Saturday, November 19, 2016

Adventure in Africa

My regular gaming friends and I have recently become enamored of the new Congo rules by Tomahawk Studios. After a first reading of a borrowed copy I was off to the Fall In convention to acquire the rules and figures.
Ruga Ruga mercenaries are attacked by the local tribesmen
The Congo rules portray the early days of European and Arab exploration of the African interior. The game leans more toward the Africa portrayed by Edgar Rice Burroughs and overwrought newspaper accounts than the real thing.  In the mid 19th Century no white man had any idea what was around the next bend in the African rivers. Might be an animal never before seen. Might be a dinosaur or a lost Carthaginian colony. You don't know until you go. Players can represent European or American explorers, Zanzibari Arab expeditions, Forest tribes or savannah based African Kingdoms. Eight scenarios are included with the game, but the players can easily create additional ones (and we will!).
 Ruined wall from a lost civilization peeks out from the encroaching jungle
The game requires only a few dozen figures and is very much focused on the exploits of the main characters. The style of play is Pulp rather than the massed rifle fire of European regulars against plucky but technology deficient natives. What Congo natives lack in technology they make up for with sorcery.
Sanders of the River is the first white man to view the Valley of Kong
I should mention the really cool terrain pieces in this posting were created by local artist Mike Covell, AKA the King of St Maurice. I have no artistic talent myself, but the next best thing is to know someone who does.
Religious totem of a forgotten people is slowly reclaimed by the jungle
Being the flawed individual that I am, I have collected far more figures than I need. My European column has an intrepid explorer, retired military man, experienced native guide, group of three old African hands and native porters, all Copplestone and Foundary figures. The column is protected by tough, disreputable Ruga Ruga mercenaries which I converted from Warlord Games Natal Native Contingent. The Forest Tribe is made from Warlord Games Zulu unmarried warriors re-equipped with rectangular wicker shields. The Wargames Factory Zulus provide the African Kingdom warriors. I also have some Wargames Factory Amazon warriors just in case my explorer stumbles across that lost civilization.
 African Kingdom warriors
Our local group of gamers are currently working on learning the mechanics of the game, which are new and innovative. Actions are dictated by cards, some of which can be chosen each turn and others drawn randomly. In addition to the usual Move, Shoot, Melee, Morale there are also opportunities to increase stress on opponents and reduce it on friends. Native witch doctors can use sorcery to foil their enemies or perhaps anger their gods in the attempt and pay the price. My witch doctor, for example, was eaten from the inside by scorpions while attempting a particularly ambitious bit of sorcery in a recent game.
The explorers enter the lair of an impossibly large gorilla worshipped by the natives
Mike's waterfall
Gratuitous wildlife. In Congo, most of the fauna will eat you.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

Drums Along the Fingerlakes

The rebellion of the American colonials against King George is well underway. His Majesty's loyal allies, the Iroquois are raiding all along the frontier. This is the story of the attack on Fort Donald.

Just as the harvest time was upon them, the settlers of Hilton on the New York frontier heard that the Iroquois warband of Joseph Brandt was headed their way. They sent their women, children and the infirm down river to safety, and then the militia moved into Fort Donald and prepared for the fight.

 The militiamen take up position in the fort 
 At first light the Indians emerge from the forest
One side of the fort was on a steep bluff above the river and was safe from direct assault. The dozen militiamen were spread thin along the other three sides of the fort and the corner bastions. The warriors approached in three bands, one against each of the exposed sides of Fort Donald. As they raised their blood chilling war cry and began to sprint across the clear ground, the muskets of the defenders banged out in defiance.
The militiamen open fire in the uncertain dawn light
A few Indians fell crossing the open ground
The morning mist made the fire of the defenders perhaps less effective than it might otherwise be, but still five braves were killed and a similar number wounded by the time they reached the walls.
The Indians reach the walls with ladders and a ram
The two militiamen deployed along the ravine side of the fort ran to join the defenders on the three sides under attack while the British agent-provocateur, known to the Iroquois as Dances With French Fries, urged the warriors on with promises of rich gifts from King George.
Dances With French Fries shouts encouragement from just beyond musket range
The hardened warriors were soon on the parapets engaged in a desperate hand to hand struggle with the defenders while the battering ram pounded the gate.
The gates shivered with each strike of the ram
One of the Indians dropped down to the parade ground and sprinted to unbar the gate from the inside. Two of the militiamen had been killed and two others, grievously wounded, were in the hands of the savages. The remaining defenders could hear their cries as their captors handled them brutally. All of this was too much and the defenders morale broke. They agreed to lay down their arms when Dances With French Fries offered them the protection of King George. Fort Donald was comprehensively looted and the Indian war party went on to pillage and burn the deserted settlement.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Peticus Autem A Fortuna

So, the Great Man is off to Britain on a punitive expedition. Padding his resume, more like! He’s away beating up on a gaggle of bare arsed  shepherds while I’m left behind with 3 legions to keep a lid on this nest of Gallic vipers. I should have been Governor and he should be marching around these cold, rainy forests instead of torturing the Plebeians with his gutter Latin exaggerations. Well, things are as they are, and the Belgic rebel Syntax will rue the day he crossed Peticus Autem A Fortuna!

And so it was that Peticus found himself staring across a hilly, forested field at the barbaric horde of Syntax of the Belgii. The Romans deployed Legio VII on their left, Legio VIII in the center and Legio IX on the right. The barbarians were arrayed with their warriors in the center and a large body of horse on either flank.

                                                       Initial Roman deployment
The broken terrain made it difficult for the Romans to keep their legions aligned, and a good part of Legio VII soon found itself surrounded and fighting for its life. They faced out in all directions and fought back manfully until at last the barbarian commanding in this part of the field decided to lead the charge to break them once and for all. He and his Companions rode their chargers into the midst of the desperate legionaries, and…….died.  The barbarians were taken aback by this turn of events and, just then the rest of Legio VII came up and immediately went into the attack. The barbarians on this wing broke and, aside from a few scattered bands, were swept from the field.

                                                    Legio VII awaits the word to advance 
                                      Advance elements of Legio VII attacked from all sides
                                                   Legio VII breaks the barbarian right
                                                        Barbarian right flees the field
On the Roman right Legio IX adopted a defensive posture to avoid their formation being broken up in the rough terrain. Their opponents did the same, being reluctant to meet the Romans on the level ground.

                                                      Legio IX on the right flank in a standoff

In the center the barbarian leader Syntax led his men in an all out frontal assault against Legio VIII, After desperate fighting , most of the Romans broke and ran, while remnants too proud to flee delayed the pursuit.

                            Peticus views the Barbarian onslaught in the center with concern
                       Syntax breaks the Roman Legio VIII in the center with a wild charge 
On the Roman left, the victorious Legio VII reformed and began marching toward the barbarian center. Seeing the crisis of the battle had arrived the Roman right and their barbarian opponents fell on each other. After a desperate struggle the Romans prevailed. Syntax, seeing both of his flanks  collapse, pressed his pursuit of the unlucky VIIIth and so left the stricken field, to fight again another day.
                                        After a confused melee Legio IX wins on the right

                               Legio VII reforms and moves to envelop the barbarian center



Sunday, August 7, 2016

A simple real estate transaction

This is Good E. Tewshooze reporting for the BBC on the conflict raging in the Middle African Republic. As our viewers will recall, the problem arose several months ago when the government of the country implemented policies seen as oppressive by an eccentric splinter group, the Moslems for Jesus (MFJ). That minority was in possession of the richest farmland in the country, and their leader, the Mahdi,  declared the independence of their region.

 The national army was in no condition to move on the breakaway region but the President of the MAR had another solution ready to hand. For some time he had been in negotiations with the HAWGs (Honorable Association of White Guys), a group of white South African farmers interested in resettling as a community in the MAR.  The President agreed to sign over the lands of the Moslem rebels to the HAWGs if the immigrants could capture the land from the current owners and live there as loyal citizens of the MAR.

"Mad Mike", Commandant of the HAWGs plans his campaign
 On arrival the HAWGs were issued what military equipment the government could spare; A pair of rusty M48 tanks,  an ancient DC3 transport plane, three Panhard armored cars with big guns, assorted jeeps and trucks and small arms. Within a few weeks the newcomers had this motley assortment of weapons in working condition and were ready to move. Their force was organized into 5 companies, Tanks, Panhards, Jeeps with MG, and two infantry. The DC3 was equipped with homemade high explosive barrel bombs.
The defenders of the northern hamlet prepare for action

The Mahdi knew of the government plan and he had not been idle. Those of his people with military training were organized into an infantry company with truck transport. The rest of the male population was organized into four militia companies of infantry, each supported by a technical with AA gun and another with a heavy machine gun.
The Mahdi commands his forces from the central hamlet

The stage was set, the U.N. talked and did nothing. The MAR was of no strategic interest to any of the Great Powers, and so the tragedy played out. At dawn on the 6th of August the HAWGs advance elements of Panhards and infantry moved into MFJ territory. This part of the valley was watered by a pair of rivers, very low at this season. Three hamlets and the MFJ training camp were the major points of interest. Three MFJ militia companies were stationed there, one in the northern hamlet, one in the hamlet in the center of the valley and one in the military camp in the south.
Fort Zinderneuf, the MFJ training camp

The Panhards started shelling the northern hamlet and soon, what sounded like a flying washing machine but was, in fact, the DC3, appeared overhead and dropped a barrel bomb on the defenders. This was all too much for the defenders who started falling back in some disorder toward the central hamlet.
The militia flees the northern hamlet

The HAWG tanks followed on, rolling down the road toward the northern hamlet. Our BBC news crew, determined to expose the use by the central government of these mercenaries, blocked the advancing Panhards and exposed the unit commander to a scathing interview. This allowed the retreating militia to escape, but sadly the unit disintegrated during the retreat and was out of the fight.
Courageous journalists, armed only with cameras confront the HAWGs

The trio of HAWG armed jeeps entered the fray to the East and passed through the eastern hamlet without opposition. At the same time the BBC news crew had moved onto the road between the advancing HAWG tanks and the northern hamlet and brought the tanks to a halt with another withering expose’. The Panhards on the left were slowed to a crawl as they found themselves in a mine field. For the rest of the battle they proceeded with great caution to avoid losing any vehicles.
Gratuitous wildlife

The HAWG armed jeeps crossed to the southern bank of the river and encountered MFJ Regulars and militia advancing from the East. A savage firefight ensued in which the HAWGs lost two of their three vehicles but caused so many casualties among the MFJ that they, as well as the HAWGs were rendered combat ineffective. One of the HAWG infantry units, led by Mad Mike, was able to cross the river in this part of the field and helped to see off the remnants of the two MFJ units that had engaged the jeeps.
Hawgs force the river crossing against heavy opposition

 The DC3 made a pass over the central hamlet where the Mahdi was posted and dropped a barrel bomb on the militia unit there. At the same time the Panhards had managed (in spite of the mine field) to get into position to open fire on the central village. The commander of the HAWG tanks had finally abruptly ended the BBC interference  with his mission and was advancing on the central hamlet.  All of this was too much for the garrison, which withdrew in disorder to the south, toward the military camp. The garrison of the camp began moving up the road toward the fighting. The last of the HAWG units occupied the northern hamlet. The Mahdi surveyed the wreckage of his army and decided to withdraw from the field to reorganize, rearm and fight another day.    
The stricken field


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Up the Great Gray Greasy Zambesi

Trouble in the interior.....again. The Arab slavers and their tribal allies, the uWanna have resumed raiding the peaceful tribes near our coaling station at the mouth of the Zambesi river. A small expedition upriver to burn a uWanna village and take some cattle should serve to restore order.
                     The Governor decided to punish the natives and would not be gainsaid!
So it was that Captain Poulet found himself disembarking from a decrepit paddle steamer deep in the territory of the fierce uWanna. He led his company of about 50 Marines, a handful of sailors from the boat and a gatling gun. Hauling the gatling might slow him down a bit but it would come in handy if he met resistance. The key would be to strike quickly and get out before the tribesmen had a chance to gather.
                      The heat! The insects! Let's get this over with and return to the coast.
The heat was oppressive as the small expedition made its way inland. They were not halfway to the target village when they spotted Arabs advancing on them in the distance. The slavers had their spies watching the coast and had decided to interfere. They must be hoping to link up with the uWanna warriors to oppose the incursion. Cursing his luck, Poulet directed his small column toward a position where he could see off the rabble of slavers armed with swords, spears and a few ancient muskets.
                                                    Damned slavers, how came they here?!
As the Marines jogged into position on the ground Poulet had chosen, he ran an eye over the site. Yes, this would do very well. A stream to his front would slow the attackers. To his right an impassable ravine, His left and rear were somewhat exposed but his Bluecoats would hold, come what may.
                                          A good position, clear field of fire. Let them come!
Just as he began directing his men into position, a Lieutenant called to Poulet and directed his attention off to his left. In the distance he could see a large number of uWanna warriors moving rapidly to envelop him and cut off his retreat to the river. This was starting to look like a proper battle! For just a moment Poulet remembered the stories of the terrible things done to the rare European who had the misfortune to fall into their hands. Shaking off the thought, he returned to the business of deploying his men.
                  The uWanna Chieftain known to the Europeans as 'Pete' makes his dispositions
Poulet had planned to form a line along the bank of the stream and direct all of his considerable firepower against the Arabs advancing slowly toward his front. The arrival of the fast moving, aggressive uWannas on the field had changed everything. Now he was cut off from the riverboat with enemies on three sides. He quickly changed his dispositions, setting his back to the ravine and positioning his rifles and gatling gun in a three sided "square". Everything now depended on the steadiness of his Marines and the awful stopping power of their breech loading rifles.
                                                                     Form Square!
The Marines had seen action before but they couldn't help but feel apprehensive at the swiftness and discipline with which the uWanna warriors formed up. On the other side of their position the Arab leaders seemed to be having some difficulty preparing their men for the attack.
                                                             The lull before the storm
The white men and their enemies stood in their ranks in silence for what was probably just a few minutes, but seemed much longer. At last the silence was broken by the uWanna chief who called out the order to advance, which was repeated by his several sub chiefs. The warriors jogged forward on two sides of the square, chanting their war song. On the third side the Arab leaders were doing all they could to move their men against the Marines, but those men knew better than the tribesmen the power of the white mans weapons.  
                                               The tribal wave breaks on the wall of fire
At a word of command from their Chief, the uWanna warriors gave a great shout and broke into a run. The commands Present...Fire! were barked out along the line of bluecoats and the terrible volleys crashed out, blending with the chatter of the Gatling. The bullets tore great bloody holes in the ranks of the charging warriors. In a few places, knots of warriors managed to close with the enemy only to be cut down by the steady line of Marines. For most of the natives the fire was more than flesh and blood could bear. The charge faltered, stopped and then fell back, step by step still facing the enemy. Their Arab allies had failed to charge at all, and that account would be settled in time. Poulet, seeing the enemy withdraw, ordered the cease fire. The Marines waited in their position until mid day. It was clear the enemy had withdrawn and Poulet had just enough time to burn a nearby village and get back to the river by dark.   

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Battle in the bocage

Mike and I had a 1500 Bolt Action game this afternoon. The scene of action was Normandy, 1944. We used a scenario out of the rule book whereby his German kampfgruppe of Wehrmacht,  Fallschirmjager and Waffen SS infantry supported by assorted armored vehicles were tasked with holding a crossroad against my two U.S. reinforced infantry platoons backed by a pair of Sherman tanks.
                  The crossroads viewed from the American lines East of the bocage
The Germans started with an infantry squad and a light howitzer in position near the objective. One American platoon moved on them from the East and another from the South. They were supported by a pair of medium mortars.
                  American infantry advance past the chateau toward the objective
German infantry reinforcements took up position in the bocage edged field Northwest of the crossroads. Their small arms fire started taking a heavy toll of the American platoon moving up from  the South.
American infantry rush to occupy the hedgerows adjoining the German position
Armored assets from both sides were deployed on the flanks of the main infantry battle around the crossroads. To the North a PZKW IV began to move on the American left flank. It destroyed a bazooka team, sniper team and a Sherman while the mortars fired on it with more enthusiasm than success.
The bazooka team tries to address the Panzer problem

The Americans cross into the bocage
Meanwhile, the Germans attacked the American right flank with a StugIII supported by an armored scout car and a howitzer armed halftrack. The Americans deployed their other Sherman to oppose this move while their forward air observer team called in airstrikes in support. The first target selected was the scout car. The aircraft didn't arrive but the Sherman took out the enemy vehicle. The Stug and Sherman engaged in a long range duel but another aircraft arrived over the battlefield and took out the Stug. The Sherman then engaged the enemy halftrack which fought back gamely but finally was destroyed by the more heavily armed and armored American.
The Stug and scout car burn while the halftrack advances undaunted
Meanwhile, back at the crossroads the more numerous American infantry were putting pressure on the German defenders from the East and South. Losses mounted on both sides. One American squad passed through a gap in the thinly stretched German defense of the hedgerow and close assaulted an enemy squad. The Americans prevailed, but their squad was rendered combat ineffective in the effort. The hard pressed Germans could ill afford the loss and their commander determined that he had too few resources left to hold the position, and ordered a withdrawal.   


Saturday, June 25, 2016

Swamp Gas

It was a warm summer night in West Monroe Louisiana. The Robertson clan was sitting in Patriarch Phil's front yard after enjoying one of Miss Kay's excellent dinners when something large streaked across the sky and crashed into the woods just a few miles away. They weren't sure what it was, but it didn't look like an aircraft, so the 8 men of the family armed themselves and drove off toward the crash site. They pulled off the road near the crash and moved carefully through the woods following a path of downed trees and gouged earth. Entering a clearing they were stunned to see a crashed saucer shaped craft.
The Robertsons enter the clearing....

                            and are stunned to see a crashed flying saucer
As they cautiously made their way forward the Robertsons were shocked to see a group of about 10 small men across the clearing making their way toward the crash. These were the "little green men" they had heard about on the History Channel! 
                             Phil Robertson says "Not in my back yard!"
The men spread out and began moving toward the craft. The two youngest, John Luke and Cole had only their hunting rifles instead of the assault rifles carried by the others, so they were detailed to take cover in the trees and start sniping at the invaders. Cole was wounded almost immediately. John Luke killed one of the little green men and was wounded by return fire soon after.
Cole and John Luke were wounded covering the rest as they advanced
While the men jogged forward to take cove behind the saucer the aliens retrieved a small package from the craft and started withdrawing the way they had come. Phil, enraged by the wounding of the two boys, sprinted ahead of the rest and went full auto on a group of three aliens covering the withdrawal, killing one, wounding a second and suppressing the third.
       The alien commander looks on as Phil takes out three of his crew
The return fire from the alien rearguard caused Phil to hit the dirt shaken but unwounded. He soon recovered and began trading shots with the alien rearguard. Alan ran up to cover him and was killed by the superior laser guns of the aliens. Meanwhile Willie and Jase moved around the other side of the crash site and suppressed one of the withdrawing aliens. Willie then moved up and shot him point blank. The firing tapered off as the aliens faded into the darkness carrying the mysterious package from the crash site that had been their objective.

Three of the aliens had been left dead on the field and two more captured, one of them wounded. The Robertsons had paid a heavy price with John Luke and Cole wounded and Alan dead. The Federal authorities arrived at the scene of the battle before dawn and took possession of the site. Within 12 hours the alien craft, bodies and prisoners had all been removed by the Feds, the Robertsons had been warned not to speak of it and the media had been told the crash had been a light aircraft. Phil tried to get the story out through various channels but found himself blocked at every turn. The alien prisoners were interrogated by their government captors and revealed their mission had been to retrieve a bootleg copy of the complete works of Willie Nelson. As a prank they left several pictures of that guy from the Ancient Aliens show behind in the crashed saucer.