Monday, July 10, 2017

Death in the Dark Continent: Force Publique vs Azande

Having finished my Azande army during the week, I arranged to have a game with my friend Frank Sunday evening.

The Azande is my fourth and final army for Death in the Dark Continent, and I was very much looking forward to seeing how they would perform against the breech-loader armed Force Publique.

We choose the Raid scenario, with the narrative being the Force Publique attempting to get hold of the Azande chief's mistress and her children (baggage). They would have 8 rounds to get them. The table had been set up with the Azande Village in the middle of one half of the table. To the right of Force Publique a large stretch of tall grass stretched while the rest of the board was filled with jungle terrain pieces. The jubgle terrain pieces I had only finished the evening before, and I quite like the look of the final table.

As per the rules the Force Publique started with all of their 225 points on the table, while the Azande only had 100 points worth of units on the table and the rest of the units would be diced for as late arrivals.

I played the Azande and chose to have my two Elite Skirmisher units with throwing knives and a unit of musketmen on the table.

My aim was to hold out until the fourth round when hopefully my other units would begin to arrive.

The Force Publique moved forward slowly, as Frank rolled 1s and 2s. The Azande moved into position within the village, keeping out of shooting range. I also wanted to position them so that there would be no gaps for the Force Publique to slip through. 

As the Force Publique moved forward their approach became more obvious and the Azande moved into position. However the Force Publique then started firing at long range, and despite the heavy penalities Frank rolled first a 20 and a 17 with his first unit and then two 19s with the other! Incredible! So one of the Elite Skirmishing units lost a base and received a disorder marker, while the musketmen received two disorder markers.

The Azande Elite Skirmishers had to get into melee, especially with the Raw Soldiers unit. So despite moving straight at the Raw Soldiers one of the units had to take that chance. Luckily the Force Publique shooting did not manage to hit anything and in the next round the Azande moved into melee. Despite positive modifiers the roll of a 1 still mean the Azande had been pushed back and got a disorder marker by the Raw Soldiers.

When the fourth round came I diced for late arrivals, but no new units arrived at the scene to help drive the Force Publique out. 

In the middle of the board the Azande musketmen had gotten within range of their muskets and open fire on the Force Publique Soldier unit there. But no hits by either side.

Round five started with still no new Azande units arriving. 

Another exchange of gunfire between the musketmen and soldiers followed but neither could hit anything.

The Elite Skirmishers again moved into melee. And with a modified roll of 7, the Raw Soldiers were killed. The other Elite Skirmishers attacked the other Soldier unit and the Chief base. But result was a disorder marker to both sides and the Elite Skirmishers being pushed back. 

Finally at the beginning of round six help came with a unit of Elite Skirmishers with muskets and a unit of musketmen arriving in the tall grass.

Sensing time was running out the Force Publique went on the offensive with but remaining units moving into melee. And in the melee phase Frank rolled well, and both the musketmen and the engaged Elite Skirmisher unit were killed.

At the beginning of round seven a ground of Azande Spearmen made a late arrival, but the Chief and his breech-loader armed Elite Skirmishers again failed to make an appearance.

With only this round and another to go Frank need to roll high with his movement for the one unit that had a chance of reaching the baggage. He rolled a 2 and with the baggage rolling a 4 it became impossible to for the Force Publique to win.

Had the game continued for more rounds the odds would still be with the Azande as the spearmen would be able to get in between the baggage and the Force Publique. Allowing the musketmen in the tall grass to get to the Force Publique units.

This was again a lot of fun. I am a big fan of Sharp Practice, but this game just flows so much more easily and has moved to the top of my list for unit games. I have also taken quite a liking to the multi-based figures as it both speeds up play and visually looks stunning.

I cannot recommend this game high enough. And if I did not already have four full armies for this I would gladly invest in a few more.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Death in the Dark Continent: Force Publique

During the last month I have been busy painting up a Force Publique army for Death in the Dark Continent. The minis are all from the famous Darkest Africa range from Foundry, and they are indeed lovely models to paint. Being older sculpts there is a fair amount of flash to clean up beforehand though.

I am very happy about the final painting job, even though it is not to the standard of Paul Baker's Force Publique, which is top top quality.

The army is a based on the one found in the rulebook. 5 units of Soldiers, two of them Volunteers and 3 Consripts, a chief base and of course baggage. My baggage is smaller though and consists of a group of bearers with both ivory and crates.

I have previously had major reservations about playing an army that was so infamous and cruel. But have come to the conclusion that while the game is historical, it is still just a game, and someone has to play the bad guys. Researching the Force Publique and King Leopold II is not for the faint hearted though.

Anyway here are some pictures I took yesterday evening. Not the best quality though.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Death in the Dark Continent: First game

Ever since finishing the British forces for The Mahdist Revolt I have been building terrain pieces and a board. Yesterday everything was put in place for my first game of Death in the Dark Continent. My opponent was my friend Frank, who had agreed to give the game a try despite not being to keen on unit based games.

Frank would take control of the British, while I would be trying to put the Mahdi's men to good use. We decided that in order to keep things simple and therefore played the Pitched Battle scenario.

Once the forces had been lined up next to the board, it felt like I already had the advantage having triple the amount of units that Frank did.

Here are the forces we played with:

Chief (Elite Soldiers with breech-loaders) 1 base
British infantry (Elite Soldiers with breech-loaders) 3 bases
British infantry (Elite Soldiers with breech-loaders) 3 bases
British infantry (Elite Soldiers with breech-loaders) 3 bases

Chief (Ansar Skirmisher untrained with muskets) 1 base
Ansar (Skirmishers untrained with muskets) 4 bases
Ansar (Skirmishers with spears) 4 bases
Ansar (Skirmishers with spears) 4 bases
Jihadiyya (Soldiers with muskets) 4 bases
Jihadiyya (Soldiers with breech-loaders) 4 bases
Beja (Elite Warriors with spears) 4 bases
Beja (Elite Warriors with spears) 4 bases
Beja (Elite Warriors with spears) 4 bases

The Game
After deployment it became clear that the British's only chance of success was to play a defensive game. For the Mahdists the aim was to get within musket range and then to attack with the Beja in melee.

In the first couple of turns the Mahdist horde swarmed in from all side towards the British, and the visual effect of almost a 100 minis moving towards 30 British was stunning.

The British moved into positions, so that they created three firing lanes, which would limit the amount of Mahdists who could move close at the same time.

As the Mahdists got closer the British started to open fire, but being outside the rifles effective range meant that damage was limited. Just as the Mahdists thought they would be able to get close enough to start returning the fire their movement rolls failed and most of the units seems to crawl forward.

In the center the many units were having problems getting into position as the space was simply not there. Slowly the Mahdists came into the effective range of the British rifles and this was telling. Suddenly Disorder markers started to take their toll on the units and they were being kept away from the British. When the Beja finally got into close combat and the Jihadiyya and Ansar musket into range they were severely hampered by the Disorder markers and bad dice rolling.

After loosing two Beja units, one Ansar musket unit, and both Jihadiyya units the remainder of the Mahdist decided to flee.

Wow! Just wow! This was an incredible game in all sorts of ways - visually it was stunning to see the hordes closing in on the British. The rules just flowed and the Disorder mechanic in particular was excellent - perhaps the best implementation of disorder I have tried in a game.

Frank knew nothing of the game rules beforehand, but we quickly got the hang of it. The game took around 2½ hours and until the last two rounds both of us felt that the game could have swung both ways. For me this is always a good indicator of a well balanced game.

Nothing in the rules is complicated, but this does not mean that the rules are stupid, they just feel incredibly fine tuned. Shooting works very well and Close Combat even better. The clear winner is however the Morale and Disorder rules which while effective and cruel just fit the game.

Despite not being a fan of neither the setting or unit games Frank was impressed. And we both agreed that a rematch should be played before long.

I finish this post with a lot of pictures that I took - I hope you enjoy.