Brant Guillory, 1 February 2021
Many of the African Bush Wars of the 50s-80s have fascinated me over the years, but for some reason the struggle of the Rhodesians has always seemed more interesting than the others. There have been a variety of decidedly mediocre wargames about the conflict over the years, but there were positive comments to be found about The White Tribe, a solo game from White Dog Games. This isn’t so much a full AAR, nor is it necessarily a review of the game, though there will be comments on the game throughout. This is an as-it-happened stream-of-consciousness article about figuring out the game as it goes.
The core schtick of the game is that you have been left in charge of the country upon the sudden resignation of Ian Smith, and have to navigate the socio-political waters, as well the military/counter-insurgency conflict, to try and bring Rhodesia through the next 2 decades into some sort of final resolution with your own population while still fighting for legitimacy with the rest of the world. It’s not an easy balancing act.
For what it’s worth, there’s a lot of very specific instructions to follow for the initial setup, between the starting disposition of the African leaders to the distribution of policies on the turn record chart to the cooperation/resistance (‘handshake’) markers on the map to the various control counters on the map spaces. Setup easily takes 30-40 minutes, even with crystal clear and easy-to-follow instructions, because there’s so much to do here.
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We’ve got the map, with our units, counters indicating political control not just of the neighbors but also important nations, the presence (or absence) of key organizations in surrounding countries, the terror level (that determines how many “terr’s” are placed each turn), and the force pool of units to put into play. The turn record track has more than just the turn-by-turn actions (internal policies, elections) on it. The spaces on the track also record your population and your available funds. There’s a bunch of counters that are “out of play” (the small white tray) that are only made available by certain conditions in the game. There’s 2 double-sided reference cards that you’ll back and forth repeatedly. And we’ve got the rules out for consistent reference.
Finally, we’re ready to go!
The turn sequence is also rather involved, with multiple political phases, and only one phase where there is any real military action.
The first phase – The Rhodesian Herald Phase – is the one with ‘random events’ that basically the headline news stories from that year’s editions of the national newspaper. It’s a clever bit of chrome to add some ‘feel’ to the game while also including a variety of random events that get more troublesome as the game churns on.
Rhodesian Herald rolled a 2, plus 1 for the turn, resulting in a 3. The player then executes all of the events on that line.
- South African shake-up did not change their government
- Soldier of Fortune event gets more people into Rhodesia to help fight the ‘communists’ and raised the population by eight steps which is the max it could go
- Biera airstrike was negative, so no one tried to bomb the port
- Cabora Bassa Dam removed the Portugal marker from Tete, as the Portuguese and the locals fought over control of that region
- Outrage was negative since I had no units outside of the country, so nothing for them to get outraged about
(note: to explain what each of these is, and does, would basically involve regurgitating the well-written rulebook, and at that point, you should probably just buy the damn game, eh?)
Moving on from the Rhodesian Herald, the Politics phase is very busy on turn one, with multiple elections and potential changes in ‘local’ international politics that could affect us.
- South African elections rolled a 2, so no change (it takes a 6)
- British elections are triggered because there is a marker on that turn, so we move the election marker five turns from the current space on the track and then resolve the election. We rolled a 1, so Labour stays in charge and therefore no change to any other markers. Honestly that was probably good since the terror level couldn’t go down any if the Tories had won the election. Let’s hope they win later when that level is higher and I need to reduce it.
- There are no Rhodesian elections this turn.
- Portugal still controls Mozambique so no check for the Fico movement that springs up in their absence.
- We do need to check Botswana though, so let’s roll and we get a 2, which is not enough to remove British rule from Botswana (die roll + turn, and must beat a ‘6’, so no matter what, by turn 5 that control goes away).
That’s the end of our political phase
Commercial phase, wherein we collect our money from different sources that we use to resource our various requirements.
- There’s the free $3 from South Africa that we automatically get every turn.
- There are four other markers on the map that are all face up with dollar signs on them, netting us an additional $4.
- We get another $3 because of our population size, so that initial Soldier of Fortune event on the Rhodesian Herald events made a huge difference for us.
- Finally, because the global trade box on our turn record chart is not covered with a ‘sanctions’ marker, that’s another $4.
We managed to net $14 on the first turn and the game hasn’t even really started
- We have no shaky morale so there are no costs to buying down the effect of terrorists on the population.
- There’s no good way to squeeze Zambia in this turn because even though the port marker is present, there are no ZAPU units in Zambia to squeeze
- Since we really don’t have any other things to try, we are going to try to raise popularity through public spending and otherwise move on to the policy review phase.
- We spend $4 for ‘public spending’ and roll a die, and raise the popularity by three, which almost maxes it out.
Policy review phase:
With no policy on this first turn, we have nothing to act on, and we are not going to try any “visionary leadership” to pull a policy from the future. This is our first time through this, we’re not going to get to creative here.
Time to raise some troops!
We are going to pay $4 to raise Grey’s Scouts and one RAR battalion. They both go into Salisbury.
Otherwise, we don’t have anyone to rearm because everyone that’s out there is still in a province where the locals are cooperating.
So it’s time to deploy some troopies. We’re not going to send anyone outside of the country because there is no one outside of the country to go after just yet, and there are Portuguese units out there that we could use instead
We deploy RAR 2 to Manicaland and Grey’s Scouts to Mashonaland.
Now it’s time to deploy the terr’s. With a very low terror level, there won’t be many showing up as we are only rolling one die (1 die/terror level, and the number on the die determines where it goes).
Rolled a 1, which places one ZAPU unit in Zambia. Then, to move that unit into Rhodesia, we rolled a 1, and that moves the unit into Matebeleland.
We roll to check the handshake effect, and roll a 2. The terr survives, but it does not affect the handshake marker in that province, as the local populace is still cooperating at the moment.
It’s time to arrange the forces for combat and we have the SAS facing off with a single ZAPU unit. With the SAS at a strength of 3, we are going to go ahead and commit the Rhodesian air Force also, adding 2 to the strength.
Now we are rolling on an attack strength of five on the CRT and a roll a 5 on the die which gives us a DE result and eliminates that ZAPU unit. That unit goes back into the force pool can can be redeployed later.
We now returned the RhAF to Salisbury and flip the SAS unit to its ‘used’ side, which will require us to refit it next turn.
Now we’re moving on to the next phase of the turn, the “Cosmopolitics” phase:
The key event in this turn is that there is a US congressional election. We roll a 4, so there is no change in the US government and no change in the terror level. This phase includes US elections, but then it also includes a variety of internal politics that are all situationally-dependent. It’s an oddball/catchall second ‘politics’ phase, but it fits nicely within the flow of the turn.
That ends our first turn
We roll a 6, and add the turn number (2) for a total of 8 on the Rhodesian Herald.
The events are
- Commonwealth conference – The British government is on the Labour side so there is no effect
- Factions feud in Zambia – would allow me to eliminate two ZAPU units if any were on the map
- Sino-Soviet split – would allow me to lower the terror level by 1 if it wasn’t already at 1
- Cabora Bassa Dam (again) – put the Portuguese control marker back in Tete
- Outrage (again) – again, no one outside the country so no chance of outrage. I might have to send someone out there just for the adventure of it.
There are no elections at all on this turn. Portuguese rule of Mozambique has not yet ended so the Fico check is still irrelevant, but we do need to check for Botswana.
We rolled a 6 so we need to remove the marker indicating British rule of Botswana. This now opens up Botswana for ZAPU units to use.
Round up the money!
We maxed out at $16 after collecting everything from the map, so we went ahead and spent $1 to refill the RhAF and $4 to max out our popularity track.
This turn, we have the Land Tenure Act, which wasn’t a particularly popular action. If we fail to act on it, we lose popularity and population and have to immediately hold an election, so we’re going to go ahead and act on it even though it’s going to piss off the locals.
In order to pass it, we have to go to the House of Assembly and because the policy counter has a square icon on it, we have to roll at least a 2 on the d6.
We managed to roll a 2, and pass it. This would raise our popularity track by 1d6 if it wasn’t already maxed out. Population also goes up 1d6, and we rolled a 4, which will max that out as well. We do have to flip one handshake to a fist on the map.
Both the USA and UK are on their red side so we cannot flip either, which means the terror level stays at one and then we discard this chit.
Although this policy is ‘dated’ 1969, the semi-random nature of the policy placement during setup does shuffle the order of the major internal political events of the conflict, so that it’s not a predictable march to the inevitable, and shows that some ideas could’ve been tried at different points on the calendar.
Back to the actual combat, and the first thing we have to do is raise our troopies. Because we had to flip the ‘handshake’ in Mashonaland to a ‘fist’ as a result of our policy, we have to return 1 RAR and Grey’s Scouts to Salisbury for refit. We are also going to spend $2 to get 3 RAR onto the map. We also spend $1 each to put our units from Salisbury back on the map, and prioritize putting them where they border the most number of potential terr provinces.
We are going to take a chance and deploy the SAS to Mozambique and see if we end up catching some terr’s there.
Terror level is still at a 1 so we only roll a single die for putting an opposing unit out there. We roll a 3 and that puts one ZANU unit in Mozambique. Our deployment of the SAS might just pay off.
Normally, that ZANU unit would randomly move into Rhodesia based on a die roll, but because we deployed the SAS there, we can ‘stick’ that unit in Mozambique and force a combat there. With no other units trying to move into Rhodesia this gives us a very simple combat. We are also going to go ahead and commit the RhAF again just to make sure we get this guy off the map since he is our only fight.
With 5 total combat factors and a roll of 4, the unit is eliminated. My RhAF unit returns to Salisbury, and the SAS stays in place and flips to its used side.
This phase is pretty dead on this turn because there are no elections and no terr’s left in Rhodesia to impact the locals.
We’re only two turns in, but so far we are holding the situation okay. That’s about to get a lot worse as several big events are going to happen over the next two to three turns.
Part 2 will be coming along within the next week or three…
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