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Neil Henderson
United Kingdom
Newport
Shropshire
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I must have watched the film "Zulu" over 40 times, so many that I know the script better than the actors. So, this was a must buy for me. The game is block style - think of Columbia games-style strategy, and consists of 8 daylight and 8 night turns, making 16 turns in all.
Each player has 30 wooden blocks to which stickers must be applied. Losses are recorded by turning a block to represent its new strength. The map is printed on thick cardstock rather than board, and is a simple but quite attractive representation of the Rorkes Drift defences plus the immediate surrounding area. A selection of dice (red for British and black for the Zulus), and a couple of charts complete the components.
The British player begins by setting up his defences. His blocks may be placed anywhere within his defensive compound. Several of these represent the wounded and sick men present at the Drift. These latter have no strength value, must be placed in the hospital area, and will give the Zulu player victory points if killed. They cannot be moved until the Zulu player actually attacks the hospital. After the British player has set up his defences, the Zulus appear on any edge the board. The Zulu player may have up to 90 strength points on the board at any time. Casualties taken by the Zulus each turn are simply brought back on in the next turn up to this limit - there is no way for the British player to win by killing Zulu units, this is a battle of survival! British losses on the other hand are permanent, so the Zulu warriors just keep coming throughout the game, while the garrison slowly dwindles. Within the compound is the storehouse, (used in the battle as a makeshift aid post) and the British player may move depleted units here for limited "healing", and so replace a few of his losses as the fight continues.
Blocks move one area on the board per turn, or two areas if accompanied by a leader. There are 4 leaders for each side. The sequence of play is British move/Zulu move/fire combat/melee combat/hospital phase. In this last phase, a check is made to see if the hospital catches fire, and if so how far it has spread from room to room. After it has burned down all units (British and Zulu) still within it are considered destroyed. This means a scramble for the British player to remove his sick and wounded from the hospital to prevent the Zulus receiving victory points for them.
Fire combat is relatively simple and is done by range for the British who roll 1 die for each strength point firing. Hits are scored according to range - at 1 area away hit on 3,4,5,6 at 2 areas hit on 4,5,6 and at 3 hit on 5,6. Additionally up to 4 British strength points accompanied by a leader can conduct "volley fire". This allows the throw of 3 dice for each firing strength point - effectively trippling British firepower. The Zulus will take massive casualties from this. After British fire combat, the Zulus get to throw 6 dice durig daylight turns and 4 during night turns, and will score a hit for each "6" thrown. This represents their rifles offboard on the Oskarburg Terraces (hills) above and behind the Drift itself. Zulu fire is therefore annoying but not often critical for the garrison.
Melee is equally simple, and is simultaneous. Each area may melee against an adjacent one, with the British scoring hits for each 5 or 6 rolled, and the zulus hitting on a roll of 6. Additionally the British add "1" to their die roll for any melee across defensive walls, doors or windows. If you destroy all enemy blocks in an area, you may advance into it after combat. The British leaders Chard and Bromhead may also conduct a "bayonet charge" after melee with up to 4 strength points - essentially an extra melee phase, which continues until one side or the other is wiped out, or the British stop the attack.
The Zulus receive victory points for capturing/burning down the hospital, as well as for killing the sick/wounded British blocks and for capturing certain areas of the compund. And that's basically all there is to it. Anyone can learn the rules in under 30 minutes. A game takes around 2 hours to play, so can easily be completed in an evening.
So, what is it like in play? Well, to begin with it LOOKS attractive. Despite the components being relatively simple, the atmosphere is created nicely simply by all those masses of Zulus who keep appearing each turn.
Play is tense, if somewhat repetetive. There is a LOT of dice rolling here, which may put some off. The Zulus will take massive casualties both to British volley fire, and to bayonet charges, which are particularly destructive. There is a definate feeling of desparation which spreads to each player as the game goes on. Often the Zulu will feel he is getting nowhere fast, while the British player will feel he is overwhelmed and will never hang on. The games we have played were only settled in the last few turns, so balance is good.
There is a problem though with melee, in that it is simultaneous. While this is understandable from a game point of view, it is difficult and a bit fiddly to try to keep track of losses to one side until the other side has had its own melee phase. (Effectively no-one is "dead" until they have had the chance to fight back) The game chart provided has a space to record this, but it doesn't work very well. It seems better to write down losses from each area on a piece of scrap paper, which is somewhat unsatisfactory.
Despite this, and if you can stand the almost continuous dice rolling, this game has something to give, and does recreate this famous battle quite nicely albeit in simple fashion. There is no pretence at deep simulation here, but the main factors of the conflict are present, and some interesting strategies present themselves to both players. The game is cheap (discount available at time of writing for all orders at the Worthington Games website), and fair value for money. If you have any interest in this period, or if you feel excited by the old Stanley Baker film, then it is well worth a try.
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Peter Bogdasarian
United States
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Re:User Review
Neil,

one way to keep track of melee losses is simply to place a die in each space where the losses are taken. If you use a 10-sided die, you also won't get it mixed up with the other dice you roll. (alternatively, you can just use 6-sided dice that don't resemble those you roll)
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Ubergeek
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Washougal
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Re:User Review
Daddy (#45578),
Great review. I just ordered this game as it sounds like a good and relatively easy block game. Looking forward to trying it out.
 
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Neil Henderson
United Kingdom
Newport
Shropshire
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Rule clarifications and house rules
For anyone buying this game:
Its well worth checking out the discussion thread on consimworld for the latest clarifications from the designers. This in particular will explain the los method for British fire (which is not explained well in the rule booklet). Also note that Zulus can NOT melee British units on the storehouse roof (zone H) from outside the compound, but CAN melee them from inside the compound (from zones C and F). I don't believe this is mentioned anywhere in the rulebook. However Zulus can never actually occupy the roof, so advance after combat into zone H is forbidden for them.
Our last couple of games have been played as an experiment without the normal victory conditions - for these battles the Zulus had to completely wipe out the British by the end of the night to win. Otherwise they lose, plain and simple. This is more historically accurate imo - simple survival by any number of British soldiers in any position at the Drift would surely have qualified as overwhelming victory for them. (Allowing 100 Zulu's onboard per turn instead of 90 gives a better game if playing like this.) We are still trying to factor in a proper role for the water cart though - thirst was a terrible nightmare for the defenders, so bad that during the night a possibly suicidal rush was made into the darkness simply in order to recapture the cart.

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David Wilson
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Carsoin
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Re:User Review
Daddy (#45578),

Personally, I found the game to be one of the best of the block games because of its simplicity. One factor is that there is a lot of death and carnage.

I played the zulus, and learned early on that the warriors were forced to mass and coordinate massive attacks only. Small skirmishes don't distract as even the smallest zulu force will take deadly casualties.

The game offers several important tasks for the zulus to accompish (and the Brits to obstruct) that add interest to the game. For example, the zulus gain victory points for getting into and eliminating the water barrel during the daylight turns. (the points for doing this diminishes as nightfall sets in) The zulus have to burn the hospital, this means getting into that zone and getting a successful die roll. Even though you need anything other than a 1 on a six-sided die, my poor zulu warriors couldn't seem to get the fire going, failing the die roll not once, but TWICE in row before succeeding on the third try.

The games will usually be close because of the balanced victory conditions. I think the zulus have a tough nut to crack, because the volley fire is so devastating. I didn't see the bayonet charges, but did learn that the Brits can really shot and melee well, while the zulus only hit on sixes no matter what. Even with the massive numbers of zulu warriors (and the fact that losses regenerate as reinforcements each turn) they have a tough time.

I look forward to more products from this company.

David "the preacher" Wilson
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David Wilson
United States
Carsoin
California
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More on Zulu Strategy--

Zulus really should concentrate on attacking both ends of the compound. They have little or not choice but to get into a melee at the hospital and to get it started on fire, plus capture the wounded victory point units there.

Other than that, the zulus really need to melee into ONE space at a time and i suggest the kraal is the best place to do this from. Of course, getting to the water barrel should be a goal as well, but if you force the Brit to concentrate his energy on holding the Kraal you can hopefully manage to get at least one surviving zulu unit into the water barrel area.

Another word of advice... focus zulu random fire into the area with the least units. You don't have much chance of doing more than harrassing them anway, but force your opponent to take any random fire damage on a location where he can't spread what little damage you do over the most number of blocks.

GREAT GAME!

David "the preacher" Wilson
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