Monday, 27 October 2014

We play Battles for Empire

Following on from my last post, I am play testing the Battles For Empire rules by Chris Leach. I am using the first edition of the game, largely just to give it a go and see whether it might become my new default battle rules for the Zulu War. Previously, we've had forays with a Legends of the Old West variant, and The Sword and The Flame, by Larry Brom. Incidentally, I'm using a Larry Brom scenario, 'The Kraal', the give these rules a dry run.

I will be endeavouring to chronicle the progress of this battle on a post-by-post basis for the rest of half term, and hopefully it will be played to a conclusion.

The Setting

A British punitive expedition has been sent to burn the kraal of a Zulu chief who has been raiding across the Tugela river and attacking Imperial supply convoys for the main army already operating in Zululand. The British commander's objective is to destroy all three huts in the kraal, signalling irreparable damage to the Zulu base. He must do this in at least 10 turns (I am setting a maximum 14 turn game limit, but each turn after 10 there is a chance the game will end). He must avoid losing four units in the course of the battle.

The British have the following:

  • Three units of Regular, 1st Rate Infantry
  • Two units of Green Natal Native Contingent, 3rd rate Infantry (I'm not running these as Zulus for this battle, but as Regulars, but Green ones and 3rd rate shots)
  • One unit of Regular Dragoons, 1st Rate Cavalry
  • One unit of Colonial Volunteers, 2nd Rate Skirmish Infantry
In addition, the British column has the Colonel as its CinC, and a Colonial officer in charge of the NNC units. It also has two ammo mules.

The Zulus are split into the traditional horns of the buffalo command structure. They have a total of 15 units of warriors to bring to the party, of which two are armed with rifles and muskets. They have ONE unit of white shields which I have rated as Elite, representing the chief's personal retainers and household warriors.

British column on the march, led by dragoons and local scouts.

The Zulus must prevent their kraal from being burned, or take out at least four units from the invading column.

Part of the objective for this game is to get a clear grasp of the rules via a leisurely walk through, but also get an estimate of when enough Zulus are enough for a regular game of BFE. Most of the scenarios in the book seem written for slightly bigger tables than I have, so I have scaled back the total number of figures appropriately. Plus, I think 15 units would be sufficient for most of the battles in the Colonial Campaigns scenario book I have purchased for the Zulu War.

Onto the action now...


In this scenario, the column deploys up to 24" onto the table. Some units have yet to enter. The British are brigaded as a multi-unit formation. Two Boer scouts lead the way, in case any Zulus ended up getting into the donga early. I put the dragoons at the head of the column, followed by the British regulars with the NNC and ammo mules bringing up the rear. I'm not sure what benefits the column formation brings in BFE, but the imperials are presumed to be in march formation anyway at this stage of the scenario. The colonial rifles are already in skirmish formation and off to the right of the column in case Zulus attack off the ridge. All Zulu forces begin off the table.

Turn #1

The British won initiative and marched confidently onto the field, heading for the kraal. The Zulus then rolled three units of regulars from the chest formation, entering from the opposite edge of the table. With them is the induna in command of the chest. He brigaded them into a multi-unit formation, and they began wading through the mealie field to their front.

Turn #2

The British won initiative again, electing to go first, and moving their forces towards the donga. All of their troops are now on the table. At this stage the Zulus were still too far away to be spotted, plus most of them were in the mealie field. BFE has a maximum 36" spotting distance at this scale. One British unit is the equivalent of an infantry company.

First wave - Zulu chest unis advance through mealie field.

The Zulus roll again, this time getting the left horn of their buffalo, and three units of regulars, including one with rifles. The Zulu player elected to bring on the left horn commander. Unfortunately, his troops arrived behind the chest unit, with the Zulu warriors trailing them into the melee. An expensive waste of time with the enemy getting ever closer.

So, at this stage, we have the British approaching the donga. The Zulus have moved to the second deployment table in the rules, as they have units from one of the horns on the table. Six Zulu units are on the table in two formations, along with two commanders.

Tune in later this week to find out what happens next...

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