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Subject: Allan Quatermain and the Road to Great Zimbabwe rss

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Pete Belli
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Allan Quatermain and the Road to Great Zimbabwe




Allan Quatermain is a famous literary character from a series of classic novels written by H. Rider Haggard in the late 1800s. In this epic Battle Cry scenario the legendary adventurer becomes involved in a regional African conflict during the Age of Imperialism. The tribal army of a local potentate is marching to the recently discovered ruins of Great Zimbabwe. She is claiming to control a mysterious artifact said to posses strange powers and thousands of warriors have gathered in the area that later became Rhodesia. Quatermain and his native allies join a military expedition composed of soldiers sent into action from across the British Empire. These two forces collide on the road to Great Zimbabwe.






My first real exposure to the Allan Quatermain novels began when Sean Connery portrayed that explorer in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. While the film is forgettable the African scene that introduces Quatermain at the beginning of the movie is a great piece of cinematic cotton candy. Eventually, the idea for this scenario grew from a vague concept to an epic project involving a large collection of miniatures. As mentioned previously here on BGG, publishers have budget restrictions but I do not.






Over 200 figures maneuver on the large BattleLore: Epic BattleLore map. Terrain tiles from Commands & Colors: Napoleonics or Memoir '44 are used to represent wooded scrubland, hills, and villages. The map is not exactly to scale but each hex represents approximately 500 yards. This imaginary battlefield was crafted from an actual Google Earth image south of Great Zimbabwe. I selected an interesting crossroads location with a variety of landscape features. The coordinates are -20.308428, 30.886345 if you're curious.

It is often difficult for players to become fully immersed in a hypothetical scenario. For this reason I usually structure a narrative based on an actual battle. In this session I used the struggle at Austerlitz.

The tribal army takes the basic positions -- substantially modified, of course -- chosen by the Austrians and the Russians. The basic positions of the "British" force are similar to the locations selected by Napoleon. The long ridge near the crossroads represents the Pratzen Heights. The rugged peaks near the right side of the board represent the ponds that hindered Austrian maneuver. I've attempted to mimic Kutusov and Bagration gathering on the left side of the map while Davout marches up with reinforcements! As in 1805, the key to battlefield success is deception and properly timed counterattacks. Even the famous "Sun of Austerlitz" is depicted with a special dust and haze rule that prevents long range fire (more than two hexes) during the first turn of the game.

The scenario can support 2, 3, or 4 players.

The tribal army includes local fighting men plus mercenaries from North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. The forces of the British Empire depicted in this scenario include fighting men from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, India and southern Africa. For convenience, these formations will be called "British" units.






The tribal army is commanded by the evil Hilari, shown here holding the severed head of a disobedient follower.






The various tribal factions under the evil Hilari are reflected in the command rules. Each faction is color-coded (gray, green, tan, etc.) and contains four groups of figures. Each miniature represents between 150 and 250 men, depending on the weapons carried by the tribal warriors. One individual faction may be activated during the tribal player's turn in addition to the other units activated with a command card.






The large British punitive expedition is commanded by General Featherstone, shown here with a heliograph operator at his headquarters... Donald Featherstone is one of my favorite authors. He has written extensively about wargames with miniatures.

The heliograph can be used to send an "order" to one unit anywhere on the board during each turn. However, it must be a British Army formation; native militia and mounted volunteers can't receive heliograph messages.






The basic building block of the British force is a battalion (slightly understrength due to the rigors of the campaign) numbering about 800 soldiers. Each battalion is represented by two groups of four miniatures, like the Indian formation shown here. The mounted figure is a British staff officer sent from headquarters with orders from General Featherstone. A units accompanied by a staff officer is automatically activated during a turn. An infantry brigade includes two or more battalions; in this example the "Imperial Brigade" contains the Indian battalion and two battalions of African Rifles.






Allan Quatermain is represented by this mounted figure brandishing a revolver. Quatermain plays a crucial leadership role during the scenario because he can activate any formation in the "Native Contingent" which includes six units of African native infantry and two units of mounted white volunteers. Troops from the "Native Contingent" may not be activated by British staff officers.

The miniatures wearing the straw hats are part of the Naval Brigade. In the Victorian era a Naval Brigade was a formation of sailors and Royal Marines detached from the fleet and sent ashore to fight as infantry. There are three groups of these figures in the scenario.






Sailors also operate the Gardner gun formations attached to the expedition. These primitive machine guns roll a 4-3-2 sequence on the battle dice but are prone to jamming under dusty battlefield conditions. If two "cannon" symbols are rolled the guns have jammed and the fire mission is cancelled. Bad luck if a tribal infantry unit is charging in your direction!

The mounted volunteers shown here move like cavalry but fight like infantry, rolling a 3-2-1 sequence on the battle dice. This scenario uses movement points like a conventional wargame. For cavalry units clear or village hexes cost 1 MP while wooded scrubland costs 2 MPs and hills cost 3 MPs. The roads depicted on the board represent primitive tracks and are merely decorative.






This Gardner gun is being transported by an elephant and is escorted by Bengal Lancers. Details like this give a scenario extra flavor.

My unique "hot" deck includes two types of cards... Command Cards and Event Cards. Command Cards are regular cards that allow the player to activate formations in a certain section of the board. These are used in a player's hand according to the standard rules. Event Cards are cards converted from their typical function to simulate elements of the historical narrative. For example, the Rally event in this scenario allows both players (not just the player drawing the event card) to gather stragglers and add replacement figures to depleted formations. Events like Bombard (fire all British artillery) or Hit and Run (activate all British cavalry) occur immediately, regardless of which player has just completed a turn and drawn the top card from the deck. The player drawing a random event immediately pulls another card from deck to refill his hand. The special Short of Supplies event card serves as a timer to end the session.






I made a sincere effort to incorporate elements of the Austerlitz 1805 narrative into this scenario. These special peak hexes may never be entered by cavalry units or artillery units and infantry formations may not retreat through these hexes. Since the left wing of the tribal army has already advanced beyond these obstructions a retreat through this nasty cul-de-sac will probably have the same result as the Austrian flight through constricted terrain in 1805.






The most effective fighting formation on the battlefield is the Highland battalion, shown here supporting an artillery battery and proudly wearing the kilt. The elite Highland formations roll a 4-3-2 sequence on the battle dice. Like all regular British units (including the Indian battalion) the Highlanders may ignore one flag result and avoid a withdrawal.

British artillery rolls a 3-3-3-2-2-2-2 sequence on the battle dice. The mounted infantry formation in the foreground moves and fights like the mounted volunteers but has the same ability to ignore a retreat flag as regular British infantry.






Tribal artillery units represent obsolescent mountain guns operated by European advisors. These formations roll a 3-3-2-2-2 sequence on the battle dice. Tribal mercenaries represent fighting men from a wide variety of backgrounds. These units move and fight like regular infantry and roll the same 3-2-1 sequence on the battle dice. Since the mercenary formations are not part of any tribal "faction" they can only be activated by the use of a command card.

The green tribal infantry formation is on the left flank of the ridge representing the Pratzen Heights. As in 1805, these units must be tempted to climb down and join the battle to avoid a costly frontal attack on the enemy center.






The position defended by the "British Brigade" is immensely strong. The tribal army is not suited for defensive tactics but an advance across open ground in the face of these Gardner guns and the Martini-Henry rifles of tough infantry is risky. Better to let the enemy approach and then counterattack.






Tribal infantry units would be armed with inferior rifles. The level of marksmanship would not be high and fire discipline would be poor. Some of the infantry would be armed with spears. Tribal infantry rolls a weak 2-1 sequence on the battle dice. In this example tribal formations have moved forward to engage the Highlanders. Only one die would be rolled because the target units is in scrubland but a hit is scored.

In this scenario a crossed-sword result only counts as a hit if the enemy unit is adjacent. Infantry has two movement points and may expend 1 MP and fire. Hills cost 2 MP with all other terrain costing just 1 MP.






The victory conditions have been structured to give all of the players an incentive to attack. The supplies for the British expedition are being transported by a combination of elephants and native porters. Capturing this supply column will earn 2 victory points for the tribal player in a session with just 12 victory points available... quite a prize! In this image the supply column is being escorted by British Dragoons.






To reflect the fractured nature of the tribal system (remember the Austrian/Russian command dynamic at Austerlitz) there are two separate supply columns for the tribal army. Each of these is also worth 2 victory points.

Tribal cavalry units are essentially mounted bandits. They only roll 1 battle die while British cavalry (Dragoons and Bengal Lancers) rolls the standard three battle dice. Since a cavalry charge in the face of modern weapons is extremely dangerous all infantry and artillery units firing at cavalry formations roll an extra battle dice.






Here is an example of the tactical challenges faced by the tribal player. A formation from the Indian battalion has seized this village on the road to Great Zimbabwe. A crossroads hex is worth 2 victory points so the tribal player should make an effort to dislodge the enemy. The mercenary unit can fire on the village but the tan tribal warriors in the scrubland hex are out of range because the village is considered to be defensive terrain. Advancing across the open ground with a Gardner gun nearby is (quite literally) rolling the dice with death. Indian formations can ignore one flag result. Only a swarm of tribal warriors has a decent chance of success... and this might require bringing units down from the ridge overlooking the crossroad.






Quatermain leads an assault on a village. British losses must be kept low. While the evil Hilari has little regard for the survival of her warriors the British Empire will not tolerate a victory purchased at a ghastly expense of human life... especially the lives of British officers or well-known celebrities. (For confirmation, please note the agony caused by the death of Louis Napoleon at the hands of the Zulus.) Seven victory points are required for a win; if the score is 6-6 casualties become the tie-breaker. If tribal losses are not at least twice as heavy as British losses the tribal player is declared the winner.


Thanks for reading this lengthy article.

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Robert Wesley
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So, Richard Chamberlain "Quartermain" is yet another 'manlifosterfestation' FROM this other? whistle
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Wendell
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Good luck at the con!

Wargames are generally better with elephants.
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Chris Strabala
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wifwendell wrote:
Wargames are generally better with elephants.


Of all varieties!
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Michael Wintz
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An evil queen holding a severed head? Sounds like my ex-wife <grin>.

Once again, an outstanding read. Well done, Pete!
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Great job as always, Pete.

pete belli wrote:
My first real exposure to the Allan Quatermain novels began when Sean Connery portrayed that explorer in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

My introduction to Haggard's work was back in 1965, when a volatile mixture of my appetite for adventure fiction and teenage lust for Ursula Andress drove me to the theater to watch She. A trip to the library soon followed, and I was swept up reading King Solomon's Mines and everything I could lay hands on thereafter.

My favorite story about H. Rider Haggard may be apocryphal but I like it so much I'll tell it anyway. My recollection is that Lin Carter told it in his introduction to the Ballantine Books paperback edition of one of Haggard's books. (Carter was the editor and driving force behind a fabulous series of fantasy titles released in inexpensive paperback format back in the '60s. He started with works by Lord Dunsany, William Morris, George MacDonald and others which had at that time been long out of print, and rapidly widened the circle as fans like my self eagerly snapped them up.)

Anyway, the story so far as I can recall it is that Haggard was locked in to some horribly boring day job and started his writing career on a bet. While commuting on the train he'd been listening to someone drone on about a current best-seller (Treasure Island?) and declared that it wouldn't be difficult to write an adventure book; in fact he could do as well himself.

He was laughed at, and ended up with a 5 pound wager riding on his ability to back up his words. Haggard went home and wrote King Solomon's Mines, taking an incredibly short time to do so. It was an immediate success - goodbye boring day job!

(If that's not a true story, it should be! I wish I had that preface by Carter handy so I could verify and get the details right.)
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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GROGnads wrote:
So, Richard Chamberlain "Quartermain" is yet another 'manlifosterfestation' FROM this other? whistle

Chamberlain was an abomination, just as he was in Shogun and every other adventure film in which he was miscast. If there's ever a Richard Chamberlain film festival I'd attend with one proviso: I get to sit with Crow and Tom Servo.
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Pete Belli
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mwintz wrote:
An evil queen holding a severed head?


No collection of Commands & Colors 1:72 scale miniatures is complete without this figure of a woman holding a severed head.
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Sphere wrote:
My introduction to Haggard's work was back in 1965...

I just realized that I'd seen Stewart Granger as Quatermain in King Solomon's Mines on TV long before She came out. There were Friday night and weekend afternoon movie slots that showed all the old adventure movies when I was a kid, and I ate 'em up. (I have a surfeit of old memories in the attic, and it's easy to get them jumbled.)
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Mayor Jim
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pete belli wrote:
mwintz wrote:
An evil queen holding a severed head?


No collection of Commands & Colors 1:72 scale miniatures is complete without this figure of a woman holding a severed head.

So true!
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Pete Belli
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Allan Quatermain and the Road to Great Zimbabwe was featured at the HURRICON 2016 convention in Orlando.

Richard Borg observed the action and suggested a few rule changes.

The sessions were enjoyable.
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Mayor Jim
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What rule changes did he suggest?
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Pete Belli
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MayorJim wrote:
What rule changes did he suggest?


There were several but the most significant was a decision to include a special rule for a sudden charge into a melee by the tribal warriors.

Mr. Borg always has something positive to say and his advice was both helpful and thought-provoking.
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Victor Garcia
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I do not have enough minis in mi collection! cry
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