Tuesday, November 24, 2009

THW Colonial Adventures - playtest

Score: 8 out of 10
Over the holiday I play-tested Two Hour Wargames Colonial Adventures rules. First impressions is that this game has some real promise. The rules are written for solo or multi player gaming, the game can be played with miniatures of any scale or alternatively you can play the rules without any miniatures just paper, pencil and dice.

After Thanksgiving dinner I set up a small patrol scenario and played a game in about 45 minutes, the game probably would have taken less time but I had to look through the rule book several times as this was my first game. Before I get into the battle report I will give a brief overview of the rules.

The rule book is laid out as follows: Introduction,
Getting Started (stuff you need to play), Game Basics (discussion on how to determine troop characteristics),
Armies (divided into European and native, also there are additional army lists on-line at their yahoo group), Rules (Turn Sequence, Actions, Movement, Melee, etc.) and Scenarios (set-up, scenario specific rules). The rules are well written and organized. The scale is one (1) base equals approximately five (5) men so a standard platoon is 20 stands, although they do have rules to modify this down to 10 stands per platoon.
The main mechanic of the game is taking a series of "Crisis Tests" against the value of your units and/or leader's "Reputation". The more successful you are at passing the tests, (better rolls) the better the outcome and more options allowed. Example if your Ansar swordsmen want to charge a British Square, you must take a Crisis Test, if you pass you charge. Since the British are being charged they must take a Crisis Test, if they pass they do an action, (fire, stand, etc.) When the British fire at the Ansar, the Ansar must take a Crisis Test to see what happens when they are fired at. If you don't like rolling dice, you will not like this game. The game is played exclusively with six-sided dice so the variance in units is somewhat limited, however the mechanic is simple and elegant.
Players roll dice to determine which side goes first and based on the die roll for each side which reputation troops may activate. Each side complete all of their actions prior to the second side activating. However, Crisis Test will effect the ebb and flow of the turn. The ranged combat and melee are based upon unit reputation as well ,with some situational variables, (high ground, ferocious troops, etc.)
The game plays quickly, is simple and the solo version had just the right amount of tension and desperation. A few draw-backs, there were no drawings showing combat situations only text descriptions and a couple of the rules could have been fleshed out a bit more rather than left up to the discretion of the player. I will post my questions on the yahoo group and report on the level of assistance I receive. All in all a very fun first game, I look forward to trying the rules out with friends.
Battle report:
Set up: I selected the Patrol scenario. I played a company of Egyptian infantry sent out from their garrison to search for Mahdist troops and survey the surrounding lands. I rolled for terrain and below is a map of the area with hills, one clump of wooded area (oasis) in the middle and stick men (Possible Enemy Forces - PEF) where Mahdist troops might be. The Egyptian forces are given a Reputation of three (3), nothing to write home about. I rolled for my leader's reputation and ugh, a two (2) reputation, he would be no help at all, however as is usual in legend the NCO was reputation five (5). I imagined a young upstart Mulazim Tani (2nd Lietenant) leaning on the experience of his Sargent. My platoon consisted of 100 men (20 stands). The Mulazim ordered his men into line at the base of a hill and sent 15 men (3 stands) to scout the near hill and the wooded area. The scouts observed no movement along the ridge and slowly moved toward the oasis. Upon cresting the hill the scouts had direct line of sight to two (2) of the possible areas of Mahdi activity. The tension builds, no troops are to be seen, that means troops must be in area 2.
The rules dictate that when a unit moves into the center of a grid that the unit check for the enemy even if there are no PEF figures there. My Egyptian troops slowly marched over the hill and down into area four (4), the line of Egyptians inch forward when two (2) bands of ferocious Ansar spring up in the middle of area four (4). The Egyptians are outnumbered 150 to 85 and the Ansar are exceptional hand-to-hand fighters (I rolled really well for them).
At the top of the next turn the Egyptians and Mahdist roll the same activation number, in the scenario this could trigger possible re-enforcements and sure enough two (2) more PEFs popped up on the board.
While the Mulzim fumbles at his sword while the Egyptian NCO barks out the command to fire at the smaller Ansar unit in front of them (Crisis Test passed), the Egyptian line erupts in Volley Fire and causes 10 Ansar (2 stands) to fall. The Ansar seem inspired by the death of their comrades (Crisis test passed) and charge. The Egyptian NCO orders the troops to reload and fire just prior to the Ansar piling into the line (Crisis test result from charge) and the Egyptians once again unload their carbines, five (5) more Ansar fall (one stand).
Screams and curses are heard over the pitch of battle as hand-to-hand fighting erupts along the line. The Ansar inflict heavy casualties on the Egyptians (20 men, 4 stands) while another 20 men run for their lives (Crisis test Egyptians pass). The Lt. is nearly killed in the action (leader killed on 11-12, I rolled a 10). At the darkest moment the Ansar pause allowing the Sargent to call a fighting retreat and the line is reformed at the top of the hill.(Egyptians rolled higher on activation roll and broke from melee). The scouts are running to the sound of small arms fire but may arrive too late.
With the line depleted the Egyptians manage a smaller volley and inflict more casualties on the smaller Ansar band (5 men, 1 stand), 10 Ansar have enough and flee (2 stands). The Ansar mob ascends the hill (Crisis test to charge past), the Egyptians fire at will but have depleted most of their ammunition (low ammo roll). The Ansar mob crashes into the remaining Egyptians do not have much fight left in them and scatter toward their garrison, the Mulazim and Sargent with a small contingent of troops fight their way out. the scouts can see the Mahdi's men celebrating on the hill and do not dare to approach.
The Yuzbashi at the garrison waits for his report. The young Mulazim Tani arrives at his door. "Your report!", the Yuzbashi's voice is hard and short. "The enemy is in numbers to our east Effendi and my patrol barely escaped, I am sad to report 28 wounded and approximately 30 killed. Had it not been for the Sargent a fear it would have been worse." Just as the Yuzbashi was about to start his lecture on leadership and responsibility, a fellah burst into the room. "Effendi, we have spotted many men moving to the east and west, flying the green banner!" The Yuzbashi reached for his fez, "Mulazim prepare to redeem yourself ." "I will try my best, Effendi!"
The next scenario in the book is a raid by the winning force of the Patrol scenario. I will play this scenario with friends and report later. In summary Colonial Adventures is a fast, simple and good set of rules. I will report later and continue exploring other rules as well. On a crafting note I had a bit of time to work on my terrain table last night, I hope to post pictures soon.


  1. Nice report and review :)
    (and more temptation to get into some Colonial gaming! lol)

  2. Excellent!

    How do you think it would play if you upped the scale so that stands were platoons or company's??

  3. Not sure, the THW yahoo group has rules to play with 10 stand units as opposed to twenty if each stand were a company that would make one unit a regiment with the leaders being the colonel and his command staff as opposed to individuals but I am not sure what that would make the NCO stands. The casulaties would be much greater increasing the scale. I will try one that way and let you know.

  4. How would you compare these rules to "The Sword and the Flame"?

    What do you like/dislike in comparison to the other set?

    -- Jeff

  5. I have just gotten a copy of first edition The Sword and the Flame and will playtest it soon. I will give a detailed comparison for you next.

  6. Prinz Geoffrey,

    TSATF 20th Anniversary Edition changed some things . . . most notably it went to using d20s for shooting, which provides for more of a range of options, but the original is still very playable.

    The one big change that I've made is to declare "club wounded" to be "walking wounded" (i.e., they don't need to be carried even though they can't shoot or fight).

    I'm looking forward to your comparison thoughts. Even though it is now over 30 years old, TSATF is still the most widely played of Colonial rules systems.

    -- Jeff

  7. A nice report and redolent of the period. I'd get a set of TSATF but have other commitments right now.