Sunday 28 October 2018

The Battles of Abuqir Bay and Mandara

Ever since I began collecting the British in Egypt, sometime late last year, I had the idea of recreating the British invasion of Egypt in 1801.

The idea came from the series of games that the Perrys ran and presented on their FaceBook page.

My concept is slightly different. First because I have done a limited number of units and have to scale the games accordingly. Second, while the Perrys game ran through the landings, and the actions at Mandara and Alexandria, I wanted to run a series of games right through the whole campaign from the landings to the fall of Cairo - so anywhere between four and seven games. I also wanted to add a twist so that if there was a reversal of a historical result the whole sequence would change and we would dive into an alternate history.

The first two of the series were run today: the landing at Abuqir Bay and the Battle of Mandara.
For Abuqir Bay I decided to allow the British to land with:

Moore’s Brigade
  23rd Foot
  28th Foot
  42nd Foot
  58th Foot
  Corsican Rangers
Guards Brigade – Stuart
  Coldstream Guards
  3rd Guards
Craddock's Brigade
  8th Foot
  13th Foot
  18th Foot (second attempt only)
  90th Foot (second attempt only)
  one battalion of marines
  1 artillery battery
  Eleven Flat boats (each capable of carrying 1 battalion or a gun Battery)
  Three cutters (each of which has a carronade).
  Six dummy boats

The French defending force consisted of:

Robin’s Brigade
  22e Demi Brigade Légeré
  75e Demi Brigade
  Light battery
  3rd Dragoons
  1 stand of 14th Dragoons
  One horse battery.

This gave the French six battalions, two cavalry units and two guns and the British ten battalions and one gun.

British deploy their boats on the sea table edge on turn 1, face down, 600mm from the shore.

Once the British have deployed the French will deploy. All or any of their troops may be claimed beyond the crest.

Special rules this game only:

British disembarkment: During the training for the landings the British managed to get time required for disembarkment and forming battle formations down to five minutes. As such the British can form on the water's edge the moment that their boat touches the shore, but will be ruled disorded for the remainder if the turn, with the disorder clearing at the beginning of the next turn.

Artillery fire and movement:  All land-based artillery can move forward a maximum of 100mm and fire, but will fire as disrupted

British naval support: The British can call fire from naval ships on any French on shore target that is 300mm clear of any British troops, regardless of whether the French troops are on elevated ground.

British Carronades: The range is limited to 500mm, and re-roll all hits.

Seeing over the crest: Any troops deployed just beyond the hill crests are assumed to have officers forward and are able to claim to see an enemy on the other side. As such they can charge from concealed  positions.

British boat movement: 
• Boats have a standard movement rate of 150mm per turn (225mm with a double time activation)
• Once within 200mm of the shore dummy boats can be identified (and eliminated from play) by any
   French unit with a direct line of sight
• The cutters cannot come closer than 200mm of the shoreline
• Boats can change direction up to 45 degrees from their direction of face at the beginning of the turn

French batteries in Abukir Castle: The guns at Abukir Castle have a range of 1500mm from the French left / British right table edge. Three guns are available with a rate of fire of one per turn.

Damage to boats: Boats can sustain three hits from artillery. On the fourth hit they are deemed sunk. Boats are deemed normal targets.

Terrain limitations: 
• The slopes of the great sand hill will be classed as difficult terrain
• Artillery fired to or from higher ground against troops on land will re-roll hits

For the game I was lacking one item - the flatboats. Now the Perrys make one of these, as do Redoubt, but at close to NZ$100 each and a need for a dozen or more boats just for this one game, even my magpie-like attraction for shiny things was dulled. By chance when I was at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich a couple of months ago there was a wonderful model of one of these boats laden with what looked like Seven Years War grenadiers in a big glass case, and I had a thought. So whipping out the camera I took a few shots from directly above and then cleaned them up in PhotoShop when I got home. Then I searched on Google maps until I found a sharp image of some ocean (the best patch I found was around Norfolk Island)  and placed the cut out image on top. After scaling the image I had the result shown below, which was printed out in colour onto a lightweight card.

And so to the game...

The French chose to deploy all of their forces to the right of the big sand hill, with the 22nd Légeré on the extreme right, the 75th de Ligne on its left and the cavalry on the extreme left. The whole force was kept below the crest of the dunes.

The British deployed all their dummy boats on the left, directly opposite the 22nd Légeré  To their right were the Guards, supported by the marines and the battery. Then came the two battalions of Craddock’s brigade and Moore’s regiments were on the extreme right, directly opposite the big sand hill. They chose to keep out of the range of Fort Abuqir.

In a brilliant show of rowing the British boats all hit the shore at exactly the same time and disembarked in perfect order. 

The French 22nd Légeré  with no opposition in front of them advanced and swung left to engage the Guards, while the cavalry and horse artillery moved against Craddock. The detachment of the 14th Dragoons charged towards the 8th Regiment, which quickly formed square. The dragoons aborted their charge and the horse artillery blasted the square, but with little effect.

The 13th Foot and the Corsican Rangers came up on the right of the 8th and were forced into square by the 5th dragoons. Then followed a cat an mouse game between Craddock and the cavalry until the marines and the British guns blasted the 14th Dragoons, forcing them to flee. The British infantry then advanced on the 5th Dragoons and the horse battery, slowly forcing them back.

Meanwhile Moore made good headway, unopposed, on the big sand hill, occupying it easily without taking a casualty.

The Guards, however had serious problems. The French infantry advanced against them and caught them in a crossfire. The 3rd Guards crumbled under intense small arms fire and fled up the beach. The Coldstreams were not far behind them as they were taken front and flank and they too made off down beach - no doubt to the jeers of the boat crews.

For a moment it looked as though the French infantry might roll up the British left flank, but the navy came to the rescue and the fire from the ships broke up the French demi-brigades and the French forces left the field.

And with that very historical result we stopped for lunch and to set the table up for the next game.


After lunch the action continued with the second game of the day, set five days after the landing at Abukir Bay, sees the British pushing up the Abuqir Peninsula towards Alexandria, while the marines and dismounted dragoons besiege Abuqir castle.

With the Mediterranean on their right and Lake Abuqir on the left the approach is narrow and made difficult by the terrain that is littered with numerous palm groves and broken hills. Beyond the rough ground stands a large hill on which stand some Roman ruins, which the French occupy. The French right is protected by the bed of Lake Mareotis, that although dry in March, is still an obstacle to the British. Then the ground opens to a flat barren plain that runs all the way to the fortified Heights of Nicopolis at the far end of the table. The British, however have no knowledge of the terrain beyond the hill with the ruins atop and will not gain knowledge until the reach the top.

The British advance is led by Craddock’s Brigade followed by Moore’s and Stuart’s Emgré Brigades (13 battalions), with any losses carried forward. Only a single battery of artillery is available and no cavalry is present. Without cavalry to reconnoiter the ground, and lacking any accurate maps of the area the British are in full belief that if they drive the French from the ruins hill they will be able to march straight into Alexandria.

The French force consists of three demi-Brigades (9 battalions) with two light batteries and a horse battery attached and two regiments of dragoons, a regiment of chasseurs a cheval and a horse battery. On the heights of Nicopolis they have another demi-brigade and three field batteries. The French objective is to prevent the British from getting control of the Nicopolis Heights, but need to prevent the British from occupying or passing the hill with the ruins on it until at least turn eight to prevent them observing the French relief column moving across the northern edge of Lake Mareotis.


The French deploy first. The British march onto the table. The British gun can be placed in the order of march as the British commander’s discretion.

Special Rules:

Effect of sand on artillery fire: Artillery firing too or from hills, EXCEPT when firing against targets on the barren plain, re-roll hits.

So how did the game run?

The French deployed the 22nd Légeré,  damaged in the previous engagement, in the ruins supported by the light battery. The other two demi-brigades were deployed on the right with the cavalry in the center. They intended to push forward to engage the British as they came though the broken hills and palm groves.

The British put Moore on the right, Craddock in the middle and Stuart on the left. They hoped to push past the French right.

The French stepped off first and the infantry on the right the quickly advanced and took the edge of the high ground. The cavalry dashed forward to block Moore.

But the cavalry soon found itself in a poor position and the 14th Dragoons were quickly shot to pieces. The horse artillery was quickly in action but began to take hits. The 5th Dragoons also began to take hits and began to withdraw covered by the Chasseurs a Cheval.

On the French right the infantry was quickly engaged with Stuart's emigré regiments. Dillon's regiment attempted to drive off the French battalion on the extreme right, but was shot to pieces coming in and was routed back against the lake. The French followed up and dispersed the Dillon men to the wind.

The French continued to push forward and the emigré units of de Roll and de Watteville entered the fight. De Roll held their own for a while, but de Watteville was smashed. De Roll met its fate the following turn, leaving only a single battalion of Stuart's brigade to face six. Soon the brigade morale collapsed and that battalion too took to its heels. Stuart was last heard blaming Craddock for coming up too slowly and leaving the emigrés exposed to the full brunt of the French attack.

On Moore's front the contest continued with the cavalry and horse artillery. It took some time for the British infantry to work their way through the palm groves, but when they did they could dominate the the front with musketry. The cavalry was soon put to flight, although the horse gun did hold on for another turn.

Craddock finally came up through the palm groves, but struggled to form a line and half his brigade was compelled to break back to protect its flank after the collapse of Stuart's brigade. The fight here was short. After some initial success Craddock was knocked back, his brigade morale cracked and his troops quit the field, leaving only Moore's five battalions in action. 

Fortunately for the British the French infantry were just as badly knocked about and decided they had had enough. Moore was left to face the weakend 22nd Légeré who could not have held the ruins for long. 

Here the game ended. The British had failed to get to Alexandria, but fhey had done damage to the French and held a good position on the Abuqir Peninsula. Again we had an historical result.


  1. Terrific stuff and it is great to see the figures in action. For a moment there I thought you had managed to get some of those Perry boats finished before me. The printed versions look very sharp and, aside from an obvious solution to requiring so many, they turned out to be much more practical than actual models would have been.

    When are the Ottomans making an appearance?

    1. I was seriously tempted by the boats for a while until the reality of the cost sunk in. I will do a couple later on for some of the coastal operations around Spain.

      The Ottoman army, that was completed over the weekend, did not appear in this campaign until after the Battle of Alexandiria and the subsequent advance up the Nile. Alexandria will be the next game, although because of scheduling it may not occur this year.

  2. Clever idea for the boats. Nice to see all the troops for the Egyptian campaign out in their glory.

    1. Yes it was a sensible solution for the boats I think, although not a pretty as the models would have been. The next game will have all the figures from the collection on the table.

  3. Mark, good to see to your recent painting efforts make it onto the gaming table so quickly. Your solution to landing craft is simply brilliant. They look good too!

    1. Thank you Jonathan. I have just three items - three more of those British limbers - to finish the whole Egyptian project

  4. What a fab set up, a quality days gaming.

    1. Thanks Norm. It was great to get in two games in a day. Even bettervthat we started at 10:30 and were finished by 2:30 - with time for lunch in between the games. A vey civilised war!

  5. Great looking games! Lovely to see your newly painted forces on the field,an excellent solution to the flat boat problem and a nice stand of Roman ruins,oh and definitely worth doing the matelot dragged guns, they add so much to the feel of the game.
    Best Iain

    1. Thank you Iain. The next game will be a bigger fight and will include all six of the matelot drawn limbers.

  6. Wow, wonderful games with so many beautiful units, including the boats, clever! And well done with the terrain, mostly denuded, immersive and gorgeous!👍

  7. Fantastic looking games Mark! The boats were particularly inspired.

    1. Thanks Nathan, it was a cost effective way to make the is amazing how simple solutions can be found while wandering around a museum.

  8. Nice reports Mark - as always, your photos and mine seem to be very similar. It was great to get in two games, as you say - keep up the good work - 1812/13 French game next is it?!

    1. I have an 1813 Napoleonic extravaganza planned, but we are running out of gaming weekends this year. I will try for early December. I also want to do the next Egyptian battle in the sequence.

  9. Tremendous looking gams Mark! I am now sorely tempted to expand my own FRW figures into Egypt even though that would in effect mean new armies. Looking forward to reading the next instalment.

    1. Thank you Colin. Now there is a coincidence because after reading the reports of your FRW games I am tempted to look at the earlier Revolutionary armies!

  10. A great looking and colourful couple of games Mark.
    I also agree with the others... the boats were inspired.

    All the best. Aly

    1. Thanks Aly. I really wanted to do the boats properly. The cost was one issue but the other was storage (or more correctly how can I hide this purchase from her indoors?). Storage for 11 boats would be a significant volume. I WILL so some at a later stage to support my plans for coastal operations in the Med.