Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, Sharp Practice, 28mm
After a week filled with events – my Jutland book launch, the centennial commemorations, talks, drinks receptions, warship visits and services, this was a week of down time in Orkney. to celebrate, I had the guys round for a spot of wargaming, on the kitchen table in my holiday rental place in Kirkwall. I’d taken up some of my Indian Mutiny kit, the guys were keen to try out Sharp Practice, so that was a marriage made in heaven. This is the result.The game itself was pretty straightforward. A group of British civilians had escaped from Cawnpore, where the sepoys had mutinied, and they were heading towards Kirriepur, where the British garrison remained in full control of the region. Both sides sent a force to intercept the civilians, and the three groups met up near a nameless ruined village, halfway between the two cities. The game was played out on a 6×4 foot table, which had a road running down its centre. Apart from the small ruinous village the rest of the table just had the odd small hill or copse of trees on it. The Mutineer force – commanded by Alan and Sean – was made up of three stands of decent quality sepoys, three of less good mutineers (a total of 54 men in all), a four-man gun team, six Sepoy riflemen and a unit of eight horsemen. That’s the bulk of them up above. This was quite a powerful little foirce, if used properly, but it suffered slightly from a lack of leaders. Apart from the Khazi himself, there were just three of them to command the whole Mutineer force. For their part Alan and Gyles’ British column was based around three stands of East India Company European regulars, two stands of loyal sepoy (40 men in all) and a unit of eight volunteer cavalry. Oh, and eight light infantrymen. In addition they also controlled the unit of six armed civilians, led by the formidable Lady Hyacinth. The two sides were facing each other along the two long edges of the table, with the Mutineers to the west of the road, and the British to the east. The players duly made their deployments, with the Mutineers going first. They set their deployment point just behind the village. The British placed theirs more or less opposite it, on the eastern table edge, between two copses. The game began with the sepoys trying to place their good troops in the ruins, supported by their cavalry, while the fugitives began the game hiding in the big tower which dominated the village. Fore their part the British deployed the local sepoys opposite the village, where it could launch a frontal attack, but the rest of their infantry deployed as if to swing round the southern side of the village, and so attack the mutineers from the flank. first though, they had to deal with the gun, which was guarding the open southern end of the village. Screened by the light infantry the European regulars charged forward, after the mutineer gunners had fired. As the skirmishers fired at the crew to slow stop them reloading the infantry made it across the open space and took the gun – the surviving gunners heading for the hills.The loyal sepoys advanced next, bolstered by one of the three stands of European regulars. The sepoy cavalry deployed in front of the village, and launched a charge. Their timing was off though, and the European regulars fired at them from both front and flank, driving the sowars from the field. Now it was down to the mutineer sepoy infantry to save the day. They did quite well at it too. On the right flank the three stands of not-so-good mutineeers opened up a long range fire at the two stands of British regulars, and drew them into a firefight. That effectively halted the British right hook around the south of the village. The walls of the village were now lined with the other three units of better-quality sepoys, while the six sepoy riflemen loitered on the hill just to the south of the town, firing rather ineffectually at the closest British troops – the Enfield-armed British skirmishers. That’s when the fugitives made a break for it. When they emerged from their hiding place in the tower the two closest units of good-quality sepoys immediately ignored the threat on the far side of the walls, and turned round to give battle. In fact they charged the civilians. Amazingly the civilians held their ground, but they took casualties – and gained hit points. they were pretty much trapped now, and either had to fight off their assailants or die in the attempt. Seeing this the British player surged forward against the walls of the village with his loyal sepoys, while to the south the two units of British infantry tried to do the same, charging and routing the third stand of decent-quality sepoys who stood in their way. It was all too little, too late. The melee resumed, and this time the civilians were broken. There were only two survivors, who duly fled off the western side of the table. This effectively ended the game, as the British goal was to rescue the fugitives, and the Mutineers’ task was to wipe them out. Strangely, if the fugitives had only stayed where they were for another turn the whole thing would have turned out differently. The Mutineers’ morale was on “1” by the end of the game, while the British were on “5”. One more setback like the loss of a leader or the rout of a stand would have led to the complete collapse of Mutineer morale, and the British would have won the game. All in all it was a great and well-balanced little game, and everyone enjoyed themselves – helped along by plates of popadoms and lashings of India Pale Ale.