Monday, September 24, 2018

Design Secrets: Making The Battle of Shalalabad

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Date: 15 September 1905/2018
Location: Shalalabad Mountain, Northwest Frontier
Situation: Imperial Garrison Awaits Amrahn Kahn's Storm and General Pettygree's Relief Column

Photo: Courtesy of Bill K.

The Battle of Shalalabad was a wargame at a fictional location. Each September friends gather to participate in our "Annual BIG Colonial Wargame." Last year we were in The Sudan. This year found us marching north of the celebrated Khyber Pass deep within The Northwest Frontier. 

Let's talk about designing the game.

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Behind Shalalabad Mountain

Seated left to right: Curt B., Greg B., Bill K. and Todd C. Standing left to right: Yours truly Bill P. aka General Pettygree, Jim P. aka Der Alte Fritz, Dave G. and Chuck L. aka The Lucky.

Chow Time

Eating and wargaming are vital ingredients on game day. The guys brought veggies, drinks and other goodies to share and consume throughout the day. Here we enjoy sandwiches foraged from a custom sandwich tray  made that morning by a local grocery store.

 Food and companionable conversation about numerous hobby topics. 

Happy Birthday Curt (pointing), Bill K. (orange hat) and Chuck (serving cake).

Birthdays are tracked and a custom cake was ordered from the same grocery store that made our sandwiches. We do this for Saturday games. Dorothy P. routinely asks if we have a theme."Mountains" was my answer this time. You see the result within scrumptious butter creme frosting. Underneath was marble cake.


The secretive Amrahn Khan (second from left) will soon be widely known. 
His hatred for anyone unwilling to worship the goddess Kali in implacable.
Naturally he has a plan for world domination commencing with....

Bombardment and storming of the Imperial garrison at Shalalabad. 

Meanwhile General Pettygree hastens to relieve the garrison whilst....

His Advance Guard deploys near Shalalabad (off image upper left).

Typed mission orders of several paragraphs or lengthy speeches about them are no longer practicable for me. After everyone arrived at this game, observed terrain and contemplated known unit deployments (most of them), players were given small envelopes. Amrahn Khan's commanders received the above. 

The Shalalabad Garrison received these easy orders while....

The Advance Guard received these brief particulars.

What about my command? Here it is. Pettygree would arrive in the turn after lunch per a decision Jim and Curt made for me. They chose Option #1 in the right-hand note in the preceding photo. Meanwhile, as host I was free to answer questions, initiate new players to the rules and get things underway beforehand.

Why after lunch as opposed to a particular turn? Reason: So the lancers would have time to arrive, deploy and affect the battle. I've found that saying X Unit arrives on Turn 5 does not always work out as a best practice to make a game flow well. Plus, I like a little fog of war now and then.

As part of this though, I used a timer to speed things along starting on Turn 2. Five minutes was allowed to move units and in general six minutes for fire. It was enough. This works amazingly well to speed games along to get in the most turns possible. Otherwise the natural tendency to take one's time and engage in companionable banter really does reduce the number of turns that can be played. We had ample time for chit chat during lunch and later when eating birthday cake.


(1) The game was played in two zones; near Shalalabad and forward of the Imperial Advance Guard camp. Two player groups played at their own speed never minding coordinating turns in the other zone. This works well, is somehow really nifty and gives a good fog of war representation. This way the game plays on, is more efficient, faster and nobody sits around waiting very much. Motto: We play games to move units and throw dice.

(2) What About Battle Reports?
Jim wrote a superior AAR on his Der Alte Fritz Blog. See:

(3) As for my own battle report, I have a backstory and photographs I hope you will find interesting, very different and compelling. The plan is to place this in the book General Pettygree is writing. See the blog post immediately preceding this one for an explanation.

(4) Shalalabad's mountain once was a terrain divider on a model railroad layout. Chuck supplied pathways, hedges, the redcoats, the stream, some vegetation and several mountainous terrain items. Large trees and the tower were made by HG Walls. Other buildings and bridges are Miniature Building Authority products.

(5) Thank you sincerely for looking in. I hope you enjoyed the information, presentation and concepts some of which you might adapt for your own group of game friends.

(6) Last my dear Pettygree story readers, I hope you will give Jim the honour to read and comment on his blog and place remarks at the bottom of this report for mine --- at the word Comments below.

Until next time I remain,
Your Obt. Servant,
Bill P.
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