First game of Rifles & Spears

We ran our first game of Rifles & Spears last night with great fun and success. A total of six players (two completely new to the Muskets & Tomahawks rules system) played and I directed the game as a GM.  With a lot of my Foundry Darkest Africa figures just primed, I used my standby miniatures consisting mostly of Old Glory that were modified to suit the period and region. In one case, I had to use a Belgian Congo flag for one of the two Standard Bearers but nobody complained!

The scenario takes place during Abushiri’s Revolt in 1889 in German East Africa. It was based around the traditional “Garrison under attack with a relief force enroute” situation.

The Arab forces included:

  • Leader (Motivated & Charismatic)
  • Heavily-Armed Askari unit (12) armed with Breechloaders x 2
  • Askari unit (12) armed with muskets x 2
  • Smoothbore field gun with 4 trained crew x 2

Accompanying the Arabs was a small contingent of Ngoni consisting of:

  • Leader (Guerilla)
  • Senior Regiment (12) – Savages
  • Junior Regiments (12) x 2

The DOAG garrison was manned by:

  • Leader and his gunbearer (Authoritarian)
  • Standard Bearer
  • Wissmanntruppe Askaris (12)
  • African Askari (12) x 2
  • Maxim MG team

The relief force entered on turn two on the river and was composed of:

  • Leader (Tactician & Authoritarian)
  • Standard Bearer
  • Naval Landing Troops (Seebatalion) (12)
  • Maxim MG Team.
  • Gunboat with two light field guns

The Garrison was provided with some barricades and deployed in those as well as inside some of the buildings. They did not have enough troops to form a complete perimeter. The Wissmanntruppe were positioned on one flank with the Maxim covering the other.   The German players decided not to use most of the barricades provided but instead chose to deploy most of their units in or on the buildings. This prevented them from using their Drilled trait and the consequential bonuses afforded from a Firing Line but overall worked as a sound strategy.

The Arab/Ngoni players decided to deploy in a wide arc around village with the intention to focus on a specific point in the defenses.

The game moved quickly forward with the players getting used to the new approach of holding and playing “action cards” instead of drawing one at a time.

The Arab/Ngoni forces were able to use the tall grass to move into position and began to shell the village with one of their field guns. Just as they were poised to begin the assault, the German gunboat appeared and was able to spot an Arab gun from its gunsmoke and put fire onto it forcing the crew to run from the gun. The Arab player had placed it on a rocky hill but didn’t realize that it could be spotted from the river.


The other Arab gun was moved in behind their infantry causing it not be able to fire until the friendly units moved out of the way causing a further reduction of pre-assault firing against the garrison troops.

Undeterred, the Arab/Ngoni players moved up to attack using the Ngoni forces initially to block the fire against the Arab units and then charged them against the garrison barricades. The move up to attack the village was hampered by bad reaction rolls with many “flight” results that pushed them back and rendered them useless until the next game turn. The Maxim MG was used to great effectiveness and pushed back the attacks on the northern flank.

Eventually, Arab/Ngoni units managed to put enough fire on the village to drive the MG unit and several Askari units back away from the barricades which allowed several units to enter into melee against the defenders.

A series of hand to hand combats occurred between an Askari unit behind the barricades and an Ngoni Junior Regiment unit. The result was quite cinematic and culminated in the Ngoni leader rushing forward and being the sole combatant against 4 Askaris. The Ngoni were eventually wiped out but this made way for an Arab unit to move up and fire at the Askaris killing the remaining survivors.

On the northern flank, Ngoni spearman had pushed the Askari back and just two troopers remained to cover that side. A unit of Ngoni with just three spearman vaulted the barricade and entered the village preparing to kill the remaining colonial troops on that side. Just then, the Maxim MG was finally able to activate allowing them to pivot the gun and kill the Ngoni that were poised to hit them on their next activation.

As the perimeter continued to collapse, the German Collonial officer and standard bearer moved into the building occupied by the Wissmanntruppe Askaris in preparation of a last stand. At that moment, the German gunboat arrived at the dock and began to deploy the regulars against the advancing Arab forces.

Realizing that they didn’t have enough manpower remaining, the Arab/Ngoni quickly retreated from the village knowing that they had come very close but failed to destroy an important garrison.

As with all first games using new rules we missed some important modifiers here and there but learned the nuances of this fantastic variant. We are planning to run this scenario again soon to both learn the rules better and to tweak the set up as I am planning on running this at a convention in the fall.

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Napoleon’s Battles and an Old Friend

While attending The Ohio State University in Columbus in the late 80’s, I was fortunate to meet many fellow wargamers. Some of them I’m able to game with to this day. I met John Haverstock at OSUs CAPCON gaming convention in 1986. He had a massive micro-armor set up that was gorgeously painted with excellent terrain – quite ahead of its time. His collection included both WWII and Modern (US vs Soviet) and he used a variation of Tractics rules. After college, I didn’t stay in contact and I drifted from wargaming as my interests switched to playing rock music in a band. 

The rise of social media has allowed me to reconnect with many friends from the past and not long ago I reconnected with John. Of course we started chatting about gaming and he mentioned not having played a Wargame in ten years. In addition to having amassed a large set of Age of Reason naval miniatures, he described having painted a large Napoleonic 15mm collection too. We planned a game of “Nappies” to resolve John’s gaming drought. 

Yesterday I made the 2 hour drive to Marion, Ohio to a church where he had a very large board set up (8′ x 10′).  His game mat was made from tan felt and he’d spray-painted fields, roads and waterways which worked quite well for the period and scale. As always, the miniatures were superbly painted. 

John used Napolean’s Battles as the rule set for the game. These were published by Avalon Hill in 1989 and used the same AH layout which reminds me of government tax code. Once we got the hang of the basic rules, the game moved along quickly enough. 

Of course we paused often to talk about old times and friends so it lasted far longer than a standard game. John had brought a buddy who was new to gaming and so we also took the time to explain concepts and tactics.  Overall, it was a great time and we’re planning a get together in July to try his miniatures version of Wooden Ships & Iron Men. 

With John not having games much since the mid-nineties, it gave me a chance to realize how the hobby has changed considerably. Rules design has moved from the lengthy game phases and exhaustive resolution charts that were popular in the 70s and 80s to far more streamlined designs.   With this new approach that favors ease of play versus detailed modeling, I don’t really think we’ve lost much in historical realism. The games move along much faster, are more fun and easier and haven’t lost any of the strategy and tactics elements. 

Getting Started

One of my favorite sayings is “any day spent pushing lead and rolling dice is a good day…”. I thought that might make a good title for this site.  It’s not really my intention to create a blog that has wide readership.  The purpose of this site is to document some games that have been played, discuss rules and post pictures of miniatures and terrain.

Our gaming group (East Dayton Gamers) plays a lot of FIW using Muskets and Tomahawks rules.   Here’s a pic of some of my French figures and some terrain.  I’ll try to get more pics posted soon.

cdlm