Monday, December 1, 2014

The Revolt is over...for now (Sudan Campaign 2014)

Sudan Campaign Ends
At our Vet Wars game day we completed the final battle of the Sudan Campaign.  Colonel Manley, Lt. Colonel Lambert, Major Shockey, Major Wharrier, Major Stockton and Lt. Commander Owen (Giza) fought it out at Omdurman.

Up to this point the British have been slowly closing in on the dervish rebellion on all fronts. Despite the setback at the ambush at Adararna Major Roberts and Major Forte moved on Kassala which was evacuated by the local Emirs.  

The push from Korti to Metemma by Major Shockey and Major Daniels met stiff resistance but were finally able to push across to join the main force.

Captain Andrews on board the Cairo was instrumental in his river operations on the Nile which was complemented by Lt. Cdr. Owens commanding the Giza.

The campaign point system I used was a modification of the excellent Fire and Sword system. At the beginning of the campaign we rolled for what cities had fallen to the rebellion and which were under siege.  Then as the campaign went on I kept a running tally of what was controlled or lost by the Dervish each season (turn). Even though Omdurman did not fall during this battle, the logistics against the Dervish was going to be overwhelming and the Dervish would not have made their 400 points before the 20th season (turn).  However, looking at our campaign map and calculating (forecasting) the Dervish would have hit 350+ by Turn 20.  At the same time the British would have silenced the revolt indexes in all regions.  So it would have been pretty close.  

So as the Campaign Master I have determined the Campaign to be a Marginal victory for the British forces. Nice job infidels!  The Dervish Osmans and Emir's had all moved their forces to the South and into Western Sudan waiting for their time in the sun to return again.  

I would like to discuss some thoughts.

The Dervish
I owe Osman Jahan (John), Emir Frihir (Tony), Osman Dougna (Doug) and Mumbasa (John Mumby) a big thank you.  It's not easy being Dervish but they all had some high points in the battles.  I think they all enjoyed themselves and tolerated the many battles with the majority of the battle odds not favoring them.  Again I was not trying to change history, but only to parallel it with the way I conducted the Campaign.  Thanks.

The Sword and the Flame
I love using TSAF for my Colonial battles.  They are simple and everyone catches on quickly.  We had a a lot of good questions when situations arose. We also had the usual complaints when things were not going well for someone and those you just had to "nip them in the bud."  Are the rules slanted toward the British, yes, of course they are.  Did they benefit them in every battle? Certainly not, and that is what made it fun. Oh the bloodshed...

Another big thanks to Sgt. Guinness and Mad Guru for their help answering questions or offering their experience to help me figure out strange battle situations or rules clarifications.  Thanks.

Some people suggested going back and using the original rules.  I don't think they realize going "Old School" how much more bloody the battles would be for both sides.  One, you will always hit something when firing volleys and those could be VERY devastating.  Two, the dervish would be chucking spears whenever they got in close, NOT just when closing into melee.  Anyway those are a couple of observations that will not hinder me from putting on some club games going TSAF "Old School."

House Rule Changes
I think one of the few things I would change are providing Dervish Rubs with a 2nd Leader.  These mass formations are Class 1 targets so are getting hit pretty hard whenever they receive rifle fire.  We (Dervish) lost so many leaders and at times it was crazy.  So of course when they tried to close as a leaderless unit they usually ran.  And maybe that is the way it should be?  So initially I will try it next time with maybe a couple of Emir "Body Guard" units and see how that works out.  

Running a Campaign
I have seen numerous articles on the pros and cons of running a campaign.  Wow, I learned a lot. I learned both good and not so good lessons that have given me the experience I will use for future campaigns.  Some initial thoughts is that you require a good reserve of patience.  Another is that you must have the constant drive and energy to maintain the tempo of a long campaign.  You have to make it interesting, hence the numerous small actions with various scenarios to keep it interesting to all.  Ambushes, flank moves, being outnumbered, gunboat battles, etc., that is what made it fun.  I also had the incentive to actually be involved in a campaign that actually ran its course!  

I started this campaign in January of this year with the building of the Cairo and then in February I built the Giza and started the campaign with the first battle at Sinkat. In March the Dervish Gunboat Kadesh was built and we fought multiple ground battles at Atbara and at Abu Hamed.  In April we fought at Abu Klea while the battle for Atbara continued.  In May we fought at Berber and Korti and again the battles still raged around Atbara.  In June the Giza was reported running the dervish shore batteries, in July the Cairo was ordered to Atbara and was ambushed by the Dervish Gunboat Kadesh, and then in September we fought at Wad Hamed, Adararna and the Giza going into action against a Dervish flotilla at Berber.  Including the recent battle we fought around 20 battles!   

At the beginning of every "season" I put out a message to the Allied Command that looked like this:

To British/Egyptian Command:

Turn 8

Desert and River Column News
  • Khartoum has fallen!
  • Berber has been retaken by Elder and Owens attack! 
  • Atbara has been taken by Owens (Brother), Roberts, Daniel, Lambert and Stockton under command of Lt. Col. Manley!
  • Manley promoted to Colonel
  • Lambert promoted to Lt. Colonel
  • Captain Andrews of the Cairo steams past the 5th cataract and battle dervish boats to move up the Nile just outside Atbara. 
  • Lt. Commander Owens of the Giza is repairing at Berber after running the guns south of the 5th cataract    
Victory conditions
Dervish amass 400 points they win.  Points are tallied after every turn.  
The campaign ends when all regions are out of revolt (indexes reduced to 0) or after 20 turns.

Turn 1 (25) + Turn 2 (30) + Turn 3 (30) + Turn 4 (30) + Turn 5 (30) + Turn 6 (45) + Turn 7 (55) + Turn 8 (25) = 270/400

IF the dervish maintain their new total of 55 points per turn the dervish could win in Turn 10.  You last to 20 Turns British win OR you completely silence the rebellion in all regions before then Or its mathematically impossible for the dervish to amass the points needed before turn 20 then we will call it a victory for the British.  

Allied Forces
  • Manley has defeated the dervish at the 2nd battle of Atbara.  Regrouping.  Command is waiting for orders.
  • Andrews and the Cairo have made it to Atbara after the shallows slowed their advance.  This is the early wet season so the Atbara river is no place for the deep draft of the Cairo.  The Giza will have to be called up for Atbara River operations.
Disposition Summary:
  • Atbara: Colonel Manley, Commander,  KRRC + Northumberlands + Gun
  • Atbara: Major Forte, Company Commander, 10th Egyptian Platoon + 7th Egyptian Platoon (1/2 Strength) + Gun + Captured Gun
  • Atbara: Major Roberts, Battalion Commander, Black Watch + Bengal Lancers + Gun
  • Atbara: Captain Stockton, Battery of 6pdr and Gatling
  • Atbara: Lt. Col. Lambert, Battalion Commander (111tth Fuzileers/Norfolk), Fuzileers + Cavalry troop + gun
  • Atbara: Captain Andrews, RN, RMLI on the Cairo
  • Atbara: Major Wharrier’s Sikh Platoon + Gun on the Cairo
  • Berber: Major Elder Company Commander, Grenadier Guards + Camel Corps + Gun 
  • Berber: Lt. Cmdr Owen, RN, Cmdr of the Giza + Naval Landing Party.  
  • Korti: Major Daniels, Yorkshires + MG
  • Korti: Major Shockey, British Regulars + Gun 

Campaign Master Comments for Allied Forces
  • Khartoum has fallen so a major attack must be coordinated
  • Kassala is another important target so an attack column with support of the Giza should be considered 
  • Abu Klea, Metemma and Wad Hamed are all within range this turn
  • The Cairo cannot operate in the Atbara.  You troops going south have been ferried by the Cairo opposite Atbara to continue march
  • The Giza repairs are going very slow at Berber
  • Once Metemma is taken the Northern Sudan will be pacified (Revolt Index 0)
  • Once Kassala is taken the Eastern Sudan will be pacified (Revolt Index 0)
  • Turn 9 is going to be important - Khartoum or Kassala must fall before or on Turn 10.  
Naval Intelligence Report:
  • The Dervish are starting to get desperate beware of ambushes - suggest using scouts at all times 
  • The Dervish flotilla was seen moving towards Berber, alert the Giza and Elders
GM: Once you reach Khartoum a large battle will be scheduled.  Any other battles will be handled at small to medium sized battles, i.e., one on ones or two vs two.  Map Error - Northern Sudan is not pacified yet.  

GM: Awaits your movement orders!

So that message type would go out and they would respond with their movement orders and made the moves on the map.  I made some rolls to determine if it was a defensive battle, ambush, surprise attack, etc.  Due to the excellent spy network of the Dervish in the early stages I "blind copied" the Dervish Commanders on the Troop movement orders of the British.  Talking about making it interesting.  If you notice the main area of action was in and around Atbara.  Numerous small battles were fought and two large battles to finally take the town!  It was very well fought on both sides.

And I owe a lot of credit to Fire and Sword for their excellent campaign system and maps. Thanks!

Figures and Terrain
When I started this this project almost a year ago I started by painting units of of British, Sudanese and Dervish.  Most were Old Glory but a very heavy sprinkling of Perry figures were also present.  As you know I had the big idea of building gunboats which were so much fun but it took TIME!  

Regarding terrain well...that was a challenge.  I usually like to build terrain boards but thinking ahead I realized that I was going to have to keep it mobile.  Considering I put on battles at our club meetings, a couple of club member's houses including my basement I think I had a pretty good system.  I used a Home Depot paint drop cloth with a smattering of some spray paint for my desert floor.  I used that desert colored lichen moss to sprinkle around and "shish-kabob" some on wood dowels to make Zarebas.  I had purchased a bunch of various hills but for the most part used different shapes of foam and/or an army blanket crumbled up UNDER my desert cloth.  I learned that at the first Colonial Barracks in New Orleans.  

The earth works at Atbara was foam covered with Home Depot pre colored grout with some toothpicks stuck on the outside to create those defenses.  I got a lot of comments on that terrain piece.  

After a few battles I could see the need for those Firing ARC Chips and Wooden Charge, Prone, Shaken, etc. markers I made from basswood.  Those became very popular and made things run a little smoother.  

So there was some investment in time and money, but looking back it was the amount of time it took that always needs to be considered if you choose to run one of these campaigns. 

The next Campaign
I am not sure what I am going to do next.  I like the period of the Rise of the Mahdi but that would take a lot of Egyptian units and the roles of the campaign would be reverse.  In that scenario I would have the Dervish Osman's and Emirs maneuvering on the map taking over towns within a time/season limit.  Maybe that ends when the British start the invasion?  Something to think about.

But then again, there is another period that I have always been interested in and that is the Sino French War in Vietnam or Dahomey.  Those campaigns would of course include some pretty nice looking gunboats so that appeals to me.  We shall see!

Omdurman Battle
So getting back to the blog at hand.  This was my rendition of the battle at Omdurman based on our campaign.  I didn't take so many pictures this time around due to some distractions.  The battle was going to be tough one.  The initial flank attacks as planned developed first from the Dervish on the right and left.  The British at the Zareba were held back for a couple of turns in order to see how the attacks developed and to determine the flow of the battle.  The Dervish in this battle were coming in several waves.  The Dervish commander Jahan on the Dervish left took advantage of that and kept up the attack always pushing the British back.  The same on the Dervish right who also slowed the British advance.  During the battle it was reported that the Dervish Command were moving South and Lt. Colonel Lambert was able to run his Hussars off the Dervish side of the field to try and cut them off.  Lambert found too many Dervish in his way and did not want to run into a "21st Lancer" scenario crossing the many wadis to the south.  His mission ended just off board.

Aftermath as written by the Ever powerful Campaign Master...
After stopping the British forces at Omdurman the Osman's waited till the evening to pull their forces back from the river where the Giza and Manley's Zareba commanded the shoreline.  The next morning Manley's troops moved into the abandoned battlefield.  He ordered his commanders to move into Khartoum and sent the Cairo and Giza to scout the Nile south to the river town of Jebeleiri bordering on the Western Sudan where the Dervish Armies were last reported.  Although Manley wanted to give chase it seems the French have arrived at Fashoda.  Another distraction.  

London officially end this campaign.  And that is where we will leave it.  The Revolt is temporarily over.

Final Thoughts
Thanks for all the good comments, support, suggestions, comments, etc., from all of the members of this great hobby of ours!  It was all very much appreciated.  Our members here at the Colorado Military Historians (CMH) have concluded this campaign and on to the next.  I need to brush up on the Solomon Island Campaign we are going to start January 2015.  Should be fun.

Dan "Guru" Gurule

Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Small Action - Ambush at Adararna (Sudan Campaign)


We took this opportunity to run an ambush.  It worked out perfectly for the dervish who were on the British and Egyptians very quickly.  We had one unit that was actually charged by the Black Watch, failed to stand and fight and ran off the field.  That was really the only low point for the dervish.  Some of the highlights were the attacks on the 10th Egyptian.  We were bent on its destruction but just couldn't get enough warbands into that fight at the same time.  We hit them piecemeal and hence they were able to repel our charges and regroup.  We thought we had Forte captured but only wounded him and he got away with his Egyptians forming around him leading his horse off the field in an orderly retreat.  Next time!

This scenario was a blast.  If we had some camel in this battle it would have been more bloody.  The Lancers were not very effective this time around.  Some bad luck taking rife fire, not completing their charge, etc.

So the path to Kassala is closed for the moment.  The Atbara river would have been just off the edge of this battle.  Good thing the Gunboat Giza didn't show up.  So where is she?

Last Stand Dan

A short report from the British/Egyptian Command

Major Roberts Reports:
Manley's Hq ordered Forte and my command to take Kassala.  Early scouting reported that the path was clear all the way to the first Oasis.  We moved onto the field with my Bengal Lancers to our front followed by the 10th and 7th Egyptians, then by my Black Watch and gun.  It was not long before we found our column being Ambushed from all sides.  Major Forte and his Egyptians smartly moved into square while the Lancers turned to face the attack.

A vicious mele ensued with the 10th repelling the dervish but taking many casualties.  A dervish rub appeared on the flank of the Highlanders but we turned to face and charged the attackers.  They immediately ran them off the field and turned to reinforce the beleaguered Egyptians.  The 7th Egyptians were able to form into line to protect Forte's right flank but could not advance.  Forte did make one attempt to advance forward into column but was hit by another dervish rub.  This time Forte was wounded along with more of his infantry.  Forte and his  Egyptians fought bravely.  One could only guess that the dervish had it out for the Egyptians this day for their attacks were well planned and focused on Forte.

With Forte incapacitated, I ordered the Lancers to try and take the Oasis.  They were met with yet another dervish unit this time armed with rifles.  The Lancers took casualties and failed to close the charge.  They were forced to retreat to the high ground protecting Forte's retreat on his left flank.

It was obvious to see that we walked into an ambush.  Where did those early scouting reports come from anyway?  We picked up our wounded and reluctantly took an orderly retreat to our rear towards Atbara for reinforcements.

Major Roberts
Black Watch

Monday, September 15, 2014

Small Action - Battle at Wad Hamed (Sudan Campaign)

Well here we go again.  The dervish didn't win this one but were not totally decimated either.  Again, losing leaders and getting charged by cavalry made for a tough fight.  In this battle the Gunboat Kadesh makes a surprise appearance.  It managed to slip past the British river patrols and was making its way back to Khartoum when Lambert and Wharriers' forces arrived.  The objective of the Dervish was to defend and push the British back to Metemma and as a secondary objective protect the Kadesh.  There was no time to make repairs and the Kadesh had to get out of harms way as quickly as they could. 

So the Dervish had some great highlights when a war band repelled two British Cavalry charges on the ridge!  It may have been luck by the cavalry not passing their charge completion rolls but Mumbasa would beg to differ.  Allah willed it!  The third charge finally did them in but not until we killed and wounded some Indian cavalry.

Rules Notes:  On the last couple of turns the British got their guns within range of the Kadesh.  So I numbered the two guns and the Kadesh with some small die.  Using Boilers and Breechloaders we ran the river operations first, by pulling three cards to randomly fire a gun or the gunboat. Worked out great except that the Kadesh took more damage.

Another fun battle!
Last Stand Dan

And now of course we have to hear it from the British point of view.  

To Colonel Manley, Area Commander, Upper Nile
From Lt. Colonel Lambert, Detached


It is my great pleasure to report a highly successful engagement at Wadi Hamed on the Upper Nile, against a large force of the Mahdist rebels.  My own command, with the able support of Major Wharrier's Sikh command, met and defeated the enemy at this critical town and succeeded in clearing the area of Dervish fighters and securing possession of the docks.  Not incidentally, we also sighted and engaged the Dervish gunboat Kadesh, damaging its hull at the waterline and quite probably killing the captain!  All of this was accomplished with minor losses, and the combined forces of Major Wharrier and myself are fit for immediate action.

The action developed as follows:

My command consisted of the 111th Fuzileers, the 10th Hussars, and the 3rd Punjab Artillery.  The command of Major John Wharrier was in support, consisting of a squadron of Sikh cavalry, a platoon of Sikh rifles, and a Royal Artillery section.  Our orders were to capture the docks at Wadi Hamed.  As we advanced southward towards the docks, we sighted the plume of steam rising from the Arab gunboat Kadesh.  Major Wharrier was most eager to rush upon the docks and to bring the gunboat under fire, so I approved of his plan and allowed him to lead the attack while my own command gave support and provided flank security.  The Mahdist defenders occupied a low ridge between us and the docks.  As we advanced with all our cavalry along the bank of the Nile, our guns well forward and supported by the Sikh infantry, the Dervish attempted to take us in the flank from behind a rock outcropping.  I had already deployed scouts in this direction, which triggered the Dervish attack, but the main body of the Fuzileers were well prepared in close order and after a sharp melee the enemy were seen off to their Promised Paradise. 

Meanwhile, the guns of the Royal Artillery and the Punjab mountain howitzers were dealing terrible destruction to the Mahdists on the crest of the ridge.  Both cavalry units struggled to attain the crest, and each was thrown back once, but each time the other cavalry unit was able to fill the gap and maintain the contest for the crest.  At last, the Sikh infantry arrived in position to support a final push and the ridge was ours!  I immediately ordered all of the guns to occupy the ridge and engage the Kadesh, while Major Wharrier led the cavalry in a dash to the docks.  Our guns exchanged fire with those on the gunboat, but the enemy's fire was ineffective, while ours quite clearly caused significant damage before the enemy broke off and steamed away, notably with a list and obvious damage to the bridge.  At this point the enemy's morale was broken and they quit the field, leaving the usual large number of dead behind.

The docks are undamaged and quite serviceable for our own gunboats should that be your desire.  Losses to our forces were acceptably low, although I would of course request that replacements be brought forward to maximize our effectiveness for further duty.  I must commend the artillerymen of both commands who have given exceptional service throughout the campaign, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention the sterling performance of Major Wharrier, whose joyful attitude and exemplary tactics were indispensable to the success of this expedition.  I am proud to write that all of the units under my command performed admirably today, giving testament to the value of combined arms led by capable officers. 

I look forward to rapid receipt of your further orders.

I am sir,
Your obd't servant,
Lt. Col. JL Lambert

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Gunboat Action at Berber! - Sudan Campaign

So after a short break I have sent the Sudan campaign into over gear.  The campaign has been a blast to this point with everyone having a great time.  I am scheduling the end game and you will see more battles over the next few weeks.  So on to today's Battle at Berber.

Osman Dougna and Mumbasa had collected a small flotilla of Dhow boats.  The plan was for them to take a stab at Berber to see if they can disrupt the British lines of communication and supplies.  This was meant to tie up more troops from massing further up the Nile.  The flotilla included; two large boats carrying 4 muzzle loaders, one medium boat carrying one gun and three more dhows carrying warriors ready to land at Berber and cause the British some problems.

We used the excellent Boilers and Breechloaders (4th Ed.) by Patrick Wilson.  The majority of boats were provided by my good friend Doug Wildfong, sorry he couldn't make the battle!

It all started with the plan of the Dervish to bring on the large Dhow gunboats to provide fire on Berber and the Giza so that we could try and land some warriors in the streets of Berber.  We knew the Giza was previously damaged and was hoping to sink her in this battle.  Since all of the Dervish boats were Wooden Vessels they were very susceptible to British firepower.  More so than the Giza having some armor.  Taking so many hits from the British guns caused many serious hits on our boats, which in turn caused Critical/Special hits.  It was with those those critical hits where the Dervish were very unlucky, losing rudders, masts, etc., and being sailing vessels, well that was not a good thing.  We also did not intend on going too far down river if we couldn't take Berber but the current sent us downriver without the proverbial paddle into the shorter ranges for the British to take their toll.

In this battle we had fires, dismasting, grappling and a boarding action, Captains died, Dervish warriors gun downed relentlessly by MG fire, exploding dhows, and boats with no means to make way sent adrift.  The Giza also took a "gut shot" in the boiler and it could have been a disaster but they were lucky.  Where was the Dervish gunboat Kadesh? Next time we will have more boats!

So on to the battle according to Lt. Cmdr Owen on the HMS Giza and Major Elder defending the shoreline at Berber.

To: Colonel Manley, Theater Commander at Metemma   
Sir:  Yesterday the Mahdist forces sent a considerable flotilla downriver to contest Her Majesty’s occupying forces at Berber.   I am pleased to report that they were singularly unsuccessful.   The enemy vessels included two large, well crewed, cannon-mounted dhows and several smaller craft jammed with troops.  With little advance warning, the Giza was barely able to get up steam and push out into the river.  We took the dhows under fire as soon as they came into range, but soon had to divert our attention to the troop craft, which evidently had the object of boarding us.  Our shooting was very capably supplemented by Major Elder’s shore battery, and the combined fires began to inflict serious damage on the enemy.  
In the course of the battle, the Mahdist gunners aboard the dhows inflicted at least seven hits on Giza, including a serious boiler casualty.    Additionally, the crew had to suppress a raging fire on board.   I must commend subordinate officers and ratings for their alacrity in restoring the ship to nearly full fighting capability.   Nor can I overlook the attached infantry Major Elder was able to second to the Giza, which not only assisted in damage control, but provided welcome firepower towards the conclusion of the fight, as I shall presently relate.  
The swift current here enabled the enemy vessels to close with us, but progressive damage from our fire meant they were not fully under command.  As a result, some of the troop craft drifted helplessly downriver, though they indulged in sniping at my crew with a number of captured rifles; regrettably, there were several casualties sustained.   As the dhows closed, we were able to shift fire, and the shore battery did dreadful execution as well.   
At this point, one of the troop carrying boats was able to close and grapple us, despite our attempts to repel them.   Fortunately, our previous fire had diminished the dervish ranks, and as the survivors attempted to board, marines, infantry and crewmen dealt with them in a most convincing manner.   Our forces sustained no casualties in the melee, while several dervishes were killed or wounded, the remainder fleeing back to their vessel.  These were efficiently dispatched the following turn by the starboard Nordenfeldt crew, who generated an incredible rate of fire.   The attached infantry supplemented this with well directed rifle fire into another troop carrier drifting towards us.   As a special note, their officer (who I understand is a crack pistol shot) personally killed the last pesky dervish rifleman on this craft.
By this time the enemy dhows were drifting quite close to shore, where point blank shore battery fire devastated them; one was sunk outright, while the other’s crew was so demoralized, they proceeded to abandon ship.   A number of survivors actually reached the shore, where Major Elder’s gunners and infantry did splendid execution; Major Elder reported taking prisoners aboard a drifting Dhow and picked up survivors after his guns sunk the other large dhow. 
At this point, I would like to underline the outstanding cooperation afforded the Navy by Major Elder.  Not only was his battery fire support of the highest quality, but his detailing several infantrymen to supplement Giza’s crew was most helpful in defeating boarders and minimizing our losses.   This is a classic example of cooperative joint effort between the services, and – in my opinion – should be a standard for Her Majesty’s forces.
In addition to virtually annihilating the enemy flotilla, we were able to capture one dervish dhow and one smaller boat.   These could be used to tow our infantry and artillerymen upriver where next required.  (I would recommend using the Cairo for this task given the strength of the current).  Giza’s boiler casualty will require some extensive repair, but we believe she can be made ready in 2-3 days.  Other damage is superficial or can be made good (some hull damage) and should not impair her fighting ability.
Very respectfully,
J.F. Owen
Lt Cmdr., RN
Commanding Officer, HMS Giza

This report is in conjunction with Major Elders actions on shore at Berber;

Report is seconded and confirmed by:

Major E. Elders
Company Commander

Grenadier Guards