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

Monday 29 November 2010

Darkest Africa wargame: Azande v Force Publique Belgians

Rohan meets the Congo in the kitchen

On Saturday, my son, Guy, announced that he would like to play a wargame the following day.  He had managed to get his homework done early and so he would have a free Sunday.  Invariably, when we play a game it is Lord of the Rings but this time he wanted to do something historical.  We went through my painted armies and worked out we could do  both sides for Romans v Britons, Anglo-Saxons v Vikings, Early WW1 Germans V French and British or, what he eventually chose, a Darkest Africa game.

Azande unit 1: Copplestone and Foundry Azande musketmen

What swung it was that he liked the look of my Belgians, which I have been painting up over the last year.  This would be their first outing.  In contrast, my Azande were the first of my metal figures I ever played a game with.  This was at Guildford Wargames club when they took on Mike Lewis' (of Black Hat Miniatures) Belgians which, I see from the army list I produced at the time, was in February 2004.  They hadn't seen action since then but had been boosted by some extra musketmen since that outing (as they were comprehensively trashed).

Unit two: Azande armed with kpinga

I dug out Chris Peers' Darkest Africa rules while Guy set up the table using a GW battlemat over the top of my Citadel Realm of Battle board.  He did manage to make it look a little less like Middle Earth by the addition of a couple of palm trees and some aquarium "jungle" plants.

Unit three: Azande spearmen

I chose my army first, using all of my Azande but not using the Congo allies which I use sometimes to boost the forces.  Somewhere I have another couple of dozen Azande to paint which I might do now as the points value of Guy's Belgians was such that he didn't get to field many figures.

My fourth unit: more musketmen

Forces were:


1 Leader
1 standard bearer
1 unit of 11 agile warriors
1 unit of 15 agile spearmen
1 unit of 16 musketeers
1 unit of 12 musketeers

56 figures in all

4 baggage elements consisting of two musicians and a couple of girlies.

Guy's small force deployed on a hill


1 Leader (white man)
1 standard bearer
4 units of six Force Publique soldiers

26 figures in all

4 baggage elements consisting of a mule, two porters and a "man with a bottle of rum", according to Guy (Pirates of the Caribbean has given him a fascination for rum which his teetotal mother finds quite disturbing!). 

Guy was a bit concerned about the relative sizes of our forces; especially as I had a lot more Belgians I could field and he was very tempted by the mountain gun but thought that it cost too many points.

It was a straightforward encounter battle and as Guy hadn't played the rules before and I hadn't played for years we just put our units within the required six inches of the long table edge.  We could have put one unit 18" in as an advance guard or even put one in hidden ambush but decided not to play any add-ons this time.

The Azande advance...

Guy put his force on a hill at one corner of the board and, as he later told me, his plan was to stay there and let me attack.  In a very un-Azande like way I decided to charge at him head on and right from the start suffered casualties caused by his elevated askaris.  They outranged my musketeers by 20" to 10" and they could fire every move whereas my musketmen had to spend a move re-loading after every shot they fired. 

Shooting is basic and brutal in the Darkest Africa rules.  Targets and shooters are dealt with individually and his Belgians hit on a score of five or six; scores being worked out by a D6 throw plus 2 and a few modifiers (such as -1 if at more than half range).  Guy's first volley knocked out enough figures that I had to take a morale test which, fortunately, the Azande passed.  Both the leader and the standard bearer were too far away to help on the morale test.  Indeed the standard bearer got consistently low movement dice (movement is a set amount (2" for Azande plus a D6) and never caught up with the main force so was useless as a morale test saver (which is, basically, their only role).

Belgians take the high ground

Guy then pushed one unit onto a hill and blasted away at the Azande from on high; whittling down my units at an alarming rate.  Because of the dense terrain I could never get my musketmen to get enough guns to bear and they suffered with their ten inch shooting range. 

The Belgians form up...

Seeing how well things were going Guy brought the rest of his Belgians down from the hill and they formed a devastating firing line, routing one unit and annihilating another.  In order to win against a Colonial army like the Belgians you need to close into hand to hand combat with overwhelming numbers.  In the end I did get three figures into melee but by that time they were outnumbered by the Belgians and were all shot on the way in to the attack.

These three Azande did charge but to no avail...

Although I did pretty much clear the hill of  the Belgian advance guard by then it was too late and my forces were totally destroyed.  In the end Guy's army surrounded my baggage elements, the only figures I had left on the table.

The Belgians capture a ready made party: musicians and girls!

So, it was a fun, quick game, over in about two hours, and we will certainly have another one soon.  Next time I am not going to charge European troops head on and I will also go for smaller units.  The figures in the bigger units, especially the musketmen, got in each other's way a lot.  Small units of musketmen and bigger ones of hand to hand troops are what is needed, I think. 

Guy's losses

I was lucky with my morale tests but at one point it looked as if I was going to see an entire 16 man unit bolt.  I will also look at painting up some more Azande so we can field more Belgians.  One thing it had shown me is that I don't need any more Belgians; not without a lot more natives anyway.  I had been planning on buying some more but now realise that my Belgian army is, to all intents and purposes, complete.  Hooray!

My losses!

1 comment:

Jim Jackaman said...

Great report with some excellent photos.

I am inspired to dig out my DA collection and get it painted up in the New Year!

Excellent stuff :O)