Thursday, 20 October 2016

Zulu Wars at the Shed with The Men who Would be Kings

It's been over two years since I posted on this blog but thanks to Eric the Shed I got to play a Zulu Wars wargame this week using the new The Men who Would be Kings rules by Dan Mersey.  I have played his Lion Rampant rules several times and enjoyed them because they are simple for someone who struggles with complex rules, like me.

I suspect that he probably didn't really contemplate them for a game of some 600 figures but with five players it worked very well.  I took the right hand horn of the Zulus.  I had nine units of Zulu warriors and two units of rifle armed skimishers. Facing me were a force of Boers and natal Native infantry.

Helpfully. Eric had produced cards giving the different types of units statistics and special rules. This made things a lot easier as I don't have the rules yet.  More importantly I remembered my glasses, as my eyesight is getting worse.

Now as regular readers know, I don't play enough games to ever learn any rules and I can't visualise how they work by reading them either.  I spend  a lot of time reading papers for work and after a week reading dozens of reports and papers on the Portuguese roads programme my brain would have had little room for absorbing anything else anyway.  Thinking like a Zulu, I just charged at the Boers. knowing that I have never met a nice one, anyway (apart from that woman, Elize, I met in Gaborone).

Even though I had a lot of Zulus, the rifle fire of the Boers was very effective.  Basically, if you take even one casualty you are pinned and need to be reactivated the next move which means that you can't move the following move.  The officer can reactivate a pinned unit for free (this might have been a house rule on the night) so the trick was to use your units behind to leapfrog forward (units can pass through friendly units.  The dice on the units above simply indicate that there should be another 4 figures on each unit and they would count up until they had gone and then you would remove actual figures.

Eric the Shed has posted an excellent account of the game and his thoughts on the rules here, so my own vague thoughts are not needed.  I really enjoyed the rules and thought they gave quite a good colonial game.  We didn't have time to finish but the British regular infantry had formed up and were ready to receive the charge of the massing Zulus.  Whether we would have got through the rifle and artillery fire is a moot point but I think the Zulus had destroyed more units than the British at the end of play.

There were a few negative comments from more experienced gamers about certain individual actions that weren't dealt with (shooting at charging figures on the way in, cavalry counter charges, morale etc) or were different from Lion Rampant.  My view on this, simplistically, is that it is best not to break down the individual elements of the game but see how it plays overall.  Does it give a good, balanced final result, not do individual aspects make sense in isolation?  No doubt the author has learned from Lion Rampant.  The individual (and frustrating) turn by turn necessity to activate units has gone, for example.   I suspect if you start to fiddle with it and add too many house rules it may destroy the way the different elements of the rules combine to give a balanced result. But then, I'm not very clever.

I don't own the rules but based on this I will certainly  buy them and, perhaps, will try them out solo using some of my Sudan troops.  It will also be interesting to see how they work against less 'tribal' opponents, such as Pathans. I would also like to see how big the contemplated forces are in the rules, to see if they work for skirmish gaming as well as big battles.  Great fun!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

50th Anniversary of the premier of Zulu

Even if I haven't painted anything Zulu Wars for a while I can't let the 50th Anniversary of the release of Zulu (1964) pass me by.  This was, by a considerable margin, my father's favourite film and is probably one of my top three too. 

There is a 12 page feature on the making of the film in the current issue of Cinema Retro magazine by Sheldon Hall, author of the excellent Zulu: with some guts behind it - The Making of the Epic Movie and news that an expanded version of this book is being released later this year.

The film received its premier, on the 85th anniversary of the battle, at the Plaza cinema in Piccadilly Circus complete with the band of the Welsh Guards, soldiers in period uniform and three VC holders.

Not coincidentally, of course, today is also the anniversary of Isandlwana and the first day of Rorke's Drift.  Like many others, I will be spinning the really quite exceptional Blu-ray of the film later.   

"Front rank fire! Rear rank fire, reload!"

Friday, 6 April 2012

Some officers for the 24th Foot

I can't remember the last time I managed two posts in a week on this blog, but here are our first three officers for the 24th foot.  One is wearing the blue patrol jacket that was very popular in Zululand.  The central figure is a bugler.  What I need to do next is arrange the figures I have painted by pose to sort out some more regular looking units then I need to identify what figures I need to finish the units.  I have quite a few more figures to paint and some are even based so, provided I can find where I put them, I can start a few more.

Tonight I might also have a look at the Natal Native Contingent figures I bought the other week.  I haven't even opened the box yet.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Another (biggish) batch of 24th Foot

Well, as I struggle with my new ACW project I decided to take advantage of the good light here at present and finish another fourteen British today.  This brings my total number of British to around two dozen.  This means I probably should do another Zulu unit next.  However, I have just bought the box of the new Warlord Games Natal Native Contingent and so may have a crack at these instead.

For The Sword and the Flame you have units of 20 British but these are really just a jumble of figures at present so I need to pick the next ones out specifically so I can have tidier looking companies.  I also have a bugler and two officers under way so will try to get these done soon too.  It's very satisfying to finish what for me is a big batch!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Warlord/Empress plastic Zulu Warrior

I bought a box of Warlord Games new plastic Zulus last week and managed to get one painted over the weekend.  I will review the contents of the box another time but now I will just give my initial impressions.

Empress metal and Warlord/Empress plastic

Firstly, how compatible are they with my existing figures?  Most of my Zulus are Empress Minatures metals sculpted by Paul Hicks. Frankly, the latter are my least favourite of the four manufacturers  I own, although they are the most historically accurate as regards clothing; including, for example, the clay pipes that Zulu warriors often carried about their heads.  The anatomy of the Empress metals is rather odd but my real problem with them is their size: they just aren't big enough to be Zulus (European eyewitness accounts constantly refer to the large size of the Zulus).  The new plastics are much more imposing, however.

Wargames Factory and Warlord/Empress plastics

In size they are much closer to the Wargames Factory plastics but look less ungainly as Warlord have included the top half of the arm with the legs and torso sculpt.  The Wargames factory ones suffer from plastic figure zombie arms.  However, in order to achive a seamless fit of the forearms (which often include moulded on weapons and shields), they have added an armband on the figures.  These plain armbands do not appear on any pictures of Zulus I have ever seen and so historical accuracy has been sacrificed in favour of ease of construction.

L to R: Warlord/Empress plastic, Wargames Factory plastic, Empress metal, Foundry metal

The Foundry Zulus are based on Mark Copplestone's Darkest Africa sculpts and are the biggest of the four manufacturers figures but I think they have the micest anatomy and easily the most natural looking poses.

The Warlord figure was easy to paint although the armband on one arm didn't line up underneath.  I'm not sure about the textured shields either and I think I prefer the Wargames Factory ones which are also thinner.  The Warlord shields are as thick as a metal one.  I also found it difficult to position the shield in a way that the poor Zulu could actually see where he was going.  Also the bases are very wide which meant I had to place this first one diagonally across my 20mm square base.  Next time I will trim the base first.  The weapons for the Warlord figures are much better with the binding on the spears being modelled accurately (and uniquely for any of the figures I have).

I bought the married regiment with their headrings.  The unmarried figures are modelled in full dress which would have been most unusual for a group of warriors taking the field.  In their leaflet inside the box Warlord claim that younger warriors were more inclined to wear full regalia in action.  Frankly, this is nonsense and is typical of the GW-style marketing speak that we get from this otherwise estimable company.

I will try to get some more figures painted up and look at the full content of the box shortly.  All in all though, my response if favourable without them being, as I had hoped, perfect. Surprisingly I don't see myself abandoning the Wargames Factory ones I have (as I thought I would) but I won't be buying any more Empress metals, except for leaders and characters. 

Now all I have to do is decide which regiment this new figure is going to be the first of!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Isandlwana at Colours

I was most impressed by the one to one Isandlwana display at Colours at Newbury last week.  The figures weren't that brlliantly painted but the sheer number (around 3,000) gave an excellent idea of what a small (!) colonial engagement looked like.

It certainly gave me pause for thought as regards how many figures I needed to paint to to recreate this batttle.  I have been thinking about 1/10 but this set-up offered 1/1 as regards numbers.

Isandlwana, as a wargames refight, is really about recreating small segments of the battle at a company level, I think, and this vast version really gave me an overall view on how this might be broken down into individual elements.

In a way it was rather like the Gripping Beast/Grand Manner Gallipoli set up at Salute this year in that it made such a definitive statement as to be beyond the capability of the ordinary gamer to reproduce.  Nevertheless I will have a good go at producing some more figures.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Zulu War Meerkat

I saw this in a local garden centre last weekend and should have bought it; although he is carrying what looks like a Lee-Enfield rather than a Martini Henry.  The black facings come from the film Zulu, I think, where the recent digital remastering has turned what was a very dark green into black on the otherwise stunning looking blu ray.