Tuesday, August 17, 2021

In Darkest Aithiops: The Narrative Resumes...

Overall situation developing during the week
 following the battles along the Limpopo Trail.

Following the capture of the important native cosmopolitan market town of Kachinga, the Azeitonian colonists settled down rather to organise its governance.  For the time being, Tenente-Coronel Relaxado was inclined to leave things pretty much as they were, with any taxation, tribute or other levies that went formerly to the m'Butu overlords now accruing to the Colony's fisc.  On the amount, the colonel was inclined to take the town's merchants' word for it, provided it seemed credible, with just enough of dickering to establish he was one with whom it was not well to trifle.  Meanwhile, he set about preparations for the continued march westward.  For the moment, the slight and occasional rumours of movements of some desert tribes to the northwest, and the even more tenuous hints of something going on along the coast up north, did little to perturb the colonel's thoughts from his future programme.  Those Diamond Mountains, seemingly just a few miles off, exerted a fascination impervious to minor distractions.

Staggering southward from Kachinga with the shattered remains of his army, the Great Chieftain, Barra Kuta counted himself lucky there was no pursuit.  A couple of days later, he halted his retreat close by the Limpopo South Branch river ford at Getmai.  There they remained for the next few days.  Meanwhile, a few warriors were drifting in to his capital from the southern regions of his lands, and a few more were coming of age.  He might yet build up a credible force.

But what of his other tribesmen?  What had happened to the reinforcement from the jungle kraals that the Great Chief had hoped would arrive in time to have made a difference in the battle on the Limpopo trail?  Nothing had been heard at all from that band - not before that battle, and not in the week since.  Had he been betrayed?  Was his sub-Chief, Yavuyavu, plotting to undermine him?

It transpired that this force had taken longer to gather together than had been anticipated.  The sub-Chief of the jungle kraals was one Yavuyavu - 'the Jellyfish' - so named for the manner in which his corpulence rather belied the sharp readiness of his spear.  Wily, ready for any fight than did not require a great distance to reach, Yavuyavu's loyalty to the Great Chief was commensurate with his laziness: he was quite content with the heights of authority he had already attained. 

Having gathered nearly 300 warriors at the 'village with no name', he was about to set off when they heard,  muffled by distance and the jungle, the gunfire of the battle along the trail, a good five miles distant.  Contemplating whether to continue on, Yavuyavu received word that a band of colonists had approached  Rutintutin Kraal.  Numbers were obscure - only a patrol had been seen - but there was reason to suppose there were more in the offing.  The puzzle was why the colonists had not yet attacked.  Only the barest minimum - 40 warriors (1 stand) - had been left by way of a garrison.  

That at once decided Yavuyavu's course of action.  In all haste, he marched his little force down to the Kraal, entered the place undetected, quickly laid his plans.  A reconnaissance soon established that the colonials were not in force at all - just 40 men.  The m'Butu surged out of the gates.

Now, much of this had been decided by the card draws for activation.  As I was focusing upon the m'Butu, not a lot of activity was to be had from the desert Touaouin, nor the coastal corsairs, but there was enough spare for the occasional twitch.  Once Barra Kuta had got clear to Getmai, and there was no pursuit, then the other sizeable force - some seven stands of warriors plus Yavuyavu's - received my attention.  A reasonable string of Black activations got him to the Kraal without detection (Paul, as the Azeitonians, didn't get the chance to try another recon roll).  Another led to the sequel - a m'Butu raid against the Azeitonian colony.
The seaport of Oportonovo, its garrison scattered 
about just as the westward patrol warns of the 
approach of m'Butu tribesmen.
As eight stands (the 40-strong village garrison was now incorporated in Yavuyavu's force) plus command surged out of the village, the single Azeitonian patrol hastily fled before them.  

Now, I had hoped to make this an episode in the overall campaign, but using The Men Who Would Be Kings game system published by Osprey.   This would have used one of the scenarios (E: 'Run to the hills', or G: 'It's awfully quiet out there...').  This is a kind of 'uber-skirmish' level game, which, for the purposes of this campaign I would have chosen a '1 figure = 1 man' scale.  

The Azeitonian patrol/ recon force would have comprised three 12-man regular or irregular units (sections) for an 18-point field force commanded by a subaltern, possibly with an heroic NCO included.  The units would simply have been made up of stands were are already using: 9 stands for 36 rifle-armed figures (possibly plus command).

The m'Butu engaged would have represented two and a half stands (out of eight) - six 16-man units for a 24-point field force: 96 figures, all spear armed, and probably counting as 'fierce' or 'veteran'.  It would have been commanded by one of Yavuyavu's lieutenants, with perhaps an heroic warrior leading one of the 16-man groups.

Now, were we to suppose that the Azeitonians were all run to earth and put to the spear, the total loss would have been 1 stand at 4 SP.  I daresay that the m'Butu losses would have been similar, if not greater, but still pretty minor in the overall scheme of things..  

Unfortunately, Paul was somewhat indisposed at the time, and as I hadn't fully worked out the scenario and force details, felt sure the thing would be too one-sided to be worthwhile.  I didn't press the matter then, not being too chipper myself .  Too bad.  But I still think it would have added something to the whole campaign narrative.  Maybe the opportunity will arise another time.  
The garrison scattered about. For explanation, see
next posting
At any rate, the colonist picket watching hastened back to the main camp, whereat, taking only their weapons and such items that would not slow them down, the main force ran as fast as they could down the trail.  Hot on their heels trod the m'Butu, with many a mocking hoot and holler.  Not content with chasing the Azeitonians away, Yavuyavu determined to have a slap at the still infant settlement of Oportonovo, scene of a sizeable action a year or so before.
Over 300 m'Butu tribesmen massed in the bush 
southwest of the Oportonovo settlement

Arriving at the jungle fringes overlooking the town, the patrol having escaped with hardly the loss of a man, Yavayavu undertook a quick reconnaissance.  The strength of the local garrison was rather in excess of what he had hoped.  Yavuyavu rolled a '6' - a very effective reconnassance - revealing 4 infantry and 2 cavalry units, plus a gun maybe 250 officers and men - 7 units overall, at 25 strength points, not counting the Commandant's personal retinue.  His own army comprised just 320 warriors.  But, as he put it to one of his lieutenants, a certain Njia Ndefu ('Long Trail'): 'We are here and the enemy is there, and there we must strike him.'  Robert E. Lee could not have expressed it better.

Before listing the respective forces, I should mention that whenever there is a battle that doesn't involve the main commanders as delineated at the beginning of the campaign narrative, there will be a command stand of 6SP created that is not part of the campaign order of battle.  It does not count towards unit or SP count in reconnaissance reports.  So I was told: 7 units, rather than 8.  A character will be created for that ad hoc command.  This is I think justified as the 6SP is nominal and goes toward army cohesion, morale and maybe to add a little pep to an individual unit; it is not in itself a fighting stand. So although the four campaign powers each begin with one command (e.g m'Butu's Barra Kuta, or Azeitona's Colonel Relaxado) others may emerge to become characters in the narrative.  We have introduced Yavuyavu, 'The Jellyfish'. You may remember Capitao Ferdinand da Gama, who commanded the Oportonovo garrison just over a year ago...

The scattered garrison rallying together to
resist the m'Butu attack.

The Forces:

Azeitona Garrison:
Command: Capitao Ferdinand da Gama (average) = 6SP
2 regular infantry stands (rifle-armed, average) @ 4SP = 8SP
1 town civilian militia (rifle-armed, poor) = 4SP
1 town civilian militia (rifle-armed, poor) = 5SP (Paul had a spare SP that had to go somewhere)
2 regular cavalry (rifle armed, average) @3SP = 6SP
1 rifled field artillery = 2SP

8 units, median = 4
31SP, exhaustion point -11SP

m'Butu Raiding Party:
Command: Chief Yavuyavu, 'The Jellyfish' (average) = 6SP
8 warrior stands (assegai, average) @ 4SP = 32SP

9 units, median = 5
38SP, exhaustion point -13SP

The m'Butu overrun the southern redoubt, forcing 
its garrison to flee, dragging their gun.

His simple plan laid, his little army about him, 'The Jellyfish' ordered the charge...

To be continued: Yavuyavu's raid.


  1. Archduke Piccolo,

    The stage seems set for an interesting confrontation between the colonial power and the natives. I am looking forward to seeing how the situation unfolds.

    All the best,


    1. Hi Bob -
      Yes - there are interesting times in store for Oportonovo. I've just realised I misremembered Yavuyavu's reconnaissance: it was actually very good (however hasty) - he rolled a '6'. I got it confused with a later recon. I've corrected that part of the narrative.

      Sorry about the two-month hiatus. Just haven't felt up to writing anything, even though I had plenty of other material. At some point I'd like to do a review of the 'Operation Sealion' book. I've read it through twice, now.
      Archduke Piccolo

  2. Another great report…love the campaign scenario. Portuguese colonists is unusual, but appealing. Many thanks….enthralled 😊👍🏼

    1. Hi Martin -
      Well... Slightly Portuguese! There's more to come, of course, now that Paul and I have got the momentum goping again...
      Archduke Piccolo