Monday, 11 April 2011

Battle report of the Battle of the Nowongozeer River.

Private Stack (Befitting the occasion Wayne's son, Seamus, dressed accordingly).
The following is an account of a recent, fictitious, Zulu War engagement the lads from The Southern Strategists put together on one of their regular Wednesday night sessions. The occasion was particularly auspicious as it was the Grand Opening of Wayne's beautifully appointed, new war-games room, 'The Mess'
"The force is strong in this one". Master and young apprentice discuss tactics.

The game was fought using fellow Strategist, Adrian's, Colonial adaptation of the excellent Volley & Bayonet rules and the 15mm figures are predominantly Essex and Old Glory  from Adrian and Rodgers collection. Terrain was an old canvas drop cloth suitably spray painted, polystyrene hills and loose rocks etc.

The scenario was based on the somewhat dubious premise that the local Zulu warlord, Chief Imfulajuju,  had captured a number of native irregular spies,.. actually rather fetching and well endowed maidens, highly skilled in the art of extracting vital information by use of their ample feminine charms. The chief is rather looking forward to an evening of torture and ritual disembowelment of said spies once he has availed himself of their particular talents!
Damsels in distress

It is the solemn duty of the Her Majesties forces to extricate these helpless agents and give those rotten Zulus a jolly good curry-up to boot.
With this delicate task at hand the Commander of Operations, Southern Transvaal District, Major General Sir Cedric Throckmorton, loses no time in ordering the assembling of the Nowongozeer Field Force under the command of Lieut-General Rupert Norgate-Ramsbottom V.C, 2ndGuards Regt.
This able and courageous veteran of the Ashanti Wars promptly marches his force to the Southern bank of the Nowongozeer River and within sight of the beastly Imfulajuju's villages. He Laagers his force and takes the wise precaution of doubling the pickets that night ready for the following mornings inevitable engagement.
Lieut-General Rupert Norgate-Ramsbottom V.C

As the first shafts of daylight pierce the morning mist the following situation presents itself to the General through the lens of his trusty telescope:

Lt-General Norgate-Ramsbottom gets the lie of the land.
The Zulu Villages are located on a relatively flat plain to the North of the Nowongozeer River.
The river is only fordable in two places, to the East and West. A number of large hills dominates the landscape to the North of the river.
The unfortunate captives can clearly be seen bound to stakes in the centre of the main village  looking somewhat worse for wear.
The Nowongozeer Plain

British briefing
Over a piping hot cup of tea and crumpets the General briefs his fellow officers on his plan of attack.
Rather than split his forces and use both crossing points to flank the main village he opts for the safer option of sending his entire force over the eastern crossing. Once across they will detach a raiding party to rescue the captives when the opportunity presents itself.  It is essential to keep his forces within command radius where they can maximise their fire power and provide support in the deadly hand to hand fighting that the Zulus are so adept at. He orders the Lancers to defend the baggage and cover his rear to protect his escape route back across the river. 

Turn 1 The game begins with an orderly  British crossing of the river, aided by the fact that the flow at this time of the year is moderate.
As the crossing proceeds the unmistakable and ominous sounds of Zulu Impi on the move can be heard in the distance.
Zulu Impi on the trot

The Zulus cover ground at an astonishing rate and the Brits barely manage to get across the river and formed up in good order before the Left Horn of the Zulu attack smashes into the Highlanders and the 9pdr on the right flank. Some indifferent dice throwing (nothing but ones & twos with seven dice!!) by the Brits fails to stall the native attack and the natives charge home. A ferocious melee ensues but the Gunners and Highlanders prevail and the natives are recoiled in disorder. In the centre The Zulu Chest slams into the Brits in similar style but discipline holds and the natives are recoiled a half move. All the while native reserves are arriving in an endless brown tide.

 Turn 2 and the Zulus intentions are revealed. They plan to assault the Brits on all fronts using their superior numbers and prowess in melee to overwhelm the enemy. Meanwhile a large force of natives have crossed the River on the unguarded Brit left flank and are making for the baggage. Let's hope the Lancers can stop em.
The Zulu Right Horn are soon within striking distance of the Brit left flank covered by the Light Infantry (60th Rifles)and Native Irregulars (Frontier Light Horse).
Turn 3 sees the Zulus press home their assaults on all fronts and the Brits are hard pressed to hold them, but this time disciplined fire power in the form of some rather more acceptable dice throwing and the fact that the Brits are now stationery, hence extra dice, means the Zulus take a walloping. The Naval types have got the Gatling going in grand style as well and again the Zulus are repulsed on all fronts.     Time for a wee dram of Speyside's finest malt to settle the nerves methinks.

The Zulu's superiority in numbers means they can soak up a lot of punishment, recoil, rally and go back in again. A lot of thought on Adrian's part has made for a reasonably balanced adaptation of the rules which gives the Natives a fair crack, especially once they close with the enemy, whilst still acknowledging the Brits advantage in firepower and discipline.
Turn 4 and the Brit Light Infantry seize the opportunity, whilst the natives are  distracted, to make a mad dash for the village and rescue the womenfolk who have inexplicably been left unguarded, no doubt Chief Imfulajuju is suitably enraged that the English Pig Dogs have ruined his evening's entertainment.
Some outstanding melee dice from the Zulus sees a British unit over-run and, with the river at their backs, they are cut down almost to man. It is a miracle that the Brits maintain control and manage to close up the gap. The Brits goal now is to stick together and make for the river crossing with the women in tow.

The sneaky Zulus on the South side of the river are maddeningly close to the baggage but fortunately  the Lancers have spotted them and are forming up for the charge.

17th Lancers

Turn 5 brings more of the same from the Zulus as they strive to overwhelm the Brits, however the River is actually proving to be an advantage  for the Brits as they are not forced to defend their rear and can make an orderly advance to the crossing point whilst still presenting a unified front and refusing their flank. The General refers to this as the 'Backs to the wall, half square shuffle'...I don't think you'll find it in any drill book though.
The Brits begin withdrawing their Artillery and the Gatling across the river to lend support to the Lancers whilst at the same time another unit is routed. . The Zulus however are having a hard time  of it as the Tommies pour volley after volley into their ranks. The Left Horn is exhausted and can no longer close with the enemy. It's going to be a near run thing but if the Brits can maintain order they may just pull it off. 

Turn 6 and the Brits are doing a fine job of getting themselves and their booty across the river whilst fending off the savage attacks of the Zulus.
'Ere they come again lads.

Across the river the Zulu raiding party has made it to the baggage and are about to make off with a case containing the General's whisky and cigars just as the Lancers burst amongst their ranks pennants flying and hooves pounding.  
The near demise of the General's whisky prompts another fortifying round of drinks for the weary Strategists before plunging headlong back into the fray...Damnably hot work this war-gaming and certainly not for the faint-hearted or weak-minded sort of chap! 

Gads!...The General's Whisky under threat.

Turn 7 Suitably fortified the Lancers press home their attack, but abysmal dice throwing sees them repulsed in disorder. Fortunately the Highlanders have arrived on the scene and, incensed at the thought of 'Heathens' getting their filthy mits on the 12 year old Maccallan, fix bayonets and prepare to charge. The sailors 9pdr has found the range and the Gatling's 'on song' as well, opting to use all 6 firing dice it cuts a deadly swathe through the wretched savages without jamming...unheard of in my Colonial war-gaming experience!
With the remainder of the Brit force safely across the river, the women folk in hand  and the Generals whisky out of harm's way the Zulus reluctantly conclude its time to call it a day.
Time for another dram and one of the Generals Havana's eh what?
This rather simple scenario turned out to be a spirited and thoroughly enjoyable encounter with much derogatory banter, cursing or cheering (depending on which side you're on)of failed morale throws and rubbish dice, everything that makes Colonial war-gaming such fun.
It's at times such as this one feels eternally grateful they haven't 'grown up' yet.

By Gavin ( just taking the pith) Bowden.


  1. Enjoyed the battle report, thanks! Just curious if the Colonial modifications to Volley & Bayonet could be shared? I'd love to try a few Zulu Wars games using one of my favorite rule sets!

  2. Hi Joe, Adrian is our expert on V&B and he made the mod's. I will get in ouch with him and find out what changes he made.