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The Destruction of an Army – The Battle of Shaykan November 1883


On the 5th November 1883 a large Egyptian Army of 10 000, commanded by an English General Hicks Pasha,  out numbered 4-1 was destroyed almost to a man deep inside southern Sudan. Last night the Lonely Gamers Club (Brian Buskell, Kiwi Dave, young Josh and Myself) tried to replicate that long forgotten battle with our Sudan collections, hopefully playing out the last stand of Hicks Pasha’s gallant but futile attempt to put down the Mahdi rebellion in the Sudan.

Our game started with the pre-deployment of the Egyptian forces in three squares and cavalry on the flanks (which was supposedly Hicks final deployment). The only Mahdist forces allowed was the deployment of the Jihadiyya riflemen , no closer then 12″ away and in small arms range. Hicks was allowed the first turn to move his army without the main Mahdist forces allowed to deploy.

However on the second turn the Mahdist commander was allowed to spring his trap. Two large war bands of six warrior units each attacked the two flanking squares in force. The first square to break but still offer resistance was Hick’s right square. It took the brunt on no more then four separate charge during the course of the next four turns to be finally destroyed to a man. Their gallant stand however slowed down the Mahdist right flank and allowed the main centre square to advance.

The next square to be caught in the impending human wave was Hick’s left square. This square had managed, only just, to hold back the fierce warriors by repeated volleys of well aim Remington rifle fire. However by turn five their square was finally caught and broken. Again the Egyptian troops put up a gallant stand and even though the square was broken they were able to slowly withdraw providing weak but continuos support to the main central square. Some of the men from this square actually survived our game and were eventually make it back to friendly territory to tell the story of Hicks Pasha’s death and destruction of the army.

Finally after seven turn the final and centre square, on the personal command of Hicks, was finally caught by a new wave of Mahdists warriors who had being lying patiently in ambush waiting for the right time to spring the final trap. Their second charge broke into the square but Hicks personal bravery and sharp pistol again allowed the majority of troops to continue their forward movement and  hold off the enemy forces for another three turns. On our last turn the last formed bodies of retreating Egyptian troops were finally caught and over run and the gallant Hicks Pasha found his death under the great and now famous Bugler’s tree, emptying his revolver three times and using his sword before he was lanced and died.

Hicks left square comes under repeated attack from the overwhelming Mahdist forces

With artillery support holding off the Mahdists forces to their right the central square, under the command of Hicks, moves forward.

The Egyptian right square is broken but the troops reform and offer strong resistance helping to slow the Mahdists.  They fight to the last man, some even retreating back to the old zariba before being overwhelmed.

Hicks personal bodyguard of mailed cavalry charge a body of Jihadiyya riflemen, but are intern caught by Mahdist cavalry and forced flee, leaving a good many of their comrades dead and dying.

Hicks right square is now attacked but defeats the first two charges, only to be broken on the next.

Hicks bodyguard flees pass an artillery battery and is later caught up in the swirly mass of Mahdist warrior and destroyed.

With their cavalry support gone the Egyptian artillery is soon overwhelmed by the victorious Mahdist cavalry

The last stand of the Egyptian right square.

The centre square is attacked on two sides but manages to defeat the attacks and pushes on.

Another charge on the centre square and the irregulars break under this attack, however the enemy warriors are held up in looting the supply train and the rest of the square are able to make their escape and reform.


But finally the last formed bodies of Egyptian troops are finally caught and overwhelm by shear weight of numbers. Large amounts of bodies still visibly littered the battlefield when revisited in 1936.

After firing off his revolver three times and fighting with his sword Hicks Pasha is finally speared and killed under the great Bugler’s Tree and goes into legend. 

18 thoughts on “The Destruction of an Army – The Battle of Shaykan November 1883”

  1. I've read about the battle a number of times but it is one thing to read about an event and another thing entirely to see it re-enacted (however that might be). Thanks for sharing this, it's great stuff!

  2. I have done the same thing as well but never had the figures to play the battle. However after many years of collecting figures for the period I was able to finally play it. It was interesting to use the three squares and I can now fully appreciate why he might have used that formation.

  3. Thank you all for the great comments. It will most likely be out last game for a few weeks as I will have to paint up a few extra figures for the next big battle. We have plenty of Mahdi just lacking on the Egyptians.



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