First impressions of the rules, short (10 pages), random card driven turn (not all units will activate each turn), funny (humorous card effects), ambiguous.
I have not played Too Fat Lardies' rule system before so those who have may have an easier time interpreting the flavor of the rules. The main driver of the rules is the action deck and blinds. The action deck is built by making a card for each large unit, most officers, some special event cards and one (1) end of turn card. During each turn cards are drawn and each card activates its' unit. The other major component of the rules is utilizing paper "blinds" for each native unit, I used 5X3 inch index cards face down. These are deployed by the native player for intial set-up, additionally the native players received blank "blinds" which would help hide the location fo their troops even more. The British officers and units can attempt to "spot" the enemy blinds (reveal if they are actually troops or not). The combination of the random end of turn and inability to see your enemy at the beginning are both interesting concepts.
The scenario started out with the Mahdi's forces (natives) occupying a couple of hills flanked by rough terrain (pictured left) and the British entering the board from the lower corner.
The British player began advancing and attempting to spot the Mahdi's forces with his cavalry and got a bit overextended on the left flank. The Mahdi's forces stayed undetected with little movement the first turn. However, the Native artillary started to fire at the British advance triggering the British player to fire his artillary and jamming his Gardner machine gun, which never unjammed the entire game.
Pictured left are the King's Royal Rifles and Yorks and Lancs advancing with their supply camels. While drawing cards we noticed a trend, the native player had many more units, i.e. his cards were being drawn quite a bit more often than the British, the British player did not even get his artillary card drawn to almost the end of the game. We had some issues with the rules as they seemed incomplete at points, sometimes not fully developing the rule before moving on. As these rules are based on the Lardies' system the gaps in the rules may be easily interpreted by players of other games within the system, however having never played them before we had to make some gentlemanly decisions on how we would treat the unknown.
Example: When the card "Blinds Move" is drawn the native player may move all of his blinds and wanted to charge all of his sub-units within the blind into the British, this was not covered in the rules. The rules said how to "shoot" from a blind but not how to move the sub-units within the blind into combat. We decided to have each sub-unit within the blind move and fight individually, ther was not rules for several units engaging one British unit, flanking etc. each combat was fought one at a time ala Kung-fu style, allowing the British to repulse each attack prior to the next.
Overall our gaming group gave the rules a C+ allowing a little room for our first Sudan rules test and we did have a fun time with quite a few laugh out loud moments as the native players became obsessed with trying to capture one of the British Camels and failing the entire game. The final outcome of the battle was a win for the natives who gave the British a bloody nose inflicting quite a few casualties, however a combination of horrible dice rolls, inability to draw more than one British unit card and no rules for passage of lines may have been a disadvantage for the Brits.
Will we play these rules again, probably with some house rules thrown in and several postings to the Lardies' Yahoo group. I would say if you have played other Lardies' titles you would probably have no issues with the game. It is a beer and pretzels game and I am not sure it is what we are looking for but it was an enjoyable evening and that is what is important. Finally for the record paper troops are not nearly as enjoyable as lead. Coming up Piquet Field of Battle, Two hour Wargames Colonial Adventures and The Sword and the Flame. I have been working on a steamer ship model and will post about that next week.