Tuesday, 12 April 2022

Modder River - The Game


Things got off to a good start for the British when a die roll of  5 allowed them to discover Bosman's Drift. Methuen immediately ordered Colville to send half of the Scots Guards, supported by a maxim and the 9th Lancers, on a flanking movement against the Boer left.
Watching from the far bank of the river, Cronjie noted the enemy manoeuvre and issued orders to extend his flank. This is one of the few times I have actually moved any Boer units in one of my games!

9th Brigade begins to advance and the Northumberland Fusiliers start taking casualties as they lie in direct line of sight of the Boer artillery.

De la Rey looks on as the British forces move forward on either side of the railway line. The Boer guns are laying down an effective fire with no retaliation as they have not yet been 'spotted'.

The view from behind the now extended left flank of the Boer force. The Jacklex Commando and a pom-pom open fire on the Scots Guard column as it deploys into line.

Colville leads the rest of the Guards Brigade forward. At this stage they have only lost one man and one officer so confidence is high.

The 4.7" gun 'Joe Chamberlain' gets into action having finally spotted the Boer guns. This gun didn't arrive in time to take part in the real battle but as I have no 12pdr Naval gun model it seemed only fair to include it in the OOB.
Ouch! The Northumberland Fusiliers receive a devastating barrage from the Boer artillery backed up by accurate Mauser fire. They are reduced to 9 figures and removed from play - and it's only the end of Turn 2.

The left of the British line has advanced as far as the farm opposite the dam crossing point. The half-battalion of the North Lancashire's have taken a couple of casualties as have the A&S Highlanders on their right but nothing to slow up either unit.

Opposite them, good shooting from the British artillery has caused some of the Ross Commando to flee with the Commandant himself amongst the casualties. There is a chance here for a successful charge if the A&S Highlanders can just get a bit closer.

On the other flank the Scots Guards detachment have deployed but the heavy casualties received means that they become the second British unit to be removed from play. However, the maxim gun and Lancers are about to deploy.

Back at the dam, the A&S Highlanders and the North Lancashire's advance to within charging distance of the Boer line but the latter take a 'pin' which will prevent them from charging next turn.

In the centre the Coldstream Guards have no pins so are able to fix bayonets and charge forward. The result is that half of the Kraaidorp Commando is destroyed and the rest take to their ponies.

At the same time the British artillery take out both the Boer guns - well done Joe!

And to top it all the A&S Highlanders led by Methuen himself see off the Jacklex Commando at the point of the bayonet. Methuen received a slight wound in the process and had to be taken to the rear but a complete victory was now within his grasp.

On the British far right the maxim was now bothering the Boers whilst the Lancers looked for an opportunity to use their pointy sticks - but it was not to be.

A further spirited charge by the Highlanders broke the Newline Commando. With three Commandos now destroyed a British victory was declared.

Somewhat demoralised the Boer army withdrew.

It was a brief game lasting only five turns which surprised me a bit and I think the main reason for the British success was that I allowed them to start in a position too close to the Boer front line. If I had deployed them 6" further back it would have allowed a further turn of Boer firing before any British troops were close enough to declare a charge. This would have kept the result more keenly balanced as the British were only 14 casualties short of their breakpoint when the game ended.

However, I should not detract from the great pluck and determination displayed by the British soldiers and the personal valour shown by their general-in-chief. I have never played a game where I had three successful charges so the Empress Queen will undoubtedly be justly proud of this great victory!

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

Modder River - Scenario

Following the Battle of Graspan Methuen’s force continued to advance along the railway line towards Kimberley. Very little was carried out in the way of reconnaissance and even though Methuen himself reconnoitered the crossing at Modder River, the British failed to spot that the Boers had a large force dug in along both banks.

Fortunately for the British the loyalist station master at Modder River managed to get a message over revealing the true strength of the Boers although even then Methuen would not believe that their full force was present and decided once again on a frontal attack.

The Boers had indeed been “digging like rabbits” as the station master reported and had created substantial trenches on either side of the river line, the river itself was mostly fordable along its length. Furthermore, General De Le Rey was now fully reinforced with Cronjie’s excellent Transvaal Commandos to help shore up the wavering morale of the Orange Free State Boers and the whole line was backed up by an impressive array of artillery and pom-pom guns. 

This is a map of the battle from my well thumbed copy of "Battles of the Boer War" bought from WH Smith in Bury St Edmunds in 1972. An excellent read.
The table laid out and ready to play. As you can see I've had to adapt the battle area so it fits within the confines of my terrain unit system. The number of British units has also had to be slimmed down slightly but I'm happy that this will be a fairly decent representation of the battle.

Special Rules

1. The British were unaware that the river turned along their right flank although there was a crossing at Bosman’s Drift that they never identified. Rule: At the start of the game the British role a D6 and on a 5 or 6 discover Bosman’s Drift and are free to move troops across it.
2. The river could be crossed along most of its length but could be easily crossed at the dam and the railway bridge (even though this had been destroyed). Rule: Troops may feed across the river at the dam and railway bridge 3 figures abreast. To cross elsewhere roll 1 x D6 crossing at half speed on a roll of 4, 5 or 6.
3. Cronjie’s men had high morale having just come from the siege of Mafeking. Rule: Cronjie’s Commandos are elite troops in this scenario.
4. In the actual battle the British suffered demoralising casualties from their own artillery as they approached the river line. Rule: If British troops are within 12” of the river 50% of fire from their own artillery will fall on them and they will suffer the morale minus for shrapnel.
5. In the actual battle Lord Methuen at one point led a bayonet charge. Rule: each time a British unit charges roll 1 x D6 and on a 4, 5 or 6 Methuen will accompany them adding +1 to their melee score but also becoming liable for the fallen officer test. This can only happen once in the game.
6. De La Rey deliberately placed some of his Orange Free State commandos with the river to their backs to stop them fleeing. Rule: Any Boer figures forced to flee with the river to their back must make a further die roll and on a 5 or 6 they stay put.

Order of Battle

British C in C Lord Methuen
Guards Brigade (Colville)
Coldstream Guards
Scots Guards
1 x Maxim
9th Brigade (Pole-Carew)
North Lancashire Regiment (half battalion)
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Northumberland Fusiliers
1 x Maxim Gun
3 x Batteries Royal Field Artillery (62, 75 & 18 batteries)
Naval Battery
9th Lancers

Boers C in C Commandant Koos de la Rey (Orange Free State)
Ross Commando
Newline Commando
General Cronjie (Transvaal)
Jacklex Commando
Kraaidorp Commando
2 x Field Artillery
2 x Pom Pom

Victory Conditions

To win the British must force three of the four Boers Commandos to flee by the end of Turn 12 or take the dam or railway bridge and force two Commandos to flee. The Boers win if they can reduce the British force to below 50% strength.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Modder River

It is dawn on the 28th of November 1899 and, having recovered from the hard fighting at Graspan, Lord Methuen's column is nearing the Modder River as they continue the advance to relieve Kimberley.

Colonel Colville is reporting to Lord Methuen.
"Sir, the Modder River is just ahead shall I order scouts forward?"
"No need Colville, I reconnoitered there personally yesterday and the crossing is not defended." 
"Perhaps so sir but it wouldn't hurt to send forward a troop of cavalry would it?"
"You worry too much Colville, the Boers will likely have headed to the high ground at Magersfontein, they wouldn't stand here against British troops on level ground!"

"Dig in lads and adjust your sights to 600yds, that's where we'll hit 'em!"

"Site those guns carefully so you can sweep the open ground if the Brits dare to advance!"

Next up the battle of Modder River.

Saturday, 13 November 2021

Final Boer Commando

This will probably be the last Boer unit that I paint for this project as I can’t see that I’ll ever be able to use more than four Commandos on my 6’ x 4’ table given the way my rules play.

The figures are mostly from the excellent range by Raventhorpe Miniatures with a couple from Newline Designs thrown in to make up the numbers. The Raventhorpe Boers are lovely little sculpts full of character and movement and a joy to paint.

The unit will nominally be known as the Raventhorpe Commando in my OOB.

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Graspan – The Game

As solo games go this one was good fun to play and I was quite disappointed when it abruptly finished on turn 6, this is how it went:

The game started with two turns of counter-battery fire which fell slightly in favour of the Boers although both sides lost some guns.
On turn one proper, 9th Brigade began a steady advance towards the Boer positions.

Captain Prothero RN is one of the first to fall - ironically not as the result of a Boer sharpshooter but to the random fall of a pom-pom shell.

The 9th Brigade line begins to falter as it closes with the Boer line. The red counters are 'Pin' markers, the unit can still fire but movement is reduced and no charge can be made.

Lord Methuen orders the 9th Lancers forward in support but there is little help that these mounted men can give and they soon pull back out of rifle range.

With Captain Prothero down, Featherstonehaugh rides forward to give the Naval Brigade the benefit of his +1 to morale but even his presence could not shift those Pin markers.

The North Lancs. are taking heavy casualties too but strangely their Officers were to escape the battle unscathed.

The Boers are now pouring a terrific fire down onto the British line.

Turn 3 and the Scots Guards arrive and start to hurry forward as quickly as they can. Meanwhile 9th Brigade have been ordered to lie down and return fire (the blue markers denote that a unit is prone).

Finally a bit of luck for the British as the Ross Commando takes some hits including one on Commandant Ross himself.

This is followed by signs that the Boer right flank is getting a bit shaky as two Boers from the Jacklex Commando decide it's time to go home.
But most of the Jacklex men are still willing to fight it out.

The Scots Guards continue to advance. To their front the KOYLI have three Pins which means they can neither move or fire until they can rally one off.

The North Lancs. put up a brave fight and almost rallied off all their Pin markers which would have given them a chance to charge the Boers, but it was not to be and with just 9 figures left they were removed from play.

Turn 5 and the Grenadier Guards arrive in the nick of time.

The Naval Brigade are worn out too - there will be no VC's for them.

The Scots Guards keep pushing forward while the KOYLI hang grimly on to their front.

The Jacklex Commando rolls low for morale and the whole lot take off.

Meanwhile the Royal Artillery finally silence the last of the Boer guns.

More and more Boers are taking to their ponies hoping to fight another day.

And finally, the Ross Commando breaks as the result of fire from the Maxim Gun. With two Commando's broken a British victory is declared at the end of turn 6.

Methuen is very pleased with the result believing that his decision to order an artillery bombardment prior to the attack has been a resounding tactical success.

The Maxim crew who fired the lucky winning shots. For some reason I forgot that the Boer rifle fire could reach this far and should have flattened the crew early on - no I'm not biased, not much anyway.

The tweaks that I’d made to the morale rules worked perfectly (even if I do say so myself) and gave me exactly the type of game I’ve been wanting from this project. If anything, the balance has been tipped very slightly in favour of the British, but I think this can be addressed by painting up a rather long overdue fourth Commando for the Boers.

I’ll be having a go at Modder River next once the Boers have received their reinforcements.

Sunday, 26 September 2021

Graspan – Scenario

On the day following the Battle of Belmont Methuen’s force continued its march north following the route of the railway line. 9th Brigade led the advance while the Guards were allowed to bring up the rear because of the heavy casualties they had suffered the previous day. The following morning (25th November 1899) 9th Brigade reported that the Boers had occupied a line of low hills east of the railway covering the approach to Enslin Station.

The Boer force was not the same one that Methuen had faced at Belmont and included Transvaal Boers with strong artillery support under Commandant Roos de la Ray. Methuen deployed his artillery and commenced a heavy fire on the Boer positions whilst summoning the Guard units forward to support an attack by 9th Brigade.

This scenario focuses on the action on the British right involving the North Lancs, the KOYLI and the Naval Brigade.

Initial deployments - the game will be played using the full width of my 6' x 4' table.

Special Rules

1. Methuen began the battle with a heavy artillery barrage to try to knock out the Boer guns. Rule: The game starts with an additional two turns of counter battery fire, the guns on either side may only fire at the enemy artillery.
2. The field officers in the British Regiments had learnt by now to remove any signs of rank that might attract the fire of Boer marksmen however the Navy personnel did not have the same experience. Rule: The Naval Brigade testing for fallen officers lose their officer on a die roll of 1, 2 or 3.
3. The Naval Brigade showed great elan at the real battle and successfully stormed a kopje. Rule: The Naval Brigade adds +1 to any melee die roll.
4. The Guards were assigned to protect the camp and were called forward in a hurry when battle commenced. Rule: The Scots Guards arrive on turn 3 and the Grenadier Guards on turn 5, they arrive deployed in line on the British base line.

The Boers occupying the high ground at Graspan.

Order of Battle

British C in C Lord Methuen
Guards Brigade (Colville)
Grenadier Guards
Scots Guards
9th Brigade (Featherstonehaugh)
North Lancashire Regiment
Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
1 x Maxim Gun
2 x Batteries Royal Field Artillery (75 & 18 batteries)
Naval Brigade
9th Lancers

Boers C in C Commandant Koos de la Ray
Jacklex Commando
Ross Commando
Newline Commando
2 x Field Artillery
1 x Pom Pom

The KOYLI prepare to advance. These are more very nice Jacklex figures efficiently supplied to me earlier this year by Mark of Jacklex.

Victory Conditions

To win the British must force two of the three Boers Commandos to flee by the end of Turn 12. The Boers win if they can reduce the British force to below 50% strength.