Battle of El Akerish, 1875

…and so 2020 kicks off with a return to the Southern-Sudan for our first game. We wanted to lean into something fast and furious and so a trip to the Abyssinian (Ethiopian) border using The Men Who Would Be Kings would be just the ticket. We played a ‘heavy’ game, using double army size (48pts vs 36pts) playing Scenario F – Take the High Road. The Egyptians would be defending a small town, El Akerish, which had a well – the most vital source of water for miles. We set two foes against each other – the regional Egyptian commander Pasha Dasha, and Abyssinian King John’s local warlord Ras Veygus, who were at it again, their forces having previously met a while back with slightly different results!

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The Egyptian commander, Pasha Dasha set forth his force for defence having received scout reports of an approaching Abyssinian raiding party. On his left flank he deployed his field gun in a nearby oasis which covered the road to El Akerish. His best troops defended a building, supported in rear by a unit of bashi-bazouks cunningly hidden in the scrub. Further to his right more “bashis” held the somewhat isolated scrub position much to their consternation. Behind the line were two mounted cavalry units, one Egyptian regulars, the other a motley lot of Arab horse. All in all, a pretty tough position to take.

Facing this impudent imperialistic force was Ras Veygus – Dasha’s avowed enemy. His force was composed of two main groupings.

On his right flank, near where that creepy man is in the corner, were veteran warriors equipped with firearms. On the left flank the same forces were arrayed though these had no firearms – so it’d be close quarters work.

 

Egyptian cavalry patiently wait in the rear to cover a retreat or seal a victory…

 

 

The battle kicks off with a rapid advance on the Abyssinian left flank…remember, they’re the ones without firearms…

 

…the Egyptians arrayed for action – that’s Pasha Dasha with the blue coat 😉

 

..a close up of some (right flank) bashis behind scrub.

 

…Egyptian gunners scoping out the field to their front – hoping upon hope they are not captured and press-ganged into Ras Veygus’ (not present today) artillery arm.

 

…and there they are in the distance…

 

…moving up ‘en masse’ the Egyptians hold their breath as the Abyssinian line advances…

 

…a close up of the mounted Abyssinians. The light-brown counter shows the infantry have ‘gone to ground’.

 

The Abyssinian advance on their left is making Pasha Dasha a wee bit nervous ( I think that’s him looking to the articles of war in the background!).

 

…Artillery fire belches out, as does the Egyptian infantry line. The action heats up as Abyssinians press their advance, with several shot down.

 

…time for some cavalry?

 

— A bit of an overview of the action after a few turns; On the extreme left one unit of warriors has failed their morale test several times and is in retreat. Their supporting cavalry throw themselves into the scrub to finish the Egyptian bashis —

…to their front a unit of Egyptian regular horse await…

 

…push on, push on…

 

“…Fire!!…reload!…”

 

On the Abyssinian right flank another unit of cavalry appears.

 

…the Egyptian line holds firm…

 

A close up of the new unit of Abyssinian horse.

 

— INTERLUDE —

The next number of turns saw the Abyssinian foot progressively pinned down and whittled away by Egyptian rifle fire. The Abyssinian plan never eventuated unfortunately as the right flank commander ignored the fact he had rifles and simply charged the enemy line – brave but stupid!

As a result the Egyptian foot were able to deliver a constant volume of fire that at first pinned, then attrited and ultimately started to force back the warriors on foot.

A gallant charge of Abyssinian horse in an attempt over run the guns saw the gunners make mince-meat out of the gallant mounted warriors – they were utterly destroyed by accurate artillery fire…

With few options remaining, and the writing now clearly on the wall one last charge from the only fresh unit on table was launched. To chants of “Viva, Ras Vegus!” the loyal followers charged gallantly and got cut down to a man, not one making it out alive.

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…whilst making it into contact the defenders were inflicting losses at a rate of three to one and only one outcome was ever going to be the result…

 

Now for some cavalry!…

 

With near all the Abyssinian forces decimated the Egyptian cavalry was released into pursuit and completed the victory – a resounding win for Pasha Dasha and complete defeat for Ras Veygus.

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The bodycount

Yep…that’s the Abyssinians on the left and two dead Egyptian bashi-bazouks…ouch!

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Postscript

The Abyssinians had some terrible luck, but worse tactics. They failed to coordinate their right flank rifle armed infantry with their left flank foot to attack (hopefully) pinned units of the Egyptian line. In fact no Egyptian unit was ever pinned!

Dasha consistently rolled to activate his foot and can consider lady luck on his side in that regard; but with a well placed defensive line supported by a foot reserve and mobile cavalry elements his dispositions served him well.  With no pressure placed on the Egyptian line, combined with poor Abyssinian tactics, with the lobsided result was not entirely surprising.

In defense somewhat of the Abyssinians, attacking on half the frontage for the numbers of troops engaged did have a kind of ‘shooting fish in a barrel’ type effect. More room to manoeuvre would’ve helped – huh! excuses 🙄

All in all the game showed how poor tactics delivers a poor outcome and even though the result was a solid win for the Egyptians a good time was had by all – huzzah!

The Men Who Would Be Kings delivers a surprisingly believable and quite accurate result for a system that is very player-friendly and easy to play and light on rules overhead. Whilst it lacks, by design, minutiae, it delivers successful broad brush outcomes that work in a fun and enjoyable game of colonial warfare.

A good start to the year with more projects on the horizon… 😉