For our latest wargame in the War Room we ventured back to the Colonial period. Phil was keen to use his freshly painted Camel Corps and set up the scenario. The terrain was laid out with the River Nile at the far end one of the table edges crossing across the table with a narrow bank on the short edge of the table. Next to the “Nile” was a small and big town. Further out from the big town was an encampment protected by a zariba (thorn bushes interwoven).
We decided who played what by rolling dice – lowest being the natives. On the Madhist side myself, Jonathan Dave, and Simon were lined up against Peter, Brian and Mark. Noel and Phil did great job of umpiring. Simon and Jonathan were entrusted with the defence of the two towns, Dave took over the fortified camp and I was given the cavalry and camelry forces. For the British empire; Pete and Brian were entrusted with the Camel Corp and British cavalry. Mark was given the naval forces. The Camel Corp advanced quickly moving across a wide front. I moved out my Madhist mounted forces to slow down the British advance but forces quickly came under punishing fire from the dismounted Camel Corps. Phil had adjusted the rules so that troop morale would also quickly plummet with losses. I therefore decided to throw in all my troops to mass charge – not the wisest of moves.
On the Nile the British gun boat appeared towing barges full of troops. The Madhist troops had some artillery positioned in the town to fire at the approaching boats and launched their own Dhows to attack the advancing British on water. Meanwhile in the desert the British forces decimated my charging mounted troops and within a few turns they were destroyed without causing a single British Casualty! Fortunately for me I was allowed to recycle my forces which were to come in behind the British Camel Corps. The naval forces had landed in the small town and were pushing Simon and Jonathan’s forces out of their defensive positions – again the British firepower was devastating and the Madhist were not able to get to grips with the Brits in hand to hand combat. The Camel Corps at this point divided their forces; half advanced towards the towns the remaining forces were halted to deal with my recycled troops coming up behind them. Again I decided to go for another mass charge. The Brits about faced to confront this charge but this allowed Dave to move his troops out of the fortified camp to hit the Camel Corps from the rear. My charge ended as the first had done – the entire force was destroyed but I did managed to get a single casualty!! However Dave with some inspired dice rolling caused grievous casualties to the British taking out 3 Camel Corps units.At the other end of the table the Madhists were pushed out of the small town and the naval forces were attacking the larger town. The British Fire power again was overwhelming although Simon and Jonathan were managing to inflict more casualties that I had done. Time had caught up with us and from the position on the table the British Naval forces had linked up with half of the Camel Corp and we agreed would take both towns. However losses on the British forces that were halted in the desert were quite serious. It was a great game and Phil’s rules certainly gave a different feel to the Black Powder rules we normally use.
For this colonial game Phil brought along his Zulus and British forces for a game to help develop his home made rules which were based on Battles for Empire. The scenario was for a British convoy to traverse the board and repel any Zulus they may come across. The Zulus were divided up into four groups the head, two horns and the Loins! The British formed their baggage in a column flanked by 2 companies in march column. They also had two irregular horse units that would scout for them. The terrain was dotted with hills and woods.
On the British side Greg, Simon and Mark divided up their command. Simon taking the irregular horse with Mark and Greg splitting the infantry. On the Zulu side Mike took the right horn, Richard the Centre and I tool the left horn with Patrick taking up the loins. The Irregular cavalry scouted ahead of the main British column. The Zulu players had fortunately chosen to come on in a position that flanked the British column the ‘head’ was directly facing the British column’s flank the right and right horn was in behind and in front of the column respectively. The right horn entered the table first which was spotted by the irregular cavalry who retired to the main column. When the Zulu head appeared the British players elected to form a regimental square with the baggage in the centre.
The Left horn then appeared and both horns tried to move as swiftly as possible to surround the square. The retreating irregular horse unfortunately provide a screen for the advancing Zulus much to the displeasure of the British players who were not able to bring to bear their firepower on the advancing Zulus. Contact was more easily gained to parts of the square thanks to the Irregular cavalry not moving out of the way (the dice gods were not with Simon to move this unit). However the Zulus players had the dice gods in their side; benefiting from good movement dice with many fanatical charges being achieved. The British were hard pressed in their square and after a lot pressure with a single dreadful morale test role (a dreaded one) the square was broken. Things were looking quite grim for the Brits. Time stopped us finishing the game but we all decided that the Zulus would have probably overwhelmed the poor Brits – Isandlwana all over again.
I was hosting our game on Friday and decided to use my colonial figures for the Sudan in late 19th Century. Black Powder is one of my favourite rule sets for this period and I was recently given a copy of Blood on The Nile supplement which I believe is a great addition to the rules. I decided to use the scenario from this book for the evening and chose the second battle of El Teb 1884. One interesting part of the scenario was the use of British independent commanders – these could go either very well or not when you used the likes of Frederick Gustavus Burnaby in action!
Both sides deployed as they were historically using the layouts provided in the scenario. The British in a large brigade square with their cavalry on their flank. The madhists dug along a crest line, dotted with a sugar factory, cemetery and rifle pits. Noel and Jonathan were in charge of the Brits who were pitted against Simon, Phil and Greg as the Mardhists. The British square moved forward slowly whist their cavalry galloped ahead on the right flanks. This brought forward the natives from their defensive positions to counter this early rapoid movement. The Madhist artillery was not able to be used at long range as they only had canister for ammo. The Beja tribesmen with no fear of cavalry, charged forward to meet the British Cavalry. A tough battle was fought out in the plains in front of the crest with the British Cavalry getting the better of the fight to start with but were eventually overwhelmed by numbers.
The large brigade square now was in rifle and artillery range for both sides. Machine gun fire being quite effective for both sides. The British players elected to shrink their square and move two units to their right flank to fill the gap where their cavalry used to be! These units came to grips with several native units that had come forward. Despite fanatical charges the British players were getting the upper hand. The dice Gods were also playing their part for the British. The Madhists troops were taking a bit of beating. The British mounted infantry who had now dismounted were also proving to be more than nuisance to their opponents. At the end of the evening the British players broke their square using their independent commanders to very mixed results. Burnaby causing the Brits to melee the entire combat at -1 for being killed by charging head long into the natives using his shotgun. The Brits were however saved by the Steady rule - passing their first failed break test on both units. This gave them time to turn the tide overcoming their opponents in the second round of combat. The natives were finally beaten off with some more gun fire but it had not been an easy struggle!
Some more pictures taken by Alan and Jonathan. Some of the Imperial Guard waiting in box lids off table and pictures of the action over the two days.
On the Allies right the Prussian 1st Corps launched a series of counter attacks catching the Italians in square formation following their successful repulse of the Prussian heavy cavalry. The French 3rd Corp took heavy casualties losing its French Infantry Division and one of its Italian Infantry Division. However to its rescue the sheer weight of numbers in French cavalry broke through on the Allies right flank and destroyed the remaining Prussian Light Cavalry formations. The French heavy cavalry also charged breaking a few Prussian squares halting the counter attacks.
At this point the Old Guard infantry and Guard Heavy Cavalry was committed to reinforce the French 3rd Corps and drive the other Prussian Corps off their defending ridge supporting 4th Corps attacks in this area. The French 4th Corp commander launched his Neapolitan cavalry at the defending guns on the ridge and they were repulsed several times however they finally were destroyed by the Guard Cavalry. The Guard Cavalry went on to destroy one more Prussian Infantry Division and sent a number of Heavy Prussian cavalry units into retreat. This forced the Prussians to commit their last reserve their remaining heavy cavalry division.
The day was drawing to an end. The French were behind the Prussian left flank but had failed to crack the centre and the weight of cavalry of the French left flank had not got around the Russians. Noel declared a tactical French victory but a strategic victory for the Allies for holding the ground. At the end of the game the losses were as follows; The allies 52 infantry battalions (34.21%), 43 cavalry regiments (54.43%) and 9 gun batteries (45%). The French had lost 70 Infantry battalions (48.95%) 16 cavalry regiments (15.23%) and 3 gun batteries (13%). The greatest losses on the French side 3rd Corps and the Allies side the Prussian 1st Corps.