A can of worms, the death of an actor, and comfort wargaming

Today I have three things that I want to write about. Firstly I would like to thank everyone who has commented on my most recent blog entry. When I wrote it I thought that I was probably opening a can of worms, but I was pleasantly surprised that the comments that were made were all well-reasoned and thought through, and that even if we were not all in agreement with one another, we respected each other’s points of view.

The second thing that I want to mention is the very recent death of that wonderful Indian actor, Saeed Jaffrey. Besides starring in Satyajit Ray’s SHATRANJ KE KHILADI (THE CHESS PLAYERS) (see below) and more than 100 Bollywood films productions, he also appeared in A PASSAGE TO INDIA, GANDHI, MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. The latter is one of my favourite films, and his portrayal of Billy Fish, the Gurkha soldier who helps Peachy Carnehan (Michael Caine) and Daniel Dravot (Sean Connery) to conquer Kafiristan, is a film gem and deserves greater recognition.

The third thing that I want to mention is what I term ‘comfort wargaming’. We all know what ‘comfort food’ is (i.e. food that induces a nostalgic, sentimental, or comforting feeling to the person eating it) and whenever I lose the desire to fight wargames – a feeling that has dogged me for the last few months – I look to what I think of as my ‘comfort wargames’ as a way to reinvigorate my appetite for the hobby.

So what are my ‘comfort wargames’? The answer is simple; they are either World War II wargames fought with lots of 20mm-scale figures and model vehicles using simple old-school rules or colonial wargames set in some imaginary late nineteenth century European colony or colonies. The former harks back to the wargames of my teenage years whilst the latter evokes memories of Eric Knowles’s famous Madasahatta Campaign.

As the slow process of sorting out my wargames room gradually comes towards a conclusion, I am looking forward to fighting a couple of ‘comfort wargames’ to revitalise and reinvigorate my desire to wargame.

SHATRANJ KE KHILADI is set in 1856 and focuses on the events leading up to the British annexation of the Indian State of Oudh and the Great Mutiny of 1857.

The main characters are two aristocrats (Mirza Sajjad Ali and Mir Raushan Ali) who become so deeply immersed in the development of numerous chess strategies that they become oblivious to the pending invasion their country by the British. In fact they are still playing chess as the British capture their city, Lucknow. It is an excellent film, and I have never seen a better portrayal of the life and customs of the ruling classes of 19th century India and an explanation of the methods by which the British East India Company enacted its policy of colonial expansion.


Furious Fuso!: The opposing squadrons

To put the recent blog entry about the Fuso’s almost single-handed destruction of a German/Turkish naval squadron during the MADASAHATTA campaign into context, here are some photographs of the real ships that took part in the battle.

Japanese SquadronFuso



German/Turkish SquadronKaiser Frederick III

Heireddin Barbarossa

Torgud Reis





Furious Fuso!

One of the ‘incidents’ that meeting Neil Fox brought to mind occurred during the famous MADASAHATTA campaign that we both took part in over the course of a year many years ago. The campaign was fought out on the large table in the basement of Eric Knowles’s shop ‘New Model Army’ in Manor Park, East London.

During the early stages of the campaign I wrote a number of newspaper-style bulletins about the campaign, one of which covered the intervention of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the naval side of the campaign.

(Please note that on the evening that this battle was fought, I was in command of the Japanese squadron!)

by Our Correspondent

The Japanese Squadron, which is commanded by Vice Admiral Iama Quitageza, has already made its mark upon the course of the War in this area. The Squadron, which consists of the dreadnought battleship FUSO, the cruisers NISSHIN and SOYA, and two destroyers, was on its way to the Island when it intercepted the combined might of the German and Turkish Navies in this area.

The enemy fleet consisted of the battleships KAISER FREDERICK III (which had only recently arrived in this area), HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA, TORGUD REIS, the cruisers REGENSBERG, DRESDEN and MUIN-I-ZAFFAR, the gunboat MUCHE and the patrol-ship ILTIS, and is thought to have been commanded by the German Admiral Hans Off.

As soon as both sides came into view of one another both fleets opened fire, and the Japanese opening salvos caused considerable damage. This can be seen by the examination of the gunnery log of the Japanese flagship FUSO –

1st Salvo – Enemy cruiser (later known to be the REGENSBERG) disabled.
2nd Salvo – German battleship KAISER FREDERICK III sunk. (It is thought that at least one of the FUSO’s shells penetrated the armour on the aft 12-inch magazine and this caused the KAISER FREDERICK III to blow up.)
3rd Salvo – Near hits on enemy cruiser.
4th Salvo – Further near hits on enemy units.
5th Salvo – Enemy cruiser (known to be the DRESDEN) sunk as a result of 9 simultaneous hits.
6th Salvo – MUIN-I-ZAFFAR hit and sunk by several direct hits from 14-inch shells.
7th Salvo – Turkish battleship HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA badly damaged by several direct hits and near misses.
8th Salvo – HEIREDDIN BARBAROSSA sunk by further hits by 14-inch shells.
9th Salvo – TORGUD REIS explodes as a result of several direct hits from the guns of the FUSO, NISSHIN and SOYA.

As can be seen from the above extract the Japanese shooting during the battle was excellent, and this is a result of the training the Japanese Navy has had at the hands of a British Naval Mission, and we remind our readers that many of the Japanese ships in service at the moment are either British built or designed.

It is reported that now that they have discharged their obligations to the British, the Japanese are expected to return home in the very near future in order to assist in the reduction of other Enemy colonies in the Far East.

This battle was fought using Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game Rules … and I have never, ever managed to replicate the accuracy of my distance estimation again! At the time I was even accused of having had my glasses calibrated because my ‘estimations’ were so accurate … but the truth of the matter is that on that evening I just could not do anything wrong.

These things sometimes happen in wargaming … and the memory of them lives on for a long time afterwards.

Cyberboard: It proves a slip …

I have been trying to get to grips with Cyberboard … and so far it has been a bit ‘one step forward, one step sideways, one step back‘.

The problem is that the program comes without a tutorial (the file exists … but there is nothing in it as yet), and although the description in Philip Sabin’s book is helpful, I have found that I need a bit more to go on. This is not to say that I have not made any progress (I have created a very passable hexed version of Eric Knowles’s original Madasahatta campaign map) but it now appears that I have painted myself into a bit of a corner and cannot print the completed map as yet.

A section of the original Madasahatta campaign map with the Cyberboard hexed grid placed over it.

The same section of the Madasahatta campaign map after Cyberboard has been used to convert it to a hexed grid map.

So at the moment my grip on Cyberboard is not as firm as it could be … and my grip might just be slipping … but I intend to persist, and once I have I will share any results with my regular blog readers.

Getting your priorities right

Over the past few days I have had lots of time to think. There is usually not a lot to occupy ones mind whilst sitting at a sleeping relative’s bedside … and since last Friday I seem to have done quite a lot that. I have used the opportunity to do some serious thinking about my wargaming priorities … and have made several short, medium, and long-term decisions.

In the short-term I want to finish play-testing my nineteenth century land/naval wargames rules. This will include another battle between the Rusland Navy and the Fezian coastal defences, and with a bit of luck I might manage that within the next week or so. I also want to re-visit my MEMOIR OF BATTLE and MEMOIR OF MODERN BATTLE rules, if only because they will give me a break from my PORTABLE WARGAME rules.

In the medium-term I want to get some models made and figures painted for both my nineteenth century and Interwar/World War II projects. For the latter I have to decide between:

  • Using 15mm-scale vehicles with 20mm-scale figures (my current plan … but one that may well be subject to change OR
  • Using individually based 20mm-scale figures and vehicles OR
  • Using 20mm-scale figures mounted on multi-figure bases and individually based vehicles that are compatible with my existing MEGABLITZ collection.

In the long-term I hope to:

  • Re-fight the MADASAHATTA Campaign … or at least a version of it;
  • Build up at least one 54mm-scale FUNNY LITTLE WARS army;
  • Stage an Eastern Front/Great Patriotic War campaign.

These are my current priorities … and all I have to do is to try to achieve them. On paper they look quite simple and easy targets to reach – given enough time – but I suspect that in reality they might be a bit more difficult to attain.

Return to Madasahatta?

One experience that David Crook and I share is our participation in Eric Knowles’s epic Madasahatta campaign. It is a topic that usually crops up in any conversations that we have, and once or twice we have even talked about running our own versions.

With this in mind I looked at the initial start-up positions for the various forces involved in the original campaign … and realised that I probably have more than enough figures to actually do it! If I make one PORTABLE WARGAME unit equal to a company, all I will need is the following:

Garrison of New Surrey

  • Port Victoria
    • 3rd Battalion, Connaught Rangers (less 1 Company) [3 Infantry Units]
    • 47th Mountain Battery (2 x 12pdr. Guns) [1 Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Rumbletum’s Kraal
    • 1 Company, 3rd Battalion, Connaught Rangers [1 Infantry Unit]
  • Clinkajeer’s Kraal
    • 1 Squadron, Bengal Lancers [1 Cavalry Unit]
  • Fort Chupatty
    • HQ and 2 Companies, 1st Battalion, Ludhiana Sikhs [2 Infantry Units]
  • Fort George
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion, Ludhiana Sikhs [2 Infantry Units]

Garrison of Hansaland

  • Festung Teufel
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie [2 Infantry Units]
    • 1 gun (1 x 88mm Howitzer), Hansaland Kolonial Artillerie [½ Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Festung Askari
    • 2 Companies, 1st Battalion Askari Infanterie [2 Infantry Units]
    • 1 gun (1 x 88mm Howitzer), Hansaland Kolonial Artillerie [½ Mountain Artillery Unit]
  • Festung Amelia
    • 1 Company, 12th Marine Battalion [1 Infantry Unit]
  • Seemanstadt
    • 12th Marine Battalion (less 1 Company) [3 Infantry Units]
  • Bluchershafen
    • 10th Wurttemburg Artillerie Batterie (2 x105mm Guns) [1 Field Artillery Unit]

Garrison of The Arab Concession

  • Port Maleesh
    • 1 Battalion, State Guard (4 Infantry Units]
    • 1 Battery, Artillery (2 x 88mn Howitzers) [1 Mountain Artillery Unit]

Whoppituppas Tribal Forces

  • Hornikraal
    • Royal Bodyguard [4 Infantry Units]
    • The Elephant Regiment [4 Infantry Units]
  • Militini’s Kraal
    • The Lion Regiment [4 Infantry Units]
  • Gindrinka’s Kraal
    • The Leopard Regiment [4 Infantry Units]

In total the forces involved would be:

  • British: 8 Infantry Units, 1 Cavalry Unit, and 1 Mountain Artillery Unit (37 figures and 1 gun)
  • German: 8 Infantry Units, 1 Mountain Artillery Unit, and 1 Field Artillery Unit (36 figures and 2 guns)
  • Turkish: 4 Infantry Units and 1 Mountain Artillery Unit (18 figures and 1 gun)
  • Native: 16 Infantry Units (64 figures)

I have several other projects that I want to finish before I even start to seriously think about re-staging the Madasahatta campaign … but if and when I do, it looks like if could be a very nice little war to fight!