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GUNS of the ASKARI – ATO 38
Guns of the Askari is ATO Magazine game about the first world war in East Africa, through the whole conflict (as the last German troops surrendered only after they heard of the Armistice in Europe).
Overall I like the game and the situation, but the campaign scenario is fairly long and the intensity of decision making is diluted in micro management.
In my eyes a good depiction of the historical situation, with enough scenarios to adapt to your game time. A dose of randomness brings uncertainty but is not a game changer.

Units are Battalions for the Entente, Feldcompanies for the German and Carriers for both.
Many counters (> 200 units), the Entente in Red (British commonwealth), Green (Belgian) and Grey (Portuguese), the German in Black. Nice and complete players aids.
The short scenario is very helpful to learn the Game : short, fun, without too many troops. I played it several times , and then the campaign twice (solo).

Traditional hex & counter stuff, with specific naval segment. Battles are resolved on a separate battle board with a specific focus on machine gun fire (roll a die per unit, once or twice, defender first, and check morale after a hit : the unit may stop the fight).
Supply is present via infrastructures (lakes, towns & railroads) and carriers who can constitute a supply line or be ‘burned’ as a supply source. Out of supply units suffer some disadvantage, but can still survive through the game.
Very interesting attrition mechanism where you pick a certain number of your opponent’s units : efficient in that you chose front unit where attrition would be the more felt, and is rather fun decision making than any tedious calculation.
The system brings you into micro management (now I have to move tens of units taking into account attrition, supply, reinforcement, naval & rail transport) and long term planning :
-prepare your offensives / withdrawals / entrenchments / line of supply on the long run
-prepare for sudden events in the game : boat arrivals that are vital for lake control (you need to control a port on the lake shore to build the boat there) , withdrawal of big chunks of the Entente army (you can’t garrison the whole map anymore ! better use these troops in attack a outrance before they vanish) , improved machine guns that gives a real boost to offence. And don’t forget to rendez-vous on the shore with the blockade runner of turn 19 

I feels it is a very long game for the campaign, both in lenght (44 turns of 2 or 3 impulse each) and in gameplay (lot of micro management, for instance every single skirmish will be resolved on the battle board).
Both players are in the boots of theatre commanders : still subject to random events, reinforcement and withdrawals. The german is aggressive at first but eventually become totally cut-off the motherland and facing more and more troops, fighting desperate guerilla and reargard action. He has to decide when and where to stand, when and where to fly.
The Entente trying to coordinate various forces, block various treats, and progress as methodically and efficiently as possible (not to quick, not too slow).
I enjoyed the situation, it is tense for both players , the two of them facing daunting tasks :
-the German is left with ever-dwingdling resource, but the map is vast and he runs faster.
-The Entente faces an immense task in taking and securing cities, rail lines and lakes. Then a big part of his / her force will withdraw from the theatre (turn 25 and 35).
The German is rather strong at the beginning, very strong in defence, with some replacements, and about even in unit numbers.
The Entente will at first damage control and try not to loose too much, and then will have to channel its reinforcements.
Its TOP PRIORITY is to seize Dar es Salaam and Tahora as soon as possible : these cities yield respectively 1 carrier and one replacement for the side CONTRLOLING them. After taking these 2 cities, the Entente will have lots of carriers and replacements, and the German only what’s left of the carriers accumulated so far, being eventually reduced to zero by combat and attrition.
There is a very interesting sub-plot with the lakes, with the German having the upper hand at the beginning (which lake to 100% control ? it gives a ‘monopoly’ of transport on it, a definite advantage to seize neiboring cities or as a logistical route.). The Entente will then have to prepare and allocate its arriving boats wisely to regain control.
The situation reminds me of “Bittereinder” with the Boer / British. Here, the German has few units but plenty of space, is very strong in Defence, and must decide when to stop conventional entrenched defence and spread back inland to wage a guerilla war. With limited resource, when to defend cities, when to retreat in front of a superior Entente ?
The Entente will eventually muster large forces, but they will have to be very wisely allocated to garrison cities and rail lines, build supply corridors and mount offensives in remote inland towns. Before turn 27 and 35 withdrawals, the Entente will race to seize key locations and chase as many german units as possible (you don’t want those raiders wandering around in your back, don’t you ? ). But don’t go to fast or your weak attacks will falter in front of entrenched machine guns.

A big question mark is the Victory determination : basically you score VP by controlling cities and cutting your opponent’s rail-roads.
-the short scenario seems to favor the German
-the campaign scenario takes into account the result of the short scenario, and if the German have more than 3 VP it’s game over , as even after seizing every city & rail lines, the Entente will never recoup its initial loss.
Yes, I appreciate the designer gives an incentive at the beginning to play aggressively, but in my opinion, the Etente should be allowed the possibility to overturn even a very good German start and “win” in the end in historical terms.
Some tinkering with victory condition have been proposed on Boardgame geek, adding in particular VPs for lake control and the Konigsberg (sink it early and you will have twice taken into account).
Beyond the control of lakes / cities at the end of the game / the war, a measure of the victory or not is, for me , the level of commitment required by the Entente in this ‘sideshow’. For instance a bonus for the Entente to achieve its goal early ( 1 VP per turn remaining between the elimination of all german units and the last turn for instance) or a VP cost/ bonus for certain reinforcements or / their early or late arrivals.
A game I would like to play again laugh, because the situation offers several options for each players and is very tense, but daunted by the time required for the full campaign .
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John Gorkowski
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Thanks for the insightful review. I'll definitely take your points into account when designing the remake!

Great work.

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Mayor Jim
United States
Fort Wright
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Vote Often!
gorkowskij wrote:

Thanks for the insightful review. I'll definitely take your points into account when designing the remake!

Great work.


Is the remake still going to happen?
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