Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Congo Campaign News and Terrain

If you are a fan of Studio Tomahawks game Congo, based in Darkest Africa you'll no doubt know that a new campaign supplement is in the works.

There's now also a Wargames Illustrated video flip through available on YouTube. 

Here's a quick summary of what we know so far:

The campaign details the exploits of Mary Kingsley as she attempts to learn more about the customs of local peoples and eventually climbs Mount Cameroon by a previously unattempted route. Mary Kingsley was a rather famous Victorian lady who championed local customs and religious beliefs and even went so far as criticising the church for sending missionaries to convert people to christianity.   

Mary's White Men Expedition is opposed by a Forest Tribes column led by (I think) a witchdoctor called Ujuwa. Both characters are depicted by new figures that come with the book. 

Six new linked adventures are included in the soft back campaign book. Its tricky to tell from the video, but it looks like each of the columns has to progress along a predetermined route that is marked out on a campaign map (one for each column). Characters can discover new facts/talents as they progress and these provide bonuses. 

Four new animal encounters are included. The Savannah lion is joined by hyenas and elephant while the jungle gorilla is joined by hippopotamus and leopard. So now, when an animal stress token is drawn a d6 is rolled to determine which animal appears. 

Sadly, it looks like there are no new 'environments', although there are new dangerous terrain tables for Savannah and Jungle. Not really sure why these are needed? 

The campaign looks like it will be fun and is something that I think will make the Congo ruleset really shine. 

My own Congo columns and scenery are coming along. I also play Death in the Dark Continent and Men Who Would be Kings. My African Kingdoms column has therefore been expanded and I now have fully playable Azande forces for all three games. Since most of the scenarios that I have played in DitDC and mwwbk are either grassland, steppe or savannah based, this has been the focus of my terrain building. 

My savannah terrain is therefore well advanced and I have more than enough to play savannah based Congo adventures. 

Of course, you can never have enough and I'll no doubt be adding more to this! 

I now need to create some suitable jungle terrain. Lots of work in progress on this front that needs a whole new post. But in the meantime here's a few teasers...

First up, some blocking terrain. 

Next, work in progress on area terrain... Including a cave, ruins, river and what will eventually be a large rainforest tree. 

Lot's more work still to do! 


Saturday, 10 June 2017

Battle on Senlac Hill

Wiping sweat from his eyes, Harold emerged from the trees and stood on top of a steep ridge. The march from York had been made in haste and his men were weary. Few had yet rallied to his banner. Would others arrive before nightfall? With Gyrth and Leofwine at his side, Harold knew that the throne of England was at stake and there could be no retreat.

Time for the conclusion to our 1066 campaign as we fight The Battle of Hastings!

[Following feedback from pyruse on the Studio Tomahawk forum we decided to make a small amendment to the scenario rules for Senlac Hill. The hill functions as a steep elevation but reduces movement of mounted troops from L to M (rather than L to S). ]

Harold's forces were somewhat depleted and fatigued after Stamford Bridge and the long march south. But they stood determined and defiant.

Below them stood William and his Herald, Ivo Taillefer, together with a host of Norman cavalry, archers and crossbowmen.

Harold's left flank was protected by woodland, whilst a rank area of marshland was located to the right.

The Normans started their advance, but found the ground rough going with several units feeling as though they had become trapped in a mire.

Ivo's cavalry made haste and picked their way through the woodland. Although fatigued, they had manoeuvred into a good position for a flank charge.

Another mounted unit galloped ahead to scout out the hill.

Meanwhile, William signalled a general advance.

Missiles rained down upon Harold and his men, but casualties were light and the shieldwall held firm.

Ivo suddenly burst into song and his troops were revitalised. Sensing that a victory could be achieved with a frontal assault his cavalry surged forwards and positioned themselves directly in front of the hill. Harold's slingers reached into their pouches...

The Norman cavalry found themselves battered by stones. Where was their support?!

Norman crossbows quickly followed up, but Harold's men sensed that the Norman line was floundering.

"Hold the line you fools!" cried Gyrth.

But it was too late. Warriors charged down the hill towards the startled Normans!

William look on in amazement as the warriors crashed into the Norman cavalry like great Lords of Battle. But, whilst fatigued by the endeavour, the mounted hearthguard held their ground and inflicted heavy casualties on their assailants.

More English warriors started to stream down the hill. William's crossbows desperately tried to reload, but were beaten back.

The English warriors started to tire and suddenly they found themselves alone and isolated. Seeing the threat, the Norman knights regrouped and hacked the warriors down.

The English assault had been defeated, but not without some loss to the Normans. William took stock of his forces.

Harold and his huscarls stood defiant. The shieldwall may have thinned as the day progressed, but it remained a formidable barrier.

"But what of the fyrd?" asked Gyrth "Will they abandon us in our time of need?"

"Have faith brother", replied Leofwine "they will be here!"

William looked up at the afternoon sun and a shadow passed over him. Was there still time left to secure the crown?

Joining his knights, William positioned himself on Harold's flank and charged a unit of warriors who were trying to scramble back up the hill to safety.

William's knights trampled down the warriors. But as the frenzy subsided, William looked about him and realised that his knights also lay slain. By now it was late afternoon. With his knights dead, William cried out in despair. The crown of England was slipping from his grasp...

Harold gazed at the Normans below him. Some of the Norman cavalry were starting to retreat! Nightfall and the protection afforded by its darkness would soon be upon them.

"Shh! What is that?'

Gyrth turned to his brother in puzzlement. Harold cocked his head to listed. Above the din of battle a lone voice could be heard.

"Is that a song?"

Suddenly Ivo Taillefer rode from the lengthening shadows and charged up the hill. His song drove the English warriors before him. What remained of the levy slingers fled in panic and Ivo fell upon Harold and his brothers. Shielding Harold from the Norman, both Gyrth and Leofwine fell. Ivo raised his sword and brought it down upon Harold.

As he staggered backwards, Harold watched as one of his loyal huscarls threw himself in front of the bloodied sword. Ivo turned and hacked at the household guard.

Night was nearly upon them, but Harold stood alone. Before him stood Ivo, his expression and voice that of a madman.

As the weak October sun sank beneath the trees, William could be heard screaming "Shoot!". A volley of arrows rained down upon Harold.

But Harold lifted his shield above his head and stood firm!

"Protect the King!"

A loud cry was heard from the woods behind Harold's line and suddenly a great host of men appeared.

Squinting in the fading light, Ivo looked on in awe and his voice fell silent.

Night had fallen and the fyrd had finally arrived!


What a finale! We all thought Harold was safe and secure upon his hill, but Ivo's late charge nearly won the crown for William. We played for eight turns. If the Normans had one more turn, then it is likely that Harold would not have survived. As it was, Harold survived until the end of turn 8 and so secured a minor victory. A great game and huge thanks to Anthony, Carl, David and Rob!

Friday, 2 June 2017

More African Antics

I've been a bit busy recently with work but still found time to finish off bits and pieces here and there for games set in Darkest Africa. So time for a quick update...

First off, I managed to organise a mid-week gaming session and introduced two friends from the club to Congo.

They played the Last Queen scenario with Dan's African Kingdom trying to stop David's White Man Expedition from making off with the crown. 

Much fatigue was earn't in this game and although the crown was recovered, the White Men just managed to scrape a victory on points. 

A couple of weeks back I also managed to get a game in of Death in the Dark Continent. This is a game that I really like. It has an excellent game mechanic for disorder and the alternate unit move system with distances randomly determined really makes players think about what to move and when. 

When painting terrain for Congo, I decided to focus on Savannah. Despite only 3 of the 12 available Congo scenarios (including two published in magazines) being based in Savannah, this turned out to be a good move. My Azande force is built from Congo's African Kingdom and their 'Home Terrain' in DitDC is 'grassland'. In game terms, grassland is Savannah but with fewer trees. 

The gaming mat I use for Congo is marketed as a 'Zulu mat' and is actually 6' x 4'. I fold it for Congo, but the full size cloth mat is perfect for DitDC. 

In out first game of DitDC, my Azande skirmishers suffered terribly at the hands of Paul's Zulu warriors. For our next game I've decided that my Azande will probably dig a few pitfall traps.

In DitDC pitfall traps are sized the same as a base that holds two skirmishers, so I started by cutting some pieces from hardboard. 

These were than covered in filler, allowed to partially set and then uneven rectangles were pushed into the filler using polystyrene. Once fully dried, I covered in my usual sand mix, primed and painted to match the rest of my Savannah terrain. 

For this I use cheap acrylic paints available at craft stores. The colours I use are 'Suede' for the base coat, with a very dilute 'Burnt Umber' wash and a final highlight with 'Sandstone'. The pits were painted a very dark brown (Valejo 'black brown').

I then cut up some of the rubberised horsehair that I previously used to make a bomas for my village and sprinkled this over the pits, using PVA to glue it down. Finally I added a few scenic tufts. The idea was to leave just enough of the dark pit visible to give a hint that the base may be concealing something. It'll be interesting to see how useful they are in a game.

Now it's time to knuckle down and try and get my Azande finished!

Monday, 8 May 2017

A Dose of the Blues

Bluestuff that is.   

Remember that cunning plan I had to overcome the missing weapons with the figures I purchased at Salute? Well it appears the plan has a significant flaw. Copying bits of a purchased miniature - even if it's only to replace a part that you believe should have come with the figure - isn't appreciated and may well land you in the same hot water that you use to melt your Bluestuff.

This has got me thinking. Where do we draw the line over what can and cannot be copied? Is there such a thing as fair use?   

Many rulebooks explicitly give permission to copy reference sheets, character cards and the like. Some can even be downloaded and printed from the manufacturers website and freely printed. SAGA uses special dice with unique symbols and these are sold by several companies. But the guys at Studio Tomohawk also give copies of the symbols away and suggest that folks can make their own dice. So far so good. What about the battleboards though? I usually colour photocopy my purchased battleboards and laminate them for playing games. The originals are tucked away safely. Nobody has ever suggested this is wrong and until recently I hadn't given it a second thought. But nowhere in the rulebooks does it explicitly state this is a permitted activity, so are you pirating somebody's i.p. by doing so? Or is it fair use?   

More recently I've been playing Congo. The rules come with cardboard tokens and measuring sticks that I'm afraid of losing or damaging. The cardboard sheets aren't available separately so I've copied and laminated the measuring sticks to protect the originals. Again, is this acceptable? Where do we draw the line over what is fair use and what is theft?   

I often try to think of ways of embellishing bits of terrain. A while back I searched the web for some Egyptian art to use with a Doctor Who figure. The image was printed and pasted onto a wall. 

I don't know who owns the copyright of the image so should I use it? If I'm only using it for myself in games that I play is it fair use? I'm not selling the model and not claiming that I have photographed or drawn the image.   

I've also found online maps of Africa etc and had planned to print these at a small size to use as part of an explorer's camp. I've also done the same with images of African rugs and animal pelts. I was especially pleased with the image of a zebra. Is using such an image to add a bit of atmosphere to a model of an African Trading Station fair use?


I've read many comments from dissatisfied customers (especially on Kickstarter) who seem to launch into tirades of quite unnecessary vitriol against companies that make mistakes. I remember the broken barrel episode when Plastic Soldier Company launched the Great War expansion of Tanks. My own copy arrived with a few broken barrels (the models hadn't really been packed properly). I fixed them with a bit of superglue and they are fine. But some people seemed to expect the company to replace all affected models. I guess the customers were right, but honestly, the problem was easily fixed with a spot of glue.

But is fixing a perceived problem by copying a physical part piracy? Or is it a pragmatic solution that saves everybody time and money? How about copying a shield to make a damaged version that can be used as a fatigue marker for your own use? Perhaps the problem isn't the act itself, but simply discussing it in public? I was planning on writing a blog post about creating simple loot tokens for Congo using copies of bits and pieces you already own. I probably won't be doing that now.

None of us want to damage the companies who supply us with the toys that we like to play with. Copying stuff (whether it's digital, paper or metal) for profit or to deceive somebody that the work is your own is morally wrong (and almost certainly illegal). But what constitutes fair personal use? Recently, I've been reading about some of the illicit copying of whole figures (armies even!) and clearly it's a sensitive issue.

I guess the moral is if you purchase something and it doesn't match your expectations, go back to the company and ask for either clarification, a replacement or a refund. No matter how trivial the request appears. If, like me, you buy quite a lot of stuff you may well find that many orders are incorrect. I've had missing figures, wrong items, packs of cards in Polish (!), items that never arrive and painted figures that do arrive - but in more pieces than the manufacturer intended. I am concerned that making a fuss over seemingly trivial problems will get me a reputation for being a bit of a pain. But as I've recently found out, trying to be pragmatic and finding your own solution may well get you into unexpected bother.          

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

More Darkest Africa

I'm starting to put together terrain for the remaining Savannah based Congo adventures. Still waiting for the group of African princesses that was missing from my order of Death in the Dark Continent from Northstar (hint hint!). The free figures were there, but no princess.

Other than that I just need to finish a small village and I'm all set for the three Savannah adventures. You may remember the huts I bought at Salute.

Well, I've been reasonably productive and they are very nearly finished (some small details left to do and a quick varnish).

The hedge represents a thorn bush bomas. It's probably more just scenery in Congo but helps to define the edge of the village. It will be more useful as a terrain addition for DitDC. Speaking of which, I've also been busy adding to my African Kingdoms column to build an Azande force. Eventually this will also work for Men Who Would Be Kings. One army, three games!

The Azande force is based on the sample army given with the DitDC book and includes 3 units of elite skirmishers (with throwing knives), 2 units of traditionally armed skirmishers (spears), 2 units of skirmishers with muskets and a single unit of rifle armed elite skirmishers. The chief and bodyguard form a separate unit.

The Azande were all purchased at Salute from Foundry and I'm using the figures with ratan hats as the elite skirmishers. Interestingly the hats are very similar to those worn by the Malagasy and I have quite a few of those from my own adventures - must dig them out. Unfortunately, Foundry's figures only came with a few actual knives. But I have a cunning plan...  

Monday, 24 April 2017

Salute 2017

It's always a big day and usually takes the whole of Sunday to recover. But we are done for another year.

So, some photos from the day...


We managed to meet up with family friends this year and introduced them to Frostgrave. Big thanks to the lads from Chesterfield Open Gaming Society for spending so much time with us right up to the point the doors close! We played on the above dungeon board, the kids loved it! 

We also use our homemade dinosaur detector (glass of water...) to check for the appearance of T. Rex. This participation game actually had three games in one! 

A great day with many excellent games and lots of inspiration for terrain.