Sunday, 30 April 2017

Congo - the African Adventure Wargame

I like wargames set in 19th century Africa. I also like wargames that have interesting and novel rules. In this vein I am also entirely unafraid of cards, counters, measuring sticks, using different dice than a D6 and innovative turn sequences. Much of that last sentence seems to bother some gamers ... especially the cards. I especially like games that make command and control a bit difficult so you don't get to move everything you want when you want it. Good scenario variation is also a must. 

If you think any of that wasn't complete shite then you could do much worse than buying the "Congo" wargame. I find it - and all those I have talked into playing it - have found it not only fun but challenging to play. 

We played scenario three, where one tribe tries to spirit their kindly Christian missionary off the table before some fearsome attackers can do the same - but Father Mecilin will probably end up in the pot or being sold if the attackers triumph. 

Both attackers and defenders deploy in various spots around the table edge and then converge on the centre. 

This image shows one of the cards whereby orders are given. This card allows one player to move a unit (foot) and rally or inspire terror (drums) in another. The white number at the top reveals the initiative order players will order their troops in. Each player selects three of these cards per turn and selects one each phase playing them simultaneously with their opponent. 

This image not only shows melee between slavers and jungle tribe spearmen but also shows the counters which communicate stress. Here the two sword counters have sadly reduced this unit's fighting capability right before the fracas. Up to four stress token may be placed on a unit. Further tokens produce dire consequences such as fleeing and losing models. 

Here the slavers have rolled the maximum of 6 on the Plunder table and not only gain something valuable but set the hut alight. In this scenario both of those outcomes add Victory points to the slaver total and the higher the VP total determines who wins the game. 

Some jungle tribe hunters range in on the slavers in the distance. Fortunately all units have a 360 degree facing arc so being shot from behind leads to no further penalty. 

More spears to the rescue. Unfortunately this was a moment before the slaver players used multiple terror tests on the unit. Stress token were quickly amassed and this entire unit was removed from the board aided by a volley from the zanzibari muskets. 

An unstoppable combo ... here an activation card is modified with a beneficial totem card. In this case the initiative card raises the white number at the top to an unbeatable level ensuring the player activates in that phase first. Very handy but a one use trick (and you have to be lucky enough to draw that totem card in the first place ... you get one of those per turn.)

Oh ... I did have an image of that unit about to rout. The terrible thing here is not so much the 4 stress tokens (although that is not good) it is that 3 of them are terror tokens. This means an additional token will be drawn for each terror token on the unit. The slaver player volleyed into the unit with muskets. As muskets in Africa - in this period - were frequently loaded with far too much powder and all manner of objects - any volley results in a stress token being drawn. In this case it means 1 stress token + 1 for each terror token on the unit = 4 total. The fifth stress token means the unit retreats, the sixth, seventh and eighth tokens all result in a model being removed. Ouch! 

The dreaded red hand stress token. If this is drawn from the cup (stress tokens are drawn randomly) then the unit cannot move or shoot for the remainder of the turn - it is then removed but often the damage is done. 

The African natives did have some victories. 

Here they gleefully spear their attackers. 

Oh ... nice jungle terrain ... why thankyou! I swear by aquarium plants. Cheap and they arrive in large quantities. When liberally mixed and glued into a hole drilled into a cardboard base covered in PVA and sand (drybrushed and flocked of course) magic happens. I have almost denuded an entire beach of sand over my years making wargames terrain. PVA and sand ... I love you. 

This slaver unit was on a rampage. 

Please note the frightened and bound African woman being forced forward by the slaver with the whip -  a nice dramatic touch which directly aids immersion into the period and setting. 

There - I finally squeezed out that report. Move Congo will definitely follow. I do enjoy the game a great deal but I want to buy more African colonial models ... just over 100 seems not to be enough. It's FAR more than you need for a game of Congo ... but when you're as hooked on the setting as I am ... well enough said. I really want some of those tribesmen that I can paint with skeletal warpaint on them, then some more askari, oh and I could do with some more slavers with swords or spears then I need about 15 archers, and a large menacing but crude idol that I could splatter with red to resemble blood .... (you get the idea - I'm hooked!) 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The French Army Grows

My French Napoleonic army has been steadily growing. It is a very steady growth - feeling almost glacial at times - but I have done an awful lot of miniatures already. I'm at about the halfway mark and are still enjoying the painting a great deal. This project has enabled me to bring one of my first wargaming loves to life - a Napoleonic army. 

The latest additions are a unit of Marie-Louises - or conscript infantry in greatcoats from around 1814. I have added figures in greatcoats to my foot regiments before but never an entire unit attired in such garb. I am very pleased with the result. 

(Side note: I have labelled this regiment the 56th Line. I do not really know if these were made up heavily of conscripts. As they were heavily involved in the fighting throughout 1813 and 1814 they could have been. By 1814 and La Rotherie the unit appears to be reduced to a single battalion - suggesting heavy battlefield losses. Possible desertion due to the Allied invasion/liberation of their homeland - this regiment was raised from recruits from Belgium - also seems a likely reason this unit may have been filled with new conscripts.) 

The other addition being my second cavalry unit - the 3rd Cuirassier. This unit soaked up MANY hours of painting and I was initially unsure of the result but after basing and varnish I'm very happy. As I plan not to collect any imperial guard cavalry (atm) my cuirassiers will be the armoured fist of my force. I hope they reward the care I took when painting them ... I know they will. 

Next I'll be painting more artillery - horse and heavy batteries - and Napoleon with ADC's. The next order has been sent off to Dermot at CGM and I await it's arrival. With my enthusiasm high it cannot arrive soon enough. 

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

The Return of Mick the Pirate

Last evening saw a return to IHMN and the best way to do that is with Pirates! The table was set and the plot centered on the treasure of Mick the Pirate which had to be excavated from the island in the middle of the table. I called it Skull Island but it had no distinguishing features that gave it that name. I need to buy a skull as I can't see myself making one of those. Six players - including me - attended for this jaunt back into the 18th century. Many were supplied with rum - it seemed the thing to do. 

I had engineered all factions the same. Each had a commander (+3 FV and SV with Tough and a Pluck of 3+), a 2iC (+3 FV and SV with Fanatic and a Pluck of 4+) and between 10-12 warriors (+2 FV and SV with a Pluck of 5+.) The warriors were armed with whatever the figure had. This meant two pirates were wielding paddles (as a two handed weapon), another two could strike their foes with a barrel, one Frenchman had but a drum to defend himself with and King B'Donga was armed with a fly whisk and a pile of skulls to throw. I have found that having a large force of poor fighters with high pluck is much more entertaining than trying to figure out an elite force. When poor troops do something spectacular everyone enjoys it. Oh yes, and no-one could swim. 

Above one band of pirates arrived on the table in jolly-boats. 

The Frenchmen were led by Serge Pissoir their daring and famous captain. 

Another band of pirates but this one was Welsh. All had the surname Jones. The rather Asian looking gentleman - who was second in command - was actually called Tom Yum Jones. He had been down the pit since the age of six. 

The British could not let the treasure fall into the hands of the French so they had sent an elite group of infantry. 

The Turkish slavers of Filthy Abdullah. He had enough grenades to sink Skull Island and his fearsome second in command was Al-Hurun, the Arabic superhero. His whirling blade was infamous. 

Finally the locals had also appeared. 

The island which held the treasure was completely cut off and so anyone who wanted it would have to leap or swim thus braving shark infested waters. 

In an inexplicable display of lust, Tom Yum Jones began molesting one of his shipmates behind a bush. The Captain, obviously approving, watched on leering. 

The French and British, in a more warlike spirit, ran towards the centre of the table. 

Slaver after slaver plunged into the shark infested waters. 

To the oars!

Run you dogs! We have far to go and must lose no time!

Three pirates were swimming madly for the shore of Skull Island. But the progress was closely watched by a denizen of the deep. 

The French shot at the pirates from a rocky outcrop.

King B'Ddonga urged his troop forward. 

The shark attacked. Between its rending jaws and their complete failure to swim the Turkish slavers lost half their men in the first two or three turns. 

An ineffective firing line was formed by the Brits. It was ineffective as it had prepared to shoot the Turks who had, by now, drowned. 

The pirates likewise felt the aggression of the sharks. 

Tom Yum Jones had buried his face in the cleavage of his shipmate. Just when he would enter the fray was uncertain. It was an epic display of lechery. 

Three pirates had reached the shore. In the background Serge Pissoir prepares a death defying leap onto Skull Island. Failure would plunge him into the water. 

The natives attack. 

Vicious combat erupts. Al-Hurun cut down his African foe. Although he would much prefer to clap him in irons for a quick sale. 

The pirates grew closer. As they paddled a long range musketry duel played out against the French. Most shots from both sides were very ineffectual. 

More Frenchmen prepare for the leap. Serge languishes in the water as a sinister fin nears. 

The pirates reach Skull Island. The French shooting from the heights peppered the boat but few if any had found their mark. 

The passing of the jolly-boats had raised an aggressive threat from the deep. The 'Son of Kraken' hated the passage of any boats through these waters. It now stalked behind the pirates. 

The British, who had by now realised that the Turks were doing a wonderful job of annihilating themselves, began to run forward to find a new foe. 

A blunderbus discharges at close range but strangely a wicker shield seems perfect defense against the flying projectiles. 

Rabeh Zubair waved his enormous sword decapitating the poorly armed natives before him. 

Tom Yum Jones, finally with his lust sated, lies in the cold embrace of the deep. Pirates should really learn to swim. 

The French plan to shoot everyone on the island was simply not working. They left their leader, Captain Pissoir, fight almost alone on the island. He was finally killed after being shot numerous times and having bravely stabbed an opponent who was lying face down. 

The British now impact into the Native tribesmen who seemed to be fighting everyone. 

The island was now the scene of fierce combat. The 'Son of Kraken' set to strangling pirates from behind. One pirate had managed to dig down to uncover the treasure of Mick - the One-Eyed, One armed rapist pirate. But to the surprise of all the only thing Mick had ever buried was ... himself. Legends of his demise were much exaggerated and he jumped forth to kill his foes. With him were the animated remains of the last pirates he had cruelly buggered to death. This new foe preyed on the remains of the combatants on the island. 

This was probably a plot twist too far as the evening was late now. The new force prolonged the scenario. But it did look good. I was also not prepared to kill off Mick in a narrative sense as he was a long running and much loved character in our pirate games. 

I included the skeleton force to give to the person who had their force wiped out early. This would allow them to keep playing a role in the game. This was the "You've ruined my Week" special rule named after a famous incident in our IHMN gaming history. The first player to utter the words "You've ruined my Week!" would command this new force. 

A native warrior stands triumphant over his defeated enemy. 

More men fell in the fighting around Mick. 

Chaos now reigned across the board. 

Filthy Abdullah stood throwing grenades onto the island careless of who fell. 

I had no idea who was winning but it certainly didn't feel like the French (me.) I don't think it mattered at all. Everyone was knee deep in carnage by now and seemed to be enjoying it. 

The end of the game. The evening had grown late and more fighting could occur but the rum and beer was just about gone and work waited for many the next morning. 

It was a great game. Much banter had been spent, laughs were had and insults thrown almost as much as shots fired and swords swung on the table. Many had fallen but one thing was certain = Wargames was the winner. Thanks to Jason, Ian, Bill Nick and Michael for a great game that was played in excellent spirits. IHMN is continually a good system (especially when played with poor troops with a high pluck.)