Monday, 11 June 2012

55 Minutes At Peking

No, sadly not a post about the classic participation game put on by the Staines Wargamers in the 1980s, albeit a great game to both look at and play.

No, I thought I'd celebrate the day off we get for the Queen's birthday by playing some Victorian colonial HOTT; there's a tenuous connection if you want to work it out, but I won't bother explaining the workings of my mind on this.

Of course the only Victorian colonial HOTT I have is my Boxer Rebellion matched pair. I don't really hold with the idea that HOTT is some kind of universal rules set, and that you can play 'real' colonial games with it. However there are some amazing accounts of the Boxer Rebellion from the contemporary Chinese perspective which look at how magic played a major part in it. And that gave me enough material with which to create two fantasy armies which have a Boxer Rebellion theme about them. This isn't colonial warfare using HOTT; this is a fantasy battle using armies with a 19th century colonial motif :)

I put together the Boxers about ten years ago, but only finished the opposing Foreign Devils a couple of years ago. This in turn led to a reorganisation of the Boxers to give a fairer game (part of the fun of matched pair armies, a concept that I really need to do a post about one day). I'm still tweaking them. So today's game was a test.

The Foreign Devils defended.

On their left were the Bengal Lancers (Knights) plus Japanese and Russian infantry (Blades).

The centre consisted of a group of naked women to disrupt the Boxer magic (Cleric), plus the artillery (Artillery, of course, and also the general).

To the left of centre, American and Italian troops (Shooters) moved through a village. Behind them is Bishop Favier. Really. He was 200 year old devil prince, if some Chinese sources are to be believed.

On the far left was the British naval landing party (Warband).

The main Boxer force - warriors (Warband) supported by Red Lantern Auxiliaries (Magician and Flyer).

On the Boxer left, on the other side of a hill (more on that later), was their main attack force - more Boxer warriors, plus 10' tall bullet-proof Peking Boxers (Behemoth) and Imperial regulars (Shooters).

The initial approaches were cautious. The Boxers advanced on their left, aiming to overwhelm the Russians and Japanese, but also pushed forward to grab the village before the Americans and Italians got into position on its outskirts.

Well, that plan failed. The Boxers come under fire.

But they also attack the British naval contingent.

And push through to the village, only to be repulsed.

The slow advance of the Boxer left allowed the Foreign Devils to reinforce the Japanese Russians and lancers with Bishop Favier. He's a Hero, and immediately got stuck into the Peking Boxers.

But the Peking Boxers saw him off, and went for the steadfast Russians. Who saw the Boxers off.

And here's how the battle stood at that point. There'd been lots of fighting but, as yet, neither side had lost any elements.

The British in danger! A Red Lantern moves in on their flank, whilst Boxers attack them relentlessly.

Meanwhile the Boxers fail to make any headway on their left.

A fierce charge fails to impress the Japanese.

Disaster! The Royal Navy are wiped out.

But Bishop Favier finally defeats the Peking Boxers after the Bengal Lancers help him out.

The Boxers attack again on the left, with the Red Lantern now supporting them, having switched flanks. But the stolid Japanese and Russians hold their ground.

Meanwhile the Italians and Americans hold off the Boxers, with some artillery support.

The Bengal Lancers kill the Red Lantern.

Whilst the Italians wipe out a final, desperate, Boxer assault on the village.

The Foreign Devils attack the Boxer left, to little effect.

In the centre the Boxers try a desperate attack - the Red Lantern Magician attacks the Foreign Devils general - and kills him.

Unfortunately at the same time the Boxer infantry on the left over-stretches themselves, and falls foul of the Bengal Lancers. And the loss of those two elements is enough for their army to break and flee.

The final position. The Boxers lost three Warband, a Flyer and a Behemoth, mostly to, or with the assistance of, the Bengal Lancers. The Foreign Devils lost two Warband and their Artillery general.

This was a pretty exciting game, which could have gone either way. Indeed had the Boxers been more on the ball at deployment time I think that they could have grabbed a victory here. They had problems with the general having to command the main attack on the Foreign Devils' right from behind a hill, which meant a high PIP cost. And, at the same time, a demonstration in front of the village to pin the troops there turned into an attack as well, meaning that the Boxers were really trying to attack all along the line, but in three groups rather than one solid line. The Boxers got an advantage on their right, but couldn't exploit it because at the same time they were spending PIPs to prevent a total collapse of their left. The Foreign Devils rolled well for PIPs, and got several useful sixes in combats that either prevented them from losing elements or allowed them to kill Boxer elements.

The Bengal Lancers were the quiet heroes of the game, destroying a couple of Boxer elements and helping with the destruction of others. The Russians and Japanese were the anvil to their hammer, whilst Bishop Favier ran around looking busy (although he did eventually kill the Boxer Behemoth).

Still, I think the army balance is about right. Astute observers will notice that the Boxer Warband are based as Hordes. Well, that's what they originally were, but it really didn't work for them. So for play balance purposes I've been trying them as Warband, albeit ones on an over-depth base. And it seems to work; the Boxers are faster than the Foreign Devils, but lack their resilience.


  1. Great batrep, great figures for the Boxers...brilliant stuff!

  2. Naked women as Cleric.

    I've seen many an unusual element classification-but that one is new (to me at least, I don't know much about the Anglican Church).

    1. The naked ladies come from contemporary Chinese accounts. Boxers apparently wore magical charms which they were told would deflect the bullets of the Foreign Devils. Needless to say they didn't work. One excuse offered was that the magic was nullified by the presence in the Foreign Devils' ranks of naked women.

      There's even a mention of them straddling the barrels of artillery pieces, which would make for a great looking model, but was beyond my limited conversion skills :)

      So, Boxer magic is negated by having naked women in the army as a Cleric (it hampers the Boxer's Magician element).


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