Above is a pic of Lt. Colonel James Galbraith, Regimental Colour in hand, alongside Bobbie the regimental dog and some of the other "Last Eleven" survivors of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment, making their last stand in one of the walled gardens just South of Khig village, a few miles West of the Afghan town of Maiwand.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Lights Out in the Logar Valley - a brief TSATF AAR


It may seem odd for a wargamer to get excited over such a thing here on his wargaming blog, but it has been far too long since the last time.

It was a very simple scenario, based on the "Battle of Chamla Valley" from the pages of the original The Sword And The Flame rulebook, also included in the 20th Anniversary Edition, which as many readers of this blog will know, pits a single basic unit of British Infantry tasked with entering at one far end and proceeding to recconoiter an abandoned outpost at the center of the table, opposed by 2 units of Pathan Tribesmen lying in wait hidden somewhere amongst various hills and rough terrain areas.

My new twist on the scenario replaced the abandoned outpost with my recently-completed HILL TOWER, occupied by a British HELIOGRAPH TEAM, which has inexplicably lost touch with its base-of-operations, across the nearby Kabul River.

I took the part of the local Tribesmen and my older daughter, Isabella -- who goes by "Izzy" -- took the part of the British commander.

Given a wide choice of British troop types, including khaki and redcoat clad Line Infantry, kilt and trews wearing Highlanders, and all manner of Sikh, Punjabi, and Bombay troops -- all of whom would be treated virtually identically for game-play purposes -- Izzy paid great attention to their respective aesthetic details and chose the Gurkhas: largely because in addition to looking sharp in their Rifle Green uniforms and pillbox caps, a former Gurkha rifleman turned private security guard works for a character in one of her favorite popular novels, "Crazy Rich Asians." 

Centuries may pass but the martial prowess of Gurkhas endures!

The terrain layout, prior to action commencing:

The view from behind the British start-line to the South, across the Kabul River bridge...

View from behind the pine-covered rocky hills to the west...

View from the North-West, looking back towards the British start-line...

TURN 1 & 2:

Izzy rolled her dice and brought her platoon of Gurkhas over the bridge to the far side of the Kabul River, dispatching 2 SCOUTS to check the various rough terrain areas up ahead...

The Scout to the left discovered a full unit of 20 Pathans hidden in the rocks, half armed with rifles, half with sword-&-shield.

Izzy put her full platoon -- aside from the Scout on the right -- into 2 rank OPEN ORDER with an eye on bringing maximum firepower to bear on the foe.

Seein this, despite being her father, in my role as Tribal Leader I CHARGED, hoping to take advantage of the Gurkhas' lack of a close order defense melee bonus...

I rolled for STRAGGLERS: just 2!

The Gurkhas opened fire, but despite their "Rifle" status, their die-rolling wasn't so hot, the 20 shots (2 at close range for the Officer's pistol) inflict only a couple of casualties on my charging Tribesmen, who then proceed to pass their "CLOSE INTO COMBAT" morale die roll, and of course the Gurkhas passed their own 'STAND AND FIGHT" roll (hard for them not to, as British troops w/leader present pass on a 1-6 roll on a D6 -- as it should be, I hasten to add)...

Well the melee was fast and furious, with 19 Gurkhas standing against 18 charging Tribesmen, all of whom received a "WIN TIES" modifier, as per "TSATF 20th Anniversary Edition"...

In the end, the last Gurkha forced the last Tribesman to turn tail and fall back (loss of D6 roll-off with a 3-6), then ROUTE AWAY with the other defeated survivors from his clan, giving the melee victory to the Gurkhas and allowing their many "FALL BACKS" to rejoin the heroic son of Nepal...

Sadly amonst the Gurkhas casualties from the melee was their NCO, SUBEDAR BAHADUR GURUNG, who was KIA, losing his melee roll-off with a natural "1" die result. 

Shaken survivors of the routed clan, racing farther down the road towards the table edge...

The Gurkhas kept up their advance, carrying their wounded with them, and sending their Scouts ahead again...

To discover 10 Tribal Swordsmen on the hillside to the left of the road...

Predicting the other 10 Tribesmen -- probably armed with rifles -- would be hiding across the road on the Tower Mountain, the Gurkhas set up astride the road itself, in postion to potentially bring fire to bear at either flank, though with the Tribal Swordsmen so close, this time they went into CLOSE ORDER, as a number of them could not fire anyway as they'd spent the turn carrying wounded comrades, and if the Swordsmen did charge, this would afford the defending Gurkhas a +1 melee modifier... 

Meanwhile, across the field of battle, the Gurkha's regimental Bhisti, somehow failed in his land navigation and wound up watering some goats on a low sandy hill instead of the wounded...  

Back at the foot of Tower Mountain, the 10 Tribal Swordsmen -- whose ranks included their all-imporant Clan Chieftain (aka: basic unit Leader) CHARGED the Gurkhas, and then during the FIRE PHASE, after the Gurkhas fired at them, the Tribesmen brothers reveald they were indeed hidden exactly where the Gurkhas commander predicted they would be, atop the rocky hillside leading up to the Tower itself...

The Tribal rifles opened fire, scoring 2 hits, each of which had a chance to be inflicted on their own comrades rather than the enemy -- but as it turned out, BOTH HITS landed on the Gurkhas who they were meant to...

After receiving another 3 hits from Gurkhas fire, the Tribal Swordsmen passed their CLOSE INTO COMBAT roll and another melee ensued, from which the Gurkhas once again emerged victorious, and their Tribal foes once again routed off down the road, albeit after inflicting a few more casualties...

With the Sword-&-Shield Tribesmen routing away down the road, their rifle-armed brothers on Tower Mountain (from the same Basic Unit, and without a Leader present) were forced to check their own morale... and failed, sendng them scurrying off chasing after the rest of my command, down what might be dubbed "The Road of Glorious Victory!" as, despite having arguably been defeated and routed away, my Tribesmen had indeed managed to bloody the Pagan stooges of the British Infidel dogs!

...or so I told my daughter.

...as she sent her Gurkhas racing up the mountainside to gain firsthand intelligence on what had become of the out-of-touch Signal Team...

Sad to say, as might be expected under the circumstances, they were nowhere to be found.  Whether they had gone to meet their maker... or been spirited away to serve as hostages for further parlay, I am not at liberty to say.

Though it only lasted 4 turns, both Izzy and I really enjoyed this game.

Both melees were "close run" things -- with the first being literally as close as it possibly could have been.  Had the last Gurkha rifleman not won his last roll-off, the game would have been entirely different, with the British probably being run out of the valley back across the bridge after one or two turns.

Izzy took a chance setting up in 2 rank Open Order to bring more fire to bear on my charging tribesmen, but then rolled pretty poorly (as she did throughout most of the game) on her firing dice, and paid for the decision by suffering heavy casualties and coming as close as possible to losing the melee, which would have been devestating and led to her total defeat.  

But as it turned out, she got through it and pushed on to success, achieving her objective of reaching the Tower and checking on the disposition of the Heliograph Team.

So despite suffering somewhat heavy casualties, the game resulted in a full BRITISH VICTORY.

With her brother home from college for the Summer, there is a rumor afoot that a full brigade of British troops -- with the Gurkhas joined by 2 other Infantry units along with cavalry and artillery -- may be reentering the Valley under combined dual sibling command, with an eye on inflicting punitive action on the VILLAGE located on the far side of Tower Mountain.

If anything comes of this rumor you will learn all about it right here...


  1. Brilliant AAR supported by beautiful, informative pictures. The table looked splendid with just the right amount of rocks for the dastardly Pathans to hide behind. Have you considered some sort of a bonus for the Gurkhas in hand to hand combat?

    1. CC: thanks very much!

      Yes, in fact the "Special Rules" for Gurkhas include no penalty for moving in rough terrain or hills, and also a "+1" when CHARGING, but alas not when defending in Open Order!

  2. Bravo! Excellent game and photo! As always admired by the beautiful terrane!

  3. I can only second the comments above. She rolled poorly and still won? Hmm ...

    1. Hmm indeed, William! Even without Lady Luck on her side, Izzy emerged victorious. In fact, when we played this game, she had just recently returned from West Point, where she participated in the "Summer Leadership Experience" for aspiring cadets, meant to give them a taste of what they'll be in for at the United States Military Academy after completing their upcoming Senior year of High School. She really enjoyed the experience and is set on applying. She will still need a political nomination and even then, despite being a strong candidate, there's no guarantee she'll be accepted -- but hopefullly this Battle Report at least won't hurt her chances!

    2. An appointment to West Point would indeed be wonderful! Best of luck to her.

    3. Thanks very much for the good wishes, William!

      My wife and I spent today taking Izzy to the LA Air Force Base where she spent the day being assessed by the Air Force Academy, and later this month she'll be spending a week at the Coast Guard Academy. But I think West Point is her first choice.

  4. A smart little action, and great terrain!

    1. Thanks very much, A J, really appreciate you taking the time to leave your comments!

  5. Great question, Stu Rat!

    The answer is: three 20 man platoons, NOT three battalions with four 20 man platoons each -- as THAT would be an INSANELY LARGE game to play, even with 800 Fighting Englishmen, let alone The Sword And The Flame!

    If you'd like to read AARs on games closer to that size, use the Search Bar on this blog to search for "Charasiab" and you will find some Battle Reports featuring about 200 Anglo-Indians vs. about 400 regular & irregular Afghans -- not quite at the 250 British figure level, but close!

  6. Great to see this report Ethan the table looks fantastic the tower mountain piece is awesome!
    Looking forward to finding out what has happened to the signal team my imagination has them languishing in a dark dungeon longing to hear the sound of the bagpipes coming to the rescue.

    Well done to Izzy on her victory I do hope she gets accepted for her first choice but looks like she has a few options open to her.



    1. Willie, thanks so much for your comments, great to see you out & about in the blogosphere -- and added thanks for mentioning Izzy, who sadly I don't think you got to meet in LA or Edinburgh. Time will tell and we who love her most are trying to take her military academic ambitions one step at a time while being as supportive as we can.

  7. Ethan,

    Another excellent report and simply beautiful table! Your games are always so inspiring that they keep pulling me back to one of my favorite periods and campaigns. I love the new tower, simply amazing. I know how much work went into building it and I think it was worth it.

    I'm so glad you were able to have such a fun game with Izzy. Well done Victory Izzy! Maybe she does have some Army in her after all..... LOL

    I'm looking forward to your AAR with the battle vs Skyler next.


    1. Jefffffff!!!!!!

      Thanks very much my friend!!!

      And an extra thanks for your awesome Izzy comment. I think it may well prove accurate, though fir better or worse it had to skip one generation (namely mine!)

  8. The tower and indeed all the scenery looks great. Sounds like a fun game, bad luck and still wins? That's a useful skill!
    Best Iain

    1. Thanks very much, Iain!

      I agree, Izzy is indeed skillful! Last night she left for New London, Connecticut to take part in a 1 week program at the US Coast Guard Academy. I may have to set up some sort of coastal naval scenario when she gets back, to see what new skills she may acquire!