Monday, 5 February 2018

WW1 Mesopotamia Action / Scenario


Over the last few years the tradition here at Yarkshire Gamer each Xmas has been to play a game from the Mesopotamia Campaign of WW1 using my collection of 28mm Figures. So far we have fought our way up to the outskirts of Bagdad and the Battle of Ctesphion, now we are on our way back to Kut Al Amara.

I was looking for something a bit different from the previous games where the British had been attacking Turkish troops in prepared positions. I was scanning through my volumes of The Campaign in Mesopotamia (now reprinted by IWM) and came across the action at Umm At Tubul on 1st Dec 1915.


Tea in the British trenches Yarkshire of course.
What follows is my scenario for the Battle describing terrain, forces etc, along with lots of pics, one of the participants, Roger has already done a full AAR Found HERE so I will concentrate on the set up.

Historical Background

Following the victory at Ctesphion General Townsend realised that his men and animals were exhausted, short of water and their nearest ammunition supply 12 miles to the rear. The Turkish troops weren't in a much better state and both sides decided to withdraw simultaneously. Townsend had retreated back to his supplies but air reconnaissance suggest columns of Turkish troops were marching towards him, unable to fight a major engagement he continued South.

Arabs in Turkish Service from Rogers Collection

The Empire Forces reached Umm at Tubul about midday on the 30th November and went into a defensive camp on the banks of the Tigris, the camp was formed in a rectangle with a brigade of Infantry responsible for each of the three landward sides and the gunboats protecting the open southern flank on the river. Townsend didn't realise how close the Turkish troops were and it wasn't until Artillery landed inside the encampment that he realised the odd troops he could see in the distance weren't just local Marsh Arabs looking for easy spoils.

Here come the locals on the rob
At 3am Townsend messaged his Cavalry and Armoured Cars to return to Umm at Tubul and protect his open flank, as dawn broke Empire Infantry stretched out along a dry wadi bed on the right of the encampment to wait for any Turkish attack. It's at this point I have frozen time for the game to begin.

Punjabi Infantry hold the perimeter at dawn waiting for an attack.
In the actual action as sun rose at 6.45 am, the British saw that the main Turkish camp was in sight about 3500 yards away, all available guns from both the gunboats and the land artillery caused havoc amongst the Turkish ranks. It didn't all go Townsend way though, the Turkish 44th Regt supported by 2 mountain guns advanced tight up against the Tigris and heavy fire from these and other Turkish Artillery units sunk the two British gunboats Firefly and Comet, a big loss to the Empire as these two boats had been stalwarts of the advance. Townsend used his Cavalry to effect his withdraw during the course of the day although hard fighting was had. British and Empire Casualties were 550, the Turkish around 850.

The Set Up and Terrain




The one available map of the action from the official record is sparse to say the least, it shows the river, the Empire encampment and some "mounds" by the Turkish lines, it doesn't even show the dry wadi referred to in the accounts of the action. So above are two photos of the table during the game to give you an idea of how to interpret the battlefield.

Main features on the 12 x 6 table are the,

The River Tigris - impassable to all but gunboats, covers southern end of the table.
Empire Encampment  - Easy to spot, it's the trenches.
The Mounds - Row of 4 small hills in the middle of the table closest to the Turkish entry points, on left as you look at it.
Dried Wadi Bed - top right hand of pictures.
Umm at Tubul  - two building on the table behind the central trees.

Both sides battles hard for these two buildings
The buildings are guess work but I wanted something to represent the settlement, so is the rest of the table. I have added lots of areas of scrub to break up the table and then two wooded areas. A small one to the south of the village and then a palm grove by the river itself.

Cover is as seen apart from the Wadi, this is soft cover if you are moving, hard cover if stationary.

Home made activation cards
Rules and Figures

We use "If the Lord Spares Us" by Toofatlardies, with very little modifications, which is remarkable for us. The Set are designed for 15mm figures based in pairs but we have found it works perfectly well with 28mm figures individually based with the same ranges etc.

Figures are virtually all Woodbine Design Company with the Marsh Arabs from Artizan and the odd Great War Miniatures figure like the Signallers.

If you are thinking of using the Scenario with another set of rules, 4 is the worst morale, -1 the best.

We used the, They Don't Like it Up'em, Mirage, Turkish Delight and Stiff Upper Lip event cards.

A Company of British Infantry on picket duty in Umm at Tubul
Empire Set Up

The Empire Force starts with two battalions on table,

In the front trench 1 Battalion of Indian Infantry 2 Fig HQ with 4 x 8 Fig companies and attached MG, Morale Grade 2.

In the side trench 1 Battalion of British Infantry 2 Fig HQ with 4 x 8 Fig companies, one of which is on picket duty in the village. Also 1 MG base attached. Morale Grade 1.

3 Bases of Artillery in the centre of the Camp. Along with a Commander with 2 signal bases, graded as Harrow.

1 Gunboat parked at the side of the trenches - armed with 1 MG base and 1 Artillery base. The boat starts the game "building up steam", start at 0, roll 2d6 each time the boat activates when the total reaches 36 its free to move and fire normally.



The following troops are available as reinforcements,

1 x British Commander, 2 Signal Bases, Eton.

1 x Battalion of British Infantry, 2 x HQ Figs, 4 x 10 Fig companies and MG base Morale Grade 0.

1 x Battalion of Gurkhas, 2 x HQ Figs and four companies of 8 Figures plus a MG base, Morale Grade -1 (Aggressive)

1 x Battalion of Indian Infantry as above in initial set up.

The Empire players should be given the historical background and told that they need to secure their right flank to allow a staged withdrawal.

The Camp
Turkish Set Up

The only Turkish troops on the table at the start of the game are two 9 figure Marsh Arab groups mounted on Camels, Morale Grade 4. These begin the game in the top
Left hand corner of the table as viewed in the set up photos.

The Turkish Player has the following troops available,

1 Regt of Regular Turkish Infantry with a Young Turk Commander consisting of 4 Battalions of troops, each with 2 x HQ Figs and four companies of 8 Figures plus a MG base. Morale 1.

1 Regt of Arabs in Turkish Service with an Old Turk Commander consisting of 4 Battalions of troops each with 2 x HQ Figs and four companies of 6 Figures plus a MG base. Morale 3.

1 Battalion of Veteran Turkish Troops 2 HQ Figs and four companies of 8 Figures plus a MG base. Morale 0.

1 Artillery unit of 4 Artillery Bases.


The Turkish Players should be given the historical background and told that they need to pin the British in place and threaten to out flank them.

At the start of the game randomly pick 3 of the 10 Turkish Units as entering the table on Turn 1. For each card roll a d6. 1 or 2 the enter by the river, 3,4 or 5 in the centre of the Turkish lines and 6 at the top of the table with the Marsh Arabs.

Marsh Arabs sneaking into the back of the village.
Umpire ONLY Notes

I ended up playing on both sides in this battle as different people were present each week, an Umpire is not essential but for the game to work each side needs to be unaware of the others objectives and reinforcements.

EMPIRE - at the start of the game add a Empire reinforcement card into the deck. When it comes out before the tea break roll 1d6 and that is the number of turns until the next troops arrive. On that turn select at random one of the units not on the table and place it in the Camp.

When all the Empire Units are on table and there are Empire troops within 12" of the northern table edge, add a Empire Recon card to the deck, roll 1d6 and that is the number of turns until 2 Armoured Cars and a Regiment of Cavalry (2 HQ, 4 x 6 Fig companies, Morale 0) enter on the northern corner of the table on the Empire side.

However at this point the Empire Commander must chose one of his units and begin to withdraw that from the table on the next turn of its card. The Empire should continue to withdraw units one at a time until they have three units left on table which may withdraw together. The Cavalry and Armoured Cars must be the last unit to withdraw.

"Its an emergency Send for more Tea"
TURKISH - at the start of the game add a Turkish Reinforcement Card to the deck and add units as the Empire however they use a d4 to determine the number of turns between unit arrivals.

Remember that each arriving unit needs to roll for its start point apart from the Veteran unit which always starts by the river representing the 44th Regt.

Bring the 1st Turkish leader on with turn 1 using the commander who has the most regiments on and the 2nd when half his Regt is on.

Marsh Arabs win the village !
How did we get on

I defer to Rogers AAR which has the link above for a detailed account of the game. Both sides got distracted from their objectives and the village (as it always does) became a black hole, attracting units from all over into a enormous melee.

The British never pushed far enough North to trigger the Armoured Cars and the Turkish used all their strength trying to keep the village after the Marsh Arabs (commanded by me !) had captured Umm at Tubul.

The Black Hole
The Turkish gave up the attack when they thought couldn't get any further, casualties were about the same but the Turks had massive amounts of suppression on them and a few units were about to break.

They were a touch unlucky with their reinforcements even with a d4 vs a d6 they got troops at the same rate as the Empire and the one card they really wanted, the Artillery never came out.

All in all though I am happy with the Scenario which served up something different from the previous games. Should be around about a year before the figures are out again. Spanish Civil War and the Battle of Quinto up next.