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.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Khartoum! Game Report - Part 1

The Cast of Players

On Saturday March 18, 2023 our band of brothers (all six of us) gathered at the game emporium of Keith L. and played my 54mm Khartoum! game. Keith has a huge basement that holds three 6ft by 32ft game tables , in parallel, resulting in an overall surface area of 18ft by 32ft. The vast expanse of space (including a 6ft wide Nile River) was something to behold. Here are some game pictures, below. Be sure to click and/or double click on the pictures to enlarge the view.

The game featured approximately 200 Egyptian regulars defending the walls of the city of Khartoum against the Dervish army of The Mahdi, all 600 figures. So the attackers had a 3:1 advantage in numbers.

We also had a Dervish river fleet of four dhows and one steam launch facing off against two Egyptian paddle wheel steam boats.

Given the large number of pictures that I have to post of the game, I decided to divide the after action report into two parts. Part 1 will cover the Nile River boat combat and Part 2 will cover the storming of the walls of Khartoum. A few "teaser photos" of the main attack are shown here to wet appetites.

A view of Khartoum from the Dervish starting positions.

The Dervish army started on the back table and advanced across the aisle
and on to the center table, where most of the action took place.

Khartoum as seen from the banks of the Nile River.

Dervish riflemen mill about the oasis next to the river.

The River Battle

The Dervish navy had a flotilla of four dhow sailboats and one steam launch that towed a barge full of warriors. They were opposed by one of the Egyptian paddle wheel steamers, which was armed with a Krupp 9-pounder forward and a Gatling gun aft, along with a crew of 20 sailors.

The steam launch towing a barge of Mahdist warriors.

The Dervish flotilla sets off upstream towards Khartoum .

Since the Dervish flotilla outnumbered the Egyptians 5 boats to 1 boat, their strategy
was to overwhelm the paddle wheeler with numbers. Two dhows would attack the 
paddle wheeler while the other 3 boats slipped around the bend in the river and
attempted to land in the rear area of Khartoum.

Three dhows slip behind the Egyptian boat.

The Egyptian captain turned his boat to deliver more fire power at the dhows.

A view of the river battle from the walls of Khartoum.

It looks like the Dervish strategy might pay off as two of their boats slip away 
from the Egyptian boat. One dhow has run aground (upper right corner) and 
two other dhows have turned back

OK, so this was a play test and it soon became evident that the naval battle was a lopsided affair with the advantage to the Egyptians. In the end, all of the dhows were run down and destroyed. The Egyptian captain took a few liberties with the maneuvering agility of his paddle wheel boat. I plan to make it harder for the paddle wheeler to turn about. One turn to move forward a length of the boat, one turn to turn left or right , and a third turn to come about and a fourth turn to head upriver. So it will take four turns for the cumbersome paddle wheeler to turn around.

Also, the Egyptian forward Krupp cannon can not be moved in the next game. It has to stay in its forward facing position at all times. I will allow the rear Gatling gun to prolong to the left or right, but this will now take a full turn to accomplish. Three of the dhows have 6-pound cannon forward and they did not move or reposition during the fight. That's the way it should be.

Two dhows and the steam launch (with boat in tow) made it around the bend in the river and headed towards the back door of the city. However, those crafty Egyptians prolonged their artillery on the town walls and took aim on the Dervish fleet. Going forward, I will not allow the Egyptians to prolong their cannons up and down the ramparts willy nilly. The second Egyptian paddle wheeler was docked at Khartoum and it was well positioned to finish off the approaching dhows with its forward Krupp cannon. Again, the paddle wheeler was too maneuverable and flexible. This will change in the next game.

In summary, here are some changes that I am making to the naval rules that are based on the feedback that I got from the play test game.

1. make the paddle wheel boats more cumbersome to maneuver

2. cannons on boats can only face forward and can not be repositioned

3. cannons on the city ramparts can not be prolonged, they have to stay where they are sited

4. work on some ship boarding rules as this is likely to occur during my games

5. give the Egyptians only one armed paddle wheel steamer rather than two

6. add two more dhows to the Dervish flotilla to increase their chances of attacking the city from the river

This is why we play test rules and game scenarios, so I learned a lot about how to run the naval battle on the Nile River. 

PART 2 will be posted within the next couple of days.


Friday, March 17, 2023

Khartoum Play Test on 18ft x 32ft Table


The vast sands of the Sudan look very vast indeed over three 6ft by 32ft table.

This weekend I am taking my talents (and my giant Khartoum game) to Woodstock, IL to run a full size play test of my Khartoum! 54mm wargame. My friend Keith L. has a large basement that holds three 6ft by 32ft tables, arranged parallel. The aisles between the tables don't exist as far as the playing surface is concerned. When you move your figures to the edge of the table, you simply pick up your figures and move them across the aisle and onto the next table. This provides a depth of 18 feet when you consider the three 6ft wide tables. And with 32ft of length, well, let's just say, there is a lot of maneuver room on the flanks.

Here are two pictures of the large expanse of playing surface for our 54mm Khartoum! wargame this weekend.

The terrain looks a bit empty without troops on the table.
These would be set up on the following day.

As we set up the terrain on Wednesday, I was gobsmacked by seemingly endless table space and I began to wonder if I had enough troops to fill it up. Actually, one doesn't have to fill up the space on large tables, but rather, one can appreciate the amount of room available to maneuver without running off the edge of the game table.

I set up the game with Keith's assistance over the course of two days (Wednesday and Thursday of this week) because my vehicle is not large enough to hold all of the terrain and figures. So on the first day, I hauled all of the terrain bits and pieces to Keith's house and we set up the terrain. Keith's wife Donna kindly made a delicious lunch to keep our energy up. The next day I brought all of my Sudan 54mm figures to the venue and we set up the Egyptian garrison in Khartoum and laid out the Dervish forces.

We set up the Nile River (the Blue Nile coincidentally ) using 6ft wide blue felt and then placed the Dervish river flotilla of dhows and one steam launch on the tables. The river runs towards the walls of Khartoum and flows around the back of the city. This provides a Dervish player the opportunity to try to attack the city from the back door, the river.

Note that Khartoum's walls spill over to the middle table. This is done so that  
all of the players don't end up in the middle aisles once the Dervish attack reaches the city's walls.

The Egyptians will have a pair of paddle wheel river boats to protect the city.

A view of Khartoum from the river.

The front walls of the city are placed on the middle table so that both sides can reach the walls with their arms and play from both sides of the table. Had I put the entire town on the back table, then every player would be standing in the middle aisle trying to move their figures. For my convention games, I will make the middle table only 5ft wide, rather than 6ft.

This is a stack of just some of the figures and terrain that I had to transport to Keith's house for the game set  up.

So now the game table is set up and the figures have all been placed in their starting positions. This is two days before the first roll of the dice on Saturday morning. We have 7 players participating in the game, although I could easily accommodate 10 to 12 players at the Little Wars and Historicon conventions.

I will post game day pictures probably on Saturday night, so come on back and visit my blog to see how the game played out.

A final note, one advantage of setting up the game table at its full convention size is to allow me to see the spacing of the terrain and troops and to see if there are any bits and pieces that I still need to add for the convention game, It was clear that I would need more walls, so I made four walls yesterday and will finish them up with some dry brushing on Friday. I also want to make some more scaling ladders.