Saturday 9 November 2019

Steal a Camel for a Day

'Tell Mohammed here that we’ll arrive on the beach at dawn. He’d better be there or I will not be a happy man.’

‘How do you know his name is Mohammed, sir?’ The translator shifted uneasily.

‘They all are, aren’t they?’

‘Um. Actually, no, sir, they are not.’ The translator smiled wanly. ‘This one happens to be.’

‘Then tell him to be on the beach at dawn in two days’ time.’

There was a brief exchange. ‘He will be there, he says, sir. And you will help him to track down Honest Ahmed at the market.’


‘Honest Ahmed, purveyor of fine second-hand camels.’ There was more conversation. ‘He says he bought a racing camel from this fellow at the last market, but it turned out to be lame and he wants his money back.’

‘OK. Fine, We’ll help him find Honest Ahmed if he’ll help us capture the town.’


Ranging once more across the world, I felt an urge for something involving camels. A bit of a ponder led me to the Portuguese adventures in the Gulf of Persia, and an amphibious operation. You might think I quite like opposed landings, and I think you would be right. Have some model rowing boats, will attempt a landing, after all.

After a bit of dice rolling, some further consideration, some quick terrain making and a bit of improvisation, the following table was set up.

The Portuguese arrive from the sea (obviously, really). The Omani militia defenders of the town are deployed in front of it. The original terrain called for an orchard with enclosures in the foreground, and two areas of rough going, one by the town and one near the shore. I am a bit lacking in such features and so they were transformed, in my wargamer’s eye, to a market place and a palm grove. Near enough, I reckoned.

The armies were sort of straightforward, and sort of not. The Portuguese have lots of shipborne troops, by the time frame I am aiming for (sort of late sixteenth century) there consisted of shot and sword and buckler type troops. They are, of course, light in cavalry. Given the Omanis have a fair bit, I decided on some Bedouin allies for the Portuguese, whose aim is to do some shopping in the market, while the Portuguese aim for the town. The Portuguese arrive in two waves of five bases each – the first five are shot, the second wave consists of four swords and buckers and one shot. The Bedouin are a light camel and a light horse base.

The Omanis were straightforward. Four bases of militia types (tribal foot in my rules) form the initial defences of the town. Another eight bases will be approaching from the near table corner to see off the threat. The Omanis have some cavalry, more tribal foot, a guard base and a shot base. After what happened last time with reinforcements, both sides have to roll only a five or six for their help to appear.

Somewhere about the middle of the game, the picture shows that, with all the inevitability of my dice rolling capabilities, both sides rolled a six for their allies in the first move. The Portuguese allied Bedouin arrived and set off for the market, where, at the extreme right of the photo, you can see that they have arrived and are hunting for Honest Ahmed. The Omani cavalry (and obligatory light camel base) have advanced to contain the Portuguese, while their infantry toil up in the hot morning sun. The Portuguese second wave has just largely arrived, although the nearest shoreline base is part of the first wave that had difficulty disembarking (rolling sixes again).

This picture shows the end game, or near it. Both generals are down, which has meant that there are few tempo points to go around. The Omanis have broken through the Portuguese centre, while the Portuguese have routed most of the Omani cavalry (with good shooting) and are staving off, and probably slowly defeating, the Omani left. Another move or two saw the Portuguese break the base in contact on their left, while the Omani centre rallied from its pursuit. The Portuguese Bedouin allies, having obtained their refund from Honest Ahmed, are pottering back around the town to see how things stand and decide whether to intervene.

By this point, both sides were pretty well fought out, so a sort of draw was declared. The Portuguese had been repulsed, or at least held off, while the Bedouin had obtained their objective. Perhaps if they had acted as allies, rather than simply pursued their own goal, things might have been different. Then again, perhaps not.



‘Sir, this gentleman is a doctor. Mohammed sent him.’

‘What is his name?’

‘Erm. Mohammed, sir. As well. Mohammed said he was a good doctor and does not kill too many of his patients.’

‘The sword that did this is over there.’

There was a pause. ‘The doctor will just bandage your arm and then treat the weapon, if it is what you wish.’

‘Of course, it is. How am I going to get healed unless he does the weapon salve thing? What does he think I am, stupid?’

‘He says would it be all right to remove the weapon so he can treat it at home?’

‘As long as I get better. This arm really hurts. And I had to belt the general one to get the weapon.’

‘He says that will be fine. Now, just let him apply a light bandage and he will be on his way. He will present his bill when you are recovered.’

‘I’m going to have to go on another raid then to raise the cash to pay it, you realise that?’

‘The doctor says perhaps you could do some trading. It is safer.’

‘Like Honest Ahmed?’

‘Honest Ahmed, sir, is only down on money, not on blood. But Emir Mohammed has offered you and the men employment, as he fears that there may be some retribution for his own, um, camel trading.’

The doctor bowed and left, carrying the sword. ‘Well, we can’t let old Mohammed down, can we?’


  1. Strangely, Honest Ahmed runs my local take-away. Guy gets everywhere.