Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Zulu War – Sword and the Flame

My friend Will was in town this past weekend and on Saturday we played a little game of The Sword and the Flame. For those of you who are unaware, TSATF is a set of rules for the wars of British imperialism that’s been around for, like, ever… and I’ve wanted to play it for nearly that long… but somehow never did. Anyhow, Will was kind enough to take me though a quick little game with some of my Zulu forces.

Zululand, March 1879


Go get ‘em! The British have to go out and find the Zulus that are sneakily hiding in the grass somewhere.


The British

Major Smythe-Brown - C-in-C
1 company British Infantry (15) Rifle
1 troop British Mounted Infantry (11) Carbine

The Zulus

lWil kaBallii - C-in-C
3 warbands Zulus Warriors (15-16 ea)
2 units Zulu Skirmishers (10 ea)


(Remember: click on the pictures for a bigger version)

Will’s fancy action deck.

The British Forces enter the lands of lWil kaBallii… Where could those dastardly Zulus be hiding.

The Infantry wheeled to the right in open order to go try and flush out the tall grass, while the mounted infantry peeled right and sent out outriders to scout ahead and to the sides.

The British infantry came under fire from Zulus concealed on a rocky outcrop.

The British wheeled around to bring fire to bear on the sniping Zulus – their fire was surprisingly devastating!?

In a turn or two of firing half the Zulus were dead or wounded!

Meanwhile, the one of the scouting/outrider parties of the mounted infantry started taking long range fire from another group of Zulus concealed on an outcropping.

As the mounted infantry advanced under fire the other group of outriders stumbled upon a great band of Zulus concealed in the tall grass nearby…

The Zulus charged the mounted infantry before they could gallop off!

A few Zulus were wounded by fire as they charged in, thining their ranks some, but not enough to ward them off.

On their way in the Zulus chucked spears causing some disruption and injuries.

The actual close combat was a rather lengthy and brutal affair….

I think some three separate rounds of combat were fought…

Before the shattered remains of the mounted infantry gave up and galloped off.

The rest of the Zulus appeared from their hiding places and advanced on the British infantry.

The Zulus move in.

The British mounted infantry did try to regroup, bringing in the outriders. Eventually, however, they failed morale and retired from the table.

Advancing under cover from the British infantryman’s deadly fire.

USUTHU!! In they go!

Again the British fire was withering. A few Infantrymen were lost to thrown spears.

In the melee a few more British were lost but the first charge of the Zulus was driven off.

The next nearest unit (which had been previously mauled in their attack on the mounted infantry) failed morale and scarpered.

The remaining Zulus made a headlong charge, leaving a few stragglers behind.

Again a few rounds of close combat were fought and they were brutal and bloody.

Fought nearly to the last man….

The Zulus overcame the British, but it was pyrrhic victory. The British had sold themselves dearly!

So… The Sword and the Flame….

Definitely a fun game. Thanks to Will for running the game for me!

The game seems somewhat limited in its scope, but could easily be adaptabled for other conflicts. In a much bigger game I could see it sort of bogging down – the whole drawing to determine the extent of injuries – unless one was playing a campaign why would you need to determine whether troops were wounded or dead…? Also the close combat, which was much like Contemptible Little Armies (in that it was fought figure to figure), I imagine could bog down with larger numbers of figures and units.

As will left his copy with me, I’ll probably give it another go. Perhaps I’ll end up incorporating some of the mechanisms (I know John would like the whole testing to see if you go into melee…) into the Ever (Modified) Victorious Armies… or whatever we end up playing…

Coming soon on Tim’s Miniature Wargaming Blog:

I'm just finishing up a Gatling Gun and crew for the British. After that...? More Zulus (or British… or Martians...) and perhaps a few more GLADIATORS!!?

Speaking of Gladiators... If you haven't checked it out already our Gladiator campaign has started - you can check out the action over at Savage Timmy's Playhouse


  1. Good looking game Tim. Very nice troops.

  2. Nice report and pics! Reminds me of a game of TSATF I played many years ago.

  3. Welcome to the TSATF brotherhood. TSATF has several different adaptions for diffwerent conflicts. One of my favorites is The Sword in Africa which adds in random encounters from african wild life to terains and more. I recently played in a TSATF game based on a Victorian Venus. We used GW lizardmen as the natives, The French Foreign Legion as the colonials and had a great game. Give it another try, I think it will grow on you.


  4. Cheers!

    Oh, I DEFINITELY see the attraction and why it has remained a mainstay of colonial wargaming for all these many, many years... and I'll definitely play it again! The influence of TSATF on the other rules I'm playing (Ever Victorious Armies and Contemptible Little Armies) is very clear - in fact i'd go so far as to say they are a direct derivative.

    But I have visions of massive battles - with a dozen 15-man units per side... and the working out close combat man-to-man (or martian-to-martian... as the case may soon be) could potentially be a bit cumbesome... and the d20s...

    I don't know...

    There is a LOT that I do really like about it...

    We shall see... perhaps it is TSATF that I will modify to my purpose - rather than stealing ideas from it and bolting it on to whatever other rules I'm cobbling together...

  5. Great looking game Tim...I had a chance to try that ruleset on an Afghan scenario that Will cooked up here in Ottawa...it was a lot of fun.


  6. Hi, Tim,

    thanks for the hospitality, and for the great games! I agree with you about the hand-to-hand combat; that is the slowest part of the game. Clean that up and TSATF is otherwise a fast and fun game.



  7. Nice work gents. I prefer GASLIGHT these days to the grandness that is TSATF, but only in that the stabby portion of the game is indeed quicker.