Thursday, 17 September 2015

In the desert once again

For the last month a combination of holidays and other commitments has called a halt to our usual weekly game.  Just before the break Steve organised a Sudan scenario using the Battles for Empire rules as usual.  The Imperial troops are trying to recover a cache of weapons which the dervishes have obtained after successfully ambushing a supply column.  The location of the weapons is not known to the Imperial player, but it is likely to be in one of three settlements.  As we have the Dervish forces hidden and Steve sets up the table before I arrive, I usually take command of the Imperial forces.  With two units of cavalry, four units of mounted infantry and two guns (one machine gun and one artillery piece), I did not have sufficient fores to attack across the full width of the table, so I concentrated on my left, leaving a small force to cover my flank.

The table from the Imperial right
As my leading unit of mounted infantry probed towards the village on the left it was attacked by tribesmen lurking in some broken ground.  Fortunately, they manged to dismount and form a firing line.  Their rapid fire stopped the tribesmen in their tracks and drove them from the field in disorderly rout.  However, in the centre, another unit of mounted infantry  was ambushed by two units of Dervish  infantry and cut to pieces before supports could come to their aid.

The infantry beat off a Dervish attack
After this the balance of the game swung back and forth.  Steve used his numerous cavalry to threaten my flanks and rear and the Lancers were fully employed dealing with one crisis after another.  Where I manged to establish a firing line with sufficient open ground before it, the Imperial troops managed to deal with the Dervish charges.  When the charges came in from close range I tended to suffer heavy casualties in the ensuing melee.  Although the imperial units were tough, repeated charges wore them down.

The Lancers in action
By the end of the game I had managed to capture one village and drive the defenders from a second (the Royal Artillery really earned their corn in this action, subduing the enemy artillery and giving close support to the infantry).  However, losses had been so severe that to attack the third village (which happened to be the location of the weapons), was beyond the remaining troops.

Dervish success
In the post-game discussions Steve and I discussed the relative strengths of the Dervish and Imperial troops and the latter's susceptibility to a gradual erosion of their strength.  With that in mind we decided to run the scenario, but with a different set of rules.  The choice was the "Blood on the Nile" supplement to the Black Powder  rules.

We used the same OOB and once again I took the part of the Imperial commander.  This time I opted to probe both flanks, ignoring the centre.  The Egyptian mounted infantry and cavalry, plus the machine gun pushed towards the village on my right, whilst three units of British mounted infantry were to attack the village on the left.  This left the Lancers and the Royal Artillery in the centre to support whichever flank needed help.  It soon became apparent that it was the Egyptians  who would need the help.  The mounted infantry had dismounted and formed line before moving forward and the cavalry had moved to cover their flank.  However, the machine failed its activation roll and its firepower would be greatly missed.  A unit of Dervish infantry broke cover and charged the Egyptians from close range.  Their closing volley was ineffectual and the Egyptians then failed their break test, falling back in disorder.  Before they could recover, they were charged and again broke, this time in rout.  On their flank the cavalry had been attacked by another unit of Dervishes.  They had counter-charged, but had lost the melee; so they too fell back, leaving the machine gun crew as 'Billy no mates' facing two enemy units.

Fortunately, the Lancers were able to intervene, (the long move distances being a great help), and quickly dispatched one unit of Dervishes.  The other was driven off by the machine gun, which then jammed.

Egyptian cavalry attacked in flank

Meanwhile, I was making slow progress on my left towards the village.  A Dervish attack was held, but it pushed one unit out of the firing line.  The two remaining units fired at the defenders of the village for a couple of rounds, but could make no impression.  As a last resort I ordered a charge, one unit went in, but the other held back, surely the attack was doomed?  Against the odds the Imperial troops prevailed and then for good measure beat off a counter attack, even without support !  As a bonus Steve's units routed, leaving me in possession of the village; which happened to have the cache of arms !!  Mission accomplished !!!

Once again we sat down and discussed how things had panned out.  "Blood on the Nile" gives a very different sort of game.  Move distances are vast (up to 54" for cavalry, which even on a 8 x 6 table seems over generous).  The ratings for the  Egyptian troops seem a little low. It would be necessary to have mixed brigades of Imperial troops,  without British units a whole brigade could be swamped. (especially with my ability to roll low dice).  Rifle fire seems ineffective.  Not one Imperial unit caused a disorder in a Dervish unit by rifle fire during the whole game (though allowance should be made for my dice rolling, 6's are like hen's teeth as far as I am concerned).  The rules also have large Dervish units (4 times the size of Imperial ones, up to 60 figures strong).

One definite improvement was the ability to "rally off" casualties; which meant that a unit to step  out of the action, recover and then join the firing line.

So the jury is out on "Blood on the Nile".  I suspect that we will tweak the rules a little, try out some more scenarios and see how things go.

1 comment:

  1. That's a very interesting approach - playing the same game twice in rapid succession with different rules. I'd be very interested to hear the results if you do it again.