Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A Sudanese Debut

The Sudanese Battalion, sent by the ruler of Egypt to assist the French in their Mexican adventure of the 1860s, is one of the more interesting units of that conflict. Made up of Sudanese slaves, they were sent to the area around Veracruz because it was believed that, as Africans, they were immune to the yellow fever prevalent in that region. About 400 of them served in Mexico, mostly in company-sized units, either protecting the railway line from Veracruz to Mexico City, or on counter-guerrilla operations.

Many years ago I painted up a unit of Sudanese troops for use with my 'Principles of War' armies for this conflict, but I never got as far as using them in a game. Fired up by my 'Battle Cry' inspired game of the other day, though, I decided to give them their debut this evening, in a scenario inspired by one from a Mexican Adventure scenario book I have (and can't currently find in order to give you title and author).

The scenario was quickly thrown together. A road and the railway cross the board and a river through forested terrain. An Imperial force, consisting of Sudanese and Austrian troops, are under orders to clear both. A small Republican force hold the river crossings, and there are rumours of irregular troops in the trees.

I used the same basic rules as the other day, but increased infantry ranges to 3 squares whilst reducing their firepower to 3-2-1. Artillery fired 4 squares, with factors of 4-3-2-1. The Sudanese troops were classed as elite, and could take 5 hits. The irregular infantry could ignore the negative battle effects of entering woods, but only had a range of 2 (factors 2-1). They took 3 hits, and were obliged to retreat 2 squares on the first flag rolled against them. They could retreat 2 squares for each of the others.

Victory was set at 4 flags. The irregulars were only worth half a flag. If, at the end of an Imperial turn, there were no Republican units on, or adjacent to, the railway the Imperials scored a flag. The same was true of the road. However the Imperials were on a deadline. Each time they rolled dice to activate units they rolled a red D6. If it came up '6' then, after their movement, they had to roll another D6. If this didn't score equal to or less than the row number of the most advanced Imperial unit, then the Republicans scored a flag. This gave the Imperials an incentive to push forward rapidly.

Irregulars were revealed as the Imperials advanced. The first time one of their units moved adjacent to a row from the third row onward (excluding the river) then a D6 was rolled for each wood. On a 5-6 an irregular unit was placed in it.

Here's the setup, with the Imperials in the foreground. They had two units of Sudanese infantry, two of Austrian infantry, one battery of artillery and a unit of Mexican cavalry.

The Republicans behind their barricades - two units of infantry and a battery of artillery.

The Austrian column.

The cavalry pushed forward rapidly, scouting for irregulars. One unit was revealed towards the centre of the board.

The Republicans fired, inflicting hits on the cavalry.

The cavalry and the Austrians engaged the irregulars ...

... who retreated across the river to safety.

Meanwhile a company of Sudanese troops had advanced to the railway bridge and fired on the Republican artillery. Units in 'Principles of War' are made up of three bases, so this was the odd base of the Sudanese unit, with a base of red-coated sombrero-wearing contra-guerrillas supporting them.

The artillery retaliated, with great effect. The Sudanese retreated to the jungle behind them, where they stayed for the rest of the battle, taking long-range pot-shots at the gun.

The Austrians had advanced well, although unlucky rolls at activation time meant that they had conceded two 'ticking clock' flags to the Republicans by this stage.

The Imperial assault ...

A wider view of the battle.

The Austrians fell back under fire from regulars and irregulars.

The fire kept up, and the Austrians fell back again.

The other Sudanese company was now advancing.

The Austrian artillery had been doing sterling service, bombarding the Republican regulars at the ford. It paid off - unable to resist the fire the Mexicans melted away. The road was clear, aside from one weak unit of irregulars.

The Austrians advanced again, but the irregulars fire was too accurate, and they retreated from the battle. The Republicans were up 3 flags to 1.

The Sudanese attacked across the bridge.

They took many casualties from Republican fire.

Too many - they broke, and the battle was lost.

The final position. The Sudanese had made a brave attack, but had made no headway. The Austrians had done better, almost clearing the road, but the 'ticking clock' had really been their downfall.

The brave boys from the Sudan.

This was a fun little game, but probably over-loaded with special rules and with the terrain too much in the Republican's favour. If I ran it again I'd probably have the barricades acting as cover only, and drop the effect of ignoring the first retreat (or maybe allow ignoring the first retreat, but drop the cover, like hedgehogs in 'Memoir '44'). In addition I didn't bother with generals on either side, which made activation rolls of 5 hard to use, as they only allowed an extra square of movement, which was mostly negated by the close terrain and need to keep firing. Maybe a commander on each side would help. In addition the Republicans had no cavalry, so couldn't use an activation roll of 3. Maybe next time they can have cavalry - possibly some irregular units mixed in as an option when such units are revealed.

Anyway, it was good to get a unit I painted over 15 years ago into a fight at last.

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