Home Forums Horse and Musket General Horse and Musket Ideas for Zulu War Scenarios

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    Nathaniel Weber

    I recently gave a lecture on the Anglo-Zulu War to my World Civ II class, and touched up on my knowledge about the period with Ian Knight’s Great Zulu Battles. It’s a good, fast read, using major battles from Dingane’s time forward to an uprising against white settler rule in 1906. It’s mostly from the Zulu perspective, and I learned a lot reading it (for example, most accounts I’ve read refer to the “unnamed” induna whose death inspired the Zulus forward at Isandlwana, but Knight identifies him in this book).

    Anyway, the last few chapters of the book are about the years following the Zulu War and include two battles from the 1880s Zulu civil war, as various power factions vied for control under Britain’s divided rule in the area. Both hold promise as wargames and could give gamers with Anglo-Zulu War collections more to do with their miniatures.

    First is The Battle of oNdini in 1883, when Cetshwayo tried to regain power after returning from exile. He and his supporters were able to assemble a large army, but his main competitor, Zibhebhu, attacked fast and with a higher-quality (or at least more aggressive) army and crushed Cetshwayo’s faction. This battle is interesting as it is entirely Zulu vs Zulu; there were some exchanges of musketry at the beginning of the battle; one of the Rorke’s Drift regiments (on Cetshwayo’s side) launched a desperate final counter-attack; and there was a village fight as Zebhebhu’s force swept through oNdini itself and fought Cetshwayo’s supporters. Interesting gaming, and you could model various what-ifs: what if Cetshwayo’s troops were better prepared (they were caught by surprise); what if Zebhebhu was less militarily inspired that day; etc.

    Second is the Battle of Tshaneni in 1884. Dinizulu, Cetshwayo’s son, returned to Zululand and got aid from Boers, who, in exchange for grazing rights, sent about 160 mounted riflemen to help Dinizulu defeat Zebhebhu. Zebhebhu’s allies mostly desserted him, worried about Boer involvement, and one of Zebhebhu’s white advisors failed to provide him with any Natal mercenaries to help counter the Boers. However, it almost didn’t matter—Zebhebhu’s troops managed to pull of an ambush of Dinizulu that nearly defeated the latter. But Denizulu, with heavy fire from his Boer allies, ended up shattering Zebhebhu’s army.

    Tshaneni is also interesting to game: Zulus vs Zulus & Boers; it was fought in interesting hilly terrain; and the scenario can start en media res, with Zebhebhu’s ambush. The Boers were decidedly ambivalent toward direct action (they fought at range) and will need scenario rules so they aren’t too aggressive. You can also do what-ifs—what if Zebhebhu’s ambush had been more complete (it was blown by some poor fire discipline), or if Zebhebhu had been able to get some of his own mounted riflemen in support. Such a scenario could then have more special rules—will the mercenaries from Natal fire on Boers, and vice versa?

    Tony S

    Not only are those great ideas, but thanks for taking the time to add the extra details.  Sounds like you’re a great educator!

    All too often, I think we tend to lump various peoples and nations into one homogenous mass.  Probably a result of our modern mindset and assumptions of Nations, and also because we have no records of those conflicts in many cases.  How many internal ancient Gaulish, or ancient German wars are we completely unaware of?

    Upon reflection, I can’t really recall ever seeing any Zulu vs Zulu  , or Afghan vs Afghan, on a wargaming table.  There always seems to be figures in red opposing them!   A very refreshing post Nathaniel.

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