Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From The Dust Of The Sudan...New Life For An Old Project

Re-based and ready for mayhem in the Sudan - my 28mm Mahdist collection has - FINALLY - been re-based for "Black Powder"

Over the past couple of years, friends in the gaming group would, during in a break in the gaming action at the Fawcett Conscript gaming table, periodically ask me "Hey, what ever happened to your Sudan collection?"

What did happen?

Well, in this hobby, re-basing your figures is one of the worst things you will ever do, right...?


So, first to backup. About ten years ago I started a collection of figures to game the Mahdist Revolt in the Sudan in 28mm. The figures, by the Perry Twins, are a total joy to paint and I was very excited to dive into (what was then for me) a new period.  Of course, a critical decision you make when you start a new project is the basing.  At that time, I made a fateful decision - I based all of the models individually, thinking I would do skirmish games (even very large ones) where each figure represented one warrior/soldier.  Back at the time I couldn't figure out or find any decent rules to represent the massed encounters that occurred during the Mahdist Revolt on the gaming table, so I based all the models on surplus round GW bases.

Mahdist army command base, combining two figures which had been previously been based separately.  It occurs to me that it would probably make a fine command stand for a game of "Hail Caesar" or even be a fun warlord stand for a "Saracen" warband in "SAGA"
We ran a number of fun games using, of all things, the "Lord of The Rings" skirmish rules.  This was before we started maintaining this blog, but I think the games were generally well-received by the group.  One game has even managed to achieve a rare level of infamy among veteran Fawcett Avenue gamers, an infamous circumstance in which the faith and devotion inspired by a Mahdist religious leader allowed a lone Beja warrior to overcome a whole group of Yorks & Lancs...

Mahdist warriors assembled in a "warband" formation - note the bendy spear holding the standard...won't be long till that finally gives out but I hope to get a couple more games in before that happens

Sometime in 2009-ish (smarter people will correct me if I have the wrong date) Warlord Games released "Black Powder", an excellent rule set covering battles from the 18th and 19th centuries.  This included the Mahdist Revolt, and in fact the beautiful rulebook included a set-piece game featuring the Battle of El-Teb. Since it was the Perry Brothers and company, the figures and game of course looked amazing - and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of using these 28mm figures to represent a larger mass-type battle...I was torn.  My figures were already based individually, but "Black Powder" looked so fun...what to do?

In 2013, Dallas hosted a game where we managed to try it out.  We used sabot trays as a bodge for the British, while the Mahdist figures just moved around in hordes. It was fun - see it here on the blog.

Mahdist cavalry...can probably bust this down into two different units for a game

That game really stuck with me.  And while at the time I thought I would just use sabot trays so I would not have to re-base my figures, that notion didn't get very far. I dislike the look of the trays - it's just not my preference.  In particular the British Troops should be very close together - after all you are shoulder to shoulder in the face of a vast enemy, so you are going to bunch up! And while the individual horde of Mahdist models looked the part, it was time-consuming to move 30 figures one-at-a-time and realize you have only moved one unit...

The "horde" effect of these large warbands is fun - the warband in front is armed with captured rifles; generally I will add future rifle units as individually-based skirmishers but I thought one big rifle unit would be fun for the Sudanese players, just as something of a counterpoint to the massive (and deadly) musketry of the British forces
So while I had painted another batch of figures for the Sudan period in the Spring of 2013 (part of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge that year) I resolved I would re-base the models. I measured out the basing plan I would used and placed a big order. Grimly, I took to the hobby knife out and got started digging the approximately 200+ 28mm figures out of their bases...


And so four years passed.  Re-basing is a tough slog, and of course I was always diving into, and painting other periods and settings, especially 30k.  Painting is always more fun, and this took priority in my hobby time.  Re-basing was just...the worst...and this big notion of mine languished...I finished one Mahdist unit right away, but NOTHING happened with the rest of the collection...and once you have started, you kind of should not stop...but I did...

Oh man, one of my all-time favourite models, the captured Egyptian Krupp gun with Egyptian "volunteer" crew being "encouraged" by their Mahdist overseer...the artillery pieces in my collection didn't actually require re-basing, as "Black Powder" is pretty flexible and you can measure everything from the gun barrel. The round base didn't matter in this case, which is nice, although I may put the weapons on a square base one day...

As I re-based, I noticed several downsides to this new "Black Powder" plan.  First of all, a lot of the paint jobs on the figures, which are pretty old and have moved to two different new houses with me, and have also traveled to Regina a couple of times, are showing damage here and there, as spears begin to bend and paint rubs off. Re-basing increased the rate of damage, requiring a lot of touch up paint as I went along.

Spear-armed warband - going forward I will try and work a few guys with captured Remington rifles into each unit, but for now these groups are fairly uniform in their armament

Finally, while I absolutely love the mass effect, at the end of the day a collection of what felt, to me, like SO many models when I started out on the re-basing only works out to a few Mahdist units for the table.  As you can see in the photo, the whole effort turns a sprawling force into three formed units of warband infantry and one cavalry unit (there is also a group of camels which is not in the photo - I'm leaving them on their big round bases as mounted skirmishers for now).  It's a bit depressing, especially when you see how the real Sudan gamers like Dave D do their super-amazing Sudan collection (check it out at this link - prepare for your mind to be BLOWN).  It was super hard to be motivated to re-base what suddenly seemed to be an inadequate collection...

And so these figures, once one of the proudest parts of my painted miniature collection, sat in a closet...and years went by! When the guys would ask about it, I would mumble something about re-basing and move along...I would occasionally make a commitment, sometimes out loud to others (always unwise when it comes to the hobby) to get them finished "in a couple weeks".  But NOTHING happened for years...


Two weeks ago I came across these models in the storage and got really mad at myself.    It's been over four-and-a-half years since I had played or run a Sudan game, and it's been even longer since I painted any of the wonderful figures from this Perry range.  I finally snapped my own crayons, buckled down, dug out the Liquitex and f****ing got to work.

Another view of the re-based commanders...the mounted Imam has great notoriety among veterans of our gaming group
So the Mahdists have - finally - been re-based!!! After four and a half years!!! I am planning to line up another couple of units in the painting queue to enhance the force. It will never match Dave D's collection, but it will allow for "Black Powder" fun, which is all that matters!

Stay tuned for a follow-up post on the newly re-based British forces...and hopefully the Fawcett guys will be up for another Sudan "Black Powder" game this fall...it really has been too long!


john de terre neuve said...

Ahhh...........rebasing. You could have always played SP2 with them.........just pulling your leg. Nicely done. Always been fascinated by the era Gordon and all that. Will enjoy following.


Phil said...

What a wonderful collection!

MurdocK said...

All of my artillery weapons are on round bases. I like it better as the military 'symbol' for artillery is a dot in the box.

Fine details you have included in your forces.

JamieM said...

I salute you sir, excellent work at the coalface. Looking spiffing!

Carlo said...

Wonderful collection Greg and great to see they are going to get another outing. The Sudan is certainly one of my favourite periods as well and always is very enjoyable. I look forward to seeing how your games progress.

Curt said...

Superb work Greg and good on you for sticking it out. Now, lets get these lads back to Regina for a game. :)