Masai V

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Game on!

Ok, let’s get down to the business end of all this Masai madness! We’ll start with a small 250pt game to test out Rifles & Spears and get a feel for how all these adjustments hang together. We shall use the In The Heart of Africa lists as well to show how they integrate with the existing game. The two armies we’ll use will be very simple as each comprises only a few ‘types’ so this will not overly burden us for a ‘first game’.

The Masai are a no nonsense close combat army made up of determined warriors and little else whilst the Arab army will be using musket and breech loading rifle armed askaris. This will make for two definite styles of play by both sides…essentially a ‘fighty’ Tribal vs ‘shooty’ Irregular force. Though the card system won’t produce the classic regulars vs irregulars effect which is a hallmark of Muskets & Tomahawks, there are still many other elements at play here.

This will enable us to see how the entire Rifles & Spears ‘package’ unfolds utilising the scenario and sub plot part of the game as well…which are important and unique elements of all Muskets & Tomahawks games. As with all these things tweaking of the rules here and there is inevitable but I feel confident we’ve got most of this locked down and this small game should indicate to us whether Rifles & Spears is a goer.

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Cards!

Not one to do things in half measure I couldn’t bring myself to using British and French cards for a Darkest Africa game. So I knocked up a card set for use that is non-factional…they represent side Green and side Brown. Use them for which ever force you like and they have a suitable leopard skin background to give it all a bit of an African feel! Get them here.

 

Cards 2

 

 

Situation

1885 is a harsh time in Masailand. The ‘plague’ has killed off much livestock and weakened numerous tribes who have suffered terribly. Ever the opportunist, a local Arab Slaver, Grabbir Boubi, has seen to taking the short route through Masailand to bring back his ‘slave stock’ to Zanzibar to fill out a contract he must fill in short order. Boubi, not being able to find the required number of African women, has taken it upon himself to prey on a small village of Masai women whilst their men are away on a hunt.

Word of this has spread quickly and the enraged elders, youths and recently returned moran warriors have moved quickly to take their women back and strike a blow the slave trader will never forget, if he lives to tell the tale at all.


1. Game Set up

The first step in preparing for a game of Rifles & Spears is to determine the War Theatre and Game size. As mentioned above we shall start small and play a 250 point game – a good sized game. The Theatre will be East Africa….all pretty standard stuff..

Force Lists

Masai

The Lists we shall use are taken from the In The Heart of Africa army lists. For the Masai the list is very straight forward.

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On the face of it the Masai list looks pretty one dimensional. Actually it is! However this is where Rifles & Spears steps up to create a bit of nuance into the game. First we’ll look to get ourselves a war party leader (yes, they called them war parties to!) In this case we shall take a laibon who counts as a witchdoctor. The Masai player knows the Arab force is made up of superstitious men who will be susceptible to the witchdoctor’s ways. This (Warrior) leader will take one talent for 5 pts and by rolling on the officer tables we see he is given the Agile talent.

Note the high Aggression value of the Masai. This will mean there is a reasonable chance that against the Arabs they will be the attacking force as they apply a -1 drm to their objective die roll i.e. deducting the aggression level between the two force gives the Masai a -1 score, this being their die roll modifier when rolling for their objectives as discussed in the Rifles & Spears rules under Scenario Generator. The Masai are a Tribal army so they will draw only one card using the Planning rules in M&T.

 

Masai list for Rifles & Spears (250pts)

Mbeke – Witchdoctor X1 Agile 25pts
Moran Warrior [#1] X8 Scouts, Elite, Savages 80pts
Moran Warrior [#2] X8 Scouts 56pts
Moran Warrior [#3] X8 Scouts 56pts
Elders X8 Native, Scouts 32pts
249pts

The list above shows that the Laibon,  Moran and Arcers are all TRIBAL Types. The Laibon trait is Agile – +1d6″ movement each move action.

 

Arab & Swahili

Moving onto the Arab List there are a few more things going on, though not much more! A typical Arab force can often have numerous allies (as the list shows) which can make their armies amongst the most diverse in the period, though for this game we’ll be taking a plain vanilla askari based Arab Slaver force without allies to keep it simple.

Arab List

The list is predominantly made up of Arab Nobles and Swahili askaris though in 1885 there can be some breech-loading armed askaris who would be useful to have if you were traversing Masailand uninvited! Looking to make sensible choices the Arab player will try and take as firepower capable a force as he can and try and keep the Masai away from him as his men stand little chance in hand to hand combat against the fearsome Masai…we shall see! The Arabs are an Organised army so they will draw two cards using the Planning rules in M&T affording them a slight command and control advantage over the Masai.

Arab Slavers list for Rifles & Spears

Grabbir Boubi – Local Leader X1 Officer, BLR Talent 24pts
Arab Noble Heavily Armed Askari [#1] X6 Auxiliaries 42pts
Arab Noble Heavily Armed Askari [#2] X6 Auxiliaries 42pts
Swahili Wangwana Askaris [#1] X9 Auxiliaries 32pts
Swahili Wangwana Askaris [#2] X9 Auxiliaries 32pts
Swahili Wangwana Askaris [#3] X9 Auxiliaries 32pts
Swahili Wangwana Askaris [#4] X9 Auxiliaries 32pts
252pts

The list above shows that Grabbir Boubi is an IRREGULAR LOCAL LEADER and all his askaris are IRREGULAR types (this satisfying the requirment of the leader being the same type of at least 10 models in his force). Grabbir Boubi’s talent is Cold Blood, which is rather good as it confers a +1drm on reaction tests to units 6″ away from him….handy.

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As you can see, by using the In The Heart of Africa lists we have an excellent way for putting our armies together very quickly and easily…though you can almost memorise the Masai one! I can’t recommend getting these lists enough for this period…there really isn’t anything as convenient and ready to go for the Darkest Africa gamer and they fit straight into Rifles & Spears.

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2. Scenery set-up

Now that the armies are organised we move onto laying out the scenery for play. First, we need to determine the Home Terrain for the side that will be defending in this battle as each army’s Home Terrain varies. A simple D6 die roll is used to determine who is the defender; both sides roll 1D6 with the the difference between Aggression numbers being a (+) modifier on the score rolled. The highest score is considered the attacker – re roll ties.

In this case the Aggression number of the Masai is 4 and the Arabs is 3, so the Masai gain a +1drm. Both sides roll, the Masai scoring a 4+1=5 with the Arabs rolling a 4. Therefore the Masai are the attackers and the Arabs the defenders. Thus the the Arab Home Terrain, as shown in the list, is used for setting up the table…in this case it is Savannah or Coastal. Given the scenario description we shall consider it to be Savannah.

(note – even though my scenario description has the Arabs in Masailand we are using the system as devised to highlight how it works…consider the Arabs to have advanced far enough that they are now in their home terrain).

Savannah terrain should look like this;

Common: Low Hills, Tall Grass.
Permitted: Jungle, Fields, Village, Marsh, Gullies, River.
Up to 96″ of streams.
Up to 144″ of tracks.

With those guidelines and along with the notes in Rifles & Spears we can layout out our table remembering the Muskets & Tomahawks golden rule “there should not be any straight line on the table that exceeds 24″ without meeting a scenery item”…”If you meet this criteria you should have a good Muskets & Tomahawks game”. So we shall endeavour to do just that.

[Points of consideration – some tactical notes for the Arab player to consider in terrain set up are in order. Firstly the Arab player knows the Masai are a tribal force that can use hidden markers, can move quickly through rough terrain due to their Scouts trait and are an entirely close combat force. Therefore the Arab player really needs to put down as little terrain as possible subject to the table layout restrictions and create as many fields of fire as possible. He shall do this restrained by the Savannah terrain guidelines above. As Low Hills/Tall Grass is Common then he shall cover only 1/3 of the table with that terrain.

Further, Tall Grass is concealing and counts as difficult going – less of a problem for the Masai, but hard to traverse for the Arab asakris….so low hills are a better option. He’ll need to add in a building as the Permitted terrain includes a village and he can also place a marsh or river if he chooses. Thus he can contain some movement potential of the Masai and create reasonably open fields of fire and use the building as a strongpoint if his objective (yet to be determined) would permit him to incorporate this idea into his plan. So there is a good deal for a player to consider at this stage of the game and prudent terrain placement is an important element in enhancing your chances of victory before any shots are fired].

 

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A closer look at the table shows the salient features for the encounter. Lines of fire are not greater than 24″ except for perhaps a very few open spaces in the middle. The Tall Grass is an obstacle to movement and offers little protection from fire but does severely restrict visibility…this being a unique R&S terrain feature.

The Hills are as per M&T, blocking line of sight but otherwise do not impede movement. The Masai player in this table set up added extra Tall Grass as he rolled a D3 for final terrain adjustment…this will help him have some covered movement which he is already thinking about!

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3. Weather

In this game both players rolled a dice and no notable weather effects resulted.

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4. Objectives

Objectives are at the heart of the Muskets & Tomahawks system of scenario play. After the terrain has been laid out and the weather determined both sides roll a dice based on their Force Type to determine their individual objective ie scenario. For those unfamiliar with Muskets & Tomahawks this means that both sides will usually have differing scenario conditions for victory, though not always. In Rifles & Spears all force types roll 1D6 to determine their objective as any force, African, Invader or Conqueror all were potentially in either offensive or defensive situations so we make no distinction. In this situation the Masai roll 1D6, applying a -1drm due to the aggressiveness level difference between themselves and the Arabs. The score a 2 (-1) gives a final score of 1.

A score of 1 means the Masai objective is ‘Slaughter’…entirely appropriate given the situation of the scenario. The goal of this mission therefore is the destruction of the column, civilians (porters and slaves) being fair game, in the opposing player’s force. We shall take this to mean the porters in the enemy caravan for the purposes of our situation outlined above. As the Masai objective is Slaughter the opposing player is obliged to take 10% of his force as ‘civilians’ ie porters in the Arab slave caravan. These cost 2pts each so that mean 12 porters for the Arab player to protect.

The Arab player rolls for his objective, this being D6+1 as he is the defender, and the defender applies the aggressiveness difference as a (+) modifier to his die roll. He scores a 5+1 for a final score of 6. This results in him getting an ‘Engagement’ objective. This mission is used to seek out and destroy any enemy ahead, which in this case will take the form of an attack to allow a further advance of Boubi’s slave caravan. Good news for Boubi is that the building that was placed earlier can maybe be used to be hide/protect the porters in the upcoming engagement.

Finally, the Arab player will get to choose the side of the table to deploy on (as determined by the Engagement objective) so this will be a help as well.

With the terrain and scenario objectives having now been determined, both sides declare what their objectives are as per the rules. The objectives, given in appendix I (p56), describe the Background, Deployment and Victory Conditions for both side’s objectives for this game. Pay close attention to what your objective is as things heat up during the game !

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5. The Deck

Before play the card deck needs to be assembled. In this case it will comprise the following cards.

  • x4 Irregular cards (Arabs)
  • x4 Tribal cards (Masai)
  • x2 Civilian (Arabs)
  • Forward Boys! card (both sides)
  • Three Event cards.

This will be the deck of cards for this game.

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6. Start the game…side plots first!

Just before we commence play we conduct one last step that is a unique element to Muskets & Tomahawks.…the Side Plots. Each leader will roll to determine what side plot will apply to this game  Achieving a side plot enhances victory or helps stave off defeat so they are important to achieving your overall goal. Side plots are a optional extra in Muskets & Tomahawks and not required for play but we are going to use them.

In this game the Masai leader, Mbeke, has the side plot “Payback”. This requires a nominated enemy officer to be killed during the game to fulfil the side plot. The Arab leader, Grabbir Boubi, gets the side plot “Romance“. This side plot requires that a figure be placed with Grabbir Boubi and must survive the until the end of the game…in this case his monkey!!

 

Situation update…

So having prepared for play the situation is as follows.

An Arab force, led by a leader accompanied by his lucky charm, a monkey, (Romance side plot) are advancing through the savannah pushing on through the area to enable his caravan to continue on their journey. A Masai war party, led by the witchdoctor, Mbeke, is hell-bent on revenge (Payback side plot) and seeks to attack with his moran warriors and slaughter the porters accompanying the slave caravan to deter further incursions. Hopefully this will force the submission of the entire Arab force in due course and by so doing get their captive women back.

They catch up with the Arab caravan near a small hamlet which the Arabs are approaching as they prepare their attack…the stage is set….

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…to battle…

 

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The table layout – on the left are the Arab slavers who will be marching on from left to right, having selected that side of the table as is their choice as they have an Engagement objective. The Masai player by default approaches from the opposite side.

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As detailed in the M&T Objectives Appendix the Arab player is required to layout his force first. Looking at his deployment from left to right we can see he has placed askaris on the hill with two further units toward their right advancing on the village. In the centre-rear comes the porters and askaris with breech-loading rifles to the right, with a forward flanking askari unit holding the right of the line.

Boubi is near the red flag in the centre of his force…so the arabs have slightly ‘rubbery edges’ with most of the firepower concentrated to protect the porters, who are the objective of the Masai force…all in all a solid deployment, if perhaps a little spread out.

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…close up of the left flank askaris…all musket armed…

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Looking along the centre of the Arab line, a wall of muskets advances on the village inhabited only by some stray cattle as the villagers have run to safety into the bush hearing of the approach of the slaver caravan. Note the monkey on Grabbir Boubi’s left shoulder…his lucky charm and (Romance) side plot objective!

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…a few interested onlookers who have no trouble spying over the tall grass that they are in, unlike everyone else on the field!…

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Opening moves by the Masai player. As the Masai warriors have the Scout ability they are able to use hidden markers for deployment. This gives them a very real advantage when starting play. Not only are they second to deploy they may also deploy six hidden markers and three dummy markers, more or less making their deployment completely blind to the Arab play.

In this case the masai shields are used as markers. Three are placed on the left flank moving toward the tall grass to their front. Two are centrally placed behind a small rise on their deployment edge whilst four markers are deployed on the right flank, using the large hill to their front to screen their advance.

It is worth noting that in M&T you do not need to specify which marker has which unit. It need only be a unit of that type when it is deployed. This gives a good degree of flexibility to a player as he can deploy appropriate forces as the situation develops in front of him (which is explicitly stated in the rules)…quite an advantage.

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Hidden markers, counting as tribal marker types. These all move 6″ with the ‘scout’ ability when a Tribal card is drawn.

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..the arab force pushes forward.

Boubi’s tactic is clearly to establish a wall of firepower to decimate the Masai warriors before they can close with his askaris. Literally, with an objective of needing to reduce the Masai to two-thirds their force total, he is attempting to blast his way to victory and continue his march…quite historical.

Here you can see he has placed an askari unit in reserve, not yet knowing where the main blow of the Masai will fall.

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…Boubi sends the order to his right flank askaris to push into the tall grass as he sees some movement of the ‘top fronds’ in the distance (i.e. he sees the hidden markers but has not yet spotted them).

Unwittingly he has played right into the Masai’s hands as this will limit the visibility of his askaris and thus their ability to shoot at distance against the enemy. In Rifles & Spears tall grass is dense cover so spotting units will invariably be done at close range. Nevertheless he trusts to his musketmen to clear the way, hoping one solid close range volley will do the job…

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Here you can see the Arab right flank askari push into the tall grass with Masai hidden markers to their front. The Arab line is nicely shaken out and the Masai have pushed up on their right flank onto the rocky hill. They are clearly using a variation of their traditional battle tactic called the ‘eagle’s wing’.

The eagles’ wing was a tactic that involved the best warriors in the centre making an assault supported by the other warriors on the flanks, with one group kept in reserve. In this case they are approaching both flanks and fainting with the as yet unplayed markers in the centre…..thereby not declaring their hand as to their true intended concentration of attack.

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…Masai markers approach the crest line of the hill, still out of line of sight of the enemy.

M&T rules note – a hidden marker may not freely move into a line of sight of the enemy during movement. If the player wishes to deploy off a marker he must do so out of the line of sight of the enemy. For players with Tribal armies it is worth having a close read of the spotting rules and how units can move and deploy off their hidden markers as there are a number of restrictions that prevent ‘gotcha’ moments when hidden deployment is used.

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…with the play of another irregular card the Arab askaris spot a group of Masai in the tall grass!!…

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…those askaris might have muskets but they really don’t want to mess with those guys with big shields, very pointy spears and bad attitudes!! They want to stop them A.S.A.P…Also, they can see that the enemy chief, Mbeke, is deployed and by the looks of things these Masai appear to be ‘chosen men’, everyone one of them…

They are in fact the Elite Warrior unit of the Masai force. These are the toughest troops in Rifles & Spears. They are 3+ to hit in combat and their close combat save is 3+..what’s more they have the Savage trait allowing them to re roll misses in combat…they are as badass as you can get!

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…up close shot…and personal…

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…seeing the peril they might the in the askaris unleash a crackle of musketry into the Masai who are well ‘screened’ by the tall grass. The Arab player could’ve held his fire and withdrawn his men into the clear but chose to fire. Despite needing pretty good dice rolling (6 to hit, 6 to kill) one Masai warrior is killed…an immediate reaction test rolled for and passed by the el moran who grit their teeth and press on…

Player note – shooting into a target in dense cover when your basic shooting rating is 5+ means only 6s will hit (5-2=7). The extra difficulty of hitting ( as the final modified number is over six i.e. 7 in this case) reduces the lethality by -2 from a 3+ to a 5+ to kill and as the target is in dense cover it counts a further -1drm i.e. 6 to kill. Essentially the askaris where just firing at rustling in the grass and shooting blind…they got lucky with one kill but couldn’t expect much more.

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The black powder smoke from the musket fusillade can be seen in the tall grass whilst Boubi pushes up a unit of heavily armed askaris (breech-loaders) in support to provide the musketmen with a ‘switch line’ to fall back through should they need it..

The remaining arab forces further refine their position to protect the caravan porters. Boubi can see the Masai hidden markers on the hill to his left jostling about looking for an ideal position to launch their attack from.

This rounded out the first turn action…time to reshuffle the card deck.

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…a close up of the arab left flank with the close protection group guarding the porters and slaves.

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…pensive askaris still await their moment…

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The first card  played is an Irregulars card and the Arab player immediately reloads his askaris. The next card, which the Arab commander plays, is another Irregulars card! Having reloaded in their last phase, the askaris in the tall grass are in a position to fire once again. Maybe they can stop these Masai after all?…

Player note – The first player in a turn is determined randomly, using the Planning rule. In this case it was the Masai player – cards are then alternately played back and forth. Tactically, the Arab player had a chance to withdraw his askaris but as the arab player had two ‘pre drawn’ cards in his  hand using the Planning rule, he knew he would be able to play an Irregulars card he held..planning indeed!!

Therefore, as the Masai were now at point blank range he figured he’d take his chances with some close-range musketry in the hope of hurting them and forcing an adverse morale check. This was always going to be hard to do…but a rush of blood to the head and fire it shall be along with a bit of luck and some planning might do the trick!

It’s also worth noting that Mbeke offers the warriors a +1drm to their morale roll and their unit size of 6+ models gives them another +1drm. In addition these warriors are Elite so they may re-roll a morale test if they score a 1 (i.e. bad result)…did I mention that these are the deadliest warriors in Africa?…regardless, things are still tough for the askaris as they really aren’t very good shots whichever way you slice it… they are 6+ to hit and now 4+ to kill…a bit better…

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…crack!!!…

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…good shooting and the moran take two casualties…they roll and score a 1 on their morale test!…they roll again and pass…lucky they are Elite!

Player note – This was actually quite a close run thing for the moran. If they’d suffered another casualty they would’ve been penalised with a further -2drm for taking 3+ casualties from fire in a single round of shooting along with the -1drm they already had for taking a casualty from a black powder weapon at point blank range and not getting their +1 of being 6+ models i.e. -3drm in total. This probably would’ve forced a Recoil or Flight result even with Mbeke and a potential ‘Elite’ re-roll. Note, the elite re-roll is for a natural die score of 1 so if they’d rolled a 2 or 3 with a -3drm they would rout!!!..so the askaris can count themselves just a little unlucky!

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…shouting their war cry...”Uuuuwiiiii”…they will not be denied…

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Out of the smoke they emerge like lions on the play of their card. The askaris, terrified by the sight, nonetheless show great determination and stand their ground. They mean to fight the moran, club musket and all.

Despite their show of courage they’re not equal to the task. The moran cut the askaris down, inflicting 3 casualties on them for no loss. This triggers an immediate morale test which the askaris fail causing them to flee, losing yet two more men in the ‘hack’ as they attempt to get away…

Player note – The askaris in this combat were striking on 5+ and saving on 5+, the moran were 3+, 3+ respectively…this was always going to end badly for the askaris. They did however pass their terror check which the moran cause on enemy which they charge (this being an immediate reaction test like a bayonet charge in Muskets & Tomahawks). 

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…the askaris fall back behind the well positioned heavily armed arab askaris…hopefully for Boubi the next card will be an irregulars one so those breechloaders can do their thing…

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…the view from behind…the askaris fumble about with their weapons as the call comes…

“…make ready!!…”

Player note – the hope here, for the arab player, is that an Irregular card  or maybe two will be played and the breechloaders, which do not require an action to reload, can issue one or two rounds of devastating close range fire on the moran. If that was to occur they would have played all four of the Irregulars cards…but they do need them now!

Using the M&T Planning rule (that allows a player to hold a hand of cards) the Arab two-card hand vs the Masai one-card hand might help control the flow of events. If they can get the unit below six models or cause a heavy loss in one turn of fire they should be able to see off this Masai attack. This time the Masai will be charging across open ground so will be quite vulnerable…

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…meanwhile, things started hotting up on the other flank…

…Uh, oh…the next card played is Tribal!!

Deploying off their hidden markers, four units of Masai moved forward on the play of the card….all the Masai surge at once! This enabled the moran warriors to deploy a small unit of archers to screen their advance whilst another worked its way around to the village to start some distant bow fire to give the arabs something else to worry about.

All of a sudden the arabs are being assailed from both left and right side..things are starting to get a bit tense!…

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…a unit of askaris awaits the order to move forward whilst a rhino cleverly makes a hasty exit seeing the moran comin’ his way!…

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An overview of the action. At top you can see the Masai ready their attack on the heavily armed askaris which the play of the last Tribal card has enabled.

The centre holds, relatively untouched but the arab left flank now can be seen to be the main focus of attack by Mbeke’s force and will shortly be under considerable pressure….can arab firepower stop the Masai advance?…it shall largely be dependent on how the cards fall in the upcoming draw…and perhaps a good bit of shooting…

..but, if you recall, the last card out was a Tribal card which meant only one thing…

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…with a hurrah, the Masai attack, Mbeke leading them forward…..”Uuuuwiiiii”. The askaris have lost their chance to shoot! Straight in with the spear the Masai surge into contact and engage the arab slavers!

…”you dare take our women!!…”

[Player note – the askaris get a bonus in combat as they’re armed with breech-loaders, this reflecting last second shooting as the enemy rush them from their front. This enables them to re roll their misses in combat (i.e. the savages trait) so even poorly trained troops with these more effective weapons get an ability to defend themselves a little more effectively. If suffering a rear attack they do not gain this bonus however).

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…breech-loader or not, it’s a blood bath. The askaris are all but cut down to a man.

The moran are now only a short distance away from their objective of striking straight for the porters and slaves and the fulfilment of their goal…this could be over before it starts!

Player note – in many ways this clash shows the complete asymmetry of these two armies and Rifles & Spears at its ‘combat result extreme’. One force is totally focused on getting into hand to hand combat where they are almost unstoppable whereas the other must rely on firepower alone to force an adverse reaction test on their enemy to keep them at bay. If they do not stop them, or rather, have the cards fall their way so they can shoot them into submission, then whoa to any that end up in hand to hand with the moran…

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…the next card played is a Tribal card. The moran, bypassing the porters and slaves, make straight for a small 6-man unit of heavily armed askaris. Not wanting to get caught in any sort of crossfire they decide eliminating as many rifle and musket armed askaris as they can before they undertake their gruesome task to complete their objective is the smart option…

..in a brisk fight they kill a couple of askaris for no loss and make the rest flee…job done…

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…all the while on the other flank the moran push on…

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…realising the way ahead now is to make short work of the porters and slaves the moran commence their grizzly work. Surprisingly they fail to inflict as many successful kills as one would expect and in fact one porter gallantly fought back and took one moran warrior with him…a struggle as uneven as is possible…perhaps the moran took pity on them?

….naturally enough the porters and slaves break and flee from the Masai spears and fall back through a line of askaris ready to stand or die…

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…porters and slaves gain a temporary reprieve from the terrifying moran with a brave and nervous askari line attempting to hold…

Mbeke, seeing his moran depleted and up against a potential wall of fire now plays his ace. Using his witchdoctor ability he attempts to cast a spell on the enemy before him.

Hoping to drive off the superstitious askaris with his mystical powers he waves his spear and struts a dance that momentarily mesmerises all witness to the spectacle. Despite his gyrations and rhythmical movement Boubi, using his Cold Blood trait (+1drm on reaction tests), steadies his men and throws off the laibon’s devilish dance by invoking the call to the one true God…

“…In the name of Allah…prepare to fire!…”

Despite Mbeke’s best efforts the Arabs hold and are not deterred by his whimsical mysticism…one can only say that they may be more afraid of their master than the enemy…who knows…

Player note – the witchdoctor ability in Rifles & Spears is invoked by the witchdoctor nominating a unit within 18″ to cast a spell on. He may do this once per turn, being successful on a roll of 4+. If successful the ‘target’ unit must take an immediate reaction test.

With the battle at this tipping point the turn ends…time to reshuffle the deck…

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…whilst the diminishing force of Boubi’s caravan coalesces around the village things are starting to look desperate. Though fully occupied to the front,  bad news bares from behind.

The small Masai archer units have had a small degree of success picking of an askari here and there, themselves forcing the heavily armed askaris to seek shelter from their rain of arrows.

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…from behind the main Masai force now closes in for the final act.

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…push on!!…

Things are looking bleak for the arabs…onto the next turn…

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….fire!!!…

The gods (god) smiles on the arab player and the first card played is his to choose. He has in his hand at least one irregular card and he plays it!

In a devastating close range volley the askaris unleash a close range fusillade that sends a thunder across the battlefield…as they look up and the smoke clears…not a Masai warrior is left standing…

…barring one last man…Mbeke himself…his ungodly white face and red skin colouring protecting him from what seemed certain death…

Player note – in this shot you can see Mbeke now very much alone and with Boubi near the village relatively safe. Mbeke’s goal to take him on mano-i-mano seems remote to say the least….his side plot looks doomed.

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Flush with success Boubi starts to see himself shooting his way out of this if things (the cards!) go his way. The moran are very close to delivering the coup de grace but maybe there just might be a chance to drive the enemy off with a few good volleys…for now the porters are safe and the elite moran have been seen off…

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…pulling together the remnants of one askaris unit they bravely face off the moran to their front…

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 …though playing a secondary roll, the elder and youth archers have performed a valuable service, sniping away at the enemy keeping him occupied and always threatening in some way…

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…in a run of card plays Boubi pulls together something resembling a solid defensive line. Letting the weak askari unit fall back though the fresh unit, flush with success from destroying one moran unit, the same unit, reloaded and ready to fire once again, issues a volley to their front front…boom!…this is like an arab slaver version of Zulu the movie!!

 

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Inflicting some loss one moran unit is forced to test reaction causing them to recoil from the shock of fire. The supporting askari unit to the left flank of the main line is now preparing its fire to strengthen the position….things are starting to swing toward Boubi and his arab force.

Mbeke, now moves off as he realises he cannot get anywhere near Boubi himself, his side plot failed and the arab volley fire in thunderous roar! Boubi, trusty monkey safe and sound, is on track to fulfil his side plot and with some good shooting now seems in sight of his main objective…a fairly dramatic change of events very quickly…

Player note – remembering what the goal of each side is; for the Masai it’s the elimination of the porters and slaves, a task they have not successfully accomplished and for the Arab player it’s eliminating two-thirds of the enemy force. Looking at the pic it can be seen the arab player is well placed to deliver some punishing fire that can help him attain his goal while the porters and slaves have now slipped away to relative safety….as for side plots, the Masai now have no chance it would seem.

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 …in a cruel twist…the Arab player is ‘forced’ to play a Tribal card (he had two in his hand) and so handed the next action to his opponent – one moran unit charges directly at the askari line before it can reload and loose off any more fire…not good.

The Askari unit tests its reaction for being charged by the Masai but being relatively fresh and with Boubi extolling them using his Cold Blood trait (adding a further +1drm to their reaction test) they pass the test and hold…

Historical note – Masai warriors that fought Arab Slaver forces often found that after the initial volley of musketry fire they were able to charge on their enemy before they could reload. This was a Masai tactic…’duck  & run’. They usually made short work of their enemy or the arabs would literally break and run…this being best reflected here with the Terror test that an enemy takes when the Masai charge.

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…spear and shield vs musket and little else…

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…with many onlookers the askaris put up little resistance. The Masai end what hopes Boubi had of seeing them off. The combat is decisive and many men fall. In the subsequent test the unit routs, running for their lives…as quickly as it turned in their favour it has wickedly turned against the arabs once again…

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…in a flurry of activity the remaining two askari units deliver what fire they can in a last ditch effort to drive of the Masia with a hot fire…

They will not be denied, despite taking casualties, they pass their reaction test, and press the assault…

(Player note – these particular Masai warriors are not ‘elite’ so they have no special bonuses when testing morale. Nor is there a leader nearby, so whilst they have good morale some accurate black powder fire can stop them in their tracks. If this were to occur once or twice they can be shot down by enemy with ranged weapons…not so easy with one shot muskets but definitely possible with a 2-action card by Regulars firing breechloader).

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…with another Arab askari unit gone the way is clear now to finish off the porters and slaves. One more askari vs moran combat and Boubi looking very alone.

Interestingly, the line of askaris that Boubi was ‘hiding’ behind had made him all but unassailable before but this has now vanished, askaris scattering everywhere to save themselves. Mbeke, in a twist of fate, now sees his chance to move to ward Boubi and finish the slaver off once and for all…monkey and all!!!

By using his Agile trait he adds +d6″ to his move distance so this is a good opportunity to use that ability and strike then arab slaver down! It now appears that both the Masai main objective and side plot are once again within reach!

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…in a clear show of force the Masai warriors dispatch another askari unit, forcing it to recoil in combat, but as it is has clung to the table edge its fate is that of a rout…

All that remains of the Arab forces now are a few porters and slaves, a couple of remaining men and Boubi himself…time to run!

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…just when Mbeke was preparing to end Boubi’s slave trading days with a personal challenge the next turn play of cards dealt test another twist!

The first card drawn was an Irregular card and one of the few remaining musket armed askaris drew a bead on Mbeke…rolling a 6 to hit and a 6 to kill he dropped Mbeke cold…an ending that could not have been scripted!

The next card enabled Boubi and his two plucky askaris to dash away into the tall grass and to relative safety!

The Irregular Morale Card was then drawn and they all pass!!!!

(player note – the arab force at the start of the last (fourth) turn had reached less than 50% losses so the Morale Card was included. When drawn this card requires all units to take a morale test with a -2drm…this is often a fatal card to draw and spells the end of your force).

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With that the din off battle fell away, the sun began to set and the quiet of the night returned to this small fateful field in East Africa…

…no doubt the lions and hyenas would eat well tonight…

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The remnants of battle. I need alot more casualty figures!!

Boubi and his two companion slip away into the scrub…

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The victorious Masai warriors dance and sing their victory song!

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…debrief…

A very good game! In the end the Masai player succeeded in eliminating the porters and slaves and so achieved his main objective. The Arab player failed to secure a two-thirds body count on the Masai so failed his main objective…a clear cut victory! However the Arab player did succeed in his side plot and the Masai failed in theirs. So on that basis it would be called a draw as per the standard rules!

However, we think side plots shouldn’t have that much bearing on the victory as the main game is in the primary scenario objective in our opinion. So we still called it a Masai victory but with some bragging rites for the Arab player…glory points if you like. For us the main thrust of the action should be the objective and not the side plot…but that’s all just personal choice.

On a related subject Tom Keegan’s FIW campaign blog uses a format for determining victory based on objectives and side plots that’s worth noting. He uses the following system to determine victory…we might use this as well as his ideas balance side plots vs objectives a little better in our opinion.

Victory Conditions and tournament scoring: Victory points are based on accomplishing Objectives and Sub-plots. Total your points from the list below . Between 0 and 6 points are possible after each battle;

  • Accomplish your scenario objective = 3 points.
  • Accomplish your sub-plot = 2 points
  • Opponent does not accomplish his objective = 1 point.
  • Tie breaker will be number of points of enemy figures killed by each side.

Using Tom’s system the final result would have been; Masai 4pts vs Arabs 2pts…that seems about right to us…4 points would be a minor victory and 6 points a major victory….so a minor victory it was!

The game took 2hrs20mins to play and about 30 mins to set up and mess about preparing for play…a nice 3 hr time slot. The actual table size though a 6×4 was actually a little smaller that we played on but more space is probably a good thing. Reading AARs online it seems games of this size, around 250pts (+/- 50pts) are pretty popular. They certainly give you enough pieces to play with and pushing up to 400 points doesn’t really seem that necessary unless your troop costings are very high such that some extra ‘costly’ items or a higher quality force would mean that having a larger points total doesn’t significantly add extra models.

If you had a European style force than I think 400pts would work best as the ability of these breech loading types to fire constantly might make short work of just three units of Masai warriors! So a bit of flexibility targeted at the types of opponents in a game is worth considering when determining the number of points used for playing the armies involved. Playing with a force that generates around 40 figures in an army, whatever the at point total is, seems like a good rule of thumb.

 

Rifles & Spears?

As far as determining how the Rifles & Spears adaptation worked, we gave it a resounding thumbs up…it does work for this period!

In Muskets & Tomahawks ‘speak’ the game was kind of a clash between a bloodthirsty elite Indian force vs an American militia force with some rather fancy reloading rifles….that’s kind of the 18th century version of what we played. That said, the game played and felt historical to its theme. The Masai were an absolute feared warrior people who invoked terror in their enemies…this was the effect in the game.

The askaris were poor close combat fighters with outdated and ineffective muskets, albeit, capable of hurting much lesser opponents or ones who are not so equipped. The heavily armed askaris, though better equipped, still did not deliver deceive firepower which the R&S card system very nicely handled. That’s a point worth mentioning.

In R&S just having better weapons does not necessarily mean you have an ‘equal advantage’ for the same equipment. A Regular force that can deploy in firing line and issue volley fire with breechloaders using  a 2-card action is considerably more effective with a breech loader than an askari with the same weapon. That is a very good design feature of the M&T system that really plays to the period…big tick on that one for Muskets & Tomahawks and Rifles & Spears!

In an American context, the game in many respects was similar to a 19th century confrontation between fierce Apache warriors against a heavily armed settler caravan….you can see the parallels and possible uses outside the theme we are adapting it for here in Darkest Africa.

The rules worked really well. Very painless and very clear with the FAQ clarifying a few bits and pieces. The game is very well supported so near any question you have can be found in the archive of the Studio Tomahawk forum. The Planning optional rule, used as standard, definitely had a subtle but useful in game effect….those askaris certainly appreciated it though it didn’t help them in the end!! A number of occasions occurred throughout play that had the cards fallen differently things would changed on a dime…it was that close at various stages that we were both sweating on the next card draw…this is Muskets & Tomahawks and Rifles & Spears at its best.

The Planning rules that enable a disciplined army to hold three cards and a tribal army to hold one really enables a player to have some command and control over his force and not just entirely rely on the lucky draw of a card. This can be used to reflect varying degrees of control within specific scenarios so this design mechanic is a very useful tool in R&S for a number of purposes.

The terrain rules all worked well. Not having large fields of fire as per the 24″ rule of M&T produced the right effect. In this game having covered approaches for the Masai very much helped them and I suspect against a more deadly opponent that the 24″ rule becomes even more important. After all, if you just make a dead straight charge into the face of breechloaders then I think R&S will deliver the expected result of stopping it cold…as it should be.

An important point worth noting is that Tribal troops, or more correctly those with the Scouts trait, use hidden movement and should be allowed to in every game. I would encourage players to use hidden movement as standard. Having the ability to be hidden along with the Scouts trait are two significant ‘weapons’ that tribal troops have and many, if not most, Invader and Conqueror armies do not have. You will be taking away an advantage that they need.

So learn those rules and use hidden movement and spotting in all your games to best reflect the combatants strengths and weakness. This is one very good reason I like Muskets & Tomahawks for Darkest Africa as spotting and hidden movement are built into the core engine of the game and often reflect a critical factor in engagements, historical and on the tabletop.

As you can see, there are number of levers that a designer can pull when determining stats and traits for Muskets & Tomahawks which adapted really well in Rifles & Spears. In this game we only used a few troops types but utilising the ITHOA/DITDC troops grades I have come up with appropriate rating stats I think capture the feel of the troops rather well (though informed counter opinions are always welcome!).

As you can see the game enables quite a few varying types of troops to be portrayed in interesting ways. I have given them points as I think they would be costed but I do not have the Studio Tomahawks ‘method’ of points rating so have made educated guess work of a few traits based on the main Muskets & Tomahawks rulebook – if someone could help me out here I can make the points as accurate as can be if the method is somewhere available… I think I’m reasonably close however.

The number of options in the Troop Characterists chart is to enable certain troop types of a particular class of troop to be reflected in different ways. For example, some askaris of the Carl Peters ‘Emin Pasha’ expedition could be rated as Drilled and equipped with Breechloaders enabling the use of the Firing Line ability and BLR ‘no reload’ trait which would significantly enhance their firepower, whilst other ‘lesser’ askaris in that force would be rated without this ability or equipment making them much less effective ‘soldiers’, but still using the same stat line as is applicable to their historical prototype.

Similarly, whilst askaris are generally rated as being poor shooters in the game (5+) their effectiveness can be improved slightly by making them ‘sharpshooters’ which enables them to re roll missed scores of ‘1’ i.e. they just have a little more fire effectiveness without increasing their rating to a 4+ which would probably overstate their fire ability a bit. You get the idea.

Whilst I’m not sure this is the ‘final’ version of the traits and ratings I think it gives a pretty good reflection of the troop styles in Rifles & Spears as detailed in the ITHOA/DITDC troop rating system. It certainly gives you a solid starting point for tweaking.

 

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The Rifles & Spears playsheet uses elements of Jay’s French & Indian War QRS that he ‘house ruled’ for his own games so thanks to him for providing much Muskets & Tomahawks goodness…Jay’s blog is sweet.

 

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The final point to end this series of posts is to say that Muskets & Tomahawks is an excellent vehicle for adaptation to this period and frankly if you pull out all the 18th century stuff and put in the Darkest Africa theme this ruleset, combined with the various In The Heart of Africa parts this would be one helluva combination and be a stand alone rule set of some substance. It would perfectly complement the skirmish nature of the upcoming Congo rules and breath a good deal of life into the Darkest Africa theme. I’m happy this is my go-to colonial system for the foreseeable further….excellent stuff!

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Attack on Elbejet

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The Masai figures in the battle report are Yours Truly whilst the plucky but somewhat unfortunate Arabs belong to Mac, more of which you can see here….thanks to Mac for supplying the minis for the inaugural Rifles & Spears clash….

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Masai V

  1. Wow – just wow Rolf!
    What an incredible report – very nice touch on with the player note paragraphs. Almost makes me want to jump into Darkest Africa immediately and abandon my Mahdist vs. Anglo-Egyptian project.

    Like

  2. Thanks for those kind words!

    You’re only ever 30-40 figures away from getting going…a very small and achievable goal 😉

    I’m sure the Mahdist v Anglo-Egyptian project will work out for this just fine as well. The useful thing to my mind to make M&T games work at their best is to incorporate the different troop type card draws so that you get the difference between Regulars, Provisional and Irregular card effects.

    That’s what really mixes it up for mine…though the game still plays brilliantly using tribal vs irregulars ie 4 single action cards vs 4 single action cards as you can see.

    Happy W

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