The Liberation

of Debbi

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This game, when first arranged, was intended to kick off a Sudan campaign using my Fire & Sword in the Sudan rules. When game day rolled around the campaign wasn't quite ready to kick off and we needed another game to play, so this scenario was created on the spot. It doesn't stretch the imagination much but it worked well enough to get players in a Sudan mood and to acquaint everyone with the new The Sword & the Flame 20th anniversary rules.

The Anglo-Egyptians were commanded by Don Perrin while the Mahdists were played by Tim Brown and myself. The eight-turn game lasted about three hours.

We used a 7.5 x 5 foot table. About a foot of width was lost to the river, which was purely decorative (as was the dhow anchored near shore). The Anglo-Egyptian force tasked with recapturing the village of Debbi consisted of one platoon of Egyptian infantry, one platoon of Egyptian camel corps, one platoon of British camel corps (both camel units were dismounted throughout), and two Egyptian field guns. Opposing them initially were one unit of dervish spearmen and a cannon in the village, another unit of spearmen rushing toward the town through the rocky ground along the riverbank, and 10 jehadia riflemen hidden somewhere on the board. Off board and waiting to arrive on a random turn (roll less than the current turn number on 1d6) were three more units of spears and one of camelry.

The Anglo-Egyptians entered the table on turn 1. They could come on anywhere along the long edge opposite the river or the short end opposite the village. They chose to enter as near the village as possible. While this seems the obvious choice, it was risky because the dervish reinforcements could enter from either short end (determined randomly). They could have rushed directly onto the A-E right flank and rear, which would have spelled disaster for the attackers. As events played out the Anglo-Egyptian player got away with this maneuver, but just barely.

The Anglo-Egyptians advanced quickly in open order and set up in a loose "L" formation with the guns at the corner. Immediately a gun duel erupted between the two Egyptian 9-lbers. and the ansars' antique muzzle loader, with predictable results.

At this point, though, the ansars' main goal was simply to hang on until the reinforcements arrived, so they were happy to trade casualties two-for-one with the Egyptian gunners. Both sides had their artillery attached to an infantry unit to help soak up casualties and provide replacements for slain gunners. Even so, three turns was all the outgunned Mahdists could survive before their gun was silenced and the village was emptied of all but corpses.

While this was happening, the ansar near the river bank moved toward the rocky jebels and the riflemen that were hiding in the rocks advanced into rifle range to begin sniping. Unfortunately for the jehadia, they were outclassed nearly as badly as the ansar artillery was. In an effort to gain some protection, they dropped prone.

This was only an invitation to the British cameleers to fix bayonets and charge, which they promptly did. Charging was still a gutsy move on Don's part because a bad straggler roll could have made it a suicide mission. Four men charged, which left him with iffy odds. The slightly startled jehadia were bolstered when their half-hearted volley picked off the British officer. Fresh from campaigning on the Northwest Frontier of India, the no-nonsense Sergeant Smackhard barked out a gruff "tally-ho" and the men waded in anyway, sending the humiliated native riflemen scampering for their lives back toward the dubious safety of the rocks.

In the meantime, the Egyptians advanced into the village and deployed for a sweep. Their nervous commander fretted that Mahdist snipers might remain hidden in the buildings, waiting to pick him off as they had Maj.-Gen. Earle at Kirbekan. The only Arab tribe remaining on the table in good order hunkered down in the jebels against the crashing of the Egyptian artillery shells, prayed, and wondered what had become of the large force that went looking for the enemy that morning. (We had already missed four consecutive reinforcement die rolls, a feat with an approximately 9% likelihood.)

Then, with the table nearly swept clear of ansar, the missing horde arrived. Better yet, it appeared on the vulnerable Anglo-Egyptian flank, precisely where it was needed most! La illah, ila Allah!

Cursing his rotten luck (although in fact he'd had nothing but good luck up to that point), Don hastily pulled his men into a skirmish line facing the onrushing mass and opened fire with every available weapon. The brunt of that storm of lead was absorbed by the fuzzy-wuzzies at the center of the line, who lost their chief and 14 others of their 20 men in a single turn of firing. But they didn't run!

Unfortunately, the greatest indignity of all still awaited. At this point, approximately 34 Egyptians and British faced the imminent impact of over 50 fanatical ansar. When the rubber met the road, the tire went flat. All three ansar groups (the decimated fuzzy-wuzzies refused to move) failed their close-to-contact rolls! Suddenly pinned down at prime killing range, they stood very little chance of even escaping, let alone pressing the attack.

So, just for grins, we backed up and played out the melee as if the ansar had pressed the charge as they should have--and we rolled over 'em! There ain't no justice. Aah, next time . . .

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