Friday, February 5, 2016

Anglo-Zulu Project: First Blood!

The first Black Powder battle using the new Anglo-Zulu troops finally occurred last night.

We are still in the process of assembling troops, but we finally have enough complete to engage in one of the smaller scenarios. 

Phil and I have been itching to get troops on the table, so we took advantage of the fact that my British and complete and that between Brian and my Zulu collection we had enough Zulu ready to give battle using the attack on the cattle Kraal scenario from the Black Powder supplement "ZULU".  Unfortunately Brian was not able to join us, but that did not stop the action.

This scenario basically pits four British companies defending a kraal against Six Zulu units attacking.
Zulu Attackers formed into 2 commands
British defenders formed into 3 commands
While we very much enjoy the Black Powder game supplements that Warlord puts out (Cannot speak highly enough about AWI Rebellion book) the Zulu book leaves a bit to be desired and probably could have used some more editing.  The scenario lists the units, but does not really address the command structure or command ratings which are key in this game.  We decided to use the units as listed in the OoB which gave the British two independent companies with a separate commanders ad a two company unit which is kind of odd in the BP system.  By default we used the generic command rating of 8 for all commanders.
British defending he Kraal and Zulu occupy the dung heap
Additionally, the scenario talks about four stages, but never reveals how many turns a stage is or how long the game should last.  We decided  to arbitrarily make each stage two turns and probably should have been three or more.  Unfortunately the author is very vague on details and spends more time on superfluous information than the nuts and bolts of a scenario. This drove Phil crazy, but provided much needed comedy relief for me.

Set up in the book
Lastly, the details of who goes first and victory conditions were missing.  Since the Zulu are attacking it makes sense that they would start with the initiative.  With so few units the normal victory condition of breaking the opponent did not make sense, so we went with the objective based condition of holding the cattle kraal at the end of the game.

Set up starts with a lone British  company defending the kraal (hard cover) and three in reserve.  One Zulu unit starts in the Dung heap (light cover) and cannot move for the duration of the game.  The British also have off board artillery which they must roll for at the beginning of each stage to determine if they can fire or not.

Once set up we were ready to play.  Since neither of us were committed to a side we flipped a coin and Phil commanded the British and I took the Zulu.

Stage 1:

The Zulu start with a +1 moral advantage during this stage so getting in close and taking the kraal is key.  Unfortunately I blew the first command order so only the unit in the dung heap was available to fire which produced no results since the British have the ability to re-roll one morale save per unit and the Zulu only fire with two dice.  While in the kraal the British were saving on a 2+ due to the cover.
Zulu finally make it on the field of battle
The British rolled for artillery which were unavailable.  Unfortunately for the British this would be the result for all four stages, so the British guns never made an impact.

Turn two at least saw the Zulu make an appearance.  With three units firing I was able to inflict a hit and a disorder which stuck.
Red Coats taking casualties from concentrated fire, but shake most off

The Zulu morale returns to Normal for stage 2-3, but the 2nd Command is available.  The Zulu issued a charge order and successfully closed on the kraal.  Because the charge was more than one move away the British have a special rule that they could use closing fire twice.  They inflicted some hits, but the Zulu managed to shake most off and made contact.

The British held firm the first round with the benefit of the cover.    The Zulu won, but the British were steady and automatically passed the first break test.

On the second round of combat though they lost their nerve when the Zulu barely won due to having a unit is support.  This time the Red Coats had to actually test which they failed miserably and broke and ran for the rear giving the Zulu control of the Kraal.
Zulu finally overwhelm the kraal and send the Brits running
Stage 3:

British reinforcements in the form of two fresh companies advanced to retake the kraal.  Unfortunately one of the units spent two turns failing command rolls and could not reposition.
Regrouping to face the new threat
In the meantime The 2nd Zulu command maneuvered around the kraal and hit the flank of the 2nd Red Coat Company.  The passed the first break test due to their ability, ut could not survive the second with the overwhelming odds.
Zulu have reinforcements of their own
At that point the Zulu became a bit two aggressive wanting to break the other company and sent a unit on a headlong charge forgetting about the double closing fire.  This time the British fire was much more effective and the Zulu could not make the break test with just a -2 and rolled a six fleeing for the rear.

No!  Come Back!
Stage 4:

During stage 4 the Zulu suffer a -1 to morale so need to save on a 5+ which made British fire much more effective at causing casualties to the frail Zulu units which only have a stamina of 2.
Sir, I think our flank is a bit vulnerable
As mentioned British artillery never made an appearance so stage four was spent with ranged fire as the both sides kept taking disorder markers so the British could not move and the Zulu could not mount a final charge to sweep the British from the field.
You know chap, I think you were right....RETREAT!
The game ended as a Zulu victory with the kraal firmly in their hands.

Despite the shortcoming of the scenario design (more lack of information than design) we both had a great time.  Mostly because we finally were able to play with the shiny new miniatures.  I am sure we will revisit this scenario in the future with some modifications.  When we do we both agreed the stages should be a least three if not four turn long.  As it was the game played amazingly fast and we were done in just under 1.5 hours with all eight turns.

We were a bit surprised at how this scenario played out.  The Zulu stats seem fairly fragile, but in the end they performed well.  I do think they would have had it a bit tougher had the stages been longer though.
A tough day for the queen I must say
One thing we realized is the British will need more commanders.  Unlike the AWI scenarios where a command is typically 3-4 subordinate units in Anglo-Zulu and individual unit can have a seperate command figure.
Hey chaps, do you really want to go over there?
One thing this scenario also taught us is the Zulu definitely need movement trays.  We only had 6 units of 20 figures.  One was I the prototype tray I had made and moving it was so much easier.
Phil's rally cry: "if not the lack of guns I might have won"
Next up is finishing the remainder of the hoards of Zulu and putting the final touches on a the last two British units as well as making a few more officers.

We are ultimately preparing to put on Isandlwana at the end of April at the Little Wars convention in Lombard IL.

Until next item.....

Saturday, January 16, 2016

ZULU ! Anglo-Zulu Part 2

The Anglo-Zulu project is shaping up well.

The British are more or less ready to invade and the Zulu are now coming together to defend Zulu Land.  The imperialistic British invaders are well supplied with a full compliment of infantry, two cannon, a gatlin gun and a unit of Lancers.

Additionally, Phil is also gathering some British units to do the Queen's bidding.  Once combined the British forces will comprise almost 200 troops with Native Natal support.

British invaders are ready

In order to respond to this threat the Zulu are forming in preparation to defend there homes and families.  Brian, Phil and I are all assembling Zulu forces and once complete the Zulu will be able to field a sufficient hoard of almost 450 troops.

"Evil Omen"
Brian had a very productive week painting and in addition to what I had completed we now have five Zulu units ready to take the field and answer the kings call.

"Dust Raisers"

I was able to get Brian the next four units that were ready for painting before he gets project A.D.D. and moves on to something else.

"Leopard's Lair"

Assuming we can get a few more done we will have enough to test play our first battles.  The British are formed into 12 man units and we are using 20 man units for the Zulu to represent the larger war bands.

"The Howling"

In addition Phil is also working on his forces so we will have a sizable combined collection for local play as well as the convention demo games we plan to run this year using the Black Powder rule system.

Once the troops are assembled the next step is deciding how to base them.  They are all based on 1" washers which will work fine for the 12 man British units, but we are thinking some sort of movement tray will be helpful for the Zulu.  We have not played war bands before, so we are thinking a large movement tray using a 6" frontage with slots may be the best way to maneuver the Zulu.

"White Tails"

The final step will be  getting some appropriate Anglo-Zulu table top terrain assembled.  Not sure what to use for ground cover yet, but thinking a base of teddy bear fur might work well for this period. 

More to come......

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Northern Front Podcast

Welcome to the 1st episode of the Northern Front Podcast.

Brian, Phil and I have decided to start a historical gaming podcast devoted to our gaming interest.

Currently the focus is on Bolt Action, Black Powder and Chain of Command.  In the coming episodes we will expand into other areas to include getting back into my Naval gaming as well as many other historical gaming interests.

You can also follow along on our new Facebook page.

Look forward to your feedback.  If you have topics related to what we are working on let us know and we will try to include them in future episodes.

Hope you enjoy!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ambush on the Burma Road-Bolt Action

Recently I had the opportunity to try the Ambush on the Burma Road scenario form the Empire in Flames Campaign book by Warlord Games using Bolt Action rules.  I played this with Phil using the description and selectors straight from the scenario
IJA have established a road block and set up the kill zone for an ambush
We have tried this scenario twice now, but unfortunately both time we had to end early.  The first was due to a lack of time after playing another game on New Years day.
Unsuspecting British move up to investigate
Last night we made our 2nd attempt at game night.  Unfortunately on the beginning of turn 3 the Allied player had the misfortune of rolling the dreaded "1" and their Artillery coming in right on top of their clustered units.  To add insult to injury out of 9 units tested four a "6" was rolled four times obliterating the units.  At that point the British had already lost 5 of 15 units to the IJA two men from a MMG team.  The white flag was raised and the British commander requested quarters.
First shots are exchanged and the Stuart moves up, but is immobilized by a A.T. rifle

I definitely look forward to giving this scenario a try again.  We really like the initial set up and the night rules add a good twist.  If you have not tried the night rules yet I highly encourage you to do so.  It really changes how you move and think as opposed to a regular game of Bolt Action.
More British troops move up to support
We used the night rules this past spring when doing the Normandy Airborne landing scenarios and really enjoyed it then as well.
Allies are bottled up and taking fire from all directions
Using the selectors and limitations found in the scenario for IJA vs. British seem to make it pretty balanced.  I think this scenario would play well with any lists though.
Friendly Artillery decimates troops backed up on the road.
Better luck next time Phil.........

I do look forward to playing it again.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Anglo-Zulu Project

Battle of Isandlwana
Last fall a small group of us decided to expand our Black Powder gaming into the Anglo-Zulu war.  Initially myself and Phil would do British and Brian would model the Zulu hoards with a little help.  Well that was the plan at least.

Brian initially found a deal on War games Factory(WGF) plastic Zulu and Phil already had the start of a small collection.  I initially acquired a box of WGF Brits and Warlord Brits. 

Since that time this project has snowballed quite a bit.  Mostly due to some great sales from Black Tree Design (BTD) and how cool the figures looked once complete. :)

Hoard of Plastic Zulus to Assemble

WGF ZULU assembly
WGF Brits as Naval Infantry (Lack detail and out of proportion)
Initial Warlord Brits for 24th Infantry
I now have over 100 British infantry a unit of Lancers, two 7lb guns and a Gatling Gun for the British.  In order to get the massive scale I also decided to help Brian with the Zulu and will have 140 once complete.  Phil has done the same which will bring our total Zulu forces to 440.

So far my experience is that the WGF Zulu are inexpensive and look really good, but a pain to assemble.  I would pass on the WGF British as the sculpts really look horrible in comparison to others.  The Warlord plastic British are OK, but the BTD British are by far the best and no assembly required as they are metal figures.
Brian's First test paint for WGF Zulu
BTD 17th Lancers ready for combat
BTD Infantry as 24th of foot

Using the Black Powder rules we decided the British units will be 12 figures and the Zulu War bands 20 figures.

BTD Zulu Chiefs

BTD 91st Highlanders
BTD 80th foot
Our initial goal was to be able to play by the New Year.  We are a little behind.  Currently the British are more than ready to field a force, but the Zulu are lagging a bit with only a couple units ready to take the field.
My British Infantry Completed thus far
If we stay focused (Brian) I think it is realistic that we can be ready by the end of February early March in time for upcoming conventions.
Brian's First Zulu ready for basing
On goal we have discussed is to run some grand scale games this year at conventions for both AWI and Anglo-Zulu.  AWI is ready and Anglo-Zulu soon will be once we test play a couple of scenarios.
More Warlord Plastics to add to the collection 

Phil has managed to find some excellent painting guides and resource material on the Internet put our by War-games Factory which make the painting much easier.

Zulu Reference Guide:…/Zulu_Army_Article

British Reference Guide:

Osprey also publishes a number of good reference books on the topic for pictorial reference and reading.

Of Course the movies ZULU and Zulu Dawn are readily available although not the best uniform reference. :)

More to come.....

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Battle of Trenton 26 December 1776

Yesterday on the 239th Anniversary of the Battle of Trenton we played it out again using the Black Powder rules.

While historically he battle was very one sided we set up the scenario and the victory conditions to make conditional victory a possibility for either side.

The Hessians are greatly outnumbered and head to head battle will not go well for them.  Their objective is to preserve their force  in the face of overwhelming odd by retreating at least two Battalions across the Assunpink and exit the board.

The Americans are tasked with preventing their escape and routing/capturing at least two Hessian Battalions.

The American OoB:

General Washington-Commander in Chief

Green's Division- General Green
Stephen's Brigade
Stirling's Brigade
Mercer's Brigade
Fermoy's Brigade

Sullivan's Division-General Sullivan
St Claire's Brigade
Glover's Brigade
Sargeant's Brigade

Hamilton's Artillery-Captain Hamilton
3 Gun Sections

Hessian OoB;

Colonel Rall-Commander in Chief
Rall's Grenadiers
Von Losberg Regiment
Von Knyphausen Regiment
2 Lt Artillery sections
Dragoons detachment

Reference for OoB:

I also used another blog to help with troop positions:

Initial Deployments
In order to make the scenario work with Black Powder  some things had to be simplified.  There were more American guns, but only a few were in position for the attack, As a result the three American guns are put under the command of Hamilton.

American;s Advance on Trenton
Historically the Hessians were caught by surprise and slow to react.  To depict this, the Grenadiers and the Jagers are the only units that start on the board.  The remainder are in quarters.  To represent this starting with Turn 1 the Hessian commander will roll a D6 for each unit, 4-6 the unit is available at the beginning of the next turn.  All units will form up by Turn 4.

Others Special rules.
Heavy Snow-All movement is cut in half.  Infantry 6" Cavalry 9" and Commanders 27"  Commanders still have a 12" command radius.

First Fire/Wet Powder-American infantry all get first fire, but they must make a wet powder check.  the first time they are in range and attempt to fire roll a D6, on a result of 4-6 fire as normal with the bonus.  On a 1-3 they cannot fire that turn and lose the first fire bonus.

Jagers/Split Unit-  The Jagers start as two sections guarding the roads.  The fire and melee value is halved until they reunite.

Hessian Grenadiers are formed within 12" of center of town
Jagers form two units guarding the roads
All other units will form within 6" of the center of town when they activate

Artillery and Fermoy's Brigade form to North
Greens and Sullivan's Division are along the roads approaching Trenton
Sargeant's Brigade is detached north of the river on the far side of town and function as marauders.

American Artillery and Fermoy's Brigade deployed
The Battle:

The scenario played well and was done in under three hours.

The Hessians all formed on turn two with the exception of the two infantry units which did not arrive until turn three.

The Americans formed lines and confronted the Jagers driving them back.  The Grenadiers maintained good order taking up position behind stone walls and facing Hamilton and Fermoy allowing the other Hessians to form.
Grenadiers deploy to slow the American advance

The Hessian guns dragoons and helped to delay the American advance.   The Jagers were overcome and routed though just as the Hessian infantry began to form.
Hessian guns manned and deploy to face the onslaught
Jagers Break in the face of the advance
The Hessians were able to gain some hope when Sargeant's Brigade and St Claire's Brigade with routed due to combined artillery and infantry fire combined with poor rolls on the break test table.  This left the bridge wide open for a retreat.
Sargeant's Brigade advances to secure the bridge, but eventually breaks under fire

Unfortunately, there were just too many Americans and they were able to disorder the Hessian units at key times preventing them from taking advantage of the opening and allowing the Americans to get in close.  In addition, Rall missed  critical order  test leaving a unit in critically exposed in march column which the Americans took advantage.
Hamilton's guns pour into the Grenadiers
By turn 7 the game was up for the Hessians.  All three infantry units were disordered the previous turn so they could not move,   The Americans were able to deliver devastating fire forcing two break test which both failed giving the Americans a sound victory.
After Mounting a stalwart defense the Grenadiers finally break
Overall a great game and fun for both sides.  The after a couple more play tests I may tweak a few minor things.  I had giving the Hessians a low stamina which may need to be raised to give them a bit more lasting power.

The best part was being able to play it out on the actual anniversary of the battle.