The Mahdist Uprising has caused terrible trouble for the British in Egypt, not least the worry that many Europeans are becoming stranded as the rebels of the Mahdi take control of the roads and countryside. The authorities in Khartoum have received word from Lady Catherine Wells that she intends to leave Egypt until the trouble dies down. Unfortunately the roads from her home in Dilling to Khartoum are not safe. Therefore General Gordon has despatched the erstwhile Lieutenant Henry Sweet to escort the good Lady Wells to safety.
With the road out of Dilling towards Umm Ruwaba watched by Mahdists, Lt. Sweet has instead taken their little party through friendly tribal territories to the south of the road, cutting out the troubled ground around El Obeid.
The journey has none-the-less been difficult and most of Lady Well’s horses have died in the blazing desert heat. The delays resulting from this have seen the party's water reserves are running dangerously low and so they have stopped at an oasis in a shallow wadi to restock their water tun.
Unfortunately, a Mahdist raiding force has spotted the British and decided to attack. The skirmish begins at approximately 11 am with a small group of Ansar supported by some fierce Beja tribesmen (the Hadendowa 'Fuzzy Wuzzies' have yet to become fully involved in the uprising) and a shaky, poorly trained and ill-supplied unit of Ansar Jihadiyya armed with muskets.
Lady Wells, no shrinking violet at the best of times breaks out her fowling piece while Maddie, her maid in waiting, checks her Webley revolver. The Egyptian regulars with them trot forwards to set up a firing line to sort out these Mahdist fiends.
As the Beja storm down the slope into the wadi, Lt. Sweet ushers the recalcitrant Lady Wells forwards towards the oasis. He's keen to corral the party into a makeshift 'square'.
Over to the east of the oasis, the Ansar let out great cries of 'Allahu Akbar' and stormed forwards to get to grips with the hated Imperialists.
Some of the Ansar rode swift horses into the fray, their vicious swords swirling in the desert dust...
...and they crashed into the stout British defenders holding the thin red line around the baggage and particularly the precious water cart.
Lady Wells, despite making it to the safety of the makeshift square, found herself in the midst of a swirling melee and facing the fearsome sight of the slaver Abdullahi Al Zobeir. She would fetch a good price on the slave markets in Darfur.
However, the British and Egyptian troops were able to bring down Abdullahi Al Zobeir and inflict serious losses on the Ansar. They broke off and left the British to their victory.
Their water resupplied, they made camp for the night and set off for Umm Ruwaba the next morning.
So we set up for a second go at the scenario, this time swapping sides.
This time the British have advanced to hold the oasis itself, and the Ansar are massed in an attack from the east.
While the British poured volley fire into the Ansar to the east, a small number of Ansar and Ansar Jihadiyya sneaked in from the north to make a bid to carry off the prized white woman. Sustained British and Egyptian fire butchered them.
Meanwhile, back at the oasis, the Ansar cavalry were shot to pieces, but the Beja led the infantry into the fray, unconcerned with the causalities caused by the withering British fire. The Egyptian regulars made less of an impression with some terrible marksmanship.
The Beja and Ansar tore the Egyptians to pieces while the British stood firm, but the way was opened to the British water cart.
The Ansar swarmed forwards and smashed the vital British water reserves. Disaster!! The Mahdists withdrew leaving many dead in the dust. But their sacrifice had paid off and now, two days from safety the British were without water and were unlikely to survive the journey to Umm Ruwaba without dying of thirst.
Two excellent, fun games which were difficult for both sides to win. The British had to drive off the Mahdists without losing Lady Wells, the water cart or any British units, whereas the Mahdists had to capture Lady Wells, or destroy or carry off the water cart. We used our own 'Pulped!' rules and this was the first time we'd used them for asymmetric warfare where one side lacked firearms.