EXERT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Looking ahead

The first draft of Hearts of Tin v2011 has now been uploaded to google docs.  Its been proofread by me a couple of times but I'm fairly sure that there are more typos,  orphaned rules that don't fit and other awkward bits to be found.

However, I'm ready to think about what my Indian and John Company forces will look like then pick a tentative initial scenario to work towards. Rather ironically, although the possibility of conventional pitched battles was one of the arguments for going to India in the first place, that's not really where I want my focus. Instead, I expect the majority of games to be raids and ambushes on one side, followed by punitive expeditions on the other. There are good arguments that could be made for using single figures and a version of MacDuff for these games but one of my aims is to standardize my 40mm 1830/40's armies, 1 basing system, 1 organization and 1 set of rules. Experiments have shown that HofT can provide an interesting game with a handful of small units as well as being able to handle as many troops as I can crowd onto my table.

The trick will be to suspend attention to consistency of scale and organization. For various reasons, I have decided that 3 bases each of 6 figures will constitute a regiment and 3 of these will make a British brigade (1 European, 2 Sepoy). If I ever go to refight the larger battles of the Sikh War,  I will field one such brigade for each division that took part. For the small actions however, I will call each stand a company and treat the 3 stands as a detachment or even field each company as a unit for the smallest skirmishes.        

The other side is a bit trickier. Here I need to be able to emulate 3 different armies (Scinde/Gwalior, Afghan, and Sikh)  as well as be able to provide enough irregular forces for the smaller games. The Sikh infantry in their red cold weather uniforms are too distinctive and anyway lead to two opposing "red" armies. If fielded in their white hot weather uniforms, they don't look so different from matchlock men or European trained pultans of the Mahratta princes. Irregulars from all these armies are close enough for my purposes, so here  lies my path. For cavalry I shall rely purely on hordes of irregulars and for now will avoid Sikh artillery. If I want to do more than draw inspiration from the Sikh Wars, I can re-address the question later.

Numbers are an issue,  given appropriate ratings, the British will be able to deal with 3 or more times their numbers but I'm not sure my table can. One option is to use different figure ratios, making the assumption that the French trained native Indian forces would be drawn up in 3 ranks and the matchlock men even deeper so that each stand would represent between 50% and 100% more men.  In purely gaming terms, being outnumbered 2 to 1 for an "even" game should look and play ok. The question is, should there be larger units or more of them? I had inclined towards the first as being harder to maneuver, and maneuver is one of the weak points of most Indian armies. With the change in rules to using activation points however, having more units with fewer commanders does an even better job of portraying the challenge faced by the generals of the Native Princes. So, standard units it is, just more of them with best being regular and the worst equipped irregulars being rated as militia.

Now what about a scenario?  Keeping the later NW Frontier in mind as well as earlier campaigns, and having just re-read Sita Ram Pande's chapter on the Ghurka War, I picture this whole campaign being kicked off by various raids into John Company Territory which call for a reprisal, a punitive expedition. An ambush as the column makes its way through a pass, perhaps an ambush of a convoy and then an assault on a hillfort. My 54mm fort is gone so I have the opportunity now to build a new, 40mm one.  I have enough Queen's troops but need to raise some sepoys and of course, I poor lone matchlock man won't make much of an opposition.  Plenty to do over the next 8 months!



  1. For scenarios I often look at the various Grant books of such . . . usually I can find something along the lines of what I want . . . and many are not "even fights".

    Also I like the idea of many units with few commanders . . . players will have to make choices (almost always a very good thing).

    -- Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff, yes the Grant books are great and Stuart Asquith's solo wargaming book has some more. They aren't "even" numerically, but they are always well balanced so that both sides have a good chance of winning.

    To achieve that where the British are "better" unit to unit, I'll either double the number of suggested units for the Native Indian forces or else 1/2 the number of British ones. Gotta make 'em work for their Empire :)

  3. One aspect of Indian warfare that might be worth looking at is the caste system. Depending on your variety of Indian prince there are large sections of the army that aren't rated by their commanders and whose destruction won't phase them. In much the same way that a French noble wouldn't be concerned by the rout of his peasent levies.

    In my own draft rules for C&C India - milita/rabble units do not count for victory banners and therefore the British player can wade through an ocean of 'em without being any closer to victory.

  4. Interesting idea Conrad and one which I'll tick away for future reference but unfortunately, it doesn;t look to be applicable for my 19thC campaigns. From the 2nd Mahratta through the Great Mutiny, whether Maratta successor states, Sikhs or Mutineers, irregulars were often present but no one seems to have expected them to fight or even let them get in the way. The reliance seems to be on artillery and European trained infantry with irregular cavalry hanging around the flanks. The various Mahratta successors adding various Islamic mercenaries particularly Arabs, Afghans and Baluchs for defending forts.

    Wouldn't want to encourage some latter day military genius to start using those irregular volunteers and levies as human shields.