Saturday, July 23, 2016

Battle of Tokar July 23, 2016

The first game turn commences as the British gain a free move.

A long view of the center game table.

My new basing system for toy soldiers: sticking the figures to MDF bases with tacky mounting putty reduces the number of figures that have to be moved each turn.

We fought our first battle in the Sudan using 54mm toy soldiers for the first time in what proved to be a unique experience for all of us. The large figures provide a new perspective on wargaming that is quite evident in all of the pictures posted on this thread. Please double click each picture to enlarge the view and look at all of the details up close

Major General Pettygree in full 60mm splendor with his escort of Skinner's Horse (figures are from King & Country )

The British Nile River Column had established a base camp at Dongala on the Nile and had orders to advance on the town of Tokar and capture the water wells at El-Dubie.

Two squadrons of the 21st Lancers provide support to the British squares.

Petty rides between the squares and reviews the troops prior to the battle.

I spent several hours the night before cutting up pieces of sticky mounting putty and attaching it to the bottom of many of the figures on the table, but not all of them. The figures were then mounted on temporary MDF wooden bases in groups of 6, 8 or 10 figures in order to reduce the amount of time consumed by moving individual figures all game.

We had problems keeping the horses standing upright throughout the game as the slightest touch seemed to knock them over dominoes style. One of the players stopped trying to pick them up and keep them on their hooves, preferring to lay the horses on their sides on the ground. I need to come up with a solution for mounting the horses to MDF bases for future games.

Winston Churchill, ever seeking the spot light, leads the charge of the 21st Lancers against the Beja.

The 21st Lancers prepare to charge the Yellow Flag hoard of fierce Beja (Fuzzy Wuzzies) warriors and Ansar dressed in jibbahs with brightly colored patches.

Turn 2 and the Dervish get right down to business and charge the 21st Lancers.
 Early in the game, the British squares were making good progress in their advance on Tokar and the El-Dubie Oasis. With Barlow's square leading the way on the right, and Sinclair's brigade following on the left, in tandem the two brigades could support each other with fire. However, Sinclair got distracted by Beja riflemen and a swarm of Arab desert levies that were piling up casualties on his brigade. So Sinclair stopped the forward movement of his brigade and engaged the Arabs, but in doing so, became separated from Barlow's brigade and could not support Barlow when the Dervish cavalry swarmed all over him. I believe that had Sinclari (me) kept pace with Barlow, then the outcome of the battle could have been quite different.

Later in the game, the same group of Beja (now significantly reduced in numbers) charges at the camels of the Camel Corps.
 As it was, Sinclair was busy driving off the Green Banner Desert Arabs, nearly wiping them out, and then a Red Banner of fierce Beja suddenly appeared on this left, while simultaneously, another banner of Arabs suddenly appeared on his right. Sinclair reasoned that if he moved forward to support Barlow, then both brigades could get cut off from the base camp along the Nile.

Another view of Colonel Sinclair's brigade square.

The second British square was comprised of the Marines, the Naval Brigade and some Gordon and Black Watch Highlanders. They are advancing on the Oasis of El-Dubie to capture the water wells.
 Bill P. is the owner of the second brigade of British soldiers - I don't recall the name of his brigade commander so I am just going to call the commander Colonel Barlow

Dervish horsemen converge on Barlow's Brigade, which begins to contract due to casualties.

A band of Ansar over run a 7 pounder of the Royal Artillery late in the game.
Like sharks smelling blood in the water, more and more Dervish cavalry descend upon Barlow's brigade and look to swarm over it.

Some elite Dervish cavalry of the Khalifa launch a charge into Barlow's square and break through
Barlow's brigade was overwhelmed by a sudden onrush of Dervish cavalry and foot. The surviving Marines and Sailors fell back from the broken square and attempted (successfully) to form a new rally square.

However, this left the remaining Gordons - only ten of them - to fend for themselves, as they made a heroic last stand in the Oasis of El-Dubie. This reminds me of the last stand at Maiwand.

The Last Stand of the Gordons at El-Dubie. Quite a stirring and heroic picture.

While Barlow's brigade was in trouble, General Pettygree ordered Sinclair to fall back to the encampment and the protection of the artillery, both on share and from the river gunboat.

So in the end, it was readily apparent to all that the Dervish had won a convincing victory over the Imperials. One brigade was nearly destroyed and Sinclair had lost almost half of his brigade during the fighting withdrawal back to the camp. Undoubtedly, the newspaper headlines were not going to be kind to General Pettygree and his commanders. One suspects that Fleet Street would play up the heroic Last Stand of the Gordons and celebrate heroes rather than dwell on the loss.

Concluding Thoughts About the Game

We used a Colonial variant of Bill Protz's "Batailles dans l'Ancien Regime" or "BAR" for short. All eight players were familiar with the rules and so the game moved along very smoothly, even with several hundred single figures that had to be moved. I was glad that I had used the adhesive putty to mount a number of Dervish and British figures onto movement bases.

The Dervish started the game with approximately 470 figures versus 248 for the British. There were some comments on TMP and on my blog that the Dervish needed a higher ratio of figures to the British contingent, something like 3 to 1 or higher. This is not the case in BAR though, as the rules produce quick and bloody results, which means that an advantage in the size of forces can result in crushing the opponent with relative ease.

I wiped out the Green Flag command early in the game, and so we recycled that command into the game again. Thus the Dervish added another 50 or so figures to their original number. The British needed all the machine guns and cannon and men that they could get their hands on.

One unusual thing happened to me during the game: all three of my machine guns jammed on the same turn, but then all three jams were cleared on the next turn. Really bad dice were mitigated by really good dice.

Please feel free to leave any comments and thoughts that you might have about this game, as I'd love to hear what you think about it.

It is late at night right now and I have to get to bed, but I have more pictures and need more time to tweak the story a bit more, so come back again tomorrow and catch up on the changes.

We all had a blast playing this game. I bet that I hadn't played a game with toy soldiers since I was about 10 to 12 years old. This was the first time that my collection of 54mm figures had ever been in a battle, so it was fun to see them all fighting it out for the first time.

Rest assured that there will be more toy soldier battles in the future and that Pettygree and Sinclair will march again.


Please check out the Campaigns of Major General Pettygree to find out what happened to Colonel Barlow's brigade at the battle of Tokar:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Lancers, Lots of Them Captain

Vintage Britain's Regiments of All Nations: converged unit of Indian Lancers,  Egyptian Lancers and British Lancers.

One more day to go until we launch the grand toy soldiers in the Sudan game. The final rosters for the game look something like this:

Dervish infantry - 396 figures
Dervish camels - 28
Dervish horse.  - 70

Dervish Total.    - 474 figures

British & Allies   - 200 foot formed in two brigades of 100
Lancers.            -48 formed into four squadrons of 12 horse

And possibly a surprise appearance or two for the British.

The British have established a substantial base at Dongola and now that they have had a build up of forces, Major General Pettygree, commander of the River Column, has decided that it is time to implement the next phase of the campaign and seize the water wells at the Oasis of El-Dubie.

The Mahdi has dispatched his most trusted commander, the Khalifa, the organize an attack on the British base at Dongola and drive the unbelievers into the murky Nile River.

We will have 8 players in the game: 6 Dervish He-Devils and 2 British players ( Bill P. & Me).

There should be gobs of pictures taken during the game so be sure to check in on the blog and see what is happening .

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Two Squares Are Better Than One - 3 Days to Go!

1st Brigade Square - Trophy Miniatures - Sinclair's Brigade

Two squares of British with machine guns on the corners and cavalry watching the flanks makes for a formidable defense against the Dervish (CLICK ON ALL PIX TO ENLARGE THE VIEW)
I decided to clear off my game table for yet a third time and see what the table would look like with two squares of British faced off against the Dervish. I also wanted to check out the spacing required for the squares to make sure that we have enough maneuvering room for the forces.

We are down to three days before the epic toy soldiers in the Sudan game takes place and I am getting very excited about the game. The pictures of two squares on the table should give you an idea of what the game might look like.

Here you can see two squadrons of lancer cavalry protecting the flank and rear of the British squares.

Hot air balloon view from overhead. This demonstrates how two squares can support one another with  rifle fire and machine guns. You can see how vulnerable the corners of the square are, which is why the machine guns are placed there. However, the adjacent square offsets the weakness of the corner by providing covering fire. Squadrons of Lancers patrol the flanks to keep the enemy away from the rear and corners.
The picture above reminds me a bit of the aeriel views shown during the movie Waterloo, when the French cavalry are surging around the British squares. This time it is angy Dervish who are doing the surging.

Two bands of Dervish launch an attack upon the squares.
Some reinforcements arrived in the mail today, for both sides. The Dervish received nine mounted horsemen to augment the cavalry while the British received a brace of machine guns to man the corners of a square. I hope that those guns don't jam!

A brace of machine guns arrived today to reinforce the British: Gatling Gun (left) and Maxim (right)

Some new Dervish cavalry that have recently joined the Mahdi (from Trophy of Wales).
A view of the game tables and my game room. I think that the Union Jack flag gets one in the mood for a good  old fashioned Colonial Bash with big 54mm toy soldiers.

Another pictue of the Trophy square. Note the dismounted camels in the center that represent the baggage that follows the square. They also provide a barrier in the event that the Dervish break into the square.

Come back tomorrow for more pictures.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sudan Game Countdown - 5 Days to Go

The game room and table get ready for this weekend's action. (CLICK TO ENLARGE ALL PIX)
 I have been busy tweaking the game table and terrain these past few days and pretty much have things set up and ready to go for Saturday July 23rd game.

The light khaki Steadfast brand of toy soldiers have gone back to their barracks and their place in the camp has been taken by various Trophy of Wales miniature: Lincolnshire Regt (khaki), the Camel Corps ( grey-blue) , the Berkshire Regt. (Grey serge ), the Sussex Regt. (Red coats) and the 1st Madras Sihks. There are approximately 100 infantry soldiers plus supporting artillery crew and machine gun crew and a few vignettes to dress up the table. That lot forms the 1st Brigade commanded by Colonel Archibald Sinclair, of the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders. Bill P. will be bringing his collection of New Britains and John Jenkins Designs Marines, RN Sailors, and Gordon & Black Watch Highlanders.

The Dervish seem to be growing in strength on a daily basis. Our young scout, Lt. Harry Faversham, has been behind the lines and in the Dervish camp and he informs us that there are close to 450 foot and mounted figures in the Khalifa's army. Rumor has it that Osman Digna has travelled in from the Suakin region of Sudan, bringing a large banner of fierce Beja and Haddendoa tribesmen to reinforce the Khalifa's army and to destroy the invaders and nonbelievers.

I plan on posting more pictures and updates every day this week, so come back and visit the blog again ( and be sure to post some comments, we really enjoy reading your comments). In the meantime, enjoy today's pictures, including some newly arrived dismounted Camel Corps, and be sure to click or double click each picture to enlarge the view.

I have to say that these large 54mm toy soldiers are quite photogenic and make it easy for me to take and post good pictures. I would also encourage a visit to Major General Pettygree's blog for more background on this epic game that we are about to have.

View of the new camp, with new troops deployed.
View from the front of the camp showing the artillery position, general and staff, and other troops.
The right flank of the camp. Note the second line of reserves that are ready to plug any break throughs.

Newly arrived Steadfast (?) dismounted Camel Corps.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

British Encampment at Dongala

The British Encampment at Dongala is Established

Colonel Archibald Sinclair of the Seaforth Highlanders regiment, stationed in Egypt circa 1884, has been assigned the task of taking his brigade up the Nile to Dongala, where he is to establish a beach head or base camp for the the rest of Major General Pettygree's army. Pettygree is part of the Khartoum Relief Force under the command of Garnet Wolsey.

Colonel Sinclair brought a brigade of 100 figures (about 1,000 men at 1:10 ratio), traveling to Dongala via Nile river gunboat and quickly set to work to create a zariba of thorn bushes to protect the men from a possible Dervish attack.

The first square and zariba are establish at the Dongala beachhead. A band of Haddendoa and Ansar make a feint attack on the square to assess its strength.

Several times the Dervish mounted feint attacks on the square in order to assess the quality of the defenders (would they break or stand fast?), but never brought the attack home. The zariba also had the support of the Nile River Gunboat with its Krupp cannon.

Nile River Gunboat supports the zariba. A squadron of British lancers also disembark to provide scouting and support for Sinclair's brigade.

Colonel Sinclair (on the left without his sun helmet) holds a staff meeting to assess the progress of the base camp.

Work party details unload supplies while other soldiers try out the new water wagon to slake their thirst.

Next to arrive is the artillery, which brings a sense of comfort to the British. Note that the zariba has grown in size and now abuts the Nile River.

British 7 pound guns face to the front while Gatling Guns watch the flanks. The Camel Corps detachment provides a back stop to the artillery position, just in case the Dervish break through.

Camel Corps Gatling Gun

Overhead view showing how the camp has grown in size.

More cavalry arrives: detachments from the 21st Lancers and several regiments from India.

Sinclair holds another staff meeting to check on the progress of the camp. The assessment: everything is ready for General Pettygree's arrival next week.

Colonel Sinclair rides around the camp to inspect the progress. At his side (wearing fez) is young Brevet-Major Herbert Kitchener.

The table set up is coming along nicely now. We have approximately 430 Dervish foot and cavalry and we will probably place 200 foot and 36 cavalry on the British side of the table.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Old Britain's Arabs of the Desert Grow In Numbers

A hoard of some 80+ Britain's Arabs will pose quite a challenge for our intrepid General Pettygree.

My collection of forces fighting under the Mahdi's banner has grown substantially over the past month, due in large part to acquisitions of Britain's Arabs of the Desert toy soldier figures, via eBay and other sources. My count from last evening was 84 Arabs on foot, 8 on camels, and 38 on horse (these are just the old Britain's figures). I would like to grow the force to around 100  foot, 12 camels and 40-48 horse.

Britain's Arab Bedouin horsemen and camels and some of the large New Britain's on the camels in the background.

The most recent figure count indicates that the Dervish will have approximately 400 figures (318 foot and 82 horse and camel mounted figures) available to fight around half that amount of British troops.

Most of my eBay purchases arrive well packed and packaged, sometimes to an extreme. It can be a little bit annoying to cut through three layers of clear packing tape binding three layers of bubble wrap, which in turn, are placed inside a second or third box and smothered in plastic packing peanuts. On the other hand, it shows that the seller really cares about delivering an undamaged product so I appreciate that aspect of it.

Once in awhile, though, you see something that makes you shake your head in amazement. I offer you this photographic evidence depicting two lots of Britain's Arabs "as they arrived" as I opened up the box in which they were "packed":

I swear that this is how the figures arrived once I opened the red Britain's boxes.

What makes this even stranger is the fact that the seller went to great pains to protect the boxes in layers of plastic bubble wrap and peanuts. Note that I did not mention the word "figures" in the previous sentence. So while the boxes were wrapped in three layers of bubble wrapped, then placed in a huge shipping box that was filled with peanuts, guess what the seller forgot to do.

That's right, he left the figures loose INSIDE THE RED BOX and I could hear them rattling around inside the boxes as I gingerly removed said boxes from a deep pool of packing peanuts. So what good was it to carefully protect the boxes when the figures were left loose inside the boxes?????

As Bugs Bunny would say, "what a maroon!"

The seller should have either wrapped each individual figure in bubble wrap or tissue paper and then pack them inside the red Britain's boxes, and then maybe add a bit of foam or bubble wrap inside the box to ensure that nothing was going to be loose inside and rattling around. In fact, most eBay sellers would have wrapped the individual figures.

Miraculously, the figures did not seem worse for wear and nothing arrived broken. Admittedly the figures are well-worn from years of play, some with chipped paint and exposed metal, some with broken muskets, but on the whole they had the patina of age that I was looking for. It is kind of like the show "American Pickers" where they are searching for rusty gold and the more beat up an item is the better. These figures were purchased by me with the intent to use them on the table top so I do not require them to be in tip top mint condition. I like them sort of beat up and used - makes them look like the veterans that they are meant to depict.

The other day I also acquired 9  Trophy of Wales brand of mounted Dervish figures on eBay. If you were one of the other bidders on the lot, then my apologies go out to you, but rest assured, they are being put to good purpose. I wonder how many of the "collector quality" figures actually get to experience a table top battle.

We are now about 9 days away from our big toy soldier battle. There will be 8 players (maybe 9) with three on the British side and 5-6 on the Dervish side. Each player will command from 60 to 100 individual figures that are not mounted on sabots or stands or movement trays. It should be quite something to see once all of the forces are out on the table.