Inspired by the ‘nosey youth and companions‘ set in 28mm from 1st Corps we are off to the Congo. It is obvious that 1st Corps are producing Tintin, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus and Snowy. They are modelled with coats and pullovers so are not ideally equipped for the tropics but buying a set of explorers and running some head swaps is not going to be happening. Tintin is possibly a little large for a lad and I imagine Captain Haddock to be bigger but overall a good set.
There are some other figures in the Follies range but unfortunately none really suitable as Thompson and Thomson (who only get a single frame cameo in the coloured edition of Tintin au Congo anyway). Tintin and Captain Haddock are equipped with magazine pistols so our adventure will have to move into the 1930s. The African Ruga Ruga are stuck with muzzle loaders. This would not be out of place as I recall seeing muzzle loading percussion lock guns in use by native hunters in Mali in the 1980s.
This scenario is from Vae Victis 131. In the magazine are 3 new ‘white men’ characters. An archaeologist searching for dinosaur bones (now Professor Calculus, D6/D6/D8). A big chap with a fondness for rum (Captain Haddock, D6/D8/D10) and a young lady who happens to be an excellent shot (morphed into Tintin, 2D10/-/D10). There are full stats for each of these with the unfortunate omission of star ratings. This is a party that could easily be deployed to other expeditions. Captain Haddock has the special rules of being immune to magic and rolling 1D6 for each hit on his group. If any of these are a success the Captain’s rum cache is destroyed and he rolls 2D10 in hand to hand not D8.
The scenario sees the white man’s column (70 points) needing to get its porters (no points cost paid for these) off the map edge before turn 6. There are 100 points of African tribes with a compulsory sorcerer in the way. The porters cannot be targeted or blocked off and move ‘M’ for the 1st turn and then ‘S’ each turn. The deployment is set so the porters should reach the map edge in 5 turns. The porters will not move if a ‘white man’s’ unit is wiped out and 2 ‘white man’s’ units must always stay within ‘L’ of the porters. Analysing the scenario half the map is a deployment area as neither side has much incentive to move directly away from the exit edge. The porters merely act as a timer and a movement/line of sight hindering moving-terrain item. The game is set to end in 6 turns so losing 2 groups will result in the white men losing.
In the set up we see the explorers lined up along the start line with the baggage in the middle. The natives are on both sides of the table edge. Ruga Ruga to the south and assegai armed warriors to the north. The witch doctor is with a unit of 3 scouts. The plan being to have him in a cheap unit to soak up the stress tokens used to boost his magic powers.
A close up of the line. Tintin is with a group of sailors (using the Soldiers Congo statistic). The scenario calls for 8 bearers in a line 2 abreast. I have used 4 bearers and 3 mules behind them to take up the same table space.
The end of turn 1 and the explorers have moved forward. Captain Haddock is with the Trained Askari to the north east. Tintin’s group moved out aggressively to whittle down the Ruga Ruga. They suffered heavily from musket fire. Each musket attack inflicts a stress marker (regardless of hits). This restricted the ability of the sailors to draw more stress to try to reduce the hits taken. Drawing a stress allows an extra D8 to be rolled to try and stop hits but 4 is the maximum stress that a unit can voluntarily take. There are 3 units of Ruga Ruga (one out of shot) in range of Tintin here.
Although Tintin is dangerously exposed the rest of the column appears secure.
The explorers try to screen Tintin (note the Askari unit to the right of the picture) as he is buried in stress markers but the Ruga Ruga charge in to finish the job. 1 unit down and the bearers will not be moving on turn 2. Characters are still in play if their unit is destroyed but a single figure with 4 stress tokens is removed so Tintin might not have made it this far.
Captain Haddock is knocked out by witchcraft. The 3 stress on the witchdoctor’s unit at top right were to ensure success for the spell. On checking the scenario Haddock is immune to magic so this attack should have been void. The explorers have another problem here because they should end each turn with 2 units within ‘L’ of the line of porters. The Trained Askari unit make one but the other Askari unit to the South of the porters has 2 pins, is unloaded and is very close to some dangerous Ruga Ruga in the nearby woods..
Its all getting mixed up with (from left to right) Professor Calculus, Askaris (by the hut), Ruga Ruga, Young Warriors (behind the trees at rear), Askaris, Older Warriors, (also right at the back) Ruga Ruga and Trained Askaris. To make sense of this the White Men’s units are in italics.
Turn 3, the porter convoy plods on but the native warriors to the North of the scene are coming out. The Askari unit that was by the trees in the South has taken a 5th stress check and been forced to flee away from trouble. Unfortunately this is also away from the porters and towards more natives armed with assegais.
The warriors are dragging 2 stress, 1 will reduce their hand-to-hand dice by 1 but they are within charge range and mean business.
A predictable result. The other Askari unit has also taken some losses from the Young Warriors assegai shooting.
With another unit gone and no unit able to get within ‘L’ of the porters (except the Trained Askari) it is all over for the explorers.
The remaining explorer units are cut off from the porters and are subject to more native shooting.
The final table view. To win the white men would have needed to not lose 2 units and to have kept another unit close to the porters.
Losing Tintin and his group of sailors at the beginning of the game was a major blow to the white men. Having got all the figures out and laid out the terrain I played it all through again. Tintin and the sailors were more cautious and were able to put some serious dice out on the natives. The natives still won, by destroying 2 white men groups and thus slowing the column but the result was much closer.
This scenario is more combat orientated than those in the Congo book. The natives need to destroy 2 white men units. As the white men must keep close to the porters there is very little opportunity for them to move into cover. Excess stress is also likely to slow them down and taking stress is a key way to reduce combat casualties (roll another D8 save for each stress token drawn). The Ruga Ruga are expensive but come into their own in a straight fight. With 3 Ruga Ruga units close together they can ensure that at least 2 are loaded and in range of a target when the ‘3 shooting’ card is played. Each shooting action guarantees a stress on the target. As a unit can only draw up to 4 stress and drawing stress in combat gives an extra D8 save dice, a stressed unit is less able to defend itself and will take more losses. Without some geographical distraction such as an item to seize or point to reach the Ruga Ruga can concentrate on shooting and moving with the sole aim of bringing down a single unit. In all cases action took place in the area to the right of the huts. roughly 1/4 of the playing area was wasted as it was not needed for set up and there is no reason for any unit to move away from the porter’s ultimate destination.
Despite some mathematical errors on the part of the scenario design (not enough leeway in getting the porters off in time and wasted gaming area) the scenario does play well and may work better with a different explorer force load out. Having fewer but better equipped units does fit in with the limited activations set by the Congo cards.
Approaching the scenario from a time and motion perspective the following should provide an improvement but take note that it has yet to be tested. The porter column could move ‘M’ in a straight line each turn and Congo games generally last 6 or 7 turns. A Congo table would be 48″ or 6’M’ long. ‘M’ is 8″ but the base of the lead unit is added on so an ‘M’ move could be 9″. In metric terms the distances will change but the maths will be the same.
If the porter column starts ‘M’ in from a short edge and moves ahead ‘M’ at the start of each turn it will be off table on turn 4 (5*9, too soon). If it moves ‘M’ on odd turns and ‘S’ on short but allowing for the extra 1″ of the base in Congo moves it will move 9″, 5″, 9″, 5″, 9″, 5″ or 42″ on turn 6, spot on. A Congo group could move ‘S’ + ‘S’ each activation or 9″ in a straight line for 6 activations to get from 1 table edge to the opposite edge and off. The group could be activated to move 3 times in every turn so could beat the porters in 2 turns. Groups will slow to a maximum of ‘S’ if there is an enemy group within ‘S’ so moving from 1 edge to the other would take 10 activations of 5″ if all the movements were hindered. So 3 turns to catch up and some left over to move in on the porters if the explorers do nothing to stop them. These are all ideal numbers and do not consider other units activating and diverting around or moving into terrain.
Chasing the porters scenario
The explorer’s expedition is a 70 point column. They also receive 8 porters free of cost. The porters are deployed in a column 2 abreast ‘M’ in from the West map edge. At the beginning of each turn (including turn 1) the porters column moves for free ‘M’ (on odd turns) or ‘S’ (on even turns). If the column crosses the East map edge it is removed and the game ends. The porter column may not break any terrain movement rules and may move ‘S’ + ‘S’ instead of ‘M’ if the explorer wishes. The porter column may not voluntarily move within ‘S’ of a tribal unit. Within those restrictions it may move in any direction. Neither side may attack the porters with shooting or melee. They break line of sight like any other unit. The native force is a 100 point column
The game lasts for 6 or 7 turns if there is no automatic victory. On turn 6 roll D8 on a fail the game ends immediately. All expedition units deploy ‘M’ or less from the West map edge. No native units are deployed at start, they all enter on activation from the West map edge. There should be 3 clear paths with no terrain at least ‘S’ wide from West to East edges. Through the table centre and along the North and South edges.
Basic victory conditions:
If a native group ends its turn within ‘S’ of the porter column the natives win. If at any time there are not at least 2 expedition groups within ‘L’ of the porters the natives win. If the column is still on the table at the game end the natives win. If at least 1 porter crosses the West map edge the porter column is removed from play and the explorers win.
Optional victory conditions (instead of the basic conditions)
Any explorer unit may leave the West map edge on the same turn or after the porter column has exited that edge. At the game end count fatigues the side with at least 3 in excess of the other has won, otherwise it is a draw. Destroyed groups count as 5 fatigues. Groups exiting the table count as 0 fatigues regardless of how many they may have had when they left the table. Native units may not leave the table. Any victory point earned through a random event counts as -1 fatigue for the owner.