Sunday 4 July 2021

Wilkinson's Campaign - Swampland Outpost

The year is 1881, it's the dry season in British Equatoria and the drums speak of trouble in Wasimba country. It looks as though the newly- arrived Major Wilkinson will have to lead an expedition against the Arab slavers who have erupted into the north of the territory. Wilkinson's base camp is situated on the eastern bank of the River Bakambo, well to the south of the trouble spot, which is many days march upstream. 

So begins our long planned for campaign, expanding on ideas first published in Wargames Illustrated (Issue 270 - April 2010, pms 98- 107), but adapted from In the Heart of Africa to use The Men Who Would Be Kings ruleset. 

Wilkinson's expedition is well-equipped, with enough supplies to last the duration of the expedition. Indeed, Wilkinson was so confident in his planning that he chose not to barter with local villagers who offered their wares at his base camp the previous evening. The villagers did warn Wilkinson that the slavers may be closer than first thought...

Scenario rules for Swampland Outpost are outlined here

The early morning mist still envelops the river as Wilkinson begins his march north. Ahead lies a small stream and beyond, what appears to be an area of swampland. 

"Terrain invariably influences tactics but in extremes of terrain the influence itself may be extreme. Charles S. Grant, Scenarios for Wargames, Swampland Action, pls. 85 - 86).  

The ground is divided into three areas. The far flank is thick swampy jungle that is mostly impassable, but with a narrow track that winds its way through the swamp. Two streams flow from the jungle into the Bakambo. Between the streams is an area of broken, swampy ground with restricted movement for troops in most areas, but normal movement on the tracks. Land beyond the streams to the north and the south is firm with good going. 

A small garrison force of slavers is protecting this approach to the tembe. Attack is considered unlikely as the approach is through thick swampy jungle and with few tracks. As Wilkinson approaches, a unit of "wangwana" freemen armed with antiquated muskets are on patrol. Unknown to the Major, three other small units of Ruga Ruga are asleep in the huts. [Rules for slaver units can be found here].

Five swamp areas are located between the streams. These are considered to be difficult and dangerous. The streams are obstacles and two pockets of jungle are passable, albeit also difficult and dangerous. Remaining jungle and areas of thick scrub are all impassible. Ground between the swamps is firm and allows normal movement. There are two low hills topped by termite mounds and acacia trees. The hills block line of sight. 

Wilkinson leads his regulars across the first stream...

... and is quickly followed by units of Askari... 

... and young tribal warriors. 


The young warriors plunge into an area of swamp where they are plagued by clouds of midges. 

[In this scenario dangerous terrain requires a card to be drawn from either a jungle or swamp themed Traps and Hazards encounter deck. The midges temporarily reduce the discipline of the tribal unit, but this has no real impact so early in the game].

Unfortunately though, as the young warriors haul themselves from the swamp they disturb a rather bad tempered water buffalo. Luckily for the tribal unit, they are able to move at the double and disappear over a nearby hill. But the buffalo is enraged... 

[Normally, an entire field force is activated before play passes to the opposing side. However, in order to balance some of the scenarios in the campaign I modified this so that after a player rolls to activate a unit, play then passes to the other player and so forth. Any animals encountered during the campaign are controlled by the Arab player. Rules for wild animals are detailed here]. 

The buffalo charges the closest unit within its reach which just happens to be Wilkinson's unit of elite regulars! The regulars are taken by surprise and can barely defend themselves. 

As the buffalo withdraws back into the swamp, five men lie trampled on the ground. A unit of Askari on the far side of the stream see the commotion and raise their rifles. 

The buffalo falls into the swamp dead.


But all of the shouting, screaming and shooting has awoken one of the units of Ruga Ruga. Accompanied by their leader Nyungu (who according to his friends has a very pleasant manner) they stumble from their hut to see what the commotion is about. 

Nyungu does waste any time and quickly runs to another hut, screaming at the rest of his men to wake themselves. 

[We are using the 'Taking Command of Leaderless Troops' advanced rule on pg. 38. So the Ruga Ruga unit is now at full strength. Note that we are also using the 'One Leader' extra rules. Leaders are therefore represented by an extra figure that can be attached to a unit]. 

Wilkinson is accompanied on this expedition by Lt. Harris. The Lieutenant leads a unit of well-armed Askari across the stream and is quickly followed by another similarly equipped unit that is escorting Miss Jenkins. Wilkinson has agreed to allow Miss Jenkins to accompany the expedition while she returns to her father's mission. 

As Harris approaches an area of swamp he spies the enemy lurking close to a thicket on the opposite side of the far stream. His lads take aim and fire! 

The wangwana are peppered and lose three men. Fearing for their skins they dive for cover! 

Meanwhile, the young warriors have been running along the track between the stands of jungle and race over the brow of a low hill. They hurl their spears, but only a single Ruga Ruga falls to the ground. 

Somewhat unnerved by the blood curdling cries that accompanied the spears, Nyungu stands firm and orders his men to fire. A fearsome cloud of smoke explodes from his men's guns and five of the young warriors lie dead.   

As the bullets fly, Wilkinson's porters make their way steadily along the path. 

Seeing an opportunity, Harris leads his unit into an area of swamp. Suddenly a beast erupts from the reeds! As his men cower, Harris draws his revolver and with a well placed shot he drops the Kudu. Fresh bushmeat will be a welcome change. More shots ring out and more wangwana are felled. The wangwana attempt to rally but think better of the situation, and instead flee from the field of battle. 

Back near the huts, Nyungu's Ruga Ruga fire again and drop yet more of Wilkinson's young warriors. 

But Wilkinson is close behind and is men start firing as they come over the low hill. Steady firepower from the modern rifles takes its toll on the Ruga Ruga who start to fall away. 

Wilkinson is soon joined by his Askari, with porters jogging along behind. 

But Nyungu and his Ruga Ruga aren't finished yet and they let off another round of lead shot. A rather dazed young warrior looks around and finds he is now the last man standing from his unit of sixteen!  

The Askari rush across the stream and smash their way into one of the huts. Inside they find a small intricately carved bone... 

Hearing the cries from the far side of the swamp, Harris pushes onwards. But suddenly the ground beneath his feet turns into a deathtrap, quicksand! Harris and his men are forced to scramble back towards the shore, only to find their way blocked by a unit of Askari who seem intent on telling Miss Jenkins all about their passion for music... Unable to break free of the quicksand several of the Askari are sucked to their deaths. As the remainder of the unit push their way through their besotted comrades, they look about themselves and start to count heads. Where is the lieutenant!  

With a final volley, Wilkinson's men finish off the Ruga Ruga. The remaining slavers all run for their lives and flee the battlefield. Victory lies with Wilkinson. But at what cost? 

End of Game Wrap-Up!

At the end of the game, Wilkinson discarded a Cases of Ammunition card and it was then time for a head count. 

All of the slavers had fled the battlefield and Nyungu did not survive his post battle roll so was lost to the swamp. This means he will not be available as a leader in the final defence of the tembe. Despite inflicting heavy casualties on the young warriors, one man remained standing so no VP were awarded for destroying units. A total of 12 game turns were played and the slavers therefore gained a total of 6 VP. 

Wilkinson didn't manage to get any units off the table and lost quite a few men to muskets, buffalo and quicksand. After the post battle roll Wilkinson found he had lost 11 tribal warriors, 2 elite regulars and 2 Askari. But miraculously, Lt. Harris was found alive and well clinging to a rubber snake branch on the edge of the quicksand. Wilkinson scored 4 VP for units above half strength on the slavers side of the table, 3 VP for defeated slaver units and 1 VP for keeping Miss Jenkins safe. Wilkinson's total of 8 VP won the day and allowed him to review the next card in the Campaign Deck. If it was anything other than a scenario he could choose to discard it without effect. The card turned out to be Repairs Complete!, meaning the gunboat was going to arrive sooner than expected. Wilkinson didn't take too long to decide that he should play the card! 

The Campaign Turn was over and Wilkinson had to discard a food object card. Since he had gained bushmeat during the scenario, no other cards needed to be discarded. 

At the start of Campaign Turn 2 Wilkinson drew the following cards: 

Cards are drawn from the bottom of the deck. Cards with a gorilla icon are passed to the Arab Slaver player and read in secret. One such card was drawn after Repairs Complete!, the contents of which will be revealed at a future point in the campaign. 

After learning that the gunboat was steaming along The Bakambo, Wilkinson was then visited by local villagers. Wilkinson decided to trade some trinkets for medicinal herbs that may be useful later in the campaign. Another card was drawn and Wilkinson discovered that he was close to Reverend Jenkins Mission. Stay tuned we may actually get another game in before the year is out! 

[We are drawing cards at the end of the game so we know what scenario will be played next. Gives me time to finish painting figures and making the required terrain!]

Wilkinson will start the next battle with the following items:

1 x Tents (counts as 2 carried objects)

3 x Army Rations

2 x Case of Ammunition

1 x Barrel of Rum

1 x Medicine Chest

1 x Bush Meat

1 x Medicinal Herbs

1 x Carved Bone (can be carried without encumbrance)

Campaign Points

At the end of the campaign Wilkinson will be awarded a number of campaign points. The more CP, the greater his success and the more accolade his expedition will receive. CPs are awarded for winning battles, freeing slaves and destroying the slaver’s tembe. CPs may also be awarded for making discoveries during the expedition or completing other objectives. 

Currently Wilkinson has gained 1 CP for winning the current scenario. The bone that was found in one of the Ruga Ruga huts may also earn him an extra CP if it is still in his possession at the end of the campaign. It was fortunate that Harris was not lost in the quicksand, the lieutenant’s demise would have cost Wilkinson -3 CPs!


  1. Cracking report. Love that minis, terrain and mat it looks fab.

    1. Thanks Simon, it was good to finally get some dice rolling again after far too long!

  2. Great aar, a bloody but enjyable encounter ! ( and I thought "JImland" was dangerours !)
    Love the table set-up, lots going on in a very interesting scenario.

    1. Cheers! Definitely a scenario where the main threat came from the environment rather than the enemy! I've just updated the post with the post game wrap up.

  3. Beautiful terrain and miniatures, great AAR as well!

    1. Thanks, we’re aiming to get the next game played in September. A few bits of terrain left to make but getting there.