Monday, April 18, 2022

Just passing by

Sir Harry Flashman VC in pensive mood - poor chap clearly hasn't been fed in ages...

I had to the pleasure of hosting a "proper" (i.e. in person) wargame for the first time in ages a few night ago.  I have been more active on Twitter than I have been here over the last two years and it was a delight to get one of my Twitter pals, Molloy the Younger, around the table for a Zulu War game.  The rules were "The Men who would be Kings" by Dan Mersey and the scenario was "Just passing by".  

This scenario is played lengthways with each force attempting to get their units across the battlefield.  There are points going for inflicting casualties, but the real prize is getting your force, as whole as possible, past the enemy. 

Their dressing leaves something to be desired.

This was the most basic of Zulu War games, though we played with slightly truncated forces as I didn't have quite enough Impi painted (something I'm going to have to rectify).  We used 18 point forces rather than 24.  

The Royal Mallows of great and august memory with an attachment from the Rifles, made up the British force. 

They were;
First Platoon led by Molloy the Younger, stout fellows all. Molloy was a calm professional who gloried in an an exceptional leadership rating courtesy of the randomly rolled Leadership traits table. 

Second Platoon led by "Slasher" Egan, a fire-eating Corkman who was as dangerous with a sabre as he was to the reputations of respectable gentlewomen. 

First Platoon, the Rifles, on attachment, led by "Dead-Eye" Cribb, a nice boy from Kent who was very good at shooting things.   

Molloy the Younger took on the mantle of the British commander, while I donned the head dress of the Chief Induna.  The objective was that we were each to get as many units as we could lengthways across the table in fifteen turns.  

"Sir, I wish to protest the lack of anchovies!"

Proceedings were occasionally interrupted by Colonel Sir Harry Flashman VC who launched himself on the table to bat the odd die around the table and complain about the messing facilities. 

Molloy took the initiative and hatched a bold scheme in the first few turns. He deployed First Platoon  and the Rifles in an abandoned kraal, while sending Second Platoon on a longer loping run up the flank with a view to getting them off the board. 

May the Heavens shake with the thunder of our coming!

Zulu regiments were much like regiments elsewhere.  They have a sense of pride and were distinguished (to an extent) by their shield patterns.  Their regimental titles were in Zulu and this may shock you, but I don't speak Zulu, so rather than trying to butcher a number of Zulu names, I decided to use nicknames instead. Nicknames are quite common in Zulu culture. I used some real regimental titles (The Wild Men, Shaka's Own, etc) and some of my own invention (The Dancers and the Bull Killers). 

My force was made up of units of Tribal infantry, some of whom were Fierce (i.e. had a bonus in melee) or were Veteran (more likely to follow orders). 

I rolled a more mixed bag of leaders than Molloy the Younger did.  I had three really good ones, who had great leadership scores, one of whom was a hero of the Kingdom (got an extra activation) and another was a great trainer of troops (+2 inch move).  Of the two duffers that I had, the first had very poor eyesight (couldn't shoot at long range targets, not issue for my spear armed infantry) and the other was an idiot who commanded "The Kickers". 

This meant that I had to roll a die each turn and on a roll of 1, Molloy the Younger would get to move him rather than me.  

This came back to haunt me - I certainly felt like kicking them. 

The Mallows take up residence in the abandoned Kraals, while the Rifles fall into a skirmish line out front.  Despite this formidable position, First Platoon were to take remarkably little part in the battle. 

Meanwhile, Egan and his troops double time it to the other side of the board. 

With Molloy splitting his forces, I thought that I could bring enough force to bear on his isolated platoon to wipe it out.  I sent three of my Impi to cut off and surround Egan's platoon, while my other two screened his forces in the Kraals. 

Disaster struck when my idiotic leader forgot his favourite snuff pouch and had to return to the main body to find it, this left The Wild Men to face Egan's platoon alone. 

They won't be happy in Montenotte. 

My brave lads to close the distance under cover before going at the Mallows in a rush.  Despite taking a few casualties on the way in, they managed to make it contact and wipe of Second Platoon to the last Cork man. 

Meanwhile Cribb and the Rifles had been doing great execution against my infiltrating Zulus.  I hugged the terrain and mounted three separate charges against his line. 

Dead Eye Cribb managed to miss with an entire volley on the first round, but the only shot that told struck the Induna of The Bull Killers, who went down like a skittle.  This left the Impi milling about and leaderless and they were mown down by Martini fire as they tried to scurry back to cover. 

Trift Shop!

Flush from their success against Second Platoon, the Wild Men (note Induna at the back wearing a snazzy looted red coat) ran for the board edge.  With one British unit in the bag,  I knew that if I could get at least two of my units off the board,  Molloy didn't have a counter. 

From a distance you don't look anything like a friend. 

On the British left, I charged again at the Rifles only to blow the roll to close, which left me stranded two inches away from making contact.  

I need anything but a one and rolled with all the grim inevitability of Greek tragedy, a one. 

The Rifles did not let that piece of bad luck go unpunished and another Impi was sent running to the rear. 

Meanwhile on the Right the Wild Men, despite one tremendously lucky shot from Molloy at extreme long range that pinned them for a turn, managed to rally and make it off the board. 

The Kickers -again- fluffed their roll and ended up hanging around scratching their backsides.  We were only lucky that while the First Platoon's volley at them downed three warriors, they were able to gather themselves sufficiently to avoid being pinned and were able to keep moving. 

They don't like it up 'em!

My third charge was launched on the British Left and I finally made it contact with the Rifles.  

Sadly, to qoute an unnamed Zulu Induna "There was something wrong with our bloody spears today."

Molloy had managed to whittle me down to equal numbers with Martini fire, so my advantage was reduced, but Cribb's boys set to with swords with a will and actually saw off the Zulu attack. I couldn't roll for toffee and we only killed three of the Green Jackets. Our morale broke and we legged it for the rear.  

Thankfully, if my rolling in that combat was poor, someone (I can only hope a grizzled Zulu NCO) had managed to apply the business end of an Iklwa to the backside of the leader of The Kickers and got him moving.  He lead his men off the board bypassing the British position and securing victory. 

Molloy the Younger magnanimous in defeat

The game ended with the Zulu's victorious seven victory points to five.  Molloy had managed to destroy about 50% of my force, while I took a third of his in return, but we accomplished the mission we had been given and that was enough for victory. 

This was my first in person game in a while and I can't say how I enjoyed it.  Molloy though not a regular wargamer grasped the basics of the game quickly and the battle took about an hour and a half (including smoke breaks) at a leisurely pace.  The Men who would be Kings showed itself to be a simple and robust set of rules that gave a game of movement and decision in a satisfactorily short period of time. 

I look forward to playing it with Molloy more often, though I think he'd like a shot at some Napoleonics.