Our very first game!
For the big play test, I opted for the classic encounter: intrepid explorers traveling through the bush encounter a less-than-hospitable swarm of native tribesmen. The armies were based on the standard “European-led Expedition” and “Tribal Farmers” lists from the book, although I bumped up the Explorer’s maximum from 16 to 20 figures in a house rule (which turned out to be a good idea).
The Game, in a Nutshell
Essentially, each side had a pair of objectives. The Explorers’ primary mission was to get their baggage safely off the far side of the table; the secondary mission was to enter the Ubuntu village. The Ubuntu, on the other had, had to destroy the baggage and not allow any foreigners to enter the village.
Our Ubuntu commander (young Master John) and his friend decided to abandon the village and put all their forces outside of it on a direct warpath towards the explorers. The Explorers (Mike & Matt), moved forward in a firing line directly toward the village gates with the baggage lurking in the jungle on their right rear.
Well, the first big surprise was when the Ubuntu elite warriors dashed out of a small patch of Elephant Grass straight into the Askari line—and had 7 of 8 killed outright! The Askari basically attempted the same for a couple of turns until they decided it was best just to power their way across the table and into the village.
As I’m writing this a week after the fact, the memory fogs a bit, but what essentially happened was that the Explorers fought a desperate battle all the way across the table entering the undefended village with their baggage safely in tow on the last turn—in which they’d also been reduced to 25% of their starting force. I essentially called it a draw. The Explorers had indeed entered the “forbidden” village and saved the baggage, yet they were almost wiped out and the Ubuntu still had 2/3 of their forces in the field.
Observations: Rules, Game, etc.
I think it went quite well for the first game. The rules are so simple that it was really easy to keep things moving. I think I may have had slightly too much terrain on the board, but in the setup I’d attempted to give the Explorers a fairly large alley of fire into the village (which they really never took advantage of). My thought was that the White Men and Elite Askaris—with their really long range—could take pot-shots all the way across the table at the approaching natives; they started with their White Men in the jungle, though, protecting the baggage and accompanied by their native spearmen.
The Ubuntu also did a couple of strange things: they left the village completely undefended and did not lead with their 11 bowmen. In fact, the bows only got off 1 successful shot towards the end of the game! I called the game a draw in part because though the nearly wiped-out explorers got to the village and couldn’t realistically do much once they got there, since there was not a single Ubuntu figure in the village to oppose them I deemed that a gross tactical mistake.
I’ll tell you one thing: these rules are BLOODY! You’re essentially alive or dead. Melee is also really deadly: if you get doubled-up on (which was happening often to the Askari) the second figure gets a free hit. That means that 50% of the time, the outnumbered figure will die, whether or not he defeats his first opponent. Pretty grim.
I also liked how the baggage worked. On the fly, I made up some rules about it so it wouldn’t be so brittle (they’re now incorporated in the House Rules & Clarifications sheet). I decreed that as long as there was a friendly figure within 3″ of the baggage on the side the attackers were coming from, they couldn’t attack the baggage until they’d dealt with the defender first. The Explorers basically surrounded the baggage and lasted long enough for it to get by. I also made it so the baggage cannot be killed by shooting (not that the Ubuntu bowmen did much of that anyway…).
I was quite happy. I think it makes for a really fun, exciting and fast-paced evening of gaming. The whole thing took probably 2-2 1/2 hours, kickoff to final whistle. The 3 x 4 playing board was the perfect size and the terrain looked pretty good. I’m very keen to continue playing this for a while and will try to put on several games concurrently on some club night. Dan mentioned—and I tend to agree—that this would also be a great convention game.
Download the Scenario in PDF format!