East African Askaris (II)

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In the last post I put up a few pics of the initial group of Askaris to be used as part of Carl Peters’ expedition. Truth be told, these ‘askaris’ are pretty basic as far as askaris go and really are more like Armed Porters, though the line between the two types is a little blurred.

They are about as generic as you can get, so they’ll fit into a multitude of armies for this period which is one reason why I painted them! Near all Explorer or European forces will have, or can have, locally raised armed porters or askaris to accompany their expeditions so this is a versatile troop type to have in your collection.

As these are the first of the forces in the German ‘Explorer’ army list I’m painting up, a few points about them in the game might be useful…kind of a ‘pieces of Panzerblitz’ approach (for those that remember the 1970s!). This will allow us to have a look at the make up of the Explorers army list which we use to portray Carl Peters’ Emin Pasha expedition.

As I get each ‘piece’ of the army list painted we can see what makes them unique or special within Rifles & Spears. It’ll allow a bit of discussion of some nitty-gritty specifics of how the game system works comparing some troop types within the rules…this also makes the post a bit longer than a hand full of pictures as well, telling you a little more about the game 😉

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Ok, so what makes Armed Porters what they are in the game?

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Looking at the lists the first point to note is that there are two types of ways these troops can be taken – Musketeers or Askaris. The miniatures I’ve painted probably best fit the Armed Porter ‘Musketeer’ category though the notes section as you can see allows them to be taken as askaris as well – either choice is available  The two are very similar in the game but some distinct differences apply.

Just to recap the two types of troops (as described in R&S after ITHOA) can be;

MUSKETEERS – These are Africans, other than professional warriors, who are armed either with old-fashioned and badly maintained flintlocks, or with more modern weapons adapted to traditional tactics. Such weapons may be intended primarily for hunting. They are often used like shotguns – firing nails, stones, bits of pottery etc.

ASKARIS – ”Askari” is an Arabic word meaning ”soldier”. For classification purposes in these rules, it embraces most reasonably well equipped and trained African and Arab troops armed predominantly with muzzle-loading firearms – including those employed by Europeans. The majority of native troops equipped with breechloaders are also to be found in this category, described as ’heavily-armed askaris’ as they are likely to be insufficiently trained or motivated to take proper advantage of them. Note that many of the riflemen employed by European armies, who were officially entitled ”askaris”, are classified here as Soldiers.

 

Comparison

These descriptions (above) nicely show how both types of troops are valid for some troop classifications of the askaris in Peters’ expedition. The important difference is in the fighting style, the amount of European influence in their tactical use and the weapons they have….so let’s take a look at their attributes in comparison to one another;

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Troop Type – Musketeers are a Tribal troop type. This means they will use the tribal cards in the game deck and have four 1-action activation cards. This will mean their actions throughout the turn will be a little less predictable as only one action can ever be performed on each action card. Askaris on the other hand are an Irregular troop type. Practically speaking this has no effect in the game as Irregular troops also get four 1-action activation cards in the deck as well. So functionally within the game they will be identical – remember, these are the most basic of armed auxiliaries and this similarity is pretty much to be expected i.e. they have virtually no ‘formal’ training.

Morale – Both Musketeers and Askaris have a morale grade of Hesitant. Not particularly good so these troops will need support to help them through any possible reaction tests they may make.

Number – Askaris are organised into slightly largely groups than musketeers which are representative of smaller more independent operating forces (essentially a game design feature). Thus Askaris can have units of 6-12 men whilst musketeers can have 6-8 men. Not a big difference but having large units can be important sometimes and an ability to stay ‘big’ (i.e. 6 models or more in a unit) is effectively a morale bonus. So Askaris can potentially be a little more resilient in the game by being able to suffer more casualties for less potential morale loss…a small but important point, particularly if you form large units (12 men) and support them with a leader to boost their morale.

Movement – This is where the functional difference of the two types of troops starts to show. The Musketeers have a move distance of 6″ whilst the Askaris are 5″. This means both operate a little looser than drilled troops (who typically have a 4″ move) and thus they can be more dispersed as this move distance defines the separation allowed between figures (bases) within the unit. In this case Musketeers are a ‘little looser’ than Askaris. When combined with the other traits (below) the two troop types more clearly diverge.

Shooting, Aggressiveness & Defence – All these attributes are the same for both troops. In this case they are rated 5+. Troops that shoot with a rating of 5+ and have no other way to boost their fire effectiveness (such as using firing line formation) pretty much define the poor quality fire discipline of near all African troops. It is their inability to increase this number that makes them less effective shooters. Askaris of all types are rated 5+. The same 5+ rating for aggressiveness and defence clearly means that they are not interested in hand to hand combat to see off their enemies – they simply are not inclined in anyway to mix it up in melee with any troops and only really have a chance against similar troop types or civilians.

Weapons – Both types may be armed with the trusty musket but the Askaris may be upgraded to take a breechloader, which to a certain degree defines them as the Askari troop type i.e. having a more capable weapon that significantly increases their firepower firing enmasse. Along with their traits, the ability of Askaris to become heavily-armed-askaris equipped with breechloaders is the principal difference between the two types.

Note that in the game, though we define Askaris as being either simple musket armed Askaris and Heavily Armed (breechloader equipped) Askaris, for all intents and purposes the weapon is the only real difference between the two types. Some come already equipped with the breechloaders whilst others may take it as an upgrade hence the distinction.

Traits – This is where the two types of troops diverge the most. Both are rated as Auxiliaries. This is important as it allows them to be commanded by an officer not of their type but still derive the benefits he may give, this mostly being a morale bonus in any reaction tests.

Design note – for experienced Musket & Tomahawk players you’ll note this is a small but significant difference in Rifles & Spears. The Auxiliaries trait in R&S means that “Auxiliaries count an Officer as being from their Troop Type”. That means any officer type will count not just one limited to a specific troop type. So a force made up of different troop types, that themselves are different from their officer or each other, would still count his bonuses as long as they all had the auxiliaries trait – not all troops do and force lists define who does and doesn’t have this ability. This accounts for the disparate but somewhat homogenous groupings of troop types in the darkest africa setting when some troops are under organised leadership of some officers. However, in another list troops might not be so well integrated into the group thus the officer’s influence may not be able to be used for some of the troop types under his command.

The other traits the Musketeers have are two common but important ones for indigenous troops; Natives and Scouts. These two traits define the Musketeer category i.e. they are specialists at fighting in rough terrain and are not meant to stand in the line and fight, though they can, albeit not very well. To use the description of them above, they use ‘traditional tactics’. Natives allows Musketeers to increase their cover level by one stage in whatever terrain they are in and also to get a +1 to their reaction tests when in a terrain feature that provides cover – they really are rough terrain specialists and happiest when in that ground. Coupled to the Native trait is the Scout trait.

The Scout trait allows Musketeers to move though rough terrain with one less degree of difficulty than normal, so they move though difficult terrain at normal movement rate speed for example. They also can cross low level linear obstacles with ease and can use the Hidden Movement ability as well…this makes Musketeers really good rough terrain fighters and provides a good pre battle scouting force as well. Given their low morale level putting them somewhere where they can minimise the possibility of a test is a good idea.

Options – As mentioned above, the Askaris can upgrade to breechloaders unlike the musketeers.

Points – Askaris cost 4 points and Musketeers, due to their host of special abilities described above, cost 6 points.

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Summation

So it can be seen that not all ‘askaris’ are made equal in Rifles & Spears. You have the option to portray two types of askaris in your force or a mix. Some may rely on their natural native skills ‘adapted to traditional tactics’ providing them with bonuses in broken ground whilst Askaris, more accustomed to be ‘up gunned’ and fighting in the line, will eschew the traditional style and be more willing to adopt a fighting role akin to European style troops fighting in line, often with better equipment – the choice is yours!

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Ok, enough with the talking, here are some photos. This time I’m using a green setting to hopefully make the figures stand out a bit more and make the ‘camera colours’ work a bit better. Also trying another setting which gives good results as well I think…getting these pics to come out nicely has been a challenge!

Next post we’ll take a look at formally trained and organised Askaris…until then…😉

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One thought on “East African Askaris (II)

  1. I read all your posts with interest and have all these W. Foundry figures posted here. Look forward to more posts both here and on the LAF forum. Colin / Belisarius.

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