Inspired by the writings of Chris Peers and his rather wonderful Death in the Dark Continent rules, I spent some months back in 2013 putting together an Azande force. These lovely 28mm models are all by Mark Copplestone, sculpted between his time at Foundry and Copplestone Miniatures.
These fierce warriors won several battles against the reviled Belgian Force Publique in the 1800s and adopted firearms alongside their traditional throwing spears and fearsome throwing knives. If you want to know more of the background, I can highly recommend that you get hold of a copy of Chris Peers’ The African Wars. Foundry’s Azande page also has a potted history and painting guide.
I wanted to create more than just an army to get the flavour of the Azande; fortunately, the tribe was well-recorded in photographs and drawings in the late 1800s, including this fascinating image of an Azande village. This was my jumping-off point for creating some scenic pieces to fill out my own gaming set up.
The huts were so unique that I decided to scratch build my own. They started life as small cardboard tubes with broom bristles glued around the outside for texture. Some were on stilts, which I achieved by cutting up wooden skewers and drilling them through the hut and into the base.
The main part of each hut was the roof, for which I roughly carved a piece of blue foam. The thatch was then added in layers of Milliput, into which I pressed a rough pattern. The insane pointy tops were made from yet more Milliput formed over a cocktail stick pressed into the top of the roof.
Unfortunately these are the only WIP photos that I took at the time, but hopefully you get the idea!
Spray painting was the fastest way to finish these. I gave all the models an overall coat of brown (Army Painter Leather Brown) followed by masking up the hut walls and spraying the roofs with a yellow-brown (Army Painter Desert Yellow).
When all this was dry and the fumes had cleared, I painted the huts with various black/brown washes and dry-brushed highlights.
I painted around 80 figures for the army, so I experimented with time-saving techniques. The bulk of the warriors were sprayed with Army Painter Leather Brown and then subjected to a coat of black/brown oil paint which was wiped off to leave the basic skin colour. This was really effective (even if it took five days to dry!) A few of the personality figures were instead black-undercoated and the painted traditionally using the Foundry Dusky Flesh triad.
Clothing and detail was then picked out in acrylic paints, before I got over-involved in painting the shields, at which point I was glad I’d saved all that time with the oil paints! I’ve always loved painting shields and had a brilliant time picking out the patterns on these based on various surviving examples I’d seen in books and museums.
The centrepiece of the village is the ‘tree of skulls’, adorned with shields and grisly battle trophies. This was created from a single Woodland Scenics tree armature with skulls from the old Wargames Factory (now Warlord Games) plastic skeletons and some spare Foundry Azande shields.
Although DITDC uses 60mm ‘elements’, I wanted to be able to split up the figures for skirmish gaming as well, so I bought a load of 60mm movement trays from the ever-wonderful Warbases and added 5mm neodynium magnets. The figures were all based on UK 1p pieces – the most recent kind are magnetic and therefore perfect for this kind of thing.