Sunday, 24 October 2021

Was it all a trap? A Sudan scenario using Black Powder

For our latest game we ventured once again into the sands of the Sudan.  An attack on an Imperial camp by a local Dervish warlord has been repulsed and the Imperial commander, determined to dissuade such activity in the future has ordered that a force be sent out to chase down and capture the said warlord.  In the light of the small size of the attacking force and the ease with which they were driven off, the commander decided it was a job that the Egyptian forces could handle.  Therefore, a force of two brigades of infantry (each of 4 battalions) and a brigade of cavalry (2 units of horse and one of Bashi Bazouks), with attendant artillery (a field gun and a machine gun), were sent off in pursuit.  For two days the Egyptians followed the trail left by the Dervish into the shifting sands to the west of the Nile, but their quarry always managed to keep ahead of them.  Then on the morning of the third day, as they neared a low rocky ridge they found the Dervish force arrayed before them.  It was obvious that the raiding force had been reinforced as the Dervish had fallen back and the Egyptians found themselves considerably outnumbered.

The Dervish infantry occupying the ridge. 

The Dervish cavalry on the right

To a man, the Egyptians stopped and gazed at the host facing them.  The senior command seemed unsure on how to proceed (ie almost all their command rolls failed) and needing no invitation, the Dervish cavalry swept down on the Egyptian left wing.  Belatedly, the Egyptian cavalry moved to block this attack, but they had been deployed across the front of the Egyptian force and only one unit could get in position in time.  

The Dervish cavalry swoop on the Egyptian left

One Dervish cavalry unit attacked the Egyptian cavalry and two others bore down on an infantry battalion, leaving one unit of Dervish cavalry in reserve.  The cavalry melee was a prolonged affair, both units giving as good as they got, but the cavalry attack on the infantry was a much more one sided affair.  The Egyptians did not help their cause by firing a very ragged volley as the cavalry bore down on them.  There was some wavering in the ranks and the Dervish exploited the gaps with a vengeance.  In no time the infantry unit was reduced to a rabble racing towards their supply lines.  Exultant, the Dervish cavalry swept on towards the supporting Egyptian infantry unit.  

The Dervish cavalry crash into the Egyptian front line

The cavalry attack seemed to be the signal for the remainder of the Dervish force to sweep forward.  For their part the second Egyptian brigade were still trying to form a battle line and their attempts to fire volleys at the approaching tribesmen were severely hampered by the movement of the Egyptian cavalry across their front.  Eventually the field of fire was clear and the Egyptian infantry proved that the hours spent on the practice range had not been wasted.  The initially united Dervish attack degenerated into a more piecemeal affair as units became disordered by the disciplined Egyptian volleys.  However, this did have the unfortunate effect of reducing the ammunition supply of several units and bad staff work had left the re-supply mules some distance from the units in the front line.

On the Egyptian left, the cavalry melee eventually went in favour of the Dervish and the remnants of the Egyptian cavalry routed from the field.  Now the victorious Dervish cavalry faced a fresh infantry battalion supported by a machine gun and decided that their best option was to fall back and rally.  To their right the two cavalry units which had dealt so ruthlessly with one infantry battalion were now attacking a second one.  This one, although unable to fire on the cavalry due to their colleagues routing past them managed to hold the Dervish charge and inflict such damage that they had to fall back to recover.

The Egyptian left holds firm

Now the reserve Dervish unit played a part.  The second Egyptian horse unit and the Bashi Bazouks had charged into Dervish units bearing down on the beleaguered left hand infantry brigade.  Fortune favoured the Egyptian horse, who routed one unit of Dervish and then charged a second.  Although they also routed this unit, their losses left them in a shaken state and in close range of the Dervish artillery.

Success, but at what price?

The Bashi Bazouks were less fortunate.  Their attack was held by the Dervish infantry and then the reserve Dervish cavalry hit them in the flank.  This proved altogether too much and the Bashi Bazouks routed, disordering an Egyptian infantry unit in the process.  Carrying out a sweeping advance, the Dervish cavalry now attacked the disordered infantry who were in their turn routed.  However, they had done enough to shake the morale of the Dervish cavalry and they fell back to rally.

The Bashi Bazouks are flanked

When the dust cleared, the left wing Egyptian infantry brigade had lost two units and the cavalry brigade one with the two remaining units much reduced in numbers.  For their part, the Dervish cavalry had also suffered heavy losses and the remaining units were much weakened.

A crisis now hit the right wing Egyptian infantry brigade.  Up to now they had managed to hold back the Dervish infantry with rifle fire, but that fire was slackening as ammunition ran low.  The regimental officers were sending runners with pleas for replenishment, but the ammunition was slow in arriving.  Just as the pack mules reached the front line they were 'spooked' by the sound of battle and careered of to the right.  (A blunder had been thrown on the command dice).  Desperate to hold back the Dervish the front line continued firing and one unit exhausted all its ammunition.  With no re-supply available the colonel appealed for aid from the reserve infantry battalion.  Ignoring his orders to remain in reserve in a central position, the commander of the reserve infantry unit led it forward, through the ammunition-less unit and took their place in the front line.  He was in place just in time to receive a charge from the Dervish infantry but his men stood firm and drove back their assailants with heavy loss.

In the nick of time

To the right another Dervish attack was beaten back with heavy loss, but the unit of infantry on the extreme right was not so fortunate.  It was overwhelmed by a Dervish charge, even though the field gun fired in support.  As the surviving infantrymen streamed to the rear, the Dervish fell upon the unfortunate gun crew, who were wiped out. Fortunately for the Egyptians the Dervish had once again suffered heavy casualties and needed to fall back to rally.  With the return of the ammunition mules some sort of order could be established while the Dervish reformed for another attack.

The right wing gives way

At this point we ran out of time, with the Egyptian commander facing somewhat of a dilemma, to withdraw, or close up and defeat further attacks with firepower?

Many thanks to Steve for devising the scenario and to Bob for playing the 'devilish dervish' and posing me so many problems. 


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