Our group completed a Sudan game this week. I took the part of the Imperial forces and jolly unpleasant it was too. The brief was to defeat a Dervish force which was barring access to an oasis. The rules we used included a random movement mechanism, which meant that you could have several moves without your opponent being able to interfere, providing the cards were in your favour. Casualties (shooting and melee), were inflicted by rolling sixes on normal dice.
The Imperial forces were deployed in a formation enabling them to form square quickly if attacked; given the amount of cover on the table this was essential. However, it did make for slow progress, as the distance moved depended on the total rolled on 2d6. Not all the allowance had to be used, so good rolls tended to 'rounded down' to try and keep formation.
The game began with each side getting a couple of moves together, so I had half my square four or five inches ahead of the remainder. Then the Dervish forces had a run of 6 black cards which meant that suddenly I was attacked without the chance to fire a volley. The melee did not go well; the casualty return was something like 6 - 0 in the Dervish favour and then they fell back. A small unit of cavalry investigated a wadi on my left flank and were overwhelmed by Dervish cavalry (another run of black cards plus an inability to roll 6's).
For the next hour waves of Dervishes attacked the dwindling square whilst my troops seemed to be armed with sticks of celery rather than bayonets. The lack of 'hits' I inflicted became so marked, that at one point the umpire enquired if I was using average dice! My cavalry had been depleted by fire from one Dervish unit and so had only a 50/50 chance of charging. A fresh Dervish unit had charged the Highlanders who had already suffered one third losses and the wagon train of wounded was threatened. The cavalry passed the test to charge, but their movement dice were sufficient to move them all but the last half an inch to their target. Another red card gave me another chance to assist the Highlanders, but the Indian unit failed their test.
Fortunately, the ensuing melee went my way and the wounded were saved, for a time at least.
Eventually things did improve, one of the machine guns got into position and, bolstered by a lucky run of red cards inflicted sufficient casulaties to eliminate two of the Dervish formations. This meant that the way was open to attack the oasis,but with two thirds of my force dead, wounded or missing, such an attack was impossible. It was one of those nights we all experience, when the dice,cards or whatever random factors we use, seem to be against us.
This weekend a far diferent game took place, involving a force of medieval knights and some WW2 paratroopers. My grandson had come to visit and brought his soldiers with him. The game was set up on the kitchen table, we had some simple rules and lots of fun. In the end I was defeated, again, but there was lots of enjoyment from just 'playing'. Which is, after all, what it is all about.
Daniel Defoe Memoirs of a cavalier (1720)
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