Congo is a game set in 19th century Colonial Africa and has been brought to the market by Studio Tomahawk. The same guys who wrote Saga and Muskets and Tomahawks. The game is designed specifically for two players but Alastair kindly made up some more cards so a three way spin was made possible.
Each player leads a 'column'. These columns can be one of a number of protagonists. With the figures we had to hand our game featured a white man hunting party with supporting soldiers, a tribe of the jungle and an African Kingdoms tribe (think Zulus). For our first game the teams were instructed to recover some sacred relics from a temple in the centre of the board. The temple was guarded by some fanatical warriors.
|A good opportunity to use my jungle|
The Columns are divided into groups of different troops (each with their own abilities) and leaders who also have their own skills. These leaders (and special characters) must be assigned to one of the units within the column.
|The temple in the jungle|
Surrounding the temple were designated hard terrain areas where all manner of nasty things were hidden. Once the treasure was retrieved the player had to exit the board from a corner determined by tokens hidden in the jungle zones.
|Atmospheric Shot (the White buildings in the background are for a frostgrave board !)|
Unit activation is quite simple - each player has a deck of cards that denote a series of actions (eg movement, shooting etc). These have a variety of combinations each with an initiative value. At the beginning of a turn a player chooses three of these cards and places them face down. The turn consists of three actions. The first of the three cards are turned over and the player with the highest initiative goes first. Typically he might be able to move some of his units or fire some , or even a combination of both. Other cards include rally options and spell casting (for witch doctors)
So as the game progressed our units steadily moved towards the temple.
|The brave white hunter and his askaris move forward|
Rolf decided to enter the tough terrain near is corner to seek out the exit location early on. Surprise surprise his scouting party came across a rather belligerent Silverback which proceeded to rip and rend apart the hapless scouts. Melee combat is simple..each figure/troop type has a combat diece (either a d6,d8, or d10) to hit they need 5's or more. In other words the better troops have the larger dice. Once both sides have rolled their hits each side rolls a defence die according to the terrain they are occupying (open ground d6/ harder terrain d8 etc) - and again 5 or more is a success. The difference in hits is compared on a table and the casualties removed. On many occasions the sides then receive stress tokens (think pins) which affect their abilities as they build up. These stress tokens can be removed with successful rally activations in the turn phase.
|Whats that hiding in the jungle !|
Shooting works in much the same way with ranges being very simple (typically 8 or 12inches dependent upon the weapon used). Of course shooting at your enemy means you are safe from his stabbing spears.
The mechanic of card activation works really well - do you push forward with all your forces or take it nice and steady. Once each player commits their first card activation the second is drawn. Again the initiative is compared and the highest player goes first. He could either move / shoot the same unit played in the previous card or move/shoot another. Thinking ahead is critical in this game.
To further complicate matter and to add more fun are the totem cards. At the beginning of each turn each player draws a one of these cards. These add additional benefits to your orders (eg improve the initiative score on the card shown, allow your troops to move/shoot further or even add extra dice to attack/defence rolls. The combination of totem and card activation means no force is ever going to perform the same things.
So how did our first game play out. Quite predictably the two tribes clashed quite quickly with the natives intent on taking each other out. Marks Witch doctor decided to spice things up by casting some kind of curse spell. He decided to boost the spell by taking stress (whipping himself into a fervour) - he drew the stress tokens and sadly but very amusingly the Witchdoctors head exploded ! Did I mention that boosting your spell comes with an inherent risk.
|The forces approach the temple...the natives battle it out !|
Rolf threw his assegai armed troops into the temple and quickly despatched the guardians. By now my white mans expedition entered the fray. I decided to play a simple game. Let the natives fight amongst themselves and take out the others with my superior fire power. It worked. By the end of the game the Native tribes had wasted themselves on each other and my exploers were able to secure the relics.
|Rolfs Tribals attack the fanatics|
The game was fast paced - had a great narrative and was easy to pick up. I'll probably buy a set if possible at Colours this weekend.
Thank you Alastair for putting on a fun evening