Sunday, 2 January 2011

Disaster at Sennar!

A few days ago it was declared on TMP that 1/1/11 was international Solo Wargaming Day. I decided to take part, and use the day as an opportunity to give my “Don’t Throw Bloody Spears At Me” rules another run out.

For this battle I chose to run an encounter between Egyptian forces under Hicks Pasha and Mahdist forces, based (very) loosely on the battle of Sennar.

Here is the Egyptian army at the start of the game, and below it is the Mahdist army, advancing from the direction of the painting table and passing the town of Sennar on the way, watched by some of the town’s residents.
DTBSAM uses a card activation system, three cards for each side plus a joker comprises a turn. If the joker is turned over the turn ends immediately.

Turn 1, 1st card – Black. The forces of the Mahdi take the initiative and advance. Mounted units spread out to the flanks to menace the advancing Egyptians. The Mahdist commander suddenly realises that it would have made more sense to deploy the Jihadiya early in the palm grove to his right and in an ambush position, but the “encounter” nature of the battle precluded this. Oh well, next time....

2nd, 3rd cards – Red. Hicks Pasha deploys his forces, moving his Nordenfeldt to lie between the 1st and 2nd battalions on the left flank, and his artillery to sit between the 2nd and 3rd battalions in the centre. The cavalry advance to cover the Baggara camelry to their front, whilst the Bashi Basouks and the lancers advance to cover the Baggara cavalry, advancing around the broken hills.

4th card – Black. The Mahdist mounted units charge. The Egyptians stand their ground, but are not inclined to counter charge (British cavalry would be hard to hold back in this situation, but Egyptian cavalry, being of low morale, would stand a good chance of failing to charge and becoming disordered). The Mahdists have the advantage of impetus and crash into their opponents, scattering both Egyptian cavalry units. On the right flank the Bashi Basouks are suddenly looking very exposed!

5th card – Black. The Mahdists hold the initiative. The sole unit of Jihadiya riflemen advance into the broken hills and open fire on the Egyptian 3rd battalion. Despite low rates of fire the Mahdists succeed in killing two units of the Egyptian battalion. However, morale in the Egyptian force is still good and the battalion holds. On the right flank the Baggara cavalry charge the Bashi Basouks. All seems lost, but amazingly the irregulars hold, taking no casualties and killing one stand of their attackers. On the Egyptian left the camelry charge home. Egyptian fire at the incoming mounted troops kills half their number, but against the odds the Baggara morale holds and they impact the Egyptian lines. The ensuing melee, however, is inconclusive and no further casualties are caused.

6th card – Red. Egyptian fire at the Jihadiya kills one stand, but due to their advantageous position in the broken cover of the hills and some decent morale throws the riflemen hold position. The Bashi Basouks and the Baggara cavalry continue to melee inconclusively. The Egyptian artillery and rockets open fire at the oncoming Ansar, killing two stands but failing to stem their advance.

The turn ends with the Mahdists closing rapidly on the Egyptian position. However, Hicks is confident that fortune will favour him, as will the Remingtons of his troops.

Turn 2

1st Card – Black! The Bashi Basouks’ contest with the cavalry (and an incoming unit of Haddendowah) continues with the irregulars killing another cavalry stand for no loss. However, in the centre things suddenly go very bad. The Ansar and Haddendowah charge into contact. Despite rapid fire at the incoming horde the Egyptians only kill 4 stands, and these are distributed amongst the attackers meaning no failed morale and no units failing to charge home. The Mahdi’s finest crash into the Egyptian 2nd and 3rd battalions, sweeping them from the field. Both suffer heavy casualties and their morale breaks.

The situation as the melee begins....

And as it ends!

2nd Card – Black. Hicks realises he has never been lucky playing cards! The Mahdists sweep into the baggage train, overrunning the artillery and massacring the fleeing Egyptian fellahs from the 2nd and 3rd battalions. The 1st and 4th attempt to stem the flow. On the right the Bashi Basouks finally succumb and break, fleeing to the rear.

3rd card – Red. The 1st battalion dies fighting whilst the 4th makes a fighting withdrawal. Routing survivors from the 2nd and 3rd battalions and the Bashi Basouks flee to the rear, and Hick’s command team is swept along with them. Cautious fire into the Mahdists causes several casualties.

4th card – Red. Only now, with the battle lost, does some luck come to Hicks. The Mahdists fail to capitalise on their victory and mill around on the battlefield, plundering the supply train and butchering any Egyptians foolish enough not to run. Hicks and the 4th battalion make it to the table edge and escape back to Khartoum, leaving the Mahdi to contemplate the riches (in the form of Remingtons, Krupp howitzers and Nordenfeldt machine guns) that have fallen to him!

Summary – an unlucky series of card draws for Hicks left him with little ability to manoeuvre. On the plus side though the Mahdists failed to deploy riflemen into the cover to his front prior to the start of the action and so he avoided an ambush, which would have made a tricky position even harder. With a more even card distribution and some better die rolls when firing the Egyptians would probably have held off at least some of their attackers. However, once casualties start to mount the Egyptian force is quite fragile, even more so when an enemy is in contact. Once the melee with the main body commenced the writing was on the wall for Hicks Pasha. Still, at least, on this occasion, he escaped with his skin.


  1. I like the card based turn sequence. Very simple but very elegant. Are these rules up for publication at some point?

  2. At the moment they are a private project, but they may end up being published sometime in the future when I'm happy with them.