12 May 2016

"The Sands of Sudan" - A few questions and answers

"Excuse me sir...may I ask a question please?"
Since "The Sands of Sudan" rules were published a little over 18 months ago I have been very fortunate to have received a great number of accounts of games played and battles fought using the rules and not only for the Sudan but other theatres such as Zulu Wars etc.

Good mate Gerry Elliot, immediate past owner of the legendary Wargames Holiday Centre and Dave Docherty, painter to the stars and all-round wargaming icon have been playing some wonderful games on a table that is as big as most peoples houses!  Check out what they have be up to here at "The Situation Room".

Being the intelligent men that they are, and wanting to get maximum enjoyment out of the games system they had a few questions which I though I would put upon the blog to get a dialogue going, not only for them but also for all those playing the rules or looking at giving them a go in the future.

Can we explain the turn sequence a bit more especially charge declarations and when/how these are done in sequence?

The Turn Sequence on page 6 details the process reasonably simply.  After Mahdists have reacted they move according to those random dice and the chart detailing their present situation best.

We have also added unofficially(soon to be official- thanks AJ)  the fact that a unit with an Emir attached can alter the result as on the Mahdist Reaction Chart up or down one letter to the one most favourable to the force that's testing.

For example a Mahdist force without an Emir that's testing for 'Unknown enemy' (due to the sounds of a fire fight out of their line of sight, perhaps) gets a dice roll of 3. The result on the chart is 'E - Head for nearest high ground.' With an Emir in command that result could stay the same, or go down to 'D - Head for firing,' or up to 'F/D - Head for known friends/firing,' whichever would cause most pain to the Imperial player.

This applies to all reaction tests when a unit is lead by an Emir EXCEPT WHEN ENGAGED IN MELEE. 

The melee rules are very finely balanced as and so the chance of a Mahdist unit remaining in contact after the first round still remains 1 in 6.

So if we go back to the original question, the Mahdist who gets a "Charge" result will move into contact in his very next movement phase.

For the Imperial player, he then moves his charges and then all other troops.  He cannot move and then declare a charge in the same turn.  He can also move some troops first and then charge others that are now able to access the enemy.

For example in a square he may wish to change formation from line to column for a few companies so some lancers sheltering in the inside can then charge out and hit the advancing Fuzzies.  As long as they can reach the enemy in that 1/2 a move (that's what it takes infantry to change formation from line to column) then the order he does it in is not critical.

Who pursues?  What are the mechanics?  When and how does this happen?

In "The Sands of Sudan" the only chaps who ever get a chance to really pursue are the Imperial troops.  Look at pursuit as a charge in another form and happening in the same part of the turn i.e. part 4 of the sequence.

Mahdists never pursue as the Imperial player never breaks - he either wins the combat or dies to the last man.

If he wipes out the enemy the Mahdist unit will react again next period.  The Umpire will roll 2d6 and refer to the Mahdist Reaction chart on page 18, referring to the circumstances under the heading "Winning:cut down" which will mean that 66% of the time he will go looking to charge into the nearest enemy.

If the Mahdist in contact need to test due to losing or losing badly and get a "Withdraw out of range at evade speed" they move away (evade speed and pursued speed are the same by the way, a small quirk in keeping the Gilder language in the rules) then the Imperial player gets the opportunity to charge them again if he has the movement or fresh units with the movement rate to do so e.g. that cavalry squadron over the hill etc. This is the advantage the Imperial players have as they do move after the Mahdists.

A charge in the rules however you can also interpret it as a pursuit by any other name.

Can Imperial troops break off combat from the enemy?

In terms of being able to break-off from the enemy that's an interesting one.

I certainly wouldn't allow infantry or artillery to do so however cavalry who still have an officer (the senior officer in the formation) in command might be able to do so on a roll of a 1-5 on 1d6.  A 6 means he is too far away from his trumpeter and they command cannot get the order through.

Perhaps reduce the chances by one for every wound he has sustained so that a roll of 1, 2 or 3 is needed if he has two wounds on him.   Interested how this plays for anyone deciding to give it a go so please relate your experiences back.

If they succeed in sounding the retreat , they could do then do so at pursued speed (6" + 2d6) meaning their is a risk that they don't get that far away and get charged in the rear the next turn if the Mahdists get the right reaction test roll.

Just enough uncertainty to make it a potentially fatal ploy.

I like it!

"They tried to break off.  One minute they were here and then the next...poof!"

What constitutes a change of circumstances in the Mahdist Reaction tests for "the bad guys"?

I always tend to umpire games, so in my opinion the Mahdists are always the good guys.  I am sticking to that!

Seriously though it is a good question.

Page 18 of the rules states "Mahdist Reaction" discusses the circumstances when a reaction test is required: a - Following a melee, b- second turn after arriving on the battlefield and c - following any change in circumstances e.g. enemy troops become visible.

So lets say a unit of 200 Mahdist spears have arrived on the table last turn.  They now need to make their first reaction test. 

Lets assume a scouting squadron of Bengal Lancers is visible within 72" of them and on the plains so considered to be "In the Open". 

They have 12 enemy figures visible and they themselves consist of 20 figures so we go to the "1/2 own" strength in figures row on the chart.

Lets further assume they roll an 8 on 2d6 which gives them a "A" result - Charge or move to charge ASAP.  So they set off at charge speed (their fastest pace 15") to try and engage the lancers.

Let us now assume one last time for this example that as the Bengal Lancers withdraw the Mahdist spears headlong approach takes them near a rise where a battalion of Scots Guards and awaiting in line - all sixty figures of them!  He nearest enemy is double their own strength and the umpire notes that next period this unit will need to start the turn by testing reaction.

General Reaction tests such as "Friends winning", "Firing heard" are all pretty self-explanatory and rely on common sense approaches as well.  No point rolling for "Friends losing" if that has happened at the other end of a table with a big range of hills in the way.  Changes of circumstances are those that can be realistically seen or heard. 

Keep the questions coming please.


  1. A succinct write-up, Carlo. Peter tended not to allow Imperial pursuit of defeated Mahdists who got the 'Withdraw out of range' result. He simply placed them just beyond the longest ranged weapon the Imperial forces had in that encounter, so the Mahdists tended to remain a threat in being - a bit naughty!

    I handle Imperial cavalry attempting to break off combat by just rolling the die to determine how far they get. If they escape, well and good, otherwise Fuzzy-Wuzzy catches 'em and slices 'em up like a kipper... er, that is to say, the Imperial force is caught and can only fight at half effect.

    Thanks for the link to The Situation Room. Nice stuff on there.

    1. Hi AJ - yes the breaking off of cavalry makes sense to me and I will introduce it into my games to make sure it all works. I do like the idea of altering it with the wounds the officer commanding has taken as well.

      Gerrys room is sensational!

  2. Looking forward to playing a game with the rules soon I hope


    1. Thanks Matty - are you building up 15 mm or 28 mm for this? I would imagine either way you would knock out enough figures for Omdurman in a month!

      Any luck with Scott W's address yet buddy?

  3. Thanks Carlo....very helpful..!

    1. Thanks Dave and definitely keep them coming mate - keeps them alive and evolving. The biggest issue as you know with a set if rules which were all in the great Peter Gilders head is sifting through the machinations which keep the game flowing and fluid for 21st century wargamers. It is a difficult balancing act which does need constant refinement.

  4. Replies
    1. Thank you Juan. Definitely looking forward to a few shots of done of your games in action.

  5. Would be interested in your thoughts on multiple mahdist units visible to each other with an Imperial force visible. Should each unit test based on its own strength or on that of all combined visible friendly mahdist units? The latter would give the effect of them feeling confident in their overall force rather than just their own unit.
    Any news yet on the eagerly awaited campaign and scenario book?
    We have our first paying full Sudan weekend mid June at Legendary Wargames, so watch out for the post on our website.

    1. Hi Andy - they should test individually. In order to test collectively they would need to get the result "Join and imitate friends" whereby they would for the kind of mob that the Imperial players fear so much.
      Slow going on the campaign book but still progressing. My sons extremely active sports and music school activities are demanding a fair bit of spare time so present ( as they should) do if is trickling at present...but progressing.

      Looking forward to your AAR up and stacks of wonderful photographs!

  6. Sorry, my question was whether in terms of ratio of Mahdists to Imperial you should add all visible units together for the individual tests. Eg. If 5 units of 200 can all see each other and can see a force of 400 imperial, should each of the 5 test as outnumbering the imperials by 2 to 1, or as being only half the imperial size?

    1. Hi Andy - that is what I thought you were asking. Yes, they test individually as the unit is still only that unit. They may well have many friends around however they are still acting as a "tribe" or "clan" if you will. They can only test as one if all five rolled the reaction test to join and imitate friends.

  7. Hi Carlo. I appreciate that all the tests would need to be done individually, but in terms of determining the result, should rhe support of the other tribes coukd in calculating the ratio, thus reflecting their confidence?

  8. No Andy. If the unit testing has 20 figures and he has an enemy unit with 40 figures in it the odds are double. Or "twice as many" If he has another three friendly units all of 20 figures each in the vicinity it is still testing as being outnumbered by twice as many. It is about that unit testing as that unit, not as a group or "brigade" where if they were all taken into consideration they Mahdists would suddenly be double the Imperals. The fragmented, uncoordinated actions of the native forces needs to be paramount. I hope that makes sense and helps clarify your query.

  9. That's great thanks. To be honest we have always played it that way anyway, and I thought that was the aim. I had just wondered if we had it wrong, and wanted to ensure we can give our customers the correct game. Keep up the good work. This site is always my daily blog check along with Lonely Gamers as the content and piccies are always so interesting. Cheers again.

  10. That's great thanks. To be honest we have always played it that way anyway, and I thought that was the aim. I had just wondered if we had it wrong, and wanted to ensure we can give our customers the correct game. Keep up the good work. This site is always my daily blog check along with Lonely Gamers as the content and piccies are always so interesting. Cheers again.

    1. Thanks Andy - Nathan and I go back a fair way even though we are a continent apart and he is a true gentlemen of wargaming. His blog is sensational ...you have exceptional taste.

  11. Hi Carlo, I'm back. Busy with hoards of Napoleonics. Just flagged 54 units!!
    I'll try and go through things sensibly.
    page 6. Turn Sequence. The point talked about in the game were twofold. Firstly, do both sides "secretly" declare charges?
    We know that the "baddies" are acting compulsory, but lets assume they have to advance to contact and 2 enemy units are in reach, both at the same range. Do they choose?
    Secondly, lets assume the Imperialists declare a charge. The logic of the mechanics and your answer appear to describe the following.
    The "baddies" always move first, irrespective of what, if any, Imperial charges are declared. Following this is the logic that if this is the case, then Imperialists just declare what they want to do when it gets to point 4 in the sequence.
    Implicit in this sequence is the following. "Baddies" must charge. Imperialist gun battery, with flank exposed, is in range. At the same time, an Imperialist cavalry unit is in range of the "baddies" and if move rates were prorated, then the cavalry would contact the "baddies" before the "baddies" contacted the gun flank.
    The sequence, as written says the "baddies" move first and contact the guns. The cavalry are impotent. This flies in the face of too much for me. This is why the question arose. We had "baddies" charging a gun battery, alright, flanked by two deployed btns and would get blasted. The cavalry were to the "baddies" rear and given the respective move distances could contact the "baddies" before they contacted the Imperialists: IF CHARGE MOVES WERE SIMULTANEOUS.
    The game play is obvious.
    This is why the question got raised. We think "charges" should be included at sequence point 2.

    Regards the Emir, we played that he could change all reaction dies rolls by +1 or -1.

    Regards pursuits, you are essentially saying they don't exist. Its the same as a charge. I think I've covered charges, having it at 4 in the sequence is the wrong place for me. I'd like to see pursuits, as these tended to happen when discipline lapsed after a success, to be a potentially compulsory action. I'd like something like roll 1d10 after a melee. On a 10, the Imperialist pursues, compulsory, in section 4 of movement. Add +1 if Egyptian, +1 if Sunday etc etc.

    I still think the change of circumstances needs expanding. The one that happened to us was for a "baddies" unit to get a reaction to charge, the enemy being just under 72" distant. So the "baddies" go on their merry way. What is not clear are things like: what if previously unseen enemy become visible and are closer? I see the example you gave and the "baddies" change direction and retested. Would you retest every time the "visible troop multiplier" changed? What if an Emir joins the "baddies"? Can he claim a change of circumstance? What if a sand storm descends and no one is visible, but the sand storm only lasts a turn?

    I would also be tempted, after more game play, to consider the range troops fire at when charged. Rather than point blank, I'd be tempted to bring in a "Grand Manner" mechanic of "apparent range". I think it might be needed for pitched battles when they are developed.

    Lastly, for now, I can see no use for a General!?!?!

    Most importantly, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

    1. Yep, I like the changed sequence , and the roll for range of firing... A simple lift and shift of something like the veteran numbers.. With generals giving appropriate pluses..

    2. Hi Ged and Dave - apologies for only just seeing this. Will cone back with a detailed reply shortly however I do like several aspects of what you have described as a tweak.

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  13. Quick new question. Can a battalion elect to fire by company instead ofrisking an all or nothing roll of the dice when shooting. I ask this asthere are times when it may be necessary such as when a company has lost its officer and cannot rapid fire.

    1. Yes it can WB however be careful as you may be rolling a LOT of times for firing. The approach when firing a battalion "Rapid Fire" and one of the companies has lost its Company Commander may well be the perfect example of when to allow it however I would hate to think how much it would add to the time of the game being played out if players elected to fire by company all the time. I am sure that is not what you are asking though.

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  15. Hello Carlo.... Just a couple of questions about the rules. On the reaction result chart there is a "W" which means "fortify" However there does not appear to be a "W" on the reaction chart. There is a "Z" which also says "fortify" Being good Muslims i assume fortify does not mean " open a bottle of Scotch " So having fortified does this effect Imperial fire and melee on that position? Next question... If for example 400 spear charge from outside their charge distance and receive fire do they then test for change of circumstance or continue next move in their mad charge to make contact? If the latter are the casualties from what would now be 2 lots of received fire cumulative when it comes to working out the melee result or just the final fire casualties before contact? And finally Assuming "drums have started " and that they have stopped and all melees etc have been worked out are all the used cards put back in the pack shuffled and then continue the game or is there another procedure. Sorry if these questions are a bit dumb but my friends and i who have been wargaming for at least 40 years EACH [yes we are all experienced gamers] are having so much fun playing these rules and want to get it right. Thanks Carlo....Bren

    1. Hi Brendan - firstly apologies for having missed these questions for so long. I have modified my comments section of the blog with moderation for all comments so I will see these immediately in future.
      "W" fortify - ABSOLUTELY CORRECT. There is no W on the chart but I left it in as homage to Peter Gilder and in the hope that the small typo would eventually be explained. Fortifying a position enables the Mahadists to receive the benefit of the Imperial firing unit being penalised with a -3 of being in prepared cover.

      The second question is a great one. If they are on a charge or move to charge ASAP result I would not change the result due to additional fire. Let the boys charge in and get to grips with those Imperial devils as quickly as possible. In terms of the two fire results and if they both apply the answer is no - only the firing casualties they receive in the same turn they will also melee in count for "Win" or "Lose" results.
      When the drums stop everyone charges if they can. Grab all the cards again and do exactly what you have stated shuffle and go from the start. However I would imagine that to be a pretty long game. Try and set the game to a number of turns - perhaps 24 or 30 to give the Imperial players the incentive to get on with the mission rather than to just sit in squares and shoot the natives to pieces. The objectives in these games are critical and set the scene and pace for the players and the umpire. That's where all the fun comes from Brendan and from the sound of it you all have that aspect well in hand. Great to hear you are enjoying them so much and keep the questions coming - please.