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.


  1. I do like your special rules to add some scenario/history specific aspects to the game. That said, the Imperial infantry looked lke they're lined up in a shooting gallery.
    You make the Boer War so tempting - I've long fancied it for a Pony Wars variant whereby the Brits must evacuate and burn the Boer farms rather than rescue farmsteads from the hostiles in the standard Pony Wars game. It has the advantage that the large number of 'Indians' are replaced by much smaller numbers of Boers.

    1. The appeal for me is these early war battles before the guerilla stage and although it looks as if the British will get thrashed you can never quite tell as one failure in Boer morale can swing things!

  2. A most excellent representation of the battle field Ian! Everything looks great! I look forward to seeing how things turn out!

    1. Thanks Brad, I hope to make a start at the weekend.

  3. Looking good from here. Do like your scenario specific rules.

    1. They do add a bit of flavour particularly when playing solo as I do.

  4. Well done on this set up IAN- just perfect! Look forward to the report.

  5. Thanks Kev. I’ll hopefully have the report up soon.

  6. This is great stuff. Here is a link to my Battle of Elandslaate https://www.flickr.com/photos/59568506@N02/albums/72157668505464355

    1. A great looking game - I particularly like the station and buildings!