EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Zulu Noon or A Playtester's Work is Never Done.

Compulsory  opening shot of  Zulu ceremonial dance involving  bare chested Zulu girl.
After the NW Rebellion game I was content with how the irregular riflemen were working (I need a better game term, sharpshooters isn't quite right, just simple.)  but the rules for spearmen hadn't been tested at all. It so happened that my eyes fell on the Zulu shelf and I thought, why not?  Some of the changes done on Sunday were as a result of some quick partial tests that showed that 2 units of Zulus could over run 1 unit of British pretty much every time, even if the Brits were defending a lager. Only if the dice were bad did it take 2 turns. So, a movement penalty for attacking was added meaning a charge would have to start within rifle range thus allowing at least 1 shot for the defender in open ground. I also allowed tried letting the British roll against each attacking unit. That seemed to work but I was uneasy. Only a game would see if there was reason.
Overview at the end of Turn 1.
I wanted something quick and not too big but not exactly the same. Some quick shuffling resulted in a wagon laager on a hill defended by a Colonel, a field gun and 4 companies of infantry with superior firepower against a Zulu Impi composed of a  General and four ibutho each with an Induna commander and 4 units one of which had rifles for a total of 12 units and 4 leaders vs the British 5 and 1. The wagon laager was deemed to be cover vs shooting and an obstacle in melee. The Zulu mission was to eliminate the British. The British mission was to defend to the last and they were immune to army morale.

The Left Horn probes and is repulsed.
 The game opened with the Zulu horns working around the British position covered by a smatter of ineffective shooting. Once they had moved in the open into charge range, Left Horn rolled a 1  for orders while the General rolled 3 allowing 2 instead of 4 units to charge in on the Gordon Highlanders who handily repulsed them.
The Right Horn makes a more committed attack and is repulsed more bloodily.
While the left horn fell back to rally covered by its snipers, the right horn charged in on the Victoria Rifles and were repulsed after causing a few casualties. Rallying was proving ineffective so the Old Man threw the Loins into the battle as well as sending both Horns back in with what they had left. 
They've broken in!
 The artillery and rifle fire managed to drive back part of the attack but not enough. Attacked on 2 sides at once  while the left worked around to the now unguarded rear, things were tense. The heaviest assault fell on the gun crew and despite inflicting grievous harm as the enemy closed, the last gunner was forced to flee into the square pursued by Zulu warriors. On the British turn  as reinforcements rushed across to fill gaps and the men faced back to back the battle continued. It was a bad time for the British across the table to roll a single 5 or 6 on something like 12 dice. On the next Zulu turn the Guards and Rifles were wiped out. As the Zulus closed in from 4 sides on the last remaining Ghurkas and Highlanders, I was tempted to close my eyes. Good thing I didn't or I'd have missed the swing in dice which resulted in 2 hits from the mass of Zulus, 1 canceled by Col Beaver, vs about 5 from not very many British dice.
"Not as many of them as there were before". "Nor of us sir!"
(Yes I know, wrong movie but that's what it felt like.)
Pheww!  OK I hadn't pictured a situation where 3 British units in 2 squares  fought 5 Zulu units in 4 squares, there were ALOT of dice flying around! It was fun and exciting but too much. I went back to 1 die per figure period rather than 1 vs each enemy but reduced the number of dice a 2nd unit gets. I'll have to play the scenario over but I think I can handle that. The 10 turn game took about maybe an hour to play.


  1. Irregular Riflemen: Shooters? Skirmishers?

  2. A great game, I could feel the desperation of the beleaguered defenders!

    1. Actually, the defenders are 'Belaagered' in the middle of all those wagons.

  3. You need to test with NWF troops too . . . because I love those coloured turbans.

    -- Jeff

    1. I'll put them on the list Jeff but this is currently a "what's already in the cupboard" affair so could be 2019 before I get there.

  4. I agree with Jeff.

    I like the looks of your figures and all. Sounds like a good small game, playable in a small space and in a short time. With great results. I can understand if it's not quite what you want (with lots of dice in some cases), but it sounds like it played out well. Hopefully your "tweaks" will get you even closer to the kind of game you want with these rules.

    (I thought of the beleaguered/belaagered pun, but then I saw the other replies and didn't want to belabor the point.)

    1. Thats the thing about play testing, once the basics check out its time to test the fringes to see if they hold.

      However ever since I unhitched the oxen to make that laager it seems like there's been nothing but wagon tongues.

  5. Well, I missed this post...great game with a bloody end!