Last weekend I went up north to play a scenario with brits going south, down the nile and as it turned out down the
Situation and mission: A unit of Gordon highlanders is trapped in a small village close to the Sudan highlands. The Mahdi’s forces control the surrounding area and may attack the village at any time. Loss of the village would open up the route to Khartoum. Your mission is to relieve the village. You are also in “luck”. The distinguished member of the reform club and personal friend of the Prince of Wales Reginald Dahrling has decided to join your expedition. Being a fine cricket player, bridge champion and former peacetime captain of the Wellington-On-Sea home guard he now desires to add a VC to his cupboard at the club.
The mission of the Mahdi is to capture and hold the village.
Terrain: The table is scattered with small rocky areas and bushes and the occasional gentle hill, mostly around the village of Abu Sambal Bai that is located at one short side. A track or road of some sort runs from the opposing table site to the village and then further on between the foothills towards Khartoum.
Reginald Dahrling: Reginald is an independent officer and is controlled by a separate player. He has no troops and the only orders he can give are: Follow Me and Rally on Me! He can give these to any British unit. All rules regarding orders apply. Reginald Dahrling has a CR of 9 (his enthusiasm making up more than enough for his lack of experience in the field). When he attaches himself to a unit in close combat he may add up to 3 re-rolls of combat dice. For every dice he adds, however, the Mahdi player throws a dice after the combat result and any 4+ results means that Reginald is hit. Determine the effect of each hit as per the rules.
The Victoria Cross: A VC may be awarded to a soldier of a British unit under the following circumstances. The unit becomes or is shaken while in close combat against a non-shaken unit and yet eventually still wins that combat. If at any point the opposing unit also becomes shaken than no VC will be awarded. The VC is awarded to Reginald Dahrling if he has attached himself to the unit, he has added a total of three re-rolls during the combat and survives the battle. If Reginald is not engaged in the combat the VC recipient remains anonymous. If the battle is part of a larger campaign then the unit including soldiers with the VC gain the Valiant special rule for the remainder of that campaign year.
Deployment: One battalion of highlanders is located in the village. The rest of the British army arrives on the road at the opposing side of the table. The Mahdi’s units may be deployed in ambush or anywhere on the table but not within 36” of the village or the table side on which the rest of the British forces arrive. All Mahdi troops may be placed in ambush.
Ambush: Troops in ambush are deployed on the table at the start of a Mahdi turn. Troops may not be placed within 12” from infantry and artillery or 18” from cavalry when concealed or within 36” when not. Rocky areas and bushes provide concealment. Troops in ambush using this type of terrain for concealment are assumed to be staying low and need their first move for standing up. When an entire command is in ambush the commander needs to be placed on the table when the first unit is deployed from ambush. Additional units may be deployed anywhere on the table, but normal command distances apply.
Unit Type Armament Hand-to-Hand Shooting Morale Stamina Special
Highlanders Infantry Breech-loading Rifle 7 4 4+ 3 Steady
Line Infantry Breech-loading Rifle 6 4 4+ 3 Steady
Lancers Cavalry Lance, Breech-loading Carabine 7 2 3+ 3 Steady
Gatling Gun Artillery Gatling Gun 1 Special 3+ 1 Steady
Staff Ratings: Reginald Dahrling has a staff rating of 9. All other commanders a staff rating of 8.
Steady: Automatically pass first break test.
Unit Type Armament Hand-to-Hand Shooting Morale Stamina Special
Mahdist Tribesmen Infantry Spear 6 1 4+ 3 Warband, Fanatics
Mahdist Tribesmen with looted Rifles Infantry Spear, Breech-loading Rifle 6 1 4+ 3 Warband, Fanatics
Arab Camelry Cavalry Spears 6 1 4+ 3 Skirmish
Staff ratings: The Mahdi has a staff rating of 9. All other commanders a staff rating of 8.
Fanatics: Re-roll misses in combat when charging, and charged enemy must make a break test.
We had two plating the British, one as the independent officer Reginald Darhling and the other controlling all British units. The mahdi’s were divided amongst three player with one being the Mahdi as C-in-C and two commanding one command each.
The mahdi’s deployed all their units in ambush with the exception of a unit of camel riders. These deployed behind a shrubbery which apparently proved very comfortable since they were to stay put for the entire game. This of course not resulting from a lack of religious zeal, but because the Mahdi did not have a role for them and they would be led only by the word of the chosen one, of course.
The British units entered the table in line and on a broad front. Their commanding officer ordering “ADVANCE!!!” but to no effect. It seemed that the troops were still discussing whether it was already teatime or not. For the Mahdi this proved that these British would be no different than all those Egyptian expeditions that were sent before. He was confident so he ordered the first ansar to stand up from their hide and assault the village. Standing up the ansar did and that was it.
This lack of fanatic zeal in its turn made the British troops confident, at least some of them. The “ADVANCE!!!” was heard knowing that teatime would have to wait. Forward two battalions went. Forward the lancers went. But the Mahdi had tricked them. The lack of fanatic zeal proved to be a ruse du guerre. More ansar now stoop up to the rear of the advancing British infantry and within charge distance. Then the french speaking ansar proved to be to few in number and the ruse du guerre was poorly understood by them. They stoop up and then remained in the relative safety of the bushes.
Near the village of Abu Sambal Bai also many ansar units stood up, including the feared Wuzzy Fuzzies. Charge was the order they received, forward they went but in a poorly coordinated and haphazard manner. Over the course of a number of turns unit after unit assaulted the village. The highlanders were hard pressed but stood their ground. Several ansar units were repulsed shaken, some also disordered. The Mahdi was not to be worried. More ansar units stood up and were ordered forward.
Reginald Dahrling was watching all this and looking for an opportunity to prove himself. He did so in a very considered manner since his aim was to be rewarded a VC and live to show it off at the reform club. He spurred on his horse and galloped to the most advanced British infantry unit. “FOLLOW ME!” and off he went with the men straight towards the ansar that had just sprung up near the village. As he went he looked back at the British commanding officer saying “are you still coming?”. However, the lack of tea was now showing its effect on the men. Nonetheless the gatling gun was move into position with the intention of showering the ansar that were threatening the infantry with bullets. This proved to be a mirage. Not a single hit was scored throughout the game. Fortunately the gun didn’t jam either.
In the mean time the lancers had advanced and charged one of the units of ansar that was about to charge the village. They got stuck and a few turn later were surrounded and overwhelmed by more ansar joining the fight. Winston would never be them man he now was.
On the other side of the hill Reginald Dahrling again rushed his unit forward and straight into an unsuspecting unit of ansar. Here too the ansar proved tougher than expected and the close combat dragged on. Unfortunately for Reginald the ansar became shaken too at some point and then broke off.
Then it happened. A single unit of ansar charged the village and forced to highlanders to make a breaktest. Snakeyes! The highlanders broke and were overwhelmed by the ansar breaking into the village. All seemed lost now for the British, but straightening out their stiff upper lip and reminding the for Queen and Country aspect of their duty they were back to their mission in no time. Unfortunately the dice had other ideas. Over the course of the next turns not a single hit was scored or every hit was saved by the mahdi’s. It was truly amazing. Exchanging the dice for trusted communist-red dice had not the desired effect. And so it came to the British last stand just before the village of Abu Sambal Bai. While the units still on the road were charged and broken by the ansar, the two units in front of the village repulsed the first few ansar. At the end the number and ferociousness of the ansar proved to be too much for just two units of British infantry. Reginald Dahlring was never to be seen again. His cupboard at the reform club was emptied soon after the news reached London. Going out specifically for getting a VC is not for gentlemen old boy!