Jeff Curtis
United States
Plainfield
Indiana
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I was a big-time wargamer back in the seventies, but by the mid-80s I had pretty much given up on board games and was playing miniatures. I’ve still got a box of magazine games, many unpunched, from that wind-down period that I’ve not given a serious look for 20 years.

I’ve got a 16-year-old son who loves history and has been playing Euros for a couple of years, and suddenly there’s a spark of interest in checking out a wargame or two. I’ve always had a huge interest in history, and crossover games like the block games have hit the table recently. One of those block games was Victoria Cross by Worthington Games.

Between Victoria Cross and the old excellent Zulu movie, our interest in the British Colonial wars, and the Zulu wars specifically, was lit. My son was digging through a box of old S&T and Wargamer magazines and pulled out issue #85 of Strategy and Tactics from 1984.

The game for that issue was called Soldiers of the Queen. It was designed by the venerable Richard Berg and covered two different battles the British Colonial forces fought in Africa. The first was the Battle of Isandhlwana, January 1879. This battle was fought on the same day as Rorke’s Drift. In fact, both battles involved the 24th Regiment of British Foot. A single company of the 24th Foot was detached and sent to Rorke’s Drift where it would achieve eternal fame and see 11 men receive the Victoria Cross. Isandhlwana would not have the same glorious outcome for the British, as the 1,750 British forces there were slaughtered by over 20,000 Zulu warriors.

The second game covered by Soldiers of the Queen is Omdurman, September 2, 1898. This involves British colonial forces against the Dervish. The battle featured a famous cavalry charge that included a young Winston Churchill.

Components:

Counters – The game comes with 200 counters. All counters are printed front and back, with one side being the Isandhlwana counters and the other Omdurman, although some pin, mount, limber, and other generic counters are used for both games. The font used to print these counters is quite small and will leave anyone over 40 doing a lot of squinting. My counters were also die cut off-center. If does take a while to sort the counters and flip them all to the correct side for the scenario you are playing.

Map – The map is printed on two sides in various shades of brown. The Omdurman map is bordered on one side by the Nile River, which gave British gunboats a say in the battle. The hex coordinates are printed very light, so you will need some decent light when you are doing the initial setup.

Tables – A large 11x17 sheet is also printed two-sided with each side containing the tables needed for that scenario. The Isandhlwana side contains a chart for tracking each unit’s ammunition level, while the Omdurman side of that chart has the turn marker. The movement table is not printed on the charts and can only be found in the rules. A unit’s movement allowance is not printed on the counters, but is consistent by troop type; cavalry move 6, Zulu infantry move 5, British colonial troops move 4 and British regulars move 3. The all important British supply wagon can only move 1.

Rules – It’s hard to determine if these are two separate games or just two scenarios for a common game. Each section of the rules has the common rules followed by the specific rules for Isandhlwana and Omdurman. In some cases there are more scenario-specific rules than common rules. While there are some twists to each scenario, the rules are largely what you would expect from a mid-80’s game. Sections cover set up, winning conditions, movement and facing, zones of control, stacking, fire combat, melee combat, and leaders. Isandhlwana also has substantial rules for ammunition. Ammunition, or the lack thereof, was a major factor in the battle, and that has been incorporated into the game by Mr. Berg.

Isandhlwana rules highlights – The British troops can only fire while the Zulu troops can only melee. Even the British cavalry does not have the option to charge the enemy, although they may dismount and fight as infantry.

Leaders exist for a single purpose; to rally routed troops. Overall army commanders, Pulleine for the British and Tsingwayo for the Zulu, can rally any unit for their side. Sub-commanders can only rally units from their brigade or impi. Needless to say, leaders must be protected at all cost and should not wander off alone. Rally automatically succeeds if the appropriate leader is stacked with or adjacent to the routed unit.

Combat – combat is rarely lethal, except at very high odds or high fire factors. You are usually forcing the opponent into morale checks. Morale checks may results in withdrawal, rout or a pin. With enough strength or fire power you may get an E1 or E2 which eliminates one or two units. Units are removed from the top of the stack being attacked. Withdrawals are a single hex, but can allow the victor to take the vacated hex, which might allow a Zulu unit to surround a British stack. Units are also eliminated if they cannot withdraw or rout as required due to enemy zones of control, impassable terrain or violation of stacking limits. It should also be noted that Zulu units from different impis cannot combine for a single attack. An impi is roughly the Zulu equivalent of a regiment.

Zulu melee is done by calculating odds by comparing Zulu attack factors to British defensive melee factors. About the only terrain adjustments are for attacking up or down hills. British cavalry units can deny melee to the Zulus by exercising a 1-hex withdrawal in lieu of giving the Zulu player a melee roll.

The British do not calculate odds but add up all fire factors they can bring to bear on a single hex. A fire adjustment table is referenced that cross references the type of weapon used and distance from the target. Adjustments are done as column shifts on the British fire results table. Weapon types are Henry-Martini rifles, Carbines, muzzleloaders, 7-pounder artillery and rocket artillery. Even a single fire factor has a 50/50 chance of causing a morale check, while 7-8 factors gives a 1-in-6 chance of eliminating a unit. Concentrating fire is necessary to obtain those elimination results the British desperately need.

Isandhlwana turn sequence – British units may either move or fire in an offensive fire phase. The Zulus then move. The British then get defensive fire and finally the Zulu get to melee. When each side completes their offensive phase they can attempt to rally their routed units, and the British can try to resupply units that are at half of their ammunition allotment or less.

Omdurman turn sequence – The primary difference is the British can melee in addition to firing and the Dervish can fire in addition to melee. The British do not have to track ammunition levels in Omdurman.

Ammunition – First let me say, artillery has no supply issues and never runs out of ammunition. Obviously, they brought their own caissons along. For the British troops, ammunition will quickly become an issue. Most units start with 8-10 firing rounds. When their ammunition is half gone they can attempt to resupply. This is based on a die roll. Factors include type of unit and distance from the supply wagon. Surrounded units cannot resupply, although a friendly unit will negate a Zulu zone of control. Now, if all goes well and the British player makes his roll, he only gets to erase a single box on the expended ammunition chart. This represents well the tense situation of the actual battle. Historically, the British were hampered by not have the proper screwdrivers with them to open some of their ammunition crates.

Victory Conditions – For Isandhlwana there are no fixed number of turns. The Zulu must destroy all British regulars before they lose 14 units of their own. For Omdurman, the British can win automatically by exiting all of their units, with a minimum of 32, from the south map edge. Otherwise, after 21 turns the winner is decided on points.

Overall Impressions – So how does it play? Well, I’ve only played the Isandhlwana scenario and I can say it played very well as a solitaire game. There’s not a lot of trickery to playing the Zulus. There historical strategy of pinning the opponents battle line and then performing a double envelopment works just fine in this game. The British can deny one flank using Isandhlwana rock, but it’s only a matter of time before the British forces will become completely surrounded.

The game captures the right feel as the Zulus flood onto the field and the outlying British cavalry units scramble to get back to their lines before they are cut off. It then becomes an issue of whether British firepower can eliminate 14 Zulu units before they are themselves wiped out. My last play was very tense with the British killing the 14th Zulu unit with only two British regulars still on the field along with a couple of British colonist units. It is quite likely those units would not have lasted out the Zulu melee phase of that turn. The supply wagon and the last British leader had fallen the prior turn.

The Zulu player will have a lot of withdrawal and rout results, so you have to be careful to keep some room between the front lines and those units in reserve to give their units somewhere to go when forced to retreat. Withdrawals require a move of a single hex away from the enemy, but if a unit cannot do that without exceeding the stacking limit (2 Zulu units) then the unit is eliminated. You don’t want to give the British any cheap kills. This rule also works against the British as British forces are compressed into the area around the supply wagon and Isandhlwana rock,

I found the mechanics had some similarity to Squad Leader/ASL, especially the use of the pin and rout markers, multiple fire phases, move or shoot decisions, lots of morale checks, and leaders performing rallies. The tracking of ammunition is a bit tedious, but does add flavor to the game. Such a major factor in the historical battle could not be ignored.

These older S&T games can generally be obtained fairly cheaply. I would say Soldiers of the Queen is well worth tracking down just for the Isandhlwana scenario. I was able to play the game in about 3 hours, although it probably took close to an hour to set up the game. It is a magazine game, so the map and counters are not going to wow you, In fact the counters are probably the weakest part of the game. I found the rules were pretty easy to understand and seemed logical in their implementation. Richard Berg is a polarizing designer with a lot of wargamers. Some feel he adds too much chrome to his games. Maybe it was the limitation of the magazine format, but the rules seem fine to me here.

When a get a chance to try Omdurman, I will post a separate session report, but I have to say it is more likely I will re-fight Isandhlwana again to see if I can repeat that incredible tight finish of my first play.
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Richard H. Berg
United States
South Carolina
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"Between Victoria Cross and the old excellent Zulu movie, our interest in the British Colonial wars, and the Zulu wars specifically, was lit"

Then you will be most eager to see ZULU!, to be published by L2 Games i na vwery s[ectacular package, next year . . .

"I found the mechanics had some similarity to Squad Leader/ASL, especially the use of the pin and rout markers, multiple fire phases, move or shoot decisions, lots of morale checks, and leaders performing rallies."

Almost all of these mechanics pre-date SL/ASL . . .

"Some feel he adds too much chrome to his games. "

Historical detail is NOT chrome . . .at least not to those who wanty to feel, i nsome manner, that they are "in" the period they are playing. Historical detail is what gives a game depth, resonance and, for many, a reason to play. Detail becomes the dreade "chrome" when it is included for no reason at all, laco of reason being that it plays no part in any of the decision-making the gameplayer must go through. Every player has his own, personal level of how much decision-0making he wishes to undertake. I, as a designer, prefer burdening the player with multiple, difficult decisions, as almost every historical commander faced.

And thanx for the interesting review . . .

RHB

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Mike Brown
United States
Ohio
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Good stuff...and dont forget the movie - "Zulu Dawn" Which covers Isandhlwana.
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Les Haskell
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Tennessee
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Quote:
Historical detail is NOT chrome . . .at least not to those who wanty to feel, i nsome manner, that they are "in" the period they are playing. Historical detail is what gives a game depth, resonance and, for many, a reason to play. Detail becomes the dreade "chrome" when it is included for no reason at all, laco of reason being that it plays no part in any of the decision-making the gameplayer must go through. Every player has his own, personal level of how much decision-0making he wishes to undertake. I, as a designer, prefer burdening the player with multiple, difficult decisions, as almost every historical commander faced.


Reminds me of the old gaming argument: detail vs playablility.

It is the historical detail that has drwn me into the gaming hobby. I like being in the moment and many times it is the "chrome" that does it for me. There are many games that are fun to play but the historically detailed games give me a deeper satisfaction.
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Russell Kitchen
United States
Morgantown
West Virginia
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Has anyone played the Hlobane Mountain and Ulundi scenarios that were in S&T 97? Also, were there any additional counters or maps needed or were these simply scenarios utilizing the original game components?
 
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Russell Kitchen
United States
Morgantown
West Virginia
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I wish that someone could provide a scan of the scenario, since I understand that it uses only components from the original game.
 
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Chris Hansen
United States
Sun Valley
California
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If your interested in the Hlobane Mountain and Ulundi scenarios, send me a PM with your email and I'll send you a zip with the scenarios.

Edit 11/28/13 - Sad to say, I no longer have access to these scenarios due to a hard drive crash back in 2012. I no longer even have either of the S&T's, #95 and #97, as I traded them away among other S&T's for some other games. I hope those who got them were able to have fun with the scenarios.
 
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Russell Kitchen
United States
Morgantown
West Virginia
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Thanks Chris. That's considerate of you.
 
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George Robertson
Canada
St John's
Newfoundland
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I recently unpacked this game again (on the anniversary of the battle, of course!) to play it solitaire; as Jeff said, although there are no specific solitaire rules, the nature of the Zulu tactics makes it pretty well suited to playing each side in turn. I did, however, notice an oddity in the rules: 9.B. states that British regular and colonial units cannot under normal circumstances stack together, but the initial set-up has the rocket battery stacked with a NNC unit. I suppose it's possible to treat this as an instance where (as per 9.B.) they have to unstack in the first possible movement phase, but it seems a little odd to have this built into the set-up (and there's nothing else in the area for the rocket battery to stack with). Has anyone else noticed this? How do you deal with it?
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