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Author Topic: CapnJim's Colonial Stuff: Anglo-Zulu War Battle report finished 18 Aug 2022  (Read 1977 times)

Online CapnJim

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I am on the Board of Directors for HMGS-Great Lakes, and the Board has decided to have a big game at my wargaming building this August.  Ted, a member of my wargaming group, is also on that Board.  We came up with an Anglo-Zulu war scenario using Fistful of Lead: Bigger Battles.  We play-tested the game today in my group's weekly game.

Here's the set-up.  Please note that this is a fictional scenario.  It's late January 1879.  Lord Chelmsford'd left column, in the first invasion, has crossed the Buffalo River.  The column commander has left a detachment at Bender's Drift (named after the afore-mentioned Ted) to guard the ford across the Buffalo River.  The detachment included 2 companies of Highlanders, a company of Regulars, a company of Marines (each with 10 men), 2 detachments of Rifles (each with 5 men), a Gatling Gun (crew of 3), a surgeon, and the Major commanding.  They also had 4 wagons, and oxen to draw them.  All the British infantry were rated as "Regular" and were "Steady", and the Rifles were also "Dead-eyes".  The Rifles, Highlanders, and Regulars were D12s to shoot.  All other die for the British were D10.  The Major was "Encouraging".  The surgeon was a "Medic".  The oxen (and this would come into play!) were D8.

The Zulus had 13 units of 15 men each.  Their entry turns were determined randomly (they were all on by turn 3), as were their entry points (there were 8 scattered along various points on the board edge).  The Zulus were all "Ferocious Charge", and rated "Tribal".  The Zulus would melee at D12, but all their other rolls were d10.  They could have 1 to 3 leaders (determined randomly), but ended up with only one.  He was 'encouraging".  No Zulus started on the board.

Bender's Drift sat in a valley between low ridges, with the border road running along the river the length of the valley.  The road crosses the river at the Drift.  There are copses of trees that dot the landscape, as well as clumps of trees and shrubs along the river banks.  The first pic below shows the battlefield, looking roughly westerly.     

The Zulus had 12 turns to break all the British units, thus defeating them.  The British relief column, with its cavalry, would arrive on Turn 13. 

The Major had the wagons clustered immediately east of the station building at the Drift.  The oxen were posted just southeast of that building, adjacent to the wagons.   He sent the 2 detachments across the river to the south as pickets.  He set up his infantry just west and southwest of the station building.   He, the surgeon, and the Gatling Gun, were at the approximate center of their defensive position.  See the 2nd pic below to view the British starting positions.

I'll post Part 1 of the AAR, "The Battle Begins...", tomorrow.  Part 2, "...And The Battle Ends." will be after that, but by Friday.
« Last Edit: August 18, 2022, 09:42:34 PM by CapnJim »
"Remember - Incoming Fire Has the Right-of-Way"

Offline FifteensAway

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift (08 June 2022)
« Reply #1 on: June 09, 2022, 05:14:31 AM »
So far, so good.

Those oxen are huge-mongous!  Also, my arithmetic fails me at how those six oxen will pull those four wagons.   ;)


Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift (08 June 2022)
« Reply #2 on: June 09, 2022, 03:42:38 PM »
So far, so good.

Those oxen are huge-mongous!  Also, my arithmetic fails me at how those six oxen will pull those four wagons.   ;)

Yes, well, oxen are big animals...and we discussed the oxen-to-wagons ratio.  Apparently the 2 smaller wagons were one-ox carts.  We were too lazy to walk the 10 feet to grab my other 2 oxen... :o

By the way, as the host, I provided the terrain, while Ted brought the figures (including the oxen and wagons)...

Anyhow, on with the show...

The Battle Begins...

The Major and his men could hear the incessant beat of hundreds of feet, along with the chanting, coming from over the ridges and both ends of the valley.  BOTH ridges.  "What were Zulus doing south of the River?" the Major thought.  Well, soon enough he got his answer.  "Zulus!  Loads of 'em!" came shouts from his Marines as 2 groups of Zulus came over the ridge south of the Drift.  Then:  "Zulus to the west!" came shouts from the Highlanders, as they spotted another group coming down the valley.  And so it began.

The 2 groups of Zulus came down the ridge from the south, right into the Marines.  Luckily, the Marines and one of his Highlander companies got some good volleys into them before they charged home.  While the Marines took several casualties and fell back a bit, those 2 groups of Zulus were sent packing.  Thank God they had a surgeon.  He had patched up a few men of the Marines and got them back into the fight.  But more Zulus were coming.  The Major figured those 2 groups were a diversion, as now they could see and hear several groups of Zulus coming toward them from the east and the west.  "Good God, man" the Major said to his batman.  "There must be a thousand of them."  Hundreds from the east, and hundreds more from the west.  Those must be the 2 horns of their attack.  But where was the chest?   It was quiet to the north...

His Highlanders and Regulars could see several groups of Zulus descending on their position from the west, while his Riflemen reported several more coming up the valley and along the ridgeline from the east.  And they just kept coming.

With no apparent threat from the north, the Major called his Riflemen back from across the River.  While he could see his Highlanders and Regulars starting to get some good volleys off toward the Zulus advancing from the west (they had already put paid to one group of Zulus in that direction), he didn't have anyone in position to engage those coming up from the east.  So, he ordered his Rifles into the Drift's station building.  One detachment of Rifles got up on the roof of the building, while his other Rifles peppered the closest group of Zulus coming from the east as the Rifles made their way back to the station building.  The Major also ordered his Gatling Guns to position themselves at the southeast corner of his position.  When everything was in place, at least he'd have a good defense set up all the way around.

They'd need it.  All those Zulus were getting close.  The Major knew a relief column of cavalry was coming up the Valley from the east.  He suspected the Zulus wouldn't care to have cavalry up 'em, so his men had to hold out until the relief arrived.  But there were a lot of Zulus.  His men's Martini-Henry rifles had already dropped quite a few.  Would it be enough?  Those Zulus were ferocious in melee.  "Dear Lord" he prayed.  "Help us!"...

And that's were I'll leave it for now.  3 of the 13 groups of Zulus were beaten back, but 10 more were coming on hard and he and already lost a few men.  the Zulus were ready for a fight, but his men were up t the challenge.  He hoped......

Stay tuned for Part 2  ...And the Battle Ends.

Offline MaleGriffin

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift AAR Part 1 (09 June 2022)
« Reply #3 on: June 09, 2022, 03:56:17 PM »
Looking good! One of my favorite periods!
Hoc quoque transibit
Sanguinem sistit semper

Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift AAR Part 1 (09 June 2022)
« Reply #4 on: June 09, 2022, 05:22:02 PM »
Thanks! 

I should note that the pennies indicate casualties on the Zulus, since they were already mounted 3 figures per stand.  As you can see, the British were individually mounted.  The micro-dice indicate shock on a unit.  And we decided that each fig represented about 5 men, so we have about 250 British defending against a thousand Zulus.   Ugh...Gene (another member of our weekly gaming group) and I played the British, and Ted played the Zulus.

Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift AAR Part 1 (09 June 2022)
« Reply #5 on: June 09, 2022, 09:01:59 PM »
And, now, as American commentator Paul Harvey used to say, the rest of the story...

Part 2:  ...And The Battle Ends.

Having beaten back the initial attacks by a few groups of Zulus, the real test came.  There were 10 more groups of 'em bearing down on him and his men - 5 from the west coming down the valley, and 5 more coming from the east up the valley.  He had arranged his men the best he could, and he only hoped his men could hold out.

And the Zulus came on.  Hundreds of 'em.  They hit his position from both the west and the east.  Some of them hit the Highlander company at the westernmost point in his position, while more got in among the wagon lager.  His Highlanders stood fast, but were men were going down.  The surgeon was patching up marines, and a few more of them took their place back with their company.  And his Gatling Guns were now in action, firing at Zulus who were trying to use the oxen as cover to get in around the station building.  The guns got a few, but the firing spooked the oxen, who then stampeded into that group of Zulus.  Those oxen played havoc with the Zulus, running over and goring several and flummoxing them to no end.  And more were struggling over and around the wagons to try to get into the station building.  It was a good thing he had his Rifles there, as they had by now felled several Zulu warriors...

But they kept coming.  On the west side, they pushed the Highlander company back, and the other Highlander company and the regulars had to adjust for that.  The whole time, the Major kept shouting words of encouragement to his men, keeping their spirit up.  And at the station building, more Zulus were trying to get into the building.  The Rifles inside were paying the price to keep them at bay, but the men on the roof were playing hell with the Zulus. 

By now, there were lots of Zulus laying all around the Drift, dead and wounded.  But the major could see the blue- and red-coated figures of his own men lying on the ground around the perimeter.   The surgeon yelled out "I'm doing my best, but we're running out of medical supplies, and there are too may men down for me to get to!"
 It was getting dicey.  As men went down, those still fighting slowly fell back toward the station building.  If need be, that would be where they put up their last stand.

But the Major could see the dust cloud to the east.  He prayed it was the relief column.  The Zulus could see it too.  And more fresh groups of Zulus came on,  His men had punished several groups already, but there were just too many.  Then, to his horror, a group of Zulus charged the other Highland Company and wiped them out to a man.  But those brave Scots went down fighting, and made the Zulus pay a heavy price for their little victory.  Another group of Zulus tried to come across the ford near the station building, but the few Marines that were left held their ground. 

That dust cloud was getting closer.  He knew it, and so did the Zulu chieftain.  One last wave of that chieftain's spear, and one last push from fresh groups of Zulus.  One charged the regulars, and another tried for the station building again.  This was it.  The whole fight would come down to this.

And then it was over.  Taking heavy casualties, the Regulars at the west end and the Rifles at the station building survived the onslaught.  The Major looked east, and could hear the bugles call, and could see the banners and pennants of the British cavalry.  The Zulus chieftain could see and hear them too, and what Zulus remained faded off back across the river, over the ridges, and up the valley.  His men had held out.  Barely, but they had held.  God Almighty had answered his prayers.

And it was indeed over.  I'll cover the Butcher's Bill and my thoughts on the game in my next post, hopefully tomorrow. 

Thanks for reading!  Hope you enjoyed it!   

 

Offline BaronVonJ

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift AAR Part 2 (09 June 2022)
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2022, 02:20:40 AM »
Great report!

Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift AAR Part 2 (09 June 2022)
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2022, 04:26:33 PM »
Great report!

Thanks, BaronVonJ!

And now to wrap things up...

The Butchers Bill and Final Thoughts

It was very close, but the Zulus couldn't quite break the British before the relief column arrived on the scene.  The British started out with 4 groups of 10 figures (2 Highlander companies, a Regular company, and a Marine detachment), 2 groups of 5 (Rifles), a Gatling gun with 3 crew, a surgeon, and a mounted leader (the Major).  That's 55 figures.  We decided on a figure to men ratio of 1 to 5, so that's about 275 men (and a pair of guns).  At the end of the fight, they had 15 figures left standing (about 75 men).  3 regulars, 2 Marines, 5 Rifles, and the gun crews, surgeon, and the Major - and none of them with more shock than figures.  The British held, but it was a very costly win.

The Zulus started out with 13 groups of 15 figures each, and (as it turns out) 1 dismounted leader.  That's 196 figures, or just under a thousand men.  When it was all over, they only had 56 figures left standing (under 300 men).  It was an even costlier day for the Zulus.

The attached pic shows the field of battle at the end of the fight...

When it was all said and done, we all thought the battle, using Fistful of Lead: Bigger Battles and units stated out per the "official" suggestions, really felt like an Anglo-Zulu War battle.  Here are some notes:

1.  We only tweaked the rules for this scenario just a bit.  Since the British really had nowhere to go, if a British unit had to regroup or retreat, we had them fall back toward the center of their position by the distance called for in the rules, or when they got to that center, whichever was the least.  Only if neither one of those was possible was the unit destroyed (which did not happen in our game).  And as such, British units fought to the last man.  The Zulus fell back the requisite distances per the rules, but units were considered out of the fight once they got down to 3 figures (a stand) or less.  We figured once a Zulu unit got that beat up, the remnants simply faded away...     

2.  We used one Joker card.  If you drew it, you could play play one of 3 ways.  You could use it as an Ace (wild card).  You could use it to have something good happen to the activated unit (such as an bonus fire or move action, for example).  Or you could use it to have something bad happen to an enemy unit, playable at any point during the turn (like have them do nothing for that turn, have them retreat, or, as I did, have the oxen stampede through them.  We had the oxen melee with d8, and they still caused havoc in a Zulu unit!).  The trade-off was if you took the 3rd option, you couldn't use it to activate one of your units, effectively forfeiting one of your units' action for that turn.

3.  This game really came down to British marksmanship vs. Zulu melee power.  The British got some great volleys off, and did a number on several Zulu units.  But once Zulus got stuck in, they then did the number on the British.  But, true to fashion, those 2 companies of Highlanders made the Zulus pay dearly in melee...

4.  The surgeon earned his pay.  He brought back quite a few British soldiers with his handiwork, but failed his last 2 "Medic" rolls.  We figured he was getting overwhelmed and running out of medical supplies.

5.  With the British position so concentrated, and with interior lines, the Major earned his keep as well.  He was able to rally and encourage his men on several occasions. Between the Major and the surgeon, they were able to keep units fighting. 

This was a hell of a fight, really had the feel of an Anglo-Zulu War battle, and should do nicely for our HMGS-Great Lakes Board game in August.
« Last Edit: June 10, 2022, 07:53:59 PM by CapnJim »

Offline FifteensAway

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift Final AAR (10 June 2022)
« Reply #8 on: June 11, 2022, 04:41:06 AM »
Glad to hear the FFOL:BB rules worked out for you.  I have them but haven't played them yet.  Played FFOL, though.

I like how versatile they can be and will be using them for a variety of eras when my go to rules, Rank and File, are not appropriate.

Nice report and summation. 

Offline BaronVonJ

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift Final AAR (10 June 2022)
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2022, 07:31:58 PM »
Great to meet you today CapnJim! If you’re up for a trip by again end of July, we have great little mini-con fundraiser.
https://www.marchtovictory.net/battles-brews

Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift Final AAR (10 June 2022)
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2022, 05:16:58 PM »
We're back from vacation, and nearly caught up.  And now it's time to go through the LAF, and see what I missed in the last couple weeks.

It was great to meet you too, Jaye.  But, I've been informed by Higher HQ that we're already booked that weekend, so I'll have to pass on it this time.  Thanks for the invite though...

Online CapnJim

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Re: Anglo-Zulu War Battle of Bender's Drift Final AAR (10 June 2022)
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2022, 03:56:41 PM »
We are planning another run-through of this scenario this coming Saturday.  Of course, an illustrated AAR will follow...

Offline Grumpy Gnome

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I only just spotted this thread… damn Cap'n, but you always seem to have such cool games!
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Online CapnJim

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Thanks, Grump!  Both my wargame bud, Ted, and I are long-time wargamers and convention GMs.  I think we're getting pretty good at coming up with good scenarios. 8)

Glad you've noticed too!

Offline BaronVonJ

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Quote
We're back from vacation, and nearly caught up.  And now it's time to go through the LAF, and see what I missed in the last couple weeks.

It was great to meet you too, Jaye.  But, I've been informed by Higher HQ that we're already booked that weekend, so I'll have to pass on it this time.  Thanks for the invite though...
Recruits is a great convention coming up, Love to have one of your games.

 

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