Monday, 14 March 2016

Inspiring Stories (2)

When I was at University I worked on four different wargames projects / armies. One I’ve already written about in the last blog. Of the remaining three only one of them is still with me as a viable project and two of them are cautionary takes I look back at from time to time.

The other one that is still with me is the Indian Mutiny. I’ve blogged previously about the set of rules I eventually wrote (“Sepoy”) so some of what goes below has been aired before, but there were a number of false steps before they emerged.

The original paperback edition
The main inspiration for getting into the period was Flashman. The Indian Mutiny novel, “Flashman in the Great Game”, is one of the best in the series, if not the best. Actually, yes, it is the best. It has everything you’d want from a Flashman novel with a gripping and exciting background.

I’ve been inspired by several Flashman novels but only this one got me to an army and a game design. “Flashman’s Lady” made we want to do the Borneo pirate campaigns of Rajah Brook, but I couldn’t work out how to make it work, so it never came to anything.

Anyway, back to FITGG. It was clear from the book that the campaign had great feats of arms and derring-do. It wasn’t a traditional colonial game as the mutineers were European trained to a large extent, and armed with comparatively modern weapons. Battles are fought top a large extent like European battles, but under the sun. It has a range of fascinating Victorian characters, - Henry Havelock is a man who has been massively overlooked in modern times, but to his contemporaries he was a real hero. What’s more, after the mess of the Crimea it is a relief to find British Army commanders who seem to know what they are doing. Plus we have the Enfield Rifle that changed the battlefield dynamic.

After reading the novel I went off and read Christopher Hibbert’s book “The Great Mutiny” which continued to drive my interest. The novel wasn’t a gross exaggeration, nor did it miss any major items. The bibliography then gave me access to Michael Edwardes series of books on the Mutiny which I found in the various great libraries of my university city.

And to cap it off Minifigs had an Indian Mutiny range, so figures were out there. The other consideration was that the armies were so small that at a scale of 1:50 all of Havelock’s army for the Lucknow campaign was completely affordable and would fit in a small box.

The truth is from then I struggled to produce a viable game. The units were so small that conventional rules wouldn’t work for them and the problem was also what to do with the Mutineer armies. I toyed with a variation of Pony Wars, attracted by the automatic movement system for the (Red) Indians. That failed on several levels. Next up came a version of Science v Pluck, which made it to Knuston for a CoW session. It had a mixed reception.

Edwardes’ book on the Siege of Delhi gave me a lot of ideas, as did his book on Lucknow (“Season in Hell”) which had some terrific contemporary London Illustrated News style etchings in it. By this time I was leaving university, IIRC, and realised that my small armies just wouldn’t work, so I boosted the unit sizes to my current levels. I’m not sure what sequence the games came but I did a couple of successful siege games. One was set in Lucknow and was based around the individual redoubts in the defences and was a sort of group role playing game. I ran it at CoW and it went well for a session, but taking it any further was a challenge.

Next I did a figure game based on British and loyalist forces fighting their way into Delhi to break the siege. This was a gridded game which had a movement system that created a unique maze type effect for each game. I built a lot of buildings for this game and they were moved around the board as the British blundered into various cul-de-sacs as the mutineers fired down on them from roof tops. I ran the game at CoW and then at Triples (or the other way round, probably, as Triples was then in March and CoW in July). I think I got a second or third place in best participation game at Triples.
I liked that game. Wonder if I still have the rules.

And then “File Leader” came along and so we get the story in this blog.


  1. Flashman at the Charge was my favourite

    1. I like that one too, - especially as it ends with the firing of the Congreve Rockets. However Great Game is just that bit more of everything Flashy.

    2. My favourite was ROYAL FLASH, which retells the story of THE PRISONER OF ZENDA in the context of the early stages of German unification.

    3. Interesting choice Bob. I always found that one enjoyable, yet problematic. There's no big battle/campaign in it and its the one where the history is stretched/fabricated the most. Plus he's ripped off someone else's plot. Still, it has got flashy in it.

      Can't seem e getting a game out of it either.

  2. I have all the Flashman books- as well as as much of GMF other writing as I can- Try "Quartered Safe out here" for WW2- a great memeoir. I don't have a stand out favourite Flashy though Dragon or Mountain of light are up there
    As for the Mutiny I have some forces but no rules yet I don't want to make the mutineers "automatic" simply because that feels awfully patronising. Currently I see it as laregly a morale problem with the mutineers having "eggshell" morale. The Muting is not "front of house" currently but I will go back to it- I've a good selection of memeoirs and texts - Fred Roberts and Billy Russel are perhas the best.

    1. QSOH and FATD will probably appear if I persist with this series.

      If you are interested in gaming the Mutiny and you haven't looked at "Sepoy" (available from Caliver Books/Partisan Press) then you need look no further for period flavour rules that I don't think patronise the Mutineers. As they use movement trays they work with most figure scales/basing.

      If enough people buy them I might get to do a second edition.

  3. A most interesting Post on the Indian Mutiny- I must admit to doing the Indian Mutiny some 26 odd Years ago with 25/28mm Wargames Foundry figures - sculpted by the Perry Brothers- awfully nice figures...I gamed with a set of one page rules - "Lunch In the Crimea" ..worked as a Skirmish Game with units of up to 30 Figures. Regards. KEV.

    1. I think thr challenge with the Mutiny is finding a set of rules that work and are half way between a skirmish game and big Army level battles. That was why I was so pleased when Pete Berry came up with the File Leader concept. It adapted across really well to the Mutiny.