Thursday, 27 October 2016

The Men Who Would Be Kings Background

I have recently purchased a copy of Osprey’s “The Men Who Would Be Kings”, the colonial wargames rules by Dan Mersey.  Although they share some of the mechanisms of Dan’s excellent Lion Rampant and Dragon Rampant rules, there are many differences and I think these will give quite a different game to LR/DR.

Although I have quite a number of figures for colonial skirmish gaming, I don’t really have large enough forces to play the rules, but I don’t want to wait until I’d bought and painted more units before trying the rules out. Fortunately Dan has put in the option of “Skirmish Kings”, playing the rules with half sized units. This means I only need 4 or 5 figures for cavalry units and 6 or 8 figures for most infantry ones. Looking at my varied collection of figures I needed to come up with a suitable setting to explain the wide variety of troops I’d be using (including pygmies, Masai, Chinese, colonial troops, askaris and assorted explorers/hunters etc).

My games are going to be set on a fictional large island off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean.

The native tribes inhabiting the island are the Stumppi pygmies, who live in the jungles of the southern highlands and the Longshankee who prefer the grass plain in the low-lying north. These two tribes have co-existed in happy animosity for centuries. However there are outside influences on the island.

Since the 17th century the natives have been plagued by Arab slavers, who established several fortified posts along the Western coastline. In recent years they have been joined by a band of Chinese pirates. Originally pillaging shipping in the East Indies, the pirates were forced out to sea when pursued by the British Royal Navy ship, then caught by a ferocious storm and blown off course, to find landfall on the island’s coast. After an initial period of hostility, the newcomers have allied themselves with the Arab slavers.

On the east coast of the island various European settlers have crossed from the African mainland.  The British have established a “missionary outpost” and the French a “trading post”. However the most numerous settlers are of German extraction, who have established several large plantation on the fertile coastal belt, and are regular customers of the western slavers who have been providing workers for the plantations.

However, relations on the island have recently worsened and the German farmers have requested government assistance. A force of colonial troops and askaris have been dispatched from German East Africa, with the official task of “stamping out the evil practice of slavery”. In practice this means cutting out the middle man and reducing the cost of the workforce for the plantations.

In response the Ottoman Sultan, who had previous shown little interest in the region, has also sent an expedition. As the island was originally “discovered” by Arabs, who were nominally subjects of the Empire, if anyone was going to place the foot on imperialism on the local’s necks, it would be the Ottomans!

The influx of foreign powers has had the effect of overcoming generations of hostility and forcing the Longshankee and the Stumppi into an alliance to rid their homeland of the hated outsiders.

In the meantime the British and French have fortified the “missionary” and “trading” posts and are keeping a close eye on the unfolding events whilst awaiting further instruction from their governments.

I'll be playing the first games next week, so batreps and pictures to follow.


  1. Interesting back story. Will be following to see how the games (and story) develop.

  2. I have a suspicion I'll be pinching this background myself. Well done.