Saturday 26 June 2010

The Sword and the Flame

I've been interested in colonial gaming, specifically British colonial gaming, for years. Some of my favourite films are The Four Feathers (1939), Khartoum, Zulu and Zulu Dawn. I'm fascinated by the idea of a few indomitable men battling relentless hordes of angry natives, desperately defending a dot on a map thousands of miles away from the heart of Empire and the Widow at Windsor.

Having just read Armies of God: Islam and Empire on the Nile, 1869-1899 I found I could no longer restrain myself so I finally caved in and bought The Sword and the Flame (TSATF) 20th Anniversary Edition by Larry V. Brom.

TSTAF have been the default rule set for colonial gaming since almost the dawn of time. The majority of gamers who play in this period start out with TSATF and a considerable proportion stay with them. Having now read the rules cover to cover I can see why. The rules are simple but not simplistic. They are clearly designed to produce a fast flowing, entertaining game where individuals take on a life of their own and perform heroic feats to be talked about years after the event. At only 15 or so A4 pages they will suit Friday nights where brain power is on the wain.

Once aspect of TSATF I particularly like is the departure from strict UGOIGO turn sequencing. Players draw cards from a deck and the card drawn determines which unit acts (from either side). Randomising the turns between individual units on each side means you cannot guarantee a certain unit will move and fire when you need it to. Desperate actions, last ditch defences, mad rushes and heroic charges are all possible.

I've started looking around at various lines of miniatures for the Sudan. At present I can't go past the Perry Brothers great range of both British and Allies and Dervishes.


Copplestone Castings also has some few choice pieces including a particular favourite - British Naval Brigade in sennet hats!

I'm debating cutting the standard TSATF unit sizes in half. At 20 figs per unit they seem a bit large for one-to-one skirmish gaming. That will also reduce the budget and allow me to indulge one of my chief gaming vices - buying lots of different figures and owning two complete opposing forces.

So here I go, off at last to ensure the sun never sets...

Private Thomas Cole: Why is it us? Why us?
Colour Sergeant Bourne: Because we're 'ere lad. Nobody else. Just us.


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