Over the Easter Holiday some of my old buddies came up for a weekend of drinking, eating, talking and some gaming. We always have the intention of getting a few games in but the inevitable gas-bagging over ‘times past’ eats up most of the weekend.
We got one game in though. An Anglo-Zulu War battle pitting ten Zulu regiments against a fairly strong British force (although they only started with some of their strength on the board).
Zulu Forces: Nine regiments plus one of skirmishers (two Zulu units were ‘hidden’)
British Forces: Boers, one company of British Infantry, an artillery battery and a Tiny Unit of cooks and bottlewashers held the Mission. From T2 the British could bring on two reserve brigades (one of one company each of British infantry and Natal Native Contingent and a Small unit of Lancers and the second consisting of two companies of British infantry, a unit of Volunteer Cavalry and a Gatling Gun).
The Zulus really had to win quickly, before all that firepower could be brought to bear. The four ‘generals’ had never played this period before and I took the role of umpire.
Rules were Black Powder (Zulu Supplement). Table 12’x6′ so plenty of room to run about on.
The British in the Mission Station deploy pickets on the hill, they quickly see large formations of Zulu entering the field of battle.
Initially this was all the British had on the board, but they were in a strong defensive position. One company of Infantry, a 7pdr and some non-combatants (A Tiny unit of British Infantry).
All hands to the defence – even The “Cooks and Bottlewashers Platoon” were assigned a building to defend.
Royal Artillery 7pdr ready for action.
Zulu Right Horn enters from beyond the mealie fields.
First British reserves arrive right on time. The other Brigade failed an order roll and remained off board.
The Boer sharpshooters opened fire on the advancing Zulu…
Casualties are caused, but saves meant that there were not enough to worry the lead regiments.
The Zulu Commander inched his way forward one move at a time (those command rolls were a bugger all day). He responded to the Boer with some of his fairly useless musketry.
Firing at skirmishers, one dice for shooting…how effective will it be?
The British Lancers show up. Better late than never.
Zulu skirmishers, including some from the uApache Regiment advance through the mealie fields to engage the Mission, leaving their support regiments far behind (those command rolls again)
On the British right all the reserves arrive and immediately advance to take the fight to the enemy. Except for the Volunteer Cavalry who fail their command roll and stay put.
Back at the Mission the British commander repositions his artillery.
…and pull sthe Boers back to the cattle kraal to rally in decent cover.
The British Artillery opens fire – what turns out to be the start of some fine shooting.
All along the defensive line the British keep up fire to make sure the Zulu don’t close.
Finally the Zulu commander of the Left Horn gets his men moving forward. They crest the hill into the teeth of British fire.
And leave their flank a tempting target for those British Lancers.
Meanwhile the Volunteer Cavalry blunder a command roll and retreat to their own table edge.
The Zulu left horn looks in trouble – taking fire from the front and cavalry almost on it’s flank.
USuthu! A hidden unit of Zulu springs to their feet – the induna blunders his command roll, then gets a random “Charge” result – Just what he wanted! Sometimes the dice-gods are benevolent deities.
The Zulu take the Lancers in the flank.
The Lancers are wiped out and the Zulu crash into the flank of the Natal Native Contingent. Those fickle dice-gods decided to intervene. That Zulu regiment (a Royal unit with Stamina 4) missed every roll, the NNC made every one they needed to.
The British player pulled his brigade back to form a new firing line. The second British brigade and the Gatling gun opened fire. This was not turning out how the Zulu players had wanted.
One round of shooting and eight unsaved casualties on a Stamina 4 unit. They still rolled a double six (the god were back in play) and stayed on the field – shaken and somewhat stirred.
The Zulu pulled back to lick their wounds.
Back at the Mission the Zulu attack finally crossed the river and charged home.
“How many melee dice do my artillery get? One? I hope this shooting works”
Artillery Closing Fire is devastating and the Zulu regiment breaks and is dispersed.
Shaken – one more Zulu push will probably overrun them.
Defending British take casualties and are hard pressed.
Finally getting orders they understand, the Natal Volunteer Cavalry rushed to help shore up the defence of the Mission. They take up a firing position along the river bank.
This allows the British to reposition their artillery again back to defend the centre.
The Zulu Chest attacks and is held.
The Zulu Left Horn had been pulled back behind the hill and commanders had been frantically rallying off casualties and getting ready to re-enter the fray.
But is was too late. The British pulled everything back to a strong, shoulder to shoulder defence around the Mission.
The game ended with the Zulus realising that they would, in all likelihood, not be able to breach the British defence. They retreated off leaving the field in the possession of the British.
Lessons: If I had been the Zulu Commanders I would have put my hidden units in the mealie fields as close as possible to the Mission. They tried to be clever and use their units to ambush the British – which while it killed their Lancers, was largely ineffective. To be fair they had some bad luck with command rolls (and I made all commanders a 9 so that everyone would likely make their rolls) but they did dither. Their one chance at victory was to get stuck in before the British could bring their reserves into play. Getting into musketry duels was only ever going to have one outcome. Still, it was a good game played in good spirits. And afterwards it was back to the kitchen to have Hot Cross Buns and cold roast meats left over from dinner the night before.