Monday, 11 April 2016

The Hunt for the Manuscript – Herefordshire Big Game April 2016

Another Big Game last weekend!

So the various factions once more girded their loins and scattered throughout the county in search of a salacious manuscript that could bring down the aristocracy.

With a total of 16 players, we were able to spread out onto three tables – these being:-


Situated in the north of the county, not far from the border with Shropshire and Ludlow, where the forces of the Anglican League Bishop of Ludlow and his ally the Bishop of Lichfield have retreated after making one advance too far in the Welsh border campaign.

Closer to home and supported by mercenaries from Worcester (paid for by an absent Sir Gilbert) they are able to make a more confident move into Herefordshire but are opposed by the King’s Colonials, Herefordshire Territorials and the Blackshorts.


The final throes of the Welsh border campaign, in which the remaining rebel forces (a mix of Anglican League and narrowboat borne Socialists), are fighting a rear-guard action on the River Wye against their pursuers.

A numerically superior BUF force, also coincidentally using narrowboats, have pushed the rebels back as far as Whitney-on-Wye – the last strategic river crossing under Anglican control. The men in black were now determined to salvage their battered reputation and finally avenge themselves against the enemy.


To be more precise the hills that dominate the Hereford to Ross road – an area currently under control of the neutral Landowners’ Protection Association but slap bang between Anglican and Royalist lines.

After retreating from the Welsh border back to Ross, the Anglican League (in alliance with a recently arrived force of Albertines) plan to mount a strong advance now that their supply lines are shorter. Facing them is a scratch force of Royalist militias and Salopians, rushed south to bolster defences.

As I played the part of Spode and his Blackshorts at Brimfield, the bulk of this report will concentrate on that action.

Blackshorts and Fascisti advance 

My Blackshorts advanced, got shot up and then retreated.

The end.

Sorry, but that’s about the gist of it… Okay, I’ll elaborate a bit… Both sides advanced along the length of the table towards the village in the centre. On the Royalist side the Territorials took the wooded left flank, the King’s Colonials the centre and my Blackshorts the more open right flank.

Anglican League death rays!

Facing the Territorials were the Bishop of Ludlow’s forces, complete with disintegrator ray guns! (Knocked up by the Ludlow School science department – actually glorified LMGs) and the ‘Shropshire Swain’ – a lovelorn chap determined to win the heart of a certain lady.

Royalists advance towards Brimfield

Opposite the Colonials in the centre deployed the Worcester mercenaries, paid to do Sir Gilbert’s dirty work and completely resistant to any offers to double their bounty and swap sides (typical of Spode to forget his cheque book).

The King's Colonials move up

Deploying opposite me was the Bishop of Lichfield and his troops. Using the platoon generator guide with which we ask all our players to build their forces, I employed a mortar, anti-tank rifle and a light tank in addition to the usual HQ group and infantry sections (three Blackshorts and a unit of Women’s British Fascisti). Meanwhile my opposite number took to the field with a large Char tank, anti-tank team, HMG, mortar and a rocket battery towed by an LMG armed steam wagon, in addition to his HQ and infantry sections.

And so I moved forward alongside my Royalist allies, outgunned but undaunted!

The Royalist left and centre quickly dug in to the wooded hills and village church, trading artillery and machinegun fire with the enemy – managing to disable the Bishop of Ludlow’s tank. The remainder of Ludlow’s forces sprang forward to occupy the village buildings, supported by the mercenaries who similarly got indoors.

The Blackshorts ran as quickly as possible through the open field to the nearest hedge line, my tank taking the extreme left where it could at least get a shot at Lichfield’s behemoth. Sadly my entire platoon seemed incapable of hitting anything when it came to shooting...

Rockets land among the Blackshorts

The Blackshorts were forced to take shelter behind the hedge, where a barrage from the enemy rocket launcher took out my anti-tank rifle and a couple of riflemen. With the help of their signallers (before they too were killed), my mortar zeroed in on the enemy tank, but also failed to do any damage.

My infantry could not advance further until the Anglican tank was dealt with. However, in a depressingly familiar state of affairs, the two tanks traded shots for the rest of the game – neither managing to knock out the other.

One death ray down!

The rate of fire was hotting up across the table, with the King’s men challenging the enemy but facing a determined Anglican rebuttal. The Colonials knocked out one of the lorry-mounted death rays, but lost an armoured car in response.

Blackshorts line the hedges and get shot at

The Blackshorts could do little to support, being whittled down not only by the heavy firepower of the enemy opposite but also being enfiladed by the mercenaries (stubbornly refusing to change sides on the vague promise of double payment sometime in the near future) in the building to their left.

Pulling back to reform

I could hold on no longer – even with the assistance of a section of Loyal Americans and an HMG from the King’s Colonials. Once full sections were now being merged into composite units in order to hold the line, but with the forces of the King being battered across the table, little else could be done.

Motorbike police pierce the centre!

The final straw was when a section of Anglican motorcycle police blasted through the centre of our line (to the theme tune of CHiPs!) This foolhardy move was accompanied by a general advance by the Bishop of Lichfield – largely untouched by my feeble (and inaccurate) counter-fire.

View from the opposite side - Anglicans advance

It was time for us to pull back and leave the village of Brimfield to the Anglican League while we still had a relatively viable force. 

Pulling back further

What of the manuscript? Well a number of promising documents were discovered by both sides (I had hidden some red herrings across the three tables), but the genuine article was not to be found at Brimfield.

Narrow(boat) victory at Witney

On the other tables both sides had mixed fortunes. At Whitney the BUF pushed back the Anglican rear-guard, thus clearing the Welsh border area of the rebels, but the much-desired manuscript and all the society-wrecking scandal within had been discovered by the Socialists! The reds immediately vowed to publish the document in full…

The fighting at Aconbury

At Aconbury the rebels fared better and managed to see off the Royalists, ensuring that the no-man’s land between the two sides, and more importantly the Hereford-Ross road, was in their hands.

For me the game was a lesson in how not to plan a Big Game in a hurry. Various factors meant that I didn’t give as much attention to the day as I usually do. My on-the-spot decision to have all sides fight along the length instead of the width of each table bunched things up and certainly made things difficult for some players (including me). I also failed to pay full attention to the platoon compositions that we ask players to submit before the game in order to help balance things out. Lessons learned…

End of play at Brimfield

Still, despite (for me) a poor game where I lacked any tactical imagination, it was great to see old friends and meet new ones. It was gratifying to see that everyone seemed to enjoy the day and, as usual, the food was top-notch!

As for the overall narrative – with Colonel Mustard’s scandalous manuscript about to be published by the Socialists, things have got a lot more interesting…

Watch this space…

In the meantime, here are some other reports of the game (to be updated as they roll in):-

Giles' report part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4


  1. The games may have had their issues but they look superb!

  2. Any excuse to catch up with friends over such a great table can't be all bad.

  3. They look absolutely amazing, looked like you had a great day. I will do something like this with my Albertines one day!

  4. The figures and tables look great!

  5. Great looking games on a big scale......really like the canal boats but we don't have any in Cumbria. Lakes of course but that gives a certain lack of mobility. One of my next projects is trains. I will now start planning a medium game for the summer.


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