Friday, 5 May 2023

Colenso - Scenario

Buller arrived in South Africa in October 1899 bringing much needed reinforcements of British troops. Having instructed Methuen to press forward towards Kimberley he personally took direct control of the effort to relieve Ladysmith. As he advanced the Boers fell back across the Tugela River near Colenso.

The Boer position at Colenso was reported to be very strong and Buller sensibly decided to try to bypass it rather than attack head-on. However, following the news of the British defeats at Stormberg and Magersfontein, he felt under pressure to mount a direct assault.

The attack was ordered for dawn on 15th December 1899 with an initial advance by Hart’s Brigade on the left that ended in disaster when his men were funnelled into a dead-end loop of the Tugela and shot down by the Boers. Things went slightly better on the far right of the field but in the centre, Colonel Long took it upon himself to advance his guns far too close to the Boer positions where the crews were cut down by rifle fire.

Hildyard’s Brigade was ordered to advance, take Colenso and force a crossing of the Tugela. He was also tasked with supporting Long in his exposed position. This scenario focusses on that part of the battle.

Special Rules

1. The Boers were instructed by Botha to hold their fire until the British were committed to an attack. Rule: No British units may fire until after the Boers have fired for the first time.
2. The river could only be crossed at Colenso bridge and at the drift by the destroyed railway bridge. Rule: Troops may cross the bridge and drift 3 figures abreast and count as being in close order when doing so.
3. The Boer’s morale was fragile during the actual battle and the garrison at Colenso withdrew without really contesting the place. Rule: The Boers defending Colenso must test for morale each turn even if they do not receive casualties.
4. In the actual battle Major Long advanced the 14th and 66th Field Batteries in advance of the infantry to a position just in front of Fort Wyllie where the crews were subsequently wiped out and most the guns lost. Rule: The guns may not be withdrawn but if all the crewmen become casualties the British must attempt to extract the guns. Lieutenant Roberts is sent forward with two limbers each with a strength value of 6 to retrieve as many of the guns as possible. Any guns not retrieved are captured by the Boers.
5. In the actual battle the Boers laid explosive at the bridge with the idea of trapping the British on their side of the river and capturing them. Rule: to blow the bridge the Boers must roll a 5 or 6.

Order of Battle

British C in C General Sir Redvers Buller
2nd Brigade (Major-General Hildyard)
2nd Queens West Surrey Regiment
2nd Devonshire Regiment
2nd West Yorkshire Regiment (enter turn 3)
2nd East Surrey Regiment (enter turn 3)
2 x Maxim Guns
Colonel Long
2 x Batteries Royal Field Artillery (14th & 66th batteries)
4.7” Naval Battery

Boers C in C General Botha
Boksburg Commando
Heidelberg Commando
Vryheid Commando
Krugersdorp Commando
2 x Field Artillery
1 x Pom Pom

Victory Conditions

This is a timed scenario, at the end of turn 8 calculate VPs as follows:

For each Boer Commando destroyed or currently fleeing 5VP
If British infantry are across the Tugela 5VP
If the Boers still hold Colenso 5VP
For each British infantry regiment destroyed 5VP
For each British gun captured 1VP

Sunday, 30 April 2023


It’s dawn on 15th December 1899 and Colonel Long has just ordered the 14th and 66th Field Artillery Batteries to unlimber 500 yds from the banks of the Tugela River. Just 300 yds to their left the buildings of Colenso are becoming visible through the early morning haze. 

The Boers are reported to be on the far bank of the river and have been spotted in the town as well. Some of Long’s subordinates are concerned that their position may be a bit exposed.

"Colonel Long, I think we may be just a bit too close to the Boer positions?"
"Nonsense Captain, the Boers have almost certainly withdrawn!"
"But Sir, we've had reports that they hold the far river bank in strength."
"If so, the best place for the guns is up front just like we had 'em at Omdurman!"

"Blimey Sarge, if we was any closer to the Boers they could brew us a cuppa tea!"
"Hold fast there laddie, Colonel says we was this close at Omdurman."
"Yeah Sarge, but at Omdurman they was armed with spears!"

"Order the men to hold their fire, the Tommies are walking right into our trap!" 

The third battle of Black Week is about to begin.

Sunday, 5 March 2023

Bringing up the Guns

I wanted to add one more battery to the British OOB and whilst about it I decided to add a couple of limbers. I don't normally like to spend painting time on non essential items like limbers but in this case I thought it would enhance the overall look of the troops on the table.

Thanks to Mark at Jacklex for allowing me to buy these two-horse versions of the standard Jacklex six-horse set which are more practical for me with my limited table space.

Friday, 10 February 2023

Magersfontein – The Game

I got the chance to play out my solo Magersfontein game this week. It lasted for six action-packed turns and had another quite surprising result.

The view greeting General Cronje as the sun comes up - a crowd of men in skirts moving towards him over the veldt.
For Methuen the view is less clear - the Boers are there somewhere but where?

Turn 1 and the Mausers and a Pom Pom spring to life tearing chunks out of the Grenadier Guards. Both Guards units failed their 'bunching' test and had to fight the remainder of the game in close order.

Whilst from the relative safety of their trenches the Hoopstad Commando let rip.

And the Black Watch in front of them take a tremendous hit.

The Grenadier Guards have 3 pins which stops them from moving or firing but they have already gone to ground (blue marker) and with a full complement of officers they will soon rally off the pins.

Amazingly General Wauchope didn't fall until turn 2 and the Black Watch retained all their field officers up to the point the unit was removed when reduced to 9 figures strength.

The Guards and their supporting artillery were able to fight back against the Fauresmith Commando even managing to take out the Kommandant.

But in the heat of the action their C-in-C Colville was hit.

With the Black Watch gone the A&S Highlanders move forward supported by the Brigade Maxim Gun.

On Magersfontein Hill a lucky artillery shot knocks down the Kroonstad Kommandant but the Commando survives its compulsory 'Flee' test. 

A general view of the action from Methuen's position at the end of turn 4.

A devastating hit from 'Joe Chamberlain' finally breaks the morale of the Kroonstad Commando and they take to their ponies. The 4.7" naval gun only fires every other turn but it uses 8 dice!

All the British units are lying down and the battle is purely a firefight now.

But the Boers are gradually taking casualties from rifle fire and the Maxim and yet another Boer Kommandant has gone down.

Another good strike from 'Joe Chamberlain' sends the Fauresmith Commando scurrying for their ponies and General De la Rey is powerless to stop them.

Finally the Hoopstad Commando are off too - Break Point for the Boers!

The Scots Guards are still hanging on (the Grenadier Guards had been reduced below 9 figures and removed from play).

The A&S Highlanders are still there too but there will be a pipers lament played at the Black Watch barracks in Perth.

"The Boers are fleeing it's a victory Sir!"
"Another 'victory' like this will be the end of me!"

At the end of turn 6 there were three fleeing Commandos which under the rules meant the Boers had reached their break point. However, the British casualties stood at 47 which was just one short of their break point so a very narrow victory of sorts although I think it would be fairer to call it a draw.

The fact the British achieved this result had me slightly doubting the morale rules but on further reflection I think the scenario was probably at fault rather than the rules. I don’t think I should have allowed any movement for the British on turn 1 to reflect the confusion more accurately in the ranks of the Highland Brigade after the Boers opened fire. Also, the Guards were maybe placed too far forward because they managed to advance to close-range before lying down which gave them better firepower.

The British did have some very jammy die rolls – out of eight fallen officer tests for the Regimental officers only one became a casualty when on average I would have expected three. This enabled the British units to easily rally off pin markers. The fact that the Kommandants of all three active Commandos were hit was also very unlikely as they only fall on a die roll of 1.

It’s a difficult balancing act having a set of rules that allow a possibility of the British winning whilst still having a realistic feel to the game. However, the main thing is that I had a lot of fun playing which is after all the whole point.  If time allows I may have another go at the game but making the scenario amendments as above.

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Magersfontein - Scenario

With hindsight it is quite easy to criticise Methuen’s decision to launch yet another frontal attack at Magersfontein however, tied as he was to the railway line and lacking the cavalry he needed for a successful flanking move, in reality he had little other choice.

The decision was made to attack directly against Magersfontein Kopje following a night approach with the newly arrived Highland Brigade under Maj-General Wauchope. The Guards Brigade were to support them on their right but not to assault the enemy line. 9th Brigade was to remain in camp as a reserve.

On the Boer side, De la Rey had convinced Cronje to make a stand at Magersfontein rather than fall back. He cleverly sited trenches at the base of the hill knowing that the British would be expecting the Boers to occupy the heights. The Boer’s use of smokeless powder would make detecting the trenches virtually impossible.

Special Rules

1. The Highland Brigade starts the game deployed in column and once deployed remains in close order.
2. Maj-General Wauchope was one of the first to fall when the Boers opened fire. Rule: Wauchope is attached to the Black Watch on the first turn and is subject to an automatic fallen leader test.
3. In the confusion following the initial Boer fire the Highland Brigade officers took heavy casualties as they tried to deploy their men. Rule: All fallen leader tests are subject to a -1 modifier while units are in column.
4. During the battle the British artillery failed to spot the Boers in their trenches and only fired on those Boers visible on the hillside. Rule: The British artillery may not fire on the Boers in the trenches.
5. The Guards Brigade were ordered to advance but not to assault the Boer positions to their front. Rule: The Guards battalions may advance and fire but may not melee with the Boers.
6. As the day progressed Methuen ordered 9th Brigade forward to support the main attack. Rule: On turn 4 and each subsequent turn roll 1 x D6, on a roll of 6 the Northumberland Fusiliers arrive west of the Railway Line on the British base line.
7. The Boers to the west of the railway line were not engaged in the battle. Rule: The Potchefstroom Commando must remain inactive unless the Northumberland Fusiliers arrive on table in which case they are activated.

Order of Battle

British C in C Lord Methuen
Guards Brigade (Colville)
Grenadier Guards
Scots Guards
65th RFA
3rd Highland Brigade (Wauchope)
Black Watch
Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders
1 x Maxim Gun
18th RFA
4.7" Naval Gun 'Joe Chamberlain'
Northumberland Fusiliers

Boers C in C General Cronje, General De La Rey
Potchefstroom Commando
Hoopstad Commando
Kroonstad Commando
Fauresmith Commando
1 x Field Gun
2 x Pom Pom

Victory Conditions

The game ends in a British victory if they get one unit on Magersfontein Kopje. Otherwise play continues until one side reaches its break point.

Sunday, 29 January 2023


Having recovered from the wound he received at Modder River, Lord Methuen is continuing his advance to relieve Kimberley. The Boers have fallen back to positions on Magersfontein Kopje and once more there is nothing for it but a frontal attack to dislodge them.

The newly arrived Highland Brigade under Major General Wauchope is ordered to assault the Boer positions at dawn following a night march. Major Benson of the Staff has been assigned to lead the way.

"Where are we Major Benson? It's pitch dark since the moon has set!"
"I'm not sure general, these magnetic boulders are playing havoc with my compass."

"I think we must be very near the Boer positions now Sir, may I suggest that you deploy the men into line?"
"Nae laddie my orders are to stay in column until I'm sure we are upon them, I don't like it but there we are!"

"Och sarge I cannae see a bloody thing, I think we're all doomed!"
"Quiet there private Fraser!"
The sun's coming up at last when a single gunshot rings out...

It is the 11th of December 1899.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

More British Commanders

I have expanded the British officer corps to give me a Highland Brigadier and a spare mounted officer to use as an ADC or courier. This gives each of my three infantry brigades their own dedicated commander figure.

I have given the Highland Brigadier trews to differentiate him from the other officers. I can't imagine these would actually have been worn on campaign but I think they look nice. The figures are Jacklex.

The Highland Brigadier was the last item I needed to complete the OOB’s for Magersfontein so hopefully I’ll be playing that one in the not-too-distant future.