Friday, 20 September 2013

Zulu! Isandlwana

I can see it still, the great jagged rock of the 'Little House' rearing up above the stony, sun-baked African plain, the scattered lines of our red-coated infantry, joking and cat-calling among themselves as they waited for the ammunition that never came; the red-capped Natal Kaffirs scurrying back to take their position on the rocky slope; a black-tunicked rider of Frontier Horse leaping the gun limbers bellowing a fatuous order to laager the wagons, which went unheeded and was too late by hours; Pulleine fumbling with his field glasses and shouting hoarsely: "Is that a rider from Lord Chelmsford?"; a colour-sergeant frantically hammering at the lid of an ammunition box; the puffs of smoke from our advanced line firing steadily at the Zulu skirmishers; the rattle of musketry over the ridge to the left; the distant figures of Durnford's men on the right flank falling back, firing as they came; a voice croaking: "Oh, dear God Almighty!"- and it was mine, as I looked nor'east over the ranks of the 24th, and saw the skyline begin to move, like a brown blanket stirred by something beneath it, and then all along the crest there was the rippling, twinkling flash of thousands of spear-points, and a limitless line of white and coloured shields with nodding plumes behind them, rank after rank, and down the forward slope came the black spilling tide of Ketshwayo's impis, twenty thousand savages rolling towards our pitiful position with its far-stretched line of defenders.

Say what you will about General Sir Harry Flashman V.C., he knew how to write.

The dry Nyogane donga separates the adversaries

N Battery anchors the British centre, next to Pulleine and the Colours.

Situation at the start of the battle.
The initial hammer blow comes from the Zulu right horn...

... but is repulsed for the loss of a unit.

The left horn attacks Zikhali's Horse and the neighbouring infantry.

The Zulu main body assaults through the donga...

...and swarms through a hole in the British line!

The British centre crumbles.

The Colours and the gunners make their last stand as the flanks collapse back.

Pulleine stands alone. The remnants of the British force prepare to die.
Battle of Isandlwana, 22 January 1879 by Charles Fripp.
What a cracker of a game! An initial strong Zulu assault on the British left was repulsed, but then a strong 'Forced March' brought overwhelming numbers into the centre. That was the decisive moment of the battle. The British right then collapsed, and the remnants of the centre and left were ground down. Durnford and the NNH were the last to die, at the foot of Isandlwana.

The basic scenario is as per Bayernkini. I added the following 'solo' rules to fight two AIs against one another:
  • Zulus draw two cards each turn and play the most favourable, discard the other.
  • British roll a D6: on a 6 they only draw one card, otherwise play as per the Zulus (this represents the British having a Command of 5 compared to the Zulu's 6)
  • Remove Fightback from the deck

Next time: Rorke's Drift!


First picture
Last picture
See Fripp's painting at the National Army Museum


  1. Looks great.

    Be quite happy to re-fight Rourke's Drift with you if the chance arrives! :)

  2. Well that was really cool. Can't believe (well I can) the focus you've had to get all that done and then game it out. Do you think it was just as good solo?

    1. It's certainly great fun, but probably even more fun with an opponent!

  3. Beautiful, really beautiful!!

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    1. Very nice and very inspirational. I'll be breaking out my colonials for some much needed attention. Thanks for sharing this project.