New Year – New Project – Zandeland

Why Zandeland?

Well, my jungle terrain is beginning to look a bit shabby so what better incentive for refurbishing existing terrain and building new terrain than to expand my African collection with new miniatures – the Azande!

I know of only two companies who make 28mm figures of the Azande (both by the same sculptor): Wargames Foundry’s Darkest Africa Collection and North Star Military Figures’ Copplestone Darkest Africa Collection. Both lines were sculpted by one of my favorite sculptors, Mark Copplestone.

Where is Zandeland?

Zandeland is located on the northern edge of the Congo River Basin where the heavy forest begins to yield to the highland savannahs of the East African Rift. The Azande arrived in the area sometime early in the 18th century and carved out a large territory. Today, Zandeland stretches across three countries: the Congo African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. All three of these countries had different names when I was a wee lass.

Zandeland is in the exact center of the African continent where there are only two seasons – the wet season which lasts for about nine months and the dry season (December through February). Though the dry season is quite humid.

Who are the Azande?

Azande is the plural of Zande. “Azande” means “the people who possess much land,” in the Zande language. Some of the neighboring tribes referred to the Azande as “Niam-Niam” or “Nyama-Nyama” meaning “great eaters” suggesting the propensity of cannibalism. Though cannibalism was rarer among the Azande than what was practiced by other tribes further South, the Azande made use of their reputation as cannibals to plant fear in the hearts of foreigners.

There were several Azande kingdoms. Whenever a king would die, his sons would fight for the throne and those that lost would go out and form their own kingdoms. Thus, until the 1850s, the Azande fought among themselves and with neighboring tribes.

Azande King Bafuka

Their first contact with foreigners came in 1858 when the trader John Petherick arrived in the area. He had come up the Nile from Khartoum looking for new sources of ivory. The Azande had piles of it. They hunted elephants sometimes for meat when food was scarce, but most often they hunted to protect their fields and villages from foraging elephant herds. To the Azande, the ivory tusks were just decor with no commercial value, so Petherick made a killing and returned to Khartoum with a motherlode of ivory.

John Petherick

The ivory did not go unnoticed by the Arab traders in Khartoum, who then began many expeditions into Zandeland using their tried-and-true tactics. If you are unfamiliar with the tactics of the Arabs in the Congo, whether from Zanzibar or Khartoum, the Arabs would befriend a local king for trade and would help the local king in conquering the king’s enemies. In effect they would use local leaders to plunder and enslave the inhabitants of an area. However, these tactics did not work too well with the Azande as many of the vassal kingdoms were loyal or related by blood to stronger kings who made war on the “Turks,” as the Azande called the Arab traders since they were nominally citizens of the Ottoman Empire. The traders did not count on the Azande being a confident, warlike, and most of all, an adaptable people. The Azande quickly developed tactics to counter the Arabs’ firearms and not only began to arm themselves, but became in many cases, better shots than the Arab traders.

By the end of the 19th century and start of the 20th, the Azande were not only engaged with the Arabs and Mahdists coming from the East, but they also were being pressured by the Belgians from the South, the French from the West and the Anglo-Egyptians from the North. The fate of Zandeland was sealed at the 1885 Berlin Conference where 13 European countries, the Ottoman Empire and the United States of America met to divide Africa. Not a single African kingdom or tribe had any say on the borders established in that conference, the majority of those borders still exist today. So Zandeland was divided among the European powers over twenty years before it was finally conquered.

How to Game Adventures in Zandeland

The Azande kings had armies large enough that you could use THW’s Colonial Adventures for any of the set battles – particularly battles with the Arabs and the Belgian Force Publique. Games using smaller forces are ideal for Mission St. Mary and Fortunes Won and Lost. All of these rule sets are available from Rebel Minis.

Another approach is to use Warrior Heroes Adventures in Talomir with some modifications. Why use WHAT? Well, for the magic rules of course. Whether or not the spells and rituals performed by witchdoctors were real, people believed they were real enough to affect the behavior of the people involved.

Sure, sure, I can hear some saying why not use Chain Reaction like you did in 2020. Well, I’m lazy and don’t want to do all of the work to customize Chain Reaction when there are so many rule sets to build on that cost very little and which are easily available from Two Hour Wargames or Rebel Minis.

In addition to the rule sets mentioned, I also have the first edition of Darkest Africa, which appeared years ago in Wargames Illustrated, Congo and its supplement from Studio Tomahawk, Armies of the 19th Century: Central Africa from Wargames Foundry and many other articles and books to draw on.

Modern Azande

What to Expect

The purpose of this project is to produce some nice terrain, play some interesting games, and to paint some awesome miniatures. I hope to do two posts a month on this project, one in which I build terrain and the other in which I will play a scenario. Regardless of the progress made, this project will conclude at the end of the year.

So, what are your thoughts? Have you ever done a “Darkest Africa” project? Have you ever crafted jungle terrain for your game table? Let me know what you think with a comment. If you have suggestions, I’d like to hear those as well.

What hobby projects do you hope to tackle this year? Inquiring minds want to know! Well, really, I just want to drool over your cool ideas.


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2 thoughts on “New Year – New Project – Zandeland

  1. In some ways, this looks like an attempt to better understand the natives by playing the Azande. There is an active thread on TMP about de-colonializing wargaming, the most interesting elements of which point in that direction.
    From the position of the Azande, it looks like they’ll have plenty of people to fight–French, British, Belgians, Arabs, other tribes, and even subtribes of Azande. I did once find an account of a tribe on the border of Portuguese East Africa and German East Africa that would raid into GEA, then run back across the border to PEA before the Germans could catch them, and raid PEA and then run away to GEA. Eventually the Europeans got wise to what was going on and sent a joint expedition, or maybe it was coordinated expeditions. We did a variation of this as a one-off game.
    I have lots of cake decoration palm trees. All the rage 20 years ago, but there are better things on the market now. I also have some scenic pieces from Fontanini nativity scenes. The local Fontanini store went out of business and they sold the individual pieces for 50% off.

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