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Tuesday, 16 July 2019

'Carry On up the Nile!: The battle report

The terrain was set up before the players arrived. (Please note that the model boats are only present to indicate the approximate location at which they enter the battlefield.)

The battlefield, as seen from the west.
The battlefield as seen from the south.
The battlefield as seen from the north.
The battlefield as seen from the north-west.
Before the battle started, players had already signed up for the roles they wanted ... two of them well before the conference started!

The poster for the game (with apologies to the creator of the original poster for the film 'Khartoum').
On the night, I had two conference attendees who arrived just to watch, but rather than let them be passive observers, I roped them in to add an extra player to each side; Captain Keene (commanding the 3rd Foot and Mouth) and Bungdit Din (commanding the Bhurpa tribesmen).

Each player was allocated their troops, and after consulting with the other players on their side, the figures were placed on the terrain.

Whilst General Wolseley spread the bulk of his troops out to man the perimeter fortifications, retaining a small reserve, General Gordon concentrate his troops around the city of Khartoum to protect his headquarters and the river front.

The British defenders of Khartoum were spread around the fortifications, in the open between the fortification and the city, or in the city itself.
The British realised that the greatest threat came from the Mahdist forces massed near the easternmost gates, and deployed accordingly.
General Gordon felt that it was important to defend the waterfront 'just in case'.
The Mahdist troop under the command of the Mahdi and the Khalif massed near the eastern edge of the city's fortifications, whilst the Khasi placed his troops where they could intercept the relief column.

The Khasi's artillery. At one point the crews were driven off by British artillery fire from Khartoum, but they soon returned to their guns.
In order to randomise the order in which players presented their arguments for each turn, I shuffled a pack of playing cards before the game and at the beginning of each turn I dealt a card – face down – to each player. They then turned them over simultaneously, and arguments were presented with the lowest number going first, followed by the second lowest, and so on until each player had had their turn. If two cards with the same number were turned over, then the order of precedence was Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades. If a player was dealt a Joker, they could choose when they wanted to present their argument.

One further point; I told players that anyone who presented an argument that included a quote from a 'Carry On ... ' film (and especially 'Carry On up the Khyber') would improve the argument by one 'step' (e.g. from 'Weak' to 'Average'). I did – however – make one exception; anyone who used the expression 'Ooh, Matron' would be penalised!

Once the game began, it quickly developed into two separate actions, one by the river, and the other in and around the city.

The assault on Khartoum
The Mahdist troops attempted to demolish the eastern-most pair of gates with artillery fire. At first this proved to be ineffective, but gradually the gates were weakened and eventually a larger enough gap was blown in one of them from the Mahdist infantry to surge through them.

The initial Mahdist assault ... which was driven back by combined rifle, machine gun, and artillery fire.
The initial inrush was thrown back by gunfire from the defender's artillery and machine gun units, but further Mahdist artillery fire (and overshoots by the British artillery!) widened the existing gap and demolished the second gate, and overwhelming numbers of Mahdist infantry charged through the gates. Some concentrated on rushing the British artillery ...

The second Mahdist assault was far more successful, and overwhelmed many of the British defenders.
... whilst other moved into the centre of the city.

One part of the Mahdist force made its way into the city of Khartoum. General Gordon can be seen observing events from the roof of a building.
The end was inevitable, and as General Gordon walked slowly downstairs to his fate ...

Realising that death was inevitable, General Gordon went down to where the Mahdist mob was ... and was killed. His severed head was then placed on a spear and paraded through the streets. In the game, his ghostly influence lingered on because 'Gordon's is a strong spirit (!)'.
... General Wolseley pulled his troops back towards the western side of the city in the vain hope of rescue.

It did not come.

The defeat of the Relief Column
At the same time as the Mahdists were attempting to batter down the gates of Khartoum's fortifications, the Second Gordon Relief Column sailed into view from the north. Somewhat surprisingly, General Ruff-Diamond chose to sail down the narrower but shorter eastern branch of the river towards Khartoum.

As soon as they came into range of the Bhurpa-crewed field guns on the western bank of the River Nile, the leading boat – HM Gunboat El Tub – came under fire ... and she was holed and began to sink. Her captain swung her to starboard and ran her aground, stopping her from sinking but blocking the river at the same time.

Once the El Tub had been hit and breached to stop her sinking, the two British steamers came under fire from the Bhurpas.
HM Gunboat El Tub, with General Ruff-Diamond aboard.
The Bhurpas moved swiftly towards the stricken ship, and in the name of Shiva, the Khasi ordered them to board it and slaughter everyone the found aboard. General Ruff-Diamond, who was enjoying tiffin at the time, suddenly found himself at the mercy of a band of blood-thirsty Bhurpas. Not having his trusty Webley revolver to hand, he dived through an open window on the port side of the ship ... and into the Nile! He swiftly swam northwards, and despite being shot at by both the Bhurpas and some of his own men (he was dressed all in white, like the Mahdists), he managed to regain the shore just as Captain Keene ordered the 3rd Foot and Mouth to disembark and open fire on the Bhurpas.

With the El Tub firmly under their control, the Bhurpas came under fire from the 3rd Foot and Mouth, who had disembarked from the Thomas Cook.
In the confused fighting that followed, the Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach's Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry (The Fore and Aft) lined the port side of the Thomas Cook and repeatedly fired at the lone figure of the Khasi, who managed to find the only tussock in the desert to hide in!

The Princess Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen-Anspach's Merther-Tydfilshire Own Royal Loyal Light Infantry (The Fore and Aft) line the upper deck of the Thomas Cook and blaze away at the Khasi, who can be seen lying down in cover.
Realising that Khartoum had fallen (the sight of Gordon's head on the end of a spear was enough proof of that fact), General Ruff-Diamond ordered the 3rd Foot and Mouth back aboard the Thomas Cook, which then made its way astern and back northward. He thought that by getting back to the nearest telegraph station in Anglo-Egyptian-controlled territory as quickly as possible, he could break the news of Gordon's death and make his own exploits sound more heroic than they actually were.

Unfortunately, General Ruff-Diamond had forgotten that a 'Daily Mail' journalist had accompanied his relief column, and their version of events would hit the newsstands at the same time his report was published. Little did he realise it, but his next posting was likely to be to the Cannibal Islands, where the British government hoped he would go down well with the natives.

The Khasi tried to make his way towards the Mahdi's tent, but having proved himself no more of a believer than the infidel British (he should never have called upon the assistance of Shiva!), he now became a target for his own Bhurpas! Like his erstwhile enemy, General Ruff-Diamond, he fled northward ... and into inevitable exile on an estate in East Anglia.

As to the fate of General Wolseley ... some months later he was to appear at an Anglo-Egyptian outpost, accompanied by a well-spoken 'native' who had rescued him. When asked his name, the 'native' had replied 'Harry Faversham'.

As you may gather, this was a game full of incident and hilarity ... and I had no idea how many players would have an intimate knowledge of the 'Carry On ...' films. I had expected to hear 'Infamy ... Infamy ... they've all got it in for me!' (and it was used!), and thought that I might hear 'Frying tonight!', but the quotes from the medical doctor present seemed to indicate that his training must have included numerous viewings of the 'Carry On Nurse' (made in 1959), 'Carry On Doctor' (made in 1967), 'Carry On Again Doctor' (made in 1969), and 'Carry On Matron' (made in 1972)!

Please note that the photographs featured above are © David Brock, David Crook, Mark Flanagan, and Bob Cordery.

14 comments:

  1. Hi Bob,

    It was a magnificent game and made even more so by everyone entered into the spirit of the thing...Tussocks notwithstanding...:-)

    The Burpas were right to betray the Khasi after his performance - so different from that of their tribal leader. As Randy Lal might have said "Your a better man then me Bungedit Din"....

    All the best,

    DC

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    1. David Crook,

      A game like this is only as good as the players taking part ... and you really did embrace the character of Randi Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar during the game!

      I think that in the long run the Bhurpas probably forgave you for your apparent lapse in piety. I understand that their allegiance to the Mahdi waned after your exile, and that some of them (led by Bungdit Din) later settled in Thetford, where they opened a Bhurpa restaurant called THE STAR OF KALABAR. I've eaten there and the food was ... interesting.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Hi Bob,

      'The Star of Kalabar?' - I thought this was a medal issued to Sir Sydney for his stalwart defence of the residency when attached in Carry On Up The Khyber!

      All the best,

      DC

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    3. David Crook,

      It's true the General Ruff-Diamond was awarded that particular medal (along with Major Shorthouse and Captain Keene) for his defence of the Residency.

      I think that the choice of name was deliberately ironic, especially as a popular dish at the restaurant was known as 'Governor's Hotpot', this no doubt being a reference to Ruff-Diamond's later posting the the Cannibal Islands.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Bob, I'm delighted your game went so well. I had been somewhat concerned that the combination of historical events with Carry On film characters might not work, but you've proved me wrong.
    Perhaps this tongue in cheek approach is actually the best one for Matrix games, given their inherent unreality of players proposing arguments for each other's forces, and the likelihood that players will indulge in banter and repartee? How about using your Napoleonic collection to stage a hitherto unrecorded incident in the career of Richard Sharpe?
    Best wishes, Arthur

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    1. Arthur1815 (Arthur),

      Because I wanted to demonstrate Chris Engle's POLITICS BY OTHER MEANS rules to people who might not have taken part in a tactical-level Matrix Game, I chose a scenario that I thought that everyone would know, and that could be an enjoyable way to spend a late Saturday evening. It seemed to work out well, with everyone throwing themselves into it with gusto.

      I'd not thought about using the rules with figures from my Napoleonic collection, but it is one that I will keep in mind for the future.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Fantastic looking game Bob and it sounds like it was a lot of fun as well. The poster is a fine piece of work too.

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    1. Maudlin Jack Tar,

      It was a great game to run, and from the feedback I had from the participants, they enjoyed it.

      The poster was designed to be as eye catching as possible so that it stood out amongst all the other sign-up sheets at COW.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  4. I've been looking forward to this account, and it has been as engaging as I anticipated. Great stuff! The 'Movie Poster' must have given a hint to the players about the 'spirit of the thing'...

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    1. Archduke Piccolo,

      I am glad that you enjoyed reading my account of the game. The players certainly seemed to enjoy it, and I think that the poster set the scene beofre the game started.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. Hi Bob,
    Well done there on a splendidly well received Scenario and Battle- with all those taking part enjoying themselves you must be well pleased at your Khartoum outing at COW. There is a splendid photo of you and your game on Tim Gow's Blog- 'Megablitz'. Cheers. KEV.

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    1. Kev Robertson (Kev),

      I always enjoy putting on sessions at COW, and this was a memorable one. I saw the photo on Tim's blog ... and I look engrossed in what was happening.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Nice, simple, uncluttered board - like it.

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    1. Rob Young,

      Cheers! I hoped to create something that was simple to look at but that was also easy to use and transport.

      All the best,

      Bob

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