Saturday, July 29, 2017

Burn the Kraal or Jolly Well Bad Luck Old Boy!

Our little group continues to practice colonial gaming with The Men Who Would be Kings (TMWWBK) ruleset published by Osprey and written by Daniel Mersey.

In this scenario the Imperial objective was to teach a chap named Sihayo a lesson as to where his loyalties should be. As one of Cetshwayo's allies who had the misfortune of being located close to the Natal border Sihayo became an easy target for Chelmsford to gain an easy victory during the early days of the first invasion.

Our scenario was taken from Victoria's Battles, The Zulu War and scaled somewhat to TMWWBK.

Imperial forces consisted of:
4 Imperial Infantry units of 12 figures each. (represented by the 13th and 24th Foot)
5 Natal Native Contingent units of 12 figures each.
1 Disaffected Zulu unit of 16 figures
2 Natal Native Horse units of 8 figures each.
12 units

Zulu forces consisted of:
7 assegai armed units of 16 each (represented by the umHlanga and iNkobamakosi regiments)
2 firearm units of 16 each.
9 units

(It should be noted that what is reported below was from our second game. Our first attempt did not have any kind of play balance and so I reduced the number of Zulu units to what you see above and modified the terrain to more soft cover.)

The disparity in numbers was offset by the fact that the terrain was dominated by a large plateau hill that gave soft cover to the majority of Zulu units and hard cover to one of the firearm units. It proved to be a very hard nut to crack even in our second attempt at a game.

The Imperial player deployed the NNC units on the left and the 4 British infantry on the right. The plan appeared to be to isolate as much of the hill as possible and work units around the flanks.

The fact that the hill was all soft cover took away the long range effectiveness of the British firepower. The Zulu player also used fieldcraft to allow his units to go to ground which further handicapped the Martini-Henry's of the British troops.

Having said that at some point the Zulu's had to try and close to win. Most were deployed on the hill and as the Imperial forces got closer so did the opportunity to charge become possible. One of the first units to do so fell well short of closing and paid the price but two others savaged two British units, the disaffected Zulu unit and one of the NNC units. The Zulu player was fortunate to get the cards in his favor.

But the Zulu player ran out of units to hold the hill and that allowed the Imperial forces to close in on the kraals. The Imperial player stated he would "settle for a siege" as his assault power had been greatly diminished. Since I prefer the word "simulation" to "game" I gave the Imperial's an eventual win since the units inside the kraals had to stay there or face destruction.

The Imperial player ever gracious noted that the loss of two British units would have caused "quite the row at home" and that would have meant a Zulu win. I was inclined to agree and thought it was a satisfying end to our simulation.

A grand time was had by all and that's the main thing. The pictures below will give some idea of the terrain and action.

The main Zulu kraal was assembled by JZ for the game and as such is incomplete yet imposing. We are aware the the palisade part should be far less tall.

Nevertheless, it's a an imposing structure and gave quite the impressive visual for the game.

The plateaued hill that dominated the board and was strategic since it had to be overcome if the Imperial's were to succeed in burning down Sihayo's home and driving off his cattle.

The rocky hard cover to the left proved to be the hardest nut to crack on the larger nut to crack.

The cattle kraal-Eurpoean rather than Zulu. We need cattle figures!

Another view of the main kraal from the large hill and difficult terrain.

The way into the kraal would prove elusive for the Imperials.

Prior to the game a duel took place just like in the flick Zulu Dawn

One of the Zulu firearm units took up position in the rocks eventually withdrawing after being out flanked by most of the NNC contingents. 

Two of the Zulu units on the large hill massing for an attack as the Imperial's draw closer.

The garrison of the smaller cattle kraal. They were still there att the end of the game facing only NNC.

One of the 5 NNC units. They proved largely unmotivated yet not useless as they occupied Zulu units to hold them in place.

The better part of two of Her Majesties Companies-in this case the ill fated 24th Foot. 

A better shot of the two companies of the 24th Foot led by their officers. Leadership abilities were diced for and three out of the four companies had terrible leadership. One of these units would die heroically as the Zulu's launched a final charge and made it through the withering fire.

This unit of Zulus made a desperate charge near the end of the game with some success before being destroyed. They washed their spears against the disaffected Zulu unit on the other side. I guess they were ticked off.

The garrison of the large kraal. The unit in the back are RSM Zulu metal figures in 20mm scale. The front unit are ESCI\Italeri figures most in red coats so clearly the scenario is after Isandlwana!

The other firearm unit daring the Imperials to get close. The kraal was also hard cover and it was determined that in the future obstacles like kraals unless stone would be soft cover. (We don't use TMWWBK point system so finding play balance is challenging.)

Her Majesties's 13th Foot. One of these units would die to a man as the desperate Zulu's launched a charge in the closing moments of the game. Jolly well bad luck old boy! The figures are metal 20mm by New Line Designs.

The creativity put into this unit of the 24th is stunning. It's difficult to see in the picture but there are brass bullet casings scattered about on the stands. The Queen's Color is hand painted. I need to take a better picture of this fine unit.

A unit of the 13th Foot about to get smashed into by a unit of inGobamakhosi. The Zulu's would triumph here unexpectdly.

The card sequence favored the Zulus and enabled them to destroy two British units. It would cause a terrible row at home!

This action actually occurred early in the game as the disaffected Zulus could also ignore terrain restrictions. They would defeat the unit pictured (red shields) but in turn be annihilated by another unit from the same regiment. Zulu Civil War on the hill!

4 Pins! I rolled a 12 to rally-the only number that could do it!

4 of the NNC units close in on the hard cover held by one of the firearm units. Eventually the firearmed unit would fall back as the NNC worked their way around it's flanks. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

DBA Syracusan Army in 1\72nd

Some fine work by my friend MS.

We are working on DBA armies for the Macedonian and Punic Wars. MS favors the Greek types.

The whole DBA army





SP (Hoplites)

SP (Hoplites) 

Aux (peltasts)

Aux (peltasts)


Ar (Ballista)

Monday, June 26, 2017

Dartnell's Reconnaissance -A Zulu War Scenario


The rules used in the game were The Men Who Would Be Kings by Daniel Mersey and Osprey Publishing.

Below is a screen shot of the scenario (although hard to see I admit). The OB was modified slightly and both sides had 8 units. The Imperial forces are in red and the Zulus gray. The major terrain features were the the hills (upper right corner and conical hill center right)>

Imperial OB

2 Squadrons of Natal Native Horse (8 figs each)
2 Squadrons of Mounted Infantry (8 figs each)
1 Squadron of Natal Mounted Police (8 figs)
1 Squadron of Natal Carabineers (8 figs)
1 Company of Natal Native Contingent (16 Figs)
1 Company of Natal Native Contingent (disaffected Zulus, 16 figs)

Zulu OB

Elements of the inKobamakosi, inDhloko, uThulwana, and inDluyengwe regiments. 

Based around the large hill in the upper right corner: 3 units of assagai (16 figs each), 1 unit of obsolete muskets, 16 figs)

Based around the conical hill: 3 units of assagai (16 figs each), 1 unit of obsolete muskets, 16 figs)

Scenario Description

Dartnell’s Reconnaissance, 21 January 1879

Major Dartnell lead a force of colonial horse and elements of NNC scouting the high ground to the southeast of Isandlwana. The force encountered a mass of Zulus late in the day and the two sides skirmished till dark.

Although a small affair the incident had consequences.

Lord Chelmsford had divided his column into two portions leaving Colonel Pulleine at the camp at Isandlwana with about half of the British infantry. Chelmsford took the other half after ordering Dartnell to reconnoiter southeast to where Chelmsford believed the main Zulu Impi was.

Only it wasn’t.

Dartnell believed he faced the main impi and made the risky decision to camp on the battlefield  after the skirmish while Chelmsford came up with his column. This took Chelmsford further away from Isandlawana  and disaster ensued.

From a wargame simulation point of view the initial skirmish presents a number of interesting “what if” type questions. 

#1. What if Dartnell had pressed his attack and routed the local forces only to discover they were not the main impi?

#2. What if the Zulus disobeyed their orders to hold and pressed an attack upon Dartnell only to have Dartnell do a fighting retreat and thus confirm his impression that it was the main Zulu impi?

My interpretation of a what if was based on "what if" #1.

Victory Conditions

The Zulu’s gain nothing by attacking Dartnell but gain everything by holding the two high points and their board edge thus preventing Dartnell from discovering they are but a screen shielding the main impi on it’s way to Isandlwana.


For the British forces to “win” they must discover that the forces arrayed against them are light and thus have the opportunity to inform Chelmsford thus preventing him from pursueing a wild goose chase while the threat is the camp at Isandlwana.


If the Imperial Forces gain the small hill they have a 1 or 2 chance  (on a six-sided die)  of discovering how weak the Zulu force actually is. (They may roll for this every turn a unit is on the hill.)

If the Imperial Forces outflank the Zulus on their open flank getting to within 8” of the board edge they have a 1, 2, 3 chance of discovering how weak the Zulu’s are. (They may roll for this as long as they are within 8” of the board edge.)

If the Imperial Forces take the large hill even for a turn they automatically win. 

Pertinent Notes on the Rules and Set up.

Zulu spear units may not cross the board center for that would disobey their orders to screen/defend and offer themselves up to British infantry headed in their direction. The  musket armed units may cross the center line.

Note: Although the spear armed Zulu units could not cross the center line they could charge across the line if an Imperial unit was within two inches of the center line. This occurred at least twice in the game. The board dimensions for the game were 7' by 4' so the center line was at the 2' mark.

The two hills were rough terrain.

Mounted units could evade 1\2 move for free. (house rule)

A card activation system was used instead of the IGO-UGO system in TMWWBK. (house rule)

Leadership values were modified by the Leadership Traits section in the rules. That added another dimension to the game that was quite fun.

My two friends MS and JZ commanded the Zulus. MS held the large hill while JZ held the small center hill. I commanded the Imperial forces.

Brief Description of the Action

My initial plan was obvious and that was to string out the Zulu units so they had to cover their exposed flank. This created a nearly constant shift to their left flank as the small center hill became threatened.

The musket armed Zulu unit fronting the small hill was attacked via carbine fire by the one of the Native Horse units and then crushed by the disaffected Zulu unit. Some of MS's units had to shift while JZ's remaining units had much more frontage to hold.

The disaffected Zulu unit was destroyed by a counterattack while the Imperial horse units stayed at a safe distance until it became safe to charge pinned Zulu units.

On the large hill flank two of MS's Zulu units charged as the NNC and horse units got to within 2' of the center line. The horse successfully evaded while the NNC were destroyed after giving a good account of themselves. Both Zulu units had been weakened by carbine fire and rifle fire from the mounted infantry and eventually they broke.

On the Imperial right after the destruction of the disaffected Zulus other Zulu units attempted to come to grips with Imperial Horse as they approached the center line. They were largely prevented from charging home because of pinning and when one unit did charge home they were bested by the Natal Native Horse.

The net result of all these actions is that Zulu's could not cover all the ground between the hills nor on their more exposed left flank. The victory went to the Imperial forces not because of the casualties inflicted per se but because they would have discovered that the forces arrayed agains them were not the main impi and could have informed Chelmsford.

It was an unusual game with a lot of mounted units and no British infantry but a great deal of fun.

The pics are not in any particular order but I'll try to explain the action in each.

The figures in the foreground (RSM Miniatures) are the disaffected Zulus falling on the composite antique musket armed Zulus (Italeri figures).

Extreme Zulu left unit forced to try and cover the exposed flank. 

The battle for the small center hill. The green marker shows that the unit is pinned. Zulu figures on the picture's right are Italeri and on the far left HAT.

HAT Zulus on the Zulu right flank protecting the large hill and using the small rise to shield the unit behind it from carbine and rifle fire. 

View of the Zulu right from the Imperial left. Natal Mounted Police and Carabineers are pictured as well as mounted infantry. The center line rule limited Zulu options and some poor dice throws limited the Police and Carabineers from doing much of anything until the end of the game. (Figures are New Line Design and HAT)

The Zulu left just after the disaffected Zulus destroyed their brethern. The mounted unit is Natal Native Horse and this particular unit did rather well. It's counterpart was led by a coward who would not charge home under any circumstances!

The Zulu's on the Zulu right gathering for an attack across the center line as soon as the Imperials got close enough. The NNC would feel their wrath!

The Zulu counterattack that would destroy the disaffected Zulu unit.

The end of the disaffected Zulu unit.