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:


  1. Fun to view and I'm sure fun to play. A return to one's youth is a good thing, especially at our age! Cheers!

  2. This was an amazing experience from standpoints of using stunning 54mm toy soldiers, excellent terrain Jim terra-formed, plentiful chow, lots of laughs and friendship. Moreover it was really fun. I'm already thinking about next things for my collection and a few rules tweaks. Thank you Jim for a great day. Respectfully,
    Bill P. PS I shall get my photo story published in a day or two.

  3. What a cracking looking game and one that reminds me of similar childhood games. Keep up the good work:)

    1. Thank you Steve. It was a fun time with a great group of players.

  4. Thanks for hosting the game Jim. Those pesky lancers gave me a rude surprise, I was expecting them to leave for home. Being close to the machineguns when the 3 jams came up it was as if an unseen hand had favored us. But we didn't have anything in range to take advantage of it! A good thing since the next turn they were good to go, and aiming at us.

    1. Thank you for playing John. You contributed to,the demise of Barlow's brigade.

  5. An epic game and a delight for viewers. I hope there will be a MiniWargs/Battle game article.

    I had the same problem with the free standing cavalry and ended up lightly gluing them to individual bases.

    To some extent I found that using conventional rules and multi-bases made it feel a little less like "playing with toy soldiers" and a little more like a wargame with slightly larger figures but that they still had/have a presence that smaller figures lack and are ideal for some periods, like Colonials.

    Looking forward to more pictures.

    1. Ross, my thoughts exactly about the "feel of the game", but it was interesting to see the large figures on the table and I sort of felt a more personal attachment to them, one that I don't often get with the 28/30mm figures.

  6. Pin the hooves.. Attach to base ?

    1. The figures are too valuable as collectors items to start drilling holes and placing pins in them.

  7. The best base for 54mm cavalry is 100mmx50mm mdf

    1. I have some similar sized bases that I could use, allows me to,place three horses on a stand.

  8. I use E600 glue to attach things because that is the only glue that works in the plastic that is used

  9. Agree. Lovely picture and nice write up. You have a fine collection. I am glad you got them on the table for battle finally!

  10. Wonderful 54mm game - must watch the White Feather again....

  11. Wonderful looking game Jim and the fact that you can wear part of the blame as Sinclair for the outcome shows that having fun is paramount to any great wargaming get together. The 54mm figures do look so spectacular.

  12. Beautiful looking game, so many figures on the table looks truly impressive.
    The falling horses conundrum is difficult because you don't want to damage the models- strong double sided sticky tape?

  13. A 'toy soldier' delight Super game and nice report. Hope the british do better next time

  14. My photo AAR is linked below.
    Bill P.

  15. I did a little experiment with tacky mounting putty and that seems to work ok. I think that the key may be to make the wooden bases larger so that the player can more easily grasp the base to move the figures.

  16. What a delightful looking game, sounds great fun too! I must get my 28mm collection out soon I think!

  17. Wow! Simply, Wow! What a beautiful sight to see so many beautiful big toy soldiers in such a fine looking game! Thanks for sharing your photos! Long live the big scales!

    1. The 54mm figures are sure eye openers, aren't they?

  18. Superb Sudan 54mm Battle- just delightful. Well done indeed to all. Regards. KEV.

  19. Shiny and superb! I'm pretty sure if I'm really good this time around, when I die, I'll get to land in a game room like yours. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Excellent looking game Jim, great to see these armies on the table and doing battle. Stirring stuff!