Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Guest Post AAR - Battle In The Sudan - 28mm Black Powder Colonial

Hello once again to the Analogue Hobbies gang.  I am here to interrupt with another guest post AAR from our wonderful visit to Regina this past weekend.  This report features action set in the searing heat of the Sudan in 1884 as the troops of the British Empire face off with the fanatical followers of the Madhi. 

The Mahdist rebellion in the Sudan is a favourite period of mine and the relevant collection of 28mm figures from Perry Miniatures is one of my favourites to paint.  This current Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge has spurred me into finishing several long-overdue figures from this range and they saw action for the first time on the gaming table in Regina this weekend. 

Newly painted figures meeting their inevitable fate...
The setting was 1884 near Suakin on the Red Sea coast.  This was the initial period of action against the Madhists as British troops sought to bring rebel leader Osman Digna to heel and secure the sea coast in order to protect the shipping lanes to India.  This campaign included actions like El Teb, but I was looking to represent something a little smaller - a skirmish-type encounter with some local Emirs who were probing the British forces.

The 6' x 4' table was set to imagine a dry tributary of the Atbara river and an abandoned commerce/trade station of the previous Khedival administration - since captured, looted and wrecked by Madhists.  Graham has sent a detachment of Yorks & Lancs, Camerons and Hussars, supported by a gatling and some naval ratings, to clear out the Madhists.  The British detachment totaled about 40 men. 

I say Ramsay, how can I observe the horizon if its blotted out by raving mahdists?

The local Mahdist Emir is keen to hold on to his ruins and test the will and resolve of these foreign devils.   He had two large blocks of warriors with spears, two small blocks of skirmishers with Remington rifles, a captured Krupp gun crewed by Egyptian "volunteers", a small group of camel riders and a party of cavalry.  In all it was about 120 warriors. Game length would be 10 turns.

Curt and I played this game twice - once trying to apply the Bolt Action rules engine for the colonial setting, and a second time using the wonderful Black Powder rules.  

The Bolt Action experiment did not work out well.  I thought I had cleverly adapted the rules engine as needed - I particularly like the pin the markers - but overall the game experience was sluggish, to put it politely.  

Camels - the 'Bolt Action' equivalent of Hanomags...
It is a testament to Curt's friendship that he played through nine turns with me at this before I finally admitted my bold plan kind of sucked.  Too many dice had to be rolled to generate a result that should have been straightforward. The flow of the game was wrong for the period. Not very good gaming...

This is in no way meant to criticize Bolt Action. After all, it was written for WW2 for Pete's sake! I have had a lot of luck adapting different rules systems to different periods and settings, but this one did not work out. On the plus side, the table looked great and we had great fun hammering Madhists with gatlings and rifle fire, while the naval ratings ran for their lives in the face of a charge from 20+ warriors.

Curt suggested Black Powder as the way to go - and in fact Black Powder is intended to actually capture this period.  I had read through Black Powder, but not tried it before.  I didn't think my individually based models would work - but therein lies one of the brilliant bits of Black Powder - the game doesn't really care how your stuff is based.  

We racked up the figures again - once again I took the Mahdist side and Curt played the British.  This time the game has WAY better flow and fun.  The action was dominated by my Madhist cavalry attacking back and forth along the flanks while the bulk of their warriors endured volley after volley of musketry.  

Both of us flubbed some important command rolls, but I managed to do this twice at very, very critical junctures!!! One failure allowed the British Hussars to escape obliteration (although I would still get them in the end). 

The second saved the skins of the Yorks & Lancs - already suffering from the effects of harassing fire by Mahdist riflemen and the captured Krupp gun - they would have been charged in the flank! But you can see from the photo what happened...

Later that turn Curt used the Gatling gun to finish off my cavalry, and their loss was sufficient to break the Madhist force.  But it was a close run thing for the Brits - the Hussars had been seen off - with their commander in tow - and the Yorks & Lancs were on the brink.  

The game was fast and fun and gave a great flavour for the period.  The British cavalry was roughly handled (as occurred so often in the Sudan) but steady musketry and a gatling carried the day. 

I will now scramble to order some sabot-style bases to make moving the troops blocks around a lot easier to play Black Powder colonial games in the future!  And I will try and fire up a Black Powder game for the fellows back in Winnipeg.   

You will also see Curt's awesome wound markers in action in the photos here (note the particularly huge blot in front of the gatling - RIP Madhist infantry charge).  This is another thing I really want to try out - a very cool effect. 

Addendum - In discussion with Curt, I have decided that coming to Regina for a game during any painting challenge period is also worth points - in this instance, about 100 points per game :-)... (200 points if you let Curt win. - ed)  Now, if I could just figure out a way to hack that scoring chart...


  1. Looks like a great game, thanks for sharing. The firing line and Mahsit hordes look fabulous. Now, where's that Gardner gun I got to paint...

  2. Wow that is a great looking game. I find it really amazing that your group is so well versed in so many rulesets. And I like those markers. How about a quick tutorial Curt?


  3. A fantastic game. The colours in the models are wonderful, perfect!

  4. Wonderful, just wonderful; a stunning looking game chap - bravo!

  5. Fabulous looking game, and BP would certainly get my vote.

    Did you simply consider the units to be 'formed' and 'standard' size, or did you actually use them as skirmishers as per their basing and the rules?

    1. Thanks everyone. Scott - we considered the units to be formed and "standard", with the exception of the camels which we considered skirmishers.

  6. Great stuff! Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. Beautiful miniatures. Both the minis and the scenario look a lot like those mentioned in the last issue of WSS, any relation?

    1. Thanks Derek. I had not seen that last issue of WSS, so it would be a coincidence in this case. Inspiration came from the presentation of the Battle of El Teb in the Black Powder rule book.

      I don't have any desert column/camel corps infantry painted yet for the British, so I have always tried to stick to 1884 around Suakin for my Colonial Sudan games. But this painting challenge has been a good motivator to get more models done, so hopefully I can get some desert column troops done before the end of March!

  8. Hi Curt,

    I played BA at a Wargame Show and found it very easy and full of fun. Will look for something similar to play with my colonial figures.



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