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'
Reserve
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

Magersfontein

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.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

More Highlanders

After a herculean effort I have managed to complete a second Highlander unit for the British forces. Highlanders do look great, but painting tartan is something of a chore. They don’t represent a specific regiment and can stand in for any unit from the Highland Brigade depending on the scenario.

The figures are all by Jacklex* and this time I have used the 'flappy seagull' running figure which is one of my favourite poses in the range.

*A big shout out to Mark of Jacklex for his superb service and support for this project!

Thursday, 22 September 2022

Stormberg - The Game

The sun is coming up and the Boers on the Kissieberg Kopje are keeping a sharp lookout.
So far however Gatacre's force has remained undetected.

On they come, still deployed in close columns following their night march.

The British artillery remains silent as they cannot make out any targets on the Kopje in the early morning light.

Turn 2 and the Mausers spring into action causing casualties in both British battalions. A low morale throw has also resulted in an early PIN for the Royal Irish Rifles.

Further bad news for Gatacre - the Grobelaar Commando appears on Steynsberg Kopje directly in the British rear.
The dismounted MI turn to face the new threat and try to protect the guns.

While the infantry shake out into a battle line (although the Royal Irish Rifles are hampered in this due to having now accumulated 2 PINs).

However, an artillery hit on the Ollivier Commando forces a morale test that sees 3 Boers take to their ponies and flee (they rolled a 1).

Meanwhile the Northumberland Fusiliers are making steady progress towards the Kissieberg Kopje.

Gatacre tries to steady the Royal Irish Rifles but it was proving hard to rally off those PIN markers.

Turn 4 and another Boer morale die roll of 1 sees the unsupported Grobelaar Commando taking to their ponies and riding off en-masse. This was an unbelievable stroke of luck for the British!
The Northumberland Fusiliers have made it to the base of the Kissieberg Kopje and the lack of PIN markers puts them in a great position to make a charge.

The Royal Irish Fusiliers are now too far behind the Northumberlands to lend any support.
With their infantry so close to the enemy the British artillery ceases fire.
The Northumberland Fusiliers charge the Boers and force the whole Commando to fall back.
This was technically a win for the British but I decided to play one more turn to allow a second charge.
This time General Ollivier and his Commando were completely overrun and eliminated.
Not such a Black Week after all!

Another roller-coaster of a game with some lucky die rolls for the British resulting in a surprising result. It was enjoyable to play proving that a smaller game can be just as much fun as one that uses all my units.

The next game will be Magersfontein but as I need to find time to paint another Highland unit this one may be a way off yet.

Friday, 16 September 2022

Stormberg – Scenario

While Methuen conducted operations in the west and Buller personally supervised those in the east, it fell to the veteran of Omdurman General Sir William Gatacre to hold the central position in eastern Cape Colony. Gatacre was tasked with preventing the Boers moving any further south than the positions they held at Stormberg.

Gatacre was a highly respected and capable officer but the force he was allocated was woefully inadequate for offensive operations, yet he received contradictory instructions from both Cape Town and Buller which whilst saying he “had a free hand to act” made it clear they expected him to attack.

So it was that on the evening of 9th December 1899 Gatacre took his meagre force forward with the aim of expelling the Boers from the Kissieberg Kopje and forcing them to abandon Stormberg. Marching by night and having only inaccurate sketch maps he ended up coming against the Boer positions from the wrong direction although fortunately for him the Boers were as surprised as he was.

This scenario aims to recreate the resulting assault by the British on 10 December that was to mark the beginning of Black Week in 1899.


Special Rules

1. The British battalions begin the game in column and do not deploy to line until fired upon. Once deployed they remain in close order. The Boers were surprised by the British line of approach and did not open fire until they were very close. Rule: The Boers must attempt to spot the British each turn on die roll of 4, 5 or 6 (they are automatically spotted when within 18”).
2. During the battle Boers occupied the Steynsburg Kopje where they brought fire to bear on the British rear. Rule: at the start of turn 2 Boers roll 1x D6, the Boers appear on the Steynsburg on a 5 or 6 (continue rolling each turn adding one to the die roll every time). The Boer troops are not permitted to move off the Steynsburg Kopje.
3. The British force attacked in a different location to the one chosen by Gatacre in an area that was almost a sheer cliff making the attack hard going. Rule: to represent this, British troops must -1 from all melee die rolls.
4. Once again, the British suffered casualties from their own artillery as they could not clearly spot the progress of the infantry. Rule: if the artillery is firing on Boers within 12” of any British infantry then split the firing dice 50:50 into two colours – white will be hits on the Boers and blue on the British.
5. The Mounted Infantry were tasked with protecting the guns and did not take part in the attack. Rule: The Mounted Infantry must remain with the guns. They may turn to fire at any Boers that appear on Steynsburg Kopjie.

Order of Battle

British C-in-C General Gatacre 
2nd Northumberland Fusiliers
2nd Royal Irish Rifles
Mounted Infantry (half-battalion dismounted) protecting guns
74 & 77 RFA

Boers C-in-C General Ollivier 
Ollivier Commando (reinforced to 15 figures)
Grobelaar Commando (on Steynsburg)

Victory Conditions

To win the British must occupy the Kissieberg Kopje within 8 turns.


Monday, 12 September 2022

Stormberg

Lieutenant-General Sir William Forbes Gatacre is leading two battalions of infantry on a night march against the Boer positions on Kissieberg Kopje.

"Blimey sarge why does ole' back-acher always ave' us marching around in the pitch black?"
"Less of your lip there private. General Gatacre got us through many a tight spot in the Sudan by is' night marches, ee' knows what ees' doin'".
"General, I'm not sure if we're on the right track, the railway shouldn't be there on our left should it?"
"Ahem Colonel, we may be a point or two off compass but we'll catch the blighters off guard as soon as the sun comes up!".

"Gettin' light now sarge, do you think the Boers know we're comin'?".
"Not a chance lad, not a chance!".

Dawn breaks on 10 December 1899 the beginning of what was soon to be known as ‘Black Week’.