Victoria Cross, 16 Oct 2006
Last night the fierce Zulu chieftan Mark led his angry mob of 4,000 warriors against my 100 brave British soldiers defending the small camp at Rorke's Drift in South Africa, recreated in Worthington Games' Victoria Cross. Billed as a light block wargame playable in under two hours, Mark and I decided to bring it out for a test drive.
The situation in this game is that the Zulu player has 90 strength points of warriors vs. roughly 40 strength points of British troops. Also, at the start of each of the 16 turns, any Zulu strength points that have been killed in the previous turn are replaced, forming an unstoppable horde. The British have a single overworked doctor who can heal 2 strenght points per turn in one space on the map. Not good! Complicating the situation is that the hospital is full of wounded soldiers and the British must carry these wounded chaps to safety before its burned to the ground. The Brits also have to protect their water supply and their animal pen, all of which seems overwhelming for the thin red line.
On the British side things are helped a bit by the fact that they were led by that most elite of all military professions, a civil engineering officer. Hence, their defenses are quite strong. The British get to shoot at the Zulus before they close for bloody melee, and even then the British have a melee advantage due to the walls surrounding the camp. The British leaders also provide bonus abilities to their troops like the ability to volley fire and bayonet charge.
So, the game we played essentially involved Mark throwing his horde repeatedly at me only to have me blast each wave into oblivion. However, among the pile of bodies there was an ever increasing number of British redcoats. Mark quickly burned down my hospital, but I was able to get everyone out alive. I quickly found the worst thing the British can do is to allow the Zulus to close to melee range. It is far better to give up ground and keep the range rather than to try to fight the horde hand-to-hand. I found it very tempting to try to hold the line against the horde to keep them out of my compound, and I even launched a valiant bayonet charge or two. The problem is, as the British player, you feel the loss of every single strength point. Charging headlong into 40 Zulu warrior strength points with 4 brave Brits and an officer may be brave and glorious, but it is rarely worth the cost.
Eventually, the attrition inflicted by the countless Zulus was too much to overcome. On the second to the last turn, my final holdout force was overwhelmed with a single brave British officer guarding the wounded and defending the final redoubt. Mark's warriors charged in and.... well... it was just ugly. I asked Mark if he felt guilty for what he had just done. Oh, the humanity!
My overall assessment is that this is a fun, closely balanced, yet bloody game. I honestly thought I was going to hold Mark off about midway through the game, but the body count just kept growing too fast. The game is a dicefest, with probably several hundred die rolls resolving gunfire and melee. I'd say this is a good, light wargame, best appreciated when you are in the mood for death and destruction with minimal brain power usage.