Monday, 19 October 2015

Man the Barricades! Herefordshire Big Game, October 2015

After months of seemingly endless preparation, another Big Game has come and gone.

The overall ‘story arc’ was a continuation of the border campaign, where the rebel Anglican League have been trying to wrestle control of the railway line(s) that snake down the Welsh border from the Royalist and Fascist forces.

Once again we were honoured to play host to 15 players (2 sadly had to drop out at the last minute), which meant we could set the action across three tabletop battlefields – these being:-

Kinnersley – The Anglican League had decided on a bold thrust from their salient at Eardisley towards Leominster, hoping that such a move would, at the very least, draw government forces from the impasse at Bredwardine (see below) and at best sever communications between Leominster and Hereford.
However a royalist platoon from Shropshire had recently arrived at the village of Kinnersley and had to be rooted out first, whilst the King’s Colonials had pulled back from the siege of Kington and, hearing of this attack, hoped to swoop down on the Anglicans’ flank.

Bredwardine – Once again the Anglican League squared up against the dastardly BUF across the River Wye at this strategic crossing point; control of which would seal the fate of the Royalist territories wedged between the Black Mountains and Sir Gilbert’s Golden Valley Protectorate.
River levels were low and both sides hoped to cross and turn the other’s flank.
Thanks to a Socialist no-show, the Anglicans were outnumbered, but determined to win.

Dorstone – The last remaining piece in the rebel Sir Gilbert’s jigsaw. If he could capture this Royalist village then the whole Golden Valley railway would be under his control and he could transport illicit contraband vital supplies to his customers Anglican allies.
While Sir Gilbert had secured the aid of some revolutionary anarchists, the villagers of Dorstone would have to hold on until Royalist reinforcements could arrive.

A side-story I introduced this time around was the matter of a certain young lady – Nemone Mortimer-Wagstaff, who held the key to controlling the ‘Mortimer country’ in the north-west of the county. Looking for a suitable beau, her agents were sure to be making note of any brave actions on the part of the players – some of which had received haughty missives from an elderly maiden aunt or concerned uncle, demanding they succeed in this love match!

The Siege of Dorstone

Dorstone village and it's defences

I played the part of the loyal villagers of Dorstone – a small Golden valley village practically cut off and at the mercy of the villainous Sir Gilbert and his gangsters at one end and ragged Anarchists at the other. Barricades had been hastily erected at the command of local lad turned big game hunter Joseph ‘Himalaya Joe’ Wagstaff (cousin of the aforementioned young lady). He anxiously scanned the horizon for Lord Robert Grover: a Royalist commander thought to be rushing to the aid of the stricken village.

Anarchist Motor column advances

A shout went up: ‘anarchists!’ The Anarchists’ motorised column had been spotted on the approaches, whilst a section of their revolutionary horse was seen galloping in the distance. Another shout: ‘gangsters!’ Sir Gilbert’s desperadoes were spotted at the other side of the village, his armoured behemoths raising steam some distance behind his infantry.

Sir Gilbert's hoodlums

In this I was lucky, for thanks to a dice roll it would take 3 turns for Sir Gilbert’s steam tanks to raise enough steam to get going. His armoured truck also started off-road, and only reached the tarmac after much wheel-spinning in the mud.

The defenders scatter to their positions

The Royalist LDV section, supported by an HMG, rushed to the barricades to confront the Anarchists, while the village militia went in the opposite direction to face the hoodlums – a section of local farmers fanning out on their flank as Sir Gilbert’s men probed to the side. At both ends of the village Wagstaff had also stationed an improvised armoured car to support the defenders, whilst a sniper and anti-tank rifle took up positions in a building in readiness for Sir Gilbert’s advance.

Farmers cover the flank

In the middle of the village, the doughty ladies of the local Women’s Institute – begrudgingly armed as a reserve section, rushed through the churchyard to meet an anticipated charge from the Anarchist cavalry lurking in the distance. Meanwhile in the HQ section, the local doctor made ready to receive casualties.

Armoured car comes up in support

The Anarchists made the first move, driving their vehicles into a hail of gunfire from the LDV. They halted, disgorged infantry, and whipped off the cover of one of their lorries to reveal a rather large looking gun…

Bent coppers move forward

Sir Gilbert also ordered his men forward, led by a section of bent coppers – ‘policemen’ under the pay of the potentate. They too met with a fusillade of fire from the stout villagers and halted.  Meanwhile the anti-tank rifle crew waited in vain for the steam tanks to appear, while the sniper took pot shots at anyone who looked important, hitting and wounding Sir Gilbert’s NCO (who only survived thanks to the rebel sawbones).

The farmers take casualties

However to the flank, the farmers were confronted by a section of Sir Gilbert’s guerrillas, making good use of the hedge cover to advance without taking serious casualties. They opened up both barrels of their shotguns and halved the farmer’s section at a stroke, causing them to withdraw into the nearest building to lick their wounds (and shelter from the dispiriting drizzle that, thanks to a random event card, was sapping everyone’s morale).

Rain rain go away...

The Anarchists had now got their lorry-mounted gun into action, and were blasting the LDV. Their return fire did little to damage the lorry, but at least their own improvised armoured car caught a section of the enemy in the open as they disembarked, causing some casualties.

Anarchist flank attack through the woods

This was enough to deter any determined Anarchist charge, but a section of their infantry did try to get around the defender’s flank by advancing through the woods, only to meet the LDV’s Hotchkiss machinegun…

The WI race to meet the threat

With Sir Gilbert’s guerrillas infiltrating one flank, he sent his Tommy-gun toting gangsters around the other, doing their best James Cagney impressions as they went. Responding to this threat, the fighters of the WI raced back into the village and towards the barricades that covered this side of the village.

Defenders take a pounding

At opposite sides of the village, the attackers were wavering – causing casualties yes, but taking casualties in equal measure. However despite this fact, Dorstone was being pounded and it’s defenders were holding on for grim death…


Suddenly a dashing horseman leaped over the village walls and cantered into the centre. ‘Where is your CO?’ this scarlet-jacketed rider demanded.  ‘I bring greetings from Lord Grover!’ Reinforcements had arrived!

Anarchist cavalry do a runner

Over the horizon, Lord Grover’s men could be seen! His vanguard had driven off the Anarchist horse, and it was this that had allowed the WI to abandon the churchyard to meet the gangster’s advance. Soon his militia were moving to confront the guerrillas. The arrival of Lord Grover gave the defenders heart, with the remaining farmers pulling back to the centre of the village to form an improvised section with the NCO and HQ runners.

'Can you hear whistling?'

Lord Grover’s dashing messenger trotted up the street to Wagstaff, who had bravely joined the barricades and was bowling over ‘policemen’ with his elephant gun. ‘My Lord presents his compliments and requests-‘
His sentence was cut short as an ominous whistle filled the air, followed by a nerve-shattering explosion!

Pressure mounts...

As the dust settled the village doctor patched up a wounded and clearly stunned Wagstaff. The messenger, a tempting target for Sir Gilbert’s spotters in his red jacket and astride a white charger, was not so lucky. ‘Incoming’ was the cry, as yet another mortar round thudded into the village green. Sir Gilbert’s vehicles had extricated themselves from the mud, and had arrived…

Lord Grover's men

While the LDV, now joined by the anti-tank rifle team, and sections of Grover’s force were managing to keep the Anarchists at bay, Sir Gilbert’s flank attacks were also stalling. Yes his guerrillas had knocked out a section of Grover’s militia, but his regulars were soon on the scene to repay in kind.

Hell hath no fury...

The WI had also reached the barricades and turned their Lewis gun on the cocky gangsters, who had forgotten to bring enough ammunition and were helpless against the women’s wrath!

'It's the WI - let's scarper!'

Throughout the battle, the armoured ‘Beaverette’ car had performed sterling service. Not only had it accounted for several ‘policemen’, but had also seen off two failed attacks by the enemy’s tank-hunters. However it’s luck was not to last, for once again the hunters leapt forward. The car was ready for them, and opened up it’s machinegun, taking down one of the attackers – a strange cross-dressing chap pushing a pram-full of explosives. Unfortunately his comrade, a mad Scotsman reeking of strong drink, was unscathed and planted his sticky bomb to devastating effect…


Sir Gilbert’s vehicles had by now reached the village, and were bringing their machineguns to bear on the beleaguered barricade. This combined with the mortar fire, finally broke the brave defenders, who retreated through the carnage.

Improvised section, improvising

The improvised section now moved forward to take their place, only to be met by a fierce charge by a scratch force of surviving bent coppers and other lackeys of Sir Gilbert. Hand-to-hand combat ensued, with the outnumbered villagers failing to withstand the brutal rebel thugs, who pushed them back from the barricades and finally entered the village.

Barricade breached!

However light was fading and, although battered and bruised, the defenders still had plenty of fight left in them. The WI were in the process of emerging at Sir Gilbert’s flank as the charge occurred, and could possibly have swung back to eject them from the village. The sniper was still active and able to draw a bead on his targets, possibly including Sir Gilbert himself, if he had chosen, like his far more courageous counterpart ‘Himalaya Joe’, to lead from the front.

Anarchists holding back

At the other side of the village the Anarchists showed little sign of renewing the attack (rumour had it that their CO, if Anarchists have such a thing, was secretly enamoured with Wagstaff’s cousin, the famous Nemone).

Not all the hoodlums are so keen

Lord Grover’s men had also by now arrived in force, armoured vehicles and all, and with Sir Gilbert’s infantry either running away or battered from the charge, could have soon re-established control of the village.

Grover's men enter the village

And so the day drew to a close with an honourable draw.

I didn’t have chance to record the events on the other tables, but it appears that at Bredwardine, neither side was able to force passage over the river - ‘Can’t we do something more interesting next time?’ being the cry (be careful what you wish for…) It seems that both sides have given up trying to secure the bridge – maybe an indication that the border region is dwindling in importance?

Action at the river crossing

Things were a little more clear-cut at Kinnersley however, with the Royalists convincingly beating back the Anglican assault after some spectacular explosions and, if rumours are to be believed, a gallant Royalist captain single-handedly destroying an Anglican tank with his sword! Ms. Mortimer-Wagstaff’s agent is reported to have looked on with interest...

Taking out a tank with a sword!?

Once again a great day’s gaming with some sterling gents (and lady), who all entered into the spirit of things with gusto. We used a trial version of ‘Went the Day Well?’, which prompted some head scratching, but all issues were settled in the usual friendly manner. Bravo to all participants!

More action at Kinnersley
So what happens next? I think it's pretty clear that the border campaign has run it's course. The Anglican League and their allies, while making some strategic gains, have been unable to fully consolidate in the region, with many important railway junctions and river crossings still in government hands.

While the BUF have once again failed to cover themselves in glory the more moderate Royalists have risen to the occasion, pushing back the rebels and ensuring that the lifeline from Hereford to the loyal pockets along the border are still intact, leaving Sir Gilbert's Golden Valley territory extremely vulnerable.

The Welsh nationalists have retreated to Kington and are under siege, whilst the various left-wing factions have been unable to put their stamp on proceedings and are losing what little influence they had in the county. Lots for me to think about...

Rob (Lord Grover)'s view of proceedings is here.
Giles' report of the fighting at Bredwardine starts off here.
Sir Gilbert's latest propaganda nonsense is here.
Newcomers Alan and Rita's account of the action at Bredwardine is here.
The Bishop of Ludlow's tale is here.


  1. Nice one.
    Especially final comment about propaganda nonsense. ;-)

  2. cracking....must join you sometime

  3. A Desperate Day in Dorstone! Hurrah for the WI! It looks like the villainous Sir Gilbert has reached his high water mark.

    Nice set-up. Great to see the poster hoarding in use.

    1. Thanks mate, though I wouldn't write Sir Gilbert off just yet...

  4. Excellent write-up. I have been reading some of the others and they. Have all made for entertaining reading.

    Out of interest, if one wished to participate in a future game, what is the minimum force size one would need to bring to the table?

    - Neil.

    1. Hi Neil,
      You'd be welcome to come along!
      Typical platoon sizes are 3 x 10 man infantry squads, about 5 HQ figs, a support weapon or two, some vehicles and an optional infantry squad or a Heath-Robinson contraption, so about 40-ish figures.
      However we're all happy to lend out models on the day if a player needs anything!.

    2. Thanks for the info, it's really appreciated. As my VBCW gaming at this scales would be infrequent, I don't want to go crazy, just acquire enough to have some fun at the table.

      I will definitely take you up on the offer of a loan for your next game. I will monitor the usual outlets for news.

      - Neil.

    3. Cool! Going by previous games it'll probably be Spring next year.


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