Indostan.

An exotic land of untold riches. A land culturally divided by race and caste. A land of a thousand divine religions. A land of heat, disease and death.

Indostan. A land at war.

While the remnants of the Great Gurkani Empire tosses in its death throes, a myriad of warring princely states and their private armies vie for the imperial throne. Both Britain and France, served by the British East Indostan Company and La Compagnie des Indostan, respectively, have harbored invested interests in Indostan for decades, conducting relatively peaceful and lucrative enterprise with the blessings of the last of the Gurkani Emperors. But with a war in Europe brewing and the volatile state of affairs in Indostan, each has been forced to back a royal claimant and join the war. Who will triumph in the relentless heat and claim Indostan as the Jewel in the Crown...?


This blog is dedicated to a wargaming campaign set in a fictitious 18th century India, using the Sharp Practice rules. Gathered here are all of the after action reports of the games played, location and character bios, as well as information on the terrain and miniatures used. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

INTERLUDE: Madapras and the State of Indostan


Taken from the memoirs of “With Keen in Indostan” by Major Archibald Keen.
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...And so it was, after the last of the pyrate stragglers had been rounded up, and the pitiful shanty town, that was Ghoneriah, had been put to the torch, the fleet returned to Bumbay, her holds full of vile prisoners and reclaimed loot. On our return we were welcomed as heroes, and a great fanfare greeted us at the Bumbay docks, with all the Company’s people there to see us. For the next few weeks, the fleet relished in her success, alas, with the pyrate threat eradicated in Indostan, thoughts soon turned to returning her, with haste, to England.
The burning of Ghoneriah
Admiral Makepeace and I had talked at length about my transferral to the Company’s infantry regiment in Madapras, and he had prepared letters of introduction and recommendation for me; for these papers were worth more than word of mouth alone. Soldiers temporarily posted to Bumbay, along even, with a small group of Bumbay marines, were to be reassigned to Madapras; leaving by ship within the week. It gave me great pleasure to learn that Sergeant Maddox had decided to transfer to the infantry himself; declining to comment on his reasons; I pondered his decision may have been influenced by our strengthening companionship.
Bidding farewell to my good friend, Henry Makepeace, and thanking him profusely for all he had done for me, I set about arranging my affairs for my transferral to Madapras. Makepeace had left me a parting gift to remember him by, a copy of his book “A Treatise on Naval Military Tactics and the Modern Commander”; both signed and sub noted; a token I cherish still to this day. When the small Company barque finally left Bumbay, I was grateful to leave behind the likes of Wigglesworth and Maggott, both men of deplorable character and worth, saddened alike, to farewell young Midshipman Jonathon Hunt and the dependable Seaman Sprays. Perhaps our paths would cross again.
Upon our arrival in Madapras we saw, to our satisfaction, that the British flag was waving over the low line of earthworks, which constitute Fort St. Finnigan. Not far from this, near the water's edge, stood the white houses and stores of the Company's factors; and behind these, again, were the low hovels of the native town. Both Maddox and I waited our turn to land; and, taking our seat in a native boat, paddled by twelve canoe men, we started for the shore through the treacherous surf.
Madapras
For a while we stood on the shore, watching other boats, with the soldiers and baggage, coming shore; and then, being accosted by an orderly of the Company, followed him to the fortress. Here I was told that a room would be given to me, in one of the houses erected by the Company for the use of its officers; that Sgt. Maddox would be quartered in the barracks; and that, at nine o'clock in the morning, we would report for duty.
We amused ourselves by sauntering about in the native town, known as Black Town, greatly surprised by the sights and scenes which met our eyes; for in those days very little was known of Indostan, in England. I was, however, greatly disappointed. Visions of oriental splendor, of palaces and temples, of superbly dressed chiefs with bands of gorgeous retainers, had floated before my mind's eye. Instead of this I saw squalid huts; men dressed merely with a rag of cotton around them, everywhere signs of squalor and poverty.
Native Town
Madapras, however, I was told that evening by a Lieutenant Walsh in the officer’s mess, was not to be taken as a sample of Indostan. It was a mere collection of huts, which had sprung up round the English factories. When I would go to a real Indostani city, I would see a very different state of things. Walsh was happy to relay his opinion, on what awaited my time here, in Madapras. The Company's service was not a popular one. There was little proper fighting in Indostan, and neither honour, glory, nor promotion to be won. The climate was unsuited to Europeans, and few, indeed, of those who sailed from England as soldiers in the Company's service ever returned. The Company, then, were driven to all sorts of straits to keep up even the small force which they then maintained in Indostan, and their recruiting agents were, by no means, particular as to the means they employed to make up the tale of recruits.
I must have looked quite surprised at the news, for Walsh continued, "Don't you know what has been going on in this place Keen?"
"No, sir; I'm ashamed to say that I know little at all about Indostan, except that the Company have trading stations at Bumbay, here in Madapras, and Chandrapur."
"Then I will tell you about it," Walsh said, "with cigars on the verandah. It is as well that you should understand the position of affairs, in the place where you are serving. You must know, of course, that the Company holds this town of Madapras, and a few square miles of land around it, as tenants of the Nawab of Pecan, which is the name of this part of Indostan. The French have a station at Popacherry, eighty-six miles to the southwest of Madapras; this is a larger and more important town; and of course the greatest rivalry prevails between the English and French.
"The French are much more powerful than ourselves, and exercise a predominating influence throughout the Pecan. The French governor, Monsieur Complex, is a man of very great ability, and farseeing views. He has a considerable force of French soldiers at his command, and by the aid which he has given to the Nawab, upon various occasions, he has obtained a predominating influence in his councils.
Monsieur Complex and the Nawab
“You see, five years ago the French took Madapras from us with little resistance. Alas the Nawab Aloud-Din awoke quickly to the fact of the danger of allowing the French to become all-powerful, by the destruction of the English, and ordered Complex to restore the place. Complex refused the request, and so the Nawab sent his son to invest Madapras, a great and colorful host at his heel, only for the French garrison to sally out and totally defeat it. It was the first time that European and Indostani soldiers came into contest, and it shows how immense is our superiority. What the French did then opens all sorts of possibilities for the future; and it may be that either we or the French are destined to rise, from mere trading companies, to be rulers of Indostani states.
The French defeat the Indostani
"A great British fleet and an army soon arrived from England; and in turn besieged Popacherry; but the French resisted bravely, and after two months we were forced to retire, having lost many in attacks or by fever. Eventually peace was made between England and France, and by its terms Complex was forced to restore Madapras to the English. It must have wrung Complex's heart to give up the place over which they expended so much pains, and after all it didn't do away with the fighting, for it has been going on ever since; the English and French engaging as auxiliaries to rival native princes.
"Madapras isn't much of a place, now; but you should have seen it before the French had it. Our chiefs think of nothing but trade, and care nothing how squalid and miserable is the place in which they make money. The French have larger ideas. They transformed this place; cleared away that portion of the native town which surrounded the factory and fort, made wide roads, formed an esplanade, improved and strengthened the fortifications, forbade the natives to throw all their rubbish and offal on the beach; and made, in fact, a decent place of it. We hardly knew it when we came back, and whatever the Company may have thought, we were thoroughly grateful for the French occupation.
 “And so this is where we find ourselves at present, little people living here on sufferance, among a lot of princes and powers who are enemies and rivals of each other. It may be said that, for every petty kingdom in Indostan, there are at least two pretenders, very often half a dozen. So far we have not meddled much in their quarrels, but the French have been much more active that way. They always side with one or other of these pretenders, and when they get the man they support into power, of course he repays them for their assistance. In this manner they have virtually made themselves masters of the entire Septic, outside the walls of Fort Saint Daffyd and this place.
“Well, our people thought to take a leaf out of the French book, and have now found ourselves allied to one, Prince Shahi Paneer, the displaced son of the late Aloud-Din, whom once was the Nawab of the Septic. Moreover, our neighbors in the French colony, considerably stronger than we are, back the usurper Puli Sadam, the self proclaimed Nawab of the Pecan.
And from young Lieutenant Walsh, that is how I learnt of my new home, Madapras, and the perplexing state of Indostani politics.
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The above was plagiarized  heavily from "With Clive in India".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Keen Agaist the Pyratehold

 

Taken from the memoirs of “With Keen in Indostan” by Major Archibald Keen (Click the images to enlarge)
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… And so it was, under the newly appointed, Admiral Makepeace, that I was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant, having proved myself worthy against the vile Captain Indigo. The whole of Bumbay was nattering about the British fleet gathering, their intention to assail the despicable Pyratehold of Ghoneriah and so I took one last opportunity to walk with Miss Lovejoy along the shore, before we set sail.

As we strolled by the newly erected line of gallows, the ghastly pyrate corpses swinging slightly in the breeze, Elizabeth told me a Company ship was due to take her to Madipras on the morrow and that she would miss me dearly. I admitted that I too would miss her and she insisted that I come visit her and her husband to be, Captain Mattias Snodgrass, when the opportunity arose. I told her I would, but her parting saddened me more than I could have expected. I bid her farewell beneath Indigo’s gibbet, the pyrate’s swollen corpse glaring at me with gull picked eyes, as she returned with her escort to the Governor’s house.

Within the week we had sailed on Ghoneriah. The hulking pyrate Quartermaster, Ebenezer Briggs, had been coerced into serving the King, having provided us with all the details we required of the pyratehold, in exchange for his miserable life. He still suffered an ugly wound delivered to him by my own Sergeant Maddox, whom had near taken off his head, and the pyrate was lucky to be alive, let alone walking and talking. Mr. Briggs had relayed the existence of a cannon battery that protected the approach to the harbour of Ghoneriah, an obstacle that would need to be taken before the assault could succeed. Admiral Makepeace asked for volunteers for the dangerous mission and I of course heartily accepted.

And so it was that I found myself being rowed to shore a good fifty miles south of Ghoneriah, by the lascars of the bomb ketch “Pyro”, amongst a selection of hand chosen men.  We assembled on the deserted shoreline, as the sun was going down, watching the boats return to the ketch and in time she headed back north along the coast to join the fleet. Mr. Briggs directed us all into the dark jungle and I felt a desperate panic arise in me, having placed our lives in the hands of this vile pyrate, come servant of the Empire. Our task was to come upon the rear gates of Ghoneriah and the cannon battery by first light, just as the assault proper was being launched, and we too would commence our surprise attack.

All did not go exactly as planned. As we trekked through the oppressive jungle in near darkness, the men suffered from swarms of biting insects, cuts and bruises and the effects of the sweltering heat. On more than one occasion we lost our way and I wondered if Mr. Briggs was not leading us into some devilish pyrate trap. We were still in the jungle when the first explosive boom was heard, heralding the assault on Ghoneriah. Hearing the sound of the ship’s mortar and the sudden cacophony of responding cannon fire, the men grew immediately invigorated, pushing and dragging our pyrate guide ahead at a much faster pace, and shortly we broke from the jungle and viewed the pyratehold.   
The British break out of the jungle upon the Pyratehold of Ghoneriah
Before us stretched a long, gated wall, which harboured a wretched collection of buildings and huts. To our left the land rose upwards to a low cliff upon which sat the cannon battery, a path meandering to its brow, where a small blockhouse blocked the way. We could see the smoke from the guns of Ghoneriah, which were firing, with little doubt upon the ship’s boats, which were at this very moment attempting to cross the harbour. I nodded to my fifer and he huffed out a marching tune, as I ordered the men across the expanse between the jungle and the walls at a hurried pace. Although no one appeared at the walls of the hold proper, the silhouettes of men appeared atop the battery wall. Before long we fell into range of their muskets, but at this distance their fire was inconsequential. Sergeant Tuckfield manoeuvred his marines into a firing position, as I ordered First Mate Seaman Sprays to lead a small band of jack tars to secure the rear gates of Ghoneriah.
The clifftop battery to the left and the gated wall of Ghoneriah
The men hurry across the expanse of open ground

The pyrate defenders show themselves...
...as the marines move forward to provide covering fire...
...and are promptly fired upon themselves
When the marines moved into range, I gave the order to “Open fire!” and they laid down a steady barrage against the pyrates on the battery wall. Our combined firing was much more effective than theirs and the pyrates on the wall were taking a severe beating. Even their leader, a sharp-eyed Indostani fella, took a bullet, and although it did not kill the blaggard, their resistance dropped off considerably. As the sailors gathered to Midshipman Hunt, ready to assail the path to the battery, an almighty BOOM! erupted from within Ghoneriah proper and a plume of black smoke and flames arose from the hold. The bomb ketch, “Pyro”, had fired her mortar and scored a direct hit on the only stone building in the place! A cheer went up from our men and the jack tars rushed forward and up the pathway. Tuckfield’s marines poured more fire over the sailor’s heads and as the last defender, bar the wounded pyrate leader, fled and left the wall, they too joined the assault.
The pyrates on the battery wall take a beating
The "Pyro" scores a direct hit!!
The assault begins
The accurate firing from the marines takes it toll
As I roared at the men to mount the path, I rushed forward in their wake urging them forward. A strong gust of wind, heavy with the stench of powder, lifted off my hat and unceremoniously dumped it in the dust. Midshipman Hunt took command, while I sheepishly chased down my wayward tricorn. A gentleman must keep up his appearance! Hunt ordered the jack tars up the path, frothing and yelling, their pistols and cutlasses waving. The lone pyrate leader on the parapet, suddenly dropped down out of sight, and for a moment I thought the place was deserted, but beyond the battery wall, came the clamour of armed men. As I clutched up my fallen hat, I spied Seaman Sprays arrive at the heavy gates of Ghoneriah and immediately ordered his men against it.
The men surge towards the path
Keen loses his hat!
More pyrates stir behind the wall
The jack tars climb the path frothing and yelling
Seaman Sprays reaches the gates of Ghoneriah - knock, knock
Just then more pyrates appeared on the battery wall and almost simultaneously the marines opened fire. Their volley was devastatingly accurate and a bullet felled a large and brutish looking black pyrate Bo’sun, who had been bellowing orders like a demon. The brute slipped down behind the wall, a spray of bright blood marking where he had fallen. And while the pyrates were forced to keep their heads down, the jack tars surged up to the wall proper and launched their attack. They clambered up the wall, fighting all the way, and even though the men were disadvantaged, the pyrates had taken such a beating already from our marines, that the defenders threw down their arms and fled. The victory was short lived although, as the door of the tiny blockhouse opened and more pyrates sallied out, screaming like banshees. 
More pyrates man the battery wall...
...and almost immediately their leader is shot down
The pyrates are forced to keep their heads down by the marines

The jack tars push onwards and upwards, under the hail of shot...
...straight up the wall and into the enemy, who are beaten and rout
The victory is short lived though, as more pyrates sally out and attack!!
This new threat proved too much for our sailors and after a vicious stoush, they were forced back down the path some way, the vile buccaneers leering and spitting profanities at them. The loud sound of splintering wood drew my attention to Seaman Sprays, who had finally smashed open the gates of Ghoneriah and then promptly ordered his men into the pyratehold. I cried out to Midshipman Hunt, my voice competing with the cannon and mortar fire, urging him forward again to take the tiny blockhouse. Hunt’s voice rang out in a rousing appeal to his men, who cheered in reply and charged the blockhouse again. But the pyrates there, although small in numbers, held the building and fought like devils, forcing the sailors back down the path a second time.
The new threat is too much and the sailors are forced back down the path
Seaman Sprays forced open the gates...
...and enters Ghoneriah
Hunt gives a rousing appeal and his men charge the blockhouse again...
...only to be forced back by the few pyrates still defending there
Seaman Sprays, being no stranger to taking the initiative, headed straight for a ladder propped against one of the building’s walls. His idea was a clever one, and he meant to raise the ladder and climb to the battery from within the town. Sergeant Maddox’s marines moved in to support the jack tars, ordering his men through the gate. The whole time, mortar fire continued to barrage the pyratehold and another load explosion rocked the place as the “Pyro” landed another direct hit. As Sprays and the men carried the ladder towards the cliff face, a mortar shell exploded in the street behind them, dangerously close. And that was not the only danger, for the loud clatter of armed men echoed up the street coming from the harbour.
Sprays requisitions a ladder
Sgt. Maddox moves his marines through the gates
The "Pyro" strikes home again!
Sprays moves for the battery...

...and is narrowly missed by mortar fire
The loud clatter of armed men is heard from the harbor
I knew that time was slipping away from us and that every minute the battery remained operational British lives could be lost. I gathered the men to me and bid them follow me into the fray, urging them to victory. But as we raced up the path again, the heavy door of the battery blockhouse closed shut as we came within sight. The jack tars threw themselves savagely against the bolted door, some armed with boarding axes, others with their cutlasses. The door quickly splintered and the pyrates within began firing and battling through the shattered doorway. I pushed through the men so I could personally join the melee. The fighting was vicious and deadly, and although we killed some of the enemy we could not gain a foothold and again we were forced away, half slipping and half falling down the treacherous path.
Keen organises the men for another charge and...
...orders them back up the path, as the blockhouse door closes
The jack tars throw themselves at the door and splinter it open
A vicious melee ensues and...


...although many pyrates are killed the men are forced off again
Sprays threw up the requisitioned ladder just in time as a band of musket armed pyrates appeared at the end of the street, led by a long, dark-haired vagabond that pushed the rogues forward quickly. As the pyrates moved forward a mortar round struck a nearby building and it quickly caught alight. Sensing Sprays would make the battery unchecked, Maddox called his men to retreat back outside the walls of Ghoneriah, for he had heard another commotion moving upon them. Sprays was the first to climb the ladder, his men close behind him, and almost immediately the crews of the battery guns abandoned their positioned and the firing ceased. The bomb ketches stopped their bombard the moment the guns of Ghoneriah had fallen silent and the pyrates in the blockhouse finally deserted the place, fleeing for their lives.
Sprays throws up the ladder...
...as a band of pyrates appears at the end of the street...
...led by a long, dark-haired vagabond
As the pyrates move up a mortar shell hit another building, setting it alight

The noise of more men approaching...
...prompts Maddox to fall back through the gates

Sprays is the first to climb the ladder and...
...as the guns of Ghoneriah fall silent
The last remaining pyrates abandon the blockhouse as well
Eager to ensure the guns were silenced for good, I ordered the men back up the bloodied path again and quickly through the shattered doorway. Too late did I spy the archaic and brutal looking piece that had been pointed towards us, a small multi-barrelled gun, the battery’s final defence. I had only a moment to react, screamed “Charge!” and led the men forward towards it, brandishing my sword. Suddenly everything went black and my ears exploded with pain as the lone crewman lowered his glowing brand to the touch hole. I staggered forward through the smoke, my throat burning with the taste of gunpowder, but to my miraculous surprise, I was unhurt. Alas beside me a jack tar had taken the majority of the blast and lay a twisted and bloodied corpse in the dirt. I exacted revenge on the Indostani gunner who had shot the cannon, cutting him viciously across the throat.
The battery's final defense!!
Sprays' men had now all clambered to the top of the cliff and the First Mate ordered them to haul the ladder quickly up behind them. For rounding the corner came a wild cacophony of noise, as a band of raucous pyrates spilled into view. The pyrates were led by none other than the infamous “Pyrate Prince”, Bastien Le Dregg, a flamboyant French deserter. Sprays wasted no more time and ordered the jack tars to round up the battery gunners, who were unarmed and capitulated without a fight. Below him the other pyrates maneuvered towards the cliff, having requisitioned their own ladder with similar intents.
Sprays' men get to the top of the cliff...
...and promptly haul up the ladder...
...as a band of pyrates head their way.

The pyrates are led by the flamboyant "Pyrate Prince" Bastien Le Dregg
Spray's jack tars round up the battery gunners without a fight

The pyrates have a similar plan
Leaving the situation at the battery in the capable command of Midshipman Hunt, I hurried back down the all too familiar path to join the marines. The two sergeants, Maddox and Tuckfield had arranged the marines around the open gates of Ghoneriah, their intention to shoot dead any pyrate attempting to flee. I was no sooner amongst the men again when suddenly from over the walls the pyrates poured, clambering and climbing to escape, like rats leaving a sinking ship. I spied Le Dregg amongst them, but he was at quite some distance, having scaled the wall at the furthest point he could from the men. I ordered the marines “Open fire!” and a resounding volley tore through the fleeing pyrates, exacting a heavy toll. Caught as they were in the open, the closest group of pyrates clambered back over the wall again to escape the devastating fire.
Keen leaves the battery to rejoin the marines...
...who surround the gates of Ghoneriah
The pyrates clamber over the walls in a bid to escape
Le Dregg attempts to flee
The marines open fire...

...catching the pyrates in a devastating volley
The closest pyrates flee back over the wall into Ghoneriah
Under the watchful eyes of Midshipman Hunt, Seaman Sprays next took one of the battery cannon and the men toiled to roll it into position. Moving it to the lip of the cliff they turned the barrel toward the fleeing pyrates and spied the flamboyant “Pyrate Prince” breaking for the jungle. Loaded still, Sprays aimed the cannon himself, gave the order and BOOM! I watched the ball whizz through the air, over the wall of Ghoneriah and with great accuracy, took the head of a fleeing pyrate clean off.  Le Dregg’s pyrate wench, Olive Cox, was struck by the flying parts of the dead man and the “Pyrate Prince” was forced to carry the blood soaked wench the rest of the way to the safety of the jungle. The marines made short work of the pyrates left beside the wall and having seen their leader flee; the survivors threw down their arms and surrendered. Huzzah!! The Pyratehold of Ghoneriah was taken.
Midshipman Hunt commands the battery
Sprays takes a battery gun...

...points it towards the fleeing pyrates...
...and spies the flamboyant "Pyrate Prince"
"FIRE!"

the ball whizzed through the air and took the head of a fleeing pyrate clean off
Le Dregg flees into the jungle, carrying his blood soaked wench

The marines make short work of the remaining pyrates and they surrender. Huzzah!!
 I moved through the deserted streets of Ghoneriah, Midshipman Hunt and some men in tow. Through the smoke and ash, moving deliberately towards us strode Admiral Makepeace, having come up from the captured harbour. “Why Keen, my good man, we did it. We have caught Ghoneriah!” panted Makepeace, his bad leg bothering him. “The Admiralty will be so pleased this pyrate threat is no more.” “Why yes Sir, you have” I replied, but he cut me off quickly. “Oh don’t be so modest Keen, another brilliant effort boy, you should be very proud. The Governor will hear of this, Keen, mark my words.” And standing in the swirling smoke, surveying the captured harbour, the red coated soldiers rounding up the fleeing pyrates, my gaze turned up to the silent guns of Ghoneriah...
“Why Keen, my good man, we did it. We have caught Ghoneriah!”
"The Governor will hear of this, Keen, mark my words.”

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The game was played on the 17th August using the Sharp Practice rules. I played the role of the Pyrates and Umpire, while Dave played the British. This is the second game of our Indostan campaign, the first of which is here.
Dave did a marvelous job of fulfilling Lieutenant Keen’s mission and silencing the guns of Ghoneriah. He had the added pressure of a countdown, having only a limited amount of turns to capture the guns before too many British boats were sunk in the harbour. Well done Keen and you too Dave.
Captain Le Dregg's Big Man card