Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

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sjwalker51
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Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by sjwalker51 »

Returning to a long-neglected project, I’d appreciate advice/opinions on how best to represent the Xhosa Warriors of the Cape Frontier Wars in SP terms.

Reading round the subject (Mike Snook’s books published by Perry’s being the ‘go to’ reference), their warfare was characterised by lots of poor quality musketry from cover before charging in for the kill once the enemy was sufficiently weakened. Depending on the period, anything from 25-70% of the warriors were armed with trade-muskets as well as traditional weapons.

I’m in two minds whether to assemble the Force with a mix of 12-figure Tribes and 6-figure Skirmisher Groups (with the latter representing the musket-armed men) or simply use 12-figure Tribes Groups with an appropriate proportion treated as musket armed in addition, Poor Shots armed with either muskets or Fowling Pieces - there’s not much evidence that any of them should gain the Firing benefits of being Skirmish Troops.

Can anyone suggest a more period/theatre appropriate term for poor quality African Mass Troops? “Wallahs” sounds too ‘Indian’ to me. My preferred terms for Mass Troops has always been ‘Warriors’, ‘Tribesmen’ and ‘???’

BaronVonWreckedoften
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by BaronVonWreckedoften »

Not sure I can help much, but I do recall reading in Snook's book on Isandlwhana ("How can men die better?") that a number of experienced British officers were caught out in the early stages of the AZW because they tried to use the same tactics as they had against the Xhosa in the Cape Wars, and it didn't work, because the Xhosa and Zulu fought very differently.
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sjwalker51
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by sjwalker51 »

That’s part of the fun: as you rightly say, the British strategy and tactics during the first invasion of Zululand were influenced by their assumption that the Zulus would fight the same way as the Xhosa had - and they found out that they didn’t! So we need to represent the two differently to do them justice.

There are some challenges recreating later (c.1865+) colonial actions using SP as written, given not only the different hardware used but also the platoon/company level tactics developed since the 1840’s that moved away from the distinction between Line and Light companies to a general adoption of ‘Skirmish & Supports’. ‘Tribal’ Forces also deserve some further tweaks to refine the way that they’re represented without changing the core mechanics unnecessarily.

It’s not such a problem for games set in the earlier period (1830-1850’s) but it’s still nice to add some campaign-specific ‘chrome’ to add some period feel.

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Captain Reid
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by Captain Reid »

Given they had to whittle the British down before charging, I'd be a bit wary about classifying them as Mass Troops (mind you, I think that applies quite extensively in colonial conflicts because the vast majority of natives seem to have rapidly adopted looser formations and advances by rushes through cover when faced with disciplined rifle fire).

In this case perhaps:

Irregular Skirmishers armed with Fowling Pieces (6 pts):
Formation - no, First Fire - no, Controlled Volley - no
Crashing Volley - no, Step Out - 1, Drill - no
Aggressive, Moveable DP, Poor Shots, Tactical

and

Irregular Skirmishers armed with Mixed Weapons (5 pts):
Formation - no, First Fire - no, Controlled Volley - no
Crashing Volley - no, Step Out - 1, Drill - no
Aggressive, Mixed Weapons, Moveable DP, Poor Shots, Tactical, Tomahawks (representing short ranged thrown weapons).

My main beef with Mass Troops is that even with Mixed Weapons the sheer number of shots they get makes them relatively decent shooters and they're generally very good just at a straight up charge rather than whittling first, while Skirmish Troops need to soften the enemy up.

Although the above would also depend a bit on how the British would be represented.
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sjwalker51
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by sjwalker51 »

You make some good points there - my reluctance to make them Skirmish Troops of any kind was two-fold; no evidence of them using separate groups of musket-armed men apart from those armed only with traditional weapons, and rarely more than 50% with firearms in any case.

As you say, a lot depends on how the British troops are rated relative to their opponents - still thinking about that, especially given the tactics that they used.

Using Mass Troops as described will limit the firing dice (base of 5 dice per group of 12, assuming Poor Shots), Fowling Pieces means they will at best hit on 5-6 even at <12” range, without the ‘to hit’ bonuses for Skirmish Troops. Maybe convert the first Kill to Shock as well, to reflect the poor quality powder and shot used?

In Fisticuffs, treating them as ‘Tribe’ gives them a slight edge over British Line (8D6 v. 6D6). Not sure that I’d describe them as ‘Fierce’ but using a variant of ‘Tomahawks’ to represent the flurry of hand-hurled weapons just before contact sounds good. There may also be a case for having to use a Command Card to ‘encourage’ them to stop skirmishing and get stuck in as a further tweak.

Depending on whatever other traits are used, I’m thinking Xhosa Warriors should cost about 5-6 points/Group, British Regulars 8-9/Group.

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Captain Reid
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by Captain Reid »

Thing is, if I have Mass Troops with crap firing, I'll just charge straight in, which isn't the effect one is after. There's no incentive for Mass Troops to stand off, whereas Skirmish Troops, even if a bit crap at shooting, get their cover bonus against the enemy's shooting, which evens it up a bit. Perhaps just one troop type -

Irregular Skirmishers, with assorted weapons (6 pts):
Formation - no, First Fire - no, Controlled Volley - no
Crashing Volley - no, Step Out - 1, Drill - no
Mixed Weapons, Moveable DP, Poor Shots, Tactical, Tomahawks

3 men count as armed with Fowling Pieces (though it may be that in fact only one or two have a firearm, the rest with other missile weapons, spears, etc). Note that Poor Shots means those three shots become two.

Or I suppose do them as Wallahs
Formation - no, First Fire - no, Controlled Volley - no
Crashing Volley - no, Step Out - 1, Drill - no
Mixed Weapons, Moveable DP, Poor Shots, Tactical, Tomahawks

though that'd be 6 men with Fowling Pieces, so 5 shots until they're whittled down

I begin to think that SP needs a new mechanic to deal with the much more asymmetric nature of colonial fights.
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sjwalker51
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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by sjwalker51 »

I’d agree on your last point, especially as the century progresses - but let’s not forget the ‘heroic’ nature of SP.

A well informed friend of mine proposed adding a couple of new troop types for the period (including Irregular Massed Skirmishers for the Xhosa) with their own set of rules but I’m trying to avoid that and keep within the core rules (albeit with a few period-specific tweaks) if at all possible.

At least I’ve got plenty of time to think about it right now!

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Re: Back to the Cape Frontier Wars - opinions please!

Post by Munin »

Yes, Mass units are hard to break because their unit size means they can soak up a ton of Shock before they start falling back, but it's important to remember that Shock greatly reduces forward mobility. So yes, it may take half of forever to get that enemy unit of warriors to flee the field, but it actually doesn't take that long to render them combat ineffective by making it exceedingly difficult for them to close the distance. For certain types of native forces, this doesn't seem overly unreasonable.

Also, crap shooting is better than no shooting at all. If I have a Mass unit that can take advantage of cover, and if I have numerical superiority over my foe, I'm like to do exactly as the Xhosa did and sit back in cover and plink away until my enemy's Shock is going to reduce their fire over the critical open ground I'm going to need to cross to finally get into fisticuffs.

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