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.