Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Refighting The Battle of El-Teb

                                                  The Sudan 29th February 1884                      

Last weekend we had a crack at refighting the battle of El Teb using the scenario from the Blackpowder rulebook. This was our second go at this game after we botched our first attempt using the wrong measurements for movement as we used pike and Shotte distances, (so no wonder it took the British a age to march across the desert!). My dad took the part of Sir Gerald Graham commanding the British force while I in charge of the Sudanese army took the role of Madani ibn Ali. As per the scenario we give the British 8 moves to win the game, however this is a tall order so we deemed that if the British hadnt broke the Mahdist force or captured the village in this time then any victory would only count as a minor victory. The British entered the game from their table edge in March column while the bulk of my force was hidden behind the hills which I had marked onto a map. The Mahdist force was made up of two brigades, one large infantry brigade and a cavalry brigade, with the Britsh having two infantry brigades and a mounted one to. 

The initial set up

I planned to use the Mahdist cavalry as a speed bump, hopefully if I could get them moving quickly I could distract the British infantry from their objective of flushing the Sudanese from their defensive position on the ridge and capturing the village. If I was to get involved in a cavalry fight with the British hussars I was sure to be broken but hopefully I could cause enough to damage in return to at least shake if not break the brigade.

The Britsh troops didn't exactly show much enthusiasm to get to grips with the Sudanese on the hill and made very slow progress with some poor command rolls hindering their movement. Already it didn't look likely that they would capture the village in 8 moves.  

My Mahdist cavalry brigade moves to threaten the British left flank but are met head on by the 10th & 19th Hussars. I missed an opportunity to catch the leading British infantry in March column with my camels as I forgot that troops with the skirmish trate can charge if the unit is in March column! As the British infantry formed into line in front of my camel riders I feared I would regret this oversight

The 2nd British brigade deploys their Navel Maxim Machine guns and Royal artillery ready to pound the ridge under the commanded of General Davis

First blood to the British as the counter charging 10th Hussars beat the under matched  Mahdist cavalry who flee taking their support along with them. With a camel unit also shaken as a result of the Birtish infantry fire the Mahdist mounted brigade was already broken and started to retreat leaving my left flank very exposed.

The British 1st brigade led by General Redvers Buller form into line as a howizer shell from the Mahdist artillery finds its target on the unsuspecting Gordon highlanders who quickly change formation from March column..que much shouting and celebration from the Mahdist gunners on the ridge.

Beja armed riflemen ready themselves for the approaching British infantry in their defensive positions with a field howitzer in support

Three Warbands of Beja and allied Sudanese spears run for the cover of the dried out river bed under fire from the machine guns from ready to attack the British 2nd brigade led by Abdulla ibn Hamid.

The Beja skirmishes retreat from the dried out river bed as the British advance with impressive cohesion. Unlike in our first attempt at this game my artillery and riflemen couldn't find a disorder roll for the love of money so the British moved towards the first defences of the village.

The first Warband of Beja spears charges into the Royal Irish fusiliers and although the closing fire sees them become shaken they manage to get into combat. The following round of combat saw the Beja fall just short of shaking the fusiliers and retreating away shaken from the melee.

However Abdulla ibn Hamid was not to be Denied his glory as he issued a follow me order to the second band of Beja Spearmen who survived two volleys of British traversing fire to smash into the flank of the York and Lancasters batallion who had moved ahead of the British infantry lines. Although Abdulla was killed in the combat he managed to see the British infantry destroyed by his Beja Spearmen before his death, a worthy sacrifice.

Roused by this act of heroism the hidden Warbands of the Mahdist infantry started to move in support of the ridge as the British infantry destroyed the artillery and pushed into the defensive positions, the British hussars had now rallied and were menacingly moving around the Mahdist flank towards the village, over running a hapless Mahdist field gun emplacement on their way and moping up the retreating Mahdist cavalry.

The Kings Royal rifles move over the defences onto the hill to be confronted by angry mobs of Beja & Sudanese infantry, who move into position to defend the out skirts of the village. Madani Iba Ali also reveals his remaining hidden Warbands behind the ridge ready to stop the British infanty advancing onto the village.

After the Blackwatch had destroyed the Beja riflemen they were themselves caught in flank by a band of sudaneese Spearmen, led by the newly appointed commander after Abdulla had been slain. Despite the new commander been shot from his horse and killed he had managed to get this rabble whipped up into enough of a frenzy to do the unthinkable and destroy the famous scots as my dad rolled a rather dismal morale roll. (This should come as no surprise as my dads record with this unit of scots is pretty dismal as he always seems to roll a morale throw of 3 or under on two D6!) This saw General Davis brigade broken and they started to retreat from the battle without his navel machine guns ever really contributing to the battle! The pendulum was now swinging in the Mahdists favour.

Crunch time on the ridge as the British 2nd brigade make one final assault at taking the Mahdist position. This sees the Kings Royal rifles attack the Beja rifles in flank who manage to surprisingly hold their ground. In return a Beja Warband charges the rifles in their flank but thanks to there steady rule they automatically pass there morale throw when they are beaten in combat.

The Gordon highlanders need no second invite as they charge into the flank of the Beja spears fighting the Kings Royal rifles. This combat sees the Mahdist break but not before they managed to shake the Kings rifles rending General bullers brigade broken. In the final combat of the game the British 10th hussars destroy a Beja Spearmen Warband but themselves become shaken. The British although they had taken a lot more than 8 moves had come very close to taking the village of El Teb, the 10th hussars were literally knocking on the door of the village just as the Royal rifles become shaken and  General Bullers brigade were forced into a withdrawal. My Sudaneese army was 1 unit been shaken from total defeat as this would have seen the infantry brigade broken and forced into retreating and abandoning the village.

Although the scenario is difficult for the British, especially to gain victory in 8moves the game was played in a good humoured fun manner,. However a point of discussion which arose at the end of the game was regarding when your force is deemed broken in Blackpowder. In this particular game my dads Kings rifles became shaken in my turn which ment that his army was broken, ending the game in my turn thus denying my dad any chance of been able to rally the shaken unit(s) ,( the Britsh brigades in this scenario were only 3 battalions strong so they are very vulnerable to been shaken) We were both in agreement that should your army become broken in your opponents turn you should be able to have the chance of rallying your units in your following command phase, however if you were to fail this order then your army would still collapse and be broken after your own command phase. this just seems to be fair as at least you are granted the opportunity to at least have a go in your own turn of attempting to keep your force in the battle. We will be introducing this amendment into our future Blackpowder games. A good game though even if I did manage to loose 3 commanders of the Mahdist infantry brigade leading glorious charges destroying those invading infidels....


  1. What a great looking battle Neil. Looks like the Mahdists may be recruiting more Emirs as I type.

  2. Enjoyed reading your report Neil seems to capture the time and place well.