Monday, May 8, 2017

The Battle of Arcot AA Report - SYW in India

Initial table setup on 6ft by 24ft center table

On Saturday May 6th I traveled north to the Milwaukee area to participate in Bill Protz's annual birthday game. (Happy Birthday, Bill). We hold a game at his house every year on this approximate date to celebrate the milestone, to socialize and have a good time, and also, by the way, to play in a wargame.

This year's battle took place in India during the SYW in the Carnatic region on the southeast coast of India. The British (or East India Company) had stations in Madras and Pondicherry while the French had a station in nearby Arcot. You can find a lot of good information about this era and its military history on Wikipedia. The Osprey Campaign book on Plassey also provides good background information.

Game Logistics
Given that we were playing on a 24-foot long table and 6-feet wide plus two equally long back tables, it was difficult to follow what was going on at the other end of the table. I would go take a look see from time to time, but I really couldn't get a grasp of what was going on at the other end of the table. Who needs fog of war rules when the game provides its own built-in fog of war.

Prior to the start of the game, every player rolled dice to determine the quality of all of their troops: Elite, Veteran, Trained and Untrained or Native Mob. Not surprisingly, many of the units in my sector, both for my opponent and I, were rolled up to Elite status. I didn't think that my own Sepoys should be Elite, but that's what the dice said and who's to argue with the dice?

French trading station at Arcot in the Carnatic area of India.

The right flank at Arcot, from the French point of view.

British Fort Tandoori near Arcot.

A rather large oasis guarded the British left flank in front of Arcot.

My recollection is that there were four or five players per side. The British had four commands, but I split my command (Clive) into two parts so that a fifth player could join our team of Good Guys. The Bad Guys (French of course) had four players as I recall.

Clive's Task Force
My command consisted of:

1st and 2nd Madras Sepoys
1st Madras European Regiment
The Royal Governor's Bodyguard Dragoons
3rd (The Buffs) Regiment of English foot
2 x Royal Artillery 6-pounders
2 x 1-pound Amusettes

Clive's task force, flanking attack, screened by native light cavalry and European dragoons.

And then there were lots of native allies and two English regiments and a few elephants further to my right, but I couldn't tell you what they were.

Our forces consisted largely of a number of native warriors from Bill's Afghan-India Colonial collection, some French and British regulars, and several battalions of Sepoys that Bill and I were both painting for this game.

Over the past month of April, I think that I painted approximately 120+ figures including 60 British Sepoys from Indus Miniatures, 60 Madras Europeans using Fife & Drum AWI Guards soldiers (these were largely figures with broken bayonets that I'd been saving over the past four or five years, figuring that one day I could put them to good use.

Grand Nabob Ruttin Tuttin's elephant command stand. The Grand Nabob is visible  on  the right rear round disk, wearing pa urple tunic.

1st Madras European Regiment (using Fife & Drum AWI British Guards figures in round hats).

1st Madras Sepoy Regiment (Indus Miniatures)

2nd Madras Sepoy Regiment (Indus Miniatures)

Indus large Lion Cannon and artillerymen

I also painted two large Indian brass cannon and crew plus an elephant which served as the command stand for the Grand Nabob Rutin Tutin, whose warriors were allied with the British.

Two battalions of British Sepoys, the 1st Madras (to the right) and the 2nd Madras (to the left). In the upper left corner is the remnant of the 1st Madras European Regiment. Royal Artillery 6-pounders support the Sepoys.

Background to the Battle
The general background for the battle is that the British and their native allies were advancing on the French post at Arcot, hoping to capture it. Unbeknownst to them, the French had recently reinforced the garrison at Arcot, so it was a lot stronger than the British had imagined.

As the British/native contingent approached Arcot to make seige preparations, the French made a sally in force from the city to attack the British before all of their forces could arrive. While this was going on, Robert Clive was leading a smaller task force on a flank march around the French left wing, hoping to catch them off guard and to capture Arcot.

Let the Battle Begin

Clive's flank attack force had to wait until Turn 2 before they could be placed on the board, to the left of the oasis, as seen in the previous picture above. The passage around the flank was restricted by a severe bottleneck to the left of the large oasis. I gave this passageway the name of "The Narrows". The Bad Guys were able to stop Clive in his tracks, using just some light native cavalry which were employed to melee the British as they marched throught the gap. (NOTE TO SCENARIO DESIGNERS: be aware that terrain can really restrict the playability of the game. While I had fun playing, the terrain bottleneck of The Narrows made it impossible for me to have any chance of meeting the game objective that was given to me, i.e. make a flank attack on Arcot.).

Despite all of that, the game was a lot of fun. How could you not have fun in a game that has elephants?

Clive's march must go through The Narrows: the  area between the oasis on the left and the edge of the world on the right. A screen of light dragoons are sent ahead, anticipating a cavalry attack by the Bad Guys.
Native light cavalry preceed the European light dragoons through The Narrows.

A view of the Governor's Body Guard light dragoons (these are Fife & Drum AWI continental cavalry)

From this picture you can really appreciate how the terrain dictated the battle in this sector. You can see a single regiment of light lancers holding up Clive's whole brigade. It didn't help that the lancers rolled a skill level of Elite, prior to the start of the game. (sigh)

The Guard Cossack Lancers and the Governor's Body Guard clash in The Narrows. Clive's native light cavalry declined the opportunity to charge into the rear of the Guard Cossacks.

Once all of the cavalry had been cleared out of the way, Clive was able to advance his infantry through The Narrows and press home the attack on the French (Bad Guys) right flank.
Some of the native light cavalry decide that it would be fun to charge into a battalion of Irish musketeers in French service.

Bad idea. Irish let loose a "first volley" (+5 firing modifier for that first volley in the game for formed infantry). The Guard Cossacks, defeated in the earlier cavalry melee, reform behind the Irish regiment.

So Clive was able to work his way around the French right flank with only the Irish and the Guard Cossacks barring his way into Arcot. However, he did not have enough infantry left to finish off the Irish and march into the town.

The 1st Madras European Regiment (somehow rated Elite via the roll of the dice) was all shot up, having lost 75% of its initial muster of 60 figures. The 3rd (Buffs) Regiment got "Hougomounted" by a small band of light infantry hiding behind a hedgerow. The Buffs got the bee in their bonnets to charge the native light infantry rather than deal with the greater threat: the Irish battalion. By the time they had cleared the hedgerows of Bad Guys, the Guard Cossacks had reformed and hit them in the flank just as they were celebrating their melee win over the light infantry. That put the Buffs out of action.

Clive only had the fresh, unused battalion of Madras Sepoys left in his arsenal and a couple of 6-pounders. Maybe enough to head off the Irish regiment, but probably at a great loss of life. So I'd rate it as a stalemate on Clive's end of the table.

So what was happening elsewhere in the battle? You will have to come back tomorrow for the rest of the story.


  1. A very nice commentary and great pictures - as usual! While I never will get into the war in India on any level, your game does make it look both attractive and appealing. Well done, sir!

  2. Ruttin Tuttin? Really? "Hey, Mo! Somebody's after the copyright! Nyuk-nyuk!"

  3. Atmosphric and beautiful AAR, what an impressive terrain! I'll come back, this period is so tempting...

  4. Very good looking game there Jim.

  5. Very nice Jim - good to see the Indus mini's en masse. I must crack on with mine.

  6. What an impressive looking game! I always envy you guys over the pond with your large gaming rooms. Such is life...

  7. Nice game, good to see SYW India

  8. Fine looking game, thanks for the pictures!

  9. Great looking game.I like your new units.The guards work perfect. Your Sepoys though not elite..are on par w/ French regulars one notch below Britsh regulars.once they put on the made them feel like first class citizens. The only
    French Elite unit would be the artillery and D'Busseys corps.French Sepoys would be one below British sepoys,,and later on if Lally were in charge he would hesitate to use them he despised native troops ,putting him at odds w/ D/Bussey and Conflans.Again love the troops.

    1. Thank you Juergen!

      BTW, what units were in D'Bussey's corps?

    2. I'll post a behind picture on your Fife and Drum. There were 6 companies 3x european w/ polkam hat redcoats and trousers green facings and comp white tassel and shoulder strap,next blue next green, then a grenadier comp. I use Arquebussiers De Grassin figures from Eureka, red coat white ,plume facings ,trim.white trousers.,next Kerjeans comp/same figs as Grend. except w/ Blue coat.and last the half caste comp. the name escapes me.portugues and Indian mix. Polkam hat pink w/red trim and tasselas well as pink coat and trousers,,red cuffs and shoulder straps and lapels. Art. green coats and trousers red trim /tassel/cuffs and lapels..and Polkam. the Cav changed constantly.I used the green coat w/red trim w/ a short cap..actually a dragon figure might work best .I have old London warrroom ..that; sit for now..also check out the Osprey Louis the 14th? Colonial troops ..good info.and Partizan Press"To the Ends of Earth " by Stuart Reid.