Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Accident at Baro Gorge, test game

Having built up a substantial French army for the colonial period I had decided to collect an opposing force of natives so that I would be able to host games at my clubs etc. So I have started a north African Arab army using the Mahdist range by perry miniatures which I fondly term my Ethiopians.
This was their first outing and also the first time to try out my game "accident at Baro gorge".
The game is based on Colonel Marquis Christian de Bonchamps failed march to Fashoda in 1898. Its well know that after many ambushes and the hostility of the local Ethiopians Bonchamps was forced to put back after an event known as the Accident in Baro Gorge on the border of Ethiopia and the Sudan (had Bonchamps succeeded in his march on Fashoda it is doubtful weather Kitchener would have sailed down the Nile to oppose him).
The Scenario featured a French force (composed of three platoons of Tirailleurs, one of Spahi and a Machine gun under Colonel Bonchamps, Lieutenant Louis Ney and Lieutenant Balliard) making a fighting retreat from the much larger Ethiopian force (composed of six platoon sized units of warriors under the guidance of Warleader Paulinus, Timothy Sahle and Tewodros) attacking it.
The French force's objective was to hold off Paulinus and Tewodros from their rear whilst breaking through Timothy Sahle's men across the gorge before making an escape down the gorge with at least three units. Alternatively the French could make a stand and attempt to annihilated the Ethiopian force.
With that we deployed the models and set about fighting the battle.
Two Platoons of Tirailleurs, armed with a machine gun, stand under the watchful eye of Colonel Bonchamps and Lieutenant Balliard to attempt to hold off nearly a hundread Ethiopians not feet from them. Meanwhile Lieutenant Ney leads the Spahis and a column of Tirailuers towards the band of almost fifty warriors defending the gorge.

With the warriors chanting their war cries and Sahle firing off his rifle, the shrill sound of a bugle blast rings out from the Spahi and the light cavalry fall upon the native warriors with sabres drawn. Along side them the Tirailleurs form a line and open fire with all guns blazing on the unengaged warriors.
 Meanwhile Bonchamps begins the fighting retreat and along with a platoon of the Tirailleurs and the machine gun they fall back to hold the rear of Lieutenant Ney's command. However Lieutenant Balliard and one of the platoons of Tirailleurs remain standing formed in a line between the two trees.
 As the machine gun blasts out a punishing toll on the nearest warriors, Balliard's Tirailleurs open up with their rifles. And after the issuing of a rather unclear order by Paulinus, a band of the warriors take the oppurtunity to quit the field.

Having recieved the Spahi's charge and withstood it, Timothy now sends the rest of his warriors charging forwards into the Tirailleurs line whilst the other try to withstrain the French cavalry.
As the horses force and trample their way through the warriors, casualties mount on both sides with the Ethiopians recieving the worst of it but still inflicting more than acceptible losses on the Spahis. However the force of the cavalry is to hard to hold back any longer and the natives flee back down the gorge leaving only one band and Timothy to hold the pass against the Frenchmen.
The Tirailleurs also put up a good fight and the charging warriors quickly turn tale and fall back several feet, only to be charged by the Spahis, who, after overuning their last oponents, follow up the charge down the gorge.
With War leader Paulinus and Tewodros failing to pursuade their men to advance and the French forces falling back towards the gap, now held by a small band of warriors, things look desperate for the Ethiopian forces who are even further away from completing their objectives then they were at the start.
The Machine gun, sheltered from the blazing sun in the shade of a tree, opens up with a devestating blast ripping through rank after rank of the native warriors.
Growing restless with their weak commanders and with machine gun fire sweeping through them, yet another band of native warriors take advantage of a confusing order to retire from the gorge.
However seeing that his force is rapidly falling apart Paulinus pulls himself together and moves his now dwindling force to try and brake through the French lines. Meanwhile the Spahis finally suceed in breaking the troops holding the gorge. With the way clear they falll back and re order themselves in the safety of the Tirailleur's square. Timothy Sahle however takes the opurtunity to make a brake for it, riding hard for warleader Paulinus.
With Tewodros pushing his men hard into the Tirailleurs line, Lieutenant Balliard joins the frey, leaping in amongst the men with sword drawn and revolver firing. This was the braking point, if the Ethiopians could brake the French line then they would be free to fall upon the rest of the platoons before they escaped down the gorge.
In the confusion of re organising the troops after the fighting the orders issued by the Colonel seemed to fall on deaf ears and the men marched slowly for the gorge as though they had all the time in the world, with the Spahis refusing to ride until they had watered their mounts. With but one Platoon safe and Paulinus pushing hard on his heels Bonchamps would need to act fast if he was to escape.
And true enough the cavalry's inactivity cost them dear. With Balliard and his men still locked in combat Timothy took command of the other band of warriors and pressed them hard, charging into the Spahi's rear causing a good deal of casualties.
As Paulinus rode in amongst his men to try and brake Balliard's line the fighting reached a pitch. The casualties were very great on both sides, but the line didn't look close to breaking point just yet.
Startled by the attack on their rear, the Spahis rushed of down the gorge, causing confusion in the ranks of the Tirailleurs and finally reordering themselves in he mouth of Baro Gorge. The Ethiopians now looked free to charge the Tirailleur's rear and perhaps brake them, they could even now pull this battle back if they could just brake one of unit, they were now in a position to hold the pass against Balliard, should he survive.
But Bonchamps, personally taking command of the Tirailleurs, was not about to see them brake. He descended into their ranks and reformed their line to face Timothy's warriors. Letting off several volleys of rifle fire, the soldiers of France proceeded to fix their bayonets!
Meanwhile Lieutenant Ney took the cover provided by the Tirailleurs line to reform the Spahi and send them marching for the gorge.
Having broken Paulinus' warriors and sent them packing, Balliard could now be seen marching at the head of his Platoon towards the gorge safe in the knowledge that his rear was safe. As he marched for the gorge he saw Bonchamps issuing the order to aim and the machine gun crew attaching the next hopper.
With a volley of rifle fire and a hail of bullets from the machine gun Timothy Sahle's unit was wiped out to a man, but the soon to be warleader mounted his camel and rode off. He had certainly proved his worth in making the best of a bad situation, but evidently even his skill at command could not win the day. The French force was now safe to march back to French somali land.

For a first run it went very well. The overall result was a crushing Frenc victory, with the Ethiopian force wiped out and not a single unit lost themselves. However this does not show that the odds were stacked in France's favour. The Ethiopians had blundered twice and sent two of their units from the board without seeing action, they had also failed so many command rolls that all I had to do was sit there and shoot at them saf in the knowledge they wouldn't move. Timothy Sahle put up a heroic defence and the other Ethiopian units also put up strong fights and the result was still a close one.
If the Ethiopians had been moving from turn one (rather than four) it is quiet plain that Balliard would have been overrun very early on as would the MG team and Bonchamps would have had a much harder fight to put up on the rear.
Both our command rolls for this game were terrible and had the Ethiopians been in the right place to take advantage of this then they would have most definatly won.

Still that is the luck of the dice and the fault of the warleader but ultimatly it was still a close, hard fought and fun game.

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