Congo: The King of the Apes

I had a go at scenario 2 (the King of the Apes) at the club with one of our younger members and again (solo) at home.  The advantage of Congo lies in its scenarios.  With the forces duking it out on open terrain those with the best guns are going to be at an advantage.  By forcing the columns to do something else than a straight punch up the odds are evened out.

Congo comes with all the cardboard counters and templates that you need but I bought some more from Blotz who do a range of plastic and MDF tokens and gaming aids together with MDF buidings.


Their tokens come in various colours but I fancied the see through green would be a good combination of clarity and subtlety.  I took this photo with the flash off as with it on they show up with a supernatural glare.


The rulers are in Congo sizes which just happen to differ from the Saga sizes.  I bought some standard rules to cover the missing 6″ ruler needed for Saga.


I kept to the regular cards but did sleeve them.  Each side has to choose 3 out of 7 manouevre cards each turn and can then play them in any order.  The cards are marked for permissable actions and initiative with higher numbered cards being played first.  Some thought has been given to what is on each card so the strong rally or terror card will usually force a player to go last.  Just moving but not being allowed to charge into combat will take precedance over the cards that allow less movement but the ability to do something else at the same time and also allow moving into close combat.  The chance or totem cards have a bigger effect on the game generally allowing additional extra actions, dice or range bonuses.  If the white men do not get units within Kong’s layer (and risk being attacked by him) the forest tribes draw a bonus totem card each turn.

Here is the starting situation with Kong in the middle.  He cannot move further than ‘M’ from the monument.  The 4 skulls on sticks highlight this area and give a bonus totem card to the white men for each one captured.


The 2 sides are going to come in from opposite corners.  The white man’s expedition had 90 points and needed to capture Kong.  Kong has 8 life points but the final point must be removed in hand to hand to count as a capture.  In our club game the hunters poured lead into Kong to weaken him then easily finished him off.  The forest tribes had spent too much effort on knocking lumps off the hunters intead of trying to protect Kong.  The key to doing this is to try and move him out of the line of fire and to get native troops in the way of the hunter’s guns.  All the trees are blocking and dangerous terrain.

The white men had a unit of adventurers, one of trained askaris, 3 of regular askaris, one of bowmen and one of ruga ruga led by an explorer aided by a reporter. In this playthrough I forgot that the explorers started exhausted so had a 2/3 chance of each unit beginning with a stress token and 1/6 chance of being a man down.

The forest tribes had only 70 points so took 2 units of warriors (the models with some sort of hat), 2 of young warriors (bareheaded), 1 of  bundukis (with muskets), 1 of scouts (without shields).  The tribes also had a chieftain, war drum and sacred warrior.  The bundukis may have been a poor choice as it was the only forest unit with firearms and this faction are better off charging into combat compared to throwing spears or shooting their muskets.

The white men bring in trained (in kahki) and ordinary askari (in robes) at the SE board edge.  The forest tribes quickly bring up warriors and bunduki to slow them dowm.


In the NW the adventurers lead the way.  The forect tribes will be finding it hard to keep Kong out of the line of fire.


Warriors aggressivly bottle up the trained askari.  In retrospect they should have finished off the weakened hunter units.


Askari get into the dense trees (minus 1 askari attacked by a leopard) and get the first hit on Kong.


The explorer moves past the warrior unit.  These units are pretty close.  We must assume that all the board is desnse jungle and that it is relatively easy to sneak past your enemy.  The hunters have no direct gain in killing natives.  They need to concentrate on Kong.


Back with the adventurers at the NW corner the white man’s units are racking up stress.  Two examples here are hand icons which prevent the unit acting again this turn unlesss they pass a rally action.


A close up of the askari in the tall trees.  For them the hit counter means that they must reload before shooting again.  For Kong it is his wounds taken.


The last 2 askari in the centre here are in a bad way but the ruga ruga  (white kilts) have come up to take the pressure off.  The bowmen in the woods are keeping a low profile (I forgot about them for 2 turns).


The trained askari sneak past the warriors, the bunduki ahead of them are unloaded.


The big picture, Kong has to stay away from hunters to the NW and SE.  The forest tribes are doing their best to block line of sight to Kong.


The explorers get 2 more hits on Kong before the forest tribes can shield him again.


The expedition is moving in for the capture but is running out of time.


The archers have wiped out a unit of forest warriors.  Not knocking out the sole askari on the left cost the forest tribes the game.


The scouts (at left, no shields) move in on the askari.


A close up of some of the askari


The final curtain.  Kong is alive but has 3 wounds.  An explorer win.  If the lone askari in the NW with 2 fatigue had been taken down this would have been a draw.


This all took about 1 1/2 hours including getting the terrain out and units set up.  As everything was still good to go I played it all through again.  The white man’s expedition never really got going and suffered badly in hand to hand combat resulting in a win for the forest tribe column.

Here are some useful links for background inspiration.  A 3 part article originally published on the Wargames Foundry site and now archived gives some background detail to the setting and a campaign that could be adapted to Congo.  Here are parts background, rules and the campaign map.  The authorised biography of Tippoo Tib (published 1907), trader, slaver, plantation owner.  Henry Morton Stanley gets a bad press these days but the guy could write: A good start would be How he found Livingstone,together with the rescue of Emin Pasha and volume 2 of the rescue.  It could be argued that Livingstone did not need to be found not did Emin Pasha require rescuing.  Certainly Emin’s troops had gone native and had a nice little earner going on that would not fit in well with returning to the Sudan.


I do sell some of the armies that I buy.  I once built up a Safavid Perrsian army in 15mm then saw some figures that were so much better than those that I had used that I sold that army bought and painted up a new one.  I have also sold off armies from a lack of potential face to face opponents.  I sold Warhammer armies becausee there was no one to play against then soon afterwards found a local club and built up new Warhammer armies to replace those I had sold.

I usually sell armies to free up space to store more armies.  This is getting to be a problem as my armies increase in size.  In the 70s armies tended to be in 25mm, the few 15mms available were simply not very good.  As casting and moulding increased I moved to 15mm and then 6mm. A brief flirtation with 2mm did not last long.  My eyesight is not as it was and these smaller models are now little more than black blobs.  So I have been buying bigger figures.  I recently gave FIW in 15mm a go.  I bought and under coated Blue Moon 15mms then thought better.  I sold these off at a loss and went for Redoubt replacements.  Considerably more expensive and of course much bigger.  All this has stretched the storage space and solutions available to me.

A popular local option are Really Useful Boxes.  This is because there is a Hebden Bridge market stall that sells them at a pretty fair price every Thursday.  The boxes are a decent height for 2 layers of 15mm but a little high for 1 layer of 28mms.  They do stack really well if you keep to the same size of box and the colour coding can help identify what is where.


Good stacking


One use of the box is to fill it up with models wrapped in bubble wrap.  This is pretty much the only solution for GW beasties such as Tyranids that are all angles and spikes.  For more regularly shaped models the inserts that come with the boxes are OK but there will be a deal of sliding around without some sort of magnetic solution.  Charlie Foxtrot models do cutouts in MDF for 1p or 2p pieces.  These rely on the coins being ferrous and the use of strong magnets.  I rate the solution fair for metal models.  When built up with Basetex the coin bases do not fit that well.  For lighter plastic models where there is less weight strain on the magnet bond I would expect better results.


Pulp colonials nestle in a MDF frame supported by magnets

A similar option is to magnetise the models to their movement trays and cram the trays into the box.  This works as long as the box bottom is full and there is no chance of the box turning sideways.


Redoubt 28mms nestle in Warhammer skirmish trays

The Really Useful Box is  not essential.  These Orks are in a box from a pair of boots. Be warned that cardboard will collapse if stacked high crushing their contents.


Plastic Orcs on KOW movement trays

Out of the foam tray options one of the best deals are KR Multicase.  The 4 tray 200 slot version is pretty good for Bolt Action. The size of my armies are largely governed by how much space is available in each box. Buying a new multicase is strongly linked to a major force expansion.  The trays lie on their side when the basic box is carried.  This may be OK for transporting a short distance but I can assert that carrying a army on its side through Manchester led to considerable miniature shuffling. This was with a metal Bolt Action army.  I would expect more secure transport if a plastic  army were involved. The tray slots are just about the right size for 28mms but there is some stress when fitting the bayonets in.    The custom trays are a better fit for models but at some increase in price.


Star Wars minis in a custom foam insert

For smaller minis my money is on biscuit tins.  The trick is to always use the same size tin so they stack well.


Tins and tins of them

These are mostly 15mms, the keen eye may guess that some contain Dr Who minis. The tins are already ferrous so the magnetic paper goes on the model base.  Many of the 15mm armies are DBM and have not moved out of their tins for years.  I will probably have to chip them out but at least the paint jobs are sound and completely knock proof.


A tin load of DBM Avars


Starting off with a brief rant on dice

Chance Dice

Size may not be everything but it is important.  Games such as 40K or Bolt Action rely on buckets of dice.  To get away with this a die must be large enough to see but not so large as to bodge everything else off the table.  I prefer a modest size die with a green background but clear pips so rolled dice blend in but are easy to see.  A dice tray or dice tower is best for rolling and I expect to be allowed enough time to check the dice before they are tidied up.  Some players roll the dice, declare the results and scoop them back up before there is time to see the results.  The GW preferred and darn fine protocol is to remove the failed dice and leave the successes for checking.


Some well behaved green dice sat in a dice tower

Most dice are labelled with numbers, usually as pips but Arabic, Roman or even Hindi (the old Arab style) make sense.  Alas there is a trend for special or commemorative dice to have 5 numbers and a symbol.  The symbol is usually on the 6 but may be on the 1.  An incidence of tournament cheating was linked to a player swapping between 1 specials and 6 specials as required to win rolls.  Even with the symbol probably being on the 6 it is usually  a single image that looks more like a 1 than a 6 confusing the unwary opponent.  It would be nice if gamers enforced dice of a reasonable size and clearly labelled 1 to 6 (only).

Is it a 1? No it’s a 6

Marker Dice

Here the dice is not a chance mechanism but used to mark orders or casualties.  It helps if the die is small and unobtrusive but dice than are too small can be knocked (changing their meaning) and are hard to see.  On the other hand a dice that is as big as the figure it is marking ruins the aesthetic effect of the game.

Some marker dice have text rather than numbers and these seem to be a nice little earner for the manufacturer.  Using self printed labels on adhesive paper gets over this at a modest cost.  Using self adhesive paper is a lot easier than regular paper and glue all over the shop.  This solution works fine for Saga where the dice symbol meaning is hard to guess.  Even worse in Saga a similar ‘shield’ symbol has a different meaning in the Norman dice to the Crusader dice.  Thankfully Saga produce templates of dice faces to print out.  In Bolt Action it could be possible to spend more on dice than figures.  This would be true of a Soviet army.  A dice is used to order a unit and the Soviets have the option to field a lot of units.  If an army is made from the relatively cheap Plastic Soldier Company army boxes it could easily cost less than the dice required.  It is some consolation that as Bolt Action has been around for a while enough orders dice are available on the secondary market to make some savings in dice outlay.