Spectating on: Mission Command (by Alan Paull). Sauntering back through the passageways from watching the last twenty minutes of the England v Sweden game I came across a WWII (Normandy 1944 late war era) game. British Tankers and PBI advancing against a ad-hoc German defence backed up with a little armour. This had piqued my interest earlier on but I had to make the call on "A Gathering of Vultures" Matrix Game instead. I am an avid collector of WWII - lots of 20mm (Command Decision - Chain of Command), a tasty bit of early war and some late war 1/200-10mm (Skytrex:Pendraken: Spearhead), 1/300, some 15mm (inspired by CrossFire and "What a Tanker") and ahem some 28mm [a scale I said I would never do for WWII - eating my words here!] for an upcoming Chain of Command "Streets of Stalingrad" Campaign. So I hung around to see what mechanisms were at play. I saw them on sale and hung back from purchasing 'yet another' WW2 rules system (something I am kind of regretting now) but seeing the action unfold it seemed to be playing really well on table. An umpire - hidden movement and placement - a middle battle board (the tactical) that the umpire controls as the players roll across a bigger (operational) map. There seemed to be a certain intensity regarding the players which is always the sign of a good game. Hopefully I should get a chance at this one next year! It looked equally good for my 20mm or 1/200-1/300-10mm collections.
Dinner: First class yet again with a lovely pudding to follow (wow)! An d now for something completely different .. Colonials, virgin territory for me!
Playing: The Relief of Knustonpore (Peter Grizell, Ian Drury, Nigel Drury). This was certainly a "big battle" hoards (literally) of 28mm toys on the table and excellent scenery using Muskets and Tomahawks (extended and revised) rules. I turned up just in time to "acquire" my 'mutinous' (as in playing the side of the Indian Mutineers) command, a rag tag bag of no-hopers who were deemed Mercenary  (paid to be here), Mob  and Irregular , plus a clutch of European "woman" I could use as hostages (interesting). I was also, as per my brief, a reluctant (not monocled) mutineer and only here because my father, a village head-man, told me to do it.
My role was to protect the "stormers" (the better quality Indian troops) from the British relief column just entering the table. I duly positioned my troops with the help of a kindly bystander who I co-opted into helping me (apologies as I cannot remember the name [so many to remember and remembering names is not my best skill] but many thanks for helping me out, it was really appreciated). I manned the fixed defences I was told to and safely holes up with "the ladies" in a strong point. Three units faced towards the relief column and two faced the fort. However I did notice nobody had "joined up with me" and I had rather a "hanging left flank", but the other Mutineers seemed happy and the game started. Down the road cane the British, seeing how many there were and there seemed to be no threat of a breakout from the fort I shifted one unit (see below, red robes and white turbans) out of the inner fort watching to the cover of the corn (see below, the unit to watch out for is the Bengal Lancers, top left):
My small portion of the game. The quality and fire discipline of the British Regulars showed and my best troops were soon hunkered down in a "hiding" state (a bad morale roll). The gap to my left seemed to be all part of a cunning trap. As the first unit of British cavalry (from the second British relief column) moved into it there was a sudden counter move of the Indian Mutineers that resulted in both forces eventual mutual destruction. The first crisis point had passed and the relief expedition seemed to be stalled (for the time being). The sound of the attack on the fort seemed to betray an element of confused haphazardness (partly because of the card driven unit activation system), large booming cannon, staccato musketry and cheers as storming ladders were raised. For a closer description of the "storming" please see Trebian's blog post below:
Trebian;s Blog: The storming.
Meanwhile my wargaming nadir approached at the hands of the Bengal Lancers. My colleagues in the mutiny were forced back due to the prestigious efforts of the British Royal Artillery smashing through a column of our best mutineers. Moral failure and a push back revealed my hanging left flank again, this time the Bengal Lancers were into the gap. They swung a hard right and skewered my hunkering of hiding troops in their defences (see below, the empty redoubt is where my troops used to be) and ploughed next into my Red Robed Irregulars hiding in the corn. They had been forestalling the Regular British Infantry advance and an elite unit of Gurkha infantry (gulp). My troops were dutifully routed as the British spent two turns of [enjoyable?] combat where my only weapon left was to barter for my life, exchanging the European hostages and being called a "scandalous [but alive] rogue" (see below, the end of my command):
Having also lost my Green Robed irregulars in an ill-fated approach to the fort - the wall had appeared unmanned, but it wasn't or rather was quickly manned when I least wanted it, the road to the fort was open, but spiralling columns of smoke indicated that is might already be too late as the gates had been forced and the Mutineers were in fierce "hand-to-hand" combat. The Bengal Lancers and the Gurkha infantry but my "speed bump" had denied them relieving the garrison. Note: I did not personally see much of this as my character was literally running for the hills still clutching a governess's parasol umbrella, thinking what he was going to tell my father the headsman.
Conclusion: Having effectively lost 100% of my brave but badly lead mutineer Indians against the British Relief Force, I was left to beg and grovel for my pitiful skin. My survival depended on exchanging the European Ladies being kept hostage (and my few remaining working firearms) for a "I'll look the other way" moment from the officer commanding Bengal Lancers - It worked and I ran like the wind back to "my village" (see below, it was a wargaming "low achievement high" (nadir), that I had 'skilfully' deserved. An excellent game. What happened else where others will have to tell.
Next up: Part two of my Matrix Game education ... I have had the DSTL style now it was a 'retro' or 'pure' Matrix Game which relied less on tokens and counters on a clearly defined map, but more on player ingenuity and creativity. I could not wait!
Playing: Save Gordon (by Bob Cordery), What I thought I had learned and now knew from playing the morning's DSTL Matrix Game was nicely contrasted to the more narrative feel of Save Gordon in the evening. There was a strict historical back flavour to the "Save Gordon" (and I must confess mine historical knowledge was limited to a few faded memories of "the film" - please don't judge me) and an emphasis on more believable role play. The game mechanic premise was the same, intended action and three reasons why it could have happened, counter arguments raised by fellow players and the other side, then a judgement call by the Umpire which may or may not involve dice. All-in-all it was a lot more "free flow" which seemed to match the ebb and flow of history better. I was a British general (Sir Garnet Wolesley) trying to 'Save Gordon' by order of the Queen. Sailing from England I stopped in Gibraltar to pick up some extra Artillery and Infantry, the classic "anything but a 1" meant the local ladies of Gibraltar prolonged my embarkation schedule, but thankfully a "send two and four pence I am going to a dance, now!" from my Sudan placed co-rescuer Sir Evelyn Wood, worked a treat to "kick-start" me to the Sudan, Lower Egypt [huzzah]. Please refer to Bob's blog for extra bits and pieces, including photographs from the game.
Mean while "in historical player character" my brief said I had to acclimatise my European troops and insist on a river borne relief force which meant building specialised ships, while treating Sir Evelyn Wood (the in-situ commander I outranked) with contempt (probably something to do with a family feud or Bridge debt or something). I sent him my Lancers (so he could feed them and they were no use to me on the boats - I may have been wrong there?) and told him to get cracking and "Save Gordon", expecting him to take the desert route and not interfere with my (better?) efforts. Other characters had more challenging moments forgetting that they were not in the 'Twentieth First Century' and in the Nineteenth Century. In particular the Madhist player who was charged with spreading propaganda amongst the local inhabitants against the Foreign Infidel, she asked for the AV [Audio Visual] Team to knock something up; presumably a scribe and stonemason set to work - the distribution channel [pigeon?] was also in hot dispute. All-in-all the British seemed to get off to a faster start with Gordon building defences and local morale while two separate relief columns were dispatched: the "desert" one (to which I [Sir Garnet Wolesley] secretly referred to as the 'decoy') and the scientifically proven steam powered "paddle" mode of transport (to which Sir Evelyn Wood secretly referred to as "the Wolesley folly").
Sir Evelyn Wood's "Desert Column" fought its way through the desert to within sight of Khartoum but faced a huge dilemma. The Mahdist forces were far too strong for an open battle (a clever Mahdist player, the Mahdi himself incited them to have "religious fervour" a +1 DRM in this square) so sought a quick way into the city and via Gordon' improvised ingenious boat-bridge it was achieved .. but at the sore loss of Sir Evelyn Wood and the local Sudanese/Egyptian contingent [controversial as the soak-off was condemned by the Mahdist players as tantamount proof of European disrespect of the worth of locals] of troops (see below, Sir Evelyn Woods "relief force" as they forced an entry of sorts into Khartoum):
The good news was that Khartoum was now too well defended to be 'stormed' by the Madhist forces but it still had to be relieved. All eyes turned to my Nile bound river boat column. The Paddle Steamers having, by monumental feat of military engineering, had forced passage to Berber over the "cataracts" so were just outside Khartoum. We could see the city walls with Gordon and a lot of British Infantry waving from the battlements (see below, note I have hostiles to the front of me and hostiles to the rear! Nothing beats Colonial wargaming does it! I definitely think I may have been bitten by the bug!)
While commanding the river-bound Khartoum relief force, having successfully forced passage of the Nile cataracts (sorry have I already mentioned that, it was pretty impressive engineering though), against a fierce Mahdist skirmishing force all along the banks [must be some medals earned here], I was positioned fortuitously in the province of Berber south of Khartoum poised to "Save Gordon" (which if you remember happened to be the name of the game). Then with almost the last fling of the dice (and in the best tradition of Matrix-Games) an outrageously bold abduction plot was hatched to kidnap me (Wolesley) from the decks my Nile gunboat by Mahdist player "Lady C". Thus it was argued, the expedition would be thrown into chaos, dooming poor General Gordon. The 'project' was delivered with so much descriptive aplomb and creative ingenuity (to the point where the Umpire, a certain Bob Cordery from Wargames Miscellany, was seen therapeutically banging an empty plastic water-bottle off the top of his head repeatedly to help him make sense of the matter - I have to admit that was a wargaming first for me) was convinced that it 'might just work'. Knowing my wargaming fate was now in the hands of Lady Luck (if I lost this I might as well chose 'crochet as a hobby' - they too have weekend events at Knuston Hall) - Lady C was asked to throw "two sixes" (Christ that seemed all to achievable to my smind at this time of night [teh bewitching hour]!). The resulting slow motion tumble of the dice remains poised crazily forever in my mind's eye, but only(!) one six was thrown (too close a call for my liking) and my 'nadir' was turned to 'triumph', but complete and total respect for the "move of the game" Lady C - just glad it didn't work.
Another startling success of a CoW game (so much so I am thinking of what Colonial figures I should start collecting). In fact I would not object to another Matrix Game at CoW 2019 that focused more on the tactical breakthrough of "paddle force" to Khartoum as I think the game was nicely balanced at a "make or break" point IMHO, if that is Bob was up for it.
Time to retire for the night or not as I flowed into my second unexpected Wargaming Chat#2 with a chap called Graham (I think). We had shared the Cyber Security (Red Team/Blue Team) game and played on opposite sides at Knuestonpore, but were on the same side in Save Gordon (in fact he was 'Gordon'). Bob said he got to bed after 1pm because the conversation was so interesting, myself was after 2pm as the conversation strayed in the realms of WW2 ANZAC cruisers and German Raiders. The staff at Knuston Hall are saints for putting up with us lot.
Next: Day Three (Alcohol Free Gaming - but there is still a Full English Breakfast and cake!)