Sunday, 18 January 2015

Zulus! 'Farsands of 'em!

'Why us, Colours, Why us?'
'Cos we're here, son, because we're here...'

Yesterday, Sunday, at the Hall of Heroes Campbelltown, we played a Black Powder game based around the Defence of Rorke's Drift, 22 January 1879.

The scenario was based around the Zulu Wars supplement, using figures and terrain from a variety of collections, Mark, Terry, Vic and, of course, the Great White Zulu himself, Dave, who unfortunately couldn't leave his kraal to join us in the action, but as always was generous with his figures and terrain, as was the FLGS itself. The scenario was interpreted and umpired by Philip with his customary wisdom as befits one who is the father of his people and the owner of cattle without number. He made a few modifications, uplifting the number of Zulu Brigades to 4 from 3, and allowing half the Zulu force to come on table on the other side of the Drift. Play as always was gentlemanly, but he still needed to resort to plenty of tea...
Half the Zulu impis appeared out of the ulu across the Drift - could they coordinate an attack on both sides of the garrison?

The Zulu Regiments were lead by Prince Dabulamanzi kaMapande, who had a command rating of 7, as did his 4 subcommanders, who were played by Gary 'Ground Shaker' of the UTulwana; Max 'Bloody Assegai' of the UDloko, Mark the 'Widowmaker' of the INdlondo, and yours truly, Sparker 'Seven Bellies' of the INdluyengwe. 

Lieutenants JRM Chard RE, and G Bromhead, 24th Foot, each had a command rating of 10. They were also 'inspiring commanders', giving every unit within 6 inches of one of them an extra shooting or combat dice. These were played by Vic and Cameron, who made up for a conspicuous lack of facial hair with bags of truly Victorian confidence and brio...

A quiet backwater station - yer typical cushty billet...From the Warlord Games Rorkes Drift set.
So making full use of the scenario tweaks, the Zulus split into two 'horns of the buffalo', one striking from the NE across the shallow drift, the other coming from the South to assault the hospital. Of the latter horn, one Brigade would strike the rear of the hospital, the other the side. Or at least that was the plan...

Needless to say the dice gods scorned to favour the Zulu commanders with their mere 7 command value, and the assaults went in an uncoordinated fashion - fatal when meeting Messrs Martini and Henry!

However to their credit the brave warriors led by Max and Mark, despite having to cross the drift with an attendant delay of 6 inches, managed to penetrate into the NE corner of the compound...

And I daresay the British players would have been forced to twirl their moustaches or tug on their mutton-chop whiskers in a slightly agitated manner - that is if they had any of course. Instead they made do with a few minor tactical adjustments within the compound to set up an internal redoubt, which eliminated the slightly unwelcome incursion with a few devastating volleys:

'Front Rank - Fire! Second Rank - Fire!'
However all was not entirely quiet on the Southern Front: 

Gary and I eventually gave up trying to coordinate a simultaneous attack on the hospital and instead went in 'first in best dressed' - although not before we had frittered away the Zulu initial morale advantage in the first two moves of the game...

And I flatter myself our brave warriors gave the occupants sweaty palms for a few moments:
But in the face of overwhelming firepower and stubbornness of the South Wales Borderers, and the other distinguished contingents of the garrison, the Northern penetration marked the high tide of the offense. A thoroughly entertaining and exciting game all round. In a subsequent game, which I was unable to remain for as I had been recalled to King Cetawayo's Royal Kraal to explain myself, Philip experimented with increasing the Zulu Command Values to 8, which I think might improve the balance of the game. It would certainly give the Zulus commanders worthy of the courage they displayed!
On a personal note, as a youngster having served 'briefly on attachment in 1984 as Platoon Commander, 6 Platoon, 'B' Company, 4th Bn Royal Regiment of Wales, I would like to dedicate this blog post to Corporal Barter, the platoon's historian, who inspired me with his tales of the glory days of the South Wales Borderers...


  1. Great report and photos, very Inspiring!

  2. Great looking game and narrative. The true spirit of gaming!

  3. Great looking pictures, the overall impression is excellent with the mass effect...great post!

  4. Great looking battle and great report. I'm afraid that in Zulu War, Zulu warriors have no chances with British unless there is ratio 10:1, on 1 British unit there is 10 Zulu units. We had one game from that war and this is my conclusion.

  5. Amusing narrative and lovely photos. Those Zulus look spectacular with their animated poses. The ghost of Shaka would have been proud.

  6. Thank you all very much for the kind comments Gentlemen! Yes Bartek I think its a tough call for the Zulu players, however by uplifiting their Orbat, and perhaps increasing the Zulu command values it may be possible to achieve limited victory conditions, say just breaking into the compound and destroying one British unit...

  7. Colonial extravagance in the colonies! Well done those men.

    von Peter himself

  8. Amazing table. I just sent the link to this post to my 10 year old godson, who has just watched the film Zulu with his dad and is very keen on the battle. Maybe these photos will make a gamer of him!
    Cheers, MP

  9. Thanks for your encouraging comments gents!

  10. I saw your comment on Outback 88 on the Ark. I was a clanky tiff and what a trip that was.

    There's a Rorkes Drift bike rally event in the UK and wondered if you'd be interested to share your gaming page with them ? I don't have anything to do with the organisation and just attending as a biker. Didn't want to share your info without permission. Thanks Ron B

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