DBA Resources

The Tuaregs - 1000-1880 AD

Named Tuareg or "abandoned of God" by crusading Arabs, they refer to themselves as the "Imashaghen," (the noble and the free), "Kel Tamashek" (speakers of the Tamashek language) or "Kel Taggelmoust" (wearers of the blue veil). An ethnic branch of the Berbers, the Tuaregs are comprised of a number of tribes and tribal confederations who resisted the Arab Conquest by migrating into central and western Sahara, an area covering portions of what is now Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, and Morocco. There they formed settlements in the mountaineous regions of Adrar-N-Ifogas (in Mali), the Aïr (in Niger), and the Hoggar (in Algeria), which were cooler, wetter, and more suitable for agriculture. Although eventually embracing Islam, they resisted "arabization" and are considered to represent the purest surviving form of the pre-Muslim Berber language and culture.

From their mountain strongholds, desert encampments and oasis villages, the Tuaregs dominated the Ténéré (Tuareg for "the emptiness"), the 150,000 square mile sea of sand that comprises the central Sahara. They were also a formidible presence in the western Sahel desert. Until the twentieth century, they lived off the caravan trade as merchants, bandits, and mercenaries.

Although they are mentioned as early as Herodotus, the Tuareg DBA list extends from the retreat of the Abbasid Caliphate from the region circa 1000 AD until the introduction of rifles. The principal medievalTaureg kingdom arose at Tadamakkat in the Adrar-N-Ifogas region of Mali. In the 11th Century, a Tuareg kingdom also arose at Agadez (aka Tagedda) near the Air massif in northern Niger, which lay astride a major caravan route connecting Nigeria and the region of Lake Chad with Egypt and Libya. The Kingdom of Air was dominated by Mali in the 14th Century, conquered by Songhai in 1515 AD, and later occupied by French Colonial Forces in 1906, who expelled the Tuareg population.

Tuareg society was feudal in organization ruled by hereditary chieftains and comprised of Ihaggaren/Thaggaren (aristocratic nobles), Imrads/Imghads (vassals) and Iklan (negro serfs, primarily Sudanese), as well as priests (marabouts) and artisans. The typical noble fought with an iron lance called the "allarh", a straight, double-edged (Crusader-style) sword with cross-guard called the akouba, a dagger strapped to the left forearm, and a long shield covered in white oryx-hide. They often tied a heavy stone to their right arms, to help build its strength and to aid weight to thrusts with the lance or sword. Mounted Imrad vassals were armed with the allarh and javelins. Iklan fought on foot with javelins and daggers. Only the lowest caste Tuaregs and slaves fought with bow and arrows, which were considered unmanly weapons in combat.

Composition

The Tuareg list (DBA III/69) includes the following element types:

1x 3Cm (Gen) Tuareg chieftain and retinue.
8x 3Cm Ihaggaren (nobles) and their Imrad (vassal) tribesmen.
1x 2/3Cm Scouts
2x 3Wb or 3Cm or 2Ps or 3Ax Imrad and/or mountain tribes (Wb/Cam) or Iklan (Ax/Ps)

Opponents

The Tuaregs medieval foes include the Early Muslims of North Africa (III/33), the various Western Sudanese kingdoms (Mali and Songhai) (III/68), themselves (III/69) and the Berbers (III/74).

Tactics

The prospect of an all-camel army is the primary attraction with this DBA list. Coming from a dry climate with a low aggression, you should have plenty of opportunities to deploy sand dunes and oasis to accomodate your camels. Both count as good going for camelry, and the oasis has the added benefit of blocking missile fire. You'll need these advantages, since camelry is weak against foot at +2, quick-killing only psiloi in good going. The other priority is steering your camelry into the opposing mounted, where camelry at +4 shine against cavalry and light horse. But beware, Phil Barker has revised his thinking on camelry, and future editions of DBA may see them reclassed to fight mounted at +2 versus mounted with a QK on knights and +3 versus foot.

Against foot heavy armies, consider taking your foot options. Tuareg warband match well against Muslim North African/Berber Spear and the auxilia/psiloi are less vulnerable against the West Sudanese. And don't overlook those 2Cm camel scouts, who can use second and subsequent movement to roam around exposed flanks and threaten enemy camps.

Tuareg tent

Camps and BUAs

Good prospects for camps include loot-laden camels and nomadic desert tent scenes. Tents were made of woven camel hair or goat skins pulled tightly across a framework of poles.

BUAs could represent Tuareg mountain strongholds or desert cities such as Agadez or Timbuktu, featuring lots of mud-brick walls and simple adobe-style structures.

Taureg Village

Miniatures

Peter Pig offers the primary 15mm Tuareg range, which are featured in Pas D'Quartier's Tuareg army. Minifigs offers a single pack of 15mm Tuaregs on camels with spear (99cc) and sword as part of its 19th Colonial range, but other Minifig Tuareg packs can be adapted by removing guns, etc. Chariot (Navigator Miniatures) offers a pack of Taureg Camelry (MD23) in their Medieval Near East range. Castaway Arts offers a 25mm Arab/Tuareg range. Turbaned camel riders from any Arab-Berber-African range from the ancient to colonial period can be pressed into service as Tuaregs; the only proviso being that the face should be veiled to remain historically accurate.

Eric Lindberg reports: "I bought a sampler of Peter Pig 15mm Tuaregs through Brookhurst Hobbies. There are five different packs of camel riders and three packs of infantry (four if you count the casualties). These come eight infantry and four camelry to a pack. The infantry have three poses each. The camelry include two poses each. Do the math, and that comes to nine infantry poses and ten camelry poses. In addition, there are four different types of hide shields that are glued on separately. A Tuareg army is mostly just camelry and warband, but the variety looks quite good. Peter Pig 15mm figures are slightly smaller than Essex, for comparison, but not noticeably so. The figures also tend to look a little stocky. Flash is minimal, and the poses all look good, and are appropriately active."

Painting Tips

Tuareg are easily recognized by their dark blue turbans and veils, usually worn with a lighter blue robe. Tuareg camels tend to be white or light brown.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1911 edition, notes: "Their general color is the reddish yellow of southern Europeans, the uncovered parts of the body being, however, darker through exposure. Their hair is long, black, and silky, beards black and thin; eyes black, sometimes blue; noses small; hands delicate, but bodies muscular. They are a tall people, the chiefs being especially noted for their powerful build. They dress generally in a black tunic (some tribes wear white), trousers girt with a woollen belt, and wear as turban a cloth called litham, the end of which is drawn over the face, allowing nothing to be seen but the eyes and the tip of the nose. The purpose of this is to protect the throat and lungs from the sand. These cloths are dark blue or white: the former being worn most by the nobles, the latter by the common people. To this difference of color is due the terms 'black' and 'white' Tuareg. The Tuareg seldom remove their masks or face-cloths...The Arabs call them " People of the Veil."

Eric Lindberg notes "From what I could make out, the veil is always a very dark blue, with a "stamped indigo" cloth being particularly prized. This has an almost satin look to it in texture. (An excuse to use a medium gloss paint.) Some of the pictures show the robes to be a lighter blue, or sometimes even a white, but I had the impression that this might be a style borrowed from the Berbers. Then again, it might be due to differences in style between Tuareg tribes. Tuareg Beads and Art has a few samples of Tuareg art. This and the "Lonely Planet" Travel Guide to West Africa book gave me some inspiration for the belts, javelin cases, and so on. Basically, I used lots of deep red, silver, and bronze colors, highlighting with bright green, orange, and yellow. They are among the earliest North African converts to Islam, but continue to use a cross motif in their artwork to this day, probably as a remnant of pre-Islamic Christian beliefs. They are, to my knowledge, the only Islamic culture in which men, but not women, wear veils to cover their faces. Despite, or perhaps because of, the historic availability of gold from the Sahel south of the Sahara, the Tuaregs favor silver jewelry."

Other Resources

General Information on the Tuaregs.

Tuareg Beads and Art: has a few samples of Tuareg art.


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Last Updated: Jan 2, 2001

Thanks to Eric Lindberg whose research for the Tuareg variant list for DBA 1.1 formed the basis of this essay. Questions, comments, suggestions welcome. Send them to Chris Brantley, IamFanaticus@gmail.com.