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Subject: Game review 30 years on. rss

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Brendan Whyte
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I played this shortly after it came out, and have just replayed it solitaire.

A nice game: very appealing A3 map which includes tracks, campaign map proper and battle tactical resolution map; 49 aesthetic and easy-to-read counters and 4 pages of rules. The map is a 7x7 square grid. Orthogonal moves cost 1MP, diagonal cost 2MP. British units have 2MP per turn, while Zulus have 3. The only terrain on the map, rivers, naturally impede movement except if there is a Drift (ford) in the square. The game ends when a) the British to control the Ulundi square for 2 consecutive turns, b) either side has caused the other a certain number of casualties, or c) turn 15 ends. VP are awarded for control of Ulundi and the two strategic fords (Rourke’s and Middle Drifts), and for eliminating enemy strength points. The player with more VP wins.

Each unit (19 Zulu and 8 British) have a number of strength points to begin (1 to 60), and a roster sheet allows these to be crossed off as each side takes casualties. To simulate fog of war, the Zulu units (only) are never placed on the main map. Rather, 6 impi markers are provided for use on the map, and the Zulu player assigns his 19 units to one of these. Units can swap between impi any time two impi are in the same square. Combat is mandatory when enemy units occupy the same square at the end of one player’s movement, but the British have an option to withdraw on their turn after the number of Zulu units the impi represent are revealed. The British can also build redoubts, which not only give protection in battle, but if moving into a square with a British redoubt, the Zulus get a dieroll to see if they must attack it, or may choose not to.

Battles are resolved on a tactical battle board. Zulu units are split evenly between three ‘horns’, and spend 4 rounds moving forward towards the defending British. In each round the British (only) roll an increasing number of dice per strength point, simulating the decreasing range (and thus the greater density of fire and its greater chance of causing casualties). In Round 1, only artillery strength points fire, using 2d6 per SP; in Round 2, Artillery fire again with 2d6 per SP and Gatling guns join in with 4d6 per SP; in Round 3, Artillery use 2d6 per SP, Gatlings use 6d6 per SP and rifles use 4d6 per SP. In Round 4, Artillery use 4d6 per SP, Gatlings use 6d6 per SP and rifles use 5d6 per SP. A 6 or every pair of 5s causes a 1SP loss to a Zulu unit. Any Zulu units hit in a round also check morale with a decreasing chance of passing as the range closes. Units failing the check withdraw, while those that pass can move to the next closest range for the next round. Zulu units surviving 4 rounds of British fire without being shot to death or failing a morale check then get to melee with the Brits. A standard odds ratio is calculated, and a single die rolled, to determine the number of Zulu and British casualties. Again, any Zulu units hit check morale (but with an excellent chance to pass), and melee rounds continue until the Brits are eliminated or the total Zulu casualties for the battle exceeds 50% (in which case they withdraw). Additionally, the Zulus withdraw if they take 20% casualties in any single round.

Overall, combat involves a *lot* of die rolling (often 20-40 dice at a time in each round of each battle, but up to 351 at once is theoretically possible(!) so the rule that says ‘several dice would serve best’ is a *massive* understatement). The result of ll the die-rolling is a lot of (Zulu) casualties to check off the unit rosters, besides the 20% and 50% Zulu withdrawal triggers to watch for. The bookkeeping can get messy.. keep a pencil sharpener and eraser handy.

On Gameturn 7, Chelmsford’s 27SP column arrives, and if the Zulus haven’t won yet, they will now likely lose. For a game to go to Turn 15 requires a lot of dithering or only small actions. IN order to win battles, the Zulu player needs to concentrate a goodly number of units to survive British fire and the morale checks, in order to close in battle and melee with the Brits and cause them casualties.

Pros: a beautiful looking game (map and counters), very low counter density, small map, simple rules, a mix of operational and tactical play, and with a lot of period flavour. Ticking off individual SP losses means a nerve-wracking time for both players, each trying to push the other’s casualties over the line. All the die rolling makes for fun an exciting play, too.

Cons: while the mass die rolling can elicit a lot of excitement, and makes each battle resolution a wargame in itself with much tension as the Zulu casualties slowly mount, when it is combined with the paperwork it all gets tedious, especially for large battles. It’s also really a two-player game: the use of impi markers rather than individual Zulu units on the map creates a fog of war that keeps solitaire play possible, but makes it much less exciting than two-player. The original (single-sided) counters were part of the map sheet and needed to be cut out (and glued to thicker cardboard), but one of the British units (Wood, 8SP) was missed! A subsequent S&T issue (#125, Far Seas) printed proper counters, also without Wood; but in S&T 129, Harvest of Death, he was finally printed. Lastly, there are several ambiguous rules (see blow)

Rules clarifications:
- Although the Rourke’s Drift symbol overlaps squares 22 and 23, it should be considered entirely in square 23.
- Ignore the three mountains, the three green circles (Zululand ‘towns’) and the two orange diamonds (Natal ‘towns’). They have no effect on play, but are purely for historical information.
- If the British have both artillery and gatling guns, then the battle starts with Zulus on the artillery
line, and they undergo fire on each of the four range lines in turn. If the British have artillery, but no gatlings, then ignore the gatling line, and surviving zulus advance from the artillery line direct to the Martini-Henry (a.k.a. rifle) line. If the British have no artillery or gatlings, then the battle starts with Zulus on the Martini-Henry line (ignoring the artillery and gatling lines).

Rules ambiguities:
- 6. What counts as the ‘same river’ for movement purposes? Are the Tugela with its two tributaries (the Blood and Buffalo rivers) all the ‘same river’ or 3 separate rivers? [I play that there is no movement penalty for entering a square with a river if the square just exited and the one just entered are connected by a river running directly from the one into the other square. Thus there is no penalty to move from square 15 to 16 (or vice versa) but there is to move from 16 to 23 (or vice versa).]
- 8.2. The last sentence of paragraph one contradicts itself. Should the initial word ‘as’ be changed to ‘Unlike’, or should the word ‘not’ be deleted? [I play that the word ‘not’ be deleted, otherwise it is possible for some British SP to have killed off the Zulus on one horn and be forced to sit on their hands until the Zulus on the other horns engage them in melee, which is daft.
- 8.8 & 9. Do the 10 border squares (8, 15, 22-23, 30-31 & 37-40) count as Natal or Zululand for Zulu surprise and British VP purposes? [I play that 22, 37-39 count as Natal as they are majority-Natal in area, and the other 6 are Zululand because they are majority-Zulu in area].



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Brent Campbell
United States
Louisvlle
Kentucky
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Thank you so much for this review. I game a lot of Africa Wargames and but this one I never got to. I have often wondered about this one but always held of on it because 3W was always hit or miss for me. Anyways I really appreciate the review.
 
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