29 June 2013

Sudan Rules - Troop Types and Organisation

Yorks and Lancs in five companies of 12 figures commanded by the Regimental Colonel

Troop Types

One of the most attractive aspects of wargaming the Sudan is the fact that the troops involved varied considerably in dress, style and nationality.

Alongside the British troops sent from home and India were the Egyptians, Sudanese, Indians and even a contingent of Australians (sent from the colony of New South Wales and fighting in the nation’s first war).  The troops also varied in type consisting of infantry, artillery, Camel Corps, Lancers and Hussars as well as the Irregular and quite colourful Bashi Bazouks.

The Mahdists were equally as diverse with tribes from all areas of the vast country.  There were the Ansar (helpers), such as the Muluazamiya and Jihadiyya, Hadendowah.  One of course cannot forget the famous “Fuzzy Wuzzies”, often described as the fiercest foes that the British encountered in all of their colonial wars.  The Mahdists also have available to them cavalry, camelry, riflemen, tribesman and captured artillery, often manned by unfortunate captive Egyptian crews manacled to the guns!  For ease of explanation in these rules, all of the above types will be described as “Mahdists” in these rules unless otherwise stated.

Troop Organisation

All Imperial troops are organised in a very set and uniform manner.

Infantry are based upon the organisation of the battalion commanded by a mounted Colonel.  This consists of up to six (6) companies of 12 foot figures, each of which is commanded by a named officer (this just adds to the appeal of colonial organisations and make the despatches that much more colourful when the battle is over and the exploits and glory are to be shared!).

Thus a five company strong battalion would consist of 60 foot figures plus a separate mounted officer representing the Regimental Colonel.

Imperial Cavalry and Camelry are made up of a regiment consisting of up to four (4) squadrons of 12 figures each.  This is further divided up by means of each squadron being made up of two troops of six (6) figures each once again commanded by a named officer.  As such, a regiment of four squadrons would consist of 48 mounted figures and once again a separate mounted Regimental Colonel.

Three troops of Bengal Lancers

Imperial artillery consists of the actual field piece, screw gun, Gardner Gun, Nordenfelt or mountain gun with the appropriate crew as detailed below:

Field Gun/Screw Gun, Smoothbore   -           four crew.

Gardner Gun, Nordenfelt or Mountain gun -             three crew.

Three guns make up a battery under the command of a named officer.

In the wonderful issues of “Wargames World” Peter Gilder put together a wonderful Sudan Campaign with so much wonderful information on troop organisation etc.  We have included these in the Appendix of these rules for a reference and useful guide for gamers thinking about recreating forces for these games.

The Mahdists are much more loosely based with all of their spearmen mounted up to ten figures to a base.  We say up to ten as you may wish to only have seven or eight figures on abase to allow for some nice modelling options etc.  No matter how many actual figures are on the base, it still represents ten warriors.

Nice view of the organisation of the Mahdists and Imperial troops in action on the field of battle

Mahdist cavalry, camelry and riflemen are mounted up to five figures to a base.

Either of the foot or mounted can be in formations of varying sizes dependant upon random event cards, reaction tests and ambushes etc.

Peter Gilders Campaign Rosters as provided in
Wargames World

Imperial Infantry

1st Battalion Coldstream Guards                                                                       6 x 12
2nd Battalion Scots Guard                                                                                6 x 12
1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders                                                                      5 x 12
3rd Battalion King's Royal Rifle Corps                                                              4x12
2nd Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers                                                                      4x12
1st Battalion Black Watch                                                                                 5x12
1st Battalion Yorks and Lanes                                                                           5x12
Royal Marine Light Infantry                                                                               4 x 12
2nd Battalion East Surreys                                                                                 5 x 12
1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Inf.                                                         4 x 12
1st Battalion Royal West Kents                                                                         5x12
17th Bengal Native Infantry                                                                               6 x 12
28th Bengal Native Infantry                                                                               5x12

10th Hussars 2 sqdns (12 figures/sqdn)
19th Hussars 2 sqdns
5th Royal Irish Lancers 2 sqdns
9th Bengal Cavalry (Lancers) 4 sqdns

Camel Regts

Guards   4 x 12
Heavy    4 x 12
(This includes, mounted, dismounted and kneeling camels when dismounted.)

Naval Brigade

3 Gardner guns plus crews Escort for the guns (12 figures)


6th Battery Royal Horse Artillery 3 field guns
5th Battery Scottish Div.R.A. 3 x 2.5 screw guns
1st Battery Southern Div.R.A. 3 x 2.5 screw guns
Note: Screw guns are carried on camels or mules dependent on terrain.

As well as the above we have several Egyptian garrisons already in the Sudan varying between 3 and 6 coys. As these are dotted about all over we have no need to collect all of these, so we will have:
2 Battalions of Sudanese, each of Five coys.
2 Battalions of Egyptians, each of Five coys.
4 Sqdns of Egyptian cavalry
2 Batteries of 9pr Krupp guns

The above forces were the maximum that would be available during the campaign.

Mahdist troops available (in figures)

800 Dervish Sword & Spearmen
400 Fuzzy Wuzzy Sword & Spearmen
200 Riflemen
150 Dervish Cavalry
100 Dervish Camel Warriors
3 x 9pr Krupps guns plus crews 3 x Nordenfeld guns plus crews
Mahdists in difficulty - should have stayed on the high ground!

Basing of figures.

These rules call for distinctly different basing of figures for the opposing forces.  It is recommended that some effort be made into decorating the bases to enhance the overall aesthetic effect of the game.

Troop Type
Base Size (width/depth)
Figures on base

Imperial Infantry
45mm x 40mm
Imperial Skirmishers
100mm x 45mm
Imperial Cavalry
50mm x 45mm
Imperial Camelry
50mm x 45mm
Imperial Field Guns
60 mm x as required
4 plus gun model
Imperial Gardner/Nordenfelt
45 mm x as required
3 plus gun model
Mahdist Spearmen
100mm x 45mm
from 7 up to 10
Mahdist Rifles
100mm x 45mm
Mahdist Cavalry
75mm x 90mm
Mahdist Camelry
75mm x 90mm
Mahdist Artillery
60mm x as required
4 plus gun model

24 June 2013

Peter Gilders "Sands of the Sudan Rules" - Introduction and Chapter One

The Sands of the Sudan - Introduction

The British Campaigns in the Sudan and Egypt during the latter part of the nineteenth century first came to my attention as a young gamer through the articles and photographs of the late Peter Gilder throughout the older Wargames Illustrated and Wargames world.

These rules are based on the same ones that Peter Gilder used in his many games at the Wargames Holiday Centre as well as bits and pieces that have been retrieved from articles, parchments, letters from Peter and wargaming icon Gerry Elliot who took over the The WHC after Peter sold it.

These rules became very popular at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society in Perth, Western Australia many years ago when Phil Cook, who had played the game at the Enchanted Cottage, and Mike Ward, started playing several games at local conventions such as Arena as well as at the club itself.

The game can be played by several players in the role of the various British commanders.  The role of the Mahdists is taken by the umpire who, along with the die rolls for random actions, “controls’ the masses hell bent on the destruction of the Imperial Infidels.

This period has everything one would want for from a wargame – open battles, sieges, relief columns, gunboats steaming down the Nile, ambushes by hordes of angry natives behind every dune and wadi and the stiff British upper lip being tested at every turn by the wily and brave Fuzzy Wuzzy.

Many thanks to the Gerry Elliot and the late Mike Ingham for allowing me the privilege of compiling these rules together from the late Peter Gilders files, personal notes and gaming reference sheets all those years ago when they owned the WHC.  Thanks also to Mark Freeth who now owns the WHC.

Also it would be remiss of me not to mention the absolutely brilliant rules that Peter Gilder originally based these games on.  “B Company aint coming back” or “Pony Wars”  by the remarkable Ian Beck has to be one of the most wonderfully written and put together sets of rules in the history of our hobby.  Originally published by Table Top Games, if you ever by chance see a copy in a store, second-hand shops etc. don’t hesitate – buy it immediately.  You will not regret it for a second.

Every reference to the rules in this composition is as “Sands of Sudan”.  Please see this as “Peter Gilders Sands of the Sudan” which has been edited for purely design reasons.  They are his rules – we are just ecstatic to be able to get the rules all in one place for wargamers everywhere and anywhere!   Forgive my graphic design skills in putting this together – I am a luddite at heart!

So without further delay, prepare the port –sippers, ensure that your servant has packed the playing cards, kiss your sweet hearts farewell and make ready to defend the honour of the regiment!

Carlo Pagano


The Sands of the Sudan is a game designed for fighting table top battles.  Suitable figures representing Imperial and Mahdist forces are required as well as:

  • A Tape Measure in inches and / or centimetres.
  • Dice – at least one D4, D6, D10 and D20.
  • Troop Rosters for both Imperial and Mahdist forces as per those included in these rules.
  • Troops representing the Imperial forces of the Empire and the brave Mahdist forces that fought them.


No pre – measuring of charge ranges, firing distance etc is allowed.  It just wouldn’t be what fine Gentlemen do after all!  If you declare a charge and cannot close then you are simply moved your normal move distance and not allowed any further actions that turn.

Similarly for shooting, if you declare you will fire and are out of range, the shots are considered spent and an ammunition marker is crossed off on the appropriate unit roster.  

Setting Up

The game can be played on any scale that suits your local club, gaming companions and friends.  These rules are set out for use with 28mm scale figures however 15mm or smaller scales can be easily accommodated by simply replacing inches for centimetres in ranges, movement charts etc.

In terms of playing table requirements, we usually play on a table at least 12 feet by six feet in dimension and often as long as 18 feet.  However this size table is obviously only a guide and can be reduced if using a smaller range of figures etc.

Depending upon the scenario, terrain is set up by the umpire allowing for the type of varied terrain the Sudan was famous for.  Not every battle was fought over a dessert devoid of buildings and terrain; in fact the areas near the coast were quite lush at times.  Of course the vast majority of battles were fought over barren scrub land and plains with dried wadis, creek beds and the famous Mimosa bush in abundance. 

Any potential ambush points should be noted by the umpire.

The Imperial Player then sets up as directed by the umpire – perhaps at the end of the table marching to relieve a town, in place within a temporary zeriba fortification, within a town awaiting reinforcements etc.  The permutations and scenarios are many and varied.

If fighting a campaign, of which this period is perfectly suited, then the order of March should be noted in advance and reflected upon deployment. 

The Umpire should also divide and make a note of the table edges, 1-10 in order to assist in determining where the Mahdists enter from.  This will be needed when he needs to make a location role.

Remember that visibility is considered to be table edge to table edge and line of sight.  Nice and simple.

Turn Sequence

  1. Random Event Cards are drawn (also known as Primary cards)

  1. Mahdists Reaction tests take place

  1. Mahdists Movement phase

  1. Imperial Movement phase

  1. Fire Phase

  1. Melee Phase

  1. Note any units requiring Reaction tests next turn

  1. End of turn-repeat sequence

Turn Sequence - Explained

1.                  The Umpire draws an Event card and determines what needs to react, any special event or occurrence.  If the card calls for Mahdists to appear the umpire rolls a location dice and then places the appropriate number of bases on the field within six inches of table edge.  If the drums are beating then more cards may well be drawn as required.  All cards are immediately acted upon unless the drums are beating in which case the cards denoting any Mahdist reinforcements are hoarded until the drums stop, when they are then all placed simultaneously on the appropriate part of the board.

Some of the Event cards are divided into two halves.  Generally these can be described as Level 1 or Level 2 effects, the latter are generally much better for the Mahdists.  These can be used to help in scenario driven games or allow a certain number of turns of Level One events and then Level Two takes over to force the issue with the Imperial Players who may simply wish to set up behind Zeribas and fire at the Fuzzies as they approach without endeavouring to complete their mission etc.  The permutations are many.

The Umpire then also rolls for Ambush if any Imperial troops are approaching an area that may have enemy lurking in wait.

  1. The Umpire then takes all required Mahdist reaction tests from the previous period including those for natives revealed in ambush.

  1. The Umpire then moves all Mahdists troops in accordance with those reaction tests.  Those that wish to charge do so; others carry on with normal moves as per their last reaction test.

  1. Players then move all Imperial Troops.   Those who wish to charge may do so, those skirmishers or cavalry wishing to evade can now do so making a note of those units who do not escape the Mahdists charge for combat purposes.

  1. Carry out all fire simultaneously and determine Officer Losses if appropriate.

  1. Fight all mêlées and once again determine Officer Losses.

  1. Make a note of any Mahdist units that may require a reaction test next period.

  1. Repeat the sequence

In normal games the battle is concluded ten periods/turns after the last card has been drawn or in the case of a scenario or campaign game, once the Imperial troops objectives has been achieved or have died to a man trying to do so.

Next post - Troop Types and Organisation.

Please note that the purpose of putting out the chapters in this format is to give everyone a feel for the rules system.  It is definitely the intention to also make available a free PDF download of the rules in a few weeks once I work out the best way to manage that - Juan has suggested a widget may be available for that as well.


20 June 2013

Sudan game at the NWS 2013 - Part 1

We recently played a Sudan game at our clubs gaming day at the Loftus Centre to give the figures a good outing and play through what will hopefully be the rules that we will use going forward for this period.

The scenario was one where General Ward has been trusted to lead his column through the outskirts of the coastal plain south of Trinikat in order to obtain some much needed supplies and also to investigate reports of a small uprising from a local Emir who has been raiding the local traders and agitating in what has been a previously peaceful area.

His column consisted of The Gordon Highlanders, The Camerons, The West Kents, Yorks and Lancs - all five companies strong, three companies of the Naval Brigade as well as a Nordenfeld MG, two guns from the 1st Battery RA one of which was a screw gun.  Also attached were two squadrons of the 9th Bengal Lancers as you can see above.

Waiting in the town were the garrison of the 8th Egyptian foot and two Krupp guns from an attached battery under the watchful eye of Colonel Mufasa.

The Gunboat Zephyr in support - scratch built by the very talented Troy Keely many years ago.

All goes well for the column in the early stages.  Initial reaction rolls and event cards are minor with most of the Mahdist forces either shadowing the column or heading for high ground such as this mounted contingent.  In the rules the Mahdists are totally controlled by the Umpire using a "Reaction Chart" and the rolling of 2d6 making for some wildly unpredictable results.

The 1st battalion Cameron Highlanders advance in support of the Nordenfeld whilst the Yorkshire and Lancashire Battalion take high ground - really need to get the dullcote out as I missed these boys the first time around.  Very glossy!

Mahdist Camels come under fire whilst passing through the wadi on the outskirts of the battlefield.  Beautifully animated figures from Connoisseur.

Fuzzy Wuzzies appear suddenly on the left flank of the column as the Naval Brigade turn to face the new threat.  These Fuzzies unfortunately rolled three "Stay put and test again next turn" results and had their numbers decimated by the combined fire of the Nordenfeld and escort.  Incredibly brave warriors, the Fuzzy Wuzzies were admired and feared throughout the campaigns in the Sudan for their courage and fighting ability at close quarters.

Pensive young Regimental commander - that town is an awfully long way away!

16 June 2013

Connoisseur Sudanese Battalions - British Officers arrive!

For our ongoing campaign it was essential to have quite a few of the local forces represented in the Orders of Battle to give an accurate reflection of troops in the theatre.  So with this in mind, two battalions of Sudanese Regulars were ordered from Bicorne Miniatures some time ago and painted up.  However for some reason I miscalculated the numbers of British Officers in fez which I required to command each company.

A long journey later, seven additional figures have arrived and are waiting for undercoating, painting and then a posting to the Regiment.  As you can see, the actual figure is full of character and attitude - you can just see and imagine the feeling of superiority and elan in his face and pose.

It is my intention to have the vast majority of the figures in my collection to come from the Connoisseur Sudan range of Peter Gilders with some supplemental figures that I particularly like from some of the excellent ranges available from Redoubt, Perry and Foundry in their respective Colonial ranges.

12 June 2013

The Sands of the Sudan...Peter Gilder style!

Well here we go!

After many years of putting off starting a wargames blog (for a multitude of reasons - children, work, apathy) we have decided to bite the bullet and try and use a favourite wargaming period to be the catalyst for, hopefully, a fun site which people may wish to visit upon occassion.

So why Pyjamas through the desert?  The Pyjamas comes from my old cricket club where several older characters at the club struggled severely with my surname at end of play presentations.  The Chairmen of Selectrors marched up to the bar one evening and after several botched attempts at my Italian moniker spurted out "Carlo Pyjamas" and, as things do at sporting clubs, the nickname stuck!!

"Through the Desert"...well one of favourite early memories of wargaming as a young teenager was the pilgramage into the city after school on the train to purchase the latest copy of Miniature Wargames, and then Wargames Illustrated and Wargames World from Simulations Kite City up Cremorne Arcade in the city.  What particularly caught my attention were the Peter Gilder Sudan articles that looked absolutely magnificent and so far removed from what we had been doing as schoolboys at the club.  It also caught the attention of two fellow members of my club in Phil Cook and Mike Ward at the Napoleonic Wargaming Society who decided to put the game on at one of our early gaming weekends "Arena 1991".  I was hooked.

This particular blog will join a host of other wonderful sites which pay homage to the Gilder Games in the Sudan.  We have spent many years playing the rules and recently I have spent a good deal of time putting it all on paper, taking out some of the ambuguities, inserting explanations and examples so that the rules can finally be available in a wargamer friendly format that hopefully will get more people playing this wonderful period with 60 man battalions and hordes of Fuzzies coming over the hill intent on carnage!  Fantastic stuff.

Many thanks to Gerry Elliotr and the late Mike Ingham who were very generous with their copies of play sheets, recollections and information on the old Gilder games.  Thanks also to Mark Freeth the new owner of the Wargames Holiday Centre who has also given his blessings to the attempt to get the rules out there.  It is greatly appreciated and certainly in the old style generosity of wargamers all over the globe that I grew up enjoying and benefiiting from.

Hopefully the plan to provide free copies of these rules will be be my very small part in continuing this wonderful wargaming tradition.

Stay tuned.