Tally Ho!

Tuesday 1 January 2019

The Men Who Would Be King - some northwest frontier fun

As Santa had brought one of the chaps a consignment of North West Frontier troops we decide to try out Daniel Massey's The Men Who Be King rules from Osprey.  Like most of the rules in Mr Massey's stable it features a unit activation system where you need to roll to use units (usually a score of 5+ to 8+ on 2D6). If you have played Lion / Dragon Rampant you will know the system.

Two very welcome additions here though; firstly your turn does not end if a unit fails and secondly all troops have a "free" action they can perform without rolling e.g. Regular infantry can shoot or mounted can charge. This is very welcome as in the Lion / Dragon version bad dice could leave you in your chair without making a move, much like Jimmy White's snooker opponents!  

We opted for a simple scenario - the Pathans were besieging a small British force in a fortified village and a relief force had to breakthrough to save them.

The isolated outpost 

For this game the British featured 3 units of Regular infantry, a unit of Bengal Lancers, and a field gun. The Pathans had 2 units of Tribal cavalry, 4 units of Tribal (fighty) infantry, 2 units of Irregular (shooty) infantry and a field gun.

Pathan's sir , thousands of um
The first half of the game was dominated by the Bengal Lancers death ride. They charged straight up a hill wiping-out a unit of Pathan Tribesmen. They then swung left and mauled a unit of riflemen, eventually routing them. Finally they charged headlong into a unit of Pathan horse also routing them.

They met their end at the hands of a second unit of Pathan tribesmen but not before they had routed nearly half the enemy.


Left wheel

Catching a breath

Here we go again

The final act
Whilst all this excitement was taking place the other half of the Pathan army set about bombarding the village and seeking to encircle it. The artillery was reluctant to fire (bad activations) but the Pathan riflemen kept up a steady fire on the defemders.

Defenders under pressure
The British were able to hold-off two Pathan attacks but in the end numbers told and the third attack pushed them back and eventually broke them, leaving the compound in Pathan hands.

The Sikh relief column made steady progress up the table, keeping their formation tight for fear of an ambush from the plentiful scrub.  

Dress the ranks

As they got into rifle range they began a steady fire against the Pathan's defending the village. There was a brief flurry when a last desperate Pathan cavalry charge tried to attack the rear of the column but it was easily seen off by rifle and artillery fire.

The final gambit

We concluded that although the Pathan's held the village they would not be able to withstand the Imperial attack and would have been forced to withdraw.

So a fun game concluded in about 2.5 hours. The rules are more at the "heroic" than "historical" end of the spectrum, but for fans of Colonial movies that's no bad thing. The Lancers proved devastating so its perhaps just as well you only get 1 unit per army.

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