Raid on Sualco

A Scenario for The Sword and the Flame

Set in Hypothetical Africa

by Rick Norton

It is the early 1880s. On the West Coast of Africa lies the strategically important state of Costanagua - named by a Portuguese captain long ago. The ruling family, long an "ally" of the British crown, has recently broken off diplomatic relations. Border clashes are now common and there is reason to believe that Costanaguan pirates may have attacked and sunk a British merchantman. Worst of all are reports that the Costanaguans have new allies - one of Victoria's European rivals.

The Costanaguan pirates have long been feared up and down the African coast. During friendlier times British diplomacy had been able to keep them in check. Now they appear to be unleashed once more. Thought was given to destroying the pirate fleet with a swift naval strike, but the shallow-draft Costanaguan vessels moor far up the Rio Perdito, safe from naval reprisals.

The Rio Perdito flows through the port of Sualco. It is here the raiders sell and trade their wares, making Sualco the most important port in Costanagua. The town is prosperous, with a lighthouse, stone buildings, and a notable bridge across the river. Powerful shore batteries guard the seaward approaches. Observers up and down the coast watch for warships. At the first sign of an impending attack the Costanaguan pirates slip up the Perdito and vanish into a thousand bogs and tributaries. Pestilential, impenetrable mangrove swamps and a variety of natural hazards make a land attack next to impossible.

Accordingly, a daring and desperate plan is hatched. A combined naval and army raiding force will take a converted merchant steamer and run the Sualcan batteries. The steamer will ram the bridge and be scuttled. While local forces are held at bay, demolition teams will destroy the bridge and as much of the town's infrastructure as they can. Between the wreckage of the bridge and the hulk of the steamer, the Costanaguan fleet will be trapped behind the blocked mouth of the Perdito River. When the work is done the British amphibious force will be extracted by steam launches accompanying the steamer. The launches will then rendezvous with a larger vessel at sea and return to Durban.

British influence in Southwest Africa hangs in the balance.

Read a photographic account of
the raid game played at Cold Wars '02

Contents

Forces Needed
Layout
Part One: Running the Batteries
Part Two: Land Operations

Attackers (British)
Defenders (Costanaguans)

Initial Forces
Reinforcements

Special Rules
Victory Conditions
Variants

Forces Needed

The British have the following forces involved in the raid:

The total number of attackers is 85, plus one cannon and one Gatling gun.

The port is initially protected by the following forces:

The following Costanaguan forces will arrive as reinforcements:

The total number of defenders is 182, plus two field pieces and two shore batteries.

The unit makeup of the raiding and defending forces can be altered to suit one's figure collection. If nonsailors are used as attackers, however, they cannot serve as cannon or Gatling gun crew replacements. Officers may, as per TS&TF.

Layout

The table is approximately 4 feet by 8 feet. Click to enlarge the map.

Part One: Running the Batteries

"Raid on Sualco" is basically a two-part game. The first part, quickly played out, is the attempt of Her Majesty's Converted Steamer Nostromo to sneak past the Costanaguan shore batteries and ram the bridge. This takes three turns. At the end of the third round of "running the batteries," Nostromo passes out of the shore batteries' arcs of fire and rams the bridge, ending Part One.

If Nostromo Fires: Nostromo can open fire with her field piece and Gatling gun at any time during the approach to the bridge. If Nostromo does fire, all Sualcan shore batteries can engage the ship and defensive forces are alerted. Rifle fire may not be directed from or at Nostromo or the launches during Part One of the game.

If Nostromo Holds Her Fire: The defenders roll 1D6 during each of the three turns of the approach. On turn one, a roll of 1 results in the Nostromo being spotted. On turn two, a 1 or 2 spots her, and on turn three, spotting occurs on a 1, 2, or 3.

Firing on Nostromo: Once Nostromo is spotted, both shore batteries may fire. Each battery has enough ammunition for six shots and is manned by six gunners. At least three gunners are needed to work the gun. Any personnel in the shore batteries are considered to be in class IV cover. When firing at Nostromo, roll 1D6 for each battery. A die roll of 1-3 hits. Each hit reduces hull integrity by 25% and eliminates 10% (rounded down) of the personnel aboard. (Casualties can either be chosen by the British player with half wounded and half killed, or by the card procedure from TS&TF, depending on how quickly the players wish to proceed through this phase of the game.) Thus in the best possible scenario for the defenders, Nostromo would be spotted on the first turn and be sunk by the end of the second turn with the loss of 40% of her embarked personnel and crew. Conversely, the best scenario for the attackers has Nostromo ramming the bridge undetected.

If Nostromo is Sunk: Should Nostromo be sunk before reaching the bridge, the ship settles to the bottom with the main deck not quite awash. Surviving personnel may be ferried to shore by steam launch. The Gatling gun and the field piece cannot be removed from Nostromo under these conditions, but can be manned and continue to engage targets ashore. Shore batteries may continue to fire at the hulk, eliminating 10% of those aboard with every hit. In this situation shore batteries hit on a roll of 1-4 on 1D6. Casualties are handled as before.

Ramming the Bridge: As long as any naval crewman remains unwounded and at the helm, Nostromo will ram the bridge at the end of the third turn of Part One (unless she is sunk first, of course). If through some mischance all naval personnel aboard Nostromo are killed or wounded before the end of the third turn, then roll 1d6: 1=Nostromo strikes a rock and sinks in the bay, 2/3=she runs aground on the east bank, 4/5=she runs aground on the west bank, 6=she rams the bridge anyway.

Steam Launches: Steam Launches may not be engaged or engage until Nostromo has been sunk or it rams the bridge. If a shore battery fires at a steam launch (including during the escape attempt), a roll of 1-2 on 1D6 hits and sinks the launch. Half of the embarked personnel are killed, half are wounded. Unless rescued by another launch by the end of the next turn, the wounded are placed on the nearest shore. During Part One, ignore steam launch movement rates. They simply keep pace with Nostromo. At the end of turn three as Nostromo moves to ram the bridge, the launches are free to maneuver.

Carrying Capacity: Nostromo begins the game fully loaded. She carries a field piece with a crew of four and a Gatling gun with a crew of four (1 NCO and 3 ratings per gun crew). Both crews are sailors. An additional NCO and three sailors armed with rifles, led by a pistol and sword-armed officer (the ship's skeleton crew), two demolition teams of two men each equipped with explosive charges, and a full platoon of British infantry (1 officer, 1 NCO, 18 riflemen) complete the Nostromo's complement.

Each of the four steam launches can carry 20 men. Two launches enter the game with an embarked Royal Marine Light Infantry platoon (10 men in each launch, half capacity) and the remaining two carry a naval landing platoon in a similar manner. Each steam launch is crewed by two sailors armed with rifles. These may engage and be engaged by defending forces, but they must stay with their launch until sunk. The launch crew does not count toward carrying capacity. The launches may debark their troops at any point along the shoreline after the third round of "running the batteries."

Part Two: Land Operations

Once Nostromo is sunk or has rammed the bridge, Part Two begins. Play is in accordance with the rules of TS&TF with the following modifications.

Attackers (British)

Debarkation: Once Part Two begins, British units may debark from Nostromo or from a launch when their movement card turns up. All units can debark in the same turn, if desired. Soldiers and sailors get their full move ashore, but for the turn of debarkation they move as if in rough terrain. They may leave from the bow or either side. If the field gun and the Gatling are moved ashore, place them adjacent to either of the Nostromo's sides; they may not move further until the next movement turn. They may, however, fire.

Demolition Teams: Each demolition team consists of an officer or NCO and a soldier. They carry an unlimited number of explosive charges.

To blow up a target the team must move adjacent to the objective during the movement phase or have begun the movement phase in that position. Instead of firing on their "fire" card, the team places explosives. In their next movement phase, the team must move at least two inches away from the charge. In their following fire phase, the team detonates the explosives.

Detonation is accomplished by flipping a card. Turning over a 2 of any color indicates the charge has failed to detonate and must be reset.

Demolition teams may not be split into smaller units, but if a member of the team is killed the survivor can continue to place and detonate explosives. He is limited to no more than four charges. Demo teams or single figures always act as if they have a "leader present."

Blowing the Bridge: In order to bring down the bridge, each side of the span must be detonated. This does not have to happen at the same time but the bridge will not drop until both sides have been blasted (however, also see below).

Certain cards trigger special results when trying to demolish the bridge.

Ace -- An ace affects the whole bridge, not just the side where the charge was placed. It will bring down the whole structure with one blast (unless the bridge was not rammed; see Diamond, below).

Two -- Any two means that the charge failed to detonate properly and it had no effect. A new charge must be placed if another attempt is made.

Diamond -- If Nostromo did not ram the bridge, then a diamond leaves that half of the bridge passable to foot traffic (no guns or cavalry). The ace of diamonds still affects the whole span, but leaves it standing and passable to foot traffic. If Nostromo rammed the bridge, then a diamond is treated like any other card.

Collateral Damage: Any figure within 2 inches of detonating explosives is attacked as if by artillery at short range. Roll 1d20 for each figure; cover determines the figure's target type.

Friendly Fire: Explosives cannot be detonated if British wounded are within the 2-inch blast zone. They must be moved first.

Nostromo and Launches: During Part Two of the game, troops on Nostromo and in launches may be attacked by defenders. Figures on Nostromo are in Class III terrain, figures in launches are in Class II. No additional modifiers apply (for example, there is no additional benefit from being prone or in open order while aboard Nostromo or a launch).

Gun Crews: Any naval personnel and any officers can man the Gatling gun and field piece.

Launch Crews: Any naval personnel may crew the launches. Up to ten riflemen can fire from the launch during each firing turn during Part II of the game.

Broken British Units: Any British unit that breaks runs for the nearest steam launch by the quickest path and boards it at first opportunity. Once aboard a launch broken troops will not leave it unless it sinks.

Time to Go: When the British commander decides it is time to leave, the Gatling and the field piece can retreat only to the water's edge. They are too heavy to embark on a launch and so are left behind. (Don't fret, it was part of the plan.) If a launch is sunk during the retreat, other launches may pick up survivors by maneuvering within two inches of the point of sinking. Once in position, the launch's movement is finished for that turn. Any number of survivors can be hauled aboard that same turn, until the launch reaches its capacity (20 men + 2 crew). Survivors who cannot be saved by launch are placed on the nearest point of land.

Chain of Command: The captain of the Nostromo is the senior British officer and force commander. If he is killed, force leadership falls to the commander of the Army Platoon, then the leader of the Naval Landing party and finally the leader of the RMLI. If all these officers are killed, the attacking player may designate any surviving NCO as force commander.

Defenders (Costanaguans)

Initial Forces:

Battery Crews: Each of the two shore batteries contains a heavy gun and a six-man crew.

European Troops: The port is guarded by a platoon of European regulars. Five (one NCO and four soldiers) guard the bridge. If the bridge is rammed, roll 1D6 for each: 1-2=killed, 3-4=wounded, 5-6=no effect. Survivors move and fire normally from the beginning of Part Two.

The remaining 15 figures are billeted in three five-man detachments throughout Sualco.

Native Troops: There is one 20-man native platoon armed with swords and spears. Use Dervish line for movement and fire.

Town Guard: There is a 10-man (or person-those wishing to use gun-toting women are free to do so) town guard armed with rifles. Use Boer line for movement and fire. One figure is the Guard Captain.

Initial Defensive Placement: Other than the shore battery crews and the five bridge guards, initial placement of defenders is random. Roll two dice, one after another, for each group (three detachements, town guard, native levies). The first die determines whether that group is placed east (even) or west (odd) of the river. The second die is the number of feet, measured from the north edge of the map, where the unit is placed. Its precise position and arrangement is left to the defending player.

Initial Defensive Reaction: At the first shot of a shore battery, or at the ramming of the bridge, defenders become alerted and may fire. They may move only if they successfully rally per the Rally Chart. Once rallied they are immediately free to move normally. Failure to rally keeps the unit frozen in place.

Reinforcements:

Turn 5: At the beginning of the fifth turn following the alerting of Sualco's defenses, four additional units become available as reinforcements: two 20-man platoons of native sword/spear men, one platoon of native riflemen, and a 12-man squadron of European cavalry. All four enter along the north edge of table. Roll one die for each unit to determine whether it arrives east (even) or west (odd) of the river. If the defending player wishes, the cavalry can be held off table to arrive on its movement card of any subsequent turn.

Turn 12: At the beginning of the 12th turn following the alerting of Sualco's defenses, five additional units become available as reinforcements: two platoons of European Infantry, two European field pieces with four-man crews, and one platoon of native sword/spearmen. These also enter along the north edge of the table. Roll one die for each unit to determine whether it arrives east (even) or west (odd) of the river. The senior European commander is the Costanaguan force commander.

Special Rules

Shore Batteries vs. Land Targets: The two harbor-defense batteries have only a limited ability to traverse toward land. The battery on the east shore can fire only south of the lighthouse, while the western battery can fire only south of the docks.

Field Artillery vs. Launches: In the unlikely event that field artillery engages a launch, the shooter must declare whether passengers or the boat are being targeted. Fire against passengers is handled normally. If the boat is the target, roll 1D6. A roll of 1 hits and sinks the launch (and gets the gunner mentioned in dispatches).

The Rio Perdito: The river (and everything on it) flows to the sea at a constant rate of 2 inches per turn.

Ferry Operations: Once the bridge is blown the only way across the river is either by steam launch or the two boats (carrying capacity 5 men each) initially moored upstream, one on each bank. This ferry movement is similar to phased cavalry movement. Embarking/debarking costs one movement die. Boats can move even if they are empty (native ferrymen) but only by rolling 1-3 on 1d6 (consider it a "Leaderless Move" roll). A boat or launch cannot move, however, on the same turn that wounded figures are loaded onto it.

Launch and Boat Movement Rates: Launches move up to 4D6 inches per turn. Boats move 2D6 inches per turn. Remember to move everything downriver (to the south) 2 inches every turn.

Buildings: All buildings give class IV cover. Heaps of stores (near the east and west docks) give Class II cover.

High-Value Buildings: Before the game begins, the GM must randomly designate two buildings as key structures. These contain valuable or embarrassing documents that Her Majesty's Foreign Office can use to undermine the rival power's plans in Africa. If the British occupy a high value building at the end of a turn, they find and capture the material. If they dynamite the building without entering, the material is destroyed. The defending player should be informed which buildings are key structures, but cannot remove the associated documents. (Nobody thinks of this in all the excitement.)

Victory Conditions

British: First, if the bridge is not rammed or blown, then there can't be any British victory, whatever else happens on the battlefield.

Costanaguan:

Adjustments:

For each high value building looted, the British increase their victory level by one and the Costanaguans reduce theirs by one. If an Overwhelming victory has already been achieved, the discovery of one high value gets the British commander promoted. A second discovery brings a knighthood.

If the British commander is captured (sorry, no suicide permitted) there is an increase in victory level for the defenders. A similar bump up occurs if no English escape.

Variants

  1. Remove the stone walls from the main east-west road.
  2. The bridge is a drawbridge. If the Costanaguans gain control of one of the two bridge houses, they can raise that side of the bridge.
  3. The Costanaguans have beefed up land defense for the shore batteries. Roll 1D6 per battery. A 5 gives the Battery a Gatling Gun. A 6 gives the battery a field-piece. These are fully mobile in accordance with TS&TF rules.
  4. Each detachment of set-up defenders has a leader (officer or NCO) assigned to it.
  5. There is a small chance that pirates are in town in pursuit of recreation. Roll 1d20. If a 20 is rolled, add two platoons of mixed sword, spear and firearm bearing pirates to the initial defenders of the town.
  6. British units that spend two turns in place can attempt to set buildings or stores on fire. Flip one card. Any red suit means the blaze has caught and the building burns for the remainder of the scenario. It counts as destroyed.
  7. The British get a fifth launch. This one carries two crewed served weapons, either field pieces, Gatling guns, or a combination, of the British player's choice.

Read a photographic account of the raid game played at Cold Wars '02

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