It’s been a perturbing week here on the Corner. The relentless attacks by crocodiles, cannibals, communists, and Canberras, don’t bother me, it’s the realisation that I may never feel towards Every Single Soldier’s latest COIN title the way I feel towards its predecessors, that really weighs on my mind.

Bearing in mind how dear Vietnam ’65 and Afghanistan ’11 are to me, and how fond I am of unfashionable historical themes, Angola ’86 and I should get on like a veldt on fire. Although we didn’t get off to the best of starts, I hoped prolonged exposure and a succession of Early Access improvements would eventually allow a firm friendship to form. Back in November the idea that, a few days before the end of its Early Access probation, I’d be struggling to muster sufficient enthusiasm to play the PC’s only Angolan Bush War wargame, would have seemed absurd, yet here I am.

My main beef with the admirably affordable Angola ’86 v0.98N is that it simply works my crinkled cranial CPU too damn hard.

Because the new engine’s border-straddling, multi-sector maps come in one size only – big – and boast twice as many villages as a V65 or A11 venue… because unit counts are higher and bases more numerous… because, I can’t, currently*, see at a glance which of my units are low on fuel or supplies… because I’m not allowed to delegate aspects of my tangled logistics-heavy responsibilities** to a friendly AI assistant, A86 often overwhelms and fatigues me in a way its less demanding forerunners never did.

* Encouragingly, Johan is experimenting with improvements in this area.
** In ESS COIN titles you spend far more time supplying friendlies and searching for foes than orchestrating combat.

Doubtless, there are smarter, better organised, more patient tacticians out there who won’t be troubled by the heavy workload or the slightly flawed UI. Me, I’m heading back to ‘Nam…

…and the ‘Stan…

…for the time being. Hopefully, by the time Angola ’86 gains Rhodesia and Vietnam spin-offs, Johan will have figured out a way to win over intimidated/indolent Vietnam ’65 lovers like yours truly.

* * *

Surprisingly, computer wargamers don’t need to wait for the arrival of Every Single Soldier’s Rhodesia ’72 to recreate the struggle that paved the way for majority rule in Zimbabwe. Wars Across the World (£1 until July 11!) owners with two quid to spare have had access to a Rhodesian Bush War treatment since 2018.

By chance, I’m in the midst of a PBEM playthrough of the eighteen-turn WATW: Rhodesia ’72 DLC at the moment. For the past eleven days, I’ve been trying to emulate the military achievements of ZIPRA and ZANLA, while my opponent, an occasional commenter here on the Corner, manoeuvres chits representing the forces of the Rhodesian regime.

Mid-way through Turn 11, the conflict is finely poised. Boosted by military aid from Moscow, my Zambia-based ZIPRA spearhead has recently conquered the stubbornly defended Victoria Falls province. In the east of the country, however, things aren’t going nearly so well for my troops. After bruising mountain scraps north of Umtali, ZANLA’s finest have been pushed back across the Rhodesia-Mozambique border.

WATW scenarios don’t come much more asymmetrical than Rhodesia ’72. My opponent is heavily outnumbered, but has the formidable Rhodesian SAS and a range of useful air assets in his armoury. I’ve got grunts aplenty and newly delivered Soviet armour and artillery, but most of my foot units are fragile and feeble compared to Regime equivalents. As starving my opponent into submission isn’t really an option (supply sources in Bulawayo and Salisbury prevent this) my plan right now is to spend the next REDACTED turns REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED REDACTED then use REDACTED REDACTED to strike REDACTED and REDACTED from the REDACTED and REDACTED. Wish me luck!

* * *

Exploring the land now called Zimbabwe in Source of the Nile Digital Edition is a giraffe-tall order. As artistic Aussie one-man-band, Friday Night Software, has ported Avalon Hill’s 1978 solitaire board game, lock, stock, and barrel, the pith-helmeted heroes who lead your expeditions into early Nineteenth Century Africa’s mysterious interior often come to a sticky end a few hexagons from the coast.

Hostile tribes, dangerous fauna, disease, accidents… Source of the Nile’s off-screen dice dish out unpleasant surprises like campaigning politicians dish out hogwash. The challenge of the game is dealing with these splendidly varied setbacks as sagely as possible. There’s absolutely no point penetrating deep into the interior, discovering countless wonders en route, if your main character can’t make it back to London via a coastal settlement, and ‘bank’ his explored hexes and cash-generating finds.

If oft cruel SotN didn’t grant players three lives (If your main character fails to return, one of his two ‘trusted assistants’ gets to mount the next expedition) and offer them plenty of tactical choices, it would be pretty exasperating. This curio engages because every turn there are brow-furrowing pathing, manpower, and diplomacy choices to be made, and almost every turn your dwindling party of mosquito-bitten bearers, guides, and armed askari, either achieves something – the mapping of another hex or the discovery of a new wonder – or is kicked in the goolies by those capricious chance cubes.

Generally, how you prepare for an expedition is influenced by the expedition’s (usually) randomly-determined start point. Pack horses and camels allow for faster travel in certain terrains, and increase your portage capability, but can be a drain on precious ration stocks. A boon in riverine regions, canoes are a bulky liability elsewhere. Like rations, muskets, gifts, and bonus items, they can be ‘cached’ almost anywhere on a map, but the closer the cache is to port, the higher the chance it won’t be there when/if you go to retrieve it.

I’ve played three games to completion thus far and, though I’ve seen very little of Africa’s interior in any of them, feel I am gaining confidence and proficiency. In my last playthrough I achieved a triple digit score for the first time, and made it back to Blighty several times. Interestingly, your final VP tally isn’t wholly dependent on the amazing things you chance upon and acquire while in Africa, your behaviour towards locals and employees also has an impact, albeit a minor one. Defeating a native tribe with the help of your askari, might bag you a few new bearers but it costs a VP (unless you’re playing as a journalist – one of eight explorer types). Leaving sick hirelings or discharging fit but superfluous ones in the middle of nowhere, is also frowned upon by the scorer.

Pleasing bespoke art and well chosen ambient sounds give this endearing story generator, charm and atmosphere its cardboard inspiration doesn’t possess. If you’re in the market for something challenging, quirky, fast-paced, and seriously Victorian, extracting seventeen pounds’ worth of pleasure from Source of the Nile Digital Edition shouldn’t prove difficult.


    • If you enjoy aeroplanes and history, have a read of ‘Jack Malloch: Legend of the Skies’.

      Although not the best written of books, the story and the man are fascinating – from the sounds of it, his efforts almost single handedly kept the illegal supply of arms and spare parts running into Rhodesia.

  1. Your take on the latest in the COIN series (Angola ‘86) saddens me.

    I know you had a bad start but the game was very much in early access at that time.

    The game now is very much based on the same mechanics as before, just on a bigger scale and with more complexity.
    Unfortunately this will require more processing power and I appreciate it might not be suitable for processors unable to keep up.

    Your point on not being able to see units low on supply/fuel/health/ repair and Conscription period remaining has been addressed in the latest version 0.98q.

    Hopefully with a new computer in your Christmas stocking and ongoing improvements, I will be able to woo you back into the COIN fold 🙂

  2. Sadly, the ‘CPU’ I was referring to is the antique organic one between my ears rather than the fairly new silicon one in my PC, so upgrade options are limited. I fear I’m just too disorganised/dense for Angola ’86’s scale and complexity.

    “Your point on not being able to see units low on supply/fuel/health/ repair and Conscription period remaining has been addressed in the latest version 0.98q.”

    The colour-coded reticules are a big improvement, but I suspect I’m not alone in wishing I could toggle icons showing everything (APs, fuel, health/repair status…) in the 3D view.

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