Saturday 27 August 2022

Nos amis sous les sables (Our friends beneath the sands) - French North Africa, circa 1910.

The garrison of an isolated French outpost are getting increasingly desperate for relief. A courier has been dispatched to summon relief but the besieging tribesmen are gradually reducing the garrison and growing bolder.

Today’s game pits a French relief force of regular Legion infantry against assorted tribesmen, using ‘Fistful of Lead, Bigger Battles.’ The rules are card driven with some cards allowing extra actions.

Players are dealt a number of cards equal to the number of units, but choose which unit to assign their cards to. This allows some planning and requires best use of the extra actions, such as shock removal or the recovery of stragglers. There is still considerable friction though. Cards are played in strict sequence, which means the unit you’re saving the re-rolls card for may not be in a fit state by the time the card comes around.

Wargame Vault - Fistful of Lead, Bigger Battles Rulebook

The action started with two units of irregular riflemen sniping at the besieged fort at long range. The besieged garrison could just make out dust on the horizon beyond the ridge, hopefully the relief force rather than more enemies.

Enemies were quick in coming however, appearing on the ridge between the relief force and the fort. The tribesmen at the fort, after some unproductive sniping tried to rush the walls. The first two attempts were beaten back by rifle and machine gun fire, but with casualties also mounting within the fort.

On the horizon the first Legionnaires fought their way up the ridge, dislodging the riflemen on the crest. A fast moving dust cloud moving in from the East became discernible as a force of tribal cavalry. As a Legion unit cleared the riflemen from the ridge they were left exposed to the fast moving horsemen, who lost no time in charging home. The legionnaires were lucky to survive, but it fell to a supporting unit to disperse the horse.

All of this fighting at the ridge was imposing delay on the relief force. At the fort the garrison were struggling to repulse the third assault on the walls. The tribal riflemen were repeatedly scaling the walls, but being beaten back by rifle fire. The sick, lame and lazy had even been rousted out of their sick beds to repulse the waves of tribesmen.

By mid game, the Legion were roughly halfway to the fort, but had suffered about 30% casualties. More importantly the garrison was in dire straights. Tribal reinforcements were arriving continuously, increasing the pressure on the garrison and relief force. The machine gun had been silenced, the crew driven off the walls and tribesmen were on the walls. Only the tower was holding out. The arrival of a unit of Chasseurs d’Afrique in the distance gave little comfort to the hard pressed Legion. 

The relief force at this point threw caution to the wind and sent two units at the double to the fort. By the skin of their teeth, they made it to the gate, which was opened by the single survivor of the unit garrisoning the wall.

The action came down to the last turn of the cards, with the Legion just getting sufficient troops inside the fort to prevent it’s destruction. To do so, they’d left many friends beneath the sands.

The game was played in the usual excellent spirits by Rob and Steve leading the revolting tribesmen, Lawrence and Paul commanding the plodding Legionnaires.

Figures used were Airfix, Strelets, Caesar, Hat and Italeri for the Legion and Italeri and Strelets for the tribesmen. The fort is from Blotz, all other terrain scratch built.

The rules gave a good game with everyone fully involved and some interesting decisions and dilemmas given by the card play.


  1. This looks great! I need to paint up my Strelet's Arab warriors. That range has proven a big plus for gamers! I like the fort. I'll be using my two Airfix forts. They have been serving as Egyptian ones in the Sudan vs the Mahdi.

    1. This fort started out as ancient city walls but I was trying to make it look more like the Airfix one we all remember.