Sunday, July 27, 2014

Battle of Latema Nek: WW1 East Africa at Historicon

This battle, fought on March 11, 1916,  was run by my friend and recurrent Historicon roommate, Tim Couper, once on Thursday afternoon, and again on Friday morning, using Piquet: Field of Battle, 2nd edition, by Brent Oman, with extensions for World War One in East Africa. From the PEL:  "Allied troops under Gen Tighe advance into Tanganyika through the Latema & Reata hills. In spite of an ineffective reconnaissance of the steep, jungled terrain, troops from India, East Africa and Rhodesia were ordered to take the Nek. Take command of a battalion or a Feldkompanie!

Game 1, Thursday afternoon
I managed to snap a few pictures as I ran my own game nearby in the same time slot. Tim brought all the terrain and his 28mm figures on the plane with him from London - quite an accomplishment!

The "British" have three commands, one each Indians, East Africans (King's African Rifles), and Rhodesians. each of 4 infantry and a machine gun, plus a single Artillery unit. The "German" defenders consisted of three infantry units (Askaris) 3 machine guns, and a single artillery piece, defending 2 sets of works situated atop a steep, rocky, hilltop, covered with brush and jungle. Tim had some on site photos of the Nek with him, and I certainly would not have wanted to be attempting to fight my way up it!

The defenders look thin, but the terrain makes the attack slow going, especially under the murderous fire of the ridge top machine guns! Philip and Alex played the Germans; Gabriel played the Indians, Barry played the KAR and ? Melvin played the Rhodesian reserve.

The Rhodesians (reserves) are thrown into the attack now!

"Gosh Sarge, I'm so thirsty after climbing this damned rock!"  The irregular brown areas are completely impassable. 

The Allies finally crest the hill!  They would ultimately seize the ridge line, only to pull back when they exhausted their morale chips. Tim tells me this is pretty much what happened in the actual battle as well!

Game 2, Friday morning
The Cast:
"Germans"  (mostly Askaris): Terry S. (from Colorado) and Nelson
"British" (Sepoys, KAR and Rhodesians): Kevin and Jared, with Peter commanding the Rhodesians (reserves). 

The "Germans" start concealed; this part of their position  flanks the route of the main "British" advance.

Seen here, they make good use of the opportunities for enfilade fire offered by their position!

One of the Allied colonels is hit!

The Rhodesians of the Reserve are committed, commanded by yours truly. 

Overview, mid battle. 

My Rhodesian command assaults the Flanking position; they probably would have been better to have screened it with one unit, and committed the rest against the main position.

Run Away! Two units of Allied East African troops have routed.

Looking up slope, my Rhodesians trudge forward up the steep slopes and through the heavy jungle. 

The main attack finally manages to crest the Nek!

The Rhodesian assault looks impressive, but they never got any further than this!

Fierce fighting along the earthworks atop ridge; you might say they were Nek and Nek!

Overview of the battle. about 2/3 of the way through the game. Around this time, I had some urgent phone calls from my practice that had to be dealt with in a timely fashion, and thus turned over the command of the Rhodesians to my old friend, the globe trotting economist, Adolfo, who had cleverly arranged some business in DC for the Monday after Historicon!

Adolfo wisely shifted the bulk of the Rhodesians against the main position, where they helped turn the tide in the Allied favor. 

The position was gained, but at a terrible cost!

Colonel Peter surveys some of his Rhodesian command with dismay. "But, but, but.... they all wear Khaki! Don't any of you understand?  I don't do Khaki!"

Tim ran two great looking, well paced, fun games, and seems to have made a convert to Field of Battle in Jared, who, it turns out, lives about an hour's drive from Barry and me. Tim is scheming to return to WW1 East Afrika for next Historicon. I believe that I heard him mumbling something about a Dirigible being involved next year...


  1. Very much enjoy your post-Historicon report outs. Hauling all of your gaming needs on a trans-Atlantic flight is quite commendable but not something I would likely attempt.

  2. Nice game - the terrain and setup up looks interesting. I've not tried Piquet yet, but it looks promising. Best, dean

    1. Dean - Field of Battle is definitely where to start for most people. If that floats your boat, then you may be ready to try Classic Piquet, which is a great game but requires a certain mindset! Both tend to produce battles that ebb and flow, rather than proceeding in rigid sequence.

  3. Glad you're enjoying them, Jon - quite a few more to come. I run/play as many games at Historicon each year as the rest of the year put together in an average year!

    Tim has been dragging his 15mm ACW figures across the Pond for the past 4 years at least, but this was his first go with 28's! He had it all very cleverly packaged up.

    How about hauling some figs from Oregon to Fredericksburg?! :-)

    1. Peter, I have been considering making the journey from the left coast to Historicon for many years but have not pulled the trigger yet. Some of the guys I game with do make it out occasionally so some year I should tag along. As for carrying figures and gaming materials, well that is a tall order. How would I make the return trip with my gaming stuff AND my newly gotten loot? Such a dilemma. Oh, I am in Washington state not Oregon.

    2. It is well worth the trip, and I was (mostly) kiding about bringing troops with you . Better, as you say, to leave room for loot on the return trip! And duh, I knew that. re; Washington!

  4. Wait, wait, is that you and Khaki? God help us.

    1. Yes, definitely a sign of the Apocoalypse, LOL! To be fair, my "ant-khaki rule" pertains to collecting or painting them. This is my 2nd time for WW1 East Afrika on the wargames table. I'm going to have to start a Seven Year's War army as pennance, I think! :-)

  5. My goal is to make it through the next four years without starting a WWI project. You are not making that any easier.

    1. Blame Tim, Jake! The battle used approx 150 figures only, though....