January started with a very enjoyable, if somewhat fictional, battle from the 1885 Campaign along the Red Sea Coast to defeat the Mahdist rebellion.
In this full play-test of "Fire & Maneuver: Colonial Era" an Imperial task force must cross the desert from a landing near Suakin, by rail and armoured train, to relieve a newly constructed fort on the Eastern trail to Khartoum. The Suakin-Berber Railway has been partially constructed, but Mahdist forces in the theatre have been reenforced by.... Pathan fighters.
A scouting force of Imperial Cavalry pushed through the coastal range to look for the enemy. They get quite a surprise!
This game featured everything. Naval support in the form of a Royal Navy sloop-of-war, an Anglo-Indian field force, mountain guns, an armoured train (a splendid Fleishmann narrow gauge engine and trucks) and experienced Pathan warriors determined to break up the track and attack the train at a mountain pass.
Of course, this is a fictional scenario. However the Pathan's were able to break up some track and cause some Imperial casualties, but at a the cost of almost the entire warband.
Here is how the game progressed.
The Pathans rolled a considerable number of double-sixes thus obtaining the initiative in the crucial early game turns. This allowed them to shoot up the cavalry vedettes as they approached the mountain pass. However messages were sent back by fast rider and semaphore to the armoured train, and to the fort at Suakin to call up reserves.
The track was torn up and the locomotive briefly seized, but at terrible cost. The engine was quickly repaired as was the track and the train pushed on. The Tribal Chieftain in his mountain lair was taken out by an amazing shot from the sloop's pivot gun.
But where was Osman Digna?
Here is how the attached War Artist recorded the action, with some period illustrations and photos that provided the inspiration for the game!