to the generally accepted strength of the army at Waterloo.  Note that the Reserve 'Corps' seems to have had no commander, so I have supposed that Wellington retained that corps under his own hand.  The Anglo-Dutch army fielded 155 cannon - represented by the three on the table (c1:50)
D'Erlon's I Army Corps ready to go, supported
by Milhaud's cuirassiers and Subervie's lancers

Army Command: Emperor Napoleon/ Marshal Ney = 6SP
Imperial Guard = 36SP 
I Army Corps = 42SP
II Army Corps = 43SP
VI Army Corps (-) = 21SP
I Cavalry Corps (-) = 6SP
III Cavalry Corps = 9SP
IV Cavalry Corps = 9SP
(All Corps include 3SP corps command)

172SP total, exhaustion point, -58SP

Excluding the 27(!) command SP, leaves 145SP.  At 1SP:500 men, the army's strength comes out to about 72,500  - again, pretty close to the usual figure for the French army at Waterloo.  At 1 gun representing 50, we get an artillery park of about 250 - very close to the actual number.

I have conflated the command of the army into one figure, Napoleon himself, though it is true that Marshal Ney's played possibly an even greater role than his emperor in the conduct of the battle.
Anglo-Dutch right wing.  Genl Hill's 2nd and 4th 
Divisions ready to hand though II Corps artillery
is just out of the picture to the Footguards' left.

Army Command: Generalfeldmarschall Blucher = 6SP
I Army Corps = 45SP (Includes Corps command @ 3SP)
IV Army Corps = 52SP (ditto)

103SP total, exhaustion point, -35SP

Excluding the 12 command SP, leaves 91SP, that is 45,500 counting 1SP to 500 men. The 2 cannon allotted to each corps represents the 88 piece inventory of both. - a slight over-representation only.

French Imperial Guard, with elements of 
VI Corps moving off to the right of the pic.
The sapient reader might observe that the French army is blessed with a lot of commanders, especially amongst the cavalry.  This had some interesting effects.  During the course of the action, Divisions and Brigades were activated according to their proximity to or distance from their Corps or Army Commander.  The French Cavalry corps being so tiny - one or two stands apiece - there was very rarely any occasion in which any of their Divisions had to test whether they received their orders.  For the sub-formations of the Army Corps, this was more of a consideration.
The Hougoumont, and environs.  Probably using riflemen
to represent the plantation defenders wasn't quite the right choice... 

It was an even greater consideration for the formations on the Anglo-Dutch side. Lt-Genl the Earl of Uxbridge's cavalry was scattered all over the field. In fact, only 'Daddy' Hill's II Corps presented any kind of coherent formation. This proved something of a problem for the Allied side, with Divisions frequently having to roll for activation, and failures were not at all infrequent. The French enjoyed, therefore, considerable advantages in terms of command in this refight.
Early clashes on the eastern end of the line - the 
struggle for Papelotte and Frichemont

The arrival of the Prussians was determined by a die roll, IV Corps leading.  A roll of '6' at the beginning of a turn brought the first elements of IV corps in the 2-hex defile between Maransart village and the 'Paris Wood' to its north.  If for any reason the two hexes were occupied, then reinforcements could pass through the north end of the village itself.  I Prussian Corps would not arrive until all of the IV Corps was on the table, whereat it would arrive along the clear table-edge northeast of Frichemont.  As it was, it took a good four turns to bring the whole of IV Corps into the action... 
French I Corps attacking the villages, whilst
1st (Light) Cavalry Division and Milhaud's 
cuirassiers threaten the allied flank.

As usual, I used my dice initiative system, in preference to the standard card draw.  The French received a White die, the Anglo-Dutch a Red.  The Prussians upon arrival rolled a separate die for initiative: theirs was Green. Their separate die seemed reasonable, as the IV Prussian Corps could scarcely have been in touch with their allies.

To be continued
- The beginning of the action.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021



The Waterloo table set up

Some time ago, I made some noises about a Waterloo battle to be set up on my little hex-table. That battle was fought out a couple of weeks back, setting up late one evening, and being fought out in fairly leisurely fashion over the next two days. I took some 99 pictures, of which maybe 90 survived the 'first pass' quality control. The rest I've listed and captioned on paper. I'm still undecided how I am to report this - a blow-by-blow with nearly all the pictures, or a broader brush narrative with a selection of, say, a dozen or so.

Waterloo, early developments

In Darkest Aithiops - the Corsairs of the Coast

The Oportonovo garrison stand in readiness as
the Corsairs approach through the brush

It seemed to Capitao Ferdinand da Gama, the Commandant of Oportonovo,  that no sooner had his town seen off one emergency, than another followed hard on its heels.   The m'Butu raid had been driven off without too much difficulty, but had led to the loss of half his specialist artillerymen.  It would take time to train up more.  The Corsairs of the Coast were not going to give him that time.

The campaign system Paul and I are using is derived directly from Bob Cordery's simple 'generator' laid out in the Portable Colonial Wargame.  This is card driven, with one colour (RED) being assigned to the Azeitonian colonists, and the other (BLACK) to the three 'native' peoples: the indigene m'Butu, the Touaouin denizens of the desert, and the Corsairs of Zanzingabar.  In effect this is supposed to be colonists' story, with the three 'native' peoples the three OPFOR.  However, I find I'm telling the story from the 'natives' point of view.  What that green rectangle at the confluence of the Limpopo River and Kofi Creek portends (see map), I don't actually know.  Is a force of troops marching on the trail, or Azeitona river boats, or...?

Situation after 10 days of campaigning.

The run of successes that brought the Azeitonians to the Kachinga market town was due to a lengthy string of red cards, interrupted by a single black. But since then, the 'natives' had several useful, if shorter, strings of black cards. Barra Kuta had put some distance between himself and the Azeitonians at Kachinga; the sub-Chief, Yavuyavu had not only sped back to Rutintutin Kraal, but chased away a patrol and conducted a raid upon the small outpost town, Oportonovo, and now, here are the Corsairs.

Meanwhile, Coronel Relaxado's expedition was busy arranging matters to his satisfaction in Kachinga, and preparing a further advance up the north branch of the Limpopo River. At the same time he had cause to worry about the presence of a band of m'Butu some 15 miles to the south of his conquest, talk of the Touaouin at a similar distance from Bonbasa, and unsettling rumours coming up from the coastal settlements. Altogether his position was not as comfortable as he would have liked.

During this while, the other 'native' peoples had also had a chance to move. Though still some distance off, the Touaouin were from the north leisurely descending the Bootbustin Trail towards Bombasa. But the rumour of Corsair activity suddenly came reality.  The draw of the cards permitted a sudden descent from the north by sea. The original plan was to strike the colonial capital, Vertiginus, but a change of mind of the Wazir Yezdi, commanding in person, brought the fleet past that place to the coast just north of Oportonovo. Fact was, I was a bit concerned that what might be found at the larger settlement would be too large a morsel to chew, and figured that the smaller place would be a more promising target. This, by the way, before I discovered (in my role as Yavuyavu) that the garrison there was a deal larger than I had anticipated.  

Dawn broke, and the garrison drew up in a defence based upon the stockade and the stout administration building with its stone walls. After the losses of the day before, da Gama could count on some 170 regulars and civilian militia, 40 cavalry and a rifled artillery piece with a reduced crew.

Oportonovo Garrison:

Command: Commandant, Capitao Ferdinand da Gama = 6SP
1 regular infantry, rifles, average = 5SP
1 regular infantry, rifles, average = 4SP
2 civilian militia, rifles, poor @4SP = 8SP
1 regular cavalry, rifles, average = 3SP
1 regular cavalry, rifles, average = 1SP
1 artillery rifled field gun, average = 1SP

8 units, median = 4
28 SP, exhaustion point, -10SP

Having landed his fighting men on the beach north of the town, Wazir led them down the coast - some 360 men armed with swords and smoothbore muskets, and 40 more dragging a couple of 8-pounder ship's cannon to serve as medium smoothbore field artillery.  As the landing force set out, he ordered the fleet, led by two gunboats to keep pace along the sea coast.  

Corsairs of the Coast:

Command: Wazir Yezdi = 6SP
9 corsair pirate bands, smoothbore musket, average @4SP = 36SP
2 smoothbore medium artillery @2SP = 4SP
1 Sail gunboat Sakuu (Skua) 5SP/FP; CC=5SP (carrying capacity)
1 Sail gunboat Ghaq (Cormorant) 4SP/FP; CC=4SP
4 Sail transports Baje, Alcatris, Alnuewris, Alkhurnasat (Pelican, Albatross, Seagull and Tern)
    @3SP = 12SP; CC@8SP = 32SP

18 units, median = 9
67 SP (21FP), exhaustion point, -23SP 

By mid-morning the whole force was lining up in the brush and scrub north of the town, the guns being hauled up by the good road.  The garrison watched with trepidation as a pair of sailboats ghosted into the bay.  Although by then a considerable sea breeze had arisen, and the tide was still on the make, there was no real danger of their becoming embayed on a lee shore. It was a fine day, with not a whisper of  foul weather in the offing.

Corsair gunboats, Ghaq and the xebec 
rigged Sakuu.

As his men arrived, the Wazir wasted no time in ordering the attack - not even waiting for the trailing 'field' gun to come up. The main target was the stockade, where Capitao da Gama led the defence, but the Wazir also ordered the attack upon the strong looking building on the other side of the road. As his fighters closed in, the gunboats opened up with their cannon. Their practice could not have been better - their first broadsides at once scoring telling hits (both rolled 'sixes' to hit in their first salvos!).  The gunboats, by the way, counted the same as the single guns on land, it being supposed that the quantitative difference would be offset by the qualitative - a none-too-large seagoing vessel not being the steadiest of gun platforms. All the same, the Corsair gunnery was superb, and remained so all day.
Corsair ships' cannon serving as medium artillery

The lead artillery were also effective, but suddenly found themselves under a telling rifle fire from the stone building.  Hastily they drew the piece back out of range, redeploying at the edge of the scrub, and making way for the second gun to drop into action on the road.  That, too, had its hazards, as a lucky shell burst from the undermanned Azeitonian cannon felled a good half its crew (minus 1 from 2SP).
The first attacks go in...
A band of 40 men approaching the town along a low ridge to the north west of the stone building were driven back a short distance by rifle fire from the building itself and from the cavalry guarding that flank.  The main effort, however was against the stockade, supported effectively by the gunboats.  The leading wave of fewer than 50 men was soon brought up to near on 200. Some scrambled to secure a foothold within the fieldworks, whilst many contented themselves with pouring in a steady volume of musketry.  Outnumbered five to one, the stockade garrison were barely hanging on as losses mounted on both sides.
Corsair fighters hurrying into the fray

It could not be said that the Corsair attack was a model of coordination.  Throughout the morning more corsair fighters drifted in from the scrubby bush land, to join the fun.  
Gunboats make good practice against the stockade

As the pressure mounted upon the stockade, soon just ten men (1SP)  remained with the commandant, still grimly fighting off the assailants. A  depleted platoon of regulars - maybe 20 men joined them just before an overlapping group of corsairs could leap over an unmanned section of earthworks. The commandant himself bore a charmed life, not a scratch or bruise upon his person. The Wazir himself was equally lucky on more than one occasion. Having installed his person with one of the guns, the occasional counter-battery from the town placed that person in some danger of his life and limb.

Desperate fighting at the stockade;
the corsairs storm the stone building
The corsairs' confidence grew with the unexpected capture of the stone building. The galling fore from the corsair artillery and the musketry from the nearby ridge, were too much for its garrison to endure. Twenty survivors evacuated the place. A band of thirty corsairs entered, and promptly began to fire upon the buildings and troops visible in the cemetery beyond.  

The stockade garrison's handful of survivors flee
as Capitao da Gama falls into the hands of the corsairs

This really was the beginning of the end. Although the corsairs in the open were taking considerable losses, it was becoming plain that, against this foe, the Colonist garrison was simply not strong enough.  A band of corsairs burst into the southern end of the stockade, chasing out the scant remnants of the regular platoon. Surrounded, the civilian militia defending the north end finally succumbed. Still the gallant commandant wielded a stout sword, but as more corsairs swarmed over the earthworks, he had perforce to surrender.
Azeitona defence of Oportonovo about to 

The stockade in corsair hands...
This 'surrender' seemed to me the only solution, but we brought it about this way.  The rest of the stockade defenders having fled or been put to the sword, the Capitao had been left, unwounded, on his own, enemies to his front and rear.  Paul and I agreed that he could have one round of fighting.  If he was hit, he was wounded or killed, but if he forced a retreat on one of the enemy, he would be held to have cut his way out of the press and escaped.  From memory, though he might have 'taken an enemy with him', he neither escaped nor was killed.  So, a prisoner he remained in the hands of the corsairs.

By this time, the town's garrison had long since passed its exhaustion point in losses. Although they had given as good as they had received, even discounting the sea-going transports (only one of which arrived during the battle), but including the gunboats, the corsairs' losses fell  short of their exhaustion point.  
End of the battle.

Overall losses were: 

Capitao da Gama MIA/POW 6SP
Infantry: 14SP
Artillery: 1SP (gun silenced)
Note that in determining returns and replacements, the Commandant's 6SP is not included, as really an ad hoc command figure (unlike Colonel Relaxado, Great Chief  Barra Kuta, or Wazir Yezdi).  So the Azeitona garrison find 5SP permanently lost; 5 replaced after a certain interval (one of these may be artillery); and 5 return immediately after the battle as stragglers, lightly wounded, knocked out  etc.

So the battle casualties are 'estimated' to be some 100 men plus the commandant himself.

Musketeers: 15SP
Artillery: 2 SP
Returns: 6 permanently lost (1 of them artillery); 5 replaced after a certain interval; 6 return immediately: 5 musketeers and 1 gunner.

So the Corsair battle casualties came to about 110 men. 

Having driven the garrison to the southern end of the town, the Corsairs turned their attention to taking as much booty and other prizes a relatively small and new settlement might yield.  During the discussion about this, I suggested that the non-combatant townsfolk might have been taken to the jungle fringes in the hex south of the town, and even suggested a 'man of his hands' to command this little troupe. Then I looked at the map. The hex south of the town is ocean, where the coastline trends westward. But in hex-1912, there would have been the recently encountered band of m'Butu. So the non-combatants might have come in for some attention after all.

Nevertheless, the pickings were bound to be fairly slender, apart from a few trinkets recovered from the church, an interesting safe from the admin building, some invaluable military equipment - especially rifles and ammunition - and a few persons that one way or another might liven up the slave markets of Zanzingabar. The commandant himself might well be worth something in ransom... 

* * *

Meanwhile, back in Kachinga, Coronel Relaxado decided to resolve at least one of the worries that had been exercising him.  Gathering together as much force as he could risk, he set out southward.  That m'Butu band at Getmai had to be eliminated, and that right soon...

* * * 

To be continued... The Battle of Getmai Drift.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

InDarkest Aithiops - Oportonovo


The colonial seaport of Oportonovo

The account of the 'Jellyfish's' attack on Oportonovo is soon told, but first, let's lay out the situation.  I suggested that the m'Butu had achieved at least a partial surprise, arriving hard on the heels of the fleeing patrol, with just enough pause to carry out a quick reconnaissance.  The garrison, it transpired, was stronger than Yavuyavu expected and hoped, but he trusted they were sufficiently unready to offer reasonable prospects of a successful assault.

Together, Paul and I decided that all three fortified strongpoints would contain one element. He chose the gun to be in the southern redoubt; the other housed a militia platoon and the stockade some regulars.  To simulate the rest of the garrison scattered about the town, Paul rolled for each stand 3 D6s, two to determine, counting from the north end of the table (his right), how far along the table; and the third counting in from the edge. This determined their initial placement. This meant a fair likelihood of a stand being placed in the ocean.  I suggested that that would indicate a platoon that required as many turns as their distance from the beach to assemble and be available for action. 

Yavuyavu masses his army


As it transpired, none were so affected; all were ready for action!  However, one platoon found itself around the northernmost house.  That was to place them far from the action, at least to begin with.  Captain da Gama himself was down at the beach at the bottom of the street leading from the Church - Rua da Igreja.

The gun redoubt overrun
Having observed the garrison's dispositions, Yavuyavu massed his 300 warriors in the bush at the south end of the town - and charged.  Straight for the redoubts they ran, striking first the gun-armed fort - the 'gun redoubt'. Yavuyavu's lack of personal streamlining kept him well clear of the leading ranks, but he soon joined in the fighting. Soon the earthworks were covered with struggling soldiers and warriors, spears, bayonets and swords flashing in the sun.  Unable to hold their redoubt, the gunners managed to haul their gun clear, but the rapidly following warriors soon caught them in the open and put to the spear whoever stayed to protect the piece.

Assault upon the militia redoubt

Soon after, the fighting overlapped onto the second redoubt, where the frightened civilian militia found themselves hard put to keep the warriors off.  By this time a cavalry platoon and another militia band, coming up from the beach, were entering the fray.  The cavalry charged the group that had just overrun the gun, and soon became locked in a close quarter melee.

Overview as militia and cavalry join in
Meanwhile, the town's Commandant, Capitao Ferdinand da Gama, had been for a moment undecided whether to take his stand at the stockade, or to throw himself at once into the action.  Making up his mind, he joined the band of militia close by some houses and directed their rifle fire into the masses surging up to the militia held redoubt.
Capitao Ferdinand da Gama takes command

Colonial cavalry almost surrounded
Shortly thereafter, just as the first cavalry troop broke out of their melee, badly depleted, the second arrived between the stone wall of the cemetery and some rising ground, whence they poured a galling fire into the flank of the warband frontally assaulting the redoubt.  The defence was now becoming better organised, and the m'Butu had already taken heavy losses.  Then Yavuyavu himself took a rifle ball that broke his left collarbone.  The assault at once began to flag, the fall of a few more warriors (one more strength point) finally discouraged the m'Butu.  More fell as they faded back into the bush, and out into the farmland bordering the jungle.   
Second cavalry troop opens fire into the warriors'

The m'Butu had been beaten off - quite comfortably as it seemed in retrospect.  Yet the Commandant had experienced several moments of anxiety with the loss of the redoubt and his artillery, and the loss of a cavalry troop and the second redoubt apparently imminent.  For his part, Yavuyavu accepted the outcome with his usual equanimity.  He'd given himself a little exercise, though his collarbone ached and would have to be reset soon, and he'd given the Azeitonians a fright.

The losses amounted to:
5SP: 1 militia, 2 cavalry, 2 gunners.
2SP return at once as lightly hurt - 1 infantry, 1 artillery
1SP return after 2D6 RED turns after this one (i.e. 7 turns) - 1 cavalry - count as battle casualties
2SP dead or severely wounded (1 cavalry, 1 gunners)  - count as battle casualties.
Cavalry or Artillery returns may instead be substituted by infantry.

So the Azeitonians lost maybe 30 men to the attack (mostly cavalry and gunners, with a few infantry scratched and bruised)


14SP: 2 from Yavuyavu, 12 from warrior bands.
4SP return at once as scratched and bruised 
4SP return as recruits/ reinforcements 2D6 BLACK turns after this one (i.e. 10 turns)  - count as battle casualties
4SP dead or severely wounded - count as battle casualties

The m'Butu battle losses amount to 80 men.

What of the 2 SP lost from Yavuyavu?  I'm inclined to the view that as a subordinate command that loss went to the morale of the m'Butu and brought them within 1 of their exhaustion point at 13SP lost.  Perhaps (if he reappears during this campaign) he will recover his full strength after the 10 BLACK turns following this.

The m'Butu pull out, having lost too many 
Just as the colonists stood about congratulating themselves upon their victory, burying the dead and tending the wounded, a farm boy mounted bareback upon a horse lathered with sweat, raced into the town from the Vertiginus north road.  He galloped up to the Commandant. Without salute or preamble, he spoke up.

The last few shots of the day bring down the last
few warriors in the field

'Ships!' he gasped, 'The sea's full of sails!  Men with muskets and swords and cannons are coming ashore in hundreds!  They're heading this way!  And fast!'
Aghast, the Commandant stared into the eyes of the tired young messenger.
'Corsairs!' he breathed.

To be continued: The Corsairs of the Coast.

In Darkest Aithiops: The Narrative Resumes...

Overall situation developing during the week
 following the battles along the Limpopo Trail.

Following the capture of the important native cosmopolitan market town of Kachinga, the Azeitonian colonists settled down rather to organise its governance.  For the time being, Tenente-Coronel Relaxado was inclined to leave things pretty much as they were, with any taxation, tribute or other levies that went formerly to the m'Butu overlords now accruing to the Colony's fisc.  On the amount, the colonel was inclined to take the town's merchants' word for it, provided it seemed credible, with just enough of dickering to establish he was one with whom it was not well to trifle.  Meanwhile, he set about preparations for the continued march westward.  For the moment, the slight and occasional rumours of movements of some desert tribes to the northwest, and the even more tenuous hints of something going on along the coast up north, did little to perturb the colonel's thoughts from his future programme.  Those Diamond Mountains, seemingly just a few miles off, exerted a fascination impervious to minor distractions.

Staggering southward from Kachinga with the shattered remains of his army, the Great Chieftain, Barra Kuta counted himself lucky there was no pursuit.  A couple of days later, he halted his retreat close by the Limpopo South Branch river ford at Getmai.  There they remained for the next few days.  Meanwhile, a few warriors were drifting in to his capital from the southern regions of his lands, and a few more were coming of age.  He might yet build up a credible force.

But what of his other tribesmen?  What had happened to the reinforcement from the jungle kraals that the Great Chief had hoped would arrive in time to have made a difference in the battle on the Limpopo trail?  Nothing had been heard at all from that band - not before that battle, and not in the week since.  Had he been betrayed?  Was his sub-Chief, Yavuyavu, plotting to undermine him?

It transpired that this force had taken longer to gather together than had been anticipated.  The sub-Chief of the jungle kraals was one Yavuyavu - 'the Jellyfish' - so named for the manner in which his corpulence rather belied the sharp readiness of his spear.  Wily, ready for any fight than did not require a great distance to reach, Yavuyavu's loyalty to the Great Chief was commensurate with his laziness: he was quite content with the heights of authority he had already attained. 

Having gathered nearly 300 warriors at the 'village with no name', he was about to set off when they heard,  muffled by distance and the jungle, the gunfire of the battle along the trail, a good five miles distant.  Contemplating whether to continue on, Yavuyavu received word that a band of colonists had approached  Rutintutin Kraal.  Numbers were obscure - only a patrol had been seen - but there was reason to suppose there were more in the offing.  The puzzle was why the colonists had not yet attacked.  Only the barest minimum - 40 warriors (1 stand) - had been left by way of a garrison.  

That at once decided Yavuyavu's course of action.  In all haste, he marched his little force down to the Kraal, entered the place undetected, quickly laid his plans.  A reconnaissance soon established that the colonials were not in force at all - just 40 men.  The m'Butu surged out of the gates.

Now, much of this had been decided by the card draws for activation.  As I was focusing upon the m'Butu, not a lot of activity was to be had from the desert Touaouin, nor the coastal corsairs, but there was enough spare for the occasional twitch.  Once Barra Kuta had got clear to Getmai, and there was no pursuit, then the other sizeable force - some seven stands of warriors plus Yavuyavu's - received my attention.  A reasonable string of Black activations got him to the Kraal without detection (Paul, as the Azeitonians, didn't get the chance to try another recon roll).  Another led to the sequel - a m'Butu raid against the Azeitonian colony.
The seaport of Oportonovo, its garrison scattered 
about just as the westward patrol warns of the 
approach of m'Butu tribesmen.
As eight stands (the 40-strong village garrison was now incorporated in Yavuyavu's force) plus command surged out of the village, the single Azeitonian patrol hastily fled before them.  

Now, I had hoped to make this an episode in the overall campaign, but using The Men Who Would Be Kings game system published by Osprey.   This would have used one of the scenarios (E: 'Run to the hills', or G: 'It's awfully quiet out there...').  This is a kind of 'uber-skirmish' level game, which, for the purposes of this campaign I would have chosen a '1 figure = 1 man' scale.  

The Azeitonian patrol/ recon force would have comprised three 12-man regular or irregular units (sections) for an 18-point field force commanded by a subaltern, possibly with an heroic NCO included.  The units would simply have been made up of stands were are already using: 9 stands for 36 rifle-armed figures (possibly plus command).

The m'Butu engaged would have represented two and a half stands (out of eight) - six 16-man units for a 24-point field force: 96 figures, all spear armed, and probably counting as 'fierce' or 'veteran'.  It would have been commanded by one of Yavuyavu's lieutenants, with perhaps an heroic warrior leading one of the 16-man groups.

Now, were we to suppose that the Azeitonians were all run to earth and put to the spear, the total loss would have been 1 stand at 4 SP.  I daresay that the m'Butu losses would have been similar, if not greater, but still pretty minor in the overall scheme of things..  

Unfortunately, Paul was somewhat indisposed at the time, and as I hadn't fully worked out the scenario and force details, felt sure the thing would be too one-sided to be worthwhile.  I didn't press the matter then, not being too chipper myself .  Too bad.  But I still think it would have added something to the whole campaign narrative.  Maybe the opportunity will arise another time.  
The garrison scattered about. For explanation, see
next posting
At any rate, the colonist picket watching hastened back to the main camp, whereat, taking only their weapons and such items that would not slow them down, the main force ran as fast as they could down the trail.  Hot on their heels trod the m'Butu, with many a mocking hoot and holler.  Not content with chasing the Azeitonians away, Yavuyavu determined to have a slap at the still infant settlement of Oportonovo, scene of a sizeable action a year or so before.
Over 300 m'Butu tribesmen massed in the bush 
southwest of the Oportonovo settlement

Arriving at the jungle fringes overlooking the town, the patrol having escaped with hardly the loss of a man, Yavayavu undertook a quick reconnaissance.  The strength of the local garrison was rather in excess of what he had hoped.  Yavuyavu rolled a '6' - a very effective reconnassance - revealing 4 infantry and 2 cavalry units, plus a gun maybe 250 officers and men - 7 units overall, at 25 strength points, not counting the Commandant's personal retinue.  His own army comprised just 320 warriors.  But, as he put it to one of his lieutenants, a certain Njia Ndefu ('Long Trail'): 'We are here and the enemy is there, and there we must strike him.'  Robert E. Lee could not have expressed it better.

Before listing the respective forces, I should mention that whenever there is a battle that doesn't involve the main commanders as delineated at the beginning of the campaign narrative, there will be a command stand of 6SP created that is not part of the campaign order of battle.  It does not count towards unit or SP count in reconnaissance reports.  So I was told: 7 units, rather than 8.  A character will be created for that ad hoc command.  This is I think justified as the 6SP is nominal and goes toward army cohesion, morale and maybe to add a little pep to an individual unit; it is not in itself a fighting stand. So although the four campaign powers each begin with one command (e.g m'Butu's Barra Kuta, or Azeitona's Colonel Relaxado) others may emerge to become characters in the narrative.  We have introduced Yavuyavu, 'The Jellyfish'. You may remember Capitao Ferdinand da Gama, who commanded the Oportonovo garrison just over a year ago...

The scattered garrison rallying together to
resist the m'Butu attack.

The Forces:

Azeitona Garrison:
Command: Capitao Ferdinand da Gama (average) = 6SP
2 regular infantry stands (rifle-armed, average) @ 4SP = 8SP
1 town civilian militia (rifle-armed, poor) = 4SP
1 town civilian militia (rifle-armed, poor) = 5SP (Paul had a spare SP that had to go somewhere)
2 regular cavalry (rifle armed, average) @3SP = 6SP
1 rifled field artillery = 2SP

8 units, median = 4
31SP, exhaustion point -11SP

m'Butu Raiding Party:
Command: Chief Yavuyavu, 'The Jellyfish' (average) = 6SP
8 warrior stands (assegai, average) @ 4SP = 32SP

9 units, median = 5
38SP, exhaustion point -13SP

The m'Butu overrun the southern redoubt, forcing 
its garrison to flee, dragging their gun.

His simple plan laid, his little army about him, 'The Jellyfish' ordered the charge...

To be continued: Yavuyavu's raid.