Tuesday, 31 August 2010

BlackPowder IV: Relief of El Tel

The Sudan of the 1880's is an interesting period of history and should provide the basis for a good wargame what with colonial brits in red and grey and marine blue, with camels thrown in for good measure. The odd Egyptian unit, some armoured, and a variety of colourful natives that proved more than capable of holding their own, until the arrival of Mr Maxim's baby. Then there's the Nile with improvised and purpose built gun boats and the option to add a unit or two of French to add flavour.

For those who like to add characters to their scenario then no fiction can equal Gordon, Kitchener and, being the Birmingham Wargames Society, our own Colonel Burnaby.

We've tried Peter Pigs PITS rules and some house grown rules but never had a completely satisfactory game. So as Black Powder has been at the front of our wargame thoughts and the book has some very nice piccies of a Sudan game - "why not?"

The answer should have been "because we don't have enough figures." But a quick note to Mr Pig and couple of weeks frantic painting and another few units were added.

'Eres to you Fuzzy Wuzzy

Historians write of British reluctance to send troops to Egypt in 1882 but they did and when the Mahdi emerged from the southern desert an army was already present. When it became apparent that shipping on the Suez may be threatened intervention became inevitable.

On of the Mahdi's finest generals, Osman Dogma, was proving to be particularly troublesome and in fine British understatement Major General Trepanning ordered that a couple of regiments "should see 'em off."

The Royal Worcester Permains and Braeburn Highlanders played cat and mouse for a couple of weeks under the desert sun. However they weren't aware that they were the mouse. After a sharp encounter with a large force of Hadendowa they were fortunate to fall back into the walled village of El Tel.

Eventually Major General Trepanning noticed they were missing and the RSM suggested that perhaps they ought to go and look for the missing lads. Fortunately the local scouts were top notch and it wasn't long before the relief force could make out in the distance the village of El Tel and Dogma's army.

Ferocious fighter they may have been, but pretty awful with the dice throws. This "brigade" refused to move for three turns.

The Mahdi's forces seemed reluctant to move towards the new threat but the big Krupps guns finally moved into position and began shelling the village with immediate effect. Behind the mudbrick walls the cheering at the sight of the relief column was curtailed as comrades fell and wounded were added to the wagons carrying the sick.

Outnumbered, Trepanning ordered the hussars forward to scout amongst the rock and scrub anticipatin ambush. The foot were formed into two brigade squares, slow but secure and inexorably they advanced.

Dogma's forces on table were split into two principle brigades and while the ansar warily advanced the hadendowah hesitated too long and the Shropshire Blue hussars charged in with great gusto and routed the lead unit. On the right the Wensleydale Hussars took casualties from long range fire which took the sting from their first assault. In the centre the squares rolled on.

Trepanning's plan was proving to be a good one as the hussars kept the natives busy leaving the squares to move forward. The naval gardner gun was initially deadly as it took out the crew of a Krupps gun but with such heat and sand it soon jammed. The remaining Krupps maintained a steady fire and the Royal Worcesters could do little but take what cover there was.

On the left the hussars overran a further unit of fuzzy wuzzies but on the right the going was much tougher. Eventually a square reached the village and under sustained fire the wagons were shepherded into it. However both units in the village were disordered, and therefore couldn't move The square began it's slow march back with the sick and wounded making for even slower going.

Once order was regained the Braeburn Highlanders set forth valiantly from the village. Instantly a unit of hadendowah charged in only to be met with a crashing volley from the irate scotsmen. Surrounded by smoke and fuzzy wuzzies the valiant scots failed to see the camelry until they had charged in to the rear of the line. Unsupported they were massacred to a man.

Charge after charge was made upon the retreating squares but no headway could be made. The remaining Krupps was keeping the Royal Worcester tied in the village and was not moved forward to assaut the square.

And so the sun set red over the village of El Tel. The few remaining Royal Worcesters remained trapped inside the village, the Braeburn Highlanders had been decimated and the Wensleydale Hussars had suffered a great many casulaties. However Dogma had lost half of his army and had found it impossible to break a square. As the full moon rose and the groans of dead and dying haunted the desert both generals pondered what to do when dawn broke.

In square even the Egyptians proved to be invulnerable.

Another go at Black Powder and I'm still not 100% convinced. There's a lot to like but there's also a bit too much faffing about with saving throws and special rules. I suspect a bit of simplifying and streamlining may ensue. Watch this space.
(Jervaulx: all the way from Britanny - splendid)

1 comment:

  1. I've tried it with the Sudan and was unsure about it. I actually think it's best for Napoleonics where everything seems to gel together and I've had a couple of really entertaining games.