Monday, June 11, 2012

Feathers Fly at Rorke's Drift

Saturday had my wife working, so I had a full day with the kids. After coloring, puzzles, and Play-Doh, we proceeded to the next logical step for a three year old. 

We played Rorke's Drift.

Well, not quite. While I do have an interest in the Zulu Wars, it would require me to hit a couple of banks to get started, so I did the next best thing: I present to you the GNOMES of Rorke's Drift.
Amelia, Maja, and the Swiss defenders

No, it's not a proper historical representation, but I wanted to do something more fun than realistic.  Plastic Easter eggs over mealie bags.   Plus, the only British gnomes available are of a maritime variety.

In the Gnome Wars universe, the pointy hatted Swiss and the picklehaub-wearing Germans are the central powers, so colonial forays into the untamed wilderness which is Deepest Darkest Gnomish Africa would be expected.  My friend Michael Lung has already composed an excellent write-up for Bore Wars (spelling intentional).  It explained the use of Swiss, German, Australian, and even British gnome in a new environment.  It also allowed ins to use Eureka frogs, turtles, and teddy bear zulus.  Heck Mike even put in data to use Brigade "Gnomans", Eureka teddy bear Romans, and even the old Heritage frog Romans!

After this masterwork, I have to cobble together something for the Zulu Wars.   I embrace Mike's all-inclusive approach, but I have neither the collection, nor the funds and time to assemble one right now.o

I did, however, have a nearby Michael's, a pile of coupons that even work on clearance items, and some time to shop after Easter.

I present to all, the most dangerous enemy to gnomes settling Africa, the Chicka Zulu

For rules, I based them off of what I remember from Uncle Duke's Isandlwanda/Rorke's Drift game that I played at Historicon 2010.  It was simple and didn't require the purchase of thousands of Zulus.  The hashed  together recollections of rules worked well for my daughter as well.

Chicka Zulus
Move: 6 inches per turn
Once a stand of  9 chicks is reduced down to 3, it is removed off the board.  Once the army loses over 50% of its stands(in this case 6), the Zulus immediately retreat to form the next wave.  If three waves are stopped by the gnomes, the Zulus give up.
They also wield primitive firearms.  At the end of the 1st round, each unit with at least 5 chicks will make one roll to represent ineffective firepower.  A 6 on 1d6 per unit hits.  During the 2nd round this improves to 5-6.  It is assumed that by subsequent rounds, the chicks have engaged the enemy in hand-to-hand.

The Gnomes
The Gnomes follow their rules per nationality.  The Swiss have rifles, but also a large number of  pickaxes.  No use for firing, but definitely devastating in close combat.
Medics:  In Gnome Wars, the medics have a phase after each turn to run around and revive the fallen.  To recreate a more accurate situation, I didn't allow a medic phase until the Swiss dispatched one of the Zulu waves. If they still controlled the hospital (the large MBA Customs House) they had a 50% chance (4-6 on d6) of  healing each one.  If the Zulu occupied it, it dropped to 5-6, and if Zulus successfully torched it, it dropped to just 6.

The First Wave
I gave Maja no pointers on how to move the Chicka Zulu, simply that they had to kick the gnomes out of  their "farm" and capture the golden egg hidden inside.  Immediately she sent her flanks around to the undefended side walls, a perfect application of the "Feet of the Chicken" tactic.  She also put the pink (unmarried) chicks in the center of the battlefield in a column formation, but that's okay.  I'm not asking her to conquer Russia (yet.)

Of course, to preoccupy a three-year old, she also rolled all the dice for the Swiss.  Her rolls rang true and two units had been whittle down to five.  Her Zulu firing rolls were just as effective.  Five Swiss lay on the ground from Zulu rifles.  This did not bode well for the gnomes.
Technically, the "Feet of the Chicken"  should have a unit or two in reserve, but I'm not being picky today.

The Zulus continued their charge, but the Swiss spread out of absorb as much as possible.  Swiss rifles removed two units from the table, but the charging chicks hit the eggshell thin walls.

Melee combat was a work in progress from the first die roll.  I  wanted to ensure that the gnomes got maximum protection, but also allow the Zulus a chance to inflict painful casualties.  Modifiers were changed for defense, troop ratio, and leadership, sometimes between figures in a mass combat.  Even with this evolving status, the gnome center took significant hits.  

First Wave:  The green square represents where units were removed from play.  Amelia is in the background demanding blood... or more animal crackers

The pink Chicka Zulu on the flank did manage to work around the Swiss gnomes and came within millimeters of entering the hospital, but the main attack fizzled when the Swiss eliminated enough units from the center attack to force a withdrawal and the start of the second wave.

First Wave:  Oh, so close...

The Chicka Zulus set again and the Swiss rolled for casualties.  My daughter's dice rolling continue shine as only four out of twelve down Swiss were pronounced dead.

The Second Wave
The Chicka Zulu seemed to move faster this time, or perhaps it was the Swiss guns failing.  The Swiss consolidated their forces and was hit by the full speed of a three claw attack.

The flank begins to falter, Amelia sees a squirrel 

Both units of Swiss took tremendous casualties, but all Zulu unit were respectfully bloodied as well.  
Second Wave:  The dice behind the unit represented how many figures were left

The flanks collapsed.  One unit of yellow Chicka Zulus managed to avoid contact and seize the golden egg.  Some pinks had seized the hospital and set it ablaze. Another two pink units jumped the walls and slaughtered Swiss with a chriping glee.
Second Wave:  Things look bleak

If not for the courage of Captain Boris (named by my daughter), the Swiss would have been killed to the man during this wave.  He single-handedly held off two units of weakened Chicka Zulu, forcing them to withdrawal.  Not bad for a figure who started the battle on the second floor of the hospital ("He's still tired, Daddy!")
Captain Boris staves off utter annihilation, as the hospital burns

With the hospital in flames, and few men left to put it out, the medic phase was a complete failure.The last seven Swiss: (two officers, the alphorn player, three rifles, and two pick axes) fortified the ruined building as a redoubt and waited for the final onslaught.

Third  Wave
The few Swiss rifles shot true, and two entire units fell before the Chicka Zulu reached the redoubt.  I had some difficulty finding a proper defensive modifier for the redoubt, particularly since the majority of the remaining Swiss had developed good, balanced bonuses from the earlier fighting.  The Chicka Zulu took out the majority of the enlisted, and with afternoon naps pending, I declared the Chicka Zulu escorted the two Swiss officers, the Alphorn (essentially a flag bearer), and one rifleman to the Zulu border, with honors.
The Survivors of Rorke's Drift, honored by the Chicks, vilified by the Swiss press

It took some number crunching, and a TV break between the first and second waves, but the battle was completed successfully.  There will be subsequent playtests with more "mature" players, different nationalities of gnomes, and a more accurate set-up for the mission station, but for a first go it worked spectacularly.  

Best of all, my daughter Maja wants to play another game with the chicks.  No worries, I have until Junior High to make sure she knows that these battles were fought with humans and not armies of angry chickens.

As an added bonus, we caught that last hour of the third Chronicles of Narnia movie, so she's completely enthralled by the "Pirates and the Dragon".   My geek-dad street cred is rising.


  1. Shouldn't this be Rook's Drift?

  2. And this explains why I spent that time painting up a tower birdhouse for my daughter. Brilliant!