The occasional exploits of Brigadier 'Tubby' Bykleigh and the Rhanzlistan Field Force

Monday, 12 September 2016

On the Road to Rhanzlstan

Well, having taken delivery of the mountain terrain from Phil last Monday, deciding on today's game was a no brainer! Our game sees 'Robinson Force', a detached element of the Rhanzlistan Field Force, pitted against the dastardly Bhykli Khan, chief of chiefs amongst the Bhurpas of Rhanzlistan, who has been roused to open rebellion by the promise of gold from the Russian embassy to the tribes! Catching news of the uprising from native spies, Brigadie Bykleigh has dispatched a force to chastise the Bhurpas, yet again...

Robinson Force enters the table from the southern end and must force a crossing of the river in one of two spots in order to engage the natives. The armoured car, supported by Aston's Scouts force the village meeting little opposition, while the Gurkhas, supported by the South Staffords and the Jalfrezi Rifles attack along the western banks of the river.

The Machine Gun detachment advances on the Force's left flank to provide suppressing fire when the Bhurpas show themselves.

The armoured car forces a passage of the village, coming under long range mortar fire from Bhurpas somewhere in the hills up ahead, while Aston's Scouts offer close support if needed.

Without wavering the Gurkhas advance swiftly on the bridge, determined to carry their objective whatever the opposition might be.

As Robinson Force gathers for the assault the Bhurpas reveal themselves amongst the rocky heights and in the ruins of an ancient village. They seem to be supported by a motley crowd of Russian adventurers and ner do wells! They pour down fire on the armoured car and the Scouts, rather foolishly ignoring the Gurkha threat!

While the Russians are alert to the growing threat to the bridge, the Bhurpas seem happy to continue to engage the armoured car and the Scouts!

At a crucial phase in the action the draw of the Bolt Action dice favours Robinson Force and the Gurkhas charge across the bridge taking only one casualty and defeat the first of the defenders in a bloody melee!

Surviving flanking fire from the remaining Bhurpas and supported by the South Staffords the Gurkhas go on to clear the village. Their bold attack unsettles the remaining natives, as does the incessant machine gun fire from the left flank and the accurate fire of the mountain gun battery!

The bravery and example of the Gurkhas serves to encourage the Scouts and they advance at the trot to put any surviving Bhurpas to the sword!

At this stage Bhurpa resistance is almost wiped out, just the mortar crew and the Russian mercenaries are left in action. Its all up for Bhykli Khan he realises!

As the Scouts advance briskly up the lower slopes, the mortar crew and the mercenary Russians melt away into the upper slopes of the mountains of Rhanzlistan...leaving Bhykli Khan to contemplate his errors.

For those who like to know these things we used Bolt Action version 1 for the rules, adding a preliminary turn for Robinson Force to enter the table. We played over the usual six turns, though it was all up for the Bhurpas in Turn 5 as you've seen above! Though thoroughly chastised on this occasion there is no doubt that the Bhurpas will rise again or that the marauding forces of S.P.I.F.F. will once again test the metal of Brigadier Bykleigh and the Rhanzlistan Field Force over the coming months.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Hills Are Alive...

...with the sound of drybrushing! Dreadful, I know, but you will have to put up with it for now! How we went from this, rather twee Christmas Village display base ~

To this, a bespoke creation of the Mountains of Rhanzlistan; home to that most 'loyal' of tribesmen, the dreaded Bhurpas!

Well, to be more exact, to do this you need a 'Phil Robinson' in full 'Slarti Bartfarst' mode! Its a bit like having your own Dobbie I suppose. {I keep him in a garage workshop in Darkest Rawnsley, fed on scraps from the table and watered with coffee occasionally!} You see him here applying the finishing touches to the snowy peaks...

But seriously, what a wonderfully talented chap and stout friend he is. {I'm even almost sorry I won today's WWII Bolt Action game now!} The process started in the last Blog entry took just one week to completion, starting with the painting of the MDF base to counter possible warping during the process; the application of coats of Polytex ceiling paint to the plastic vacuum formed shell of the mountains; repeated over spraying of colours to bring depth to the piece and bring it to life; endless drybrushing; adding rocky texture and static grass and clump vegetation; and finally, adding the green toweling to match our existing tiles here in GHQ and overspraying it to match ~

To say that I'm chuffed to add this piece to my terrain collection is probably the biggest understatement of my wargaming life! Thank You, Phil! You are an ace bloke and no mistake! The Mountains will debut here in GHQ next Monday all being well, when the local Bhurpa chieftains take on the S.P.I.F.F. Pop back to see how it all unfolds next week and to see the mountains in all their glory!

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Speaking of Hills...

...a few of my readers may remember this ~

Its a former display item for those cod Victorian houses which are sold in Garden Centres around Christmas time. Sue and I were out for a drive in early January this year when we called in at Mere Park garden centre, near Newport in Shropshire. They had a whole building given over to selling off surplus Christmas stock, amongst which were several sizes of these plastic vacuum formed range of hills. This was not the biggest, but it measures about 44" x 18", and seemed to me ideal for converting into some decent sized mountains for my Bhurpas to inhabit.
Now, only eight months later, Phil and I have begun to transform them for the tabletop in GHQ! The first stage was to acquire some 6mm MDF. Local DIY stores used to cut the sheets for you for free, no more apparently. The local builders' merchant will do this, but they were waiting for a part for the saw! Several weeks passed, cue our friendly builder neighbour Martin {Who converted GHQ very reasonably for me.} who offered to get the sheet and cut it for me. Cost £10.06 to him, as opposed to £24.50 to me ~ more incidental evidence of 'Rip Off Britain'!
Having acquired the MDF our first task was to cut off the lower lip around the form and to pad the interior of the vacuum formed hills to make it more sturdy in a game. For some strange reason I forgot to take any pictures of this stage! Sorry! Its packed with off cuts of polystyrene packing I collected over the year from new electrical equipment, held in place by seemingly yards of gaffer tape and all sealed in with clingfilm. It looked a right mess I can tell you but the hills were really solid when we turned them over to fix them to the MDF.

We fixed the hills to the MDF first with an upholsterer's staple gun and then with a hot glue gun to seal the edge to the MDF. It took four glue stick reloads to do the job! The whole piece of 4' x 2' MDF can now be safely handled for the next stages over at Phil's. The first of these was to paint the exposed MDF boards to guard against warping when the texturing and ground working get underway.

While we are generally happy with the overall look of the piece in its raw form, we did agree that the left hand side was rather too stark and gamer unfriendly, so we added some polystyrene pieces to the board to represent a more accessible approach in a game. {By the way, the holes you can see in the flat areas are for the electrical wiring to light up those houses I mentioned.}

The next stages are to coat the exposed polystyrene pieces in filler to give them the necessary strength and then to coat the plastic form, added pieces and the exposed MDF in Polytex flexible ceiling paint. As you can see, we ran out of filler, which Phil collected another tub of today, so I have no doubt the whole piece will soon be ready for the next phase, adding scree slopes and then spraying the whole with Humbrol acrylic 'Dark Brown' as the base colour to work up from.
This is where we are at now. More news of the Mountains of Rhanzlistan as the project unfolds over the next few weeks. Do pop back when you can to see how it develops.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Into the hills!

With the final thawing of the winter's snows here in Rhanzlistan it's time for our hero, Brigadier 'Tubby' Bykleigh, and the Rhanzlistan Field Force to shake off the stupor of too long confined to barracks and march to further glory! Rumours have been heard over these past months in the markets and villages of the foothills of a great gathering of Bhurpa tribal elders in the palace of that villainous ruler, the Jakzi of Jimbai. Governor Godfrey Godalming has dispatched our hero and a column of His Majesty's finest sons to ascertain the truth behind these rumours, and if necessary to 'civilize' the Jakzi and those troublesome Bhurpas!
For our first return to Rhanzlistan for a while Phil would command the RFF and I would take control of the Bhurpas. Phil's game objective is to capture the Bhrpa tribal elders and their Soviet adviser, mine to survive 2 turns and inflict as great a loss n the RFF as possible; a line in the sand defence really. We used Bolt Action for the game's rules rather than the usual Setting the East Ablaze. In Turn 1 the RFF enters the table with the Bhurpa positions marked by counters, including 5 to mark sniper positions, of which more later. Piper Imrie leads the column across the Bykla river ~

Phil's infantry on his right flank have already survived their first encounter with the Bhupa sniper concealed in the ruins of a village. For each of the 5 Sniper markers the Bhurpas get one shot at their chosen target only, then the opportunity passes. I chose to target the lead command figure in Turn 1 and promptly missed, a bit of a precursor to the rest of the game ~

A spotter in the hills on the Bhurpa's right flank guides the mortar crew concealed in a village courtyard onto their target, or not in my case ~

The Bhurpa sniper was soon in action again, with Piper Imrie being the unfortunate victim of choice! But nothing daunted, the Gordons and the Bhyklabad Horse continue their relentless advance ~

On the RFF's right flank the infantry advance is hampered by the terrain, but they come on steadily despite the difficulty and the fire of the Bhurpas' antiquated artillery support ~

By Turn 6 the action is heating up all along the front. The 18lb gun comes into action to support the Bhyklabad Horse's bold advance into the heart of the village and F.O. Bikklesworth arrives in his ageing A10 to provide support with two light bombs ~

The first bomb destroys a Bhurpa group in the outskirts of the village, reducing the immediate threat to the Horse to the MMG on the roof of another building on the outskirts. Meanwhile tribesmen concealed in a dry stream bed are poised to threaten the RFF's infantry advance ~

Not that they got very far! The second bombing run is equally devastating and the tribesmen and blown to smithereens. Back in the centre, the Bhurpa Maxim takes a heavy toll on the artillery, forcing them to withdraw, but other Bhurpa elements are less successful and the game tips beyond them in Turn 9. Despite the loss of the Bhyklabad Horse to a surprise flank attack and serious losses to their support from the South Staffords and the Gordons its all up for the Jakzi!

The Jakzi, General Robinski and several Bhurpa tribal elders are captured and once more Rhanzlistan can enjoy a period of settled calm, until the next time of course...

An enjoyable game, for all that my fire was particularly ineffective bar the Maxim's efforts. The game was really swung by the A10's two bombing runs. The first destroying a whole group, the second almost destroying another. With such losses in two turns the Bhurpas could not inflict enough damage to slow the RFF's remorseless advance and Phil was able to achieve his objective in Turn 9. The Bhurpas had mauled the Horse, the 18lb gun, the Gordons and the South Staffords but it had not been enough to turn the game in their favour thanks wholly to the exploits of F.O.Bikklesworth, or Phil's dice of course ~

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Stubborn as a mule?

Very quiet in Rhanzlistan of late, very quiet; but at last some news! At Wargamer last December I bought these two pack mules from Tiger Miniatures with a view to adding more baggage to the game in the shape of transport for the machine gun sections. The rear mule sports the MMG while the front mule carries the ammunition I suppose.

I deliberately didn't add any figure to the base as I cunningly thought it might pass muster for our 1943 Burma Campaign games, where my Chindits can always do with more pack mules! Purists may have a fit, but it works for me! I can thoroughly recommend the mules sold by Tiger Miniatures, in all about six different types I've found so far and very cheap at £1.50 each. There is even one with no pack, allowing the more talented chaps than I to convert to their heart's content.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The Mountains of Rhanzlistan

As it was so pleasant this afternoon, Sue and I went out for a drive and ended up near Newport in Shropshire. We popped into a local garden centre complex for a cup of tea and a wander about, just to pass the time really. In one building they were selling off Christmas stuff at between 30-50% reduction. In the  Christmas Village collection there were several display bases for the village buildings in the style of 'mountains'. They are made of vacuum formed plastic. I thought this one would be great for my Bhurpa tribesmen to swoop down from on unsuspecting Bolshies! As it cost me only £15 I think it was worth a punt! It measures 45" X 15" X 12" but there were others smaller, and one even bigger with a waterfall! I know it will need a lot of work to bring it up to the standard of the rest of the terrain ( cue Phil?) but I'm hopeful it will enhance the table top in due course. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 14 December 2015

A 'SPIFFing' Surprise...

I realise its been quite some time since I last posted anything relating to the exploits of the Rhanzlistan Field Force {RFF}or its rotund commander, Brigadier 'Tubby' Bykleigh, in this dedicated Blog, but there are so many genres to be gamed and time is limited, even for we retired gamers. I can however put that omission right today by sharing with any interested party the goings on earlier today in Rhanzlistan...
As ever, Phil bought with him his wonderful Bolshevik Russians who, in the guise of the Soviet People's International Frontier Force {S.P.I.F.F.} represent the main opponents here in Rhanzlistan. The game was set up to represent a surprise attack by S.P.I.F.F. against the RFF so as the defender, I deployed first, with Phil having a choice of three entry points on the opposite side of the table. This left my forces somewhat spread out to cover each eventuality, with a further force held off table to be hurried forward if things looked sticky! We used 'Setting the East Ablaze' as the rules and found in the early turns we were more than a little ring rusty! First into action were a column of Bolshevik infantry probing the RFF's right flank along a line of hills. They were successfully engaged by the Mountain Gun of the No1 Baalti Battery ~

The RFF's position was split by a fast flowing river rushing through a mountain gorge. The only link between the right flank and the HQ was a rickety rope bridge. This was the sole means of reinforcements passing from one area to another and was a choke point in the deployment of troops as the game unfolded. The No1 Baalti Battery was supported by The Royal Surreys and the Loyal Tandooris , while their extreme right flank was held by the Jalfreezi Rifles. Beyond the gorge were the Brigade HQ , defended by the South Staffords and the RHA No5 Battery ~

The South Staffords had dug in in depth to defend the old wooden bridge across the river to their front. In the game the river would be tested for a crossing point when a unit reached the bank: on a D x 6 Even throw the river could be forded, on an Odd throw it could not! On the extreme left of the RFF's defensive position the RHA 18lb gun was deployed to cover the river crossing. Despite being thinly spread across a wide front the RFF position looked very secure in the opening moves ~

The SPIFF advance was developing quickly. On their right the artillery supported by the Siberian Rifles moved towards the river while in the centre the armoured car unit, supported by a strong cavalry force drove straight for the bridge crossing point ~

Disaster for the S.P.I.F.F.'s armoured car as it probed the bridge defences it suffered a direct hit from the 18lber and was knocked out, effectively reducing the bridge to difficult going as it burnt fiercely ~

Undeterred by this set back the Bolshevik cavalry confidently crossed the bridge, only to find them selves caught in a murderous cross fire from the RHA battery, the South Staffords and the Royal Surreys. At that point their cause looked lost ~

The forward positions around the bridge had looked in real danger, but moments later {the next turn} the Bolshevik cavalry were decimated when the order of cards allowed all three units to fire on them one after the other ~

Sensing a possible opportunity the Rolls Royce Armoured Car drove forward up a slight rise above the river and engaged the Siberian Rifles. What it had n't banked on though was the fire of the Bolshevik artillery which promptly destroyed it where it stood ~

The Bolshevik's artillery might be proving dangerous, so the RHA 18lber got it in its sights and suppressed its fire effectively ~

Over confidence can sometimes bring on disaster I've found, in life as well as across the wargames table! While all the action was seemingly around the bridge, the Bolshevik infantry had rushed forward on the RFF's right flank and engaged the Jalfreezi Rifles and the Royal Surreys in a close fight ~

Back to the action around the bridge crossing and a gallant charge by the elite Bolshevik infantry saw the South Staffords evicted from their trenches ~

Things were suddenly looking sticky for the RFF's gallant lads. Never fear, the Tandooris were making their way across the rope bridge to reinforce the South Stafford's position covered by the fire from the Machine Gun Company ~

Sadly, the card draw and the dice suddenly favoured the cause of the enemy. A Maxim Gun played havoc with the Tandooris as they crossed the bridge and a second cavalry unit rushed towards the village and the RFF's HQ ~

At this point, we ran out of time as Phil had to get away to an appointment! As friends, we agreed a draw, although I think that a generous gesture on his part towards my lads, whose position was very weak now. Brigadier Bykleigh can be seen organising a 'tactical withdrawal' from the headman's house ~

A celebratory 'cuppa' for the S.P.I.F.F. commanders and their propaganda chief seems the least they deserve for overseeing a remarkable turn around in fortunes from one half of the game to the other ~

We shall return to Rhanzlistan and its myriad of characters soon in the New Year I hope. In the meantime, I hope any readers who have enjoyed their visit to our little corner of the Empire will find the time to leave a response to our efforts. A Happy Christmas and New Year to you all from Rhanzlistan!