Sunday, 8 January 2017

Run for the Vaal river: a Boers tale....

A wargame subject that makes me enthousiastic is the Anglo-Boer conflicts at the end of the 19th / start of the 20th century. For years I'm improvising on figures to mimic these opposing forces. Articles in this blog illustrate how I partially dealt with this. With the recent arrival of Expeditionary Force Natal Boers, a new impuls arose to more, get into the modifications needed in my primary wargame ruleset (About Bonaparte, Dirk Donvil: Partizan Press, 2011 Nottingham). In direct communication with the maker of the set, I made some alterations and where needed applied supplemental rules (and I'm sure will have to make more in the wargaming future). 

This report covers the latest table top skirmish in 54mm with these 'tools'.

The situation

A small Boer commando tries to make it's way through the High Veldt to the river Vaal. They bring with them a brand new Krupp fieldpiece along with two carts full of supplies and ammunition. There's one unit of four Boers still mounted, the CIC (general de Wet) is in the sadle too. Three units of four (each with a Boer leader as a fifth fig.) skirmish in the vicinity of the supply column. Their goal is to get the gun to the furthest side of the table (behind the rock formation, a typical South African 'Kopje'). 

The Commonwealth (more commonly called the 'British' or 'khakis') forces here are organized in a 'Flying Column'. Mounted light infantry mounted on sturdy Basuto pony's (like the Boers) and living of the land. Designed to track down and pin Boer commando's, playing them at their own game. In the game: when mounted 'cavalry' and when not 'infantry'. They must stop or destroy the Krupp gun, keeping it from escape over the river Vaal into Orange Free State. Here too; one mounted unit with the mounted CIC (major Foothill) and three dismounted unit each with their section leaders. 

Game lasted only four turns. Initiative each turn decided by highest D6 roll.

The khaki mounted unit overtakes the Boer column from the rear and hurries to the right side of it, hoping to disable the wagon drivers. Dismounted units at 6, 3 and 12 o'clock. CIC Foothill, in gray, in the middle. 

Mounted Boers on the right side of the wagons. De Wet on horseback, left of the column in front of the Kopje. Two units of dismounted Boers can be seen here (one with a yellow fig., the other with a red). 

A third Boer unit in reserve, at the rearside of the Kopje.

The gaming rules used here (with 'try-out' modifications for Boer warfare) 

Hard to see due the flashlight, but this is a formidable dice throw. Resulting in the meltdown of 'Foothill Horse' units.

Boer objective is reached: the Krupp ordnance is behind the Kopje.

End of skirmish. Boers reserve in front, the other units ahead left and right: to live another day.

What's left of the khaki's...

their sole CIC.... in dispair!

The victor! Christiaan de Wet



  1. I found this report very inspiring. Thank you for posting it! I have been collecting 54mm figures for the Boer War and I have been wondering what type of scenario to try. The early battles of the war would be not much fun, I think. Especially for the Khakis! I think this type of late war skirmish wold make a much better game. I also like your use of all sorts of figures in the photos. It reminds me of the early days of the hobby before everything was available online and players had to improvise.

    1. Watch my reply in the blog below this! Greetz, Marcel

  2. Nick, very nice to get your feedback. May I ask what figures you have collected for the Boer Wars setting, I'm myself always on the lookout for suitable figures. As you mentioned I'm not too accurate and like the old fashioned figures mix, as long as it resembles something 'alike'. Figures are cut up hand animated into useable figures too. You can find examples of that further down this blog or in my community facebook page The Batavian: painted toy soldiers
    A contact with a fellow Anglo Boer War(s) enthousiast in 54mm is more then welcome. Please contact me.

  3. Hi Marcel,
    My Boer War figures are mostly from Armies in Plastic. I also use the English and Scottish figures for the Northwest Frontier of India. I acquired a metal Pom Pom gun and two sets of W. Britain City Imperial Volunteers in the slouch hat. Mounted figures are more difficult to find, especially for the Boers. I have bought several metal painted mounted Boers, but I think I will do what they suggest in The Sword and the Flame to save money which to use one mounted figure in the middle of a Boer unit to show that they are all mounted. I want to game the attack on the armored train during which Winston Churchill was captured and so I am building an armoured train out of an old Christmas time toy train. There is a very good scenario for a late Boer War skirmish in an old issue of Wargames Illustrated. The Boers must capture supplies from a British supply base next to a rail line. But there is a chance that the British will be reinforced by a cavalry patrol or even an armoured train, depending on their luck. I can send you a scan if send me your email. But it does not look like you need much help in designing your own exciting scenarios!

  4. I would love to read the W.I article you described above. If you are a Facebook user please find page The Batavian: painted toy soldiers and send me a personal message. That way we can exchange email addresses. I get my scenario ideas from the novel by John Wilson (The Simon Foothill series) where several books in that series are situated in former Boer territory. I've a standing order with a British toy soldier supplier for several Expeditionary Force sets that cover my interests. I will add appropriate AIP products to that order, strengthened by your opinion here and a selection of postings on the 54mm Anglo-Boer War(s): (copy link please, no hyperlinks available). I am working on a second and third Boers mounted unit, conversions made from Jean Hoefler figs. mostly, having horses from the same firm as Basuto pony 'stand in's'.