Like Lions They Fought (Command 28)
Playings 2 (3 hours), British wins.
Dust off the scarlet jackets and break out the ammo (having filled in a requisition in triplicate) its off to trash the Zulus. Win or lose plenty of Zulus are going to buy it but quite a few red coats will need the stain remover, the Zulu player should beat his Isandhlwana score no hassle. Therein lies the problem with Like Lions They Fought, victory conditions that do not consider British disasters. Victory hinges on capturing the Zulu capital at Ulundi then tracking down the fugitive Cetshwayo, regardless of cost.
The outline of British colonial aggression (when authorised) was to do the deed as cheaply as possible keeping human and financial costs well down. The Zulu war cost £1.3 million and 1,800 British casualties, well over budget. Most campaigns against natives were lucky to get a few inches in The Times, later in 1879 Wolsey cleared out the Pedi (who had trashed the Transvall Boers) for £100,000 with token losses (mostly loyal Swazis). Governor Frere (partly to blame for goading the Zulus into war) had seen the effects of colonial volunteers and British troops on natives during the Xhosa rebellion/invasion of 1877/8.
It does not matter how sharp your pointed stick nor how good the storekeeper said the Martini Henry was, the natives were not playing to the same rules as the British. The politicians did not command on the ground during the Zulu war but had allocated forces that should have been adequate to quell even an organised African state. The defeat at Isandhlwana could have been due to over-confidence, planning and caution might have avoided disaster and relegated the Zulu war to the bottom of the page. The foreign news editors were spoilt for choice at this time. The Conference of Berlin had hardly settled the Turkish problem after Russiaís victory in 1878, Britain was fighting in Afghanistan
(again) not entirely unconcerned about Russian involvement. The (bankrupt) Boer Republic of Transvaal had been annexed in 1877 by Britain and was to declare its independence again in 1880 (more British disasters to follow). At the other end of Africa (bankrupt) Egypt was starting down the path to nationalism and the 1882 expedition that would involve over double the commitment to the Zulu war (25,000 to 12,000), another war not entirely unrelated to Turkey. Naturally not one of these events is considered by Like Lions They Fought.
XTR do not take this view, Like Lions They Fought begins in January 1879, the British are already on the march into Zululand, ripe for attack. The Zulu will attack, destroying British units and the British will get their reinforcements because of the defeat(s). Zulus may as well attack, the reinforcements
will turn up on turn 4 anyway regardless of British losses. Some clever system ideas plus one howler (sequence of play) fail to take account of the big picture. The sequence of play fails to match up with the storyline of the war. Zulus move, then British move followed by compulsory Zulu attacks. This order allows the British to move up forces and back up hard pressed units, zones of control are locking so the Zulu will delegate (doomed) units to cut off likely targets from reinforcement. Turns are monthly
so plenty can happen although the Zulu may wish that they didnít. Most Zulus can shift 50 hexes (the older Impis only make 30) so hitting any British unit is not a problem but even British infantry can make 20, scouts 40, if troops are available threatened columns will be reinforced unless they are way ahead of support. Battles are similar to I Am Spartacus, units line up in rows rolling equal to or under
a hit number. The (1 step) Zulus get to choose who to attack but the (2 step) British fire 1st, British line units are rated 5 so will wipe their opposite numbers. Zulus counter this by putting some wimpy
1s or 2s in front, hoping they get sliced then move up the 4s or 5s behind. After 1 round both sides line up again and continue until 1 side is wiped or withdraws. If the British withdraw surviving units
return 2 turns later, if the Zulus withdraw any units which were in the battle but not used to fight remain on the map, all others are removed for (I think) 2 turns (off back to the Kraal for the local equivalent of tea and sticky buns). If a British force is defeated a disaster marker is placed on the hex which will reduce the fighting ability of British units for 1 turn after they pass through the hex.
It will not affect victory, 4 or 5 disaster markers will not unduly worry the British player (some stink at home though). After combat comes an unusual (as in weird) advance system. Surviving attackers
roll 2D6 and may move that many points, if they move up to another enemy unit another battle will be initiated and that too may force an advance. Zulu stacks will be worn down by going home but British
units can slice through an impressive amount of Zulus if they roll well. Staggered Zulu defenses along roads or river crossings will speed up the progress of British units towards Ulundi. You move up,
work out the attacks, win, then roll for advance to move onto more Zulus for further attacks and so on. It can be seen that a series of delaying forces at likely sites (river crossings) will speed up
rather than slow down the redcoats.
The battle and movement system produces too many British losses, too many battles and the wrong sort of battles. The Command magazine support article lists 8 combats during the war, of these only 1, Hlobane Mountain, was a British assault on a Zulu position. In all other cases the British were attacked in various degrees of readiness, Like Lions They Fought encourages assaults against Zulus because they are trapped by ZOCs and prevented from melting into the veldt. Every combat is
treated as a Zulu attack but the Zulu is not allowed his historical option of not attacking. In the game he may decide to attack because his Kraals are being burnt reducing his supply area and manpower pool
but has no option not to do so. Not having to worry about losses the British can throw forces forwards to give battle and take Kraals, even if the column eventually runs out of counters it should have
paid for itself tidily. The Zulu may win some combats but even wiping a whole column will only buy time at a cost of vast chunks of Zulu units sloping home for tea. A British advance which fails will still
leave behind it a string of burnt Kraals, Zulu units cannot move further than 10 hexes from an unburnt Kraal and units cannot return from the recovery pile if their Kraal is burnt. An area of burnt Kraals makes further advances a lot easier, having sent most of the army to the refit or dead piles Zulu strategy will revolve around cutting off British units to slow them down. With British units moving 2nd this
is not always successful. The ability to see where all the Zulus are and know just how many are dead or resting gives the Briton another ahistorical advantage and prompts more uncharacteristic speed. Like
Lions They Fought has substituted the concept of Zulus attacking with little warning to that of the Briton having plenty of warning but allowing the Zulu to move at warp factor 9. Sure the Zulus ran fast
but this is not as significant as being able to move undetected. When the Zulus were forced onto the defensive by advances towards Ulundi they lost strategic surprise.
Owners of Cortes or Port Arthur (trashed by its own developer in Moves) will have seen all this before. XTR take a single view of history, this is what happened and this (proven) system will re-create those
happenings. This concept may amuse the beginning gamer or (rather slow) student who needs a little more help understanding why the winners won, it will not excite the serious gamer. The last interesting Command was When Eagles Fight precisely because it had some random events allowing outside factors to influence the game or simply not happen. Unfortunately Glory's End has the look of Storm In The West including automatic Allied victory point awards for gains in Serbia and Galicia (off-map), plus ensured British entry even if Belgium is not invaded. If this keeps up I just might not buy Great War In Europe, issue 33 (strong willpower required). Darn I bought it anyway and the Near East expansion; a great pair of games.
Philip Ashworth, "The last boardgame I played was "Like Lions They Fought" and I agree with your general comments. Command games all feel similar regarding the combat systems. I find the magazine interesting but the games stereotyped. One game I did enjoy was TAHGC's Midway partly because it was simple but also exciting. I have always admired S. Craig Taylor games esp. Flat Top and to me he has captured the flavour of the battle. It may have limited replay value but as I bought it at the MBW auction I'm happy. (ZOCo, it appears that like most ZOCo readers we've met but that I still have no idea who you are)