|Lord Alfred Milner, British High |
Commissioner of Southern Africa
|Afrikaneer commandos, Second Boer War|
|Lieutenant-General Lord Methuen, |
K.C.V.O., C.B., C.M.G.,
Commanding 1st Infantry Division
The first leg of Methuen’s expedition proceeded along the single rail line that ran north from Cape Colony into Rhodesia. The Boers, however, were neither stupid nor irresolute and Methuen’s troops were soon forced to fight a pair of costly engagements, first at Belmont and then at Graspan. Both of these actions followed a similar pattern: the Boers positioned themselves in prepared positions on the local high ground, but once heavily engaged, were forced to retreat in the face of a lethal combination of British artillery fire and infantry bayonet assault. This pattern of British attack, and its regular outcome, was not lost on the Boer field commanders. For the next battle, Boer tactics would dramatically change. And unlike their defensive arrangements during their previous engagements, at the Modder River the Boer military leaders decided that they would avoid the exposed high ground that was clearly too vulnerable to the British artillerymen; instead, they would entrench their forces on the plains below. This battle would test both Boer discipline and tactical ingenuity, and the British Army’s professionalism. And, however it turned out, one thing was certain: it would not be a repeat of the fighting at Belmont and Graspan.
RIFLE AND SABER is a two-player tactical (company-level) simulation of warfare in the “Age of the Rifle.” The different engagements presented in the game examine an interesting and varied cross-section of different wars and eras. The changes in warfare that occurred during this period were dramatic; the relatively short span of years covered by this game traces the evolution of the individual soldier’s standard firearm, and its tactical use, from the era of muzzle-loading muskets to the devastating first appearance of the machinegun. In examining these changes, combat from the War for Italian Independence, the American Civil War, and even the Boer War are all presented in scenario format.
The basic game mechanics of RIFLE AND SABER are comparatively simple and easy to learn. This means that, like the other titles in this series of SPI games, players should quickly be able to learn the basic rules and get into the actual play of the game in one sitting. Infantry and cavalry units each represent approximately 100 to 150 men; artillery counters are typically 4 to 6 guns. The game is played in turns on a hexagonal grid map. Each hex is 50 meters from side to side and each game turn represents five minutes of real time. The game turns in RIFLE AND SABER are divided into symmetrical player turns. Each player turn follows a set sequence: the Fire Combat Phase; the Movement Phase; and the Shock Combat Phase.
|Pickett's Charge, Gettysburg, painting by Edwin Forbes|
Warfare, already terrible, was fated to become more terrible still. Tragically, rail roads and mass conscription combined with the rapid, widespread adoption — by the world’s modern European-type armies — of magazine-fed rifles, machineguns, and steel, breech loading field pieces to set Europe’s armies irrevocably upon the path towards the trenches, barbed-wire, and unrelenting mass carnage of the First World War. RIFLE AND SABER shows just how far along that path modern armies had already travelled by the end of the 19th century.
RIFLE AND SABER offers seventeen different scenarios drawn both from familiar conflicts and also, in many cases, from virtually unknown battlefields:
- Fatehpur (7 July 1857)
- Varese (26 May 1859)
- Palestro: Attack of the Allied Vanguard (30 May 1859)
- Magenta: Struggle for Ponte Vecchio (4 June 1859)
- First Bull Run: The Stone Wall (21 July 1861)
- Shiloh: The Destruction of Prentiss’ Division (6-7 April 1862)
- Gettysburg: Little Round Top (1-3 July 1863)
- Gettysburg: Pickett’s Charge (1-3 July 1863)
- Langensalza: The Prussian Rearguard Defense (27 June 1866)
- Worth: Struggle for the Niederwald (6 August 1870)
- Mars-La-Tour: Attack of the Imperial Guard Cavalry (16 August 1870)
- Plevna: The Russian Attack on the Grivitza Redoubt (30 July 1877)
- Plevna: Skobeleff’s Capture of the Green Hills Redoubt (8 November 1877)
- Tarapaca (25 November 1879)
- El Caney (1 July 1898)
- Modder River (28 November 1899)
- South Africa: Action near Belfast (12 May 1900).
For players who want either to increase the game’s realism or to adjust play balance between unequal opponents, RIFLE AND SABER offers, along with the standard rules, additional 'optional' rules that allow players to incorporate the effects of, among other things: Morale, Improved Positions, Trenches, and Road Movement.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONRIFLE AND SABER is one of a number of different games, designed by John M. Young, that spanned the period from the first wide-spread individual use of firearms through the wars of Napoleon, the Crimean War, and the American Civil War, all the way up to and including the Second World War and beyond. I confess that I am a big fan of Young’s many games. His designs are almost always innovative, interesting, playable, and fun. Despite his tragic and untimely death many years ago, John Young leaves behind him a library of some of the very best game designs that, in my opinion, SPI ever published.
- Time Scale: 5 minutes per game turn
- Map Scale: 50 meters per hex
- Unit Size: company/squadron/battery
- Unit Types: muzzle-loading infantry, early breech-loading infantry, late breech-loading infantry, cavalry, mounted rifles, machinegun, muzzle-loading horse artillery, breech-loading horse artillery, muzzle-loading artillery, breech-loading artillery, and information counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2–3 + hours (depending on scenario)
- One 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
- 400 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 6” x 11½” map-fold Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)
- Two 6” x 7” Combat Results Tables
- One 7” x 11” Terrain Effects Chart
- One 8½” x 11” combined Turn Record Track and Errata Sheet (as of 30 April 1973)
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Scenario Historical Commentary Sheet
- One small six-sided Die
- One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet
Related Map and Counters Blog PostsSPI, GRENADIER (1971)
SPI, MUSKET & PIKE: Tactical Warfare 1550-1680(1973)
Recommended ReadingSee my blog post Book Review of this title which is strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU
Also see my blog post Book Review of this definitive three volume work on the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia by Douglas S. Freeman.