Zulus – thaasands of ‘em!

Just found this unpublished post from September in my “Drafts” box!

I enjoyed with the “Old Featherstonians” a weekend of wargaming hosted by the Wargames Holiday Centre in Basingstoke, England.

The occasion was the Donald Featherstone memorial game, delayed from March 2020. In the meantime Steve, the game organiser, had been very busy and had completed 3,500 x 28mm Zulu figures to oppose his Colonial armies.

We fought in teams three concurrent battles that happened on 22nd January 1879. These were of course Isandlwana and Rorke’s Drift and the lesser known Inyezane River action. The two larger battles were fought using a figure scale of about 1:5 and Rorke’s Drift as a skirmish game with the real numbers.

The rules used are a derivation of these, but the red/black card mechanism is now replaced with faster die rolling. Simple but fun.

Will Victoria Be Amused? New Colonial Rules Released

All three battles were fought with the players commanding the British and Colonial forces against umpire-controlled Zulus arriving in random but overwhelming strength from random points around the board edge.

Each game was fought to a real-time deadline, after which players moved to a different table and started again. In the three I fought we held off the enemy at Isandlwana, fought Rorke’s Drift almost from the film script and stalemated at Inyezane.

Here are a few photo’s to give a flavour of the games.

Holding the camp at Isandlwana
Rorke’s Drift under attack
The Hospital
The redoubt
Getting desperate. Colour-Sergeant Bourne in the foreground.
Bromhead’s last stand?
Inyezane River
The Kraal (our objective)
Fighting in the lurid teddy fur – from Orville the Duck!

And after dinner we auctioned each other’s donated surplus books, games and models and raised a few hundred pounds for Combat Stress.

A new perspective

On Friday afternoon I spent about an hour and a half having my left eye treated under sedation at Southampton Eye Hospital.

This was more uncomfortable than the previous operation, but also far more complex. First the cataracts were removed, then a new lens inserted to match the vision of my right eye.

When that was completed the torn retina was tackled with lasers to put it back together. Finally an oil bubble was implanted to hold the retina in place until it has healed. At some point this bubble will need to surgically removed.

Meanwhile I am largely immobile, having to spend five days lying with My right cheek to a pillow while things settle. I have invested in several new audio books.

I can already make out blurred shapes and colours with my left eye only – an amazing improvement on the grey mist of last week. It is unbelievable what the surgeons can do to repair such a complicated and sensitive organ.

Back in two weeks for a progress review.

A Pirate attack

Here is a selection of photographs from my fun pirate game using models from http://www.toysforapound.com

The scenario is that two crews of pirates are trying to capture an unmanned battery of (spring-fired) cannon. Each crew member has a specific skill or aspect. For example, Two-Hand Harry has two cutlasses, used with equal dexterity. Boozy Pete carries his tankard everywhere and lashes out at friend or foe. Blind Jake is a dead-shot with a pistol, but at the nearest moving body. Dead Fred (a skeleton) is a former crew member who moves at random and frightens anyone he meets into uncontrollable retreat.

Dead Fred meets Boozy Pete, who is too drunk to notice.
The two crews face off.
Close action. Bosun Blaster is wounded.
The two crews in action. Everyone is avoiding Boozy Pete!
The end of the skirmish. All Black Hat except Dead Fred are wounded and down.

Age 67, reverting to childhood

I recently, on a whim, ordered another ten pounds worth of toys from http://www.toysforapound.com.

This time it was pirates in the style of Lego. Having received the parcel I realised that I could have ordered a full retail box (2 of each of 6 options) had I spent £12 instead of my miserly £10.

Anyway, here is what I received for my tenner. One model lacked a hand, but no matter.

I ignored the actual building instructions for each kit (between 25 and 37 pieces) and also mixed and matched the figure pieces to make unique characters. The odd one, on the far right of the photo’ is a skeleton supplied with no legs. He was reconstructed somewhat and christened “Dead Fred”.

In the background are some improvised defences and five spring-loaded cannon (which fire the cylindrical bricks if desired), as well as two palm trees. In the foreground are spare bits and pieces.

I have drafted some rules for a skirmish game based on an “offset squares” board, simulating hex-based movement. Without going into the detail of the rules, here are the two rival crews:

The Red Dragon crew

Captain Black (sword and pistol), Bosun Cackhand (pistol, left-handed, right hand is a claw), Patch (sword), Boozy Pete (sword and tankard, lashes out at friend or foe indiscriminately), Bluehat Bob (sword)

The Black Hat crew

Bosun Blaster (pistol, bonus for shooting), Two Hand Harry (two swords, uses both in swordplay), Captain Gruff (sword), Blind Jake (pistol, lethal to friend or foe in range if they move), Dead Fred (former crew-member, bow and arrow but only one hand, random movement, all nearby flee)

My idea for a first scenario is for both crews to capture an unoccupied cannon battery. To use one cannon needs three crew, so they are mainly simply an objective. Battle report to follow.

I expect after a couple of games this collection will be passed to my 8 year old grandson.

Eyes Right?

Unfortunately not yet.

Another afternoon at Southampton Hospital, where we discovered by flashing lights, detailed photography and ultra-sound that the surgery two weeks ago was not entirely successful. The retina in my left eye has not re-attached, so further surgery is needed next week.

Last time they inserted a bubble of gas to put pressure on the retina. Next time they will try a bubble of oil, which will need to be removed later. I do hope that I don’t have spend another five days prone, particularly as I will miss the last weekend of the flat season at Newbury racecourse.

Apparently I have also developed a cataract which will need further surgery in the future.

Ho hum. At least it’s only inconvenient, not painful or life-threatening.

Tribute to a warrior

Just a short tribute to Stan Perry, last surviving troop commander of the Sherwood Rangers, who died yesterday morning aged 97.

I was privileged to spend an hour at the “We Have Waysof Making You Talk” “Warfest” weekend just 19 days ago listening to his reminiscences from Normandy 1944.
His remarkable experiences were delivered in a matter of fact and humorous way which kept the audience spellbound, and earned two standing ovations.

Thank you Stan. Rest in peace. You have earned it.

Up and about

I never thought that I would glorify the inactivity of just sitting in an armchair and watching TV, but after five days of lying down on my right side with a TV at 90° to my good eye and mainly obscured by a pillow , I am almost ashamed to say that have missed it.

I have managed to catch up with reading by using my Kindle set at large print and held at arm’s length. Turning the page after every 20 words or so was an acceptable necessity.

I also caught up on a backlog of over two week’s podcast listening.

But I was BORED. I could see the carpet needed vacuuming, and I had a list of films on DVD that I thought I could catch up on, to no avail. Only on the fourth day did I discover TV on my i-Pad that I could rotate to my enforced viewpoint. Thus I watched an interesting documentary on 10 mistakes that sank the Titanic and on Sunday watched “live” (i.e. 5 minutes delay) horse racing from Longchamps, Paris. My betting was unsuccessful.

Incidentally, a few years ago we were lucky enough to have privileged access to Longchamps for the “Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe” race day for our wedding anniversary. We were en route to Paris on the Eurostar when we received a message that a friend of a friend had managed to get us “horse owners” access tickets courtesy of Qatar Racing, the sponsors of the weekend. It certainly enhanced the weekend.