Sunday 23 April 2017

Congo: The Mossouko Ritual


Yesterday, my friend Steve visited and we played several games.  In the afternoon, my sons joined in for a long-overdue game of All Things Zombie; more on that another time.  However, before the zombie game, Steve and I went through our 3rd game of Congo and it was just as exciting and engaging as the previous two!

The Moussouko Ritual

From the Congo rulebook, we chose to play scenario #7: The Moussouko Ritual.

A tribe that lives in the village of Moussouko is intimidating its neighbours with its extreme practices of black magic.  Eventually it all becomes too much for the other villages and a punitive expedition is organised to root out this nest of devil worshippers by destroying their sacred places & fetishes.  Without these, Oagasou, the evil witch doctor, would lose his power and his supporters would drift away.

I've got a Forest Tribes force, including a witch doctor, so there's no problem in supplying the defenders.  As the scenario is written, the attackers come from the African Kingdoms list, but I don't have such a force.  Instead, we'll use my fledgling Zanzibari Slavers column.  I see no reason why the Zanzibaris shouldn't be just as incensed by extreme paganism as any other group.  Anyway, having such a defiant village around is probably bad for business...

Note that the fetish numbers (in orange) were hidden until after deployment choices had been made.  My Zanzibaris had decided to enter on the left hand side before knowing which fetish was which.

This scenario is quite a complicated one, but here's a summary:
  • There are 6 fetishes scattered around the table,  Each has a randomly-assigned number (from 1-6) and the fetish can only be destroyed on that specific turn.  If it is destroyed then it scores the attackers that many points.  For example, fetish number 5 can only be destroyed on turn 5; this would score 5 points for the Zanzibaris.  Obviously, the higher numbers are worth more, but both sides have more turns to prepare forces to attack or defend them.
  • The fetishists score points by panicking and/or defeating the attacker's units.
  • There's a lot of superstition and uncertainty in the air: every turn has at least one special rule which can make it subtly different from any other.  Examples are Confusion, Paralysis, Consternation, Madness...  As you will see, these can have dramatic and unforeseen results!

The Plan

Zanzibaris waiting to enter the table on turn 1 at the blue arrow.

This is, of course, told from my point of view!  My Slaver column consisted of:
  • 5 Zanzibari musket men, plus an Emir.
  • 2 x 5 Ruga Ruga (mercenaries.  Tough, but superstitious)
  • 5 Baluchis (Indian/Arabian mercenaries with shields and swords), plus a Brute.
I didn't think it realistic to attempt every fetish, so I decided early on to enter on one side and ignore the furthest two targets.  Bearing this in mind and looking at the now-revealed numbers, this is how I planned the game:
  • Fetish #1 will be quite a stretch as it is barely in reach even if some of my units move at full speed for all three phases of turn one.  I'll make an attempt on it, but fully expect that Steve's warriors & witch doctor will block me from reaching this fetish in time.
  • Fetish #4 should be reasonably easy to achieve; my entry point is close enough to cover the area with my people.
  • The interesting ones will be the central fetishes (#3 and #6).  Obviously these will be contested; I'll aim for both but I'll be happy if I can claim either one of them.  There should be enough time to make this possible.
  • Fetishes #2 and #5 are just too far away to be worth bothering about; I'll ignore them completely.

The Game

Did my plan work?  Let's find out...

Despite the Confusion special rule on turn 1, my forces advanced with all speed.  As predicted, Steve's witch doctor & warriors sat on fetish #1 and thus blocked my access to it.  From that position, a nasty combination of sorcery and psychological (terror) attacks left one detachment of Ruga Ruga "a bit wobbly" (or terrified for their lives, if you prefer!).

Turn two saw the witch doctor and his cronies charge at the Zanzibaris.  They were seen off after a volley of musket fire and a brief spell of hand-to-hand fighting.  After this repulse, they slunk back out of range - but they had done their job already: it was already too late for me to destroy fetish #1.

In the middle of the field, the Baluchis advanced rapidly and camped on top of fetish #3.  This put them in the right place, but they'd have to hold the position until the end of turn three before I could destroy the item and claim the points...

Turn 3

It wasn't to be: hordes of enthusiastic young warriors, egged on by their Champion, threw themselves at the Baluchis.  My Brute won his first duel, but fell in the second fight and the Baluchis were driven back off the objective in a rapid series of clashes [incidentally, the tribesmen scored several victory points for these fights].

The final group of young warriors then attacked my central Ruga Ruga.  The latter were sent scurrying backwards, leaving a couple of comrades where they fell.  There was no chance whatsoever of the Slavers reaching fetish #3 now.

To add insult to injury, a fierce gorilla had been awakened by the sounds of fighting.  He peered out of the jungle just behind the remaining Ruga Ruga.

I did get some revenge, at least.  The other Ruga Ruga, freshly rallied, moved round the jungle trees and caught the still-celebrating young warriors in the back with a stupendous volley of musket fire.  No fewer than 5 his were achieved and only 1 save was made; the target group was therefore reduced to a single, shocked warrior.

Finally, the gorilla charged, but this "Kong" was just a wannabe: the damaged Ruga Ruga slaughtered the beast effortlessly and then efficiently stripped the carcass of the valuable bits.

Turn 4

OK, so far I had failed to take fetish #1, hadn't tried for fetish #2 and had been driven away from fetish #3.  It was now turn four and fetish #4 should be easily achievable.  Having seen off the witch doctor, all my Zanzibaris had to do was move a short way and sit on top of the fetish until the end of the turn.  There were no enemies anywhere nearby who could have interfered, or at least not with any realistic chance.  It's in the bag, right?

Here's what happened: the special rule for turn four in this scenario is Consternation and reads as follows: "During the 4th turn, if a Panic Stress token is drawn, the turn ends immediately".  I had read this, but wasn't worried as I should have at least one move before any stress tokens were drawn for fighting, right?

Wrong!  At the start of turn four, we rolled for the effect of Black Magic (this is a very sacred grove, after all).  We rolled a '3'.

One of Steve's groups of young warriors was parked on top of fetish #3 (which I had completely failed to break in turn three).  He therefore drew a stress token for them to show the effects of the black magic - and it was a Panic marker.

It took a few moments for this to sink in: turn four had ended almost immediately after it had begun and before anyone could move, shoot or undertake any other actions!

The wails of the natives on realising that they had trespassed on their witch doctor's sacred fetish so unsettled the Arabs that all they could do was to cower down and hold their hands over their ears.  When the unearthly screaming finally subsided, the Zanzibari emir realised with consternation that the optimum moment to destroy the nearby fetish had passed.  He knew that it was just a skull on a stick, but the superstitious tribesmen would only accept the desecration of their holy items if it was done in a particular sequence...

Turns 5 and 6

Turn five saw me march the intact group of Ruga Ruga on top of fetish #6.  The Zanzibaris followed as best they could, to stave off any attempt by the natives to interfere with this.  So far I had totally failed to break any fetishes at all.  #5 was too far away to be practical, but I was not going to let anyone stop me from breaking #6!

Instead of challenging my fresh troops, Steve's damaged units in the centre concentrated on hunting down the remnants of my Baluchis and first group of Ruga Ruga.  Both of these were ultimately destroyed, earning even more victory points for the tribesmen in the process.  They even stole my looted gorilla parts!



  • At the end of turn six, I destroyed fetish #6 and thus earned the Zanzibaris the heady amount of 6 VP.


  • The forest tribe racked up 2 VP for a panic token that I had drawn early on (it had no lasting effect beyond this and doesn't appear in the narrative above).
  • They also scored 8 VP for combats that they initiated and won.
  • Finally, the young warriors captured 1 VP of looted gorilla bits.
Grand total: 11 VP to the defenders, 6 VP to the attackers.  Therefore it's a very solid win for the fetishists.  Their evil witch doctor will continue to dominate and harass neighbouring tribes and passing caravans for years to come!


In hindsight, I did some things wrong and had some bad luck.  To be fair, Steve did everything he needed to and would certainly have won anyway, even if I had managed to claim 4VP for fetish #4.  His victory might not have been by such a huge margin, though!

What I did wrong:
  • The Emir was all but useless where he was and wasn't worth the cost.  I should have either chosen a different character or placed his unit near the Baluchis so that his morale effect could have been used to assist these morale-sensitive troops.
  • In hindsight, one unit was enough to see off the witch doctor; the second unit on the left flank would have been much better employed in the centre where my 2 groups were horribly outnumbered.  Of course, had the witch doctor's warriors been a bit more effective, they might have beaten a lone Zanzibari unit...
My bad luck:
  • I don't normally rail against fortune on the grounds that (a) it all evens out in the end and (b) it's not good manners.  However, the sequence of events that cancelled turn four just as I was poised to score an easy 4VP really threw a spanner in the works and I knew immediately after this that the game was unwinnable for me.  Still, it was fun and I don't mind losing as long as it's with style!  

Sunday 16 April 2017

Easter: Aberdeenshire 2017


I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front for a couple of weeks.  That's because we were away on holiday for the first week of our children's Easter holiday and then I've been catching up with work &c for the second week.  For what it's worth, we spent our vacation in southern Aberdeenshire.  The weather was glorious: we spent 7 hours or more walking each day, becoming very tired and a bit sunburnt in the process and found over 100 geocaches.  But you probably don't want to hear about that.

I imagine that my audience are primarily wargamers, military modellers and the like.  What can I tell you about our travels that might interest you?  Let's see...

Saint Palladius Church

This architectural marvel was situated just a few minutes away from where we were staying in Glensaugh.  It's near Drumtochty Castle and is a very unusual shape for a Scottish church.  The next time you're tempted to make a model of a rectangular or cruciform church, remember that you can have curves, towers and turrets as well!

Bridge of Dye Pillboxes

In the small hamlet of Bridge of Dye there are 2 pillboxes of World War II vintage, one on either side of the road.  They're ideally placed to guard the nearby bridge, which is one of the few places in the area where the local river might be crossed.  So far, so good - but there are some things which puzzle me here:

  • These pillboxes are made from stone blocks, rather than the more common reinforced concrete.  Would that provide the same level of protection?  I don't know.
  • These defences are very well situated to protect against attacks from the west.  However, given that Bridge of Dye is extremely rural and that there isn't really much to the west except mountains, against whom were they expecting to defend?
I suppose that it's possible the stone blocks would help with camouflage by making the pillboxes appear to be part of a garden wall.  Or maybe concrete was in short supply in wartime and was reserved for more strategically important locations?  Perhaps these were used for training (where the east/west facing and choice of construction material wouldn't matter), rather than being serious preparations against a foreign invasion?  Maybe they were even a misplaced folly built by an over-enthusiastic local commander or landowner?  I just don't know...

Crathes Castle

Some 25 minutes journey to the north of our apartment, near the picturesque town of Banchory, is Crathes Castle.  The core of this is a fairly typical, large 16th century tower house, though much extended at later dates.  It's owned by the National Trust for Scotland and has extensive grounds including a walled garden and lots of woodland.

Dunnottar Castle

On the Aberdeenshire coast, just south of the town of Stonehaven, we visited Dunnottar Castle.  As you can see from my picture, this is now a ruin, but in its day it was a strong fortress in a very imposing location on a near inaccessible promontory.  Probably it's most famous achievement was to protect the Honours of Scotland (crown, sword and sceptre) from Cromwell's army.  The castle only fell after a siege of 7 months, but before then the honours had been smuggled out and were hidden in a nearby kirk (church).

Inverbervie Pillbox

Finally, we found another pillbox.  This time it was located on the coast at Inverbervie, over looking a river mouth and beach.  There are also a number of tank or landing craft traps stretching away from the pillbox and on the other side of the river; these were surprisingly large (maybe 1 metre in each dimension?) and still in very good condition.  Sadly, the pillbox itself had a lot of litter in and near to it: discarded drink cans, broken glass and the like.


If castles are your thing then Aberdeenshire is something of a paradise!  There are many, many such buildings, including medieval ruins, stately homes and everything in between.  If you can get the right weather then I would highly recommend this area for a holiday.  It's also good for walking, cycling and other outdoor pursuits.

For what it's worth, we stopped briefly at Doune Castle (famous for the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, amongst other things) in Stirlingshire on our return journey.  However, we didn't go inside as this was just a quick break to walk the dogs - you'll have to wait for another time to hear about this one!

Sunday 9 April 2017

Showcase: 28mm Barbarian Cavalry


I've been working on a Barbarian army for the Hordes of the Things rules for quite some time now.  Here's the timeline so far:
This is all very well, but I had always intended that I would expand the barbarian army to 48AP or 72AP (i.e. 2 or even 3 Hordes of the Things armies) so that they could be used in really big battles.  I will need many more bases, of course - but a larger force gives scope for something beyond the basic heroes/warband/shooters mix that I have right now.  I'll start with some cavalry! 

The Barbarian Cavalry

As mentioned above, I had acquired 10 giant panther riding animals as part of a Mantic "crazy box" some years ago.  These seemed like a reasonable starting point for my cavalry; I could make 5 elements from these if I followed my usual HotT convention of 2 mounts per base.  But I would need to find riders from somewhere...

Eventually, after much dithering, in December 2016 I asked for advice on The Miniatures Page.  There were a number of ideas as to where 28mm barbarian cavalry could be obtained, but the most useful one was a suggestion that Gary Tate of Forlorn Hope Games might be prepared to sell separate riders (i.e. without the horses, which I didn't need and which would add to the cost).

After several exchanges of emails between Gary and myself, I had my 10 figures.  I'm not entirely sure of the provenance of these models, but they have the look of one of the old Grenadier ranges to me.  It doesn't really matter too much anyway; the main point is that these are nicely sculpted, appropriately detailed and well cast figures.

I think there were 7 distinct poses in this set, but I cannot remember for certain.  Many of the figures came in 2 parts with legs and body separate.  This allowed some of the identical casts to be positioned differently, so hopefully the repetition isn't too obvious.

The riders were all I had hoped they might be.  However, the panthers are a little bit of a disappointment, to be honest.  They have only 2 poses, one of which has a much longer body than the other.  In addition, they're cast in Mantic's "restic" material, which may be cheap but is both soft in detail and hard to clean up when the pieces have flash on them.

I did need to carve away some of the mounts' harness to allow the riders to sit on their mounts, but apart from that they seem to fit quite well.  I didn't bother trying to create saddles for them; it would have been a lot of work and would probably only be noticed by the purists.  Anyway, who says that giant pumas need a saddle to be ridden in comfort?  Or maybe the barbarians are so tough and inured to pain that it's not an issue for them...


I haven't quite finished these models. Firstly, they're not sealed yet.  Secondly, those of you with particularly sharp eyes or good memories will have noticed that I like to label my HotT elements so that we can tell at a glance to which army they belong and which type of element they represent.  The former is easy (they're Barbarians), but the latter has me wondering: should they be Riders or Knights?  Here are the rulebook definitions:
  • Knights: "all heavily armoured or magically protected warriors on...riding animals...who charge at first instance without regard for...death"
  • Riders: "...all riders depending on their own weapons mounted on other swift ground creatures..."
[Yes, I know that technically they could also be classed as Beasts, but that doesn't really fit my idea for this army.  For now, I'd prefer to discount that idea.]

My barbarian cavalry don't appear to have the armour that is normal for a knight, though a frenzied, berserk attack with a disregard for injury could possibly be classed as "magical" protection.  On the other hand, assuming that the panthers join in the attack then they don't quite fit the definition of Riders either ("depending on their own weapons").  So, what should it be?  Any opinions?