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Author Topic: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.  (Read 816 times)

Offline Dan

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Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« on: August 10, 2019, 09:05:44 AM »
Hi all. its been ages since I have uploaded anything here as I have been too busy painting Zulus etc. Since there were plenty of others uploading similar projects when I started I just documented progress on my Blog. Lets hope I remember how to post everything correctly. o_o :)

Now everything is just about done I put on a Demo Game at our Clubs yearly convention with the help of a buddy.

Part1 is here. https://wadesworldofwargaming.blogspot.com/2019/08/call-to-arms-isandlwana-demo-game.html

Part2 is here. https://wadesworldofwargaming.blogspot.com/2019/08/call-to-arms-demo-game-part-two.html




Offline Mike1879

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #1 on: August 10, 2019, 09:34:03 AM »
Superb 😊

Offline Cubs

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #2 on: August 10, 2019, 09:39:38 AM »
Looks great.

It must be tough finding a ruleset to get the balance between a fun game and finding a measure of historical realism. Everyone knows how to 'win' Isandlwana as the British these days - pull your companies in and form square - and if the British manage to do this the Zulu player should have no realistic chance of winning. But that wouldn't make for a great game.

For the Zulus, once you've outflanked the exposed companies they should be toast, but then command and control was limited which is why they drilled the 'horns of the buffalo' so exhaustively. Each unit knew what to do and executed it as best they could. There's no way the commander could control his regiments in the same way a European force could, if only because of the sheer size of the force at Isandlwana and distance between elements.

Did you have anything in the rules to represent ammunition shortage? I know it's a contentious point and one that may have been overplayed by earlier historians studying the battle, but it could still make for an interesting facet to a game.




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Offline Atheling

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #3 on: August 10, 2019, 08:20:39 PM »
Absolutely wonderful set up.....  :-* :-* :-* :-* :-*

what a game to have missed in person!!
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Offline Dan

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #4 on: August 12, 2019, 10:46:38 AM »
The rules I settled on was Sharp Practice. I  initially started with Black Powder but got frustrated with the Zulu Commanders refusing to do anything. In SP I could have possibly used too many Commanders for the Zulus as each faction had a level 3 Leader with either two level 1 leaders or a single level 2 leader. Each Level 3 leader had a witch Doctor attached.

I did not use all the cards to start with as I did not want the Zulus to swamp the British from the outset as it would not have been fun for the other player. I felt he had a decent game but the end result was predictable. (we had tossed for sides and he chose the British) He can play the British when we do Rorke's Drift.

I'd like to replay the game but have the British form a line with formations supporting each other by touching rather than being spread out. The ends can then fold around to protect the flanks in a half square. The rockets would be included in the line and the Cavalry would be kept behind the lines until needed.

I had play tested the game myself over several weeks and found the Zulus were slower to move than the actual game so I had to allow the British to fire earlier than planned. There were some things that do not seem to translate that well like; were the Zulus one formation or did they have a supporting rank? were we playing the no Bayonets penalty correct with the Zulus having spears instead? No matter it seemed to work well and Rorkes Drift should work out better for the British as there are advantages for being behind defences with support etc.

I had a plan that if the blank card came out before the tiffin card then the next British unit to fire would not be able to. I really thought that anything more severe than that would be unfair. However I cannot remember that actually happening during the game at all.

I now really want to paint up some French to play against my Spanish Peninsular Army and use Sharp Practice for the rules.
« Last Edit: August 12, 2019, 11:00:57 AM by Dan »

Offline Plynkes

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2019, 11:09:15 AM »
Lovely looking setup. Thanks for the reports.

I had always thought the demo game a peculiarly British phenomenon, but it seems they have them in Kiwiland too. :)
I'm sure your game is an exception, but I've never really had a good time with them. Whenever I saw one, the participants never seemed to want to engage with the public at all, and seemed to resent any questions or comments. I always got the feeling someone was about to say "can't you just go away and leave us to play our game?" Made me wonder why they would want to put on the game publicly at all.   lol

Oh well, maybe I've just been unlucky, but I prefer participation games. Though I am sure your game wasn't like this, Dan. Well done. Must be good to see all the hard work pay off.

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Offline Cubs

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #6 on: August 12, 2019, 11:17:43 AM »
Dan - yeah, I imagine it's tough to find rules that don't frustrate with weird results. Colonial actions are so unique it must difficult to find a system that is able to represent enough of the aspects without being so intricate it bogs down the game. On the one hand you don't want your Zulus to be sitting about doing nothing, but on the other you don't want them perfectly sweeping across the battlefield without the British being able to fire a shot. By the same token, the Zulus should be looking forward to getting into contact with the British, but on the other hand steady infantry in close order with fixed bayonets were all but impenetrable to them (see some accounts of the last actions of the battle and how the Zulus couldn't break the little knots of the isolated companies).

I'm not sure I could resolve my desire to get a historically accurate game with the idea that it shouldn't just be a carbon copy of the actual battle.

Offline Dan

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2019, 12:34:27 PM »
Plynkes, well I am English by birth :) and usually play Demo games with a Scottish friend. In my twenties I went back to England and lived there for 3 years and went to a few of the big shows like Salute and the big one in Reading who's name escapes me. I always liked the Demo games .

Cubs, I wanted to demonstrate the battle as it happened in Miniature as much as possible. At some stage we could do a completely made up scenario that would be more even for both sides. I have to work out the balance of forces as Natives against a 19th Century force is such a mismatch. I think with better tactics the British could win this one with the same forces.

Offline Mike1879

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2019, 10:49:45 PM »
Dan, the big show in Reading is Colours. It’s even bigger now since it moved to Newbury racecourse about 13 years ago. It’s situated in the main grandstand on 3 levels. Much better venue than the cramped old one at the Hexagon theatre in Reading !!!

Offline Dan

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #9 on: August 31, 2019, 12:18:28 PM »
Thanks Mike, thats sounds like the one. :)

Offline Abbner Home

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #10 on: September 04, 2019, 06:54:32 PM »
Really cool looking game.  I'm not big into the Colonial period but a good friend is so I sometimes play in his games.

On the question of why the British don't just form square in game; wasn't there an reason they didn't during the battle?Again, not my period but when I lived in RSA my friend referred to above came over and we toured the battle field (staying at the excellent Fugitive's Drift lodge). The tour was given by a descendant of Zulu warriors in the battle. If I recall correctly he said that the layout of the camp prevented the British from reacting in a coordinated way. Also they were taken somewhat by some surprise iir.  In game terms could a maybe gathering a certain number of units together in an open spot and making some sort of rule set appropriate command checks maybe allow a square? The Zulus would have to move with enough violence of action to prevent it. Maybe that keeps the historical feel but still makes a fun game?

If you go you can see all the cairns marking the fallen British by looking down from the mountain. They tell the story of the battle in a moving way. The British did eventually form a square but too small and too late. There are a number of cairns and a monument marking the spot.

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #11 on: September 04, 2019, 07:58:15 PM »
Cracking spread  8)

Good to see you back at it  :)

Offline Dan

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2019, 12:10:27 PM »
Thanks Jimbo, I feel honoured.

Abbner Home, yes the British could have formed a square which is what a bystander was telling us to do, but we were putting on a Demo of the actual event. I would like to at some point later-on to play a what if scenario where the British form a square with the guns positioned in the corner like they adopted later on just like in Wellingtons time. The cavalry would be in the centre waiting for an opportune time to cut down the broken Zulu formations, but would that then be the Battle of Ulundi?

At Isandlwana from what I remember reading is they did not expect the Zulus to be so close as they thought that they were still in the homesteads. Going by the previous experience in the Cape Wars they underestimated the Zulus ability and expected to cut them down in the same fashion as before which is why they were so spread out and too far forward from the camp.

When I paint up my Lancers I will put on Ulundi and let my buddy have the pleasure of winning with the British this time. :)

Offline Mike1879

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2019, 10:21:01 PM »
Looking forward to seeing that Dan 👍

Offline Cubs

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Re: Battle of Isandlwana Demo Game at Call to Arms.
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2019, 10:38:42 PM »
At Isandlwana from what I remember reading is they did not expect the Zulus to be so close as they thought that they were still in the homesteads. Going by the previous experience in the Cape Wars they underestimated the Zulus ability and expected to cut them down in the same fashion as before which is why they were so spread out and too far forward from the camp.


Yup, you've got an awful lot of 'what-ifs' to deal with!

What if the command hadn't been so fudged between Pulleine and Durnford?

What if vedettes (as advised) had been posted and the Zulus spotted earlier?

What if Chelmsford had followed his own standing orders and laagered the wagons before leaving the camp?

What if the companies had been placed closer to the camp to form a more constricted defence instead of the advanced firing line in open order?

What if the Zulus hadn't been so inspired to charge home in the face of heavy casualties?

What if the irregular mounted troops had shown incredible commitment to duty and instead of fleeing when faced with almost certain death (who can blame them?), formed a defensive perimeter around the wagons, allowing the regulars to retire on a secure rear?

And that's just the 'what-ifs' that assume the battle was fought at all, because there's a few chance decisions involved in that as well. Frankly, my personal opinion (and there's a lot of disagreement from people better informed than me) is that when Chelmsford took half the column with him, he fatally weakened what was left and a defeat was likely from that moment on. But a lot of other confounding factors turned it into a (very costly) Zulu victory and a British disaster and these are the interesting variables that could be explored in refighting the battle.