Monday, 2 January 2012

Rorkes Drift

While we were off for the Christmas holidays, I decided to put a couple of games on at my house with a barbeque between the games (luckily in Spain it's barbeque weather all year round). I decided for the the morning to put on a refight of the Battle of Rorkes Drift again. I had played it last Christmas as a solo game and once with Jose, but this time I would be playing with four others. As usual I left a few things until last minute, and one thing was the rules. I had an idea to mix and match the home grown rules I used last year with some of the Sword of the Flame Rules that we had been using this year. I was going to work out the fine details a few hours before everyone arrived., but I woke up feeling terrible with a headache and sickness and so I spent the time trying to recuperate.
Everybody turned up on time and so we started the game. Myself and Miguel were the Zulus. The Zulus were split into 4 units of 100 figures representing the left horn and left Head and loins commanded by Miguel. I had control of the right horn and right head and loins. Jose, Javi and Kiefer controlled the British. Jose was Lt Chard, Javi was Lt Bromhead and Kiefer was Lt Ardendorf. There was roughly 70 British figures that they split up equally between the commands. Also there were "hero" figures such as Pvt Hook, Pvt Dunbar and Colour Sgt Bourne etc. Each British player took control of a sector of Rorke Drift to defend.

The intial setup, in the foreground are Miguel's left horn and on the the right the head and loins, just below the heights of the Oskarberg is my right horn (ooo-er missus).

The initial setup of the British looking from the kraal, there were quite a few troops in the centre attempting tp build the redoubt, but they soon scattered when the Zulu marksmen started firing. Each unit of the Zulus had to be activated and they had to go through 4 stages before charging from resting, standing, chanting , beating of shields and finally charging this was decided by a 1D6. That way it was harder for a Zulu player to be able to co-ordinate all of his units to charge at the same time. The problem was our Zulus were very reluctant to be activated (needing a four or more to be activated). This meant for the first hour of battle time there were no charges. Battle time was decided at the end of a completed turn, a D6 is thrown and for every number 5 minutes is moved on the clock.

Zulus of the right horn preparing to charge, above them the Zulus with rifles are firing down fron their vantage point. The firing rules were quite simple and easily remembered with no need for charts using a 1D20 for each figure firing.

The right horn as they neared the Mission started to take casualties from the deadly British rifle fire.

The first part of the Zulus contacted the store house and I quickly scrambled around for some close-combat rules to use, I settled on some I used before that have the same mechanism with the game Risk. Depending on who has the the advantage they throw more D6s than the other fellow, highest number wins this may lead to death, wound or just being pushed back. The Zulus managed to enter the store house and killed 3 British soldiers. Heroically the last two soldiers managed to kill the rest of the Zulus before the second wave of Zulus were able to reach them.

The main assualt hit the barricadess and the British right flank was pushed back into the compound causing a few casualties. Again reinforcements were at hand to push the Zulus back and the first attack had finished. The timer dice was thrown and a "1" meant all this action had lasted only 5 minutes. A setback for the British was that Pvt Dunbar, the sharpshooter, was killed. (He can just be seen in the photo above, last man on the right of the ramparts, wounded surrounded by three Zulus)

Next it was the turn of my right head and loins to charge the Hospital. I´m afraid there were not any other photos of this action. I think I was to busy trying to enter the building. Surgeon Major Reynolds removed the wounded into the compound with help from some reinforcements. But he didn't need to worry because my attack was repulsed and the hospital was not set alight. (Due to me forgetting that particular rule until the game had finished.)

At last Miguel's Zulus woke up and attacked, although causing the British some casualties on their left flank when a few Zulus managed to jump over the barricadess and into the compound. The dead included Corporal Frederic Schiess.

At last the time reached 7.00pm and dusk settled. The three British officers set about working out their defences for the next days action. They decided to give up the Hospital and to consolidate their position in and around the storehouse. Surgeon Major Reynolds started to come to the aid of the wounded. This was worked out using 1D6 on a wounded man, 5 or 6 brings a wounded man up to full health however a 1 means he died on the operating table. As it happened Surgeon Major Reynolds was quite a butcher during the night including killing off Lt James Ardendorf. During the night, unmolested by the Zulus the British were able to build the Redoubt.

Not long after sunrise the first Zulu attack came, which was a coordinated attack of both parts of the head and loins of the Zulu force. With no defence by the Hospitial the Zulus poured over the defences like a flood into the compound.

Miguel's Zulus received most of the deadly fire whilst my Zulus ran almost unhindered towards the storehouse.

Soon all of the British defences were surrounded, with Miguel's Zulus attacking the kraal which contained the seriously wounded that had been evacuated from the Hospital.
The attack was eventually beaten off with many British casualties meaning that even the outer perimeter barricade could not be defended and most of the British retreated to the redoubt.

Miguel´s Horn attacked again, Lt Bromhead fired from the redoubt with Lt Card giving support from the store house.

The Zulus were temporary kept back by the rifle fire but some had entered the Kraal again and attacked the last few survivors including Surgeon Major Reynolds.

The Zulus had finished of the last defenders in the Kraal and were now stabbing the helpless wounded lying on the ground. More Zulus jumped over the barricades and attacked the redoubt. Special note here for Commissary Dalton who had been supplying others with ammunition when they had ran out (A "20" on a D20 when firing.) At first he was outside the redoubt due to their being no room for him inside. However he managed to kill two Zulus even though he could only throw 1D6 to their 2D6 and was able to jump inside the redoubt for the final stand.

Sadly the last few soldiers in the redoubt including Lt Bromhead were slaughtered by the victorious Zulus. The Zulus now attacked the storehouse but the walls were too strong and the attack finished. It was around 6.00 a.m and the players thought it was good time to finish. (We could start smelling the barbeque.). But Jose who was playing Lt Chard wanted to carry on to the bitter end.

The last attack came from my right horn who had not moved since the initial assault the day before. Lt Chard led a stiff resistance, but there were to many doors and windows to protect and soon the Zulus were inside and he was torn to shreds by the assegais. We diced for the time, it was 6.35 a.m when the last British man died . Another 25 minutes until Lord Chelmsford`s relief column would appear.

Conclusion. This turned out to be a great game, with all that participated having a great time. The rules were simple to remember and soon the players who had no previous experience of colonial gaming were able to perform firing and close combat with no reference to the rules or myself. It was quite bloody but this was mainly because I didnt use the morale rules for the Zulus because it becomes less interesting and disheartening for players playing the Zulus seeing their attacks being repulsed before they get to grips with the enemy most of the time.

After the first attack I also put the film "Zulu" on for a little background noise and entertainment for the guys who weren't heavily involved in the combat at different times. Javi was still whistling "Men of Harlech" at 8.00 o'clock that night whilst we were playing our Napoleonic game of Lasalle.


  1. Fabulous battle report, Phil, almost as much fun to read as it sounds like it was for you and your friends to play, so thanks very much for posting it! Having run big games myself, I give you a special salute for carrying on all day, despite starting out sick -- 'cause know it really, really sucks to run games when you are sick!