< The Last Outpost >

The eastern Sudan, 1885. Bent on retaking Khartoum and avenging the murder of Gordon, Wolseley has decided to press ahead with the Suakin-to-Berber railway. But the project faces many difficulties, not the least of which is protecting the crucial watering holes along the route.

A combined Anglo-Egyptian garrison mans an outpost near the railhead. The sudden increase in dervish raids has sent the construction workers scampering back to the safety of Suakin, and now Osman Digna's warriors are laying siege to the garrison camp. They have, of course, torn up a portion of the tracks to prevent rapid reinforcement. The garrison must stand alone for 12 days.

Besides wiping out the garrison, the ansars can achieve a secondary victory by accomplishing any two of these three conditions: destroying the water tower, disabling the cannons, and slaughtering all the wounded in the hospital (the old tomb). These three targets are spread throughout the outpost, making every area attractive to attack and leaving no spot that the defense can completely ignore without paying a price. The hasty barricades are the weakest portion of the defense but they form the critical movement link between the main zeriba and the small zeriba.

This scenario grew out of several sources. First is the marvelous John Ford film, "The Lost Patrol," starring Victor McLaglen, Boris Karloff, Wallace Ford, Reginald Denny, and Alan Hale. The film's setting is Mesopotamia. A British patrol gets pinned down at an oasis by Arab snipers, who are never seen but gradually pick the Brits off one by one. I've tried staging this as a game before but without much success. The Arabs are never actually seen in the movie, which is menacing and dramatic on film but doesn't work in a game.

The second inspiration came from our good friend Baddawg on the ColonialWars mailing list. He mentioned a similar game he'd run, and even the brief details he described were enough to show me how to make this sort of scenario work (thanks, Ron).

The rules are an adaptation of my Rorke's Drift rules, with certain modifications.

  1. The game is played in 12 daily turns. Each turn, the dervishes can either snipe or assault the outpost.
  2. During a sniping turn, the dervish commander flips cards to determine whether any defenders are picked off, what the boost is to his morale, and whether his impatient subchiefs force him to launch an assault on the following turn.
  3. Instead of sniping, the dervish commander can declare an assault. This is handled just as in the Rorke's Drift rules, except that the number of bonus casualty markers issued to the dervish players depends on how many morale boosts they've earned by sniping. The more successful the sniping has been, the more ansar will be willing to join in the assault. If the sniping has been poor, ansar will tend to drift home or sit out the assault, which is reflected in having few bonus casualty markers available.

The mahdists can win a major victory by overruning the garrison or a minor victory by fulfilling two of the three conditions mentioned above. The garrison wins a minor victory by surviving 12 days of siege (at that point the rail link is reopened) or by inflicting at least 240 casualties on the dervishes. They win a major victory by doing both of those things.

Follow the links below to read the rules or to see the photo report of the battle.

The Last Outpost rules | Read the Battle Report | Return to the Main Page