Ngoni Reinforcements

A short and not particularly exciting update today I continue to spend my hobby time between packing up the wargames room and trying to finish up stuff on my painting shelf of shame. These Ngoni were converted up from Warlord Games Zulus to bulk out the units in my Ngoni army so that I could use them with “The Men Who Would be Kings” rules. When I started my Darkest Africa project I was going to use “In the Heart of Africa” rules and made my Ngoni warrior units 12 figures each in TMWWBKs tribal infantry are 16 figures strong so I needed a few extra.

After I converted these miniatures I managed to get the skin blocked in and then never got any further so these took a bit longer than some of my other painting shelf of shame miniatures to finish up. I’ll admit these are not my best work but I’m not sure that will matter to much when they are mixed in with rest of my Ngoni horde.

New Gaming Board – Part 6 river test piece

Moving on to the river tiles for my modular African gaming board I thought it would be a good idea to do one tile as a test piece rather than jumping head first into doing all five at one. I did this because I wanted to modify the Sally 4th river tiles to make the river deeper and I wanted to make the river with epoxy resin. This gave me plenty of opportunity to balls things up so I figured wrecking one tile was better (and cheaper ) than wrecking five tiles.

I took a drill with a hole cutter to create a half circle, in the middle of the original river tile depression, for a deeper river (which you can see on the third picture down) that then meant, the original depression to represent the river on the tiles, could become steeper river banks which you often see, during African dry seasons, as the river level drops.

I had some fun with the epoxy resin as my attempts to block the ends of the river weren’t quite water tight which got a bit messy. I added a small amount of Tamiya mud green weather powder to the my first resin pour for some colour and then added a second clear top up layer of resin. The resin dries smooth so I used a gloss acrylic medium over the top to add some water flowing texture.

I added some plastic plants and used more green flocks closer to water of the river working out to the browns and yellows, of my other tile boards, at the tile edges. In theory when all laid out the river should look like a small streak of green life next to the water in a mass of dried out brown. In the end I think it came out pretty well so I just need to build the other four tiles now.

New Gaming Board – Part 5 High Ground

It’s taken a while, not least because I had a fun week tracking down the source of an electrical trip in my wargames room/ garage that turned out to be the ancient strip lighting and then replacing to old lights with some funky new LED ones, but I’ve final completed the hill tiles for my modular gaming board. Theses are a combination of flat double height tiles and slopes from Sally 4th I gave the slopes some rocky outcrops for fun and because a lot of photos I’ve seen seen of African Kopje seem to have a lot of rocks. one double height tile and one slope also had a road modelled on. other than that they where finished in the same way as my previous tiles.

This picture of a south Africa hill was my inspiration for the rocky outcrops on my hill tiles

and some photos on my tiles

African Queen

A little change from terrain tiles in this post for Christmas my kids gave me some laser cut MDF kits from SARISSA PRECISION including this little Colonial Steam Launch its clearly based on the boat from the movie The African Queen. I had wanted to add a model of the steam boat S.S. ILALA that had supported the African Lakes Company, on lake Nyasa, during the Karonga war. I struggled to find any decent pictures of the ILALA online though so I decided to use this model. As fate would have it, after finishing this model, I found a great picture of the ILALA in a Chris Peers article, on British central Africa, in a old Wargames Illustrated. The actual ILALA was a larger boat and had sails as well as a steam engine.

I’ve worked with a few MDF kits before but was never really happy with them because, try as I might, they still looked like an MDF kit when I was finished in particular the the connecting tabs and burnt edges tended to to give away the origin of the model even after a paint job. So for this kit I thought I would go all out and pimp it up to see if I could hide its origins as an MDF kit.

I used a wood filler, and a lot of sanding, to cover and smooth the joints and hard edges on the hull, I replaced the steam boiler with a resin one I found on eBay and changed out the shade tarpaulin with one made of balsa wood and PVA soaked tissue. I painted the model up and then added in some resin crates and barrels to give the impression of a boat carrying trade goods or supplies.

Gaming wise I’m not sure what ill do with the boat. My chosen rules for Darkest Africa “The Men Who Would be Kings” doesn’t actual have rules for boats but I guess it wouldn’t be to hard to crate a house rule for its use. Alternatively it could just be a pretty little piece of scatter terrain. Anyway here are few photos.

New Gaming Board – Part 4

So I’ve managed to build fifteen tiles for my new modular gaming board but I still have 4 double height tiles, 6 slope tiles, 5 river tiles and a double sized 2x2foot tile (for use as a base board for urban areas) to complete. As my gaming table is a rather bijou 5×4 foot I need 20 1×1 foot tiles to fill a table so I should have enough to give me plenty of variety when they are all completed.

Unfortunately I have run out of Polystyrene sheet so new tiles are on hold for a few days at least. I’ve started building some, hopefully, African looking trees. In the mean time I thought I’d lay out the 15 tiles I’ve completed just to see what they look like and keep me motivated. I took a few photos so I thought I’d share.

First up a picture of what I’m trying to achieve with my new table the African Savanna. Nice isn’t it?

A few pictures of my first 15 tiles laid out I don’t think its to bad a representation though I do think I need a bit more scrub and a few more trees.

New Gaming Board – Part 3

I’ve managed another five tiles for my new board I did get a request to do a how to post on my tiles so this post is it. By necessity this going to be quite a long post, but working on a picture paints a thousand words principle, I’ll try and keep the word count low and use pictures to illustrate how I did things.

A few thoughts before I get started. I can’t take credit for anything here the techniques I used where all found online and YouTube has a wealth of useful videos in particular I recommend watching the Geek Gaming channel but don’t discount they model railway guys as they have some great ideas and techniques. Also, and I can’t stress this enough, leave plenty of drying time between stages or you could well end up with a big wet mess.

So my whole new gaming board is built using the Sally 4th Terra-former range. I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it, needless to say I’m a big fan, if you want to know more I suggest popping along to Sally 4ths website here

  1. So having built my Terra-formers and stuck in the earth magnets the first job is to fill them with polystyrene I got mine from the local DIY store. Sally 4th gave me a handy template to cut the polystyrene to the right size and then I secured it place using No More Nails.

2. These tiles are road and track tiles so I needed to mark them out, a task made much easier as the Terraformers have laser cut slots, that pop out, evenly spaced out around the sides. I used a chefs blow torch to melt the road and tracks into the polystyrene. Be really careful when you this as you only need a low heat, very briefly, linger to long and instead of a track you’ll have a huge crater.

3. The next step is apply texture and fill any gaps (that come from your dodgy cutting). You could probably use a whole range of different products but I chose a home made mixture of brown, flexible, tile grout, sand, PVA glue and some orange brown paint mixed with water into a…. errrr gloop. I applied this gloop with a spatula and some cheap pound land paint brushes (because the paint brushes get ruined very quickly). I tried to sculpt the roads and tracks while the mixture is wet.

4. Once the texturing is full dry (I found this took a couple of days) I then took a brown spray can and gave the edges a couple of coats you could of course paint them with a brush.

5. Next I painted the tiles an orange/brown to fit in with my African dry season theme but obviously you could go with whatever colour you feel fits your chosen theatre of operations. My basic colour was supplied by the local DIY Shop and for the base coat I added a touch of dark brown craft paint. Once the base coat was dry I dry brushed the tiles with the original colour and then the original colour mixed with a sand yellow. The final part of the paint job was to use a red-brown wash to give some shade and depth especially on the roads and tracks

6. Once the paint is dry its time to add the foam flock. I used four different coloured foam flocks, applied using a cooking sieve, and fixed in place using watered down scenery cement from Woodland Scenics. To start I applied neat PVA to areas I wanted the flock to sit on an added my darkest foam flock. Then I sprayed it with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol as a wetting agent. spray with the watered down scenic cement and then sprinkle on the next darkest foam flock and repeat until your happy. After my final and lightest coloured foam flock layer I added a, yellow, fine turf sawdust flock and some of my darker foam flock as a blending layer. At this point you will look at the whole thing and think ” What the hell have I done? This is a horrible wet mess!” but once it dries out (and this can take several days) it actually looks pretty good. I used browns and yellows but the whole technique would work just as well with various shades of green.

7. Once the foam flock is thoroughly dry (which takes a while as the foam flock acts like a sponge) we can move on to adding patches of static grass. I Used three sizes (2mm.3mm and in yellow and brown colour. I use a static grass applicator which I picked up cheap on eBay I’d love some of the better ones but they can be rather expensive. I started with more PVA glue where I wanted patches of grass and then applied my 2mm dark brown grass with the applicator I then sprayed it with a matt spray varnish. While the spray varnish was still wet I added patches of light brown 3mm grass sprayed that with matt varnish and added more patches of yellow 4mm grass a final spray of varnish was followed up by a light dusting of 2mm brown flock as a blending layer.

8. The final stage was break out my collection self adhesive of grass tufts and bushes and add a few to the the tracks, roads and open spaces to finish the look
And that’s it. All pretty simple really with the right equipment and materials. Next up I’m starting on the high ground tiles so I can have ridge lines, large hills and so on.

New Gaming Board – Part 2

I’m soldiering on with more tiles, roads tiles mainly, for my new gaming board. As some one asked if I could do a “how to” post on the tiles, I’m taking photos, and trying to catalogue my processes as I’m going along and hopefully soon I’ll having something to post. In the mean time I wanted to experiment with 2 part epoxy resin to form water features. I have a number of river tiles to complete but before tackling those I wanted to practice so I made an African watering hole tile for my board as a place to practise using the resin.

It didn’t quite come out as I’d hoped I ended up using a lot more resin, than I’d planned, as the first couple of layers I poured I struggled with air bubbles. I tried tinting the resin, with ink, which I overdid so that my carefully modelled mud, at the bottom of the hole, that was supposed to be visible through the resin didn’t really show up. Lastly I used to much resin on the mud edges to the watering hole so instead of puddles in the mud I ended up covering most of the mud up. In the end I’m not to upset this was always meant to be a learning project, and I up gaining some useful experience of working with resin, and while it didn’t turn out as I’d hoped its a serviceable enough piece of scenery. Any way here are a few pictures.

New Gaming Board

At Christmas I received a huge box of Sally 4th Terra-Formers terrain boards its taken me awhile but I’ve started to make some progress on them. I decided I wanted to try a sub Saharan African dry season look for my Darkest Africa gaming but I think it would work well enough for 40K or Post Apocalyptic gaming.

Originally I was going to combine teddy bear fur mat with the the boards to get a more flexible version of my teddy bear mats but the test pieces didn’t come out well. I found cutting and sticking the fur to the boards wasn’t giving me the results I wanted.

So I went back to the drawing board and watched lots of youtube video tutorials by model railway guys and Geek Gaming on using flocks and creating ground cover. I’m much happier with how my second attempt has turned out. As I mentioned when I made my fur mats, Africa is a big place, so I have just tried to make something that looks African to my mind which is probably rooted more in Hollywood than any reality. Here are a few images that I used for inspiration.

So here are my first nine 1×1 foot boards these are all either small track boards or plain boards though I did make one plain board into a small Kopje. I’ve gone for a red/orange soil colour because again it seems “African” to me. I have plenty more boards to do yet including a river, high ground and hills and a large 2×2 board for placing villages and urban areas on.

Arab and Swahili Army (part 2)

Happy new year everyone well after a nice long Christmas break here is (finally) part 2 of my Arab’s in Africa post. This time I’m going to give an alternative Field Force list for “The Men would be Kings” rules for the Arab’s in Africa as a replacement for the (rather bland) Slavers list given in the book.

The building blocks of any Arab force are going to be musket armed infantry which are represented by irregular infantry. Throughout the 19th century the majority of Arab soldiers where armed with obsolete firearms so they should be downgraded to antiquated musket as the default setting. Arab shooting was, in general, also very bad. In those reports of battles involving Arabs, that we have (mostly against European led forces), the lack of casualties caused by their shooting stands out. Even when they are occupying a strong defensive positions or executing a well planned ambush, that should have resulted in heavy enemy casualties, their enemies frequently suffer very few loses. Given that I feel that basic Arab units should be downgraded to poor shoots. So by this point we have some really bad irregular infantry to represent the bulk of an Arab army in Africa.

That’s not the whole story though as mentioned in Part 1 Arab infantry frequently carried swords and shields for much of the period and where much happier mixing it up close and personal than most troops represented by irregular infantry in the rules. So I’ve created the Swordsmen upgrade to represent this. Later in the period swords drop out of favour and modern rifles start to appear in Arab armies. These rifles never equipped all Arabs though so there was an interesting mix of everything from muzzle loading flintlocks up to a Winchester repeater rifles all mixed in together. TMWBKs doesn’t have rules for mixed weapon units you could do it but I think it would require more book keeping instead I’ve come up with ” The gun that shoots many times” rule which not only represents the Arab armies move to skirmishing from cover that coincided with the arrival of modern firearms but also fact that a few men with modern rifles would add a lot of extra flying lead to a unit of musket armed men by increasing their firing stat to 5+.

I’ve added an option for a field gun to represent the occasional use of antiquated cannon by Arab armies throughout the period. I’ve also added an option for allies many Arab armies operated with local allies during their wars so I’ve given a few ideas for allies in various theatres.

Arab and Swahili Field Force

Arab or Swahili followers @ Irregular infantry – poor shots, antiquated musket

cost 2pts


Swordsmen +1pts

The gun that shoots many times +1pts


Up to 1 Cannon @ poorly trained field gun

Cost 4pts


Special Rules


 This rule is to represent the Arabs earlier reliance on swords, to supplement their ancient matchlocks or trade muskets, any irregular infantry  with the swordsmen special rule becomes firing 6+ and fighting 5+ and their free action becomes attack instead of shoot. In addition swordsmen always count as armed with antiquated muskets. Note this option cannot be combined with The gun that shoots many times option.


The Gun That Shoots Many Times

This rule is to represent the Arabs later move towards arming themselves with, modern, rifles towards the end of the 19th century. Any irregular infantry  with this special rule becomes firing 5+ and fighting 6+ and their free action becomes Skirmish instead of shoot. The unit still counts as armed with antiquated muskets as only a few men have access to modern guns and most will still have old muzzle loaders. Note this option cannot be combined with the swordsmen option.


Allies up to half the army points can be spent on allies below are a few suggestions for allies in different parts of Africa.

Tabora – In the wars against Mirambo the Arabs of Tabora had Nyamwezi allies these are best represented as tribal infantry upgraded with the well armed sharpshooters option to give them bows. They could also have explorer allies ( see here) to represent Stanley’s expedition who briefly joined the Arabs in their war against Mirambo.

Lake Nyasa – the Swahili traders around lake Nyasa could have Henga allies. The Henga where a Chewa people who had been subjected by the Ngoni and learnt to fight the Ngoni way they are best represented by fierce tribal infantry. They also allied with the Bemba and Yao who I plan to write lists for in the future but can be represented by irregular infantry with the poor shots and poorly armed options.

Congo Arabs – Stanley allied with Tippu Tip on his Congo expedition so explorer allies are an option. The Arabs also allied themselves with the cannibal Manyema and Tetela. By the time of the war with the Free State these tribes where fighting much like the Arabs (the Tetela actually swapped sides and supported the Belgians) and can just be represented by units of Arab irregular infantry with no upgrades. Earlier when they first allied with the Arabs they can be represented by tribal infantry. If you want to represent the terror their cannibal ways inspired in their enemies I suggest any unit they beat in an attack has an additional -1 penalty to its pinning test.

Witu – Sultan Fumo of Witu fought the British in a short campaign in 1890 after he murdered a number of Europeans. His forces where considered bandits and where a mix of Swahilis, escaped slaves and local tribesmen. Although they had some guns many of his men had spears (in one attack on the British he had 2000 spearmen and 500 riflemen) I suggest 2/3rds of the Field force AP be spent on tribal infantry to represent Witu’s relience on more traditional weapons.

Zanzibar – The Sultan of Zanzibar had several ways of raising troops he could call upon powerful Arab and Swahili leaders to provide him with troops from their followers and he could raise levies from the population of Zanzibar island, although the latter was only done in an emergency, these can easily be represented by the current options above.

Up until circa 1881 the Sultan also had a standing force of Baluchis, these men were mostly mercenaries, from around the Indian ocean and Persian gulf regions who acted as garrison soldiers and a police force in Zanzibar. Their main armament were obsolete matchlock muskets and swords. The explorer Cameron described his escort in 1873 as “covered with bucklers, pistols, swords, spears and matchlocks”. The explorer Burton (who was himself an acknowledged expert on swordsmanship) describes them as good swordsmen but he also witnessed some Baluchis firing, for an hour, at a target a dozen paces away, and not hit anything. Josesph Thomson in 1878 said of his escort “There seemed to be literally no discipline among them”. Technically the Sultans Baluchis were disbanded 1881 but many of them continued to find employment as soldiers after that date. If you want to add Baluchis to a Zanzibar army using the following

BaluchisIrregular infantry poor shots, antiquated musket, Swordsmen  cost 3pts


Unenthusiastic discipline becomes -1 – cost -1 pts


So that’s it for now hopefully this list gives some pointers for fielding a slightly more historical Arab field force in TMWBKs rules. At some stage I hope to paint up and add a small supplement of Zanzibar regular army to complement this list but I have a long list of Darkest Africa things I’d like to do in 2021 so I’m not sure when that will happen.

Arab and Swahili Army (part 1)

It’s been a bit of a slog but I have finally finished my Arab/Swahili army. This is the core army that should allow me to represent numerous Arab armies from Tabora, to the Congo, to lake Nyasa and anywhere else Arabs could be found. Regional flavour can be added to the army with the addition of some units of local allies such as the Tetela in the Congo or the Bemba on lake Nyasa. For this post I’d thought I’d give a brief background on the Arabs in Africa along side some pictures of my new army and in part 2 I’ll give an alternative field force list to the Slavers list in the TMWWBKs rule book.

First a bit of background on the terms Swahili and Arab. The east coast of Africa had been one end the Indian ocean trading network, since at least early medieval times (and probably before), which brought traders from as far as India, Persia and China to east Africa. The most numerous traders though where those from the Arabian peninsula who, as well as trade goods, also brought their culture and religion which had a profound impact on the east African costal peoples, the word Swahili is derived from the Arabic word for coast, the mixture of African culture, Islam, and influences from around the Indian ocean created the unique Swahili culture. The Swahilis were spread right along the east African coast from Mozambique to Kenya in a number of costal trading towns like Mombasa, Pate and Zanzibar. It should be noted that the Swahili despite outside influences, and occasional foreign rulers, where Africans.

The term Arab initially signified settlers from Oman. At the end of the 17th century and throughout the 18th century the sultans of Oman, backed by a powerful navy, had created a maritime empire that stretched from Persia all the way to south-eastern Africa.


This state of affairs existed until 1856 when a succession dispute saw Zanzibar and the African portion of the empire split from the Oman and Muscat part of the empire (with a little help from the British). After this the term Arab becomes increasingly more loose in its meaning. Many Arabs, in Africa, had Arab fathers and African mothers. For example Majid bin Said, the 1st Sultan of Zanzibar, had an Ethiopian mother. As the 19th century wore on the term Arab increasingly seems to have become a cultural tag (wearing Arab clothing, following Islam, happy to engage in slavery) rather than and indication of being from Oman. Thus during the Karonga war Mlozi and his followers where dubbed the North End Arabs by the British and yet there were few, if any, actual Omani Arabs among their ranks the majority being Swahili or Nyamwezi in origin.

The Arabs and Swahilis thrived on trade and this saw them exploring the interior of Africa during the 19th century in search of ivory and slaves. Many of the more famous European explorers of east and central Africa found that their newly discovered lands had already been discovered by the Arabs first. As they moved inland the Arabs created a number of new strongholds such as Ujiji  on the shores of Lake Tanganyika or Tabora in what is now Tanzania. though nominally loyal to the sultan of Zanzibar many of the settlements become independent entities.

One of the main advantages that allowed the Arabs to explore and settle in Africa was access to guns something the peoples of the interior had no access to (at least until the Arabs started supplying them in return for slaves and Ivory). Typically, as Arab traders moved into the interior, they would find a local chief, and ally with him, offering to use their guns on his enemies. They would attack the chief’s enemy villages, ideally in a surprise attack, massacre the men, round up the women and children as slaves, loot the village of all its valuables and life stock. On returning to their allied chief they would ideally exchange the livestock and valuables for Ivory and then use the slaves to carry the ivory back to civilization before selling the ivory and slaves. It cant really be understated how brutal this practice was European explorers commented on areas they found that where devastated by years of Arab slave raids.

The Arabs didn’t have it all their own way though many tribes in the interior where formidable warriors, even without guns, and the Arabs seem to have avoided tangling with the likes of the Masai, Ngoni or Ha when ever possible. With other tribes like the Bemba, Yao or Seguhha the Arabs allied themselves and then supplied their allies with guns in return for slaves and ivory.

Organisation of Arab/Swahili armies seemed to have been based around individual leaders and their followers. The followers could be family members, locally recruited allied tribesmen, armed slaves (ironically often called Wagwana meaning freeman) or employed freemen. Our best description of an Arab army is probably Stanley’s break down of the Arab army operating out of Tabora against Mirambo. Stanley lists 16 different Arab leaders, each with their own contingent of musket armed slaves, normally these slaves number between 25 and 75 men though two leaders each have around 250 men under their command. The rest of the army is made up of around 1100 native allies armed with spear and bow and around 150 freemen (assumingly local Tabora residents called out in an emergency).

As such I based my army around a similar theme each unit being an Arab leader and his various hangers on. I have given each unit a flag as an indicator of different leaders. Flags seemed to have been popular the best known is the plain red banner of Zanzibar which was carried by those either representing the sultan of Zanzibar or wanting to give themselves an air of legitimacy. Other banners existed though and Chris Peers in his Foundry African books lists a number for both coastal Arabs and the Congo Arabs so I’ve used these as inspiration for my own.


Weaponry among Arab/Swahili armies changed as the century wore on. The battle of Shela fought circa 1816, between the Swahili cities of Pate and Lamu, both sides where armed mostly with spears and swords supplemented with bows and matchlock muskets. By the middle of the century swords and shields where still commonly carried alongside flintlock muskets. There were three main types of Arab sword the largest being the 4ft long “Frankish sword” wielded two hand the other types where smaller and could be paired with a small round shield. Burton describes Swahili’s often being armed with antiquated German cavalry sabres. An account of the Arab Mtagamoyo’s 1870 expedition talks of the Arab leader cutting his way through his pygmy enemies with a sword and shield during one charge. later in the battle, when the Arabs ran out of powder for their guns, , they charged the enemy with their swords and won the battle. At the battle of the Bua river circa 1888 it’s interesting that the Arabs fired a volley at the attacking Ngoni and followed up with and immediate charge. A tactic that makes some sense if you combine a sword and slow loading muzzle loader into a shock and awe tactic that would probably work well against the sort of tribes the Arabs liked to victimize. unfortunately, for the Arabs, in this case it the Ngoni had actual set an ambush and massacred the Arabs to a man.


The Arabs frequently relied on fortifications in their battles which isn’t surprising given they where often operating deep in hostile territory. A typical Arab stockade could have several rings of ditch and palisade with loop holes, rifle pits and platforms. Obviously when defending one of these boma their muskets became a lot more important than their swords as the arabs tended to lay down a heavy, but not very accurate fire, from the safety of the palisade. Towards the end of the century the Arabs started to get their hands on more modern breech loading and repeating rifles. The arrival of these weapons saw swords and shield fall out of favour charging with cold steal being replaced with skirmishing from cover. These changes in tactics also seem to have coincided with the Arabs increasingly coming up against European trained troops ,armed with modern weapons and bayonets, which probably made charging with a sword a bad idea. Despite the increase in modern firearms towards the end of the 19th century muzzle loading guns seem to have continued to have armed the bulk of Arab troops. After a battle with the Arabs at Chige the Force Publique collected around 600 guns but only 30 where modern breech loaders.


Very occasionally Arab armies would be noted as using Artillery. The Sultan of of Zanzibar had a number of cannon to defend Zanzibar itself though the guns where said to be mostly in poor condition apart from some fine brass pieces of Portuguese origin. When Harry Johnston, as consul of British Central Africa, launched the final attack on Mlozi’s stockade 1895 the Arabs had a single muzzle loading cannon as part of their defences. During the Abushiri war 1888-1890 , between Arab led forces and the Germans, the Germans at least twice faced Arab forces entrenched and supported by a number of muzzle loading cannon. The Bemba also have tradition that sometime in the 1860s Arab traders joined the Bemba in a battle against the Ngoni the Arabs brought a single cannon resulting in a victory for the allies .


Ok that’s the brief history lesson over time for some pictures of the army. These shots are of the basic units of Musket armed infantry. I have also painted up enough miniatures with swords or modern rifles to insert into the units to represent early and later Arab armies but more of that in part two when I show my thoughts on a workable Arab field force list for TMWWBKs.