"The flying bullet down the Pass - That whistles clear: 'All flesh is grass.' " --Kipling, Arithmetic on the Frontier
for Colonial-era Wargames

The Northwest Frontier of India provides some of the most romantic images of the entire British Colonial experience. Hillforts nestled among the crags became a familiar setting for Thirties adventure movies such as King of the Khyber Rifles, Gunga Din, and Wee Willie Winkie.

But wargame battles with Pathans blazing away from inaccessible cliffsides are hard to reproduce with the low, layered hills that work so well for desert combat. A new approach was needed to represent the forbidding passes of the mountainous areas of Ouargistan, and the Major General's solution was profile mountainsides, in which the horizontal dimension is heavily compressed and the complexity of mountain fighting stylized.

It turns out that with a few cents worth of scrap cardboard and brown wrapping paper, one can do a creditable steep mountain without sacrificing much precious gaming-table space. As we played, even some of the flat-country battles began to acquire mountainsides on the fringes, in the corners, or even spines of rugged cliffs running partly across the interior of the table to channel the action.

Making Mountains
Cut the mountain profiles out of ordinary corrugated cardboard. Make them in several heights, so they can stand behind one another. For all profiles except your highest, cut strips of the cardboard slightly wider than your largest figure base, and glue them to the back of the profiles with white glue to make platforms for the figures. Be sure the platform strips are close enough to the top of the profile for a figure to fire over with at least 1/4" clearance. Glue a few scraps under the strips to bolster them, and a glue a few vertical strips so the mountain profile can stand up (see the photo below). Allow to dry.

Crumple up some brown wrapping paper and smooth it out again. Apply spray glue to the front of the cardboard profiles, and press them loosely onto the crumpled paper. Then cut the brown paper about 1/8" to 1/4" beyond the edge of the cardboard to hide the corrugations from view (at least from the front).

On your highest profiles, glue the paper to both sides (since there are no platforms). These will be the background mountains at the edge of the table, or the center profile of a two-sided ridge. When in use, they can be pinned to the profile in front of them.


Stand the profiles up and spray the upper parts with a light-colored spray paint from high above, not covering the paper, just dusting on light paint to emphasize the wrinkles and make the top a different shade from the base.

Using Mountains in Games
You will have to come up with rules modifications for movement, cover, combat, and morale in mountains. Can figures pass from one profile to the next? Can they climb up from table level at the ends of the profiles? Each scenario might have different rules, depending on whether the profiles are representing inaccessible Kashmiri-type cliffs, or merely moderate desert hills. A clump of lichen or a stone placed at the end of a profile can mean no access, while an open end would mean figures can go up and come down.


General Uprising -- British and Colonial troops must hold off the main Native force long enough to evacuate the archaeological expedition from the temple, and as many friendly troops as possible, to the ship.

Each turn, the Natives roll to come onto the table in several areas, most in the southeast corner. Native numbers are unlimited (dead figures are recycled into new units). A few rolls result in natives appearing in the mountains.

The mountains allow sniping and skirmishing against the Reinforcements from the northeast, but keep the Reinforcements separate from the main Native forces until late in the game. They also allow Native rifles to harass the defending forces while the hordes of spearmen advance.

Confrontation at the Pass -- A British and Colonial column is marching to relieve the siege of a frontier outpost. The relief column must come through the pass guarded by Regnad Kcin's hillfort, and the Natives have chosen this spot to intercept it. The British must exit the pass at the far end with at least half their force intact.

The profile mountains allow the pass to be built in a reasonable area, and they allow the length of a small table to do double duty by forcing the column to double back on itself.

For ideas on building a hillfort, go to
Regnad Kcin's Hillfort Page

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