The Battle of Colenso, 1899
original game design by Geoff Noble
additional design and development by Godfrey Bailey
On the 15th December 1899 General Sir Redvers Buller tried to cross the Tugela River in order to relieve the Siege of Ladysmith. He was faced by well entrenched Boer commandos who inflicted a reverse upon the British that ultimately led to Buller being relieved of command. Redvers' Reverse is a solitaire, area movement, game that recreates the difficulties for the British in trying to affect a successful crossing of the Tugela River against the Boer commandos (who are played by the game system). The game is at Battalion and Battery level with emphasis upon the leadership of the British at a Brigade level for Infantry and at Divisional level for the Cavalry. The key feature of the game is to present the player with the problems and difficulties that Buller himself faced. The player is provided with the same level of information and ability to influence events. Units are activated by orders sent from HQ to the various commanders, with the caveat that the receiving commander may not react as required. Orders remain in place until a rout or a commander initiative role. The nature of orders are to occupy a designated area. Combat is resolved rolling a 10 sided dice with a minimum number to hit. The impact on the two sides, from hits received, differs considerably due to the asymmetrical situation, both historically and in game terms. In addition there are numerous die modifiers for Dug in (mostly Boer), Terrain of area, Density of units in the area, Flank fire etc etc. Boer fire is usually determined by each Gruppe firing at the closest occupied area but there are certain designated exceptions. Besides combat loses units can become Disrupted, Suppressed or Rout. Leaders can Stand Firm or Panic. Both Units and Leader can recover from these postures during the Recovery Phase.
For the British it is a race against time, the longer he delays the higher the Boer confidence goes, this is measured by a "Confidence track" which rises and falls according to events on the Battlefield. As the level of Boer confidence, alongside the extent of the Boer loses, is central to determining if the Boer retire and thus the British win, it must be kept low at all costs. This simple rule prevents the British concentrating against the Hlangwane and turning the Boer flank, he just hasn't got the time to redeploy his forces. There will also be a simple rule to handle Hart's confusion when trying to find a fordable crossing of the Tugela River. The Boer Gruppe are in their historical positions but their exact Firepower can change slightly from turn to turn. The British player does not know the exact firepower of each Gruppe until they are engaged. As loses are inflicted upon the Boer's their firepower will slowly decline and the likelihood of them withdrawing slowly increase. Whether or not they withdraw is determined at the end of each game turn by revealing the full firepower available, the position on the "Confidence track" and a die role.
The British can win but it won't be easy. The intention is for the player to feel that if I give it one more go I can do it.
SOLITAIRE GAME IS NO BORE
Posted by Paul Norell on Jul 30th 2018
Title: REDVERS’ REVERSE
Designer: GEOFF NOBLE
Publisher: LEGION WARGAMES
LEGION WARGAMES is establishing a well-deserved reputation for publishing games on rarely explored themes, with innovative and intriguing mechanics. REDVERS’ REVERSE (The Battle of Colenso) is no exception.
REDVERS’ REVERSE is designed for solitaire play. The player takes the role of the British army under General Redvers Buller, attempting to relieve the siege of Ladysmith during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. The Boers, entrenched on the north bank of the Tugela River, are handled by the game system and both sides are managed with the help of a number of tables.
Victory for the British is dependent on the Boers withdrawing from the battle, determined by the number of losses both sides suffer; the capture (and recapture) of Boer emplacements; the increase or decline in ‘Boer Confidence’; and the number of British units that can exit the map to relieve Ladysmith.
Designer, Geoff Noble, has paid considerable attention to historical realism wherein lies much of the game’s ‘drama’. The actual result was a British defeat and the player has to work very hard to avoid following in the footsteps of his/her historical counterpart, particularly if playing the ‘historical setup’.
Buller did not reconnoitre the Tugela beforehand. To simulate this, crossing places (Drifts) have a hidden value, only revealed when adjacent; units cross the river by rolling less than or equal to the value shown. The tension generated during the approach is exacerbated by the fact that the British have a deadline to get units across the river before ‘Boer Confidence’ starts to rise.
Another intriguing concept is the Orders Sequence. Orders are not automatically received; there is the chance that they will be lost en route, or even ignored whenfinally delivered; all of which adds to the tension and frustration.
As the British attempt to cross the river, they come under fire from Boer artillery and commandos entrenched in the hills above. These remain ‘hidden’ until they fire, negatively impacting British targeting. Units suffer casualties as well as levels of morale breakdown (disrupted, suppressed, routed) which will affect their ability to fight and move. Thus, the Player will be continually restoring morale in order to move forward, while the ‘non-player’ (game system) keeps up the pressure from the Boer emplacements.
It is a slow, frustrating business and the Player needs to be able to handle constant setbacks as he/she inches forward. Once across the river, it becomes a question of capturing enemy emplacements and getting as many units off the map before the positive benefits are neutralised by British losses and rising Boer Confidence. If the Boers are induced to withdraw, the player wins; if either losses or confidence reaches 20, the game is lost.
Each turn is set out in a logical sequence of several phases, each of which is further subdivided into smaller steps. The entire sequence of play is printed on the map and there are handy step markers with which to keep track; however, after a few turns, you will be able to dispense with these and, instead, can follow the shorter segment track which simply records the major phases. This speeds up play considerably.
The map is well-designed and very functional with enough room to display the unit counters without stacking if desired. The counters are also very pleasing to look at; each unit even has its own regimental badge displayed – although if you really want to appreciate these, try looking up the regiments on Wikipedia.
The historical scenario is an excellent introduction to the game, albeit one which will often result in the Player’s defeat. There are, however, several ‘what-if’ variants (both positive and negative) that can be employed to modify the circumstance and while the rules stress that an overall balance be maintained, I would not be above suggesting that these could be ‘tweaked’ if necessary to give the Player a better-than-even chance. Alternatively, if you have a masochistic streak, you can load the dice even more in the Boers’ favour!
My only quibble – and it is a small one – is that some of the rules need greater clarity. Perhaps some examples of play, together with a comprehensive play-through of a couple of turns, will remedy this.
In conclusion, if you cannot handle frustration and easily become impatient; or you cannot cope with a strategy involving taking two steps forward and one back; or you dislike constantly referring to charts and tables; then this game will not be for you. If, on the other hand, the aforementioned does not bother you; and, above all, if you want to savour the experience of command in adverse circumstances, where both battlefield intelligence and initiative are in short supply, then there is much to enjoy about this game.