Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Battles for Empire test

As in previous years the Sunday after the Phalanx show at St Helens an all-day game is organised by Steve.  This year it is a colonial game, set in the Sudan.  Previously we have used the "Sword and the Flame" rules but they become rather slow when dealing with several players and lots of units.  This led Steve and I to try out the "Battles for Empire" rules.  It required some re-basing, but this had the advantage (?) of increasing the number of Dervish units.

I commanded the Imperial force, with an Egyptian brigade (2 units of foot, one of cavalry and 2 guns) and a British brigade (3 units of foot, 1 mounted infantry and 1 lancer unit,plus 2 guns).  The British brigade advanced on the enemy controlled village, the lancers initially 'bold' quickly became 'unsure' and took some casualties from the Arab skirmishers before being persuaded to charge home.

On the opposite flank the Egyptians were faced by a horde of Dervish cavalry and the Egyptian cavalry rather foolishly (mea culpa) charged the leading unit.  In no time the remnants of the Egyptians were streaming back towards the base line.  Unfortunately, they didn't 'stream' quickly enough and were caught by the Dervish cavalry which followed up.  First blood to the Dervish.

The next move by the Egyptian commander was far more sensible, he formed his infantry into square and deployed his guns in support.  As the Dervish cavalry advanced they were subjected to intense fire (Imperial troops can opt for 'rapid fire' which increases their chances of inflicting hits although at the risk of running low on ammunition).  This tactic was successful in driving off three or four Dervish attacks, but 'low ammo' results did eventually allow the Dervish to close.

Another good feature is the reduced effectiveness of the final volley by defenders as the enemy close,perhaps reflecting the morale effect of not stopping the charge. 

Artillery is used to 'unsettle' the enemy rather than kill.  It is the machine guns which are more effective in that role.  Though again, a clever rule mechanism means that the more fire the machine guns lay down the greater the chance of a 'jam'. (I found the guns fell silent after last ditch attempts to stop Dervish charges and had to wait nervously for the jams to be cleared).

If the Imperial troops can deploy their superior fire power against Dervish troops advancing across open terrain then the chances are the charge will be stopped. However, if the Imperial troops have to advance then this needs to be done with care.  Any movement, or change of facing/formation means that the unit cannot fire.  With Dervish infantry capable of moves up to 12 inches (cavalry 18 inches) and initiative diced for at the beginning of each turn the enemy can be on you before you expect it.

The trial was a success and I am looking forward to the game on Sunday.



  1. Hello. I was wondering if you are using the first or second edition. I enjoyed your report, but there are a couple of rule references that are not in line with the revised rules.

    1. Hello Chris
      We haven't had a Sudan game for 3 months so I would need to look up the rules. Steve has amended the rules slightly to speed up the game. Was there something in particular you wanted to know about?