12 December 2014

Design notes and FAQ for the Sudan

The Imperial player is on the move
The Sands of the Sudan rules are now out to all four corners of the globe and the feedback has been very positive - thanks to all who have purchased copies and have started to build forces for the games.

Some excellent questions are starting to come through and I thought it would be a great opportunity to capture a few and offer some more information as required.

There are over 50 cards in the deck however feel free to use as many or as few as you wish!
 Quite a few of the questions have pertained to how we use the Random Event Cards in the deck.

The deck can be used as is or can be modified and adjusted as you see fit.  For example if you are building your forces slowly and have no Mahdist camels, simply take the Hostiles cards pertaining to camels out or simply allow the same number of whatever you may have to appear.

You may also decide to go through the deck and only have six events rather than all of them - no problem as its your game and your scenario.

We always draw another card when an event occurs such as "Friendly Natives" or "Drums Stop" etc.  In fact I keep on drawing cards until another Hostiles appear comes up.

"You're just making that up, you didn't draw that card" - prove it!
Be flexible when you are drawing cards and a "Drums" card has yet to appear.  If it is a twenty turn game and you are at turn 15 and the drums have not started yet you have left it too long.  Feel free playing that card (whether you have drawn it or not!) whenever you feel fit as the Umpire.

Also be careful when you inform the players of the events that the card desires to unfold.  If the card asks for a random unit to be off course allow them all to move first and then determine the random unit (determine the regiment and then roll again to determine the company, squadron or section) after he has finished his move to prevent any potential "staged movement" from players to minimise the effect that may be caused.

The same applies for the "Drums Stop" - don't leave it too long as the fact that all the Mahdists charge will; keep the Imperial players busy.

Great place for an ambush!
 As the Umpire make sure that you have taken the time to secretly map out where the table entry points are and where the ambushes may occur.

You want the Imperial CO to have the feeling of apprehension and expecting the unexpected.  Here Colonel Mike shows exactly the correct facial expressions prior to commencement of play!

In addition feel free to start a good number of Mahdists on the board from the start.  If for example in your scenario local scouts have reported a force of 6000 Hadendowah in the area, do not be shy in putting half of them on the board where you like from the start of turn 1.  The rest may or may not come on as reinforcements from the cards and more may well follow as young fanatics join up in the area.

This also helps move things along from the start.

Imperial players contemplate the finer points of strategy in the desert.  Don't let them get too comfortable!!
The Imperial players generally feel hard done by. 

They feel the Umpire is out to get them.  He is.

They feel the cards are drawn to make his life harder than they deserve.  They are.

They are in a foreign land with hostiles potentially everywhere.  They need to be harassed and harangued at every point.  Limit the time they have to move to no longer than three minutes so they get a move on and simply don't contemplate their naval and try and work out the merits of column of companies or line.

Count them down in the last 30 seconds and ensure NOTHING moves after time has expired.  They will soon get the hang of it.  Any complaints?  Spring an ambush on them.

The Umpire must have broad shoulders.  If he plays it right, they'll all hate him before they reach the first oasis!!
Become familiar with the Quick Reference Sheet

The QRS is an essential aid to playing the game.

Become familiar with the Reaction chart and the codes as much as possible and try and determine the situation to ensure that you are applying the correct set of circumstances for the unit to the dice.

Be aware that once a Reaction test has been taken the unit need not test again until its circumstances change or they have achieved what their test asked them to do.  For example a unit that received a reaction to cross the table through the centre need not test again until it actually has done that or fresh enemy appear, friends lose a combat etc.

Also the chart where they describe "Strength in Figures" refers to the enemies figures compared to their own numbers that are visible.

Once the "Drums Stop" and every hoarded unit that has been accumulating off table comes on they all charge.  This is the equivalent of an "A" result and they advance as fast as possible at charge speed and keep on charging until they hit an Imperial unit.

Two dice rolled together, one to see if you hit and the second to determine the random factor.
  The rules do involve a good deal of referral to tables and charts and the rolling of several different types of dice.  These rules do not solely rely on the ubiquitous D6.  Save time by ensuring that all players have all required dice handy to them, ideally a full set of d4, d6, d10 and d20 per player.

Roll the firing dice together.  If you miss, you miss.  If not then you also have the Random Fire Factor dice rolled at the same time.

Also engage any player not doing something as a Casualty Table Reader.  That is, you determine the factors, yell out the result and have another player refer to the table.  It saves time and your eyes and helps keep all the players involved.

The young Major wonders why his superior officers are still stuck in Crimean War tactics.  "When will they learn the art of modern warfare and strategy?"

Remember that Peter Gilder always wanted his Sudan games to be simple, fun and uncomplicated.

If you are looking for the distance that British troops recoil after being defeated in combat by the Fuzzies don't bother, they don't.  These rules feel that you will be in enough trouble next turn than worrying about withdrawing 2".

If you are looking for a certain reaction, manoeuvre, morale for Imperial troops and cannot find it, its probably not their.  The Imperial troops will fight for Queen and Country to the last man.  Charges of the Regimental Colonel, his batman and the last 10 men of the Squadron are encouraged and allowed.

How else can we have tales of glory in defeat?

Also, young Graham C has pointed out that I have inadvertently included dismounted camels corps troopers as three to a base.  Of course this should read six to a base and twelve to a company.  The offending subaltern has been summoned before a disciplinary hearing next week.

Keep the questions, queries and battle reports coming - they are all most very welcome.


  1. Great Umpiring tips. Love reading your posts.
    One question on Mahdist morale. Do they take a new reaction test every time they take casualties?
    Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi WB,
    Thanks for the comments - always appreciated! No mate,they react and continue to be controlled by whatever reaction test they have been operating under previously unless there is a change of circumstances. For example they have been on a "shadow" reaction and then suddenly a company of Skirmishers pop up and take a shot. The test wouldn't be for the casualties, it would be for the "Fresh Troops" under the General reaction. If they took casualties gain next turn then it would probably be appropriate to roll on the "Enemy visible in open" and look at the figures they have in their own tribe/mob/group and how many the British have to see if it is a 1/4, double etc. However long range casualties inflicted by artillery would only not be the sole cause of a reaction test roll. There is no section on the reaction chart titled "Receiving shooting casualties" for exactly this reason.

  3. Carlo,
    thanks for the summary, more pics and for calling me young :)

  4. Great stuff as always, Carlo. The Imperial players should definitely feel a shiver of trepidation the moment their first company and squadron steps off into the unknown. =)

    I like the enlarged illustrations from the Osprey book you have in your gaming room. It's long been a favourite of mine.

  5. Thanks AJ. This was actually a game we played on an open day about twelves to eighteen months ago and I had these prints for years waiting to use them. The hall where we had the game was a perfect place to hang them.

  6. That's my kind of umpiring! Keep on on the edge!

    1. Thanks Dave - you have to keep the Imperial players in line that's for sure! So important to have them always fearing what's over the next rise and giving each other a stern look when one if their colleagues has moved and exposed them to a mounted camel attack on the flank. Divide and conquer I say!!

  7. Hi Carlo. On page 28 it says Imperial troops can always fire when charged but on page 36 the Hussars do not. Are Imperial cavalry treated differently to foot troops? Thanks. Andy

  8. Hi Andy and thanks for the question mate. We have always considered imperial cavalry can only fire if dismounted as the effect of their firing whilst mounted woułd be considered largely ineffective in game mechanics.

    1. Ah. So the reduced fire factor reflects being dismounted and using carbines? Cheers for the clarification. Is the Mahdist Mounted fire factor also dependent on them being dismounted? Looking forward to your next post. Cheers. Andy

    2. Hi Andy - apologies mate as I may gave led you down the wrong path inadvertently here. You can fire mounted at anything if you are so armed however they fire is much reduced. If you dismount you fire at foot fire factors not mounted so much more effective. In the printed example the Hussars didn't fire to help illustrate a charge at the halt. You and I in a game would have fired for sure.

      Not sure what I was thinking in my last reply mate - apologies

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