Congo Waiting for the Belazur

Game 3 of the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign sees a change from the previous two with victory being based on control of territory. There are 3 quays along the river which Lady Mary must control as she is waiting for the arrival of the steam ship Belazur. There are also 6 hidden markers amongst the swampy terrain. 2 of these are dangerous and 4 contain discoveries. Lady Mary begins at one side of the river; Ujuwa in the centre of the edge opposite the river.

By the end of turn 1 Lady Mary has moved a group of sailors to the second quay. Ujuwa threatens them with a group of young warriors.

Keeping with the plan Lady Mary has groups by all 3 quays at the end of turn 3 but Ujuwa is hoovering up the discoveries. The swamp terrain could have different effects depending on a random die rol but in all cases during this game it revealed quicksand. This being difficult to get out of without racking up stress tokens.

Ujuwa starts to put on the pressure. The hold of the sailors on the middle quay is contested and constant attacks leaves the last man standing.

Another turn and the sailors are gone; now the adventurers are suffering from Ujuwa’s attacks.

Ujuwa ends with control of 2 of the 3 quays. Lady Mary suffered with a group of her young warriors stuck in quicksand for much of the game. A group of bundukai were tied up in a similar situation. Heavy rain reduced all gunpowder missile ranges; a bigger problem for Lady Mary than Ujuwa.

The game end sees Lady Mary losing 2 entire groups, they will be back but that made it almost impossible to hold the quays. She had also lost a guide but he recovered. On the other hand Ujuwa’s chief is now grievously ill. Lady Mary won the game by points but with no discoveries to Ujuwa’s 3 is on the back foot of the campaign. She travels on slowly to the next adventure but does recruit 2 new bearers. Ujuwa has moved on swiftly and improved his campaign knowledge much more than Lady Mary

Onto scenario 4; unknown species and stone statues. Both columns start at the table corners in columns of 3, not all of Ujuwa’s lads fit on the table at start. There is an objective in each of the wooded areas and discoveries to be made in some of the areas of dense bush. The objectives make up 2 separate statues. The 2 sides want 3 parts from the same statue which causes a lot of back and forth action as they all end up with the wrong bits.

Keeping to the usual pattern both sides push forwards to grab what is uncontested.

It all starts to go wrong when a lion appears and chases the pygmies off their objective (number 4). The lion comes and goes throughout the game; inconveniently appearing amongst the objectives.

There are 6 objectives but the columns only have 5 (Lady Mary) or 6 (Ujuwa) groups so when additional loot tokens show up these get left alone. At times a group will drive an enemy off an objective but as they are already holding one of their own will have to leave it and hope that someone else picks it up. Ujuwa’s advantage in groups is furthered as one of the 3 groups is of pygmies who operate as 2 sets so he has 7 maneuver units to pick up objectives and reveal discoveries. Better still one of his regular groups is of scouts and they do not roll for the effect of dangerous terrain.

The lion was driven off objective 4 by a group of Ujuwa’s young warriors only to later show up around objective 5. No one fancies going in to pick that objective up

The game starts to consolidate with neither player having a full set of 3 objective parts. Ujuwa tries to pull back with what he has and avoid being badly shot up.

With a lot of back and forth as columns fight for objectives, the stress tokens mount up.

Lady Mary’s adventurers had held objective 1 for most of the game but lose control in melee and it is soon picked up by a group of pygmies.

Ujuwa ends up with a win due to picking up more discoveries and 4 of the 6 objectives. Unfortunately this did not include a full set of 3 parts of a statue. Both Ujuwa and Lady Mary were downed in the game but they recovered. Ujuwa’s chieftain is also starting to look a little more perky.

This game was a lot more back and forth than previous scenarios as the map layout encouraged taking back enemy objectives. The lion was run using the leopard rules for this scenario. It is uncommon for the beast token to come out in games of Congo but in this case it did and made quite an impact on proceedings.

Congo First Contact

The first two scenarios of the 6 in the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign book.

There has been a recent trend away from game genres reflecting colonisation and exploitation. Studio Tomahawk’s Congo is not looking good from that viewpoint. While it is true that factions can be European, Arab or native African in almost all games there are other African resources and peoples that are getting exploited. Wargames Illustrated have published a 1920s Amazon variant. At least 1 player has moved the setting to the Caribbean but in both cases the ‘ethical stance’ is unchanged.

Mungo Mah Lobeh pits the European explorer Mary Kingsley against the native shaman Ujuwa. The majority of both columns are native roughnecks and ne’er do wells in it for the money. The 6 games are all played between the 2 same base columns although either can gain additional characters or units for single scenarios. The leaders have slightly different aims throughout the campaign but winning the individual scenarios does not do any harm. Either leader could die during the campaign and their column still win based on accumulated accomplishments but it is a good plan to try and keep your leader alive.

The first scenario sees Lady Mary with an additional unit of askaris granted by the campaign for that encounter only. Both sides are pegged at 6 units in play but additional campaign units can be used to replace less efficient core units as they are available. The core units replace losses between games but the characters and auxiliaries can increase or decrease in number. In the 1st game there are 3 masks to be recovered and sold; one by each hut and 6 discoveries of which 3 are harmful in the 6 wooded areas. The low bush areas are impassable. The value of the masks and discoveries is not known until they are found. A mask is worth more if sold to a dealer at a board edge that is randomly determined each turn. This all means that getting control of the majority of the game tokens does not guarantee a win although it does tip the odds in that favour.

The 2 sides start at opposite corners and with nothing in shooting range concentrate on moving up quickly. Actions depend on choosing 1 of 6 cards, 3 cards in a turn. The cards determine how many groups can move (including melee), shoot or make a terror action. There are not enough move symbols on the cards to get every group moving every turn so some groups are still stuck in the corners.

A single group could still move in each of the 3 card plays in a turn so both players get control of a mask by the huts. Ujuwa can gain campaign points by successfully casting spells so wants to be up in the front line. Lady Mary has a slight benefit in reducing combat losses but really wants to be out of the danger zone.

In turn 2 the action hots up as there is a choice between nailing down open objectives and putting damage onto opposing groups that already hold objectives. No one can get to the 3rd mask before it is removed from the game. The sailors move out of danger with their mask. There is some scattered shooting from the pygmies and both columns investigate the artifacts in the clumps of trees.

Ujuwa has 2 discoveries from the trees, is moving on a 3rd and holds 1 mask. The sailors get their mask to the off-table dealer for a victory point boost.

Lady Mary’s musketmen start to open up. Most of the opposition back off as they already have a decent haul of loot but one group (at 11:00 below) is isolated unable to get away.

They are overwhelmed losing their loot. The end game shows both sides pulling back. Running the numbers Lady Mary has pulled out a victory and a slight campaign advantage. Ujuwa had lost a sacred warrior who recovered and a native chief who is now rated as poorly.

Onto the next encounter; the search for deeper knowledge. The terrain is moved about a bit but the overall plot is similar. The 3 huts each have a villager who must be recruited to join a group. The 6 clumps of trees are high dangerous terrain. Each contains 1 of 6 objective markers. 1 through 4 are good but 5 and 6 generate a hazard. Which marker is which will not be revealed until they are moved onto. Here we see the deployment with the columns at opposite sides of the table.

At the end of turn 1 each column has met with 1 villager while the third is still to join the party. To recruit a villager a group must end an activation in contact and roll a 5+ on a D6. Lady Mary succeeds on the first attempt and later pulls back away from danger. Ujuwa spends most of the game trying to convince the other villages to join him. Instead his failed recruitment rolls provide Lady Mary with a steady supply of new event cards.

Action is focused around the 2 huts with unconvinced villagers. Lady Mary has a group of solders and another of adventurers. Both are armed with rifles and try to reduce Ujuwa’s strength by shooting. Ujuwa has 2 groups tied up in fruitless discussions. The solid green counters are the discoveries, flipped when revealed and for 5 and 6 removed after their effect. One of the discoveries was never revealed as numbers 1 to 4 had already come up and it would be a fair deduction that it would be best left alone.

Stress tokens mount up, Ujuwa is pretty strong by the centre hut but his young warriors near the other uncommitted villager are having a hard time of it. They break off negotiations to give the adventurers a swift kicking but Lady Mary brings up some of her young warriors to fill the gap.

Ujuwa finally has control of the 2 remaining villagers and pulls back with them, using other groups to cover his retreat. The young warrior group is down to 1 warrior and a sacred warrior (bottom of image, the 3rd model being the villager).

The final turn sees Ujuwa shed stress and continue to pull back.

Looking at the scores on the doors Ujuwa pulls off a win. He has 2 villagers and 2 discovery counters. Lady Mary has 1 villager and 1 discovery counter but also has a government official that was found hiding in the bushes amongst the trees. Lady Mary did posess an additional discovery counter but that was snatched away in dangerous terrain. It landed up in another area of dangerous terrain next to a pack of wild hyenas courtesy of some unfortunate events manipulated by Ujuwa. In other news Lady Mary has lost her bearer and Ujuwa’s chieftain is in worse health despite liberal applications of healing plants.

Both scenarios were played on different days but looking back at the terrain and force set up they might be best played as a single longer session. Almost all the game elements being the same but moved around a bit. The next scenario sees a river, landing places to defend and crocodiles.