15 July 2013

"What was that Carruthers?" - Random Events in the Sudan!

Random Event Cards

These are drawn by the umpire at the start of every turn and are used to determine any number of occurrences during that turn.  They can indicate the Mahdist forces coming on board, what type they are and from which direction on the table.  In addition certain cards will determine that a random event has befallen the Imperial Column, some good, mostly not so good!

Random Event cards can also be reinforcements.  These cards are divided into two halves.  The top part of the card is what we call a Primary event.  Secondary events are at the bottom and are generally more in favour of the Mahdists.

Primary events can be determined by a number of factors, be it scenario length, or simply game balance.  For example a game designed to be played over 20 turns with an Imperial Column marching to secure a deserted Sugar Mill from local Mahdist forces may be designed to have 12 turns at Primary level and then the final 8 turns at Secondary level.

Secondary level events can also occur again in scenario situations or when the Random Card ‘Drums Start” is drawn.  The cards may also result in some positive or adverse events affecting some unit in the Imperial forces.  If this is called for, simply number each unit and then roll an appropriate dice,  If a unit is already effected by a random event and another roll is required in a subsequent turn, this unit must again been numbered and included in the roll.  After all, misery does enjoy company!

Some cards will call for the commencement of drums beating – this will result in the number of Mahdists reinforcements to be deployed will be taken from the bottom section of the card rather than the top.  These are generally double the number of figures however some do have attached Emirs and other leaders.

When the card “Drums have stopped beating” all Mahdist forces on board attack the nearest Imperial troops.  Silence can be deadly in the Sudan.

Card Types and what they mean

There are no copies that I have come across of the exact deck of event cards that Peter Gilder put together for his games at the WHC.  Friends who were originally preparing to put on these games over 25 years ago did talk to Peter and get a rough idea of what was actually in the deck but were mostly told it was a case of “make up what you require”.  Ian Becks “Pony Wars” actually has a few cards which are blank however that is not for us…the more things that occur the better!

Please see below the cards we use in our games.  The first number is how many of these cards are in the deck and the second bit of information gives you what appears on the card.  A simple deck of cards cut out of thick paper with everything recorded in black pen or pencil will do the trick.

Hostiles Appear (35 cards)

Generally the cards will either tell you what enemy type has arrived or ask you to roll on the table attached to the card.  On a roll of 10 on a d10 consult the “Ambush Table”.

1 x 200/300 Hostiles appear                            6 x 200/400 Hostiles appear

10 x 300/500 Hostiles appear                          2 x 100/200 Mounted hostiles appear

1 x 150/250 Rifle armed hostiles appear         2 x 100/200 Mounted Rifles appear

1 x 200/400 Mounted Camel Riders appear   5 x 200/400 Hostiles plus an Emir to lead them appear

1 x 100/200 Mounted warriors plus an Emir to lead them appears.

2 x 200/400 Mounted Camels plus an Emir to lead them appear.

2 x Hostiles with captured guns appear (Egyptian captured Krupp gun plus crew and Mahdist overseer).

1 x 400/600 Hostiles appear plus Osman Digna or similar Leader of renown.

1 x 400/800 Hostiles appear plus The Mad Mahdi or another suitably loved and adored leader.

Special Cards in the Events Deck

4 x Drums Start

In the far off distance the Imperial column hears the native war drums beating out a deadly tune.  From now on the Mahdists appearing on the battlefield are taken from the Secondary or bottom section of the card.  If the drums are already beating then play this card as a “Drums Stop”.

2 x Drums Stop

The incessant beating of the drums stop.  With a chorus of sudden, blood-curdling screams the entire Mahdists force on the table immediately attacks or attempts to attack all Imperial forces on the table with no need for any reaction tests to charge.  At the same time an additional 600 hostiles appear (roll on ambush table for type) with an attached Emir to lead them.  If the drums are yet to start beating then play this card as a “Drums Start”.

1 x Friendly Natives

The column encounters a travelling menagerie of carpet merchants, orange sellers, camp followers and purveyors of filthy dirty pictures that impede movement to half speed for 1d6 turns unless aggressively swept aside.  The latter action however could effect relations with the locals however – see below.

1 x Town Uprising
The native inhabitants of any village or town on the board decide to throw in their lot with the Mahdi and start sewing coloured patches all over their clothing whilst shouting “Death to the British”.  Roll 1 x d6 (2d6 if the friendly natives card has been drawn earlier in the battle and they were swept aside violently) to determine how many bases of hostiles appear in the centre of the randomly determined town/village or built-up area.

1 x The Natives are Restless

The native animal handlers become slightly nervous and decide that this particular Imperial column is not one to be associated with.  All natives desert immediately at 15” speed towards the nearest table edges.  Animals will scamper next turn unless they are manned by troops within the column at the rate of one soldier per two animals.  These can be marked off with a “T” in your roster sheet and though they are technically not losses, they cannot fire or fight whilst with the beasts.

It takes two turns for units to have ammunition from a pack animal that is in base to base contact with them replenished.  Whilst being resupplied, the unit can take no further actions, including movement.

1 x Dust Storm

A major dust storm appears on the table and whilst it is blowing (roll 1 d10 to determine how many turns it is in effect) all visibility is reduced to 24 “.

1 x Bad Ammunition

A random batch of ammunition has been poorly manufactured.  Determine the unit and then company and deduct 2d6 rounds of ammunition from their roster.  They may still fire this turn but with a -4 modifier for the remainder of the battle or until resupplied.

1 x “What’s going on?”

An unexplained halt occurs in the formation due to misunderstanding.  To get the formation moving again takes one full turn as the chain of command gets cracking!

1 x British Officer falls ill

One randomly determined Imperial Officer takes too much sun and his unit must halt for two turns regardless of existing orders.  If the unit is firing it cannot order “Rapid Fire” and it cannot use the Officers Loss rule if in combat.  Determine the unit randomly and then the actual company or squadron the same way with whatever dice best suits.  Don’t forget to allow for the Regimental Colonel to also be affected and therefore halting the entire Regiment.

1x Lost wheel

A gun or other wheeled vehicle in the column is randomly determined to have lost a wheel and it cannot move or fire until it is repaired.  This will take four turns.

1 x Loss of bearings

For some unforeseen reason one Imperial Officer has temporarily lost his bearings and his unit strays 2d6 inches in a random direction.  If this causes it to leave the formation or disorganise other units by interpenetrating (simply consider the two units suitably disrupted) that may not fire until they have reformed next turn.

1 x Excessive heat

Higher than normal temperatures are playing havoc with your troops.  All speeds are halved for 1d6 turns or your troops will start to lose men at a rate of 10% per turn.  If this is the case, mark them off on the units’ casualty sheet with a “H” for heat.  They are not able to count as combatants for the rest of the battle. 

1 x Vessel in difficulties

If present, one vessel (or a train if the scenario dictates) suffers a mechanical breakdown, snag etc and is stuck until physically moved.  A grounded gunboat for example will require at least one company either side or two companies to the front, to pull free.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and you should be able to add, remove or replace cards as you see fir in accordance with the greatest Old School Wargaming tradition.
A game at the NWS circa 2005 - lots of smiles at this stage must mean the cards have yet to turn against the British force.  However if memory serves it is about to get quite hot in the kitchen!!


  1. One special event card which I remember from Peter's games is the Native Shepherd. Upon drawing the card the shepherd appears out of the heat haze with his flock, wandering near to a random British unit. He seems disposed to be friendly and will honestly answer three questions put to him about the area, but due to translation difficulties his answers can only be Yes or No. Once he has answered the three questions he will depart.

    1. Hi Aj,

      Now that is sensational!!

      Will ammend the main body and include in the section and make up a new card post-haste.

      How much fun could the Umpire have with that card!!

      Really pleased that getting the rules out there is unlocking alot of the "finery" in this excellent gaming system.



  2. Interesting ideas - might pinch these!