Having scan-read through my recently purchased "Congo" rules by "Studio Tomahawk", I'm now in a position to give my initial thoughts on these rules, but near in mind that I haven't actually played a game even though I have read many great AARs of the scenarios I do wonder if I'll ever get the chance to play one as I see no way in which the game can be played solo !
The rules come in hard-back a little over 100 full colour glossy pages and include four double-sided separate sheets of scenarios, giving 8 scenarios. Additionally there is a sheet of die-cut counters and playing aids, plus a pack of cards that make up four separate decks.
|One of the many beautiful double page spreads|
It all makes for a wonderfully colourful set of rules with excellently painted figures, terrain etc. for the reader to drool over.
This bounty of coloured photographs is a two edged sword imo with more than a dozen two-page spreads and probably as many full single pages of photographs, it doesn't half bulk-out the page count.
Even within the rules themselves there are additional photographs alongside those that illustrate the rules in question.
|Single page photographs throughout ! (no boat rules that I could find!)|
The rules themselves are well laid out in a way that I could easily relate to - Intro showing turn order, the use of the many decks and counters etc (all to be explained in detail later) ; Movement; shooting; melee; morale (though it's called stress/ terror etc.) and various sections explaining the effects of a whole gamut of other things such as terrain, animals, buildings and so on.
The rules are simple enough and they use D8s and D10s alongside the mode familiar D6s, which imo is a good thing !
|Clearly laid out examples, plus bonus superfluous photo|
The rule explanations are mostly unambiguous and aren't affected unduly
by the occasional obvious typo. The table size is originally described
as being 72" x 48" though from reading the scenarios it was obvious that
this was a major error, as given the movement distance there were some
little chance of antagonists coming into contact! A quick trip to
"Studio Tomahawk's" forums solved the 'problem', the playing area is a
mere 48" x 36"!
I don't know whether I like the 'humour' in the rules or not (they're harmless enough), but do, at times, seem to treat the reader as a small child (but maybe that's just me being old and grumpy)
|One of the smaller of four decks of cards|
The game itself is a skirmish game, on a small playing area with two dozen figures or so on each side, limited turns and a lot of cardboard (be it counters or cards). This is a format that has become very familiar over the last few years - not one I'm particularly fond of, but I can see the attraction of the cross-over between miniature games and boardgames as being a successful format.
|Part of one of the Army lists |
As has become the norm in many of this 'style of game' there has to be a points system and a force listing for each of the protagonists to choose their forces from, whether they be a single figure or a small group (ranging anywhere between three to six figures). The small groups always irk me, whether it be vikings, natives or whatever - why do I have to have three groups of four Askari rather than being able to group them into a single unit of a dozen ? It is of course a game mechanic, but not one I can say I fully understand.
The forces are called, (appropriate solely for the white men's expedition) "Columns" rather than "Leagues, Gangs, Casts, Posses or whatever but why they never seem to be in columns in indeed a mystery!
Thematically, these rules imo aren't strong, as the forces involves could just as easily be Indians versus settlers in Canada, replacing the Jungle with Forest, Savannah with grassland, gorillas with Bears and Lions with Cougars and there are probably many other examples too. I was disappointed (just a bit) that I could only spot three possible examples of animal encounters, Gorillas, Lions and Crocodiles ! What about Hippos, Rhinos, Elephants, Wild Boars and all the other rather dangerous beasts ?
As for the rules themselves, there are many 'interesting' mechanics - movement uses 4" sticks, measuring from the front of a figure to the back of a figure! It also seems that one cannot move less than four this four inch move, which I reckon could leads to some peculiar situations ("Damn, I cant reach that blocking terrain - it's too close". Overall though I can see no problems with playing against an opponent without argument or a different interpretation of the rules.
I was disappointed in just a few areas, other than the lack of varied fauna mentioned above. firstly there being no "campaign" element though this may well be rectified with the additional campaign book “MUNGO MAH LOBEH” using the experiences of Mary Kingsley's adventures in Africa (I'd accept one going spare, but will probably have to wait for my birthday money to buy one !)
Overall there is a lot going for this book, with many good features I haven't mentioned and little to really complain about (save for the price), the rules are simple but do have an element of skill with your card use alongside the usual placement of forces etc.
If you've found amusement in any one of the other many 'fun' skirmish games (and there are a lot out there) , with a dining table sized playing area, few figures and over in an hour or two, then you'll probably find this is probably your cup of tea too !
From my viewpoint, it certainly is a game that I'd love to play even without it's lack of a strong thematic element it can still be played in true Victorian Adventurer fashion by Gentlemen (and the fairer sex) against the Noble Savage (ahem).
As I've been collecting a lot of suitable figures for "Jimland", I do have enough figures to field a "Column" or two but I now have the excuse to buy some Zanzibaris, Askaris, Ruga Ruga, Bakuchis, Ngonis etc. etc.
In other News I've been sploshing paint on my Egyptians and British, bound for the Sudan, as much as time light and real-life has allowed. My hospital visit resulted in another course of tablets (take one a day for the next six months when we'll see you again) and another day's paining lost! It also seemed that time must be put aside to stock up on three weeks' of food for the upcoming holiday when shops will be shut for a whole day ! Plus, it seems I am obliged to buy presents, which means yet another day lost to shopping !
That's it then for yet another week I hope that there was something of interest in my ramblings about Congo and I'll try to answer any questions or queries of my views on these rules, so as always your comments are both welcomed and appreciated.