Sunday, February 26, 2017

Battle of Akasha in the Sudan

Colonel of the Camerons regiment surveys the terrain. Click picture to enlarge.

Thursday evening I travelled to Bill Protz's house in Wisconsin so that we could play a "small game" using our 54mm toy soldiers for the Sudan campaigns. I call this game "small" only because I did not bring all of my toys on the road with me to Bill's house. I learned that it is not too difficult to transport the toy soldiers, so I imagine that we will have more games on Bill's large table set up.

I was particularly eager to have another 54mm Sudan game so that I could use my brand spanking new Cameron Highlanders from Heritage Miniatures in the UK. They had never been battle tested so it was with a little bit of trepidation that I included them in my order of battle (you know what always seems to happen to new war-game regiments the first time that they are in a game - they perform miserably). I am happy to report that the Camerons and a supporting company of the Black Watch performed admirably and with much grit and excellence.

Let us now get on with the story telling.



We called the scenario the Battle of Akasha, taking place during Kitchener's Omdurman Campaign in 1898.  If you have a copy of the Osprey Campaign book 29 on Omdurman, you will see a very nice map on page 30 that provides a nice overview of where things are.

Akasha is near the end of the railroad line that the British built to make the hauling of supplies much easier. The railroad tracks by-pass a long section of the Nile River, south of the second cataract, that is vertually unnavigable. The Dervish, commanded by atman al-Azraq, are attempting to blow up a section of the railroad track to disrupt the advance of Kitchener's army. Kitchener has dispatched a small force of Camerons, Black Watch, Camel Corps and the Naval Brigade to protect the section of track between Akasha and the town of Firket. The commanding general is a certain General Shearing, rather than our usual friend, Major General Pettygree.

General Shearing watches developments in the battle through his binoculars. The Camerons are to his front.
The rest of the story will be largely told through picture captions.

A view of the battle field from the British point of view. They occupy the village  of Akasha, largely in ruins. In the distance, one can see the village of Firket, as well as a hoard of Dervish.

Britsh naval brigade defends the right flank of the British army in Akasha.
Sailors are posted atop the ruins to keep an eye on any Dervish movements.

The Camerons, Black Watch and a company of Camel Corps comprise the right flank, which will be the spearhead of the attack.
Let us now look at the Dervish deployment:

Dervish cavalry and foot advance towards Akasha.
Dervish work detail hauls a wagon full of gun powder that will be used to blow up a section of the railroad track.

A band of Dervish advance up the railroad tracks looking for a place to lay down explosives to blow up the track.

The left side of the Dervish deployment. Camel mounted scouts look for signs of the British.

Beja riflemen hide in the wooded area in front of the Akasha ruins.

 The battle begins as the left side (from the British point of view) of the Dervish army launches an attack on the Camerons and Black Watch.

The Dervish warbands are spotted by the Camerons, so they deploy into a battle line supported by two Gatling guns and a Screw Gun.
Here they come! Steady lads, mark your targets.

Most of the Dervish/ Beja/Hadendoa/ Fuzzies were rated "fanatical" for this battle. This basically means that when they roll a saving throw for casualties from British fire, anything but a "1 or a 2 "  on D6 saves them, making it very hard to kill them off. This allows the Dervish to close in for melee with the British. Several times I was heard to say (or was at least thinking it), "how the heck do we kill these guy when nothing seems to stop them?" I would imagine that quite a few British soldiers said the same thing in the real battles.

My Highlanders were blessed with good dice rolling and won all of their melees, causing the Dervish to either run away or fall back six inches.

In the two pictures below, we can see the first melee with the Fuzzy Wuzzies/Beja/Dervish against the Camerons. As the Dervish closed, I began to think that my firepower could not knock them down, as they seemed to save everything on their saving throws. Fortunately, the Dervish did not attack with enough war band, only two unsupported groups charged, making it easier for the British to fend them off in the melee. The Black Watch Highlanders, on the far right, were well positioned to charge into the flank of the Beja and cause them to rout. 

The larger of the two Dervish warbands piles headlong into the righthand company of the Camerons. A company of Black Watch (in grey tunics) will swing to the right and hit the Dervish in the flank.

The larger band of the Dervish attack gets charged in the flank by the Black Watch.
 A smaller Dervish band (made smaller by Gatling gun fire and British rifle volleys) on the left have no success in crossing the zariba that the Camerons have thrown in their path. Some Gatling gun support is well appreciated.
Another view of the melee.
The Naval Brigade, on the other hand, did not fare so well against the Fuzzies, who overwhelmed them over the course of two or three game turns.  It would have been helpful if the sailors had some supporting Gatling guns. The sailors started with 23 figures, adjusted to 31 given that the officers count as 3 figures during melee.

On the British right, the Naval Brigade is handled roughly by an attacking mob of Dervish. To the left, just barely within the picture frame, you can see a young fellow named Winston Churchill. You can also see Colonel Burnaby waving his sword in the lower left, behind the line of sailors.
The result was the rather humorous site of one sole man, Colonel Burnaby, running for his life away from the Beja band of warriors. Fortunately for Burnaby, a very lucky man today, the British drew the first movement card from the deck of cards. This enabled Burnaby to make a hard right and run to the safety of a company of Camel Corps in the rear of the British lines.

The Naval Brigade is wiped out to the man, except for Colonel Burnaby, who has to flee for his life towards the ruins. It looks like the Fuzzies will run him down and end his story for good. The picture reminds me a bit of the movie, "The Naked Prey" in which Cornel Wilde attempts to flee from an angry group of African natives.
The Fuzzies occupy the vacated town of Akasha and capture the British colours. Just barely visible, at the bottom left side of the picture, a company of the Camel Corps turn around and face the enemy. 

The Dervish cavalry support a mob of fanatical warriors. It looks like they are headed towards the Black Watch on the right side of the British battle line. The left hand company of Camerons, supported by one of the Gatling guns, makes a rash move forward to occuppy the high ground, but the other two companies hang back to support the Black Watch.
The Dervish realize the futility of attacking the strong British line, and so their cavalry break off and return to Firket. The Dervish infantry also halt their forward movement, thus ending the Battle of Akasha.

The battle, as seen from the Dervish perspective. At least two Dervish war bands, maybe more are running away from the deadly firepower of the Highland Brigade.

The British cavalry brigade (21st Lancers and some Egyptian Lancers) has been wandering aimlessly around the flanks of the Dervish army (actually, we kind of forgot that they were there and so they went unused during the battle. Maybe it was just as well as the cavalry was in a good position to shore up the rear and keep the Beja warriors in Akasha from any further attacks.

It was a very enjoyable game for the players of both sides. I think that the rules accurately reflected my understanding of warfare in the Sudan. The rules make it hard to kill of the Fuzzies, who are rated as "fanatical" warriors. They have a better chance of saving themselves during the saving roll phase of the game. This is based on accounts of the battle of Tamai, in which the Beja would appear to be shot down, but then they would get up and hurl themselves toward the British squares.

The Beja riflemen were difficult to deal with.  They were picking off sailors with relative ease, but because they were in "open order/skirmish order", they were hard to hit.

It seems that every British brigade needs at least one Gatling gun or similar machine gun if it is to withstand a Dervish charge. A bit of good die rolling also helps. As for the Dervish, I think that they need to coordinate their charges so that several warbands hit the British line at the same time. Their piecemeal attacks were relatively easy to fend off, from the British point of view.

My Cameron Highlanders performed admirably in the game. They won numerous melees and caused three Dervish warbands to run away. My company of supporting Black Watch also performed well, noting their timely charge into the flank of the attacking Dervish. My Highland Brigade only lost three figures for the whole game!

I completely forgot about my brigade of Imperial cavalry, consisting of 18 of the 21st Lancers and 12 of the Egyptian Lancers. I had intended to have them roam around in the rear areas of the Dervish army, but instead they were unused. Perhaps it was just as well, for the cavalry were well-positioned to block off the Fuzzies who had broken through the Naval Brigade and could have threatened the rear of the British army.


  1. Epic! A fantastic report with wonderful pictures, this terrain is, once again, superb...And congrats to the Cameron Highlanders!

  2. Great write-up report and photos from you Jim. Wow! Loved it. I like your tie-in narrative about new wargame units, going on the road and people stuff too. Talking gaming stuff is appreciated.
    Bill P.

  3. Glorious! Surpassing the WHC Sudan games of old even.

    Best Regards,


    1. I think that I'd agree with your assessment vis-a-vis the comparison to the WHC games. The 54mm figures are very photogenic.

  4. Excellent write up and pictures, wonderful game


  5. Super looking game and great report.

  6. It looks awesome. How nice to have so much space that you can do a large game with big toys and there is still plenty of room to manoeuvre.

    1. Thank you Chris. Bill's grand tables open up a lot of possibilities for our games.

  7. What a wonderful looking game Jim - stunning in fact and a great joy to look through.

  8. Awesome game. Beautiful figs! It sounds like the game was big fun. The huge table really allowed for a grand 54mm game.

    I love the shot of Col Burnaby running for his life.... Where is young Winston though? Wasn't he standing right behind the Naval Brigade?