Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Place of Many Paths; a Sudan scenario

Once again we returned to the Sudan last week and Steve had organised it so that there was a chance I would command the Dervishes for a change.  I duly rolled the dice and yes, I would be playing the part of Emir Khat, the Dervish leader, on this occasion.  My task was to prevent an Imperial force reaching the local supply centre (Amoh Kash), where a stockpile of arms and food had been assembled prior to a raid on the nearest river settlement.  The best place to take on the Imperial forces was an area of broken ground known locally as "The place of many paths".  An overview of the table set up can be seen below

The Imperial forces can be seen on the lower edge of the photograph, the British on the right (of course) and the Egyptians (or as the Dervish called them, the Turks) on the left.  I had four 'brigades' of infantry and two of cavalry, represented by 6 playing cards.  I also had 9 other cards as 'dummies'.  Before Steve started moving I placed the cards around the table disguising my deployment. I settled on placing 1 'brigade' of infantry at the oasis and another at the kidney shaped hill just in front of the Egyptians.  The remaining infantry and one of the cavalry brigades were behind the rocky ridge on the Imperial left.  My final cavalry unit was on my left behind the central area of broken ground along the table edge.

Below can be seen the first British move, led by the lancers, whilst the Egyptians in the background are yet to move.

The lancers discovered the force of Dervishes I had placed at the oasis and quickly back on their infantry who were preparing to meet the onrushing enemy with disciplined volleys.  Undaunted, the Dervishes charged forward into a veritable storm of lead.  In the face of heavy losses the charge slowed, stopped and then reeled back in a shambles.  Although a setback, the attack had succeeded in stopping the British advance, thus securing the flank of my main attack which was to fall on the  Egyptian brigade.

The British line stands firm
The Egyptian cavalry had also advanced quickly to try and locate Dervish troops.  As they rounded the hill to their left they came under fire from their flank. With their commander falling in the first ragged volley they struggled to maintain order.  This was not helped by a succession of shells from the Dervish artillery landing among the milling horsemen.  As the rifle fire intensified more men fell and all order was lost.  In no time the pitifully few survivors streamed to the rear, they would play no further part in the battle.
A surprise for the Egyptian infantry
As the Egyptian infantry neared the hill, they detected movement among the rocks.  They deployed into line just in time as two units of Dervish infantry rushed from concealment and charged towards them.  The ragged volley they managed before the native line closed was ineffective and soon a ruthless melee was in progress.  Although caught at a disadvantage the Egyptians were managing to hold their ground, until the Dervish cavalry intervened.

The Dervish cavalry break cover
They emerged from behind the rocks on the Egyptians' left flank.  The leading unit making straight for the melee, the two supporting units swinging to their right to then move towards the Imperial centre.  Under the impact of the enemy horsemen the Egyptian left flank unit was overwhelmed.  A stubborn core attempted to hold the line  but were cut down to a man.  The next unit distracted by the carnage to their left were cut down by their opponents; the whole Imperial left was now in danger.

The Egyptian line cracks
To increase the pressure further my final 'brigade' of infantry now broke cover on the Imperial left and followed the cavalry towards the Imperial centre.

Yet more Dervish infantry
On the Imperial right the British were feeling quite confident.  They had defeated the first Dervish charge with ease and a second one had also proved unsuccessful.  There was some annoying sniping from the Dervish riflemen, but everything seemed under control.  A unit of Highlanders supported by the Blue Jackets had moved left to bolster up the Egyptian line and and Dervish 'push' in the centre had been effectively snuffed out.  However, it was on the far right that danger threatened.  A unit of Dervish infantry broke cover and charged the lancers who were trying to manoeuvre  around some broken ground.  As they faced this new threat the lancers were then hit by a unit of camelry which seemed to appear from nowhere.  A second unit of camelry moved round the left flank of their comrades threatening to envelop the British line.   The Imperials deployed their artillery to meet this threat, driving back the second unit of camelry.  For the lancers there was to be no salvation.  Outnumbered and outflanked they were eventually wiped out as a fighting force, leaving the infantry to cope as best they could.

The lancers break
On the left the Egyptians began to think that they glimpsed a light at the end of the tunnel of Dervish attacks.  The machine gun, supporting the infantry managed to break up one attack and then a second withered away in the face of the rattling, spitting infernal machine.  Their comrades in the artillery also managed to halt one cavalry attack, but not a second which cut down the gunners and then galloped on towards the machine gun.  This had to turn to meet the new threat, depriving the infantry of support just as a third attack closed in.  To the right of the Egyptians the Blue Jackets had fought off attacks, but were growing weaker.  Orders were dispatched for the Highlanders to come to their aid, but they were under attack themselves.  At this crucial moment another Dervish attack charged home.  The Egyptians were cut down where they stood, the machine gun crew suffered the same fate as the Dervish cavalry swarmed round the Egyptian flank.  Fighting to the last the Blue Jackets upheld the honour of the senior service but they faced impossible odds.  Only the Highlanders survived.  They had the advantage of plenty of open ground to their front, allowing several volleys to be fired before the Dervishes reached their lines.  When they did, the Dervish were too weakened to break the line and the battered survivors limped back to their lines.

Success for the Egyptians
The Blue Jackets hold firm (for the moment)

The Highlanders defeat the final attack in the centre
By now the writing was on the wall for the Imperials.  All the Egyptian troops had been lost, two units were in melee, with five fresh units closing in.  The general situation can be seen in the photographs below.

Steve agreed on a Dervish victory, not as conclusive as that suffered by Hicks, but it would take some stout soldiering for the remaining British troops to fight their way back to the Nile.


  1. thanks, I enjoyed this most engaging scenario. Nice part of the game was the 'A surprise for the Egyptian infantry' as they approached the high ground, but held and then got hit my cavalry, the twists to that episode must have been nail bitingly enjoyable to both sides.

  2. A fun report and some lovely photos. Have a great Christmas.