Thursday, November 21, 2019

Sudan Campaign - The Battle of Kharti

An overview of the deployment of the Mahdist army.

Last evening I traveled north to Chez Protz to stage a Sudan battle using 54mm toy soldiers from my collection as well as from Bill's collection. We used a mix of William Britains' hollowcast figures, Alymer figures from Spain, Armies in Plastic, Trophy Miniatures, John Jenkins Designs, and the new Britains "War Along the Nile" figures.

It is fun to get all of the toy soldiers out of storage and onto the tabletop every once in awhile because they are fun to play with and they are simply so darn good looking. With 54mm and 60mm toy soldiers it is easy to take good looking game pictures because the large figures show off so nicely.

The scenario was a mash up of two different Sudan battles, the first one being the Battle of Toski in 1889 and the second one inspired by the Battle of Ferkit in 1896. Both battles featured the newly reorganized and retrained Egyptian army that was officered by British soldiers. Other than that, all of the troops were Egyptian and Sudanese regiments in the Egyptian army - thus there were no British forces present at the battles.

I thought that it would be a nice change of pace to have the Egyptian army fighting the Mahdist forces rather than another native bashing doled out by the British army in the Sudan.

Mafrica-Sudan Campaign Background

Our toy soldier campaign is being fought in a series of three battles, leading up to a grand battle at Omdurman. The Imperial army landed in Mafrica, at the mouth of the Begara River. The first battle saw the landing of British troops and their advance inland where they defeated, just barely, an army of Mahdists. Click on the link below to read Major General Pettygree's account of the first battle of the campaign.

Following the Imperial victory at the Begara River landing,  Lt. Colonel Herbert Kitchener was ordered to take his Flying Column up the Begara River to Kharti and engage any hostiles that he might find.

We staged our game on a 6ft wide by 24ft long table, playing on the narrower verticle axis. One of the parallel side tables featured the blue waters of the Begara River. The Dervish occupied the town of Kharti, located along side the Begara River. This provided me with the opportunity to use one of my Trophy Miniatures river gunboats in the game, a first in our series of toy soldier Sudan games.

Nile River gunboat from Trophy Miniatures

Egyptian Army Deployment

Lt. Colonel Herbert Kitchener commanded a force that included three Egyptian and two Sudanese infantry regiments, a battery of Krupp guns, and three squadrons of Egyptian lancers. An Egyptian navy gunboat patroled the Begara River and secured the right flank of Kitchener's army.

Two regiments of Egyptian infantry in white coats formed the Imperial left wing.

A two-gun battery of Krupp cannon, manned by Egyptian artillerists, were deployed in the center.

The Sudanese X and XI Regiments held down the right flank of the Imperial Army, the Begara River on their right flank
these figures are Trophy Miniatures and the skirmishing figures are from Little Legion.

Three squadrons (12 figures per squadron) of Egyptian lancers formed a reserve behind the Egyptian infantry.
These are old Britains hollowcast figures that I repainted in acrylics. Others, purchased on eBay, were painted in gloss enamels. I then attached a wood base to all of the figures so that they would stand up on the tabletop.

The Mahdist Army Deployment at Ferkit

The Mahdist army was commanded by Emir Osman Azrak and seconded by Emir Hammuda. They occupied the town of Kharti on the Begara. They were taken by surprise by the Egyptian army and so in the early hours of the morning, the Mahdists streamed out of the town to attack the Egyptians.

Emir Osman Azrak (wearing a red kaftan and holding a leather shield) observes the approaching infidels from his vantage point atop a mosque. His war drums beat out the signal to assemble the army and attack.

There was a large horde of Beja and Haddendowa warriors assembling on the Dervish right flank, while the cavalry and camelry of Emir Hammuda trotted forward, on the left flank, adjacent to the Begara River.

Emir Hammuda (mounted figure in the upper left corner) assembled his mounted horsemen
and camelry  outside of the town.

The advance guard of Beja warriors begin to move forward on the right wing of the army.

A tide of Haddendowa warriors emerge from the village, behind the advance guard.

The Mahdist army is on the move!

The Egyptians shake their regiments out into a battle line and halt to receive the  Dervish advance.

British Major Simon B. Buckner gets his Egyptian regiments into line.
Lancers form a reserve.

The Beja are the first to emerge from the pond reeds and charge.
They must be very brave to rush into a steady line of Egyptians.
Here is the view from the Egyptian ranks.

The Hadendowa quickly close up with the Beja to form a large mass of charging natives.

Lt. Colonel Kitchener's presence steadies the troops as they prepare for the attack.
Egyptian artillery crew prolong their Krupp guns forward to get around a tangle of rocks that were blocking their line of sight.
The Egyptian Lancers dress their lines and wait in reserve.

Dale Pasha (left), the Egyptian commander, and Osman Wil-Yum, the Dervish commander, prepare for the epic clash of the battle.

The Beja and Haddendowa combine into one mass and strike the center of the Egyptian battle line.
The Egyptian soldiers prove to be a bit jittery (wouldn't you?) and so their opening volley was not very effective.

Close up view of hand to hand combat. The Dervish figures are Armies In Plastic figures, nicely painted I might add.
The Egyptians are Trophy Miniatures.

Dale Pasha watches his Egyptians get pushed back as the lose the melee, but fortunately they do not run away. He now sees the wisdom of having the cavalry on hand to ride to his rescue. Osman Wil-Yum adjusts his spectacles so that he can read the battle charts.
Kitchener orders the artillery to prolong to their left so that they can fire into the flank of the Dervish attack.

Meanwhile, on the Begara River, the gunboat has just turned around after making a pass at the Dervish troops along the river. The boat will now make the slower push upstream against the current and take more pot shots at the Dervish ashore. The boat is armed with a 7-pound screw gun (aft) and a Maxim machine gun (fore).

Major Charles Dundee's Sudanese brigade clears the broken ground in the center. The Beja riflemen were using this ground to  snipe at the artillery. They are soon rooted out of the ground.

It is 9:30 PM and so Emir Hammuda decides to turn around and ride back to Kharti.

Emire Osman Azrak decides that the Imperials have too much firepower to be stopped. So he recalls his infantry back to the town. Actually, it is 9:30PM on a week night, so we traditionally call an end to the battle at that time. The battle is over.

Here is a view of a section of the Mafrica Campaign Map, indicating the point of the Imperial army landing and the subsequent trek of the Flying Column downriver to Kharti.

Whilst the Dervish pushed back a portion of the Egyptian army from a melee, they did not have enough warriors on hand to exploit their local success. With the Sudanese Brigade largely unengaged and three squadrons of lancers waiting in the wings, Emir Wil-Yum decided that the Mahdists would have eventually fallen back into the town. (It was 9:30PM and we always call an end to our week night games at this time so that everyone can go home at a decent hour).

Lt. Colonel Kitchener, following the advice of the late Peter Young to honor your victories with monuments and medals, will be awarding plenty of medals to his troops after the battle of Kharti.

Medals will be handed out to the victorious Egyptian army.

The Third and Final Campaign Battle

Sometime in early 2020 we will convene at the same location to stage the final battle of the campaign. The Imperial Army has won two battles so now the road to Omdurman is wide open. The Khalifa will gather in all of his troops from various outposts to confront the Imperialists' threat to his capital. This will be a grand battle featuring hundreds of 54mm toy soldiers on the tables.

Bill and I discussed the outcome of this evening's battle and agreed that there were not enough Dervish on hand to give them an opportunity to win the battle. They had nearly a 2:1 advantage in numbers, but we decided that a 3:1 advantage is really what the native forces need to make a battle of it with the Imperials. So for Omdurman, we will see how many Mahdist troops we have and then divide that number by three to calculate the total number of Imperial troops to use in the game. Plus a couple of river gunboats, of course.

If you enjoyed this report then please feel free to leave any comments at the bottom of the page. We would like to hear what you think.



  1. Immersive and beautiful report, lovely armies!

  2. Wonderful looking figures and a fine battle!


  3. The game and our companions were swell. Jim, your report is fun to read and is a nice memory. Thank you. Omdurman will be a 2020 Saturday game starting in the morning finishing with the "Turn In Progress" at 4pm.

    A Few Colonial Game Dynamics:
    (a) 3:1 ratio of natives to Imperials.
    (b) Lots of maneuver room favoring the natives.
    (d) Very mobile natives moving long distances.
    (d) Set-up Omdurman prior to game day.
    (e) It is hard to balance Colonial games.

    I have photos too but have not posted them on General Pettygree's blog. In a few days this will be done.
    Thank you Jim,
    Bill P.
    Chronicler for The Adventures of General Pettygree

  4. Splendid! I see I'm not alone in my appreciation for gaming with 54mm figures. Please keep up your efforts gentlemen. Love to see more!