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Digital Gaming => Computer Gaming => Topic started by: lecrop on June 11, 2021, 12:49:15 AM

Title: SGS Heia Safari
Post by: lecrop on June 11, 2021, 12:49:15 AM
Hi all, this is a preview of the upcoming title Heia Safari from SGS. You can also read it in Spanish at my blog Un hexágono en Pratzen (

SGS Heia Safari

 Heia Safari is a wargame that is being developed by Strategy Game Studio (SGS), the company founded by the renowned designer Philippe Thibaut, and that covers the only colonial campaign that lasted throughout the First World War; the unequal fighting in East Africa between the forces of Imperial Germany and the Entente made up of the far more numerous British, British Empire (India, South Africa, Nigeria, etc...), Belgian and Portuguese troops.

 Its title, Heia Safari, comes from the title of a song composed in 1916 by the painter Hans Aschenborn inspired by the fierce resistance of the German troops led by Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck against the Entente invasion of the East African colonies.

 We are facing a turn-based wargame (one month per turn), then subdivided into phases, with a zonal map, with the inclusion of events and cards, and with all the necessary ingredients to be able to reproduce on an operational scale the ins and outs of the historical conflicts of the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. Both sides, German or Entente, are playable, either alone against artificial intelligence or against another player in hotseat or PBEM (Play By EMail) modes. The fact that the map is divided into uneven zones and not in the usual hexagonal abstraction, provides a visual and narrative richness that synchronizes very well with the idiosyncrasy of an era perhaps somewhat less technical and more, we could say, wild. It also adds integers to the asymmetric opportunities of guerrilla warfare and the inequality of forces; in this case we are talking about some Germans in defence and in numerical inferiority facing many Entente troops on the attack, superior in number, although with a supposedly inferior chain of command. For this reason, it may not be the best setting for a competitive tournament, but its range of situations, varied troop origins and natural richness of the terrain generate a lot of historical and narrative sauce, while exuding exoticism in abundance.

Gamemap detail
 I have to say that the artistic section of Heia Safari seems to me of a high level, with a slight but very appropriate touch of decadence, and that the game engine has a remarkable finish and polish, something surprising for a company that in a way has just started its voyage. It shows the experience of the team and the designer, and the lessons learned from previous adventures. In addition, for the WWII stalwarts, SGS also has several very interesting projects in production. Check the site here:

German units example
The campaign, von Lettow-Vorbeck and the Schutztruppe

 Called by some historians as "the German Lawrence of Arabia", Lieutenant Colonel Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck was 44 years old when in January 1914 he arrived in East Africa (Deustch-Ostafrika) destined for Dar-es-Salaam to command the forces of the German Empire of the II Reich in the colony. This perfect example of a Prussian officer was not new to war matters, as he had fought in China against the Boxer uprising who had risen against foreign influence, and against the Hereros and Hottentots in the colonies of Southwest Africa. The objective of the German colonial army, or Schutztruppe (literally protection troops), was to guarantee public order and security, as well as the repression of any rebellion by the indigenous population. Therefore, they were neither offensive troops nor an official army in the strict sense of the word. Following the patterns of the time, the Schutztruppe included troops from the local ethnic groups (although never in the chain of high command), and these troops were highly valued by Lettow-Vorbeck because of their abilities regarding exploration and survival, in a very tough natural terrain and climate for European soldiers. The Askaris (soldiers in Swahili) recruited by Lettow-Vorbeck came from the Waheh and Angoni tribes, and received better pay and better treatment than other indigenous people recruited from other countries. When the First World War broke out, the Schutztruppe of the Deustch-Ostafrika numbered 14 Feldkompanie (companies), with a total of 260 officers, 1,700 soldiers and 2,472 Askaris.

Askari troops
 At the strategic level, the Deustch-Ostafrika was in a very compromised situation, bordering the British Protectorate of East Africa (present-day Kenya) and Uganda to the north, with Force Publique troops in the Belgian Congo to the west, and with the Portuguese to the south, as well as the French in Madagascar. When the war begins in August 1914, German troops carry out various raids in Uganda, the Congo, Nyasaland, Rhodesia and Mozambique, although the first major action is the responsibility of the British; the attempt to capture the port of Tanga in November through an amphibious attack by the Indian Expeditionary Force “B”, an operation that turns into a complete disaster for the British. The Royal Navy insisted that the Germans should be cavalierly advised of their arrival before the attack, which gave Lettow-Vorbeck the necessary margin to reinforce the troops and prepare. If we add to that the por quality of the attacking troops, and the 'help' from swarms of extremely aggressive bees, the result cannot be excessively surprising; on the third day the British re-embarked in retreat, abandoning ammunition and weapons and dramatically raising the morale of the Schutztruppe.

 From that moment Lettow-Vorbeck ignored orders from Berlin to stay on the defensive, and achieved a series of successive victories, attacking the railway lines built by the English and achieving a somewhat Pyrrhic result in the battle of Jassin, in which he won but lost what he considered too many men and ammunition. From there, Lettow-Vorbeck decided to focus on waging highly effective guerrilla warfare in the Colony and nearby Kenya, Rhodesia and Mozambique. Also in the naval area, there were notable events, such as the good performance of the light cruiser SMS Königsberg, until it was bombarded by British river monitors Severn and Mersey in the Rufiji delta. Despite this, the crew of the SMS Königsberg managed to disassemble the main 105mm guns and various useful equipment and took them through the jungle to join Lettow-Vorbeck troops.

Card example
 In March 1916, the British under Jan Smuts started an offensive consisting of 45,000 soldiers, but the German guerrilla warfare tactics proved once again effective, and not only did they defeat the British on several occasions, but they even recovered lost ground or penetrated and devastated the Portuguese colony of Mozambique. At the end of 1918 Lettow-Vorbeck won again a Battle at Kasama, two days after the unconditional surrender of Germany in Europe. Only ten days later in Abercorn (Zambia) when Lettow-Vorbeck was confirmed that this surrender was real and not a rumour, did he hand over his command and lay down his weapons.

 After the armistice Lettow-Vorbeck worked to repatriate the German soldiers that the war had spread throughout the world, and fought for the rights of the troops of African origin. In 1919 he returned to Germany where he was treated as a hero, promoted to general, and awarded the Pour le Mérite order. His unbeaten Schutztruppe was the only body authorized to stage a victory parade under the Brandenburg Gate.

 As an anecdote, one of Lettow-Vorbeck's officers, Theodore von Hippel, used his commander's guerrilla tactics to create the Brandenburg Division, the Abwehr commandos in World War II.

 The characteristics of the SGS Heia Safari wargame allow to reproduce each and every one of these details at an operational level, using cards and events to simulate the general, diplomatic, political framework and its dependencies on the results obtained on the continent, while the map by Zones, monthly turns, and rules for supplies, structures and fortifications highlight the important factors of the peculiarities of guerrilla warfare and the qualities of the commands, always opposed to the size of the troops. I cannot do more than recommend this wargame to those who have a fondness for asymmetrical, original settings, and with a lot of colonial flavour.

Event example

To learn more…
⦁   A light bibliographic recommendation: Armies in East Africa 1914–18, Osprey Publishing
⦁   A more in-depth bibliographic recommendation: The Forgotten Front: The East African Campaign 1914-1918, Ross Anderson
⦁   And a movie: The African Queen, by John Huston
Title: Re: SGS Heia Safari
Post by: Anguille on June 11, 2021, 12:52:36 AM
Sounds interesting. Something that has never (?) been covered before.
Title: Re: SGS Heia Safari
Post by: Philthib on June 11, 2021, 02:22:22 AM
Indeed, this was never attempted in digital.

There were quite a few boardgames and magazine games on it, including my favorite, made by Richard Berg for Strategy & Tactics magazine (called "Sideshow").

I am now working on balancing the game. And looking for hard to find data such as OOB and troops positions for 1916, 1917 and 1918
Title: Re: SGS Heia Safari
Post by: Gusington on June 11, 2021, 08:20:43 AM
That definitely looks fascinating to me.
Title: Re: SGS Heia Safari
Post by: Boggit on June 18, 2021, 03:03:57 AM
Looks great. A fascinating campaign.