Tuesday 21 November 2023

Council of War

The victory at Biggarsberg is a relief for the British however it still leaves General White in a difficult position. Harrismith has fallen and now both Helpmakaar and Ladysmith are in danger if the Boers can concentrate their strength against one or the other.

These are the three options I believe the British now have:

1. Abandon Helpmakaar and concentrate all forces at Ladysmith in the hope that the Boers can be defeated in battle there.

2. Split the British forces between Ladysmith and Helpmakaar and hope that both places can hold out.

3. Hold both Ladysmith and Helpmakaar with token forces and push the main army north along the railway line with the aim of bringing about a decisive battle on favourable ground.

The Generals ride in for a council of war.

Normally I would roll a dice to decide which strategy should be adopted but I thought it would be an interesting idea to throw this out to the blog readers. Let me know in the comments which of the three courses of action you think General White should take. If there is no consensus after a week then I will resort to a die roll.

Friday 10 November 2023

Biggarsberg - The Aftermath

The casualty recovery dice rolls turned out to be not as bad as I feared for the British although Yule's Maxim Gun was lost (my original recovery rules allowed for full recovery of British artillery but I decided to change this to make it the same as the Boers). The revised strengths of all the units involved are given below:

Following the battle I determined that the Boers would withdraw to hex 1407 and the British would advance to hex 1507.

Victory Conditions

As the campaign has developed I can see that the original victory conditions I set are a bit vague and it's unlikely either side could achieve them so I am reformulating them as follows:

The campaign progresses until one side has 20VP more than the other. VPs are awarded as below:

2VP for each enemy infantry unit permanently destroyed (1VP to the Boers for destroying the Lancers, Naval Brigade detachment or Imperial Light Horse)
1VP for each artillery battery, maxim gun or pom-pom destroyed (1 extra VP if the battery is the Long Tom or 4.7" Naval Gun).
1VP for each named commander who becomes a casualty
5VP for each battle won
5VP to the Boers for occupying Harrismith or Helpmakaar
1VP to the Boers for each turn they lay siege to Ladysmith
10VP to the Boers for occupying Ladysmith

On this basis the current VP totals are as follows:

British = 5VP
Boers = 13VP

The Boers are currently in the lead with +8VP

Tuesday 7 November 2023

Biggarsberg Pass - The Game

The British column approaches the Biggarsberg Pass blissfully unaware that the Boers are waiting for them hidden in the hills.
The Boers are holding their fire waiting for the Tommies to come on.

The men of the Piet Retief Commando raise their rifles in anticipation.

On and on come the British...

...into the valley of death.

Turn 3 and finally the Boers let rip - 15 of the King's Royal Rifles are laid low!

The leading artillery and the King's Liverpool take a few hits too but not to the same degree.

Caught between the fire of the Piet Retief and Vryheid Commandos the head of the column ceases to exist.

But the remainder of the British force are able to deploy and begin to return fire.

The 'first time under shrapnel fire' rule causes 5 Boers of the Piet Retief Commando to flee whilst a sixth is knocked down. This is a lucky break for the British. 

A similar fate befalls the Vryheid Commando.

The British are still taking casualties but are not near their break point yet. 

The Piet Retief Commando withdraw from their exposed position (I diced to see whether they would remain in position or fall back as they were very near their break point) relieving the pressure on the British line. 

The Utrecht Commando (foreground) had so far only engaged in some long distance rifle fire.

Another hit on the Vryheid Commando was enough to see them take to their ponies and flee. If one more Boer Commando breaks the game will be over.

And yep, as the Piet Retief reach the hill they too are reduced (break point is 5 figures) by further British artillery fire.

Incredibly it's a British victory - I bet you didn't see that coming?

So Yule gets away by the skin of his teeth and the column is free to withdraw through the pass. His own brigade however has now been shattered leaving only Hamilton's as an effective fighting force.

Next I will calculate casualty recovery.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Biggarsberg Pass - Scenario

The British are in column of march wending their way through the Biggarsberg Mountain pass in the hope of reaching the safety of Ladysmith. They have no idea that the Boers are occupying the high ground on either side of the pass and are about to ambush them.

The British column about to enter the Biggarsberg Pass
The Boer reception committee

"I don't like it sir, it's too quiet!"
"I know what you mean sergeant..."

Special Rules

1. The British do not spot the Boers until they open fire. Once spotted they may not return fire until they have deployed from column of march. Roll 1 x D6 each turn to see when the Boers open fire, first turn they do so on a 6, second turn 5 or 6 etc.
2. British officers have learnt to hide their marks of rank and the standard fallen leader rules apply.
3. None of the Boer units have been in action yet so the 'first time under fire' rule applies.
4. The British command have learnt their lesson and all troops will deploy into extended order.

Order of Battle

C-in-C Brigadier-General James Yule
1st King's Royal Rifles (22)
53rd Field Artillery
1 x Maxim Gun
Colonel Ian Hamilton
1st King's Liverpool Regiment (21)
1st Gloucestershire Regiment (20)
69th Field Artillery
1 x Maxim Gun

C-in-C General Lucas Meyer
Vryheid Commando
Piet Retief Commando
Utrecht Commando
1 x Krupp Field Gun
1 x Pom Pom

Numbers is brackets are current unit strength.

Victory Conditions
To win the British must force two Boer Commandos to flee. The British will lose if they receive 32 infantry casualties (50%).

Friday 27 October 2023

21 October 1899 - Turn 4


News of Yule's defeat at Glencoe has reached White in Ladysmith where it has caused much consternation both there and around the world. At the same time a rumour has arrived that the enemy have occupied Harrismith.


White orders Penn Symons to send French's brigade north to make contact with Yule and help him to extract his force from Dundee and fall back to either Ladysmith or Helpmakaar depending on the dispositions and intent of the enemy. White fails his command die roll (I'm now only testing when orders are sent and not when receiving them) so the movement does not occur this turn.
White orders Colonel Chisholm to take the Imperial Light Horse from Ladysmith along the line of the railway towards Harrismith to reconnoitre for the enemy.
Yule decides that he should retreat through the Biggarsberg Mountain pass to circumvent Joubert's force at Glencoe. 

Joubert orders Kock to probe south towards Wessels Nek where he will be in a position to intercept any movement of British troops from Helpmakaar towards Ladysmith.


Yule moves 2 hexes but is stopped at hex 1506
King moves 2 hexes to Wessels Nek
Chisholm moves 1 hex to hex 1909

Kock moves 2 hexes to Wessels Nek
De Wet moves 3 hexes to Harrismith

The situation at the end of turn 4

There are two contacts this turn, the first is between Yule and Meyer at hex 1506. These are the options:

1 = Yule is alerted that Meyer's force is blocking the mountain pass and retires back to Dundee.
2, 3, 4 or 5 = Yule's column is ambushed in the Biggarsberg Mountains pass.
6 = Meyer withdraws to hex 1407 and allows Yule to pass.

The die roll is a 3 so there will be an ambush game.

The second is an encounter contact between King and Kock at Wessels Nek and these are the options I came up with:

1 or 2 = King retires to Elandslaagte
3 or 4 = Skirmish game fought out on the table.
5 or 6 = Kock retires to Washbank

The die roll was a 6 so Kock retires in the face of pressure from the 5th Lancers.

Tuesday 24 October 2023

20 October 1899 - Turn 3


Boers - All British forces are located.
British - No Boer forces detected this turn (except that the locations of Joubert & Kock are known to Yule).

Although White has received no direct information on the movement and locations of the Boers he is concerned that the telegraph line to Dundee has gone dead.


White orders Major King to take the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers up the line of the railway to investigate the cause of the break in communications with Yule at Dundee.
Yule finally receives his order to retire to Ladysmith but cannot act this turn due to the compulsory move to Dundee. 
Symons begins constructing defences at Helpmakaar.

Joubert successfully orders Meyer to move south of the Biggarsberg Pass and cut the British line of retreat from Dundee.


Yule must remain in Dundee
Symons remains in Helpmakaar
King (5th Lancers) moves 1 hex to Modder Spruit

Joubert remains at Glencoe
Meyer moves 2 hexes to hex 1507
De Wet moves 2 hexes to 0306
Botha moves 3 hexes to Harrismith

Yule is now in a tricky situation at Dundee with his direct line of retreat south blocked by two Boer forces although he is not yet aware of the presence of Meyer's force.

I'm finding that the intelligence and orders system is getting a bit clunky and I may have to relax things a bit to keep the game moving. One great thing about a solo game is that I can change the rules whenever I want and nobody will complain!

Saturday 21 October 2023

Glencoe - The Aftermath

Following the battle I rolled dice for casualty recovery as outlined in the campaign rules. The Royal Irish Fusiliers were so reduced that Yule disbanded them and sent the survivors to make up the numbers in Hamilton's brigade. The new strengths of the units that took part in the fighting are as below:

Next I needed to decide the most likely course of action for the British to take using a D6 roll against the following list of options.

1 = Yule is so demoralised he surrenders his whole force to Joubert.
2 = Yule surrenders his brigade to Joubert but Hamilton is so disgusted that he takes his own brigade and escapes south across the Biggarsberg mountain pass in the direction of Helpmakaar.
3 = The whole British force retreats to Dundee.
4, 5 or 6 = The whole British force retreats south across the Biggarsberg mountain pass in the direction of Helpmakaar.

The result is a roll of 3 so the British will retreat back to Dundee.