Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Sudan 1880s & '90s: Dervish Army

My Dervish army for the Sudan is nearly finished, and could certainly be fielded already on the table as it is in some form of action.

I intend to use the 'Sword and the Flame' rules for Colonial warfare as my main set, which are a kind of large skirmish set with a lot of character. But there is no reason when they can't be used with other rule sets, such as 'Black Powder' for larger scale actions. I acquired a set of rules called 'Patrols in the Sudan', by Peter Pig who manufacture 15mm figures. I couldn't really get into them, and they require figures to be element based, but that can be worked around, and I might give them a spin at some stage.

'Sword and the Flame' requires figures to be individually based, and these are all mounted on 1p coins. I've been a bit concerned about the 'look' of them on the tabletop, and been thinking of different solutions for movement trays (drilling holes, magnetic etc) but putting them on this sanded base for a terrain feature to photo them I may well have discovered the answer to both problems!

Certainly it improves the look and there wasn't too much 'wobbling', so I might make up some more to kit the whole force out with unit bases/trays.

First up is a unit of Ansar tribesmen. Figures are Esci Muslim Warriors (since re-issued by Italeri). They are simply painted in white, with coloured patches painted on. Looking at some actual contemporary photos I noticed that patches worn tend to be quite large and often regularly placed, and apparently were mainly blue and red. I found this worked better painting them than the smaller multi-coloured patches on the Esci 'box art' for the set and in various other artwork I've seen. The photo below shows the whole unit. The photo is at the top of the page is a close up. In the light of my success with using the flags from 'Warflag' on my ACW army, I'll probably replace the flag bearers flag and pole, with a much bigger paper one, which should make the whole unit look more impressive.

Next up is a unit of riflemen. 'Sword and Flame' specifies the ratios of rifles to sword/spearmen you can field in tribal armies. It is fairly low for the Dervish army, from memory I think you must field three spear/sword to every one rifle, but you can field 'half units' like this.

I have not painted up all my Muslim Warrior figures with coloured patches. The following are the same figures with a slightly different paint job. I had in mind when I painted these to be able to use them as Zanzibari slavers in a 'Darkest Africa' style game. I've since decided to go for the proper 28mm Foundry 'Darkest Africa' range, but there might be a reason that I want to fight a bigger action with more figures, and as eventually I'll have Zulus, Sudanese 'askaris' and all sorts of British painted up in 20mm, so they might get used as Zanzibaris some day. In any case, many Sudanese warriors and tribes were dark skinned, and not all the Sudanese tribes or individual that fought in the Sudan sewed patches on their garments, so they will fit right into the 'Dervish' force, either as a separate unit or as mixed in. The same goes for the figures I've painted as NW Frontier tribesmen.

This shows the whole force in their storage boxes.

Next up is a unit of Beja warriors, aka 'Fuzzy Wuzzies'. I bought the most of the figures last year, and they are mainly Waterloo 1815 figures, with a few figures from the Esci Muslim Warrior set thrown in. I've not stuck the flag on yet and will probably replace the flag pole with something longer and possibly a bigger flag.

Here's a close up...

And here's the whole lot, two boxes worth, plus the Esci figures.

Hat Industrie are planning to produce their own set of Dervish infantry imminently. Given the excellent quality of some of their recent production they might well be worth waiting for. I certainly thought their Beja camel men better than the Waterloo 1815 Beja, where the sculptor seemed to have lost his nerve on going for 'big hair'. Preview shots show them to be a mixture of Arab and Beja dress. Because of the ratios laid down in 'Sword & the Flame' rules for natives versus Anglo-Egyptian (2.5: 1 I think), the size of the overall action you can stage is limited mainly by the number of natives that you have. So with my Anglo-Egyptian force swelling, you can never have enough dervishes!

Here are a couple of preview shots from the Hat website:

Finally I've been giving my Dervish army some mounted troops. There are sadly not cavalry sets that really work. The old Airfix 'Bedouin' set (re-issued by Hat but now OOP) has some horsemen, but just a measly three, which makes it an expensive proposition to buy enough for a decent sized unit. I have a couple of boxes giving me a handful of figures, and I've made up a unit using a mounted figure from the 'Waterloo 1815' set , which is supplied with an 'ass' to ride, but I've mounted them on some horses from a Napoleonic set, and pins for spears and drawing pins for shields added to some. I'll probably use the asses as pack mules, and might make up a mountain gun set for the British -or any army that need them. Together this should give me a unit, which I've started painting up.

Otherwise, I've got a box of each of Hat's recent releases of Dervishes on Camels, one box featuring Beja the other arabs. I've nearly finished both of these. I'm just puzzling over the Beja to see if I can improve them with any extra detail - I might break with my normal habit of never attempting eyes on 20mm- before varnishing and terraining the bases. I kind of ran out of steam on the arab riders (all camels are painted) and they are half finished, and I'll probably add some flags to tart them up a bit.

Here are some shots of the some of the Beja set painted up:

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