Searching through a bric-a-brac stall at the local market the other day, I found a couple of tattered old photos of soldiers and warriors in combat.
Looking more closely, these pictures seem to have been taken during an action of the Zulu War of 1879.
Well, actually, that’s all a lie! These are actually photos taken during a wargame a group of us here in Kāpiti, New Zealand, played last night.
Our game pitched Zulus against British, in a test run of Dan Mersey’s colonial skirmish wargaming rules The Men Who Would Be Kings.
Mine host was Herman van Kradenburg, whose collection includes a whole cupboard of figures depicting the wars of his former homeland, South Africa (like the rest of the pictures in this article, click on the photo for a closer look).
Our initial intention was to play the scenario where the British are trying to get a wagon train across the board. However, our memories had obviously failed us, as there is no such scenario in TMWWBK! So we changed to playing a simple meeting engagement, but left the wagons in place anyway. This was just a fun game after all.
The mass of figures that Herman produced from his magic cupboard looked absolutely spectacular on the table.
During the game Herman regaled us with his knowledge of the history of the Zulu War.
Particularly interesting was what he told us about and the different types of warriors and how they used their weapons.
The British also looked splendid in their scarlet coats and white tropical helmets.
The British weren’t all regular infantry, but also included these irregular allies wearing part African, part European clothing.
Right through the game this giraffe was quietly chewing on the leaves of an acacia tree, totally ignoring the tumult of human combat taking place around him.
Here are four of the happy wargamers – Scott Bowman (owner of probably the only pharmacy in the world that has a well-stocked wargaming department!), mine host Herman, fellow South African Rudolf Pretorius, and Ste Haran (like Scott, a British ex-pat).
The fifth happy wargamer was of course yours truly, seen here poring over the TMWWBK rules, whilst Scott considers his next move. [photo by Herman van Kradenburg]
Adding to the African flavour of the night, Herman cooked us a delicious pre-game meal of South African delicacies, including boerewors (sausage), chakalaka (spiced vegetables), samp (maize) and beans, pickled curried fish, bhajia (chilli bites), green fig preserves and home-made bread.
Our pre-game meal was so delicious, and the atmosphere so companionable, that our game started late and we didn’t have time to play to a full conclusion. But, hey, it isn’t about winning or losing – especially with such a wonderful night of feasting, fine figures, friends and fun!