Tuesday, 17 February 2015

AAR: 6mm Sudan and Blood on the Nile First Impressions

A fortnight ago I got the opportunity to play the Sudan conflict in a whole new scale, using Paul and Dane's burgeoning 6mm collection. It certainly gave the games a whole new sense of scale. We played the first scenario from the new Blood on the Nile supplement to Black Powder: the Battle of Shaikan. Also known as the Battle of El Obeid, the historical battle it saw Hicks Pasha's Egyptian army utterly annihilated by Mohammed Ahmed's Ansar. 

This put an Egyptian column being ambushed from all directions by the Mahdists. Things started badly for Hicks, with command issues meaning his force struggled onto the table into  disparate lines. 

Aren't they small! 

Meanwhile, the hordes descended...

The leftmost Egyptian brigade is wiped out by the impact and the central brigade enveloped.

They hold out for one turn...

...before also being swept away. This leaves a desperate last stand of the third brigade - a crushing defeat for the demoralised Egyptian army, just like history.

Thanks to Paul and Dane for letting me join in, your collection is looking great and groaning quickly, apparently.

History doesn't reflect well on a Hicks Pasha, who led thousands of men to their deaths with over-stretched supply lines, morale issues and poor intelligence, overambitious objectives and ultimately serving only to fuel the uprising. Mike Snook, Sudan expert and author of 'Go Strong into the Desert' wrote a damning indictment on the ever-informative Victorian Wars forum.

I had chance to flick through Paul's copy of Blood on the Nile. Thoughts? I've not seen the Warlord campaign books before, so I was surprised it was soft back rather than hardback, despite its £20 price tag. Within was a lot of wonderful eye candy, as one would expect, which I imagine is one of the reasons people pick the book up.

A hearty caveat: I didn't have chance to read it through properly, but a good flick through suggested it had a series of engagements of varying size across all of the campaigns, including a neat partial section of the huge 1898 battle of Omdurman. The stat lines seemed to be pretty similar to those given in the original Black Powder book. There were a few special rules to give an era flavour, but I thought these were surprisingly light touch and something that an imaginative player could bolt on easily enough. One could be more imaginative while still using the core BP rules, for example I reckon my amendments, last played in the Autumn, went further.

I was disappointed in the scenario we played, as it was so utterly one-sided: poor quality troops arriving turn by turn in column surrounded on all sides by superior warriors. Two of my units didn't make it near the fight due to repeated failed orders, and we decided our tailing brigade didn't need to turn up as the Egyptians were destroyed before they were available. So about 2/3rds of our force still wiped our Hicks' force with he loss of only one unit. While that is historically accurate, I'd have hoped for a scenario book that offered a more interesting to game for the Egyptian player.

All in all, I wouldn't say I was inspired to pick up my own copy as it doesn't do what I'd be looking for: enrich the games themselves. That's unfortunate as I fancy the Perry version of Colonel Fred Burnaby above. For someone new to the conflict, it's an accessible front door to game it: I'm sure it will suit some people's purposes just fine. But in my opinion, at that price point, I'd say  Go Strong into the Desert is a much better source book, while it only details the Red Sea campaign, it has detailed OOBs, much richer and more insightful background, loads more uniform detail and excellent plates. Mike Snook's Beyond the Reach of Empire that covers the desert and rivercolumns receives   similar praise, though I don't have a copy myself yet.

Perhaps I'm being unfair on Blood on the Nile, having not read it through fully. I'd be interested in what others think, particularly those who have.


  1. Thank you a lot for this review. I like a lot the Sudan Campaign, and was really interested in this supplement but now, I think I can pass without it. Warlord is losing a great opportunity with the supplements for "Black Powder", I think.

    1. Ah I'd like to see your take on Sudan.

      I haven't seen many detailed reviews of Blood on the Nile. It doesn't add much for me but it may well suit others.

  2. I agree it is a very togh battle for Hicks and his commanders, he did have some very poor troops though. Did you manage to get any of the cavalry on the table? I am planning to play the game in 28mm but the 6mm is certainly very impressive.

    1. We didn't - I think Bacus don't do the right cavalry units but it's something the chaps are looking to add using other ranges. We felt they wouldn't have made a significant difference.

      Looking forward to your rendition - perhaps you can turn the tide!

  3. Good looking game.

    I quite fancy doing the Sudan in 10mm as well as 28mm.

    i see that your game was in 6mm but have you any suggestions for the best mini's in terms od detail in 10mm??



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