Monday, January 14, 2019

A Few Mahdists More

The re-basing is more or less done, although I have to figure out the best way of basing up the Mahdist marksmen and rifles. Under the rules these should be in a single line skirmish order, which means a longer, stronger base. I think I'll use plastic card and dress the scene with small rocks, scrub, etc. Incidentally, Mahdist riflemen weren't that effective. They used Remington rifles captured from the Egyptian gendarmerie after the expeditions under Baker and Hicks Pashas were wiped out. The doughty followers of the Mahdi found the length of the rifles inconvenient so they hacked off a few inches of the barrels with unfortunate consequences for accuracy.

So, a few photos of my messy tabletop, a work in progress as I sort through the jumble of stuff.

The front two rows are camelry, the first lot Mahdist, the second Amarar tribesmen. The Amarar are an interesting bunch. One of the many Beja tribes of the Eastern Sudan, their territory lies in the Red Sea littoral. Back in the 1880s they were in a state of near perpetual warfare with their Hadendowah cousins, especially after the Hadendowah went over to the Mahdi. When the British/Imperial army landed at the port of Suakin the Amarar offered their aid. To differentiate themselves from followers of the Mahdi the Amarar sewed segments of discarded scarlet uniforms supplied by the British to their clothing. Whole sleeves and red patches on the chest and back were common. It made a quick visual reference to reassure any Tommy peering nervously at the oncoming camel riders.

The long line of cavalry behind them between the Ansar and Hadendowah infantry are Ta'aisha tribesmen from the Western Sudan. Fanatical followers of the Expected One, they're a little far from home for any campaign set in the east, but they look cool, so I'll use 'em.

More cavalry, and the riflemen/marksmen. The mass of British cavalry top-right above the Ansar are the 5th Lancers. The two sets of mules on the metal disc are supply mules. Lancers and mules are both from irregular Miniatures.

What next? Well, there's these. I thought I had just the one battalion of Egyptian infantry. It turns out I have two. Each battalion comprised four buluqs (companies) of approx. 200 men each. I also have a couple of lancer squadrons just off camera. Now technically the Egyptian cavalry weren't equipped with lances - and then only the front ranks - until 1890, but lancers are too cool not to use.

The Egyptian army as a whole had a chequered career in the 1880s. The Khedive reserved the best troops for service in Egypt, and tended to use the Sudan as a kind of hot version of Siberia for disgraced officers and men. As a consequence the quality of the troops stationed there was generally low, although some units fought well in the early stages of the Mahdist revolt. During the 1884-85 campaign most Egyptian troops were used to garrison the Egypt-Sudan frontier, but in a wargames campaign it's certainly feasible to use some in the field.

The Sudan rules I have uses cards to randomly generate the number of Mahdist forces appearing on the table. They also have a number of specific events, such as a British patrol of a few companies of infantry and a troop or two of cavalry coming onto the field. To these I've added an Egyptian patrol card with a similar troop composition. They could be a straightforward patrol, or the survivors of a remote garrison who, learning of the nearby presence of a powerful British army, determined to cut their way out through the Mahdists to link up with it. Whichever works for the game.

And what Sudan campaign would be complete without a gunboat? I made this little chap many moons ago. She got slightly damaged in storage over the long years. One of the Nordenfeldts on the upper deck is missing, but this will be replaced. With a 12pdr forward, a 7pdr aft, two Nordenfeldts and two 1pdrs on the upper deck, it's a bit of a beast. It will need to be when it comes to making that long run up the Nile...  


Captain Darling said...

Nice army!
Good to see your gunboat again...

A J said...

Thanks! The basing up/re-basing is all but done. I've got to print off a new set of encounter cards and rules then I'll get a game on.


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