First of all, I must apologise. I had firmly intended to post this shortly after the Show but I fell ill with some form of heavy cold and am only now getting back on my feet.
Anyway, Battleground was, as ever, an excellent Show. From my perspective organisation was spot on, we were in without issue and set up in good time. I was busy at the game most of the day and so didn’t get around as much as I would have liked, but what I did see left me with the impression of a high standard of games and busy traders’ ideal! Anyway, on with the game!
Our intrepid party entered at the far end of a 6×4 table with about 5 feet of ground to cover to the river and the protection of the Royal Navy. My photography proved poor on the day and only a couple of shots came out well enough to be included, but they will give you an idea of the terrain.
So, all was well, our Explorers activated and began to move towards the river. Having baggage with them did slow their rate of movement and the option of leaving it behind was discussed a couple of times, but at this stage all was well. A number of enemy blinds were on the table, but they were out of Line of Sight and so moved (controlled by the game system) along or across the table as if searching for their prey! The first to come to grips was a small party of skirmish troops scouting ahead. They emerged from the front right of the party, came into the open and almost ran into the party as they crossed the more open ground. Reacting quickly, our leader detached himself and 5 Askaris to face off this threat and opened a devastating fire, quickly dropping some of the enemy and driving the rest off. Those Blinds to the front of the party, the ones that presented a risk of getting between the party and safety, were resolved as noises in the bush and nothing more; things were looking good!
But not for long! A party of Warriors, clearly following their scouts, had heard the firing and came on at the rush from the same direction. Meanwhile, another party, appearing to the left rear of our band, began to shadow our chaps, playing a watching game for now. The RN Gardner gun on the hill opened up to give covering fire against the shadowing group – managed one burst, inflicted some shock, jammed and the RN spent the rest of the game arguing over who was supposed to bring the Instruction Manual!
Another group of tribesmen now appeared to our Party’s left rear and closed for an attack, the shadowing group also deciding to join in. Hard pressed from two sides, our gallant band remained equally divided – one leader and 5 Askaris to each flank. Our original detachment was nicely fixed by the onrushing natives and, despite some desperate firing, they almost came to blows (the movement dice were not kind to the tribesmen in this game – more than once they came up an inch short of close combat!) Over the next few turns, the explorers gradually gained the upper hand but it was on the left that danger really threatened. There was little finesse – as Leader cards came up, command flags were grabbed to up CI and allow fire to be maintained, weapons to be reloaded and the Leaders to lead from the front. As the first group rushed our left, our brave chief stepped forward, emptied his pistol into the approaching natives and then tackled the leading man with his empty pistol and cane! The Askaris held firm and the attack was just beaten off, our hero taking a minor wound to his arm in the process (and losing all too precious CI) and one of the more experienced Askaris fell to a spear thrust. The next group hurtled forward and stopped just short, allowing our defenders the chance to give them some close range fire. The cards were kind and another volley saw them pushed back, but with the first group now returning to the fray. It really was nip and tuck at this stage. One group of defenders holding off two groups and there was now another blind approaching from the left rear; clearly the main body had heard the firing and was rushing to the fight. In the end, both groups were beaten off. Our original group finished dealing with the threat on their flank and a timely interruption allowed them to save the bacon of their comrades. The latter had also been extremely fortunate with movement dice coming up short and their cards coming out in the right order to allow additional rounds of firing before the natives could close. As these two groups were beaten back, the third coming up fast was also resolved as more warriors, but they decided discretion was the better part of valour and decided simply to shadow the party, who were now able to proceed calmly towards the river and safety.
All in all, a very successful ‘playtest’. The rules for controlling the native forces seemed to work very well, some ‘chrome’ is necessary, but they are certainly well on track. I need to look at firing again – it did seem that our party should have been more effective at close range and the revolver proved a really powerful weapon; again, this should be reviewed. That said, very good progress on the basics!
More to follow shortly!
Monty the Desert Rat