El Teb Lite
T'Lads have come over all Colonial lately so in the spirit of the thing 'The Strategists' staged a scaled down refight of the Battle of El Teb using the Black Powder rules and scenario notes.
As is my wont with narratives I wont bore the bejeebers out of you with endless twaddle about dice throws and how many turns it took for the Cha wallah to bring the Colonel his cuppa Darjeeling. That's not what proper fightin's about so fasten your chinstraps, fix bayonets and prepare to be entertained, enthralled and hopefully amused.
Brief outline of scenario
You're all no doubt familiar with the exploits of The Gordon Relief Column so I'll keep this brief. The Brits are charged with the task of attacking the native Village of El Teb to secure watering for their parched troops and beasts of burden. Failure to do so may very well jeopardise the entire relief operation so they jolly well better not cock it up or poor old 'China Gordon' will be getting a first-hand lesson in the very latest techniques of bowel extraction by the Mad Mahdi's chief torturer!
The British force is a combined arms force of infantry, including some Naval Types, a couple of 7 pdr pea shooters and a Gatling. The cavalry comprise a troop of Hussars who are fiendishly disguised as Natal Mounted Carabineers to confuse the natives. (Actually we don't possess any Hussars but I s'pose you've cottoned on to this yourselves)
The battlefield comprises of, to the North, the village of El Teb, and a more flea-bitten, god forsaken shite hole you can't imagine. It's only claim to fame is it's the only well this side of the black stump so beggars can't be choosers. The village is nestled behind a large plateau and several smaller hills and the usual collection of date palms and sand blasted rocks. Did I mention the fleas?
Her Britannic Majesties Forces of Goodness and Enlightenment confer on the eve of Battle. By the Left Major Powell, General Wood, Colonel Stack. 'Tex' Houston (The Umpire)
The table is neatly bisected by a dry Wadi which runs the width of the table.
In the South West corner lies a small palm grove...'grove' makes it sound rather picturesque but in reality it's a scorpion-infested pile of rocks and faded palms.
To the South the Brits are encamped in their Zariba dying of thirst and desperate to be at the poor benighted 'eathens. The terrain is easy going except for the plateau and the palm grove.
The British Zaribar
The Brits are off the blocks as soon as the whistle blows. Some good movement dice by Major Powell allows the Naval types with their Gatling and the Horse wallopers to make a bold thrust up the Right flank toward the village. Meanwhile the main body of the infantry and guns advance resolutely in the centre whilst the Highlanders reconnoitre the palm grove on the left flank.
The Highlanders are soon engaged in a fire-fight with a screen of native skirmishers ensconced in the palm grove. "Better flush yon beggars out in the open where our superior marksmanship will soon account for em" thinks Captain McCutcheon of the 92nd Highlanders.
Major Powell's bold manoeuvre:
As you will clearly see from the above picture, Major Powell's thrust on the right flank has paid dividends as it appears the natives have left the village practically undefended. Another move and he will be upon the village.
Alarmed at Major Powell's lack of support, and doubting that he can hold the village in the event of a determined counter attack, the Brit C in C orders him to hold his ground and await reinforcement before proceeding to attack the village. This sudden halt in proceedings allows the Natives a breather. Sensing imminent disaster the native leader quickly deploys his mounted camelry and horsemen against the plucky Hussars and Tars.(Rhyme not intended) A fierce melee ensues and the natives get the worst of it with the first round awarded in favour of the Brits. The native Camelry must retire a full move in good order. The Gatling, which up till now has been banging away at the natives on the plateau, decides to er..jam..surprise, surprise! Who would have thought gun oil and sand would not be condusive to rapidly moving hot metal parts? Action on this flank resorts to a stalemate as both forces charge and counter-charge in an attempt to rout each other.
Tars! Her Majesties' Naval Brigade.
Meanwhile, back at the Palm grove..., the Highlanders are having a hard time of it dislodging those pesky skirmishers and more than one brave laddie hits the dust. Fortunately they are allowing the Brit main body an unhindered advance on the defended plateau. The Brits deploy their artillery and commence a lively bombardment of the plateau to soften up the defenders and force them to keep their heads down whilst the infantry form up and fix bayonets in readiness for the ensuing assault.
The Main Event (The assault on the plateau)
With his artillery pounding away in grand style and his forces in good order and champing at the bit to be at 'em the Brit Cin C orders the main body to charge the natives on the plateau with the intention of routing them and securing the Village. With a confident smirk General Wood snaps his fob watch closed, slides six rounds into his service pistol and tightens his chinstrap.."C'mon lads I'm dying for a cuppa...CHARGE!!"
'On tother' side of fence' the Dervish commander is in a state of intense perturbation. Abysmal movement dice throws have meant that his Right flank force have decided it's a good time to pay homage to the Mahdi for his benificence in allowing them to sacrifice themselves in his cause and have decided on an impromptu prayer meeting in his honour...a full move to the rear! With the might of her Majesties Armed forces about to descend on him he thinks maybe a little prayer time in the rear wouldn't be such a bad idea either. Let's hope the remainder of his force can hold their ground behind their rock sangars.
The charging Brits practically sprint across the burning sand and up the slopes in record time, breaking on the Dervishes waiting with spears, ancient swords and worn out bundooks. It's a free for all with no quarter given but to the Brits consternation the gutsy natives hold their ground and the Tommies are staggered and pushed back. The assault must succeed at all costs so back in they go for another round. The Brits bring up the 9pdr to the very walls and blast away at point blank range.
On the British Right flank Major Powell's force of Tars and Cavalry are going at it with the natives in grand fashion. A throw of six has un-jammed the Gatling and it commences pouring a withering enfilade fire into the flank of the native defenders... "Just like slicing bread" grins leading seaman Ferguson. The Hussars however are beginning to flag under the constant assaults from enraged Dervish camel riders and horsemen who are determined to grind the invader into the dust. That village is starting to look a long way off now!
The Dervish command sense a shift in the balance now that they have withstood the initial assault and are starting to reassert themselves. A complete reversal of luck see his recalcitrant flank force throw triple movement dice which allows him to make a surprise charge on the British Left flank comprising a gun and a unit of Guards. The Brits let fly with a telling volley but it's not enough to stop em and on the Dervishers rush into the melee.
Hold fast men! yells Colonel Stack, but to no avail. The tribesmen are all over them and the Brits break after a couple of rounds of melee along with the poor gunners. With their dander up now the Dervishers go fanatic and line up the Gordons for a breakthrough charge. The Dervishers are unstoppable and they plough through the unprepared Scotsmen like a runaway Midlands Express.
Hold fast men! The Guards about to go down fighting.
Fanatic Dervish charge against the 92nd Highlanders
With abysmal timing a British unit involved in the main assault throws a double six on their movement throw and make an unplanned sideways manouvre to their right. Loud knashing of teeth and howls of indignation about 'damned stupid rules!!' reverberate from the British commanders but no one said war was fair.. this isn't a blasted game of conkers and if war was predictable Captain Bromhead's skull would have become an attractive ornament on Chechweyos sideboard after what should have been the gallant Captains comeuppance at Rorkes Drift.
The Dervish command, realising the British infidels are faltering, throw everything they've got into the fray. Not content to hit him from the front with his reserve infantry, his horsemen slam into the British flank whilst the very same raving nutters who wiped out the Guards and the Highlanders charge the Brits in the rear...gawd get me a brandy someone!!
Brits hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded.
Sadly for the British the result is inevitable. Defeat!
Bugler I'd be awfully grateful if you'd sound the recall old chap...NOW...says the General in muted and solemn tones...the General that is not the bugle call which is frightfully difficult to play in muted and solemn tones unless of course it's the Last Post.
Rather an apt little number for the occasion on reflection.
Forces of Goodness and Enlightenment (The Brits): Rodger Wood, Adrian Powell, Wayne Stack
Poor Benighted 'eathens: Gavin Bowden, Geoff Martin, Mike Smith
The lads really got into the spirit of this little bash with loud yelling, oaths, insults and wild gesticulation on both sides. I thoroughly enjoyed myself (Well I was on the winning side after all) as did, I'm sure, my fellow gamers. My next venture will be a Darkest Africa, Gaslight adventure so stay posted fellow fun lovers.
Captain Ogilvie VC