With the Sepoy rebellion in full swing, it came as some surprise to the British in Keemananistan when the Rani, previously thought to be a loyal supporter of the Company’s adminstration, declared for the rebels and systematically began wiping out, in a most literal fashion, outposts of British influence. The Residence at Bhindibhaji was under siege with the Company Resident, Sir Henry Havaleek, only just holding off the first mutineer onslaught. Across the State small parties of Britons sought our what small sanctuary they could find. Some columns of civilians and Company troops, fought their way through to join Sir Henry, others attempted to concentrate on further flung garrisons which, it was hoped, would then fight their way through to the Residence and await the response of the British government.
In one small enclave near the town of Bhowelpore, a small British surveying party had been operating with the assistance of a small force of Madras Fusiliers, intent on creating better drainage for the local population. This civil works project took on a new light when news of the mutiny reached their commander, Captain Bromley North, and he immediately had his local labour throw up a makeshift breastwork around an outlying heathen temple. Here, protected from the heat by its stout walls, he placed his reserves of food and ammunition and sent out a force of cavalry to scour the countryside for any Britons in distress.
Unfortunately the news of the Rani’s forces arriving in the vicinity saw the native labour desert before the entrenchments were complete, so make shift barricades were added from whatever was to hand. So the day began as the Rani’s forces arrived to stamp out the light of civilisation in Keemananistan. Our game began here.
In the entrenchments were the following British forces.
Captain Bromley North: Two Groups of 8 Company Infantry armed with the new Enfield rifled musket.
Lieutenant Carshalton Beeches: Two Groups of 8 Company Infantry still armed with the old Musket
Sergeant “Gypsy” Hill: with one medium artillery piece and five crew.
The British had taken the opportunity to double the amount of canister the gun crew had as one of their support options. A choice which was to be telling. Along with this force a second force was off-table, as will be revealed later.
The Rani’s force was as follows:
Ram Dittin: Three Groups of 8 Well-Ordered Sepoys
Asheed Madrassas: Three Groups of 8 Well-Ordered Sepoys
Sag Paneer: Three Groups of 10 Sepoy Rabble
The Rani: Three Groups of 10 Sepoy Rabble
Sag Aloo: One Group of six Sepoy Skirmishers
Sheek Kabab: One Group of 12 Badmash Wallahs
This was a BIG force indeed, largely as the British had elected to entrench themselves with so much breastworks, this allowed the Mutineers to pile on the support points which they used to really increase the amount of poor quality Sepoys they had.
Here’s a view of the table from both ends.
The game began with Ram Dittin deploying his Sepoys on the table. The clump of foliage behind them is their Deployment Point.
Sag Aloo’s skirmishers took up position on the rocky high ground above them from where they could see down into the small cantonment.
The British responded with Sergeant Gypsy Hill’s gun in its redoubt, the retort of its first shot echoing off the surrounding hills…
…however, this served only to see more mutineers deploy and push on towards the British position.
Captain North deployed his men on the South facing breastwork whilst Lieutenant Beeches deployed his men into the square to their rear.
But Ram was unperturbed. He pushed on with alacrity.
On his right Asheed Madrassas led his well-ordered troops on, still in their company livery.
But Sergeant Hill’s gun was now being served with canister and Ram’s ranks were suddenly thinned by a galling fire.
Now, into the fray, came a vision in a yellow and gold ensemble and matching accessories. The Rani was leading her most loyal, albeit somewhat ragged, Sepoys forward.
By now Ram’s force was falling apart, but Asheed’s men pushed on despite fire from the ramparts. Sergeant Hill turned his gun to face the new threat.
But what is this? A force of loyal Sepoys have arrived carrying their wounded command, Colonel Seymour Organs, towards the Cantonment. This party was accompanies by a group of British Civilians under Dr Purley Oaks who had armed themselves with a mix of hunting weapons and the Company cavalry under Lieutenant Hampton Wick. Could they get the wounded Colonel to safety?
Colonel Organ’s predicament is ably attested to by the following image.
“Push on my brave warriors!” Asheed Madrassas elects to ignore the small column which has arrived and to push on to try to take the cantonment. They fire a controlled volley and men fall on the breastworks and around the gun.
Good Lord, its the chaps from the club! We didn’t have any suitable civilians for our volunteers so we used a rag tag bunch of officers who were, one presumes, on leave and have banded together to seek safety. With their sporting weapons they fire a ragged volley but with little effect.
Meanwhile, up in the rocks, Sheek Kabab’s Badmashes have worked their way round. Looking down they can see the Rani leading her ragged Sepoys onwards…
…and onwards. Sergeant Hill’s gun cannot deal with both Asheed’s men and the Rani at the same time and he is running low on canister.
But Asheed’s men are in mortal danger. By attempting to keep up pressure on the cantonment they are ignoring the threat posed by Lieutenant Wick’s comapny cavalry.
The climax of the battle is near and Sheek’s Badmashes stream down from the hill to join in the fun. Half of Hill’s crew are dead, but they fight on, serving their gun with great bravery.
Yet, surely, there can be but one outcome? The Rani’s men stream onto the breastworks, their bayonets flashing. The Badmashes provide dubious support.
“Steady the Madras Fusiliers!”, Captain North cries out his encouragement and, with a remarkable roll of the dice, the Sepoys are repulsed in their moment of victory.
At that very moment a bugle call can be heard across the battlefield. The drumming of the hooves of Wick’s Horse make the ground tremble and the riders crash into the flank of Asheed Madrassas’ Sepoys.
The Sepoys fight, briefly, but their morale collapses and they stream back with the horsemens’ flashing sabres carving a bloody path through the ranks of the fleeing mutineers. The Rani’s Force Morale collapses and the Cantonment is safe.
Lieutenant Forest Gate leans down the inform the Colonel that, for now at least, their path is clear. The journey to the Residency may prove more problematic.
So ended our game. The Mutineers, confident with the numbers so heavily stacked in their favour, were seduced into simply hurling their force piecemeal towards the British positions. Their lead unit under Ram Dittin was cut to ribbons by the canister fire, whilst Sag Paneer’s Sepoy Rabble, an entirely expendable force, never even made it onto the table. The Rani also lost one of her Groups early on while deploying and left them behind rather than wait to rally them and reform as a larger formation. Had the Mutineers deployed more methodically and screened their deployment with their Skirmishers they could well have seen the British artillery be less effective when presented with an advance on a broader front and a third Group with the Rani would have tipped the odds to the point where, one would expect, the gun redoubt would have fallen. Whether the Mutineers could have captured the whole cantonment is a moot point. I suspect that we’d have seen some hard fighting inside the British position.
However, as it was and equally importantly, the Mutineers concentrating their efforts on the cantonment meant that the British were able to achieve their objective, the rescue of Colonel Organs, with little problem.
This was a large game of Sharp Practice with around 100 points per side on the table. We wanted to play a larger game to test the system and this certainly worked. What I like about the flexible scale is that Sharp Practice can give games with very different flavours. You can have a game with twenty five figures a side and get a real skirmish feel where one man is one man, or you can ramp up the numbers, as we did with that game, where the mutineers field around 100 figures and you get a game which feels much more like a battle from their perspective, yet with the tiny force of thirty odd British figures still feeling like a small outpost. On reflection, there was a lot about Rorke’s Drift about this game. Now there’s a thought…
To show what I mean about numbers, I’ve photoshopped (very roughly – I’ve shown the unit added with the blue ring of confidence) the missing Mutineer unit into this image. Even allowing for the fact that Ram’s force is falling apart in this shot, you can see how our 100 Mutineer figures takes on the look of a Brigade rather than a skirmish force.
So there we have it. Lots of work happening here on the layout of the rules and we are in Phase One of the four stage proof-reading process. We will keep you posted as we play more games. Next week the Traitor will be running a Napoleonic game as we see the return of Benoit, Comte de Langoustine.