Friday, 4 November 2011

The attack of the Shrimpi

Thursday night, so the Monday Night Group are back together again. This week we re-entered the world of Black Powder, with 6mm British & Zulus (hence "shrimpi" - see, it's an Impi that is small in size......)

Regular readers will know I have an awkward relationship with BP. It is poorly written, badly laid out, inadequately indexed and much too expensive for what is in it. It also doesn't cover the period it claims to cover in the original book. However, there's a feel to the game that has an appeal, and it has some elements that are ingenious and work quite well.

Any how, previous gripes may have arisen because we've used it for one of the periods (War of Spanish Succession) that isn't properly covered. The Zulu wars, however, are absolutely core subject matter as they warrant a full battle report in the rule book, and specimen troop characteristics.

Phil had acquired some fairly old Heroics & Ros 6mm blocks of Imperial forces & Zulus and without him doing too much on them they were okay to use in a game. We did a sort of re-run of the game in the rulebook (it's my terrain by the way), which features a small detachment of Brits being rescued by a column from a marauding Zulu impi.

 I shall let the pictures tell the story

The British column, headed by some Native horse enters the table
A wider shot showing the Sargent's lonely laager, nestling in the crook of the river
The impi in the distance. The Native horse swing to the left to screen the column's flank
Thew Native horse form a firing line on the River. The Lancers have crossed the River, whilst the column hurries to catch up. The Zulus look ominous.

The impi in the middle has been routed by the steady rifle fire of the Naval Brigade. Meanwhile the Lancers have undertaken a death-or-glory charge. The Gating Gun, needless to say, has jammed.

The Lancers have broken the other impi on the British left wing, but the Native skirmish line this side of the river looks a bit vulnerable.

The British have their "Thin Red Line" properly formed at last as the Zulus start their headlong rush in the centre, screened by skirmishers. Cunning.
And that was the last picture I took. The Red line held off the Zulus through some rapid fire and stiff work with the bayonet and were left masters of the field. The Gatling Gun had been unjammed, but it got jammed again using defensive fire as the middle impi crashed in on the laager position. The MG mechanism is quite good. You roll for hits one die at a time, as many times as you want. You can stop when you want, but if you roll a 1 it jams. Hence when the impi charged in response to Phil's question "How many times are you going to fire?" the only answer was:

"Until it jams!"

We had a fun evening and I hope you'll agree it looks like a Zulu wars battle. Hopefully we'll give it another go, but my feeling is that BP is in many ways too much of a blunt weapon. Even with all of their special rules you can bolt on Zulus still only move as fast as a British company in line.


  1. The beauty of BP is that the "special rule" mechanism is infinitely extendable. You want your Zulus to move faster than British in line? Simple - give them the "Fast Move" special rule, allowing them to move 50% faster than normal. It's not in the rule book, I just made it up! (But you get the idea.)

  2. Mike,

    I understand the concept, (after all, I've written and modified enough of my own rules) - I just think that instead of putting large numbers of pointless pictures in the bok they should actually have wrtitten a set of rules that delivers what it says on the cover.

    PS - The figures are Irregular, not H&R.

  3. Great photostory, Trebian ...

    I thought the terrain was splendid and gave us the canvas on which to paint our little pictures. As I said in the prep emails, I know Natal is greener than that, but the feel was right.

    I think the other interesting feature of the BP tool kit (Bland Play to Bloomin Picky) is how it will grow in complexity as we develop a period. If we decide it has the right structure for that period/concept.

    In this case I thought it was more promising than a number of other 'Imperial Africa' approaches we have tried. I suspect we need to get a little more role playing into it, however (although the tabletop gods may strike me down for saying so ...)... Some shades of SVP?

    Still, it looks like there is appetitie for another go, and I think I've decided what fills the the 6mm gap in my collection (tarting this lot up, I shall visit Mr Berry at Warfare I think, plus buy some more tiny brushes) ...

    Nice blog


  4. Perhaps not "role playing" as such, more the need for more detailed/thorough briefings. We aren't that good at the RPG elements of SvP, and seem to prefer just to get stuck straight into the shooting at one another.

    I think we might want to try a Sudan BP game, although the factors for El Teb in the book look a bit iffy, and the HtH factors for the Sudanese are the same as for the Brits, or worse.