Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Two games of 'The Men Who Would Be Kings'

Continuing this year's focus on Rampant games, my friend Ian and I played two games of The Men Who Would Be Kings.

North-West Frontier

Our first game featured the 'Run to the Hills!' scenario using my British and Afghan forces. The Brits (me) had to reach the far end of the table while running the gauntlet of the Pathans (Ian) who were on their first tabletop outing.

We used random Leader Values and Leader Traits, but found the latter hard to remember. I wanted to minimise on-table clutter so abandoned the unit cards used in earlier games in favour of off-table rosters but we soon realised it was still necessary to ID the units on-table which we did with temporary pieces of paper. I've since utilised some lettered Scrabble-style tablets.

We initially made a mistake in the Pin Tests, subtracting for casualties in the game rather than casualties just inflicted. The minor differences between different Rampant games are easy to confuse, and I am currently working on a spreadsheet to compare them.

The photos show the course of the game. Owing to the Pinning Test error, the British appear a lot more battered than they should be. Allowing for this rule error, this game was or should have been a British victory.


For our second game Ian brought his newly acquired Sudan forces, and we did the 'Get Off My Land' scenario with the British vs Mahdists.

Ian laid out the table with a scattering of hills, some small clumps of vegetation and an area of soft ground. Six markers were distributed as per the scenario rules. The British had to search these by  Standing To when in contact with them.

The Mahdists had three upgraded Irregular Infantry units (@ 5 each) deployed centrally and three Tribal units (@ 3 each) which could pop up in nominated sectors during the game.

The British had three Regular Infantry units and a well-drilled Gardner Gun (all @ 6 each).

We agreed to drop the Leader Traits. Once again we adopted paper IDs to identufy the units. I also added the LV values to mine as this was the only difference between my infantry units.

My plan was to destroy the Mahdists piecemeal while searching at least some but not necessarily all the objectives, so I deployed on the edge furthest away from the main enemy concentration. It was the Falklands strategy.

My progress was entirely systematic. I moved towards the objectives, shot up any Mahdists encountered and only Stood To over the objectives if all the closest Mahdists had been neutralised by pinning or elimination.

Basically it all went like clockwork and a point came when it was a virtual impossibility for the Mahdists to win.

Ian's chances weren't helped by forgetting to bring on one of his hidden units when it might have made a difference. He did bring it on but late in the day and unsupported, so it just got chewed up in its turn.

IMO it's hard to fight Regulars with Tribals. Tribals will tend to have twice as many units as Regulars and need to attack in that 2:1 ratio, i.e. sending at least a pair of units against each single Regular unit. The latter can, of course, only shoot at one unit at a time.

In this scenario the Tribals also need to 'Go to Ground' to optimise their chance of survival. Even this is tricky. If Gone to Ground the Tribals can't be targeted beyond short range so the Regulars will be obliged to advance to within 12" of them. At that point the Tribals can try to Activate (with a 58%, 72% or 83% chance of success depending on the LV) followed by a 50% chance of Doubling into contact (4+ on 1D6).

If you attack with two units your odds of getting one of them into contact is better than evens and then you will have 16 to 12 dice in the melee. If, however, they are caught in the open they will be subjected to a cycle of being shot at and then having to rally which will have only one outcome.

Ian currently believes that Tribals are overpriced at 3 points. I'm reserving judgement.

All figures are Perry plastics, undercoated but not yet painted.


  1. Thanks, I found the insight interesting. You can certainly have this project without needing much storage space, which seems a real bonus.

    1. I wanted my AARs to have a point and this is an example of that! We're planning a rematch of the second game in which I get to play the Mahdists, so we'll see if I can do any better with the Tribals.

      If you do Rampant games in 15mm or even 10mm they become very economical in every way, but I'm enjoying the novelty of 28mm and intend to stick with it.