Monday, September 22, 2008

Asquith goes to the Sudan..

Prompted by the request for a comparison of the two Asquith Sudan books I thought I'd put up a mini-review to let people know what I thought of them.

First off, as a good reviewer I suppose I need to set my stall out and say that I have a lot of time for Stuart Asquith. As editor of "Practical Wargamer", and as a wargamer of some considerable years and experience, I'm more than ready to have a listen to what he says, and where there's doubt, cut him a little slack (until I get time to do my own research!)....

So what are the books like?

"War in the Sudan 1884-1898: A Campaign Guide" was the first of the two books that I bought, and I thought it provided a good wargamers overview of the three main campaigns that the British fought in the Sudan, namely the Gordon Relief Expedition, the campaigns against Osman Digna in the eastern Sudan, and finally the Re-conquest period.

Asquith gives a very good overview of how the Anglo-Egyptian army was organised for each period, as well as an overview of weaponry, and uniforms. He also does the same for the Mahdist army, but in the other campaigns usually refers you back to the first as they didn't change that much! I know that there are some concerns about some of the uniform details Legatus Hedlius (click here) (a fellow Sudan blogger) has some concerns about the veracity of some of the detail in the uniform section for some of the Anglo-Egyptian units, and certainly in the case of the Royal Marine Light Infantry his research appears to me to be right, and Stuart is wrong, but I'll hold off judgement on any of the other units..! :o))

The book then has an overview of each of the campaigns, along with the major engagements. The contain orders of battle showing units present (but not numbers) for both sides, and a brief discussion of the strategy used, and outcome.

The last section of the book at 30 pages makes up a quarter of the book, and comprises the wargame element of the book. In it Stuart covers off the primary issues that wargamers need to think about when wargaming in this period - how to balance forces, where Dervish forces were positioned, river boats, earthworks, supply, terrain, trains etc etc. Excellent!

So then we come to his newest book..

I have to admit to being quite excited when I saw this on the Caliver stand at the COLOURS show as I wasn't even aware that it had been published!

On the face of it, the subject matter of this book is very different to the first one, as it comprises detailed wargame scenario's of the major engagement in the three campaigns mentioned above. Each scenario (of which there are 11) comprises an explanation of how the battle arose, orbats for each side including unit specific numbers, a map of the battle as translated to the wargame table, and then a section on wargame considerations that meed to be considered when re-fighting the battle. In a word, excellent - my only comment would be that the wargame consideration sections of some of the scenario's are a little short. Stuart has a huge pedigree in terms of scenario design, and I thought these looked a little hurried...

Where it doesn't differ is that the first section of this book comprises what is in effect a summary of sections of the first book, as it gives an overview of the organisation of the Anglo-Egyptian forces, and to the point where when I re-read the first book after reading this one I recognised phrases almost verbatim. He also includes the same wargaming campaign considerations.

So - would I recommend one over the other, or both?

Unless you're a "completist" I don't think you need both, and if I was asked to make a choice, I would advise buying the "Campaign Guide" rather than the Scenario book. The campaign guide has more detail on the troops and units involved, but still covers off the engagements to the extent that you could create the scenario's yourself with a little additional research.

Both books contain the same extensive coverage of wargame considerations for fighting battles in the period...

Last of all - if you're interested in Colonial period wargaming in the Sudan - be sure to check out the The New York Public Library's Digital Gallery, which, amongst a host of other things has a section on the military uniforms of Egypt, 1820-1898. From it, the following is an example, and shows Sudanese and Egyptian infantry of the period:


  1. Thanks, Steve. That gives the information that I needed. It sounds like the first book is the one that I need.

    -- Jeff

  2. Very useful review Steve. I've been thinking about buying these books for a while.

    Best wishes


  3. Didn't he also write another wargamers guidebook on the Sudan about 15 years ago? I'm sure I have a copy somewhere. It had lots of line drawings of the Redoubt range which had just come out. That should hopefully date it. I'll try and dig it out. Perhaps this is an updated version.