Monday, 30 January 2017

Rorke's Drift at the Shed

 Rorke's Drift.  It's quiet.  Too quiet

After the epic recreation of Isandlwana at the Shed on Sunday morning, the table was re-dressed for the battle of Rorke's Drift for the afternoon.  The sides were reversed so that I found myself commanding part of the British force in defence of Rorke's Drift.   This re-eneactment, of course, had more resonance for me than Isandlwana as this was  ZULU!

As in the original battle Zulu snipers sat on the hill at top right and were generally annoying

Eric had acquired the Warlord Rorke's Drift set and had built a raised hill for it to sit on, as it did in real life.  It was the source of much annoyance to me, last year, that my best friend, Bill, was on business in South Africa and he got to visit Rorke's Drift, without really appreciating it!  Even more annoying was that until last summer I owned the complete Warlord Zulu set with Rorke's Drift and all the scenery and figures but sold it because I thought I would never get around to painting all those Zulus! Oh well.  I would never have managed to put any scenery together, let alone paint all the figures and teddy bear fur scares me to death in laser cut kits.  I like my thatched roofs to be made from resin not have to do complicated stuff with PVA glue!.

The defenders were organised into 12 units of four

I won't go into the detail of the game as Eric has covered it, thoroughly, here.  Apart from playing the scenario itself I was interested in how a game with a small number of defenders against an overwhelming number of attackers would play out, principally because of my interest in gaming the Alamo.

What I found was that, in a very different type of game from Isandlawana in the morning, Black Powder worked very well indeed.  The way Eric arranged it with attacks coming in waves and the opportunity for formalised lulls in fighting allowing the defenders to regroup and redeploy would work very well for the Alamo.

The first Zulu assault descends the hill

Another thing these two games caused me to think about is my approach to wargames unit size.  Given that the inspirations for all my battles tend to be historical actions (I don't paint figures with the intention of fighting fictional encounters (until my ACW project). I do get fixated upon comparative unit size.  However rules like The Sword and the Flame TMWWBK and Black Powder (and there is some wriggle room for different sized units in broad categories in the latter) tend to work on standard sized units.  Twelve figures, twenty figures etc.  So, for example, when painting my own Zulu forces I look at the comparative sizes of the historical regiments.

The first Zulu attack comes down from the hill

I suspect the reason I do this goes all the way back to my days of playing Terence Wise's Introduction to Battle Games rules when number of figures per unit had a big effect on their hitting power.  A regiment of 600 should have more hitting power than a regiment of 300.  They shouldn't both be represented by 24 man units.  They key, of course, is to have the 600 man regiment represented by two units and if you have a 450 man historical unit decide which way you go.  Black Powder does allow for this, to a certain extent.

The assault splits to attack two points of the perimeter

This sort of thing is important as I am such a slow painter.  The difference for me in painting a 12 versus a 20 man unit is huge as regards time. But in non figure removal rules the number in the unit has no bearing on their fighting ability.  You could play a game (well, I couldn't) with each unit represented by five figures.

A second wave attack causes the British to bolster the defences

However, this brings me on to the main thing I don't like about Black Powder; the use of counters on the table.  Given I am more interested in the look of the game, rather than the gaming itself, I hate to see model battlefields covered in clutter.  I think the solution to this has to be casualty markers of some kind.  For Zulus, for example, painted shields would work perfectly.  Eric uses red, black and white. what I would call Ludo counters.  Although I can see that painting casualty markers for 52 units of Zulus might be a trial!

Having built a mealie bag redoubt and despite both buildings being fired the British see off the Zulus...but what will happen next?

The game itself was more dynamic and finely balanced than Isandlwana, although we only got to play about half of the planned game.  Fortunately, Eric recorded where we had got to, with the idea that we can finish it another day, which would be excellent.

So thanks to Eric for organising this.  Not only was it an excellent game but it has given me food for thought for some of my other projects.

Eric played excepts from the Zulu film soundtrack during our refights, which added to the atmosphere considerably.  While writing this post I played John Barry's score, which I have in two versions: Barry's original soundtrack recording and the re-recording by the City of Prague Philharmonic conducted by Nic Raine, who was Barry's orchestrator in latter years.  This has some additional cues not in the soundtrack original so I have combined them in my iTunes playlist.


  1. Looks beautiful (love the village!) and intense!

    1. It was surprisingly stressful! We were all shattered afterwards!

  2. This something that I want to do at some point, fabulous to see it hear and glad you had such a good time.

  3. I use small pieces of gravel as markers. They look entirely natural and unobtrusive, as if they're part of the terrain. They don't spoil the look of the game, nor do they mar any photos. But to the players, they clearly signify the amount of shock (or whatever you are marking).

  4. Great looking game, which sounded like fun to play.

  5. Great overview of a wonderful days gaming - believe it or not I have a load of zulu shields marked up to use instead of the coloured the heat of the battle we forgot to use them ;-) next time