Wednesday 26 June 2019

First Black Powder For Sikh Wars

Tonight I had the opportunity to put on a small game using my Sikh Wars collection in regiments and Brigades for the first time. Black Powder with amends is our preferred set of rules and would be a good starting point for this project.

Can I also givea shout out to Howard Brady, after being very ill for some time he is feeling well enough to attend the odd show and put on games again, great news Howard all the best my friend.
Initially I have focused quite a bit on the irregular Indian troops as these are very flexible for use on both sides in the Sikh Wars but also in many other Indian conflicts. Afghanistan, Scinde, Mutiny etc.
On the Sikh side we had:

First Brigade Average Commander
3 battalions of Khalsa Sikh regulars
1 battery of 3 light horse guns
1 Small unit of Sikh regular Currasier

Second Brigade Poor Commander
1 standard and 1 small unit of matchlock armed irregulars
1 unit of sword and spear armed irregulars
1 large siege gun

Third Brigade Poor Commander
2 standard and 1 small Irregular Cavalry unit

Fourth Brigade Poor Commander
2 Standard Irregular cavalry units

Most of the Irregulars were wavering and so would take a break test every time they had a casualty making them very brttle and their poor command rating also made them difficult to use effectively..
The Honourable East Indian Company forces would be:

First Brigade Good Commander
I battalion of British regular foot
2 battalions Indian Sepoy foot
1 battery of 2 field guns

Second Brigade Average Commander
2 battalions of irregular matchlock men
1 large siege gun
1 irregular horse unit

Third Brigade Good Commander
I regiment of British Lancers
1 regiment of HEIC irregular horse
1 small half regiment of Bengal Native Light Horse
1 battery of 2 Bengal Horse guns
So the Sikhs would have 6 units of foot vs the British with 5. 6 units of Sikh Horse against 4 units of British, 4 Sikh guns vs 5 British guns.The Sikh irregulars would be in a walled village so the British would be up against it to some extent.
To give the company forces a fighting chance and to reflect the quality of the British regulars historically we gave them some bonuses, along with first fire they had crack, steady and tough fighters, giving them a reasonable advantage in both morale and melee. The rest of their troops would be very similar in quality to the Sikhs. We also made the Company commanders better quality, again this gave them a slight advantage as well as being (arguably) historically accurate.

I say arguably as the Sikhs certainly had some excellent commanders and the British certainly some particularity poor ones, both suffered from some real command issues. In the first Sikh War the Sikh Commander in Chief was under instructions from the Rani to lose, he tried his best and the Sikhs still nearly beat the Company. The British CinC had a preference for bayonet charges into the teeth of enemy cannon and manoeuvre be damned whilst being hampered by some of his Cavalry commanders, in the first war one general went mad and ordered the Cavalry and horse artillery to retire from the field of battle, In the second Anglo-Sikh war the British had the same mix of Brilliance and Buffoonery whilst the Sikh were dogged by in-fighting and self-serving whilst the Afghans double dealt in the background and eventually abandoned the Sikhs to their fate. The HEIC staff work would though be superior to the Sikhs and help give the British an edge.
Both sides made extensive use of irregulars and tribal formations, this was particularly true in the Second war with the first two battles involving tens of thousands of troops and only 2 Europeans being present.
The Sikhs deployed their irregulars in the village with cavalry on either flank and the regulars to the left of the village.

The British had their regular Brigade opposite their Sikh counterparts and their irregulars also opposite the Sikh irregulars, the company cavalry were massed on their right flank opposite the largest of the Sikh cavalry formations..
The Sikhs were commanded by Steve on the right flank and Chris on the left with the East India Company troops being commanded by Mark. For the most part I watched, chuckled and gave bad advice whilst making the odd umpires decision.

The Flashman casualty marker was again pressed into service as a leader. At this rate I may have to re-base him.
The game started with the company forces trundling forward other than the cavalry brigade which blasted three moves towards the Sikh cavalry on the flank. A responding advance by the Sikh regulars sees them draw level with the village to give support whilst Steve's irregular cavalry hangs back on the flank facing the British cavalry, presumably to draw them in.
As the main Company force nudges forward the British Lancers charge and defeat the first two units of Gorchurra, they bounce onto the next unit but are forced back. On the other flank Chris charges his irregular light cavalry at the first unit of Sepoys and is forced back by overwhelming fire, however he passes his break test and saves most of his casualties.

With the Company line stalled behind the hill Chris charges the Sepoys again and this time he gets in, his unit eventually breaks but not before inflicting casualties on the Sepoys.

Next move the Company occupy the hill and are able to shift their irregulars forward and a long range cannon duel ensues.

The Gorchurra charge the lancers and are defeated and forced back but both the lancers and the Gorchurra are all now shaken and therefore unable to charge again until casualties can be rallied off.

With his Lancers stalled Mark decides to charge the small unit of Bengal Native Light Cavalry at the irregular Matchlock men to his left, a risky business but it might pay off as the irregulars are wavering. After the first round of melee both units stand there ground, the Cavalry now losing their charge bonus and a minus on hits as they are also dis-ordered by the original closing fire.
The Bengal horse artillery and the large irregular gun keep a lively cannonade on the village whilst the irregular Sikh gun targets the horse battery and inflicts both a dis-order and casualties.

At this stage with Mark needing 5's for his light cavalry we have one of those spawny throws he is known for and he gets 5 hits out of 6.
Not to be outdone Steve manges to save all 5. A break test on the lights and you guessed it, great dice they stand and carry on fighting.
On the other flank the Sikh regular Curassier charge the already damaged Sepoys, really you would expect this to be a non starter but they get lucky and survive the closing fire, a melee ensues which the Sepoys lose and Mark finally has a poor dice roll and the Sepoys leg it leaving a hole in the Company flank.

The saving grace is that the Sikh cavalry are all shaken and unable to take advantage of this success.
The artillery duel is going Marks way so Chris pulls back his regulars to keep them at long range, the Company regulars are not really strong enough now to come off the hill and attack the Sikhs.
This just leaves the irregulars facing each other on the Company centre right, in a  last throw of the dice (punn intended) Mark charges his irregulars at the village, one Matchlock unit reaches the wall and hits the sword and spear unit who of course have no closing fire.Its close but the Sikhs win the ensuing melee and Marks troops are forced back.

The game is at a deadlock now, the British cant advance, they dont have the troops to do it, the Sikhs are also not strong enough to take advantage of their sucesses, so a strategic withdrawal of the Company forces to lick their wounds and try again another day.

I loved watching and Umpiring this game, its great to see this colourful collection finally on table. The British were always going to need to get lucky and whilst Marks dice were often pretty awesome he just didnt quite manage to get what he needed every time he needed it.

The amended rules worked perfectly well for Sikh Wars and the addition of special rules for units helps add flavour. Steve felt that despite this it didnt feel much different to the other Black Powder games we played. Mark and I felt that it was different enough, however more games will tell and we may add other small bits of flavour to help this feel more like India. Water carriers and baggage may form parts of future games with this in mind.

I look forward to playing this again when I have some more Company forces to throw in, I already have a little more cavalry. For now I will content myself with another Sikh Sharp Practice coming up.

Thanks for reading, hope you found it entertaining.


  1. Just skimmed through and will read properly later. Interesting have batteries composed of several guns
    Chris C

    1. I want to see how that effects the game given the Sikh superiority in guns in the first war in particular

  2. Great stuff Roj. I look forward to seeing this collection on the tabletop. Nice scenario to try things out and flavour will develop as it's played

    1. Indeed thanks Chris, see you tonight for a Sharp Practice

  3. Really enjoyed - thanks.

  4. Splendid armies, river, and walls...Superb!