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.

7 December 2014

The Battle for Osira - "Stand firm the Tenth!"

The 9th Bengal Lancers continue to harass the enemy
 The last post left the force holding Osira in a pretty pickle.

The drums had stopped beating and the forces that had been massing off table all appeared at the same time intent on charging the nearest Imperial troops and putting an end to the British hold in this region.

As the sun shines in the east the Sudanese 10th Regiment prepares to receive the enemy assault.

Back at the outlying buildings on the plain the Dragoon Guards provide cover whilst the engineers set about their work.
Turning "D" and "E" Companies to face the enemy that has appeared out of the dust to their rear as the local Emir cavorts his local followers into an absolute frenzy.  Surely nothing can save them now!

A view up the table as Fuzzies enter from the left rear of the relieving column. 
Yorks and Lancs, Highlanders and the all important supplies head closer and closer to Osira.  However will there be a force to relieve?

The 19th Hussars remnants protect the flanks of the column.  The Mahdists have taken quite a few of them down with them as only 80 men out of 120 are still in the saddle at this point.
The enemy weapon supplies go up finally.  First part of the operation complete.  "Well done Carruthers!"

The Naval Escort, Gardener Gun and "C" Company take on enemy mounted whilst on their left the other companies fight on for their life.  Used this photo in the last post as well so apologies but it does give an excellent feel of the precariousness of the Imperial situation at this point.  Umpire is all smiles at this stage!
At this stage of the battle it certainly looked like curtains for the troops at Osira.  The 10th was hit on two sides and both "D" and "E" Companies were wiped out to a man after the Mahdist had managed to remain in combat for three successive turns.  In the end sheer numbers told on the beleaguered native troops and their British officers.

Thankfully "C" Company managed to see off the enemy mounted to their front with relative comfort.

"C" Company is hit on the flank as the Mahdist prepare to roll up the flank.  The 6th Egyptians rapidly move up to try and stem what will no doubt be a massacre if the Mahdists are able to remain in combat.

 In The Sands of Sudan, you can only turn the end figures to face if hit on the flank.  So this combat between the 10th and the Mahdsits would be critical even though the damage would not be great in terms of casualties. 

The Mahdist player (the Umpire) was feeling very confident at this stage and the game was only a good melee dice roll away from reaching the point of no return.  Amazingly the Sudanese regulars won the melee through some great dice.  Their was so much disgust that photographic evidence seems to be lacking.

Thank goodness!

The 15th Sikhs, determined there would be no more nasty surprises in the mimosa set up a defencive line.
"The problem with this place Archibald is there is never anywhere to damn well park!"

All was not lost however for the Mahdists.  The large forces advancing at rapid pace were still on a charge reaction and were closing with the Cameron Highlanders to the rear of the column
The brave Fuzzies hit the line after taking horrendous shooting casualties coming in.  The rules carry over these shooting casualties into the first round of melee making a very effective combat system quite fluid and decisive.

A view from the Mahdist side...really need to finish some of those bases and touch up a few more figures.  Wear and tear over the years can be a bit of a nuisance.  At least the boys are on the table though!
Colonel Forster redresses the ranks and prepares to provide fire support
The Fuzzies in the centre are now spent and their supporting warriors are now decimated by the Dragoon Guards flanking fire.  In the rear the Ansar reinforcements have copped a hiding from the Scots and their artillery as they make their way off the table to fight another day.

The supplies make their way to Osira.

As the Bengal Lancers mop up the battlefield in the background men take the opportunity to see to their mates and thanks God, Queen and Country for surviving another action in the desert sands.
 The battle had been hard fought and in the end was very much decided by the steadfastness of the Sudanese 10th Battalion at Osira.  The ability of its men to take the attack from the flank and turn it into a victory provided enough time for the remaining companies to defeat a fierce mounted foe.

The battle had not been without loss for the Imperial players.  The 10th Sudanese had lost two companies of men and the Naval Escort had lost 20 men as well.

The 6th Egyptian Regiment had lost 50 men and all other Imperial units were in reasonable shape though the Scottish Battery "A" Section had suffered 20 casualties from the counter battery duel between themselves and the captured Egyptian gunners in the rear.

The 9th Bengal Lancers, who had been decisive on the field at every turn, had lost 160 of 240 officers and other ranks from the action.  The 19th Hussars had similarly only 60 survivors from their two squadrons and methinks General Graham may well be asking questions of how his valuable cavalry was so mauled in this encounter!

The relief column was assisted by an unlucky run of Random Event cards by the Mahdists who were slow to muster their forces and when they did, the numbers were not as great as they would have hoped.

The game was great fun and certainly helped highlight the benefit of the game system and how well it flows with many figures on the table and the constant changing events and circumstances of the battle. .

Some more thoughts on the game and some scenario tips and design notes to follow in the week chaps.

1 December 2014

Relieving the column at Osira - Sudan Battle Report

Things get interesting around Osira later in the battle.

A few of the boys from the NWS and I decided we would play a game to help celebrate the publication of the rules and the fact that the chap writing this blog was a year older at the same time!  So, with a hurried series of emails (whatever happened to written and posted invitations by the way?) Mike and Martin arrived at my place to have a rumble upstairs in the wargames room.

The scenario was that General Ward was tasked with relieving Colonel Streets command that had found itself under intense pressure at a small Nile town just near Osira on the important supply lines for the Imperial forces.  Local Mahdists had set up very effective harassment points around the cataracts of the great river and had been using captured artillery to cause havoc amongst local shipping and supply barges.

Colonel Street had arrived with the 6th Egyptian Regiment, 10th Sudanese Battalion, a Naval Escort from the Gunboat Sapphire as well as Nordenfelt and "A" sections screw gun from the Royal Artillery Southern Division.  The force had proved insufficient to clear the opposition from the vantage points on the river and had also disoverd a vast cache of ammunition and weapons in a nearby village.

The set-up looking down the table from the Nile and the Osira outlying village buildings.

Screw guns secure against the building walls and the 6th Egyptians in support.

10th Sudanese with their British Officers view the unfolding events with some trepidation.  Will the relief column get through or is it curtains for Colonel Street and his weakened brigade?

General Wards relief column deploy and prepare to move to secure this portion of the theatre of war.

General Wards column consisted of the great man himself, four companies of the the 4th Dragoon Guards mounted and resplendent on their "ships of the desert", two sections of the Royal Scottish Artillery Battery, the 15th Sikhs, The Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, The Cameron Highlanders, two squadrons of the 9th Bengal Lancers and finally two squadrons of the 19th Hussars. 

In addition they also had sufficient munitions and explosives to destroy the enemy weapons supply as another task for their military mission.

The 19th Hussars looking quite confident in the day ahead...mmmm!!

Bengal Lancers recently arrived from the sub-continent preparing for some desert hi jinks!

Dragoon Guards looking quite the part mounted on their camels...all 48 of them.

The brave and wily Fuzzy Wuzzies - a very determined and respected foe.

The column advances down the table with the cavalry brigade making good ground on the left flank.
The battle was to prove the perfect opportunity to give the new design of the rules a good working out as well as using the full deck of Random Event Cards to see what would be forthcoming.

Captured gunners fire on the rear of the column during the earthquake! (ok leant on the tiles at the wrong time)

Ambush at the wadi.  The 19th send off two troops of horse to dispatch the irritants.
On the Imperial right the Guards dismount to take to the village whilst the artillery unlimber to deal with the unexpected artillery threat to the rear.  However has anyone remembered to bring up those explosive laden camels?
Two companies assume the position.  Once again lovely Connoisseur castings who are, by the way, under the new stewardship of James Daniels.  Congartulations James!
The Fuzzies advance on Osira whilst the Egyptians start a withering hail of fire in an attempt to stop their rush.

The 200 Mahdist spearmen lying in wait wish they had stayed a littlee lower for a little longer.

Scottish Artillery look to find their range in some counter battery fire.
Back at Osira the Fuzzies attempt to end the battle early with an almighty push...

...and are sent on their way by a sturdy resistant white wall.
Another ambush is sprung by the Guards.
15th Sikhs move up in support.  Still cant see those camels and explosives.
The Bengal Lancers meet some Ansar in the centre of the table and waste no time running them down.

The Native Shepherd makes an early appearance...and "Yes" some relief may well arrive from up the river however he cannot guarantee that will happen within 20 turns.  "Yes" with a smile as he wanders away.
  At this point another Random Event Card announced that a Dust Storm had hit the area and that all visibility was reduced to 24 inches for 1d10 turns.

The artillery look to maximise target opportunities whilst our trusty Captain of Engineers and his load of explosive camels sit and wait for the invitation to join the rest of the lads at the weapons supply.

15th Sikhs move up to support the Guards.

The next interesting Random Event Card which was drawn was one of special significance.  The desert air was suddenly filled with the tom-tom-tomming of native drums.  From now on all enemy forces drawn to come on are rolled for to determine type and what direction they may enter the table however they are hoarded off table until the drums stop.  Once this happens they are all placed on the battlefield and charge.

A view from down the table showing the unfolding events.
Egyptians enjoy the view.

The 9th Bengal Lancers introduce themselves to some locals.

Finally General Ward has his supplies into the village area where they can now be deployed.

Turn nine and all looks pretty good for the Imperial columns.  Relief is now only another six or seven moves away...

...the 4th Dragoon Guards have established a defensible position whilst the engineers do their work.
 Then suddenly silence...

The drums stopped.

With a blood curdling chorus of screams the table edges filled with mighty Fuzzy Wuzzies and Hadendowah.

Mahdists appear on the flank of the Hussars...
...in the rear to give praise to the Mahdist overseer at the guns and heap abuse on the captured Egyptian gunners chained to the axles so they cannot run off the field!
...on the Imperial right flank...

However despite the massive increase in the Mahdist numbers on the field, the Imperial forces still remained supremely confident.  As the forces were being deployed tribe by tribe Martin quipped "Well at least they haven't appeared in our rear".

...fresh guns on the flank...

No troops in the rear...think again lads!!

The battle was now precariously poised.  What would be the outcome?

We may have to wait until later in the week to see if the column triumphs or fades away into the desert sands!

Until then all the very best.