Saturday, March 25, 2023

Khartoum Game Report - Part 2


The Dervish take to the ladders and are over the walls.

Let us now look at the infantry side of the battle of Khartoum! that we fought last Saturday.

The Dervish army of The Mahdi consisted of five commands, one of which was the naval river command that we discussed in Part 1 of the after action report ("AAR"). The Mahdi deploy his four foot battle groups into two parts: one group would attack the west corner of the city walls and the other would attack the east corner of the walls. A few figures would demonstrate in front of the center in order to pin some of the defenders there.

The central city gate of Khartoum.

The east corner of the defenses manned by one Krupp artillery piece.

The Mahdi looks on with his approval

The Beja warriors deploy in the center, but they will oblique right to attack the east bastion.

More Beja ready to attack. You can't have enough of them.

The main assault on the east bastion with three war bands set to hit the corner at the same time.

A supporting attack on the far right wing of the Dervish army.

More pictures of the main Dervish attack on the east bastion. You get the picture.

Notice how the aisle divides the city walls into two sections. This allows the
players easier access to the movement of figures along the front walls.

The scaling ladders start to go up against the walls.

I count 7 scaling ladders in this section of the assault. The consensus of the players
was that we needed the Dervish to have more scaling ladders so that they would
have a chance of making it up and onto the ramparts.

The attackers may hoist their ladders up against the walls on the turn in which their units can touch the walls. If the Egyptian defenders have the second move initiative, then they can try to topple the ladders.  So in this case, having the first initiative is a disadvantage for the Dervish. If the defenders have moved first, then the Dervish can hoist their ladders without fear that the defenders will topple the ladders.

Then on the next turn, the Dervish will want to get the first initiative so that they can start climbing the ladders. The wall scaling rules makes it relatively easy to topple a ladder if there is nobody climbing it. It gets progressively harder to topple the ladder if there are 2 attackers or three attackers on the ladder. Once the Dervish control the wall at the spot of the ladder, they are allowed to move 3 figures up the ladder each turn. So you can see that having more ladders in one area makes it easier for the Dervish to climb over the walls.

Meanwhile, on the west bastion, things weren't going very well for the Dervish (me). I had a band of 100 Ansar plus 30 Beja riflemen. As with the assault on the other (east) side of the city, my plan was to hit the corner bastion with everything I had. The Beja rifles would hopefully pick off some of the Egyptian artillery crew.

The original plan of The Mahdi was for me to support my attack on the corner by making an amphibious landing of the warriors on the river fleet. In retrospect this would have been the correct strategy. However, I thought that I would have a good chance of sailing my dhows behind the back of Khartoum and attack into the city (just like they did in the movie, if you can recall). Had I stuck with the plan, then the wily Egyptian commander, El Will Em Bey wouldn't have been able to make a sort from the city and fire into the flank of my attacking warriors.

The river flotilla moves up the Blue Nile.

Having five boats, each manned by 12 warriors and an emir leader, would have 
prevented the Egyptians from making their sorti from the city.

Beja riflemen were supposed to protect my left flank so that I could execute my
attack on the corner bastion.

The Beja riflemen operate in open skirmish order, making them harder to hit.

My attack goes in and the ladders go up.

Not enough attackers in this area and too many Egyptian defenders on the walls.

A reminder of how much table space was available for the game. Even with nearly 500 figures attacking the town walls (not including the 60 figures on the dhows) the table space looks vast and bereft of troops.

The sands of the Sudan

Quayside, the back door to Khartoum, guarded by one of the Egyptian paddle wheel boats.

You are looking at 18 feet length of the Nile. 6 feet wide.

A view of the city of Khartoum in more peaceful times.

General Charles Gordon, the hero of Khartoum and 
winner of this battle. (for now).

200 more Dervish and Beja are getting ready for the painting table.
I'm going to need more Dervish.

As I said in Part 1 of the AAR, this was a good play test and offered me a glimpse into how the game scenario will play out. I definitely need to increase the size of the Dervish army for the next game.


  1. It looks fantastic. You seem to have used a lot of AIP figures which are very serviceable. I like the dervishes, which I also use for ancients and medievals. How many ladders did each attacking unit have? I recently condicted a number of sieges in my fantasy/Renaissance/medieval/ancient games/

    1. My units are in groups of 50 AIP figures and a command consists of 2 units for the Dervish. I think that I had one ladder per 50 figures, which proved to be not enough. The players suggest that each 50 figures should have 4 ladders. I plan on giving that a try so as to improve the Dervish probability of climbing over the walls and fighting inside the city. I really like the AIP figures.

  2. The game looks stunning, Jim! An alternative way to balance things would be to reduce the number of troops the Egyptian defenders have available....although, who doesn't want another couple of hundred figures in a collection!

    1. Yes, I do think that I had too many Egyptians inside the city. I could also make two more feet of wall for them to defend.

  3. Absolutely amazing Jim. Your game players are in for an absolute treat!
    Alan Tradgardland

  4. Another wonderful Post Jim. Inspirational photos and ideas.