I took part in my first ever Colonial game on Monday down at the Warlords. To be honest the ‘period’ always left me cold as I could never see the point in it really. Some seriously outnumbered Europeans boldly defending themselves against hordes of indigenous peoples (armed only with sharpened pieces of fruit and rightful indignation) but pulling through due to having far superior firepower and fantastic facial hair just didn’t do it for me. However I saw Martin’s game the other week and it looked fantastic and when he said he was putting on a bigger version I jumped at the chance as the figures were just too lovely not to!
So, here I was about to take on the Mahdi’s forces in the Sudan. The scenario was seemingly straightforward, our column had to advance across the table and secure the settlement at the far end. We could see some Mahdist types in the wadi to our front but were sure that there were more lurking in the various pieces of cover between us and our objective. The column was split into 4 commands with (from left to right) Ian taking the Dragoons, Andy the Royal Navy detachment and Royal Marines (well he is an old bootie), Mike the Highlanders and Yorks & Lancs and I had control of 3 battalions of Egyptian infantry, some skirmishers and the chainmail clad Gendarme squadron. The plan was brutally simple: the Dragoons would get free of the first wadi and then swan about looking for Mahdists, the British would boldly advance on the settlement whilst the Egyptians would have the trickier job of advancing on the guns to silence them.
Things got very sticky very quickly however as a bunch of Mahdists broke cover in the brush in front of the advancing Marines and opened fire which slowed their advance somewhat as it took a while to dispatch them, especially as the Navy’s gun jammed after 6 shots! Whilst this action was happening my brave Egyptians had advanced to the wadi and had readied themselves for the assault whilst my skirmishers tried to discomfort the lurking enemy. The Jocks to my left were attracting the attention of the Mahdi’s guns and the Cavalry on the far left seemed to be just prancing around (the first of the random event cards caused them to retire in the direction they had just come).
The Egyptians were soon across the first Wadi as the Mahdists broke as soon as the assault battalion charged whilst the British also moved forwards to take the other Wadi defenders under fire whilst the Highlanders outflanked them. The Marines seemed to be a trouble magnet though as they were attacked by bands of both Fuzzy-Wuzzies and Mahdists. These attacks were seen off with the assistance from the other battalions and soon the combined weight of shot from the Naval Detachment, Yorks & Lancs and Royal Marines soon saw the Wadi and its environs free of the enemy and they could cross over to join their allies and the Highlanders on the far side. It was about this time that the drums started up as the column once more pushed ahead.
At first everything was looking good, my Egyptians had advanced and after seeing off a charge by some camel mounted fuzzies we were steeling ourselves for the attack on the first enemy gun. I had pushed my skirmishers right in front of the guns and should have started to reduce the crew by their fire if they could have hit them, unfortunately though they were awful shots and this wasn’t happening. Meanwhile, across the rest of the advance Mike’s Highlanders were advancing on the second gun and both them and the Y&L had to deal with further ambushes from the Mahdists which had disjointed their advance somewhat with the English battalion now lagging somewhat behind. This was the story for Andy’s chaps too. The Marines were still shooting and melee-ing their way forwards, racking up an impressive number of slain and routed enemies on the way, but becoming slightly separated from the Naval Detachment as they had also veered off to the left somewhat to deal with more trouble. The Cavalry meanwhile had got into a jolly hairy scrape, riding between the palms and some brush to threaten one of the enemy guns they triggered 3 separate ambushes and another Balaclava looked on the cards. Thankfully though they managed to extricate themselves from the trap with no loss. Then the drums stopped.
As soon as this happened all hell broke loose with Mahdist bands led by Emir’s appearing from all points of the compass and headed straight for us (this was the result of a random event card). Things got extremely hairy from here on in. Over on the far left the Royal Marines were girding themselves to see off yet more, fresh attackers. The Yorks and Lancs had to about face to prepare to receive attacks from the direction we had come from by a large band of Mahdists. The Navy and Highlanders were dealing with one of the guns and the forces that failed to catch the Dragoons and my brave Egyptians were surprised by two huge bands of enemy troops lead by fantastically bedecked Emirs erupting onto their right flank.
The Mahdists caught the end of one of my battalions which sacrificed one and a half companies to try and hold them long enough for the rest of the battalion to fall back and wheel to face. This is what a second battalion just about managed to do letting loose a volley before being struck by the second attacking band. A frenzied melee then ensued with the smaller Egyptian force valiantly holding off a vastly superior force long enough for their parent battalion to ready themselves, the second battalion was also holding firm and I readied the Gendarmes to make a charge into the disorganised Mahdists. At the same time another band was spied moving towards the Wadi that we had crossed earlier so a square was formed by the two battalions that were not engaged in the melee. This was none too soon as the fighting on the flank ceased with the destruction of the brave Egyptian defenders, with the charge of the Gendarmes achieving naught but delaying the inevitable briefly.
Elsewhere other desperate fighting was being conducted as the Mahdist hordes attacked although the Dragoons did manage to execute a successful charge into the rear of one band. Although we were quietly confident of our chances there were a lot of new enemies approaching and their guns were still in operation, all of our units had been steadily losing men and I was down one whole battalion so it was a slight relief that we ran out of time!
The game was bags of fun and had moments of real tension, many thanks to Martin for putting the game on it was an absolute pleasure sir! Rules used were ‘Sands of the Sudan’ which had nice simple mechanics that were easy to pick up and the random event cards added a huge amount to the game not only in the random events but also period flavour. All the figures are from Martin’s beautiful collection and most of the terrain (bar the Wadi’s and the ruined buildings ) are his too, with most made by him too. He is thinking of taking it to a show which I think is a great idea as it would be a great participation game. I’ll definitely play another game so thank you Mr Gane for the introduction, the next one might even be reported in an appropriately Victorian style….