Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Sharpe's Hazard

"Major Hogan, please tell Mister Sharpe what he can do for us next" instructed the Commander of his Britannic Majesties Army in the Peninsular

The portly exploratory officer turned to the tall green clad man in front of him. Both men carried no signals of rank but the very fact that they were standing in the Generals office clearly stood then in high regard.

"Richard my dear boy" opened Hogan "your successful attempts to retrieve the orders of battle from Marshal Soult has given us valuable insight into the Frenchman's plans and for that we are extremely grateful. However these plans have revealed an option to the French we had not considered. There is a bridge not far from Rosalejo that could prove a vantage to their forces in the their approach to our defences.

Tonight you and your chosen men will go to this bridge and blow it up!"

Sharpe looked at Hogan "is the bridge guarded sir?"

"As far as we know there is a small sentry detail but nothing you and your men can't resolve with a bit of daring do" responded the exploring officer " oh...and Richarde whilst you are out on your troubles watch out for certain French Agent - Monsieur Ducos. A rather nasty piece of work that seems to be one of the Emperors favourites down here in Spain..."

If you are interested in the first part of the Shed's adventures of Sharpe and his chosen men head here

Sharpes Pursuit

As the intro explains Sharpe and his chosen men have been tasked with blowing up a certain bridge near the village of Rosalejo.

The table 4 x 4 has been set up using my desert boards to create the canyon - this river runs through this with of course the target bridge. A simple track bisects the landscape.

Not surprisingly the bridge is guarded by 5 regular French Soldiers and is being inspected by Monsiour Ducos.

Monsieur Ducos is also an extraordinary chap so he gets some talents and rolls a d12. Furthermore he is armed with two pistols. Sadly my figure does not look like the TV character (yet)

The French will be reinforced during the game with three foot troops and three mounted dragoons. We diced at the beginning of the game and these would arrive turn 6.

The Cart (driven by a local peasant - a legitimate target for the French) would enter the board and be driven onto the bridge. The cart's contents would then be ignited by fuse and subsequently blown up. The fuse would take 0-5 turns to fire its contents (during which time the cart could be moved/or the fuse extinguished) The cart can be shot at (+2 to hit) and any hit has a 1/10 chance to ignite the contents. Anyone or thing within 6" of the exploding cart is toast.

Mark would play the French, Alastair the Greenjackets and I was coordinating, being the umpire, making it up as I went along and making the tea.

So as the evening was setting the French sentries were feeling quite relaxed and relieved they had had a quiet day....

All of a sudden they could here the incessant squeak of a badly oiled cart trundling up the valley towards the bridge...Merde they cried dismayed that their light supper of mussels and frogs legs was about to be delayed

Under the guidance of Monsieur Ducos (why he was in the valley nobody knows) the French soldiers quickly took up their positions. 

The riflemen quickly scattered and started to take advantage of their longer range rifles - the first Frenchmen (a native of Normandy we decided) were dropped quite quickly. Daniel Hagman bagging his first of many kills on that warm evening

Realising their predicament was quite bad Ducos instructed one of his troops to hide behind the small Shrine next to the bridge - didn't do him much good as he caught a lead bullet in his head a couple of turns later.

By now Sharpe and Harper had moved forward and were closing on the bridge - Sharpe had already run through one poor french soldier with his heavy blade and Harper's seven barreled monstrosity had yet to be fired in anger.

Harper was poised to take the bridge (sorry no pics as Camera was forgotten) - Ducos put on a stiff lip and charged forward firing hone of his flintlocks into Harper's general direction.This moment of sheer french insanity was enough for Harper to fumble in the ensuing combat. The French spies bullet hit the Irishmen's thick skull and Harper for the second time in as many weeks hit the dirt out cold.

Realising that his soon to be arch enemy Richard Sharpe was just round the corner Ducos grabbed the initiative in the next turn and managed to charge Sharpe (so much for his cowardly trait) - A bitter struggle erupted and Sharpe was driven back wounded by the sneaky Parisian....

Was Sharpe to be denied his victory...NO ! Alastair played an Ace using this a Queen to not only shake off his wound but also allow him to lunge back at Ducos. With a savage glint in his eye Sharpe thrust his heavy cavalry blade into the bemused Frenchman. Sharpe has dismissed his foe

(later Ducos's body could not be found and the British suspect he feigned his death to ensure he could escape)

With the majority of the French sentries out the way Giuseppe the cart driver moved forward. Sadly this was his last action as a rather sneaky Frenchman ran up and ran him through with a bayonet.

This Frenchman's victory was short lived as Hagman potted his second of the day - the wise old poacher had found a nice spot covering the bridge in the rocks

With the original french sentries down and out it was a good job their reinforcements arrived - and it wasn't long until the dragoon were thundering over the bridge.

The cart was slowly heading towards it destination

The French Dragoons charged the cart (now being driven by chosen man Harris)

The first dragoon swung left off the bridge and charged Sharpe - bad move. Sharpe grabbed the horses bridle and pulled the froggie off his horse. A quick flick of his wrist (in a thuggish kind of way) sent another French trooper off on his final journey

Harris didn't fare quite so well as he he received a new haircut from the sabre swinging Dragoon charging him. fortunately Cooper was on hand to rescue him and take over the cart driving duties. Hagman shot the second dragoon from very long range.

Filled with Blood lust Sharpe charged down the third mounted Frenchman and once again his prowess with a sword was pretty impressive...

I can assure all the readers here that this was how the game was playing out...

By now Cooper had got the cart onto the bridge BUT he had been overcome by the final French guards. These guys realising the cart contained enough explosives to send the bridge into orbit knew it had to be moved. 

The only man who could physically stop[ this from happening was our hero Richard Sharpe - he bounded onto the bridge to confront the carts new owners. He swung his blade ....and missed. The Frenchman stabbed him with his bayonet - potentially a lethal wound. We will never know (at least not until the next adventure) as Sharpe fell from the bridge into the icy water.

The French guards quickly drive the cart off the bridge and back towards their lines - both Hagman and Perkins hit the cart but their rifle fire was insufficient to stop the cart and its contents reaching French lines.

Sharpe has failed - what will happen next...

Come back soon

Postscript. This was such a fun game to umpire - all credit to my players for playing the characters.

The story played out so well and could have easily swung the other way...

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The First Sudan Battle - In the Balance

Morning All

If you have been following this blog you have probably noticed that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time concentrating on my 28mm Colonial Sudanese project. With the majority of the figures painted it was time to get them on the table.

Some 700+ 28mm figures marched onto my desert terrain. This was going to be a straightforward engagement using virtually every painted figure. We used the Black Powder rule set supported by the army lists from the Blood in the Sand Campaign book.

This was a purely ficticious battle and I was keen to see whether the forces I had amassed on both sides would deliver a balanced game. I think it is fair to say that the early reports from the battlefield suggested the Allied forces of British troops supported by their Egyptian allies would make short work of the tribals. As you will see from the reports this somewhat changed during the game.

Both forces were spread across the table with the following orders of battle.

Allies on the left and Dervishes on the right

The Mahdists had four brigades with each command controlling a unit of rifle armed skirmishers, a cavalry or camel unit and three units of fanatic spear men. A couple of guns were thrown into the mix giving the Dervishes about 23 units in play. Effectively each command had to lose three units before it was broken. The Dervish commanders were all given command scores of 8.

The Allied forces were comprised of two brigades with each force either having 3 or 4 regular infantry. two artillery pieces (including one Gardner Gun), and a cavalry unit. The force that had only three infantry battalions was augmented with the Mounted Camel Corps. Again the break point for each Allied Brigade was three. We don't count artillery towards breakpoints

The Mahdists approach the field...

Myself and Alastair would command the British forces with Mark and Rolf the Local tribesmen

Action began on the Allied Left flank (we were waiting on Rolf to join us) with Mark pushing his forces forward using the low hills to screen his troops.

Unlike our Zulu wars games the options open to the Dervish are much more varied, their mix of skirmishers, cavalry and foot giving a number of options that are not reflected in the games set in the south african veldt.

With the Dervish rapidly advancing Alastair's British command marched forward to deliver some well timed volleys. These quickly took the steam out of the warbands advancing

To the far left the Mahdists were funneled into the Wadi of death - a lack of orders on their behalf and well aimed rifle fire saw very little progress on this front

By now the Mahdists decided they had had enough and charged forward - spear waving foot and cavalry pouring over the hills.

Fearing this onslaught the Hussars were let lose quickly riding down a units of Beja skirmishes and crashing into the advancing Dervish columns

By now the right flank had come into play and the field of fire for my Gardner gun was full of rich targets. I rolled the dice and missed - I rolled again a 1 - the gun was jammed ! and effectively out of the game.

The first time I have ever used a machine gun in a colonial game and I failed

This opened the door for the Beja cavalry to charge into my Mounted Camel unit. Fortunately the dice gods favoured the defenders and the Beja were sent packing. Recognising an opportunity to press home my advantage IO commanded the Camels to advance, dismount and give fire to the fleeing horse.

I rolled a blunder. Deciding that they had done their bit the British Camel Commander retreated from the board never to be seen again.

The tide potentially turned

By now the British were fighting a desperate game of survival - their stubborness only preventing a collapse across the front

More Dervishes kept pouring forward

And eventually they crashed into the British Lines

But this advance was having an impact on the Dervish morale - their left flank brigade in the Wadi of death finally broke on the bayonets of the Allied right flank.

But things weren't going so well for my British Command - the Egyptian troops were quickly routed by Rolfs tribals

and I was in distinct danger of the rest folding...

Did I mention that at this point Alastair (being a Scot) was fighting a desperate action with his Black Watch. They lost ! The first British Infantry unit to go down fighting.

By now the British had lost two units in each of their brigades - if wither lost one more that unit could not advance. The Dervishes had already committed three of their four brigades and two were now broken. This was going to be tight

In a final flurry of attacks from the Dervish fourth brigade (that had effectively been un-engaged all battle thanks to some very poor command rolls) the delivered the killing blow to the Allied intentions - just. Both Allied brigades were broken and three of the four Dervishes.

Units across the table were shattered and virtually every unit had suffered casualties.

This was a telling victory for the Mahdi.

In Summary

The battle using Black Powder and these forces was fought in two hours and was a pretty tight affair. Both sides had a modicum of both good and bad luck with some crazy die rolls at crucial poinbts in the game. These results may well have changed events if different but it was agreed that the game was not only balanced but also great fun and a great intro into this period.

Personally I was delighted with the overall impact of the game and by guests all thought that it looked great.

Historical Note

As part of my reading into this period I purchased Mike Snook's - Go Strong into the Desert. This book can be found onsale via the Perry Website and is worth every penny as an intro into this period. Interestingly it has all the orders of battle for virtually every engagement in the various Sudan campaign. A quick study of these reveals that the the vast majority of battles saw the Mahdist either outnumbered or at best equal in size to the British expeditionary forces. So our engagement with a numerically stringer Mahdi force was very unlikely but where is the fun in having a game and knowing the result before you have even started.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Sudan Project part 13 - Nile Gunboat pt1

Hiya Folks

part 12 can be found here

Now that I am nearing the end of my figure painting its time to turn my attention to the bespoke terrain I am going to need for my Sudan project. If you have been following this project you will know that I have started on Khartoum but until I can actually get back into the shed properly that part of the project is on old.

Now if you peruse or visit the Lead Adventure Forum you might be aware that each year they run a terrain building contest called aptly 'Build Something'. A few years back I entered and came fourth with my humongous volcano - remember this - the theme that year was Fire

link here

This year the contest has returned with the theme 'ill advised' - I wanted to take part but was not going to build a folly - the piece had to be useable in my Sudan project. Knowing that I wanted to build a gunboat I searched for some story that might fit with this theme...

Luck was with me when I found this about the Nile Gunboat Abbas-

Background (courtesy of this link http://thelastdaysofthunderchild.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/colonel-jdh-stewart-of-gunboat-abbas.html

Some days before the city fell, Colonel John Donald Hamill Stewart took all the remaining westerners in Khartoum aboard a fortified paddle steamer called the Abbas. It was a desperate attempt to run the gauntlet of Manasir tribesmen who were on both sides of the Nile. They got past the most heavily fortified part of the blockade, but they were running low on fuel when the steamer struck a rock close to the Island of Kaniett.

The Abbas paddle steamer was in a desperate situation after stubbornly fighting its way past the most dangerous part of the blockade. Their destination was a place called Dongola and they were still some way off. A little further along the river was a smaller island called Um Dewarmat and an Arab named Sulieman – wad – Gamur invited them to land. They were offered hospitality which they accepted. While they refreshed themselves, Sulieman and his tribesmen overpowered the passengers and crew of the Abbas after a brief fight.

There were many civilians among them and all were believed to have been executed including Colonel John Donald Hamill. Not much is known of the fate that befell the unfortunate people of the gunboat Abbas, but their final moments at the hands of Sulieman’s tribesmen must have been very ghastly if their captures were allied or part of Ahmed Al-Mahdi’s Manasir tribesmen.

it was clearly an ill advised action to accept the hospitality of this Arab

So another boat project - I'll be posting details of this build here on the blog and on the LAF

First up I needed some inspiration and came across this Osprey book

The Abbas itself was a twin paddlesteamer and having read through my book most of the gunboats were about 100ft in length with a beam out to the width of the paddle boards of about 25ft. This gives an approximate scale of 50cm long x 12cm wide. My boat is going to be 46cm long (governed by length of foam core) and slighlty wider (16cm)

A base profile was cut from foamcore

and a second footprint cut (including area for paddleboards) - these were stuck together and the engine room added

the next step was to add the wooden lower deck using coffee stirrers

Once these were dry I started on the superstructure. Again this was foamcore given the timber decking treatment.

Once all the decking was dry I clipped the overhanging pieces of stirrer off. It was now starting to look boat shaped.

The 'walls' were made using cereal card which was glued and pinned to the foamcore hull. Small bits of stirrer were used to support the card 

Very happy with how it is looking at the moment

Some extra bits were added - the funnel (old plastic pipe)and a steering house on the top deck

Now it was time to move onto the paddlewheels - A piece of timber was pushed through the boat and where it meats the edge of the boat I cut in a large 8cm 'warbases' base

The paddles themselves are going to be constructed from lollipop sticks and these wooden cogs found on ebay

The first of the wheels are fitted and the second is on its way

More soon....