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Author Topic: Using Matabele as Zulus?  (Read 1410 times)

Offline Friedland

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Using Matabele as Zulus?
« on: March 20, 2019, 08:21:32 PM »
Recently picked up some North Star Matabele figures in 28mm and wondered if I could use some of these as Zulus for the Anglo Zulu War?

I've noticed the shields appear the same, but slight difference in tribal hair designs in some places with some warriors.

The riflemen and basic young warriors look quite generic though. Any ideas?


Offline italwars

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2019, 11:23:49 AM »
i had the same thoughts and doubts...in fact they are very similar but we know we wargamers are a sort of nerds and buttons counter ;) :) :)
in reality, also from some prints and picts, Zulus and Matabele fought almost stripped of every regalia and impedementa ...almost naked...so my solutions has been so far to use the same minis for both armies that is a mass of shield and assegai/spear armed zulus with a low percentage of musket armed tribesmen..all of them stripped/naked of feathers ecc...and to field, just for the sake of aesthetic a few command/first rank or a single unit of true Matabele minis from North Star..even in case of a true zulu battle (ex 1879) ..the warriors in regalia would be only a representative minority.....and that approach is used also for other tribesmen involved in my TSATF Colonial battles..so far my mass of tribesmen (composed of 70% Zulus rest Darkest Africa tribesmen) has fought with just a few "true" types, as proxies for Matabele, Ngoni, ennemies of Portugueses in Angola, cannonfodder in Congo VS Force Publique and  even in British East Africa and Afrique Equatoriale Francaise...and..when casualties are suffered the first and last minis to be removed from the game are always the generic types.....personal approach certainly..also cause  i do not enjoy to paint or game with natives..but in that way you can save money, painting and above all time to dedicate to other armies...
« Last Edit: March 21, 2019, 11:27:42 AM by italwars »

Online Plynkes

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2019, 11:32:22 AM »
I've seen a Spanish Civil War game at a convention done entirely with WW2 figures. The people playing the game became a bit defensive when I noticed this, but I didn't mean any criticism by it. It only makes sense to me to get the maximum use from your figures by using them as proxies.

This is one of those areas that is deeply personal. It is entirely your call. Some people will judge you harshly for using the "wrong" figures, but for me there is nothing wrong with proxies, and as you pointed out, they are very similar (because for one thing they came from the same culture and the same place originally). Similar enough for many people, I would reckon. Myself I would love to have separate Zulu, Ngoni and Matabele armies (though I will probably never get there), but I think it is foolish to berate someone for using one army as all three. We aren't made of time and money.

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Online Cubs

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2019, 11:37:46 AM »
By 1879 the Zulus tended to use a smaller shield than during Chaka's time - same basic shape, just smaller - but would anyone notice? Probably not, it all looks very similar at scale.

As Italwars said, for me it would be the heads that are the problem - namely the hair and headdresses. The young unmarried fellas are fine - just close-cropped hair. It's the fanatics and older guys that are sporting something awkward. Their hair looks downright shaggy. How much work do you want to put in? You could probably grind it back with a mini drill fairly painlessly. Zulus in general kept their hair cropped close to the skull but married warriors had a black ring made of beeswax which was sewn into the hair to keep it in place. It was considerably smaller than the large head rings shown on the Matabele and the decorative ostrich feather plumes were removed for battle (I guess senior officers may have retained them, who wouldn't be expected to get stuck in and wanted to look fancy). If you clipped off the sticky-up bits and didn't worry too much about the larger head ring, that might work.

Short answer - if it was me, I might sow them into actual Zulu mins after performing the above minor surgeries, to bump up the numbers. The young warriors could slot straight in.
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Offline jaytee

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2019, 07:36:45 AM »
I'd just use them.

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Offline nicknorthstar

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2019, 10:05:07 AM »
Hi Friedland

I can can tell you exactly what the differences are, in intricate detail.  lol

I wonder how much you want to know.

I've got a big Matabele army, and they've ran out as Zulus on many occasions for me.

The Matabele are a spin off group from the Zulus. Their leader, a favoured warchief under Shaka, fell out with the great man and fled north. Along the way they gathered up lots of other folks, smaller tribes/ clans etc, but they kept their Zulu culture because it was such a powerful 'brand', just the rumour of a zulu army approaching sent people packing. (The Ngoni in East Africa also kept the Zulu 'brand' for the same reasons).

But they did change it a bit. This was because they would adapt local materials, and some Zulu materials were no longer available. The monkey tail skirts for example disappear.

The shields are identical, that was the most obvious part of the Zulu brand (I know I keep using that term). Same with the stabbing spear. In reality the Matabele one was smaller, but nothing that shows in 28mm. The loinclothes/ skirts are different, but again in 28mm it doesn't matter too much. What folks here have been talking about 'big hair' is actually a black head dress. The Matabele wore an odd pom pom on their heads, and in full regalia expanded it into a black head dress. Course, black head dress on warriors with black hair looks like mad black hair. The chief head dresses are very Matabele, we took them from sketches of the Matabele and I've never seen Zulu equivalents.

Any questions, fire away.

North Star

Offline SteveBurt

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2019, 11:12:03 AM »
I wish you hadn't posted that. Now I have a terrible urge to get some Matabele.

Offline nicknorthstar

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2019, 04:05:29 PM »
These are the chiefs head dresses I mentioned.

The Matabele married men continued with the Zulu head ring fashion, but they had a smaller one more to the front of the head rather than on top. This sketch of Lubengula illustrates it well.

They make a fascinating army. Sure, Cecil Rhodes did a job on them with his Maxims, but there's so much more to game with the Matabele.
First you've got Zulu action, Shaka sent his Impi after the aforementioned renegade leader, Mzilikazi, and nearly wiped the runaways out.
Then you have the Matabele moving north, wiping out villages and clans in their way.
They bump into the Boers next, don't do too well there with Laagers and Mounted marksmen.
They then fight the Basters, another mounted force. They suffer at first, but the Basters think they have rode off with the Matabele cattle to a safe distance. They didn't figure on the tenacity of the following Matabele who catch them encamped and get back their cattle.
Mzilikazi decides there's too much trouble in South Africa and moves into what is now Zimbabwe. He creates Matabeleland, and keeps his Impi on their toes by sending them out on raids North, South, east and West, so basically scraps with all manner of surrounding tribes.
There is then the dark part of Matabele history where Cecil shows up with his guns and destroys the Matabele Impis and chases Mzilikazi's son off to his death.
But it isn't actually the end of the Impi. They have just learnt that the old Zulu tactics will not work against machine guns, and start a guerrilla war against Rhodes and his settlers. They come to a peace settlement with Rhodes in the end, and become part of Rhodesia.
In the 20th Century, two factions go to war against white rule, one faction is made up of mostly Matabele. They are not Mugabe's faction, and after Zimbabwe is formed, Mugabe sends his North Korean trained death squads into Matabeleland. But that's another story.

The author of our rule set 'Death in the Dark Continent', Chris Peers has included the Matabele in the army lists for that game, and also wrote an excellent history of them here: http://nstarmagazine.com/africa_9_1.htm

Offline nicknorthstar

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2019, 04:11:44 PM »
I love this quote. It comes from an explorer talking to a native about a tribe whose chief decided to stand up against Matabele aggression:
"The onset was as the voice of lightning, and their spears as the shaking
of a forest in the autumn storm. The Matabele lions raised
the shout of death, and flew upon their victims… Their
hissing and hollow groans told their progress among the
dead… Stooping to the ground on which we stood, he took
up a little dust in his hand; blowing it off, and holding out
his naked palm, he added, 'That is all that remains of the
great chief of the blue-coloured cattle!'"

Offline Friedland

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2019, 08:29:40 PM »
Thank you folks!

That really is fascinating stuff. I actually like the idea of getting both armies now. Though for a big zulu game I could just sprinkle a few young warriors in to bump up the numbers as suggested.

The story of the Matabele seems to give a lot of scope for gaming. What an incredible history.

Offline Antonio J Carrasco

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2019, 02:41:41 PM »
I shouldn't have read this thread...  lol

Offline nicknorthstar

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2019, 05:02:02 PM »
I love the history of the Matabele as a wargaming subject.

I still haven't refought the Matabele War where Rhodes cuts down the Impis with Maxim machine guns. Partly for the obvious reason, would it make any kind of game, probably not. A part of me does, and be REALLY gamey to try and take out the invaders, but I know what happens to warrior units in front Maxims in Death in the Dark Continent.

The Matabele Rebellion is also really interesting, and the two sides are a lot more even. There's quite a lot written about it, but my favourite is the diary of Baden Powell, who was a serving officer in the conflict. You can read it here: http://www.thedump.scoutscan.com/matabele.pdf

Have a look at page 148. The diary is full of Powell's sketches, and on page 148 he draws a hill top village with it's tunnel complex underneath. The British had to enter the tunnels to shift out the rebels, it's a 19th Century Dungeon crawl. Or like the tunnel rats in the Nam.

Offline jambo1

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2019, 06:34:47 AM »
I shouldn't have read this thread...  lol

Seconded!! lol

Offline Mike1879

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Re: Using Matabele as Zulus?
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2019, 04:23:44 PM »
Lovely figures the North Star Matabele! Got quite a few of them and they are a joy to paint!! And yes you can mix unmarried Zulus into the Matabele Impis with no problem.
As Nick says the Matabele were once part of the Zulu Kingdom under the rule of Shaka.