Monday, 4 March 2013

With Napoleon in Zululand

The Prince Imperial
The Easter holidays are approaching fast and with them the warmer weather and the prospect of getting the gaming hut back into action. On the few occasions I've been down there over the winter months, it has been damnable cold and inhospitable, convincing me that playing games there is more of a summer activity, despite the wonderful heaters.

I'm working on a couple of scenarios for Lord of the Rings, the next installments from the Fellowship of the Ring journey book, plus maybe one or two for Force on Force, time allowing. These are awesome games which rarely produce a result I'm not happy with. On top of that, I'm also hoping to get some play testing done for Bolt Action.

Finally, I'm working on an adaptation of a colonial skirmish that appeared in February's Wargames Illustrated. Entitled 'A Very Small Disaster' it concerns the sad demise of Prince Napoleon Louise Eugene Jean Joseph, the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte, in Zululand. Following his family's exile from France in 1871, the young prince had spent much of his time in England, but eager to see some action, he had blagged his way onto the British expedition to invade Zululand in 1879.

The commander of the British invasion, Lord Chelmsford, had left explicit instructions that the young royal was in no way to get anyway near the Zulus, and was to be accompanied by British troops at all times. As ever with such things, the responsibility for looking after the prince seems to have been delegated as the expedition heated up and senior officers became too busy with planning to keep an eye on a French aristocrat. Hence, the quarter master general handed the job on to Lt Col Redvers Buller who in turn seems to have fobbed it off onto a junior officer called Lt Carey (a friend of the prince).

This all resulted in the prince going off on a scouting expedition into the iTyotyosi Valley with only a small escort of dragoons, an expedition which led to his eventual demise on the end of a Zulu assegai.

The scenario as it stands is designed for a GM to run with up to five players, taking the role of the various British combatants. However, I'm going to tweak it for play with Legends of the Old West, as a two player game. I am going to alter the turn sequence so that Zulus and British activate on a card draw, with a joker in the deck to force a re-shuffle and the end of the turn. This is a bit of a deviation from the usual LotOW rules (themselves based on Lord of the Rings), but I have started using a similar mechanic in The Sword & The Flame, which works quite well. In this case, however, my plan is to assign a card to each character, and then have the Zulus moving in groups of 4-6 on black cards. Thus, there is a good chance characters won't get to move every single turn.

I have used LotOW for the Zulu War before, but I think we played with too many figures for it to work well, even with the extra rules in the Alamo supplement. I think its mechanics are more suited for about 5-20 figures per side. The British in this case have four troopers, a corporal, a sergeant, a Zulu scout, and a lieutenant (Carey) as well as Louis Napoleon himself (who will have to be assigned the Jack of Hearts). I'll post LotOW stats for these guys on the blog once they have been cooked up.

I've not decided how many Zulus should be used, but given that the objective of the prince imperial is to escape, there should be enough that they run little risk of being driven off. With the scouting party at nine, I think 25 Zulus, including some with muskets, should work well.

There's never a redcoat around when you need one!

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