GAJO Games

GAJO Happenings and Ramblings Blog

2017 - Number 31


Initial Setup - A Village in the Center

GAJO Playtest:

I will admit that I love actions set in "Darkest Africa", so I have been eager to try out the new skirmish rules Congo!, from Studio Tomahawk and Wargames Foundry. I recently finished painting up a column of Azande, "African Kingdoms" in Congo!, and talked Jim into venturing down with some of his collection to do a play through. Congo! is a skirmish set, with opposing forces called columns led by 2 or more characters, embarking on missions nicely laid out in sheets that mimic period newspapers.

Our mission had my force, angered by the teachings of a missionary nearby, descending on a Forest Tribe village to (hopefully) spirit him away, and possibly grab a little plunder along the way. A portion of the villagers were out hunting at the start, so we should be able to get up close before their mass numbers started to tell. But things started rockily, Jim got to place one unit in the village, and then additional units where he rolled a 6. He managed to roll 3 6s for 6 units, and so the unsuspecting village turned out to be more of a trap!

Congo uses a clever card-based activation sequence, where each player has a set of 7 identical cards, each with a variety of actions on them, and an initiative value at the top. The lower initiative cards offer more actions, but whoever plays the higher initiative card gets to execute his first. For a turn each player selects 3 cards, then they act in 3 rounds, each round having each player secretly choosing a card from their remaining cards, and then revealing them simultaneously. This leads to a lot of drama, agonizing over what you want to do, and whether you can afford to let your opponent take his actions first, to gain a higher number of actions.

Actions are to move (and charge if you are in range), shoot (includes reloading, we both had muskets that needed to be reloaded before shooting again...), or influence. Influence actions allow you to either force a terror test on your opponent, or to rally one of your units, by rolling to remove stress tokens. Stress tokens are an interesting mechanic, you can gain tokens from melee outcomes, being shot by muskets, or being the target of a influence action by your opponent (even including witchdoctors and various "spells" that your troops might be wary of...) When you receive a token it is drawn randomly from a cup, and they have varying effects - reducing your shooting, melee or movement, or causing you to panic. Once a unit has 4 it is no longer able to act, other than rally. Very clever!

The Village Was Surrounded by Areas of Dense Foliage

The Villagers Repel My First Assault

Movement is quite simple also, the game uses measuring sticks (supplied along with the tokens when you but the rules), movement being an "S" stick (10cm, about 4"); or 2 S sticks if you "pick up the pace" and don't get within 10cm of an opponent (unless you're charging). Terrain does not slow you down, but unless you are scouts it can contain some nasty things, so enter at your own risk.

Shooting also uses measuring sticks, assegais and Pygmy bows shoot "M" (20cm, roughly 8"), while other firearms shoot "L" (30cm, roughly 12"). Simple, and very easy to pick up. Combat, either melee or shooting, uses variable dice to reflect unit quality/skill. You roll a die for each figure in the unit, with any roll of a 5+ being a success, but your unit may be rolling d6s, d8s or d10s, depending on its profile. Simple and easy to pick up, but someone needs to explain to me why my Fanatical Warrior Women (d10s in combat) were consistently beaten by smaller or equal size units rolling d6s...

Influence actions use the unit's, or the target's if it is directed at an enemy, bravery characteristic. Again you roll a number of dice, d6 or better, trying to score a 5+. Each success allows you to remove a stress token, while each enemy failure causes them to draw one. This mechanic nicely reflects the superstitious nature of "warfare" during this era, very nicely done.

The rules include force lists for 4 forces - White Men Expeditions, African Kingdoms, Forest Tribes and Zanzibaris. Units range from 3-6 figures, and a 70 point column (force) only requires roughly 25-35 figures. Several companies have released figure sets for the rules, including Wargames Foundry - my force was simply a Foundry African Kingdoms box set painted up appropriately. So it is a very easy game to get into, although the system works fine with larger forces and I'm already thinking of collecting more factions and expanding to 100 points or more.

My Warrior Women Receive a "Terror" Stress Token

My Married Warrios Approach From the South

So how did the game go, you may ask? It was an overwhelming success - we quickly picked up the rules mechanics, although there is a lot to the strategy around how you utilize your units and characters to best effect. And we completed our first game in roughly 60-70 minutes of game time, despite needing to check the rules a few times to ensure that we were doing things correctly. I suspect we could do our next game in a little over 30 minutes, which is great.

The game result? Errm, Jim almost completely annihilated me. My chief and his unit of young warriors were annihilated trying to secure the village, my warrior women consistently failed to do anything productive (even when trying to loot the village I could only succeed in giving Jim extra Totem cards..), and he easily managed to move the offending missionary away to safety. My best unit turned out to be my musketmen, who actually managed to kill something (a Pygmy archer unit), although they couldn't seem to reload quickly enough... It was hilarious, quick and great fun! I'll definitely be doing more with Congo!, highly recommended.

My Best Performing Unit - the Musketmen

Shooting at Units Around the Village

Jim's Units Now Hold the Village Uncontested

Death of My Chieftain - Argh!

My Elite Warrior Women Disappoint, Again

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