Monday, May 17, 2010

Myers Drift 1879

Brevet Colonel Wood found himself with his forces in disarray, Major Hackett's small detachment of the 13th Light Infantry and two attached field guns had become trapped at a ruined mission station on Myers Drift, a Dry riverbed running in to Zulu territory.

His orders were clear, to relieve his men and escort them back to the main body of the Northern Column. Hackett's men for now could only hold their ground; aware of the approaching thunder of rhythmic Zulu marching...
And so with a scenario established we began our first game of Black Powder set in the Zulu War. The terrain was fairly simple and created with the aid of my felt desert blanket laid over various club hills. The templates represented difficult going rather than cover, and only the Mission ruins gave a defensible value.

Although Woods column advanced, it did so with a lack of vigour, whereas the Zulus swept en-masse towards the mission. One cannon was caught exposed and swiftly dispatched by 250 chanting natives.

In the face of such chaos to the south, to the north a blundered order redeployed the head of woods column, as it chased the ghosts of natives through the nearby scrub. Instead the Natal irregular horse enthusiastically engaged the enemy in a valuable holding action.

This action stalled the Zulu left horn and allowed the 90th to deploy from column, in doing so they discovered the Zulu ambush of 500 warriors hidden in the drift itself! Curse their unsporting cunning!
The British recognised this left them on a sticky wicket and began to redeploy. In the ruins of the mission station, the 13th were destroyed, but in doing so enough harm was done to three of the Zulu impi, that the chose to retire after looting the bodies. This disaster at least gave the main column a chance.
The 90th redeployed on the ridge to cover their flanks and at first it worked. But as the first Zulu wave attacked and taunted the British, a second crashed in and wiped out first one company...
And then another. However in doing so the losses in the Zulu impi were such that they were also forced to withdraw.
Whilst further afield the Natal Horse chased off other impi, the survivors of the 90th rallied against the final aggressive Zulu mass. Although the Zulu's acted with cunning and bravery, disciplined rifle fire from the 90th was enough to see them off.

At the end of the battle British losses were significant; with three companies of foot mauled or wiped out the British sustained 267 killed, wounded and missing. However for the the Zulu's 600 dead and wounded were found on the battlefield. In all the battle proved a costly draw, with the British holding the field but at terrible loss.

So a corking little game, that only took two hours to play through, it was of course a pretty small scenario. The Black Powder rules seemed to work absolutely fine for this game. We made the simple revision of using centimetres for measurements rather than inches, and this turned a 6x4 foot table into something more like a 9x6 for the little 15mm chaps! Ranges and movement seemed fine given that there was now effectively lots of space to play over. The scenario meant that both sides had tasks to achieve for victory, rather than simple elimination of each other in a stand up fight.

For the troops I made all the Zulu units large, regular, warbands. Bloodthirsty and disciplined; which seemed to reflect how I thought an Impi of 250 or so might fight. As for the British, each unit represented a company of 80 or so men, and were Steady and Stubborn; they were regular sized units. The artillery was a tiny unit, and the horse were marauders.

All in all a great second try of the rules, and it was fantastic to get back to the Zulu war for the first time since my teenage years!


  1. Looks like you had a great game the figures look real nice, I sold a largee force of both sides last year mainly because i didn't have a good set of rules for them

  2. Good to here that Black Powder works for Zulu Wars.

    Unfortunately, I am doing mine in 28mm so it will be a long job to get several hundered Zulus done!

    Your figures look great!

  3. Any more games. I have alwasy been very interested in Zulu wars but have not found a rule set that works. May have to give them at try.

  4. Plenty more Black powder, but not with Zulu's yet. I think they should get another outing soon though, if only to encurage me to paint a few more...

  5. What is your basing size? Looks like you used 3 figs per base. Looks like 30x20 basing.


  6. Basing was based on Battles for Empire, but wirks fine with Black Powder.

    British infantry are in threes on 30mm x 20mm with four bases to a company, three to four companies to a battalion.

    Cavalry are two figures to a 30mm x 30mm stand with four bases to a company.

    Artillery are 40 or 50mm square, I think the latter...

    Lastly the Zulus are 4 to a base of double the formed infantry's dimensions - 60mm x 20mm. Four bases for a standard warband, 6 for a large mass.