Thursday, 9 May 2013

Battle of Toski with SvP, (part 2)

The Egyptian Army council of war discussed several plans of action. The first was to try to induce Nejumi and his forces to attack them in Toski by appearing weak. In danger of not having any game at all (or at least a game that did not resemble its historical prototype at all) "Wingate" gathered some more intelligence from deserters and hinted heavily that the Egyptians would need to get out there and engage the Mahdists if the latter were not to escape into the desert unhindered.

The Egyptian forces in Toski, with the steamer El Teb in attendance
The team quickly grasped the idea that they would need to delay the Mahdists on their march to give the infantry enough time to march up and catch them. Colonel Kitchener was therefore despatched with the mobile column to interrupt their march, although the plan was still linked with the idea that they could tempt the Mahdists to attack them close to Toski. With the exception of the latter idea this was the historical plan.

I may have to admit an error in casting here. Running a series of defensive positions using cavalry and camel corps is not the most straight forward of jobs, and the player concerned had never played SvP before. The job was made slightly more challenging as the players chose to put their first "road block" in a few thousand yards back from what happened historically. That meant that the Mahdists were well on the move and the rest of the Egyptian force had less time to make it to the battle field by the time they encountered the first obstacle.

Col Kitchener leads the 20th Hussars on recce
Once I'd convinced Colonel Kitchener to scout with his cavalry and keep his camel corps for use as a firing line we were under way. Kitchener pushed forward with his squadron of Hussars and set up a OP on a ridge line. He then sat down and wrote some reports to his C-in-C.

Kitchener scribbles a hurried note
Soon the Mahdists came into view, and Kitchener formed a firing line on the ridge.

The mounted column deployed
All he had to do was hold on until the 2nd Infantry Brigade caught up with him. The Mahdist skirmish line opened a desultory fire, inflicting a small number of casualties. As I started to put the rest of the Mahdists out on the table, I'm afraid to say that Kitchener bottled it a bit, and mounted up retreating from the ridge for fear of being overwhelmed. Moving as quickly as possible he fell back upon the 2nd Brigade's square, hoping to draw the Mahdists on to them. 2nd Brigade were relieved, given their numbers, that they had no baggage to secure within their perimeter as well as potentially cope with some cavalry horses.

Pulling back on the square
All this was to no avail, as the Mahdists were trying to avoid fighting, unless they were going to win easily or were forced to because the enemy was blocking their route. On this occasion the Mahdists were able to veer past the Egyptain position, and continue on their way.

Kitchener duly put pen to paper and sent another report to The Sirdar.

Kitchener and Wodehouse had a quick conference, and receiving orders from The Sirdar to make sure that they definitely delayed the Mahdists so they could be brought to battle, it was resolved that Kitchener needed to get ahead of them and do a better job of slowing them down this time. Or die in the attempt.

Alas the Mahdists were advancing across flat open ground, so although he managed to head them off he had no cover. Taking pity on my big brother I gave him a rocky knoll to form up on as the Mahdists massed to attack.

 At this point we stopped for tea and cake

Back to the game 2nd Brigade formed up and stepped up the pace to get in on the action before it was too late.

The Sirdar, meanwhile, was just finishing breakfast on the "El Teb", whilst 1st Brigade were setting up a defensive perimeter around Toski, although the Horse Artillery had been despatched in support of 2nd Brigade.

The mounted column had formed square and sent their mounts off to safety. The Mahidist tide surged around them and their defensive fire was unable to prevent them contacting the square.

Alas for the Mahdists they then proceeded to roll probably the longest succession of 1s & 2s on record and were pretty much beaten off all round the square. They broke in on one corner, but the Camel Corps smartly about faced and shot them off. Not even a wobble on the reaction tests for the Egyptians.

In order to draw the attackers off a bit the 2nd Brigade deployed its artillery and started to get into a firing line.

The Mahdists left a small force to cover the square on the rocky knoll and turned their fury on the infantry in line.

The Egyptian troops were magnificent. They unleashed a devastating series of volleys, destroying the flower of the Mahdist fighting men, leaving the demoralised rump to flee west into the desert.

(BTW in the picture above ignore Toski in the background, - I was using different bits of the table for different locations.)

So, a resounding success for the reformed Egyptian Army.

A few lessons for me. Firstly I tried to manage the game in too ambitious a fashion. Rather than start at Toski and let players make the early decisions it might have been better to have set the game up at the original "first contact" point, overlooking the Mahdist camp. The game would then have played like a more conventional wargame and all the locations would have fitted together on my wargames table in one go. What I ended up with was a multi-locational game with players in three different places at one point, and the time sequence broke down a bit.

Secondly the Imperial firing chart is way too effective at times. The Mahdists probably need to outnumber their opponents at least 3 to 1 to overcome the Imperial fire effect when they have to advance over the open. Even when they get it, it's still very hard work. The mounted outpost should have been overrun and wiped out to a man, but survived having "only" lost their mounts.

Finally, the game loses a bit if there's no baggage for the Imperial forces, or if they are close to their base. Having said that, I reckon that the Imperial forces would have to be very inept to lose to Nejumi at this point

So there is hope.

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