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.


Mad Guru said...

Oh, man, Dan... kind of sad to see it end, but a very big CONGRATS to you and all the players who brought this campaign to life over the past year! I know I speak for many of your fellow gamers out in the "inter-web" when I say I really enjoyed following all the action on my laptop or my phone. I only have one criticism... why isn't there a single photo of the gunboat Giza in action during your grand finale battle of Omdurman?!?! It's okay, I had to get it off my chest but of course it doesn't matter! I only wish I knew someone with your enthusiam and dedication who lived near me, so I could get them to run a campaign!

When you hit the Solomon Islands I hope you'll blog about it the way you blogged about the Sudan.

Once again, well done to you and all your players and thanks for taking the extra time to share your games with the rest of us.


(PS Hopefully I will see you in a little less than a year from now at Colonial Barracks V, unless you visit SoCal again, in which case I hope to see you sooner!)

Stuart said...

Seconded. Really enjoyed following this campaign and found it very inspiring. Convinced me to stick with TSATF as my colonial skirmish system.