Thursday, September 17, 2009

The best thing to come out of ... the Sudan....!

As promised previously, last week I had another (solo) go at rescuing the redoubtable Captain Lucien Verbeek, Belgian observer for his majesty King Leopold II of Belgium (and his horse Teufel), who had (somewhat carelessly) got themselves captured by a small'ish mixed Dervish force comprising foot and mounted troops (see for further background, and the story of the previous rescue attempt). The picture following shows the gallant captain and Teufel at the mercy of their captors (taken from a balloon* perhaps?):

The table was set up as follows (I'd left it set up since the previous time - one of the advantages of having a permanent wargame area!):

Forces were also the same as last time, seven units of Dervish - one mounted on camels. Three of the Dervish foot units were rifle armed (which included the unit of Dervish guarding the redoubtable captain).

The British comprised one troop of Egyptian lancers, one company of Sudanese infantry, one company of dismounted Camel Corps, the commissariat (comprising two ammunition camels), and a horse drawn Gatling gun.

All entry points were diced for using a D8, and ended up with one Dervish foot unit coming on at 1, two units coming on at 2, the camels coming on at 4, with the two remaining foot units coming on at 6 & 7. The British diced for the remaining edge and came on at 5, both the main force and the Lancers coming on at the same point..

This time the British opted to come on in an open backed square for defensive purposes:

..infantry on either side, lancers up front and the gun and commissariat in the middle.

It wasn't long, of course, before I sent the Lancers out to reconnoitre while the rest of the force advanced slowly towards the rough ground where Captain Verbeek was being held (apologies for the yellow'y picture by the way, a sure sign there wasn't enough light for picture without flash). The Dervish on the other hand were busy conforming to "merge" orders from the reaction table.. in the rules we use, the more of them that are in the group the more likely they are to turn nasty, so it pays the Imperial player to keep his troops concentrated..

Four or five turns in, and I was within striking distance of the Captain. The Dervish had merged to the point where they obviously believed they had a chance of taking the Imperials on - a long line of advancing Dervish swept over the rough ground and towards the waiting Imperial forces... the sound of the Gatling began to be heard across the battle field, as the Sudanese and Camel Corps also opened rapid fire at the advancing hoard with ..

One of the Dervish groups gets to close range - it was real tooth and nail stuff, and true to form the Gatling jammed on a number of occasions - happily the Sudanese managed to generate enough casualties on one unit that the critical mass of the group as a whole became less than the Imperials so they backed off...

The Imperial commander (me!) then decided it was time to start inching forward towards their final goal - I chose to advance in 2" hops for no other reason than that this was enough to keep me within small arms range of the Dervish groups remaining, but also caused them to back off as well... the lancers saw off the small group to their front with the assistance of some small arms fire from the Camel Corps..

In the picture above you can see that I'm now well within small arms range of the rough ground, and more importantly the guarding Dervish unit within it - I'm also about to do a very stupid thing, and launch the Lancers at the guarding unit (note to self.. "doh!"!) Not surprisingly they took heavy casualties and were immediately routed... in my defence I had the Dervish pinned from the front and was hoping for a cheap flank attack... yes, I know.... with Lancers.... up a very rocky hill....... on horses.. what a plonker...

To compound the error however, I then decided to launch the Camel Corps at the rock to do the same job - now this might have been the right thing to do, was certainly the better thing to do, but unfortunately lady luck decreed otherwise and the dice came up in favour of the Dervish - and another Imperial force routed.

From a position of great security therefore, I was now down to just the Sudanese and the Gatling gun (jammed, of course!) and swiftly running out of ammunition! Talk about turning the tables, and all within a couple of moves!

With the Dervish inching forward things were not looking good and I was all set to retire but luckily a couple of decent dice throws stopped the incipient routs, and also unjammed the Gatling; sharing their ammunition out between them the Sudanese and the Gatling crew opened fire. The Sudanese on the remaining group, the Gatling on the Dervish in the rocks.... with just 2 or 3 rounds left the Dervish guard unit was destroyed, and Captain Verbeek (and Teufel) made their escape..

In the following you can see the happy re-union (there are no records of what the British commander said in private, however!) with the Sudanese and the Camel Corps halted (and shaken) in the background..

..and a close up of the re-union.

Post Match Analysis:
  • What a brilliant game - this was fought using my home grown Gilder inspired, with a twist of McNally rules - this time however, I used some simplifications and recommendations from DG based on his last game... in essence it significantly simplifies the Dervish reaction and therefore speeds up the game no end..
  • Rapid fire - in my rules Imperial troops have the opportunity to fire twice in the move for a 30% uplift in the amount of ammunition used - given Imperial units carry about 8 rounds of ammunition this is enough to allow 2 turns of rapid fire (6 ammunition points) plus two rounds left over... the intent is to use it when the Dervish are closing to hand to hand..
  • Gatlings jammed - in my rules the gun can fire up to 6 rounds per move but for each round fired there's a 1 in 6 chance of it jamming (6 on a D6), after the third round it jams on a 5 or 6. It may just have been me, and I'll leave it for a few games yet, but I was quite amazed at how often that damn Gatling jammed even when I was firing no more than four shots out of the possible maximum six...
  • The Imperial forces suffered 8 casualties from a total of 20; 40%. The Dervish suffered 11 out of 35; 31%. So despite taking greater casualties, the Imoperial force won. Interesting... having said that al least two of the casualty points on the Imperial side were as a result of that stupid decision with the Lancers...

* Interesting snippet time - on the Suakin expedition in 1885 their are records that a balloon party under a Major Templar, of the King's Royal Rifle Corps Militia, was attached to the Royal Engineers... what a lovely idea for a little vignette, or better still a scenario!


  1. Great report! The problem with 28mm figures, of course, is that the balloon would have to be huge! Shame it was too windy to actually use it!

  2. ...ah yes, the true scale.. but in 15mm could I get away with a tennis ball (covered in papier mache, painted etc etc etc) I wonder???

  3. Very nice report. Very interested in reading the simplified rules. Do you have them in a word file or PDF or just notebook paper. Glad to see Verbeek and Tuefel made it back into imperial hands. Veilendank!!! Would your rules translate into other superior armed small forces against a mob i.e. zulu, black hawkdown etc.?

  4. Steve,

    A few years back I picked up some fake onions . . . which are perfect for hot air balloons (mine were extrememly light weight too -- but you don't want solid wax ones).

    You might check out some places that are sort of "artsy-craftsy" to see if you can find such. They'd be a great size for 15mm.

    -- Jeff

  5. great stuff Steve. I can see the appeal of the Colonial period and with your reports get ever more tempted.

    And only a wargamer would look at a platic onion and think - "balloon observation scenario next"!

  6. Steve - I don't know about the UK but here in Australia you can get white polystyrene balls of various sizes at craft shops.

  7. As always Steve, I really enjoyed your narrative. The photos bring it all to life, and I just love your figs.
    (By the way, are your figs based on MDF?)

    Someone should keep that Captain Verbeek on a short chain or something. How many men did he get killed altogether? Perhaps he should have his own bodyguard.

    Great stuff! More please.