Sunday, 27 May 2018

Egypt Game – the Battle of Al Flat-ula

Today marked the culmination of several month’s work on the French and British in Egypt projects as the two armies met on the tabletop. The scenario was a pretty simple one, the background of which is:


On 1 July 1798 Bonaparte led an invasion force to Egypt, landing at Marabout, west of the city of Alexandria. Two days later the French captured the city. They then occupied Rosetta on 8 July and advanced on Cairo, taking that city on 22 July. Bonaparte then undertook an unsuccessful expedition to Syria returning to Egypt in the middle of 1799. Bonaparte left Egypt in August of that year, leaving Kléber in command, but when Kléber was assassinated command passed to Menou.


The British, fearing that a French presence in Egypt might undermine their influence in India sought to oust the French and in March 1801 a British expeditionary force under Sir Ralph Abercromby landed at Abukir Bay. Two sharp British victories followed and the French defenders retired on Alexandria. Abercromby left a force to besiege the city while he, with the main force, moved on Cairo.


The plan was to move to Rosetta on the Nile and follow the river up to Cairo, but when a French force was reported to be moving directly on Alexandria, the army diverted to meet them.


The march across the desert was difficult and, since both armies lacked suitable equipment to transport water, the various oases enroute became critical.


On April 14 both armies approached the oasis at Al Flat-ula.


Note that in the text above, the italic texts indicates where the alternative history that is our fictious battle starts.


The Terrain

Both sides marched on the table from diagonally opposite ends of the table: French bottom right, British top left.


The lead elements were 600mm on the table, in column of march.


The object of the game of to control the oasis at the end of the game.

The British forces (in order of march):


11th Light Dragoons (1 stand mounted) – detached from cavalry brigade

Stuart’s Brigade

Major General John Stuart

  Watteville’s Regiment

  De Roll’s Regiment

  13th Foot

  90th Foot

  1 6lb gun (attached)


Major General Ralph Abercromby (CinC)

  11th Light Dragoons (2 stands dismounted)

  12th Light Dragoons (2 stands dismounted)

  1 12lb gun (attached)

  1st Marines

  2nd Marines

Cavalry Brigade

Brigadier General Finch

  8th Light Dragoons (2 stands)

  12th Light Dragoons (1 stand mounted)

   Hompesch Hussars

The Guards Brigade

Major General Ludlow

  1/Coldstream Guards

  1/3rd Foot Guards

  1 6lb gun (attached)

Moore’s Brigade

Sir John Moore

  23rd Foot

  28th Foot

  42nd Foot

  58th Foot

  Corsican Rangers (Rifle Armed)

  1 12lb gun (attached)


Note: Unattached troops could count as being in command if within 300mm of the Abercrombie, otherwise counted no general commanding.

The French Forces (in order of march)

Cavalry Brigade

General de Brigade Murat

  3rd Dragoons

  7th Hussars

  22nd Chasseurs a cheval

  1 horse battery

4th Division

General de Division Friant


General de Brigade Robin

  85th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions)

  88th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions

  1 light artillery battery


General de Division Menou (CinC)

  Dromedary mounted infantry (note cannot fight mounted)

  3 field batteries


General de Brigade Baudot

  Combined (22nd and 4th) Demi Brigade Léger (3 battalions)

  75th Demi Brigade de Ligne (3 battalions)

  1 light artillery battery


Note: Unattached troops could count as being in command if within 300mm of the Menou, otherwise counted no general commanding


Rule Differences for this game


Unit Sizes

• All units are three stands strong, unless stated otherwise in the orders of battle.


• There is no road movement

• All hills and slopes are classed as rough terrain

• Without horses the British artillery are being drawn by hand so must move at the same rate as infantry in line


•  The French light batteries were small (sometimes only two guns) so will always re-roll hits.

Since the action will take place in desert terrain the effect of sand on round shot bounce for field and heavy batteries is deemed to limit artillery effect (there is absolutely no scientific evidence for this, it just seems reasonable):

• ALL targets beyond 700mm will re-roll hits

• ALL roundshot when firing too or from higher ground

And so the game...

In the distance the British column, with Stuart's Brigade leading, can be seen approaching Al Flat-ula.


The French cavalry approach from the diagonally opposite direction.

As the main British column arrived, Stuart made for the ground between the village and the oasis, while the marines and dismounted dragoons moved to occupy the village. The cavalry and the Guards moved to the right with Moore's brigade in the centre, with the Corsican Rangers  holding the estreme right.

The French cavalry rode quickly forward to take position close to the oasis. Robin's brigade is taking the high ground on the French right, while Baudot's Brigade moved form on the French left.

The British cavalry take position in the centre, but become a target for the French horse artillery and suffer badly.

The Brirish lines formed, although the artillery lagged far behind.

Meanwhile the Dromedary troops took possession of oasis with the cavalry and artillery in support.

The British strengthened their lines.

And the marines and dismounted light dragoons took position in the village, facing Robin's imposing lines, while Baudot formed a seemingly unstoppable mass on the French left (on the right below).

In the hope of driving off Baudot, the Guards, the 58th Regiment and the Corsicans attacked (their advance can be seen at the top of the image below).

Baudot's Légére demi brigade drove back the Corsicans and 3rd Foot Guards, but failed to break them, while the 75th Demi-brigade de Bataille (below) routed the Coldstreams and the 58th and then broke through onto the 28th foot and a 12lb battery, breaking them too.

The 75th Demi Brigade attempted to press forward against the British artillery, but they took fire from the Black Watch and the Coldstreams, that had halted their rout. 

The 75th were repelled and when the Black Watch charged they dispersed.

The rest of Baudot's brigade drove back the 3rd Foot Guards and the Corsicans, but took such heavy losses that their brigade morale failed and they too dispersed.

The French cavalry prepared to invervene.

The 3rd Dragoons charged and came within a whisker of breaking the 28th Line, but were driven back.

Meanwhile in front of the village the dismounted light dragoons and the marines were attacked by the 88th Demi-brigade. After an extended fire fight the British got the better of the action and the French were driven off.

In a final desperate attack the 83rd Demi-brigade attacked between the village and the oasis, in the upper ground below, while the 7th Hussars prepared to attack the Black Watch.

Despite having the advantage in their favour, the 88th was repulsed.

And eventually broken by the marines advancing from the village. The attack of the hussars came to naught.

Both sides had suffers serious losses. Only a few units remained intact on each side. The French dromidaries, supported by the artillery still controlled the oasis, but the British held the village and had more units on hand. An honourable draw was called.


  1. So many splendid troops on a single table! Atmospheric and gorgeous, happy to see that French Dromedary Corps holds this fantastic oasis...for the moment!

    1. Thabk you Phil. I really thought the French were going to roll over the British, but the Bulldog held on and fought it out.

  2. Oops, I have misreported the result on my blog Mark - I called it a minor British victory....great game with wonderful figures and terrain - thanks for all your hard work in making it possible

    1. I think the perspective of victory would depend on whether you read Le Figero or The Times...either way it was a bloody affair.

  3. What a great looking game Mark, and a tremendous collection of figures. So tempted.....

    1. Thank you Colin. They are a great range of figures and would fit in nicely with your own Holland and Quiberon Bay troops.

  4. A lovely looking game Mark

    It’s great to see all the toys out on the table... and what a lot there are.
    The French column’s look particularly menacing.

    All the best. Aly

    1. Thanks Aly. It was hugely satisfying to see them all on the table. I can tell you being on the receiving end of one of those columns they were bloody terrifying! We really thought it was all over at one point when one third of our commznd was put to flight by those columns...but they just ran out of steam

  5. The first photo presents a stark contrast to that typically seen in a Napoleonic game. Then, the table explodes with activity and masses of handsome troops. Beautiful collection and an inspiring game.

    Well done, Mark!

    1. Thank you Jonathan. It certainly was a barren landscape. It made for a more intense game because no one could depend on a terrain advantage.

  6. Very well presented and nice scenario. Table and miniatures looked great. It’s nice when a project comes together with such a great result!

    Can I ask how the ground cloth was made? A sheet painted up or just the perfect color already?

    1. Thanks Stew. It is always good when at the end of the game everyone has participated and can claim a bit of a victory even if their command didn't make it right through the battle.

      The cloth goes back a while now, but it was a standard golden sand colour to which some patches of different darker and lighter tones were added by spraying. In truth the cloth is a little light in weight, which is why it bunches and folds a bit more than usual. A heavier weight felt would probably have been a better choice of material, but it is what it is.

    2. Absolutely gorgeous figures! You've recreated beautifully this exotic setting for a Napoleonic game. If I were to ever start Napoleonic again, I think this (or Wellington in India) would be my choice ...

    3. Thanks Roly. There are a few more to be done to finish the armies. I am quite keen to do some Ottoman troops - maybe late this year.

  7. That looks magnificent, and it is terrific to see the figures come to life in a game. It must have been hugely satisfying.

    1. Yes it was satisfying and has inspired me to proceed with the French expansion...but not until the end of next month.

  8. Great looking figures and terrain,nice culmination of your project and a draw means nobody loses!
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you Iain. There are still another ten or so units to go to finish this a few more of those fabulous gun sets.

  9. Great looking game, superb figures and terrain. What rule set were you using, if I may ask?

    1. Thanks Anthony it was a fun game. There are a whole bunch more units now and I hope they will make it onto the table again in September. The rules are homegrown and can are available on the blog under Free Stuff in the blog header. The rules and the quick reference handbooks are there.