Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Anglo-Zulu Isandlwana Little Wars 2016

This past weekend we finally had the opportunity to present the long planned Isandlwana scenario at Little Wars HMGS Midwest convention.
British Fores deployed
This was the culmination of the Anglo-Zulu gaming project that I started late last fall with Brian Ward and Phil Cook.  Unfortunately Brian was not able to make it, but Phil and I were able to make this happen.

We set up and played the scenario as our third Black powder game at Little Wars on Saturday afternoon.  Before we even began the game was already a hit as it completely sold out and was actually oversold with many more wanting to play.  Many a passer by stopped to take pictures.

Phil and I collaborated on the scenario using the concept from the Black Powder supplement, "Zulu" and Battle for Empires II (BFE II) scenario by Chris Leach we found online.
Map from BFE II
The concept was to use the cooperative play idea from the Warlord scenario in the "Zulu" supplement with the set-up and deployment from BFE II along with a few historical additions of our own..  In addition to the six British line companies of the 24th foot we also gave the British 2 guns, 2 rocket sections, a unit of cavalry (Dunford) and two units of Native Natal Contingent.

Eight British players were randomly assigned a unit.  The objective for the British players was to stay in the fight as long as possible and ultimately escape from the table.  Players earned 1 point for every turn they survived and an extra point if they made it off the table.  Additionally, players blindly drew another friendly unit and were awarded an extra two points if that unit also made it off the table.  In the end the player with the most points was the overall individual winner.  It was a foregone conclusion that the Zulu would ultimately win the battle.
The set up
The Zulu forces were controlled by the judges as well as a few recruits we pulled from the audience.  In total I believe we had about 15 playing to include Phil and myself controlling Zulu.
Zulu off table ready to deploy

Overall Table with British deployed
Deployment along and in the "Dunga"
Camp and wagon park, note the cattle
"It is just a leg", amputation i progress

Zulu begin to advance
Each Impi contained two spear only units and one armed with some muskets
across the field and through the dunga they came
Brits refuse their flank to face the threat
First contact is made on the British far left as the Zulu rush forward
A unit of NNC become the first to break
The line continues to hold as the Dust Raisers charge in
Guns start to withdraw early to higher ground
British right realizing they are left exposed as the left moved back toward camp
A gap has opened in the line
Hold to the Last!

Zulu press even harder as numbers grow
Isolated company sees an opportunity to flee when the Zulu fail to charge home
Survivors begin to fill the camp as the defense begins to collapse
"Here they come again, pour it on lads!"
Get to the high ground!
Amazingly some order is maintained
The final push is coming
A desperate struggle for survival
The swarm like flies
All hope may be lost
"For God's sake we need more Ammunition!"

As time was about to expire we had to conclude the game on turn eleven.  As judges we probably needed 1-2 more turns to vanquish the red devil invaders, but the players knew the game was up for the British.

At this point only a single  British unit had escaped on turn ten so all remaining players were tied for points with eleven each,  Ah, but wait, a unit had escaped.  The player who had that unit as their co-op was awarded two extra points and declared the winner.  In reality they were all winners as everyone including the judges had a great time.  Black powder had won the day.

Due to the fact that I had just completed the terrain two weeks earlier we did not get a chance to run a full scale play test.  The game worked well, but we already have a few ideas for future improvements.

First, you can never have enough Zulu.  While 21 units continually being recycled seems impressive we could use a few more.  The Zulu attack seemed to stall at times due to poor command rolls and waiting for more troops to recycle.  Already started to solve that issue.
Fresh troops recruited at the vendor area.
Second, the British may have had a few to many extras.  In reality the rocket sections were destroyed early in the battle and could probably be removed from our scenario along with the cavalry.

Third, in order to keep the Zulu pressing higher command values or making them marauders might be a solution.  We could also even create a specail ability for the Zulu to modify the effects of disorder counting it for firing and melee modifiers, but allowing disordered Zulu units to continue to advance so the pressure will remain constant.. 

Overall no one had any complaints and all including spectators and passer by seemed to enjoy the event.  Any tweaks we make for a future attempt will only make it that much better.

Again, thanks to all who played.  We hope you had as much fun playing as we did running it.

Until next time.......

Saratoga Campaign Little Wars 2016

This past weekend I attended HMGS Midwest Little Wars in Lombard, IL along with Phil Cook.  We signed up to run/judge three games of Black Powder.  The First two were American War of Independence (AWI) focused on the Saratoga campaign battles of Freeman's farm and Bemis Heights.

We have been planing for months for this event and I am pleased to report that the convention and our games were a huge success.

Our first battle was Freeman's Farm on Friday evening straight out of the main Black Powder rule book by Warlord games.  We ended up with 8 players which worked out well with 4 on each side with one player assuming the role of overall Commander.

Freeman's Farm is an excellent scenario for a convention as it is very evenly matched and a great scenario to learn Black Powder if one has not played before.  That certainly proved to be the case at Little Wars as all had a great time when a knock down drag out fight ensued.

Set up a display to show case Black Powder

Freeman's Farm Overall view
Hamilton's Brigade deployed in column
British did well on early command roles advancing across the field
Fraser deploying on the right
Hamilton quickly deploys into line only opposed by Morgan's command
Americans had a hard time getting on the field, but eventually made it in force
Hamilton and Learned squared off in a evenly matched brawl
Poor came on in force to challenge Fraser and Breyman
Canadians caught in the flank by Poor's lead elements
Quickly dispatched in hand to hand
British Marksman succumb to galling fire
Americans take advantage of a British unit caught in skirmish formation
Hessians soon found the Americans out of position driving a regiment from the field
Americans were able to reform to face the onslaught
Two American commands were broke with one British command broke
The Americans had a chance to break Fraser's command, but came up one short resulting in a minor British victory as the Americans could not rally disordered units and the turn ended with two of the three American brigades broken and 1 of three British Brigades broken with a second only a unit away.

On to Bemis Heights:

The second game, Bemis Heights, was played Saturday morning.  This battle was the follow-up to Freeman's Farm from the Black Powder "Rebellion" supplement.

At this point the British are reduced and more fragile with a reduced stamina, but can still pack a punch.  The Americans have greater numbers, but the British and Hessian forces hold two key redoubts which can prove difficult to take.

Fraser's command deployed forward
Hessian command holds the center of the advance force
Phillips small command holds the left
Phillips redoubt
Breyman's redoubt commanding the field
Phil orientates the players to Bemis Heights
British commanders
American Commanders
Learned advances onto the field
Poor challenges Reisdel
Fraser wisely withdraws to the fence line to oppose Morgan's advance
A crucial set back when Phillips Grenadiers charge American Arty and break with one hit
Hessian's cannot withdraw due to disorder and soon break under fire
Jaegers fair no better 
Arnold takes direct command on New Yorkers and Connecticut troops 
Fraser finds himself now pressed by two brigades
Dearborn's light infantry pours it into the Brits
By this point in the battle the Americans had technically secured a victory by breaking two of the British commands.  With plenty of time left we decided to let the battle rage to see if the Americans could capitalize and take a redoubt.

Fraser's command continues to crumble under strain of pressure
Arnold presses home and attack on Phillips redoubt
Desperate melee ensues  
The British behind fortification proves to much as the 4th NY breaks and the rest fall back
Now caught in the open the Americans begin to falter under a deadly cross fire
Realizing the taking a redoubt was not going to happen anytime soon the Americans decide to count their blessings of a victory and leave the redoubts in British hands.

While Freeman's Farm is a great convention scenario Bemis Heights is probably not as ideal.  In order for the Crown to have a chance they must fall back early and take advantage of the redoubts.  Only an experienced commander will immediately recognize this and  begin to execute before it s to late.  Despite the British disadvantage both sides had a great time and the British were able to claim a moral victory by not giving up the redoubts.

Both games were very well received by the players and the convention staff.  In fact, we were recognized for third best for all the games run on Friday.

Phil and I really enjoy the AWI period and how well Black Powder represents this period.  We look forward to running more AWI event sin the future and showing others how simple and fun Black Powder can be for this period.

Thanks to all the players who joined us for these two battles.  We hope to see you on the field of combat again.

Until next time.........