Sunday, December 17, 2017

Merry Christmas Everyone from General Pettygree

Ladies and Gentlemen
this is the reason for the season of Christmas:







Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Annual BIG Colonial Game

Date: September 9, 1885/2017
Situation: Annual BIG Colonial Game
Location: El Teb, Sudan
Rules: House Version of Peter Gilder's Original Sudan Rules

Today's story is about traditions; commonalities that hold diverse people together to accomplish goals. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is General Pettygree. Ride along with me, will you, as we explore traditions of The Annual BIG Colonial War Game.

On the 6' x 28' Imperial Back Table, the emptiness of the open desert inevitably forces nervous thoughts of being in the middle of nowhere. Only your mates and the Martini Henry on your shoulder offer consolation. Off image to the right is the Dervish Main Table and beyond that, their Back Table both of the same dimensions.

From time to time table height necessitated that both Jim and Bill ascend to the desert surface to move units. It has to do with biology; where the body can bend. Six foot and taller gamers have little trouble bending and reaching inward to march units along. Not so for everyone. Here Jim advances the Right Flank toward the Main Table where the Dervishes were waiting for him.

Earl (left) and Chuck (right) are about to step off beginning Turn 1.

Farther away on The Imperial Left Flank, Peter Gilder's own Camel Corps scouting ahead immediately tripped a shocking Dervish ambush.

Three squadrons of Bill's 9th Bengal Lancers formed to face the Hadendowah threat. Nearby British infantry began to form a wall upon which they hoped the Dervish tide would eventually falter. Surely the Camel Corps was doomed.

On the Hadendowah rushed flushed with success. The rest of the Camel Corps and a squadron of Gilder's Lancers madly countered with a few against the many. It worked. Surviving Dervish withdrew for three turns leaving the Camel Corps greatly withered. Bill was joyously amazed about this miracle never minding the improper use of the Camel Corps. What else could he have done?

The Hadendowah continue their forced withdrawal
whilst Bill's cavalry follows nudging them along.

Here is the wall of infantry formed to meet the expected enemy onrush that did not happen.

The medium brown feature is a gully. Several of these appeared randomly. Each might or might not contain a Dervish ambush.

The Imperial Back Table edge is inches to the left. Beyond it was a gap for us to walk and then the Dervish Main Table. In reality the latter was mere inches from the left-most British battalion. Without the gap, everyone would have had to climb onto the tables!

Turn 7: Turning about we are looking from the Left Flank outwards. Bill's Imperials are advancing cautiously in preparation to cross to The Main Table off image to the right. The Hadendowah shock was still fresh in his mind. Remnants of the foe are in the upper right hand corner.


Chow Time at Keith and Donna's is a cherished tradition. Bob M. (near), Earl (center) and Jim (distant) are serving themselves salad, vegetables, a casserole, dinner rolls, muffins, beverages and more. Near an hour of companionable conversation ensued while the game paused.

Later in the afternoon Donna served a scrumptious and moist chocolate birthday cake for celebrants, Keith, Curt and Chuck. On game days we remember our birthdays with cake; a nice tradition.

Subsequent game turns found the Dervishes falling back and back as the Imperials pushed onto The Main Table. Imperial firepower was overwhelming. (Several rules misinterpretations.) The Mahdist Reaction Table kindly made them withdraw to fight another day.

Another tradition: Players are encouraged to bring their own units to games. Chuck, Earl and Bill brought units for the game reinforcing Keith's lovely Peter Gilder collection. Plus, if you don't look too closely, Northwest Frontier Pathan horsemen are bolstering Dervish forces. Why not?


Good luck lads making your own traditions.
Your friends will look forward to it, I assure you.

Repeated annual games are appealing.
Make it a BIG game and a long BIG day.
Players contribute forces and terrain for the game.

Chow Time.
Monthly birthday celebrations.
Using miniatures, terrain and rules owned by the late and celebrated Peter Gilder

2} Peter's original hand-written rules were put into a Quick Reference format more than a decade ago. We are in our fifth version adhering as closely as possible to the concepts Peter used at The Wargame Holiday Center. For this game, movement rates were increased by 66% and weapon ranges by +50%. It is likely some changes are needed for this very  large scale of game but not for the more customary ones.

3} The Imperials had twenty-ish sixty figure battalions; more than 1,300 miniatures. Dervish numbers exceeded this. Peter's entire collection is owned by Keith. We love seeing it on the table.

4} Carlo Pagano's modern version of the rules from 2014 are available here:

5} Bill was very busy commanding the Imperial Left Flank. Hence he did not take as many photographs as usual. We ask for your kind forbearance.

6} Dervish: Keith L. {The Shadow}, Curt B. and Bob M.

7} Imperials: Jim P. {Der Alte Fritz}, Earl K., Chuck L. {The Lucky} and Bill P. {Gen. Pettygree}.

8} Underlying movement trays were built for the 9th Bengal Lancers for this game. Reason: To reduce the number of things to move. It's a time saver.

9} Why not start traditions similar to this for your friends and you today? Don't stop there. Widen your net to include others of a companionable sort to enjoy fun and camaraderie.

10} Don't be a malingerer! Get a game going, move units and throw some dice.

11} Go to the blog of Der Alte Fritz for more photos and the story from a different perspective.

12} We would enjoy your remarks at "Comments" below.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #2

23 February 1896

Our scout of the 21st. instant found a Dervish screen south of our post at the village and ruins of Akasha. Thinking the enemy mighty bold being this close to us, General Shearing resolved to take most of the garrison out to punish their impertinence. After a hearty breakfast on the 23rd., the Column marched to the ruins where Freddy Grandmaison and I had just been two days before. The distance was not far.

We were assigned to Colonel Burnaby's Advance Guard given our recent familiarity with the ruins. He spread out our twenty-three sailors demanding they have a care to take cover.

Freddy and I were posted on the extreme right flank.  High bushes along the bank of the Nile River covered us well. Some of the detachment that had been with us before noticed observable Dervish were more numerous today. I thought they meant to falsely taunt us showing themselves so impudently. Our vigilance was high and our weapons were loaded as....

General Shearing brought up the Main Body on our left. Surely the enemy's bravado would evaporate not because of the blazing morning heat but because they might now comprehend our overwhelming numbers.

They could not hope to delay us more than moments once the order to advance came.

We awaited Burnaby's order to open fire and advance.

When the order arrived, we fired and quick marched to the oasis supported by dismounted Camel Corps on our left. The Dervish remained strangely silent.

They fled to low Mimosa trees. --- We had them!

But our cheering overconfidence immediately vanished when clouds of Dervish abruptly erupted from the Village of Firket in the distance.

Now --- whom had whom?

On they came with a vengeance.

Steady men. --- Mark your targets. 

For a time they faltered and we fell back to cover. Along the way Burnaby shouted to Freddy and I, "Get mounted! Gallop to General Shearing, report and ask for help." 

But too soon the maddened foe was in our midst shouting and chanting with blood lust in their eyes.

I remember the Colonel's exhortation to this day. 

Churchill, Grandmaison! Tell the General we've lost the right flank.
Off with you!

I would not leave without a few parting shots in support of our brave tars.
Could I really abandon them?

One, two and three shots found their marks but nothing except a miracle could stem the Dervish tide.

Over the cacophony of battle I barely heard Freddy demand, "Winston!" I knew what he meant. I daresay he was right to remind me for had we not left, an instant later we would have been overcome. The consequences of our demise would undoubtedly place the whole Column in jeopardy of collapse. As I turned whipping my horse into a gallop, Burnaby was last seen hacking away at a fierce Hadendowah tribesman bent on his destruction. 


1) Is this the end of Burnaby, Churchill and Grandmaison? Indeed, what will become of the flanked Main Body of General Shearing?

2) Miniatures are largely 54mm Britains, John Jenkins Design and Armies in Plastic.

3) Your remarks are welcome below at the word Comments.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Diary of A Subaltern in the Sudan #1

21 February 1896

Vulnerability of the new rail line between Wadi Halfa and and Kosheh was never more apparent now that the Dervish were said to be moving into Northern Sudan again. An energetic and far thinking enemy could disrupt the rails and trains almost anywhere along it's nearly one-hundred mile length. This would greatly inconvenience and delay the Army's build-up and eventual march south to the heart of the Khalifa's empire and to avenge Gordon of Khartoum.

Upon the next reconnaissance to inspect the track and find the foe, General Shearing granted my request to accompany the scout. This would hopefully provide another opportunity for action, a medal and mention in a dispatch to enhance my political fortunes one day.

The sun was not quite at it's zenith when Freddy Grandmaison and I took cover behind curious ancient ruins half-buried at a bend on the east bank of the Nile River.

Terrain stretching southward along the track was mostly hidden from view by a verdant oasis. We needed to ascend one of the structures to sufficiently make observations beyond it.

We began by spreading out within the ruins being careful to avoid Nile crocodiles and any hidden Dervish. There were none though reptilian tracks were conspicuous.

Freddy and I dismounted to get a better view. We saw nothing but an indolent water buffalo casually walking away from our invasion of his realm.

We moved forward using overgrowth to hopefully conceal our approach. I amused myself thinking a palm branch or tall grass might alter the path of a Dervish bullet away from it's intended target.

 We saw nothing on the left and....

 Observed only the meandering herbivore on the right.

Just as I was about to leave to ascend the small pyramid on my left, Seaman Armitage quietly said, "Sir, I see something in the back center."

Sure enough a solitary Dervish was leveling a rifle at us. Yet he did not fire then or at all while we were in the ruins. Did he think remaining unobserved was best but if spotted would discharge a deadly round to raise the alarm? He perhaps thought as did Freddy and I, it would be better to report back to higher authority rather than die with knowledge gained.

After this I bravely or imprudently ascended the pyramid to look into the vista beyond. You will be the judge regarding my necessary attention to duty or foolhardiness. Thankfully a column at the apex afforded some protection. Yet General Shearing needed information about what lay in wait to the south. I was there to discover what I could.

As I looked along the track my eyes came to rest upon a small bridge crossing a watery ditch. Within were ensconced a small number of jibba-clad Dervishes. Were they waiting for the next supply train?

I even imagined friends might bring explosives to destroy the crossing.

After this vision, Freddy called up to me saying it was time to report back to headquarters and so we departed as quietly as we had come.



1) The Diary of a Subaltern in the Sudan is the prelude to a 54mm war game in The Sudan. 

2) Combatants are mostly 54mm Britains and John Jenkins Designs painted collector's miniatures which Jim P. and I are disobediently using in table top war games.

3) Your remarks are welcome at Comments below.