Wargaming the Exploration and Colonisation of Tropical Africa by European powers from 1850 until 1918.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

A Zambezi campaign: 1

The beginning of the expeditionary force...finished today!

I have just read Gary Chalk's article in the April 2010 Wargames Illustrated detailing an anti slaving expedition river-based campaign in Darkest Africa.  Chalk, of course, devised the plans for the model African paddle boat that appeared in Miniature Wargames in June 1999.  I took his plans and extended my boat which after an enthusiastic burst over two weeks saw it 90% complete only to have it languishing unloved for the best part of six or seven years. 

Gary Chalk's brilliant paddle steamer from Wargames Illustrated's June 1999 issue

Chalk's campaign, which he calls, not too snappily, Wilkinson's Campaign Against the Slavers, contemplates five linked scenarios which are played in a random order, except for the last climactic attack on the Arab slaver's compound.  Of course you can play more or less and I am tempted to devise some more scenarios for this.  The other five scenarios he has are:

The maps for each game from Wargames Illustrated

1 Elephants and pygmies

The British anti slaving expedition run into some pygmies hunting elephants; either of whom may attack them.  I don't like the Foundry pygmy figures. I'm just not interested in pygmies.  I will substitute another force.

2 Trading post

A British trader is under attack by an Arab raiding party.

3 A mission station.

A local missionary and the expedition come under attack from Arab led local tribesmen whilst waiting for the arrival of reinforcements on a gunboat.

4 A native village

The village comes under attack from the Arabs

5 Attack on the Arab tembe

This is the final scenario whatever other order the previous games are played in.

My paddle boat.  it really only requires the rear canopy and a bit of weathering

This is really the set up I have been looking for ever since I got my first Darkest Africa figures ten years ago.  I really wanted a river so I could use my paddle boat.  I also wanted a British expedition, Arabs and wildlife involved.  One of my problems with wargaming is that I tend to be overly concerned with historical accuracy.  All of my planned wargames forces take their starting points from the actual forces at a particular historical battle.  For this, I think that I am going to treat this more as a fantasy campaign so I am not going to be too concerned about who was where at any point in history in Africa.

The Copplestone sculpted British troops produced by Foundry consist of British officers, Sikhs and askari.  I would guess that they are equipped for the early 1880's.  In addition, Copplestone Castings produce some nice Naval Brigade figures. The forces are designed for Chris Peers In the Heart of Africa rules which is what my son and I used for our Belgians v Azande game the other week.  These contemplate small units with individual firing.  The only issue I can see is that they lead to horrendous casualties which is counter to a campaign but the Chalk article has a system for seeing whether figures are dead or recover for the next game.  Tweaking the dice roll necessary to recover (he contemplated 50/50) should ensure a reasonable force for the campaign.

The forces neccesary for the five scenarios are not too bad in total.

British Expedition

British force (Sikhs, regular askaris and irregular askaris) 40 figures
British reinforcements (naval Brigade) 12 figures and a gunboat

Scenario 1 (elephant hunt)

37 pygmies

Scenario 2 (Trading Post)

38 Arabs
4 Whitemen

Scenario 3 (Mission)

42 Arabs (an additional 14 are needed over what is necessasry in scenario 2)
42 allied tribesmen

Scenario 4 (Native village)

61 tribal figures
47 Arabs plus a cannon (again, around 30 are figures that have been used before)

Scenario 5 (Arab stronghold)

56 Arabs plus a cannon (so a few more Arabs needed)

In total that makes 56 Arabs, 52 British, 37 pygmies (or equivalent), 42 Arab allied tribesmen and 61 native tribesmen. So around 250 figures in total, which is a lot. Of these I already have most of the British around half of whom I have already started painting.  I have all the Arabs but haven't painted any yet.  I do have some Congo style tribesmen who I could use for some of the forces and these would probably serve for the  The Arabs' allied tribesmen.  The peaceful villagers could be any generic tribesmen in loincloths (or less) and I would give them generic hide shields to distinguish them from the the wicker shileded Congo types.

The replacements for the pygmies are intriguing and I am tempted to use my Ngoni, some of whom I have already painted.  Adding forces at this point seems a little ambitious but I am very tempted to produce a force of warrior women as a complete fantasy army.  But maybe that calls for a seperate scenario involving a white queen and her acolytes.  It would be good if I could throw in Tarzan and Jane, a fiesty female reporter, an aristocratic big game hunter, a lion hunt and giant gorillas as well, somewhere!

Anyway it is all very enthusing and having finished the two required officers and three of the six Sikhs needed today I will start work on the British Askaris next.  I have already based the Arabs so, given most of them wore plain white, they shouldn't take too long. 

The biggest issue will be representing the river on our gaming board but Guy has just told me  to use blue card and not worry about fancy scenics!

The other solution is to replace the British with Belgians which would mean that I had enough for the anti slaver force instantly.  Maybe we can have some trail games using them.

I have just extracted my paddle steamer from the loft, along with the Christmas decorations, so will have a look at that over the Christmas break.


Boggler said...

This looks like a really interesting project and one that I'll definately be following.

Excellent stuff!

A J said...

An intriguing project and one I'll follow with great interest.

Anonymous said...

Just came across your site. Great stuff! Any idea where I can get the plans you used to build the paddle steamer?

legatus hedlius said...

I have them as scanned documents. If you can let me have an email address I can send them to you.

Arthur said...

Re the paddle steamer, that's very kind. Is there a way I can send you my email address privately - bit new to this blog lark!