Friday, 2 November 2012

"Like Lions they fought"....Game Number 21

'Alright said you could stop painting!'

I can cheerfully blame several things for the game you are about to read about. There cannot be a wargamer alive that has not seen the film Zulu and thought "Now there's a game in that". Many gamers then move on and acquire armies for the war in various scales - ranging from 2mm to 54mm - and fight numerous battles, both large and small and historical or hypothetical. To some of us though, it is always one of those periods that will be gotten around to at some point. That is certainly true in my case anyway.

So there you have one reason - the second is slightly more complex and I am happy to say is very much in the nature of paying someone back with their own coin. Steve Blease has just launched a second blog to report on the progress of his 28mm plastic Zulu War project - which features obscene numbers of figures and when finished will look absolutely staggering given Steve's usual high standard of painting. He is planning on using Army Painter to 'dip' the Zulus and I will be very interested to see how these come out. His blog can be found here - 'uSuthu!'. The reference about 'paying someone back in their own coin, is simply this - his blog has inspired me to want to try a Zulu War game using the blocks (which means I will be need to make an additional set!) and so I hope that by doing so it will serve to whet his appetite so that progress is accelerated and the armies are in action sooner rather than later!

Essentially then, this game is dedicated to Mr. Steve Blease in recognition of his herculean undertaking....;-)

I shall be using Bob Cordery's Big Battle: Portable Wargame - Modern set for this action with the only addition being for the Zulus themselves. I have rated these as ordinary infantry without firearms for the most part but have allowed them to move two squares and battle. Those with firearms are rated as poor troops whilst the white shields are rated as Elite. I did consider giving them an enhanced close combat ability but reckon having them fight the same as ordinary infantry is probably better as any benefits of being expert with an Assegai would be offset by close order volley firing Martini-Henry rifles and bayonets! A special rule though is that an activated unit can move 3 squares when charging into combat if it contacts an enemy. The British force works as per the rules although the machine gun unit is rendered out of action should it roll 3 x 6s when firing ('The Gatlings jammed and the Colonels dead' - or was it the other way round?!).

Number 7 Column

1 x Commander - Colonel Ignatius Maximus Hyde-Bowned (his grandfather served in Belgium under Wellington in 1815 - see Battle of Artois, Belgium 1815)
1 x 4 block Rifle Company (Elite)
2 x 4 block Infantry Companies
1 x 4 block Naval Brigade Company
2 x 3 block Natal Native Contingent (Poor)
1 x 3 block Durban Mounted Rifles
1 x 2 block Naval Brigade Gatling Gun
1 x 2 block Mountain Artillery
1 x 4 block Transport (1 strength point but consisting of 4 blocks for aesthetic effect)

Strength Point Total: 31 - Exhaustion Level 16


1 x Commander - Cetshgoogoo (Cetshwayo's cousin and has been described as being too shy; shy and retiring for the role of a chief)
2 x 5 block Veteran (Elite)
5 x 4 block Married
3 x 4 block Unmarried
2 x 3 block Unmarried Rifles (Poor)

Strength Point Total: 49 - Exhaustion Level 17

Somewhere in South Africa, 1879....

Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift had been fought and the initial invasion of Zulu territory had been singularly unsuccessful. The second and much larger invasion was underway and by a piece of good fortune some important intelligence had been provided to the commander of the Number 7 column, Col. I.M. Hyde-Bowned. Number 7 column consisted mostly of odd detachments and new arrivals although a single company of the Rifles were present, together with a useful reinforcement from the Royal Navy.

A couple of Zulu deserters had revealed that the Kraal of the Zulu King's cousin, Cetshgoogoo, was lightly defended as most of the warriors had been sent to the King's army. The Kraal was a little over a days march away and so could easily be reached by a small force. Hyde-Bowned hoped that an attack against the Kraal would serve to draw Zulu forces away from the main objective of Cetshwayo's capital and so immediately gave his orders to the troops under his command and sent a runner to the overall commander of the British Forces, Lord Chelmsford, to advise him of his intentions.

The two Zulu deserters, requesting permission to return to their homes after swearing eternal friendship to the British and the Great White Queen, were allowed to leave and were rewarded with a brace of cattle apiece for their efforts.

Meanwhile, Cetshgoogoo had made some plans of his own. The two 'deserters' had been planted by him as he had a plan to raise his own profile at the expense of the King's. If he could secure a victory over the British his value amongst the Zulu tribes would rise to new heights especially as he alone had made a detailed study of the campaigns of the great Shaka himself. He was a shy and retiring type to be sure but he was also extremely intelligent and well versed in the art of Zulu warfare.

His Kraal was empty, the women, children, cattle and the infirm had taken to the scrub and brush lands to the north whilst his warriors waited for the British. They had not been sent to the King's army simply because they had not been asked for. His warriors were not held in high regard in any event but in this Cetshwayo was badly mistaken as he had failed to appreciate his cousin's command of the tactics of Zulu warfare.

The plan was simple, engage the British with first one horn and then the other whilst holding with the head. When the enemy was thus fully engaged, the loins could take advantage of suitable opening and the victory would be complete. Then there would a great washing of the spears....

The view from the British start line. The Kraal is at the top of the picture in the centre and the Zulus are for the most part hidden from the approaching British behind the series of low hills. Only two small detachments of skirmishers appear to present.

The Zulu position - the white shielded veterans are at the bottom right of the picture, the brown shielded married regiments are massed on the left whilst the black shielded unmarried regiments are in the van.

Another view of the Zulu deployment - note the impassive solitary commander on the hill, surveying his domain and awaiting the British attack.

Turn 1. With the cavalry in the van and with detachments of the Rifles ascending the small hills on either flank the British formation advances. Note the transport in the centre of the formation flanked by the Natal Native Contingent. Colonel Hyde-Bowned leads the main body in company with the Gatling gun.

Turn 2. With blood-curdling war cries the Unmarried regiments behind the lower hill charge to engage the Rifles and the leading British infantry unit. Meanwhile the cavalry takes telling damage from the Zulu rifleman and the regiment. The Gatling gun opens fire against the Unmarried regiment on the hill and catches it as it moves from cover. 

Turn 3. After the initial onslaught the battered remains of the Unmarried regiments begin to fall back to the main positions. Thankful for the respite, the British pause to regroup and reorganise.

Turn 4. The British advance continues in an orderly and measured fashion with the Zulus, in ragged order, falling back. The Gatling gun wreaks havoc against the retiring warriors.

Turn 5. With measured precision and shattering volleys of Martini-Henry fire the Zulu retreat falls further into disarray.

Turn 6. The British assault against the hill commences with modest resistance but that is about to change in a dramatic fashion as the solitary figure on the hill raises his assegai to the sky and signals the advance to the waiting Married regiments.

Turn 7. The British advance continues against light opposition at the bottom of the picture but it is all about to change on the hill at the top. The Rifles reach the crest of the hill and see....Zulus, farsands of em!

Turn 8. The Unmarried regiments swing around to engage the British once again in support of their Married brothers in arms as they charge from cover. The fight on the northern hill continues and even the NNC have been ordered forward in support. 

Turn 9. The action degenerates into a series of desperate close range struggles as the outcome hangs in the balance. The Zulus have suffered cruelly from the British Rifles but still they come. Even the NNC are under attack but manage to hold their own and fight off their hated assailants.

Turn 10. At last the artillery comes into action and the remnants of the Zulus are mopped up. Although ragged, the remaining British units form up to continue an ordered advance. The defeated warriors fall back, powerless in the face of modern weaponry. Guile and ambush would be needed to beat the warriors of the Great White Queen.

The final score - note the heavy casualties sustained by the Unmarried regiments.

Cetshgoogoo watched impassively as his warriors streamed back from the battle, his plan in tatters. His Unmarried warriors had been too keen to fight the British and had delayed their falling back on the main body for too long. It was only due to the methodical nature of the soldiers of the Great White Queen that a disaster had been avoided. A fighting bull Buffalo should not just rely on its horns to beat an enemy he mused as he turned away from the scene and began the long trudge down the hill to join his veteran white shields.

Colonel Hyde-Bowned was well satisfied with the progress his command had made in the face of an implacable foe. He had made sure that at all costs his force maintained cohesion and so frequent halts to realign the whole formation were essential. Despite a few close calls this was successful and so the force was well poised to complete the mission - the destruction of Cetshgoogoo's Kraal. Hyde-Bowned was quietly confident that Lord Chelmsford would be pleased the outcome thus far.


That was great fun to do and felt appropriate in terms of how the action panned out. Discipline and order carried the day as the Zulus repeatedly dashed themselves against the British ranks. The rules worked well without any major problems and so my small foray into the war of 1879 was overall pretty entetaining and certainly something I shall follow up on at a later stage.

Over to you Mr Blease....;-)


Robert (Bob) Cordery said...


I was actually thinking of producing a Colonial version of my BBPW:M rules ... but had decided that all I would end up with was the same rules with a few less weapon and unit types to worry about. Your very interesting and exciting battle shows that I was probably right to think along those lines (although I might just produce it for my own use).

All the best,


Steven Page said...

I own a few hundred Old Glory Zulus, most still unpainted. Now I have to paint them. Soon. Very soon.

Great scenario, David. The different blocks worked well to distinguish the Zulus.

bob needs to start a list of different periods that have received the "Portable" treatment. It is growing fast!

Peter Douglas said...


Nice game report. I love the Kraal. I am assuming the Zulu Uduna's name is a 80s music reference.


The Angry Lurker said...

That was well done and quite an enjoyable read.

Ray Rousell said...

An excellent bit of prose my good fellow, great batrep too!

tradgardmastare said...

Great looking game and superb report.
I trust your son is continuing to move forward.

David Crook said...

Hi Bob,

It was very much a 'try it on the dog' mash up but worked out OK. My thinking is that perhaps the dedicated 19th century version would be a good idea and for the reasons you mention i.e. fewer troop types to worry about!

I will certainly look to tackle something similar again in due course.

All the best,


Beccas said...


David Crook said...

Hi Steven,

Many thanks old chap! It was fun to run and the Zulu blocks were actually made yesterday afternoon! There will be a post about this later. So I managed to get the army designed, printed, stuck to the blocks and in action in the same day!

I really enjoy the Portable concept and the permutations and possibilities are endless.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Peter,

The Kraal came from a boot sale with a pile of Town in a Bag buildings and looks pretty good. You are quite right about the name and are in fact the first (and only) person to spot it!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Fran,

After the deluge of excrement we have had to contend with over the last week or so it was a welcome relief to tackle something so diverting. Glad you liked it but it was not one of my better efforts!

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Ray,

It was fun and sorely needed for my sanity so I am pleased you liked it.

I will be forced to rewatch Zulu we suffer for our hobby eh?

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Trad,

Thank you sir - on both counts! It was good to get back into the swing of a game and the blurb that I enjoy putting with it. My son is still pretty groggy but is a lot better than last week. Things are moving along with the Police as well so hopefully, fingers crossed, some positive news will be on the horizon.

All the best,


David Crook said...

Hi Beccas,

Many thanks old chap! It was huge fun to play and that is what its all about. Bob's rules really help with the 'flow' of the action and suit the narrative very nicely indeed.

All the best,