A North-West Frontier Adventure
Robert Giglio presents his take on the North West Frontier game that appeared at Salute and at Historicon. Bob will also be running a Wi Showcase game for us at Cold Wars 2017, more details to follow soon!
Early in 2016, Wargames Illustrated (WI) contacted me with a request to “use my excellent NWF terrain” in July at HISTORICON 2016, for the NWF game they were running at Salute in April, as they did not want to ship over the UK terrain board to the US. The parameters were that I could model the tabletop as I saw fit (based on the Salute tabletop), and use rules I was comfortable with. Naturally, as the colonial period is my favorite, I was keen to set about developing the scenario.
The game was Wargames Illustrated’s Showcase Game at HISTORICON 2016 – a first time endeavor for WI – located as part of the WI booth as you entered the Vendor Hall. The game and WI’s presence at HISTORICON 2016 was very well received. I spent a lot of time talking about how to make the terrain and other aspects of the tabletop, when not assisting with WI booth-related tasks. Plans are still being considered by WI on whether or not to expand the Wargames Illustrated Showcase Games next year (WI: We will have a vendor’s stand and a game at Cold Wars 2017, another ‘first’ for us!)
Since the Salute tabletop has already been presented in previous issues, herein is my scenario and suggestions for running it, as well as an explanation of my setup for the game used at HISTORICON 2016. The overall background for the scenario was based on the movie, North West Frontier (titled Flame Over India for the US market). Set in the NWF, the film explores tensions between Hindu and Muslim Indians as Muslim rebels attack a fortress to kill a young Hindu prince. Lauren Bacall, the American female lead in the movie (Mrs. Catherine Wyatt), called it a “good little movie… with a stupid title” (referring to the US title, Flame Over India).
General Scenario Background
North-West Frontier, 1879: Following a revolt by the local tribes, the Maharajah has been killed. However, his son and heir, Prince Kishan, a youngster of 10, is still alive. The Anglo-Indian Army has been asked to help the Prince escape the clutches of the rebels. The Prince has been put on a train bound for the safety of the main British base in Kalapore whilst the tribes are in revolt. Captain William Charles Willoughby Scott is in charge of the train, supported by a Gatling gun and a number of passengers, including the Prince’s American Governess, Mrs. Catherine Wyatt.
The train has already travelled about halfway along its 300-mile journey and is arriving at an isolated railroad station – which includes a water tower, corral and warehouse with supplies – in the middle of nowhere. There is a small garrison of Anglo-Indian infantry under the command of three British officers (Captain Roger Malcom Cardew, Lieutenant Harry Julian Escott, and Sub-Lieutenant Basil Hoskins) to protect the station, and make sure that the train with Prince Kishan can make it through safely.
Playing the Game
The scenario was designed for up to eight players; four Anglo-Indian and four Tribal, plus reinforcements. The scenario can easily be played with as little as four players; referee can adjust as desired/needed, based on number of players available. The one caveat is that the inclusion of Flashman should not be made aware to the other players. Try to keep it secret between only the one or two players controlling the Bengal Lancers, if you can, as it has a more entertaining impact when he is eventually revealed. Whoever is the best “role-player” or entertaining colonial gamer should control the train.
Use whatever colonial rules system you feel is appropriate. Depending on rules set used, all wounds in melee will kill the figure, regardless of the type. However, for wounds from firearms, all Anglo-Indians, British and train passengers, etc., roll 1D6; 1-2 = light, 3-4 = critical, prone and unable to move under own power, 5-6 = killed. Captain Scott and Mrs. Wyatt have a -1 to the wounds die roll (they were, after all, the principal stars of the movie!). Gupta also has a -1 to the wounds roll (he always seemed to be lightly wounded in the movie). Any hit to tribesmen will remove the figure; no wound roll required.
Captain William Charles Willoughby Scott, a typical British Army officer devoted both to fair play and orderly British rule (and yet light-hearted enough to sing a few bars of “The Eton Boating Song”), is in command of the train – the ‘Empress of India’ – which is carrying Prince Kishan. The train must stop at the station to take on water else it will never make it to the British base at Kalapore. Since other passengers on the train are desperate to get to Kalapore, they will help any way they can.
Two Sikh NCOs – Rajah and Singh – normally crew the Gatling, but anyone can lend a hand. Prince Kishan is watched over by his resolute and independent feisty American governess/nanny, Mrs. Catherine Wyatt, who doesn’t hold back criticism of British handling of affairs when the Prince’s safety is the topic of discussion: “The British never seem to do anything until they’ve had a cup of tea, until it’s too late…you must forgive me for speaking my mind, but I happen to believe that’s what it’s for!”
Mr. Wilfrid Bridie is an older retired British official, the epitome of a stiff upper-lipper that made the British Empire what it was. He is damn proud of that, as is Lady Windham, wife of the Governor of Haserabad – “Half the world mocks us, and half the world is only civilized because we [British] have made it so”.
One of the passengers, Mr. Lionel Peters, is an arms dealer, and has distributed new Winchester M1876 rifles to his fellow passengers, originally intended for demonstration for the British command at Kalapore. These rifles are lever-action, and while having slightly less range than rifles used by the Anglo-Indian Army, has a magazine that allows a higher rate of fire (two shots per turn).
One passenger, Mr. Peter van Leyden, a sardonic Dutch-Indonesian Journalist, frequently caused friction among the passengers, and was tied up and put in baggage (rear of passenger car), for his own good! Lastly, Gupta is the Indian train engineer, and knows the train inside and out. He calls it “Victoria”, after the Queen: “Victoria talks to me, I understand her language…she shouts too much when she is happy!”
- Captain William Charles Willoughby Scott
- Havlidars Rajah and Singh (Indian NCOs)
- Mr. Wilfrid Bridie (Retired British Official)
- Lady Wyndham (Governor of Haserabad’s Wife)
- Mrs. Catherine Wyatt (American Governess/Nanny)
- Prince Kishan (+1 harder to hit in melee due to his small size!)
- Mr. Lionel Peters (Arms Dealer)
- Gupta (Indian Train Engineer)
All passengers armed with a lever-action rifle, two shots per turn (Cpt. Scott also has a pistol and sword), except the Prince, who is only armed with a knife, and classed as ‘Experienced’; exception Mrs. Wyatt is ‘Veteran’.
The train consists of four cars: an engine, coal tender, flatbed with the Gatling gun, and then the passenger car. The flatbed should have walled sides, or some defensive walls (boxes, sacks, etc.), to provide medium protection for the Gatling gun, crew and anyone else on the flatbed.
The train enters the western tabletop edge on turn 1 at 4D6” speed, and can slow down as desired to stop with the engine next to the water tower. All figures are on the train. Gupta starts with the engine, but others are as noted by player (a passenger car layout is provided for use). Gatling gun requires two crew to fire at full effect (fires half dice if only one crew).
Taking on Water: Engine must be adjacent to the water tower before it may begin to take on water the following turn. At least two figures needed for the task, bringing buckets of water and pouring it into the boiler (water tower pouring apparatus is broken and does not work). At end of each turn, roll 1D6 per figure involved; success = ‘6’ (requires 12 successful rolls to fill boiler). A maximum of eight figures can be used for water duty; anymore will not add die rolls.
- Captain Roger Malcom Cardew
- Lieutenant Harry Julian Escott
- Sub-Lieutenant Basil Hoskins
- 45 Anglo-Indian (Punjab) Infantry (15 assigned to each British officer)
All figures start inside the two main buildings. Optionally, up to 5 figures from each player may be deployed within 24” of any of the buildings.
Anglo-Indian infantry are armed with a breech-loading rifle and bayonet, classed as ‘Experienced’. The Guides or 60th Rifles armed as Anglo-Indians, but are sharpshooters (+50% to all ranges), and classed as ‘Elite’. British officers are armed with a pistol and sword, and classed as ‘Veteran’ (plus receive +1 extra in melee). Bengal Lancers armed with breach-loading carbine, saber, lance, and classed as ‘Veteran’.
There are two groups of reinforcements, played by any of the three non-train players, each arriving on random turns.
Reinforcements #1: Starting turn 2, roll 2D6 each turn; success being a roll less than or equal to current turn number, which indicates an infantry patrol of the Queen’s Own Corps or 60th Rifles – not both (depending on available figures) arrives and enters the tabletop from the high hills; may not charge turn they arrive (roll 1D6 for entry point: 1-3 = atop center northern hill, 4 = atop northeastern hill, 5-6 = atop eastern hill).
- Lieutenant Julian Evelyn Carruthers
- 12 Queen’s Own Corps of Guides – Infantry (ignore movement penalty on high hills)
- 12 60th Rifles
Reinforcements #2: Starting turn 3, roll 1D6+1 each turn; success being a roll less than current turn number, which indicates a troop of Bengal Lancers arrive and enters the southern tabletop from the flat area behind the station (they may not charge the turn they arrive). Two players control the troop; one being Captain Flashman who is in charge of the troop, but only controls 7 Bengal Lancers, while the other player controls Lieutenant Bond and the other 7 Bengal Lancers.
- Captain, Sir Harry Paget Flashman (aka ‘Flash’; -2 morale modifier!), VC, KCB: Sword (+1 better in close combat) & Pistol (good shot +1 easier to hit)
- Lieutenant Dudley Roger Hugh Bond
- 14 Bengal Lancers
Sir Harry (or ‘Flash’ for short), wants to make it through the tabletop, and off the opposite side via the pass, as he has pressing business with a certain lady in Kabul, and will stop at nothing to achieve his goal (though does not want to risk his life in the process!). ‘Flash’ does not want to enter into combat – he tries to avoid it at all costs – but if it cannot be avoided he will be in the center of any unit (not leading from the front!). He is, however, a good swordsman and marksman, plus has the following special rules.
Look Out Sir! – When caught up in melee, ‘Flash’ is able to transfer any hits/wounds to any other figure from the actual unit he is attached to within 3” (he dodges out of the way, and the other figure is hit!).
I say, That’s My Horse! – In a situation where ‘Flash’ finds himself on foot, he is able to approach any other mounted figure in the force he is attached to and take the horse for his own use on a 1D6 roll of 2+.
Heroic Cowardice – At the end of any game where ‘Flash’ has managed to escape danger, a quirk of fate has resulted in the demise of all witnesses to his less than heroic demeanor, and he is feted as an Imperial Hero – the force he is with gains +10 Victory Points (and ‘Flash’ himself gains a Mention in Dispatches or full medal, plus the welcome attentions of the ladies at the next Regimental Ball!).
Mohammed Khan, the supreme chieftain of the Pathan tribes from the local villages, has convinced other chieftains – Wafadar and Zarullah – as well as the Mullah Fakir, that this rebellion will rid your land of all the infidels. To this end, you have received word that a train, carrying the heir to the throne, the 10-year old Prince Kishan, is heading to the local station. The tribesmen have been gathered together to descend upon the small garrison at a train station. The station includes a walled corral, water tower, and storehouse (with supplies, which would be good for your cause). Stop the train, and kill as many infidels as you can, and gather as much supplies for your cause!
Each tribal war band consists of 20 figures armed 100% with sword and 50% with Jezail Rifle (only half fire each turn, due to being muzzle-loaders), and rated ‘Trained’. Ghazi fanatics are only armed with swords, but rated ‘Veteran’. Tribal horse war bands consist of 16 figures, 100% armed with swords and 50% with carbine, and rated ‘Experienced’.
- Tribal Chieftain – Mohammed Khan; 3 Tribal war bands and 1 Ghazi Fanatics band (start within 18” of northern tabletop edge on high hills)
- Tribal Leader – The Mullah Fakir; 3 Tribal war bands and 1 Ghazi Fanatics band (start within 18” of northern tabletop edge on high hills)
- Tribal Leader – Wafadar (mounted); 3 Tribal war bands and 1 Tribal Horse band (start within 18” of northeastern tabletop edge on high hills; tribal horse may only enter via one of the passes between the high hills, starting at tabletop edge)
- Tribal Leader – Zarullah; 3 Tribal war bands (start within 18” of eastern tabletop edge on high hills)
Reinforcements #1: Starting turn 2, roll 1D6 each turn; success being a roll less than current turn number, which means the tribesmen (1 leader and 5 crew) have managed to finally haul an old 6-pounder smoothbore cannon over the top of one of the eastern hills (takes 1 turn to set it up for firing). Only fires round shot; range 60” (To Hit = 6; 5-6 if a building; 50% chance it penetrates causing a 4” wide breach and 1 casualty).
Note that if a player wants to shoot at water tower, it does not count as a building for hitting purposes, but if hit will have a 1 in 6 chance of causing water to drain out or collapse a leg toppling tower; referee’s decision (scenario is not designed for tribesmen to be expert shots with artillery and take out the water tower with one shot; they’re tribesmen, not British artillerymen!).
Damaging Train: Roll 1D6; see below.
1-2 = Running Gear Hit: A random car (roll which) is hit, with a 1 in 6 chance it is derailed and can no longer move (any derailment causes those cars to be wrecked and passengers stunned 1 turn); takes 2 figures 1 turn to uncouple rest of train after it stops. If not derailed, then running gear has received damage causing -1D6” maximum speed for rest of game.
3-4 = Crew Hit: 1 random train passenger or water crew is killed.
5 = Gun Hit: Gatling gun has been hit and destroyed
6 = Boiler Hit: Roll 1D6. If a ‘1’ is rolled, boiler blows up and any figures on or within 3” of engine are killed, and movement reduced to zero and immediately catches fire. If boiler does not blow, movement reduced -1D6” each turn until train stops. Gupta can patch the boiler; roll 1D6 after each turn of patching; 1 = success and speed regained on first turn of patching, 1-2 = success on second turn of patching, etc.
If a fire has started, it will eventually spread and consume train unless extinguished. At beginning of each turn, all fires presently burning spread to an adjacent car. For every 3 figures (except the Prince, but Gupta counts as 3 passengers himself!) fighting fire roll 1D6; 5-6 = fire extinguished. If fire burns for three turns, the engine/car affected has burned completely and all must vacate or be killed.
Reinforcements #2: Starting turn 3, roll 2D6 each turn; success being a roll less than current turn number, which means that a war band of tribal horse have finally managed to get around the hills and enter the tabletop from the railroad tracks leading off between the southeastern hills (may not charge the turn they arrive).
Reinforcements #3: Starting turn 3, roll 2D6 each turn; success being a roll less than current turn number, which means that a train passenger, Peter van Leyden, a sardonic Dutch-Indonesian Journalist who frequently caused friction among the passengers, and was tied up (for his own good!), has freed himself. He believes that if he kills the prince (and anyone that gets in his way), then the tribesmen will let the train (and himself) pass to safety. He has gotten out of his ropes and managed to grab a Winchester lever-action rifle (fires two shots, but a poor shot, -1 harder to hit with firearm), and starts in the rear of the passenger car, and can move on your turn. Have fun with him!
Winning the Game
The following are the objectives and points for each side.
Train Escapes: 20
Save the Prince: 40
Each Overall Tribal Leader Killed: 10
Each Tribesman Killed: 1
Each Flag Captured: 10
Cannon Destroyed: 20
Protect Main Station Building: 20
Protect Warehouse/Supplies: 20
Stop the Train: 20
Kill the Prince: 40
Each British Officer Killed: 10
Each Indian Soldier or Train Passenger Killed: 5
Each Guide, 60th Rifle or Bengal Lancer Killed: 10
Gatling Destroyed: 20
Capture Main Station Building: 20
Capture/Raid Warehouse: 20
Layout is as shown in the map/photos. A series of steep rocky high hills run along the northern and half of the eastern tabletop edges, sloping down to the valley and station below. High hills provide medium cover; normal movement for tribesmen, half movement for others (impassible to mounted). Lower sloping hills overlooking the station are gentle; half movement only for mounted. Rocky outcroppings provide medium cover; half movement (impassible to mounted). There is one nullah (2” wide dry rocky stream) running from the northeastern hill, across the lower slopes, and off the western tabletop, which provides medium cover for figures kneeling/prone inside; half movement to traverse. Buildings provide hard cover (only medium cover to figures on roof); impassible to mounted. Brush shrub provide soft cover; half movement only for mounted. Walled area provides medium cover; half movement to cross (except for mounted).
How It Played
I ran the game four times: two playtests for my group – The Colonial Boys Club – and two games at HISTORICON. The playtests (each with different players) saw the train eventually get away with the prince, though one had Ghazis fighting the Gatling crew and passengers, while the other game saw the Peter van Leyden figure left alone firing from the passenger car as the rest of the train had been uncoupled and left the station.
Both convention games saw the station overwhelmed before the train could get away. The player controlling the train in each game could not roll enough 6’s for getting sufficient water, even rolling eight dice for eight turns. The Gatling proved very useful and well-positioned in all of the games. In one game, it easily took out the tribal cannon crew before the Gatling crew was shot by the Peter van Leyden figure. The van Leyden figure then killed Mrs. Wyatt, but was shot full of holes by the rest of the train passengers thereafter.
There were some great cavalry clashes. In one, Flashman expertly avoided combat while still getting off the table to visit an Afghan woman he was involved with in an adjacent village! In both games, after the rest of his Anglo-Indian troops were killed, a lone British officer was fending off Ghazi fanatics atop the storehouse. The officer was eventually killed, as the tribesmen closed in on the train that could not leave the station – thus signaling the start of the ending credits of the movie!
All of the games – playtest and at HISTORICON – were nail-biters, making for a good Hollywood-esque colonial game. Most importantly, all of the players had fun and agreed that it was a game that could easily go either way, depending on die rolls.