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.



  1. A very nice first part of the ruleset. Certainly, these rules has something "special".

    I think the widget is "List of Links".

  2. It takes me back to the days at the Holiday Center, and many a desperate game there and at my home and club. Kudos to you for reviving this marvelous set of rules.

  3. Great table and figures Carlo, very nice indeed and good to see the young fella in on the game as well.

    1. Thanks Nathan - always good to hear from you mate and thanks for the support and help in getting the blog started.

  4. Carlo - superb - I have some scanned copies of PG's original notes for these rules - can I send them to you??


    My Sudan project blog: http://steve-the-wargamer-sudan.blogspot.sk/

    1. Hi Steve - would love them mate. I have quite a few already but it is amazing to see how various QRS I have in Peters hand evolved over several copies hence the dilemma in sometimes working out which was version one or two etc. The more the merrier in my mind. I will pm you my email address. Thanks again.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hi, I used to use these rules many years ago and would certainly like to purchase a copy. Please let me know how I can get hold of one.
    Shaun Lowery

    1. Hi Shaun,

      The rules are being shipped this week mate. Visit the site and all order details are on the most recent post. Thanks for the interest.