Thursday, April 03, 2008

Fighting patrol to Meerkut..

Fantastic game last night - DG happened to be in town on travels to see family so I leaped at the chance to play the delayed Sudan game I mentioned a few posts ago.

This was the first major run through of the rules (v 2.1 after previous solo efforts), being the first time that I've played them with a proper opponent - all previous games have been solo/skirmish type efforts. Happy to say that with some minor changes - we had a great game!

You're probably aware that the rules I'm using for this period are self written, but are based heavily on the work that Peter Gilder did for his Sudan games - which he documented in the first five issues of "Wargamers World". Key to his approach was a method that he had picked up from a set of rules, current at the time, called "Pony Wars". The thing that made these different was that the Indians (the rules were set in the American west and featured US Cavalry against Indians) were all automated - all actions were driven by a reaction table of considerable complexity.

The same is the case in my rules, so last night I played the umpire (responsible for driving the Dervish reaction tables/results), DG played the Anglo-Egyptian commander.

First off here's the layout of the table (and you can click on this or any of the other pictures for a bigger view):

The background to the game is as follows:

It has been some weeks since HQ have heard anything from the forward observation post at Meerkut, and couriers sent to check on the garrison have not returned. Fearing the worst they have decided to send a patrol to check status.

Meerkut is a desert village comprising an old sandstone fort and some scattered houses, long abandoned as a result of constant raiding by the Dervish. The British have hastily repaired the fort, and returned it to use as the base for the garrison.

The British objective is as follows:

The British commander is to make his way to the fort, relieve the garrison, and return with (hopefully) positive news of the well being of the garrison, and the cause of the lack of communication.

I had a couple of victory conditions:

1. The British must advance the length of the table and find out the status of the garrison to fulfill the first part of the mission statement. They can find out the status by at least one base being in contact with the fort - touching it.
2. To complete the mission they must then return and exit the table at the entry point. The units exiting must include either the base that contacted the fort in 1/., or another base that has in turn touched one of those bases, in order to claim the condition. In other words either directly, or indirectly, a base with status of the garrison must exit the board...

Completing just 1/., or just 2/., will result in a draw, completing both is a British victory.

To complete this activity the British were given the following forces:

These comprised (from the top)
  • 2 Companies - Camel Corps (the figures behind represent the same unit in dismounted form)
  • 1 Company - Sudanese Infantry
  • 1 Screw/mountain gun (carried on a camel)
  • 1 Pack Camel carrying Small Arms ammunition (20 points)
  • 1 Pack Camel carrying Artillery shells (20 points)

The Dervish opposition comprised:

  • 8 bases of Foot - 3 of which were rifle armed (but no ammunition re-supply)
  • 2 bases of Horse
  • 1 ancient muzzle loader cannon in a fixed position (again no ammunition re-supply)

The Dervish appearance on the board was generated randomly - in each Dervish move I threw 2D6:

  • 7 or 8: One unit appears
  • 9 or more: Two units appear together

To decide where they appeared, I numbered each terrain tile edge from 1 to 10, and threw a D10 to chose the entry tile, followed by another 2D6 to decide where on the tile edge they appeared… I continued doing this until all units were present..

...and with that - on to the game...

DG entered at the bottom of the picture above - directly opposite the fort - his column of march comprised the camel corps first, then the screw gun and ammunition camels, with the Sudanese at the rear.

Pretty soon, the first of the Dervish appeared from the bottom right (all directions/positions refer to the picture above) and DG deployed one of his company's of Camel Corps to face them while sending the other company up table to try and chance reaching the fort:

The Dervish had a fairly successful series of dice rolls and over the next few moves a number of other units also appeared from this flank:

In the centre DG's advance guard of Camel Corps had 'discovered' the hidden Dervish muzzle loader which was placed on a hill just in front - this proved to be the source of the sole Dervish success of the game. Having blasted them with some fairly close range canister - the camel corps recoiled and then failed 3 or 4 successive morale tests before racing off the board (and presumably back to base....!)

In the meanwhile however, in much the same way as the unit they represent in real life, the Sudanese with the, now deployed, screw gun were doing stirling work holding off successive Dervish charges..

At about this time further British re-inforcements arrived in the form of a troop of Egyptian lancers - it was these that were to turn the fortunes of the Anglo-Egyptians for the better..

DG sent the second camel corp company forwards to some rough ground near the cannon and engaged them with small arms - whilst also holding off a couple of charging Dervish units. Having brought them back to re-arm, he then sent them off again using all available cover - as it turned out, needlessly, as the Dervish gun had been abandoned at this point as it had run out of ammunition.

Time was running out for the Dervish - a number of units had now been destroyed or simply run away, and the last two formed units continued to shadow the Camel Corps:

Fortunately for the British however, a poor reaction test for the Dervish allowed them to slip away, and having joined up with the Egyptian cavalry they made their way off the table at the entry point for a British victory, and a most enjoyable game!

Post match analysis:

  • What a brilliant game - the above glosses over of some quite excellent game play. In the bottom right corner of the table DG was tied down for the entire game by successive Dervish units on "charge", and then "shadow" and then "withdraw to small arms" results - at one point it was a little like waves coming into a beach! Suffice to say, as much as he would liked to support the camel corps he had little choice...

  • Dervish reaction tests worked well - all results are based on working out Dervish strength versus Imperial strength, and whether the Imperial troops are in cover or not - few to no "weird results" and where there were, then DG and I worked out a compromise... it worked extremely well.

  • It is difficult to get Dervish to charge unless they have a numerical advantage on a number of occasions we got to charge distance but the reaction tests forced the Dervish to break off - on the one occasion they did close (the Dervish cavalry managed to get to grips with the Egyptian cavalry), they did great damage before finally being driven off by the British artillery..

  • Ammunition supply is key - all units start off with a certain amount, but as DG found out conserving that supply is key, especially when using 'rapid fire' (which in my rules uses more ammunition than normal firing, but gives additional opportunity to stop Dervish charges in their tracks..) This created some high tension moments when the camel corps were caught a long way from re-supply, short on ammunition, with two rubs of ravening Dervish bearing down on them

  • Tea on this occasion was Asda's own brand "Assam" accompanied by those Digestives again - there's simply nothing to beat their dunking ability!


  1. When you get them where you like them, I would like a copy of your rules (if you're willing).

    While I game in 25mm, I have a 5' x 8' table . . . although most of the natives I have are Pathans, I've got plenty of Brits and Sepoys.

    I haven't had a chance to play Colonials in quite a while (they've been in storage), but what I used to play was a sort of mix between "The Sword and the Flame", G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., and my own ideas.

    Thanks for the write-up.

    -- Jeff

  2. Cracking post!

    Please Sir, can we have some more?

  3. Great stuff! I'm nearly at the place where I can actually play a game too. Likewise would like your rules whenever you are happy with them.

  4. Steve, I expect you know from the OSW group that Bill and Alte fritz have been piecing together the Gilder rules with the help of Keith Liddy and other Wargames centre vets. I am sure they would help to fill in some of the blanks if you contacted them.

  5. Dear Steve,
    I've just now had a proper amount of time to slowly enjoy your photos and accompanying text. Thank you for mentioning it to me late last week. Since then I was getting ready for, going out of town to and happily recovering from the Little Wars Show in recent days. So I had a good excuse.
    I am very happy for you - getting on with your Colonials and very importantly having a face to face opponent too.
    We found in our last game that the reaction table almost always disallows the Dervish to charge if the Imperials are in a zariba. That's one way to stay alive but staying put does not get the mission accomplished. The other thing is (and I think you know this but just in case) when any shadowing Dervish unit finally does chage, ALL Dervish charge too. We thought that was odd on Keith's large table so we restricted this to units in line of sight. So when this massive charge commences, I am sure the tension is very high in the minds of the Imperial player - as it should be.
    Colonials develop a different form of game tension that makes things unique from say the SYW.
    In recent days I've set out my colonials again on one end of my table. The table is 6' wide. This span will have sides bordered in high cliffs with a pass between. The pass will be blocked by Miniature Building Authority Medieval Wall sections for about half the width. I've got some Tugs manning the walls, I built some scaling ladders and far in the distance the approaching Imperial column is appearing on the plain. When the campaign gets underway, the Imperials will need to breach the fortified wall and move beyond to the Guru's Stronghold some miles distant. All very appealing to me and exciting if I may say so.
    Good luck to you,

  6. Gents - many thanks for the various comments/feedback/requests - rather than respond here I decided to do it via a new post....

    Bill - many thanks for the feedback, and no I wasn't aware of that little nuance of the Dervish behaviour - noted now though! I look forward to hearing more about the colonial game - will you be documenting it anywhere? :o)