Trouble in Zubia: A colonial mini-campaign

Zubia was a semi-autonomous part of Fezia. In fact the Khedive of Zubia barely acknowledged allegiance to the Sultan of Fezia, and had – over the years – acted as an independent ruler. Each year the Zubians paid a nominal amount of tax income to the Sultan, but the majority of the taxes collected went into the Khedive’s treasury.

A map of Zubia.

Over recent years the Khedive had expanded and modernised his armed forces, and although the majority of the troops who would serve in time of war were untrained irregular militia, there were a number of well-trained and well-equipped (by Fezian standards) regular units available.

The recent death of the former Khedive had caused some unrest in Zubia, and although the former Khedive’s son had taken his father’s place as ruler, the real power in Zubia lay with the leadership of the army … whose head was General Ali Nasir. General Nasir was a Zubian nationalist, and wanted to break all ties with Fezia. He was aware – however – that this would be unpopular with the foreign nations who wished to use Fezia as a bulwark against Rusland and from whom the former Khedive had borrowed considerable amounts of money.

An increase in grain prices had exacerbated the situation in Zubia, and anti-foreign riots had broken out in various towns and cities. The worst atrocities occurred in the city of Secundria, where over fifty foreigners were killed and their houses and businesses were looted and burned to the ground. In the aftermath of this a number of warships of the Royal Britannic Navy arrived offshore at Secundria and demanded that the local Governor arrest, try, and hang the perpetrators of this outrage. After sending the commander of the Britannic ships – Admiral Charles Benlow – a polite but negative reply, the Governor – acting upon orders from General Nasir – began work on extending and improving his city’s defences.

The coast of Zubia and the delta of the River Zub.

The bombardment of SecundriaThe Britannic Navy’s battleship HBMS Empress and cruiser HBMS Furious anchored off the coast of Secundria in Zubia. After receiving the message from the Governor of Secundria, Admiral Benlow kept his ships close enough to land to be able to send men ashore should the need arise. However when it became obvious that the Zubians were extending and improving the city’s coastal defences, he contacted the Britannic Admiralty and asked permission to use all reasonable force to remove this threat to his ships. When approval was forthcoming, Admiral Benlow set preparations for a shore bombardment – and possible landing – in motion.

HBMS Empress.

HBMS Furious.

The arrival offshore of several troopships carrying a brigade of the Britannic Army – led by General Horace Willingham – was the signal for Admiral Benlow to take action. He sent an emissary ashore to warn the Governor of Secundria that unless the coastal fortifications of the city were rendered inoperable, he would have no alternative but to take action to destroy them. His messenger was treated politely, but was left in no doubt that the Zubians had not intention of doing what they had been asked to do.

As soon as the messenger returned aboard the Empress, Admiral Benlow issued orders the captains of Empress and Furious to begin bombarding Secundria’s forts at sunrise the next day.

Secundria just after sunrise.

The bombardment was sustained for most of the day. HBMS Empress concentrated her fire on the Lighthouse Fort …

… whilst HMBS Furious engaged the smaller of the two forts.

The Zubian gunners fought well but gradually they were overwhelmed and their guns fell silent.

The two Britannic warships then turned their attention – and their guns – onto the Zubian infantry who were defending the waterfront trenches …

… and after they had sustained serious casualties they withdrew.

The way was then open for the Britannic Army brigade to land and secure Secundria.

The advance on ZubairoHaving secured Secundria and left a small garrison behind, General Horace Willingham marched his brigade towards the Zubian capital, Zubairo.

The desert inland from the delta of the River Zub was made up of salt plain, sand and rocky outcrops, and the brigade made fast progress towards Zubairo. Nearly halfway to Zubairo the column had to pass near to the ‘Kings of the Desert’, a pair of large rocks, and it was here that they were attacked by a detachment of hastily raised Zubian militia, supported by mounted desert dwellers.

The Kings of the Desert.

The Britannic brigade on the march.

The attack upon the Britannic brigade came from two directions. The Zubian militia infantry attacked from the flank and the mounted desert dwellers from the front.

The two leading Britannic infantry battalions formed square to meet the charge by the mounted desert dwellers whilst the other two battalions and the artillery swung around to engage the oncoming Zubian militia infantry.

The two Britannic infantry squares easily repulsed the mounted desert dwellers, but the sheer number of Zubian militia infantry was too much for the Britannic artillery and the foremost of the other pair of Britannic infantry battalions.

The Britannic artillery was swept away and the gunners were all slain, and the Britannic infantry battalion that had been engaged in hand-to-hand combat was pushed back. One of the Britannic infantry squares also came under attack, and although it suffered some casualties it repulsed its attackers.

At this point all the Britannic infantry battalions formed square and the Zubians threatened to attack again … but did not.

General Willingham realised that his advance had stalled, and that without further reinforcements he stood little chance of capturing Zubairo even if his troops were able to reach the Zubian capital. He therefore withdrew to Secundria, where he requested additional troops be sent to reinforce his small army.

The advance from Port ZubWith the reinforcements came a new commander, General William Hooke. His appreciation of the situation was that the quickest way to resolve the problems in Zubia was to land troops at Port Zub and advance upon Zubairo with the tributary of the River Zub on his right flank. From Port Zub to Zubairo the river was wide enough for warships to escort his army and to keep them supplied. It was also a much shorter distance to march even though it was a much more densely populated area.

Port Zub was undefended and was swiftly occupied by sailors of the Britannic Navy. General Hooke’s division landed and began to march inland, and reached Zigazag before encountering any opposition. Just outside the town the Zubians had built a line of trenches that stretched from the River Zub to the Zigazag Marshes.

The Zigazag trenches.

This left General Hooke with three choices:

  1. He could retreat back to Port Zub and try a different overland route. (This was totally unacceptable to General Hooke and choosing this option would have guaranteed his early retirement.)
  2. He could march inland and go around the marsh area. (This would remove the support the Britannic Navy was able to give and lengthen the supply route the advancing troops would have to rely upon. It would also leave the latter open to attack by the Zubians.)
  3. He could mount an all out attack at once in the hope of dislodging the Zubians before they were able to strengthen the defence line even further.

General Hooke chose the latter option, and at first light next day the attack began.

Thanks to the efforts of Admiral Benlow and the commanding officer of HBMS Furious, the cruiser had managed to sail up the River Zub as far as Zigazag. The attack began with HBMS Furious opening fire on the first line of Zubian trenches …

… and despite suffering minor damage as a result of Zubian artillery fire, …

Furious gunfire caused numerous casualties and forced the Zubian defenders to withdraw.

The Britannic troops advanced and occupied the vacant trenches, …

… and with Furious‘s guns and their own artillery providing fire support, they attacked the second line of Zubian trenches.

The commander of the Zubian troops at Zigazag realised that the situation was lost, and ordered his men to surrender.

Now that the bulk of the Zubian Army had been killed or captured, General Nasir had lost his power over the Khedive, and the latter sent members of his bodyguard to arrest General Nasir. The General had guessed what was likely to happen, and had sought – and been granted – refuge in the Gallian Embassy.

Having regained power, the Khedive sent diplomatic messages to both the Fezian and Britannic government requesting aid in restoring order in Zubia. Both countries agreed to this request and within months a newly-formed Zubian Army was recruited and being trained by officers and NCOs seconded from the Britannic Army. As for General Nasir … well he proved to be a growing inconvenience for the Gallian Government, and his untimely death from eating a surfeit of oysters was regarded as a blessing in disguise for all concerned.


28 Comments on “Trouble in Zubia: A colonial mini-campaign”

  1. Kev says:

    Bob- Absolutely fascinating series of events and battles…well written and very well illustrated in photos of the terrain, defences and actions of the Navy… Thankyou for Posting- Brilliant!.I'm not a big reader of Colonial History and I have to ask if all that is discussed and shown is it Fiction or Fact? KEV.

  2. Kev,

    I'm very pleased to read that you enjoyed this battle/campaign report.

    The idea behind the campaign scenario came from my recent re-reading of a book about the British bombardment of Alexandria and the subsequent attack on the Egyptian trenches at Tel-el-Kebir. In real life the British advance was not hindered by any attacks by irregulars and they did not have to make two attempts to capture Cairo.

    I really enjoyed fighting this mini-campaign, and it only took a bit of Saturday morning and a couple of hours on Saturday afternoon. I used all sorts of bits and pieces from my collection of wargaming stuff, and the battles were fought on my 6 hex x 8 hex wargaming board.

    All the best,


  3. David Crook says:

    Hi Bob,

    Magnificent! It certainly got me scurrying to my copy of 'A Tidy Little War' by William Wright. I loved the terrain and the whole idea and the ships just added the finishing touch. I assume that MOMBAT were the rules of choice.

    I liked the playing area – it is an ideal size for solo games.

    My only observation though – surely the Sultan will be less than impressed at one of his subjects considering leaving the empire. Maybe a small expeditionary force to 'encourage' Zubia to maintain its allegiance….

    A cracking little story and it made my Sunday!

    All the best,


  4. Kev says:

    Thanks Bob- Your reply is very interesting about Alexandria, Cairo and Tel el Kebir. I think that You modelled Your HBMS Empress on the HMS Victoria…? Superb Cameo model – well done. KEV.

  5. David Crook,

    I am really pleased that you enjoyed reading this blog entry. I suspected that you might have recognised the origins of the scenario when you saw the background outlined in the first few paragraphs.

    The rules were a much modified version of MOBAT. I am still working on them, and at present they are more a collection of notes than anything else.

    The 6 hex x 8 hex tabletop is just large enough to stage a small battle, and can be packed away or changed very quickly. As you write, it is ideal for this sort of mini-campaign.

    Will the Fezians 'enforce' their suzerainty over Zubia in the light of these events? Who knows … but they might!

    All the best,


  6. Kev,

    I thought that a little bit about the background to the scenario might be of help.

    You are right about HBMS Empress; she is a single-funnelled ‘caricature’ or ‘cartoon’ model based on the design of HMS Victoria. She has appeared in previous blog entries, sometimes with different names.

    All the best,


  7. Pete. says:

    Fantastic mini campaign Bob- your tables are delightful. They have a classic timeless quality too them.



  8. Pete,

    Thanks very much for your kind comment. You have really summed up the 'look' that I am trying to achieve.

    All the best,


  9. Wonderful! Just the sort of thing I imagined these portable style games being used for. I admire that you have persevered and presented such a good example of what can be done.

    When I read the intro and the first scenario I thought “He's not is he?” Swiftly followed by “Ye by gawd he is!” Well done.

  10. Fitz-Badger says:

    I was thinking the same things as Pete. Nice report and mini-campaign! With good terrain, ships and figures, and map. All tied together well. And fun to see a campaign that took so little space and time to play.

  11. Ross Mac,

    Thanks! When you consider that the whole tabletop was only just about 3' x 2' (90cm x 60cm), I do seem to have managed to squeeze quite a lot in.

    The smaller style of portable wargame is not to everyone's taste, but the fact that I could set up and fight through a campaign with three battles in about five hours (including getting everything out and packed it all away, taking the photographs, and writing up the blog entry) is an example that firmly makes the point that they can work.

    As to the scenario … well I have always wanted to do some sort of re-fight of the bombardment of Alexandria and the attack on Tel-el-Kebir, and this seemed like a good opportunity to give it a go.

    All the best,


  12. Fitz-Badger,

    I would like to thank you for your kind comments as well.

    Over the years I have acquired quite a lot of useful bits and pieces, and this mini-campaign provided me with the opportunity to use some of them. For example, the map was drawn quite a long time ago, but I never got around to using it. Likewise the buildings were bought, painted, and based for a colonial campaign that never took place, and pre-date my blog by at least three years.

    This mini-campaign – and the previous one I fought – has given me the taste for this sort of thing, and I already have plans forming in my head for future ones.

    All the best,


  13. David Crook says:

    Hi Bob,

    As a small favour could you post some pictures of your armies for this period please? I would love to see what the full OOB looks like. I liked the 6 figure units as well – they really look the part with some 'meat' on them.

    All the best,


  14. David Crook,

    I will try to do something along those lines later this week.

    The European infantry were originally based up as units of 12 (4 x bases of 3 figures) and all I did for this game was to split them into two units. The Native troops were based up as units of between 12 and 18 figures (4 to 6 x bases of 3 figures).

    All the best,


  15. Dick Bryant says:

    Dick Bryant

  16. Quite brilliant, Bob. Glad to see your lovely little ships in action. Some hard fought actions there to be sure, the sand of the desert red with blood and all that …
    Delightful post.

  17. Dick Bryant,

    MOMBAT is the acronym for my 'Memoir of Modern Battle' rules.

    All the best,


  18. Michael Peterson,

    Thanks very much for your kind comments. I am very pleased that you enjoyed reading this blog entry.

    Using these ship models has given me an idea for a possible future battle … that might turn into a mini-campaign.

    All the best,


  19. Fascinating report, just as the accounts of your recent mini “Barbarossa” campaign were. Inspired by those (and your latest campaign) I'm trying to emulate your new wargame board. Where did you get the pinboard that you used as the basis – do you have e a product ref or catalogue code number by any chance. Looking forward to the next campaign.

  20. David Bradley,

    I am very please that you have enjoyed both of my mini-campaigns. They were great fun … and I hope that they will be the first of many more.

    The whiteboard I used as the basis of my warboard was bought in Rymans.

    All the best,


  21. Thank you very much for the information. Now planning an early trip to our nearest Rymans ASAP! Looking forward to seeing your Prussians take the field.
    All the best,David

  22. David Bradley,

    Good luck with creating your own warboard.

    With luck the Prussians will be marching across mine in the not too distant future. In the meantime I still have my British and French armies to varnish and base.

    All the best,


  23. Brigadier General,

    I am pleased to read that you enjoyed this campaign report. Fighting the campaign made a nice break from my ongoing Waterloo project.

    All the best,


  24. Dick Bryant says:

    Loved the abttle report – it got me to thinking, I can do this with the armies I painted for Peter Pig's PITTS rules. I tried to locate your MOMBAT rules on all your sites – no joy! Are they available?

    Dick Bryant

  25. Dick Bryant,

    The mini-campaign idea would work well with PITTS.

    I really ought to make more up-to-date versions of MOBAT and MOMBAT available … and will do when I finally get around to it.

    All the best,


  26. Phil says:

    Fabulous! A very interesting system, great pictures and explanations…and of course a fantastic period to play! Geat looking terrain as well, excellent report!

  27. Phil,

    I hope that you have also enjoyed reading my latest mini-campaign report as well.

    There will be more to follow … in due course.

    All the best,


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