I have several times played the ‘Peter Gilder’ Sudan game. This is where the forces of the British Empire march (ideally) in perfect formation to drive off a randomly deployed enemy. As a player, keep the lads in formation, be careful about your scouting and keep one flank firmly on the river where the gunboat can provide support.
But just has Terry Pratchett came up with the ‘Dark Morris’ which is the mirror to the normal Morris dance, it struck me that we needed a ‘Dark’ version of the classic Peter Gilder game.
So with this, rather than a carefully built up expeditionary force, you have the remnants of a once fine army, desperately trying to reach safety. To be fair, the scenario is almost embarrassingly generic. It could cover Publius Quinctilius Varus with his men in the Teutoburg Wald. But it fits beautifully with any horse and musket, modern, or even Science Fiction background.
The Wargames table.
This should be cluttered with terrain. A lot of individual pieces of terrain with gaps between them. These gaps represent the routes the retreating forces must follow. The gaps or lanes should be between six inches and nine inches wide. So if you pass more than six inches from one piece of terrain, almost by definition you are within six inches of the other piece.
At the far table edge (play the long way across the table to get the maximum number of moves) there is a bridge, a pass, or something which marks the road to safety. There could even be a small force in a fort, guarding it. Your aim is to get your force through that gap to safety.
The retreating ‘column’ can have come from a number of different parts of the now abandoned province. The various parts need show no allegiance to the other parts. If you want this can be ‘every man for himself’.
When I played it we had three retreating players and one player controlled the ambushers. As Umpire I could have controlled the ambushers, but I felt that I would never have been as vindictive as a player would be. But the game can be played solo.
Size of force.
Because this is for Hell and Uncivil Disorder, I gave each player three ‘bunches’. The player had to roll for each bunch, to see whether they were riflemen or gunmen (or just toss a coin). Then of course the player rolled to determine whether they were sullen, truculent or psychotic, as per the rules. Each bunch had between six and ten figures.
Also each player had a vehicle. This represented the wives, mistresses, families, and loot of the retreating force. Losing this vehicle would be a disaster for the player and would signify defeat.
Obviously you can play this in any period with any scale of figures.
If you’re playing this solo, I’d have a maximum of 10 bunches and three or four vehicles as your dependents.
With our game, I made each player a magician so they could inspire their men and if necessary call down artillery. The solo player might want to have more than one magician, perhaps subsidiary commanders, to help hold together the somewhat demoralised force.
Note that whilst the bunches can go through terrain, the vehicles with dependents and loot cannot.
These represent the vengeful indigenous inhabitants who are taking their last chance to take a crack at their oppressors, (and obviously the loot.) To represent the fact that they were less well armed, equipped and drilled, these all count as ‘thugs’ under the rules. They have a nominal firepower and a real enthusiasm to wade in and hit people.
Each time the retreating force comes within six inches of a piece of terrain there is a chance of an ambush. I used a system which proved interesting. The ambushing player decided on how many bunches he wanted to attack out of that terrain, and then had to roll higher than that number on a d10. So if he wanted six bunches, he had to roll 7+ on a d10 to get them. This meant he could pretty well guarantee a small number but might struggle to get a larger force.
For a solo player just roll a d10. This is how many bunches ‘might’ be there. Then roll the d10 again. If your second roll is higher than the first, the bunches are indeed there.
The ambushers are placed on the table, as the last part of the ambushing player’s turn. So the victims, sorry, I mean the retreating forces, do get time to react. (In a futile and doomed manner.)
Note that there is only ever one chance of getting ambushers from a piece of terrain. If the ambusher fails, then there are none. If the ambusher succeeds in their roll then the bunches they get are all they will get from that particular wood or whatever. So it is important to have lots of pieces of terrain.
If you are playing solo you don’t need to give the ambushers a magician. But if you give the role to a player, I decided that this magician wasn’t a person, but the personification of the spirit of rebellion. Thus he could go into a piece of terrain and next move reappear in any other piece of terrain. Whilst you roll to see if there are ambushers whether the ‘personification’ is present or not, if he is, you roll the d10 twice. So you’ve more chance of getting that big number.
Playing the game
This was comparatively straight forward and the wise player choses their route. One player ended up following a path which took his force into a small open area that was over a foot wide and was surrounded by three pieces of terrain. By definition he had to come within six inches of one of them. The ambush duly appeared, so he redeployed his force so that he could bring maximum fire on it. This brought him within six inches of the second piece of terrain. The second ambushing force appeared. Then when one of his bunches was driven back, this brought his men within six inches of the third piece of terrain. A third force hit his column in the rear.
He desperately tried to salvage things by calling down artillery. Being a shaman rather than a technomage he had the chutzpah which meant he had no difficulty in getting the support. Unfortunately this also meant he didn’t have the skill to direct it properly. Hence he called it down on his own position on the grounds that the one thing he wouldn’t hit would be his target. A not unreasonable assumption, but unfortunately the artillery did promiscuous damage to his force, his ambushers, and wiped out his fleeing dependents. His last stand was brief but not entirely inglorious.
The second player was unlucky having lost some men to the artillery. So when he was finally ambushed he didn’t really have the manpower to hold the ambushers off, but he did punish them, and thanks to a media team, he tied them up for a long time. Thus his vehicle loaded with dependents managed to get off the table to safety.
The third player, having avoided friendly artillery managed to advance by skirting the terrain pieces other players had emptied of their ambushers. When he finally provoked his own ambushes he was able to form up and break up the attacks with firepower.
If you don’t know ‘Hell and Uncivil Disorder’ rules, they’re available from Wargame Vault for £4 as a pdf.
They are also available from Amazon, as a paperback for £9.50 or for £4 on Kindle