A few weeks ago a couple of chaps from the Illustrious Reigate Club offered to help with my Sudan investigations. I have had some interest from people wanting to know if we still have the Sudan. Well the collection of figures went a while ago, so in order for me to decide whether to invest in a project of this magnitude I needed to test the rules.

A view of Khartoum from the Nile.

A view of Khartoum from the Nile. Gordon can just be made out on the roof, reviewing the situation.

Mark and Paul turned up with their collection of 20mm figures and terrain and what a collection it is, nearly a thousand Dervish infantry, two hundred mounted figures and around four hundred imperial troops. The Imperials included the Naval detachments, various British infantry regiments, the Camel Corps, Indian Cavalry and Infantry along with several battalions of Egyptian and Sudanese infantry and Cavalry.

Bullers Column

Bullers Column moves out.

The terrain consisted of Oasis, the Gunboat, Dhow’s, a walled town, a mausoleum long with several waddi’s and rocky outcrops.

The game involved several objectives for the various desert columns along with the Egyptian garrison at Khartoum. Characters were put forward for each of the players, Redvers Buller, Sir Stewart Graham, General Gordon and Major Kitchener. A quick review of the feature film “Khartoum” and we were off!
The play sheets are all laid out in an A5 sized booklet of three or four pages, the Dervish work on a reaction table, the Umpire, Mark and Paul in this case then use their logic and knowledge of the historical detail to move the figures around accordingly.

The Gunboat

The Gunboat, traversing the cataract and reaching the Rail head junction..

Kitchener was at the rail head attempting to get to Khartoum along with Graham coming across the desert with the Camel Corps. Redvers Buller had an entirely different mission, there was a European caravan that was under threat. He had to find it and get it back to base. Along the board edge there were ten playing cards placed, these represented entry points for the Mahdi’s troops.

At first there was quiet, just the hot breeze and the Sun, then Graham saw dust on the horizon, immediately the mounted infantry squadrons were sent out to investigate. Kitchener had a steep sided ravine to negotiate and just like something out of a 50’s western an ambush was anticipated. Buller came across a village of huts near a dry water course. Khartoum was quiet.

The snipers on the ravine.

The snipers on the ravine, with Kitchener in the distance.

Now as this was a play test of the rules we were expecting plenty of action, you know, just to test the rules!

Graham takes the brunt of an assault.

Graham takes the brunt of an assault.

Well…….we got it, Graham reported a few hundred Dervish moving toward them at a trot, the Mounted infantry fell back on the column.

Kitchener was fired upon by a group of Dervish at the top of the ravine, the Yorks and Lancs. infantry were sent forward to clear them out. His column continued it’s advance. Buller used his Indian regiments to flush out any Dervish in the village and it’s surrounding area. There were none found, so he formed up and moved on.

In Khartoum, Gordon made his rounds and the Garrison maintained it’s vigil.

The front of Khartoum

The front of Khartoum, all scratch built by Paul.

Graham’s encounter with the Dervish got worse, over the next few turns their numbers began to swell, word was out and the British troops were in for trouble. Kitchener’s infantry became embroiled in a fierce fire fight with the Dervish on the top of the Ravine, this was all made a lot worse by the emergence of several thousand more Dervish from the other end of the ravine, who now moved in on the British infantry.

Bullers troops ran into a thousand or more Dervish infantry, who came forward a frighteningly fast rate toward the Sikh regiment which was hastily forming into a battalion square, the rest of the column being the other side of the village moved as quick as it could toward the threat. Lastly, in Khartoum the locals began to get rowdy, from within the city at least 600 residents showed their support for the Mahdi and began marching to the armoury in the garrisons barracks. At the same time a Dhow’s were seen crossing the Nile with a strong contingent of Dervish aboard. If Khartoum fell with Gordon in it, all the other efforts would be for nothing!

Kitchener prepares to repel the assault from down the ravine.

Kitchener prepares to repel the assault from down the ravine..

The Dervish forces in front of Graham swelled further, he began to engage them at long range, which only served to fire them up further! Suddenly as one they sprang forward and from over a thousand paces began to rush toward the British lines. Kitchener discovered that a battery of captured Krupp guns were supporting the Dervish snipers and the large warband were taking heart from this and charged the British line facing the ravine. The Yorks and Lancs retired to the safety of the British Lines, this gave the snipers further courage and their fire picked up immediately, British troops started to fall at an alarming rate.

Buller’s Indian troops engaged the Dervish rushing them with well timed volleys, slowly driving the mass back! Then just as they appeared broken it was thought a final volley would see them off. Ten paces forward for the firing line, ready, aim, fire!!!! “They’re coming back Sir, I think we’ve really browned them off!!”, was the cry from the Lieutenant of the Sikh battalion. It appeared that nothing would stop this maddened counter attack and at least a hundred Dervish reached the Sikh lines! All hell let loose, a furious melee erupted with over sixty casualties among the Sikh troops. Finally though they managed to see the Dervish mob off and those that were left fell back to shadow the Imperial troops.

In Khartoum the Egyptian garrison moved to engage the mob outside the armoury, the volleys couldn’t stop them and the first Egyptian company was overrun. Another company was sent to the bank of the Nile, volleys were fired into the Dervish aboard the Dhow’s. This didn’t stop them and the ensuing melee saw the Egyptians falling back on the Palace. From the walls of the City a note came telling of a force on excess of ten thousand which was moving toward the walls, Baggara tribesmen were leading the way toward a weak spot in the wall (they had already scouted the area earlier). Three companies manned the walls, ready to repel the attackers, but what of the attackers within? The garrison had already lost forty percent of it’s effectives and still the Dervish were running amok in the City. Luckily some well timed volleys put the large mob from the locals out of action, they dissipated back into their homes. Only the river Dervish remained and they had lost a lot of men at the landing.
On came the Dervish to the walls, one of the Mahdi’s Emir’s was leading the attack. Ladders were thrown up, guns blazed from the defenders and a last “mad minute” was used by them to cause the attackers to fall back. A brief respite!

Kitchener leaves the rail head.

Kitchener leaves the rail head.

Graham and Kitchener were under mounting pressure, although neither had lost many casualties, while the same could not be said for the supporters of the Mahdi. The Dervish forces fell back and began to shadow the Imperial troops awaiting support no doubt. Kitchener saw a Mausoleum in the distance and suspecting the worst led his troops toward it. Moments later from the very sand itself a force of over a three thousand Dervish sprang up and rushed the advancing Imperials. Forming lines they gave fire at effective range, another “mad minute” and the Dervish were falling back to the Waddi they had sprung from!

Well there was a lot more action than this and a great amount of excitement, obviously I have condensed this into a few key actions. Altogether it was great fun and I will certainly be considering my options in adding this to the portfolio of the Wargames Holiday Centre as a holiday weekend, or even a mid week day!

Graham's column prepares to repel his first attack.

Graham's column prepares to repel his first attack.

I would also offer that here at the Wargames Holiday Centre we have the advantage of conducting this all in 28mm, new terrain boards along with all the necessary terrain will be made and all the followers of the Mahdi along with the Imperials will be painted and based to our usual high standards in attempt to relive those Halcyon days with Peter Gilder and his Sudan expeditions!

Last but nit least, my thanks go to Paul and Mark for taking the time to put this on for us at the WHC. Along with Noel, Julian and Stephen for manning the guns and keeping the discipline during the hottest moments!