For a few tusks more (Crisis 1998)

At Crisis 1998, our gaming group a Darkest Africa game. Text below is recovered from our old site, and written in 1998. Most of the scenery and figures are still in our collection.

[The natives] took us to the top of a hill, overlooking what seemed like yet another unremarkable specimen in the long string of valleys and depressions we had passed in those fever-ridden months. But this was all but an unremarkable valley. For in the distance, where a lone tooth-shaped monolith of stone marked the top of a small rise, a faint white shimmering proclaimed the end of our search. There, scattered for miles around the monolith, lay the bleached skeletons of untold numbers of elephants like so many cavernous cathedrals in the sun. After so long a journey, after so many deprivations, injuries and ilnesses, we had finally reached our goal: the legendary elephant graveyard, that elusive place where every elephant goes to die and rest its' weary bones...
-- Extract from the diary of H.M. Killburne, explorer
An overview of the game table. In front is the Congo, with a branch leading to lake Walfriede behind Fritz' villa. The upper right third of the board is taken up by jungle. Terrain credits: jungle - scratch built by Bart Dils; native village - Village Green and scratch built, by Alan Huyton and Bart Vetters; terrain boards - scratch built by Bart Vetters; villa - scratch built by Bart Vetters.

The story line, or How the Situation Came to Be

 For a few tusks more takes place around 1890 or so, in the rainforests bordering the Congo river somewhere between Stanley Pool and Stanley Falls (guess who named these features), present-day Kinshasha and Kisangani in what was then the Congo Free State.

Two explorers, Horace Maurice Killburne (Butch to his friends) and Molto Porchese (has no friends) have spent close to a year romping around the jungle in search of the legendary elephant graveyard, when they are finally led to the place by a few natives from a local tribe. Upon discovery of this vast hoard of priceless ivory, the intrepid explorers sent out a number of their most trusted askaris to go ahead of the returning expedition and send out cable telegrams to several international governments detailing their discovery and offering to sell the location of the graveyard to the highest bidder. After gathering a fair number of tusks as samples, they themselves then departed on the long journey back to the Congo river and civilisation (of sorts).

 Some time later, one group of the askaris that were sent ahead reached at the villa of Fritz von Trapstein-Hohenschlieffen, the colonial administrator for the Lake Walfriede area. Knowing to grab an opportunity when it presents itself (that's how he ended up in Congo in the first place, but that's another story), Fritz immediately emprisoned the askaris, destroyed the telegram and set about the business of pursuading his prisoners to reveal the location of the graveyard. However, when even the ultimate threat of handing them over to the neighbouring Ngurmé tribe - without garlic - did not overly impress the askaris, Fritz had to resort to a last, truly inhumane tactic, one which he normally would not wish upon even his worst enemy: he showed them a picture of his wife Walfriede (in fact, when the Geneva convention was drawn up several years later, the signatories demanded inclusion of a paragraph explicitely forbidding this very practice)

Unfortunately, this tactic backfired on Fritz when, upon being shown the photograph in question, pure terror lent the askaris super human strength, resulting in them breaking the ropes binding them and escaping screaming into the jungle (they were last seen halfway up Mount Kilimanjaro, showing no signs of slowing down). Things went from bad to worse when word reached Fritz that a second group of askaris had reached another station further downstream, and had managed to get their telegram sent out to the world...

Several weeks later, as hastily gathered expeditions from France and Britain were converging on the Lake Walfriede area, Butch and Molto were finally nearing the Congo river again, when they ran into the Ngurmé tribe, who unfortunately for them had a major state holiday - with accompanying feast - planned for the very near future. To keep a long story short, the Ngurmé, not impressed by the meagre offerings the two explorers could give them (they had exhaused their supply of garlic several weeks before), promptly grabbed the two with the intention of making them the main attraction of their upcoming feast

This is the situation at the start of the game: two expeditions are bearing down upon the lake Walfriede area, hoping to outbid (or, if necessary, outfight) each other for the location of the elephant graveyard. Unfortunately, the very people that found the graveyard are being held captive for culinary purposes by a neighbouring tribe of natives. To make the picture complete, there is also Fritz von Trappstein-Hohenschlieffen who will undoubtedly will want his say in the whole situation....
Will the elephant graveyard remain peacefull and undisturbed? Will the British or the French go to war over it? Will they be bringing garlic to the Ngurmé? What will happen to Butch and Molto? Will the Ngurmé have a good barbecue? And, the most pressing question of all, will Fritz show the picture of Walfriede to anyone? Stay tuned and all will be revealed... (well, maybe we'll keep the picture under wraps).

Game and rules

The game

Initially, the game will be a struggle between the European factions on one hand (French, British, Force Publique) and the Ngurmé on the other, with one side trying to free the two explorers and what remains of their expedition, and the other trying to keep them safely under wraps for later enjoyment (with a piece of garlic, no doubt). However, all three of the European factions will want to be the one to free the explorers and pursuade them to reveal the location of the elephant graveyard, and this will be in the individual players' briefings, so hopefully this will lead to fighting among the Europeans as well, and possibly even open the way for previously unheard of alliances between a European faction and the NGurmé

For a few tusks more will be a skirmish type game, with the different factions consisting of a handfull of figures (between ten and twenty for the European factions and twice that for the natives). This allows us to have a few individual characters, which in turn allows some scope for role-playing during the game, which we find makes for a much more memorable and enjoyable game.

The game map

The game will be played on a 2mx2m board, featuring the River Congo on one edge, Lake Walfriede, and a large jungle area covering over half of the board. The natives will start the game anywhere in the jungle, while the Europeans either arrive by steamer on the Congo or start in Fritz' villa. Most of the scenery and terrain is currently being built, and more information on the techniques used in the construction will be posted in this project's pages as soon as possible

The rules

As this game is planned for debut at a convention, the rules used for this game have to be fast playing, simple and fun skirmish rules: they have to satisfy the triple-F requirement - fast, furious and fun. Possibilities include home-brew rules, Fire & Steel, Rencounter, or the rules published in the September 1998 issue from Wargames Illustrated. As it currently stands, the latter will probably be used, as it is by far the simplest and fastest of the lot, but still has enough scope for tactics.

Battle report - Crisis '98

Crisis '98 is the yearly miniature wargaming convention organized by Tin Soldiers Antwerp. It featured a dozen games, a painting competition and an extensive assortment of local and international traders. It was very well organized in a cosy location.

Schild & Vriend Leuven, (we) decided a couple of months ago to run a Darkest Afrika game, in particular Bart V., Alan and Bart D.. Why they chose this setting remains a mystery to me, though Bart V.'s standing order on the Foundry range might have something to do with it. Or maybe he gets a kick out of painting half naked natives. Bart D., on the other hand, sees everything as a big conspiracy to get him away from his girlfriend. He had to build and paint all the jungle and believe me, it was a very good job which he finished on time and turned out to be one of the most distinguishing features of the show, admired by all! In my opinion it was Alan who tricked them into doing Darkest Africa: he has something with uniforms. Of course, the fact that Alan himself is British and takes his tea with milk, might have something to do with this choice as well...

The terrain layout

The game was played on a 2x2 meter playing surface with a rather muddy river flowing at the south edge, branched by a little pool. The villa was situated in the corner formed by the branch and the river. The jungle was at the opposite corner.

The Opposing Forces

There are 4 distinguished forces : the French, British, Force publique and the Natives.

French Forces
The French had 2 squads of 6 figures each, a very old machinegun jamming most of the time and a supply wagon/mobile garden which was very important. At least for the french. They started at the north-western edge of the board, exposing them a little to fire from the villa but the 'safety' of the jungle was not far away.

British Forces
The British forces also had 2 squads of 5 figures each, plus a squad of marines. They started at the south-eastern edge of the board, just landed from the Congo river.

Force Publique aka ´Les Belges´
The Force Publique consisted of 2 squads of 6 figs each, being a bunch of Askaris combined with some Europeans, all in different uniforms, but with the common factor of having no discipline whatsoever. But they held the villa! Their leader was Governor Von Trappstein Hohenschliefen, flanked by his lovely mistress (well, one of them at least).

The Natives
Many were they, strong was their spirit! Bows, spears and old muskets they had. Spice and good cooks. And a couple of prisoners to eat! Ah, heaven was near, but...

The Battle

Bart V. and Graham chose to follow their natural instincts and played the Natives.
Bart D and Alan politely demanded in impeccable English to be British.
Richard (a Dutch participator) eagerly wanted to be ´Les Belges´ while Derk (another Dutch participator - both are members from the Murphy's Heroes club) and Maarten Logghe went for ´Du vin, du pain et du boursain´. Unfortunately the scenario did not provide these...

The British immediately rushed for the jungle, covered on their left side by a hill. Apparently unafraid of the Natives they closed in dense formation. In the meanwhile the Belgian governor (whose name is too long to write down everytime he gets mentioned) followed his ´gut instinct´ and remained safely behind his wall and took potshots at the peaceloving French. The French themselves tried to get into cover as quickly as possible, unfortunately 2 brave (maybe stupid too) soldiers answered the Belgian fire which cost them their life.

The British forces where now cruising to the jungle without encountering any opposition at all. In fact things went so well their commander ordered a tea-break! (This, and many other interesting events during the game, where the result of random event cards. Other events included natives taking a liking to the British red uniforms and a British commander suddenly loosing all interest in life and drowning himself in the Congo.)

On the other side of the jungle the Natives were suddenly all over the place when the French found the brown color in the cover they´ve run for was not merely bark. In other words, they were totally taken by surprise and before they knew it, the poor French had only one squad left. Beware the arrows from the jungle! In the meantime, Fritz had no one in sight, so deemed the place safe to get into the jungle himself, accompanied by a healthy amount of firepower, of course.

Back to the camping British (do we love clichés or what?), sitting there around their little fire holding their tea kettles - they got the surprise of their life when suddenly a whole gaggle of Natives stormed out of their cover crying Zimbabar M´bwele Arakwel!, which roughly translates as nice uniforms (another random event card there...). Sir Picklebone-Herring (the British commander), hereupon calmly ordered his man to put aside their tea, take their gun, aim it and (quote) shoot the little buggers (unquote). If it wouldn´t have been for a lot of soldiers disobeying and blithely continuing to slurp tea (apparently, it's the milk that does it), no Native would have seen the jungle again. As it was, they took a healthy amount of casualties and quickly dispersed back into the jungle.

On the other side of the board, the last French squad pulled itself together after weathering the native ambush and struck back with a vengeance. A few impressive boo ha´s did not seem to help, but the machine gun proved pretty convincing! Then, after a wild close combat between Ntembé Ntembé (Native subchief) and a rather anonymous flagbearer, ´Les Trois Couleurs´ went down, spelling near disaster for the remaining French. But in this dire moment of need, only a true commander can save the day and that´s what Jean-Amethiste Villeneuve de Sure de la Comte D´Alembert (le deuxième) did. He unsheated his saber, slashed the tired Chief, and so recaptured the flag!

After this ´tour de force´, the remaining natives fled into the jungle, never to be seen again (well, they all look alike of course, so one can never be sure). At this time, the sympathetic Belgian governor Fritz, suddenly decided he liked natives more than French, surrounded the French troops with his own askaris and proceeded to blast them to little pieces just to show what a good fellow he was.

Sir Picklebone-Herring on the other hand, tried to exploit (well that has to be seen) the advantage he had gained and immediately followed the Natives into the jungle where NTboné Tboné (Native Chief) was trying to regroup his men. What he said will remain a mystery but it definately worked (probably something to do with garlic). Native fortune was decisively turning for the better when a canoe-load of natives, back from an expedition against a neighbouring tribe showed up on the Congo river and quickly proceeded to land behind the British, thus cutting off their retreat. On the French side, and fortunately for them, the prudence of the Governor gave them enough time to take a somewhat more defensive position. The machinegun at one end to cover the open area and the remaining intact squad on the other end, the mobile garden firmly parked between the two, they grimly awaited the next turn of events, but their situation was starting to look hopeless.
At this point it was becoming clear that the natives were not the underdeveloped cannibals every European took them for: it became apparent they had an aliance with the Governor! (which is in itself maybe an argument pro natives-being-underdeveloped)

An observant sergeant on the British side had already noticed that the natives were particularly under represented on the Belgian side of the jungle, but his commander had immediately reprimanded him for thinking for himself. Anyhow, the Belgians got the aid of a couple of natives, which heavily demoralized the French. Fortunately the native/Belgian plan had some weaknesses. Well, only one actualy: Von Trappstein Hohenschlieffen himself...

Fritz made a capital mistake, as he foolishly accompanied a squad which took a leisurely stroll across some open ground in range of the French machinegun... On the other side of the French hedgehog position, though, they were on the receiving end of a volley of several askari's muskets. All in all, those were some bloody minutes!

Free from having to bother about the French, all of the native force was now flung at the British. Suddenly Sir Picklebone-Herring didn´t know where to shout orders first: he was swamped by natives, natives here, natives there, natives everywhere! Natives with spears, Natives with muskets, Natives with bows, poisoned arrows, non-poisoned arrows.... One of his sergeants even commited suicide (by performing the impressive act of dashing down to the Congo in mid-battle and drowning himself, but not before adding some milk to the water - the British are civilized after all) after enduring the fearsome native cries, before the first casualty fell! (random event cards surely add some spice to the game (-:)


  • The three remaining French with their commander, flag, food and machinegun & crew, fled back to where they came from. They stole a canoe, ignored the lovely fauna, captured the empty British boat and sailed home to Paris, where they were received as heroes.
  • The British Forces didn´t know where to shoot first, and fought of a lot of natives, but to no avail - There were just too many of them!.
  • Chief Ntboné Tboné handed over the map of the ancient elephant graveyard (remember that´s what it was all about in the first place) to Sergeant Van Bommelberg, the new Governor, while their cooks were spicing up the captured Europeans, of which they now had a more than adequate supply. They had food for months and lived happily ever after (or at least until the next game)!

The making of a jungle

One of the prime features of our Darkest Africa game was the splendid jungle (if we say so ourselves) that graced a large area of the gaming board. This jungle was built by club member Bart Dils. Here's his comments on how to build a jungle, and the relation of the meaning of life thereto.

For starters I have to tell something about Bart V., our high-lead-contamination-risk-member. The man has two characteristics that make him the perfect wargames subguru. Namely one, although his room is literally stockpiled with unpainted figures, he still can't resist buying new piles and is continually exploring new periods. The second, he has some strange attraction towards deadlines. Normal people paint their army and then set up a game. Bart on the other hand sets up a game, realises that he still has to paint a 100 figures for it and then spends all day and night painting them. The basic result of the two is that he has a fast growing supply of painted figures (and an even faster growing one of unpainted figures) (Enough already. People might think I'm weird - BV (-: ). For a few tusks more is no different from the others. The idea slipped into Bart's head reading an issue of Wargames Illustrated or the new Foundry Catalogue, whichever came first. Anyway, he convinced us to build up this game for the Crisis '98 wargames convention in Antwerp. I, the innocent terrain virgin, was given the important task of building 2 square meters of jungle. Being the ignorant fool I was then, I agreed ((Delegating tasks is a fine art - BV (-: ).

How I made it: A manual on how to survive jungle building

Step I: Get Help!!!!

 I had no idea whatsoever about how a jungle is supposed to look like (there aren't many around in these parts and the kind you see in movies seemed quite impossible to miniaturise). The only thing I knew was that jungle consists of two parts, namely the dense ground covering plants (the big leavy ones) and the high canopy trees. Luckily, there was an article on how to make a jungle in a recent Wargames Illustrated. Hooray we have a manual!

Step II: Get the material!!!!

The jungle consists of several different pieces, which are constructed using some or all of: fake leaves, cork tiles or cork underlays, chewing gum, the foamy stuff ladies use to make bouquets (It's called oasis in Dutch, if that helps - BV), acrylic paint (mainly various shades of green and brown), lots of glue (I think I tried the whole pattex range), pollyfilla plaster, flock, small brown rope, lichen, 6mm round wooden sticks, copper wire, wood in a tube, a wooden board (cut up in pieces so it can be used as canopy tree bases) and a partridge in a pear tree...

The fake leaves were found in a florists shop specialised in the hobby of bouquet making. You walk up to the nice lady behind the counter and you ask for fake leaves, the small kind. She'll probably ask you what you are gonna use it for. After you have explained to the nice lady that you are constructing a jungle to play in it with toy soldiers, she will either think you have escaped from the madhouse and will call the police, or politely smile and sell you the desired items with only a hint of a strange look - ah, the joys of wargaming... Other leaves used were plastic aquarium plants which I found in the DIY shop (I tried a place that sells tropical fish but the manager nearly shot me because "one does not use plastic plants in one's aquarium". Trying to explain that I didn't even had an aquarium was futile). Yet another heap of leaves (with the best price/quality) was found in a store that specialises in windowdressing [... no, not that kind of window-dressing!] (don't go during the winter as they don't have any then, go for spring and summer). The flock and lichen were available in the local train hobby shop. All other material came from the local hardware store. A thing on green paint, there are usually two broad families of shades: yellowish green and whitish green. Use the first kind as the second tends to look unnatural on plants (he means fake plants - any paint looks unnatural on real plants - BV).

Step III: Put it all together!!!!

Instead of a detailed description on how to construct it, I'll just give a list of the materials I used and how I used them. For a more detailed description I suggest you pick up the WI issue alluded to above (issue 127ish) or e-mail me if you have any questions. As always there is no "one and only way" to make a jungle. The method I used was one primarily designed for mass production (deadline deadline!!!!) meaning that the end result could have been a lot better given more time.
Corc tileLarge base for dense plant areas
Foamy stuff/chewing gumTo stick the leaves in
Flock/static grassTo cover the base
Wooden boardCut to pieces to make canopy tree bases
6 mm round wooden dowelCut to about 20-25cm long, used as the trunk
Copper wireCovered with "wood-from-the-tube" to make branches
PlasterTo cover the base of the pieces and fake some trunk texture on the trees
LichenUsed as the tree foliage and general dress-up
StringCovered with flock to make creeper vines hanging from the trees

Pictures of the Game

Just before the French got themselves ambushed. They are advancing towards the jungle in a nice inverted V formation, with the mitrailleuse at the apex and sheltering the command group and mobile garden inside. The right leg of the V has taken some casualties from sniping fire from the villa to the right, beyond this photograph. In the jungle, the natives about to spring the ambush can just be made out.
The British advance towards the jungle in close order, unimpressed by the looming greenery (and dice) ahead.
Overview of our Darkest Africa game. Basically you see a whole bunch of Dutch people enjoying themselves. And believe me - the competition between them was fierce! BTW, the person in the Schild & Vriend T-shirt, fanatically clutching a bag of cotton wool, is Maarten trying to instill some order into the proceedings.
Tthe creators of our Darkest Africa game taking a break. From left to right : Bart V., Bart D. (both modestly hiding behind a tree) and Alan (unsuccessfully trying to hide behind his breakfast)
The remaining French load up on a canoe and are here seen moving downstream towards the British dhow. They reached it eventually and made it back to the safety (well...) of Paris.
The initial French setup. Visible are the two squads of sailors, the Mitrailleuse, the mobile garden and the HQ group consisting of the commander and a flag bearer. The natives dimly visible through the leaves were not actually there, but were just placed there for visual appeal, as they started the game in hidden positions. Also visible is the edge of Lake Walfriede and a native canoe, which during the games played was used by every side but the natives.
The result of those bloody minutes: through the smoke, a number of French casualties can be dimly made out. The second surviving squad of French soldiers was no more...
An NGurmé war party returns by canoe to cut off the British retreat. Also visible in the distance is the dhow the British arrived in, and which would later transport various other Europeans back home. The dhow and canoes are Village Green models, supplied and painted by Alan Huyton.
In response to the oncoming British, chief NTBoné TBoné leads the elite warrior spearmen out of the village towards the edge of the jungle.
The British are about to be set upon by gaggles of natives, including the spearmen seen moving out some pictures ago.
The villa. On the roof, Fritz is enjoying the view with his mistress (the wife's still in Germany). Along the rear wall, a squad of askaris is preparing to be bad news for the French. The hippo was innocent.


  1. Nice report. But what's kinda creepy or scary or something is the fact that this game took place almost 20 years ago. As my father used to say, "The days they go by so slow, the years they go by so fast..."

    1. Chris,

      Did you happen to participate in this game?