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


  1. Excellent stuff! I'd recommend a book called "Fighting the Fuzzy-Wuzzy" by Captain de Cosson, the officer in charge of water supplies in General Graham's Suakin force. It's a soldier's eye account of conditions on the ground by an officer who'd traveled in the region before the war, and is full of useful detail and background.

  2. Thanks AJ - will look that one up. I have been fortunate over the years of grabbing and "lucking" upon some great books on the campaign. May well talk about a few going forward.

  3. One note on basing - Gilder based his Mahdist rifle skirmishers in pairs on what appeared to be standard Grand Manner bases.

    I used to own a tribe of Fuzzies from Gilder's campaign (a few pictures at http://unfashionablyshiny.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/not-shiny-but-definitely-unfashionable.html ). They've since moved on, but rumour has it that they'll be appearing at the new WHC in due course.

    And the De Cosson book is excellent,


    1. Thanks DC - your blog is probably the one which inspired me to start this one so really appreciate the information. We based our info on Wargames World and the old photos in Miniatures Wargames etc. do you still have those Fuzzies? Would love to see them again on a blog. I believe the Gilder Sudan collection is in the States with Keith Leidy as seen old Alt Fritz's blog and they still get a decent run on occasion. Would love to see more of them as well. I still have three companies of British and a Gardner gun and crew that I purchased from Chris Cornwall when he was still the Connoisseur distributor in the UK which were Peters. They were used in many of the Wargames Illustrated adverts in the early days.


    2. Hi DC - fascinating what some additional research digs up. Looking through Wargames World there are definitely Mahdist skirmishers in two on old GM style bases. Did Peter use the standard skirmisher fire rules from Grand Manner as well i.e. 0-6" short with a 4, 5, 6 kill: 6-13" medium - 5 or 6 kill and 13 -20" long range 6 kill? Also looking at other pictures you can see Rifles between 5-10 to a base. May need to have another look at this as well as Imperial Camelry basing as the front cover of MW 5 shows they are organised as Mounted Infantry. Update shortly. Thanks again.

  4. I'm not sure i can help much with rule specifics right now, but as i remember it Gilder said he used the firing chart from the Newbury colonial rules(?). I haven't played them in years, but i remember skirmishers fired as individuals, using D10s...and the rules in general were typical Newbury - too fiddly. I am due to catch up with a participant in Gilder's campaign soon(ish), and i'll pass on anything relevant.

    I got rid of my Sudan collection last year. It was a tough decision as i love the figures, but i hadn't really used them for 20 years and will probably never have the space to do them justice, so i moved them on to concentrate on my AWI stuff (i suspect Curt Johnson's Gilder illustrated 'Battles of the American Revolution' is to me what those Sudan articles are to you, inspiration wise). Dave Docherty has them now:

    Have you checked out the Suren 'Willie' 30mm colonials? If not you really should. Gilder had a superb unit of Suren British lancers (riders only, i think the horses were Hinchliffe) that featured in an early issue of Miniature Wargames.

    Great blog so far,