Monday, 2 January 2017

Black Powder: Anglo Zulu War

Way back in the misty, dusty (somewhat decrepit) and entirely inappropriate corners of my life when I 'were a wee nipper' who had just found his way to the world of wargaming it occurred to me that the very first period in history that I chose, myself to wargame was the Anglo-Zulu War of 1879.

Isandlwana - 22nd January 1879. The greatest defeat of a developed nation by a spear armed native army in history

Now, I don't mind admitting that way back in the day I was totally enamoured of the Michael Caine film 'Zulu' and was of the rather naive belief that it was the jolly old redcoats out there saving the world from the barbarian hordes who sought to put them to the rather short spear. To me, the film was quintessentially British and represented our brave boys just as God intended; conquering all who stood in our way, no matter the odds, and bringing civilisation to the savages whether they wanted it or not!

Over time I drifted away from the Zulu war and into periods (and genres) that those around me had an interest in gaming... I still loved the Zulu war and its associated media but it just couldn't hold a candle to a Genestealer Cult army for Warhammer 40K.

Well I went the way all Games Workshop gamers with limited budgets and limitless imagination go, I became disillusioned with the pandering to the childrens market that their rule systems took and the pandering to the parents bank balances that their miniatures went. I ditched workshop and headed back to the real world.

My first (and predominant stop) was World War 2 at various scales along with the Macedonian and Napoleonic wars. These kept me ticking over for years. Relatively cheap and OH... SO... MUCH going on!

In the background there was always the Zulu War though. Over time, as is natural I started to pick up extra bits and pieces of information that was inexorably leading me to the conclusion that it wasn't quite the war of civilising the natives that I had first believed. A tipping point was reached a short time ago and I bought a trio of books to do with the war.

The Washing of the Spears - Donald R. Morris
Zulu - Saul David
Forgotten Battles of the Zulu War - Adrian Greaves

shortly followed by:

The Anatomy of the Zulu Army: From Shaka to Cetshwayo - Ian Knight

and of course the ubiquitous Osprey books:

Men at Arms 37 - The Zulu War
Men at Arms 388 - Zulu War: Volunteers, Irregulars & Auxiliaries
Elite 21 - The Zulus
Elite 32 - British Forces in Zululand 1879
Essential Histories 56 - The Zulu War 1879
Fortress 35 - British Fortifications in Zululand 1879
Campaign Series 14 - Zulu War 1879
Campaign Series 111 - Isandlwana 1879
Warrior Series 14 - Zulu 1816-1906

Having digested swathes of information I came to the following conclusions:

The Zulu War was an absolute unmitigated national disgrace. It was a war that was enforced upon a indigenous people who had been friendly to the British Empire living side by side with us for over 50 years and wanted no war. It was prosecuted through Boer land grabbing, disinformation and misinforming Westminster about the situation in South African, who were explicit about not wanting a war. War was waged for the personal interest of two individuals approaching the ends of their careers; Sir Henry Bartle-Frere and Lord Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford, neither of whom held the Zulu nation in the regard that events would prove was their due.

The Victoria Cross was handed out like confetti to people who probably didn't deserve them (although such a statement is obviously contentious, although very much common currency amongst the military hierarchy and politicians of the day), whilst completely bypassing some of those that did and all to cover up not one military ass whooping that the Zulus dished out to us but three! THREE!!!! Isandlwana, the greatest defeat ever inflicted on a developed nation from a spear armed native force, 2nd Hlobane and Intombe River. The Zulus derailed Lord Chelmsford's invasion plan so severely that a 3 month pause was forced on Imperial forces before the country was flooded with reinforcements from the UK and a second invasion was able to begin.

They viewed the Zulu army as nothing better than the factional tribal groupings that surrounded Natal and the Cape Province and despite having plenty of contact and plenty of information being passed to and fro completely disregarded the Zulu history of empire building, the extremely high trained nature of its troops and the discipline under which their every day lives existed.

That screaming rabble you see charging in films like Zulu Dawn and Zulu? Nope! Never existed. The Zulus formed by regiment, manoeuvred and skirmished at the same level as professional troops and charged in lines! These 'savages' made quite an impression on the redcoats that they were facing, so much so that many of them wrote how impressed they were with their battlefield manoeuvres and perhaps most telling of all, that they believed that the Zulu skirmished at the same level as their European adversaries.

There are interesting things to be gamed here I believe!

I decided that I am going to do this in 10mm. Why? Well, I like doing the smaller scales because I can knock out large numbers of presentably painted troops in a decent amount of time... and IF you want to field a Zulu army, what else is there other than numbers? I want the pleasure of seeing a Zulu army deployed en masse. 10mm it has to be, as at any other scale I doubted as to whether or not I would ever see the end of them!

There are five manufacturers that do the Anglo-Zulu War in 10mm

Pendraken Miniatures:
Old Glory UK:
Magister Militum:
Steve Barber Models:

I decided that I was going to buy packs off of each of the manufacturers and do a review of them to determine which of the manufacturers provided the best sculpted Zulus, for both quality and accuracy, what the turnaround time of the order was and which company provided the best value for money.

Here is what I determined.

Pendraken Miniatures (

Zulus without headdress (ZC5) 30 for £4.95 (16.5p per miniature in 4 varieties)

Probably the best overall miniatures from all of the providers. Sadly however there are a couple of issues and the biggest of which is the fact that there are only 4 poses. This wouldn't really be such an issue with the British automatons in their nice and orderly firing lines  BUT when you want to field an entire army of Zulu tribesmen then four poses just don't cut it! The problem increases when you realise that this limited variety has to include a division made between married and unmarried figures and only one of the figures is carrying a firearm. This is an extremely prohibitive lack of choice. However the Zulu carrying the firearm is also carrying his Izihlangu war shield.... which means he will fit nicely into the bases of your ibutho instead of only being suitable for the skirmishing bases.

Initially I had an issue with the fact that two of the infantry were also sporting the isicoco, denoting them as being a part of a married regiment. However the isicoco is so heavily cast here that it looks more like the leopard and/or otter skin headband so many of the unmarried regiments wore. IF this is indeed what it is meant to represent then it turns out that if you collected only Pendraken then you would never be able to paint up any married regiments... which almost totally rules out white shields!

Anatomically speaking the figures are heavy limbed although in 10mm scale I dont see this as a problem as it allows the sculptor to provide more muscle definition and makes the figures sturdier.

The assegai's (more specifically termed an Iklwa in Bantu as an onomatopoeic of the sound it makes when pulling it out of a body) are very over sculpted looking as if the Zulu is carrying a small tree trunk (I wonder if this would qualify as a Zulu heavy weapon?)

As you can see from the scale, these figures are true 10mm with the 10mm mark, when adjustment for the base is taken into consideration, coming up to the miniatures eye level.

Zulu Command (ZC8) (Indunas) 10 for £1.65 (16.5p per miniature in 1 variety)

You get 10 of these in a pack from Pendraken but the problem is, once again a lack of variety in poses with only one pose being supplied.

However, the miniature itself is a beauty. Its well proportioned (given my preference for the heavy set individual), with great definition, being able to clearly see the monkey tail skirt, the feather gaiters and Crane feather coming out of the Lourie feather bundle head dress and sporting a well defined Umbumbulozo war shield (By 1879 the full body war shield, or Izihlangu had been all but surrendered as the Zulu military realised that speed was more important than full body protection on the contemporary battlefield decided on due to their previous experiences of firearm based warfare against the Boers over the previous 50 years).

The one issue that I could name here is with the sculpting of the Knobkerrie (War Club), as with the sculping on the Knobkerrie wielder from pack ZC5 the representation of the club is very heavy. However when all is said and done if we are willing to accept the misproportion of the Ikwla then why not with the Knobkerrie as well?

At a pinch you could lop off the crane feather and include some of these miniatures in any amabutho (regiment) that you have sporting full war dress, although by 1879 this was very much the exception.

Zulu Chieftain (ZC13) 1 for £0.50 (50p per miniature)

You buy this individual as an individual because he's the dude that is supposed to be in charge of the whole Impi! At 50p a miniature though, he is weighing in at the same cost as well sculpted miniatures twice his size.

The details are, as expected from Pendraken quite good although anatomically speaking his legs are far too short, even if he nets out at 10mm (or thereabouts) and his bronze war axe is far too abstract to really make out what it is, if you didn't know what you were looking at. His headdress is somewhat underwhelming with the Induna above displaying somewhat more ostentation. I felt that a little more could have been done with this miniature, given its importance... and its cost!

However, when all is said and done it is still a miniature to represent a General, and there are precious few of those out there for the Zulu's in 10mm so maybe we should just suck it up and get on with it!

I placed my order on 4th November. Received it on 18th November (14 day turnaround and it could be argued that they are advertised as something a little different from what they are. Half of the Zulus in the pack have the isicoco headrings (or Otter/ Leopard head rings) meaning, no matter what you say they ARE sporting a headress)

Old Glory UK (

Unmarried Warriors (10Zul - 101) 100 for £13.00 (13p per miniature in 6 varieties)

Looking at the big picture, I have to say that I think the Old Glory Grand Scale miniatures are the best bang for buck you are going to get. There is plenty of variety and the range is clearly divided between married and unmarried.

The miniatures are very well animated with a lot of dynamism in the poses. The physiques are heavy again with the poses contributing to the overall strength of the casting. The faces are well defined as well.

One thing I particularly like is the raised straps on the Izihlangu which will facilitate easy painting.

The only drawbacks that I can see with these are the Ikwla's and Knobkerries being oversculpted again but I have a feeling that this will be a continuing theme. I also think that maybe some sort of headwear would have been appropriate, even if of a limited nature, just for aesthetic purposes.

Married Warriors (10Zul-100) 100 for £13.00 (13p per miniature in 5 varieties)

Unfortunately the married packs use the same poses as with the unmarried warriors however they have very well sculpted isicoco headrings which clearly flag them  as married.

Nothing more to say on these badasses that I didn't already say on the above pack.

Zulus Skirmishing with Rifles (10Zul-102) 50 for £7.00 (14p per miniature in 3 varieties)

A smaller pack, only 50 miniatures as opposed to the standard 100 of the other packs, and only three variants this time as well.

Relatively well sculpted with well defined features, with the miniature size and physical build there is nonetheless one issue with these miniatures, which however is an issue with all the manufacturers with the exception of Magister Militum; Zulu's did not separate firearmed troops from spear armed troops, and all firearm wielding Zulu's also went to war with their Ikwla, throwing spears and shield. They were a constituent part of the amabutho and when not called on to troop forwards and skirmish would fire their single volleys as they charged before resorting once more to their Ikwla and Izihlangu. Almost all manufacturers only sculpt their Zulu's with firearms only carrying their firearms and nothing else... which of course pretty much relegates them to skirmishing bases and nothing else!

I placed this order on 4th November. Received it on 9th November (5 day turnaround). No dramas!

Magister Militum

Mixed Warriors Spears and Knobkerrie (Zip1) 30 for £5.80 (19p per miniature in 6 varieties)

Anatomically speaking these are the most true to life representation of a typical Zulu physique of any of the manufacturers. The poses and the sculpting arent too bad but there are some significant issues with these figures. Every one of them is sculpted with an isicoco and these ones are definitely too thin to be able to pass them off as anything else. This limits the range to only representing the married regiments... and the married regiments were definitely in the minority by a factor of 3:1 in all battles... hmmmm

A more technical problem is indicated by the black wash that I have put over the miniatures. They look like the guys over at MM use way WAY too much mould release when casting. This could cause problems with the painting of these miniatures unless you want to go through the rigmarole of scrubbing and cleaning hundreds of tiny men! Not for me I'm afraid! These go straight to the bottom of the list!

Mixed Warriors with Rifles (Zip 2) 30 for £5.80 (19p per miniature in 3 varieties)

These guys are Magister Militums possible saving grace however. These Zulu's sporting firearms are also carrying their Umbumbulozo and these are the only ones out there that do! Vital to any Zulu regiment you are considering building! Well proportioned and well sculpted they do however look a lot skinnier than the ranges from other companies and there are unfortunately only three poses, compounded by the fact that the war shield on the second pose is almost universally half cast!

Still... some is better than none right?

Placed order on 10th November. Received it on 21st November (7 working day turnaround and incorrectly advertised. Nothing mixed about these. ALL have the isicoco)

Steve Barber Models 

Zulu Warriors (ZW1) 20 for £3.50 (17.5p per miniature in 5 varieties)

Perhaps the most 3D of any of the miniature sculpts for 10mm Zulu's these ones unfortunately come with some pretty sizeable problems.

Anatomically these are far and away the worst of any of the ranges with legs that are far out of proportion with some of the bodies and weapons that even an Ogre would struggle to lift. The heads are undersculpted with facial features only really being flirted with and unfortunately many of the other features like physique and clothing is poorly defined.

Ironically they are also sold at the most expensive price of any of the manufacturers which would largely rule them out of most peoples lists. However I do feel that a smattering of them through your army would add to the overall effect rather than diminish it solely through the variety that these would provide. When all is said and done, the miniatures are not a disaster, I just feel that they could have been better with a little more time spent on them but this isnt enough for me to rule them out of inclusion in my own amabutho.

Zulus with captured equipment and rifles (ZW2) 20 for £3.50 (17.5p per miniature in 4 varieties)

The ubiquitous firearm Zulus have the same problem that other ranges have in that they carry no shields making them suitable for little more than skirmish bases and also suffer from the Steve Barber anatomy problems  with leg extensions and weaponry that your average construction crew would struggle to move from A to B.

However, these do have some curios that make them interesting. Between the variety of all four choices they are sporting redcoat jackets and helmets which could provide some interesting colour variation on the bases... although for the purists out there this does limit the miniatures to any battles after Isandlwana and in the first part of the campaign to only those battles that Column No 3 took part in.

Again the most expensive option, once again I do think that these miniatures would add more to the bases they occupy than what they would take away so long as they are mixed in with other manufacturers offerings.

Zulu Command (ZW3) 20 for £3.50 (17.5p per miniature in 5 varieties)

No matter what else I say about Steve Barbers miniatures, no matter how much I say they may have got wrong THIS pack they most definitely got absolutely right... and to such a degree that it more than makes up for any and every deficiency in any of their other miniatures.

Zulu command is thin on the ground from all other manufacturers with only a smattering of individuals being provided by Pendraken, and those with only individual poses that are limited to battlefield commanders.

The miniatures of this pack are all well proportioned with no elongated limbs and no weapons that would crush the average Swarzenegger amongst us. Here you will find the only miniature of a Zulu Inkosi (King) both on horseback and on foot with staff. At a push you could do a bit of body swapping and have the Inkosi on horseback repurposed to Indunas on horseback. There were a lot more Zulu's mounted on horseback than pop culture gives them credit for.

The third figure could represent either an Isangoma, which is a person in touch with the spirit world, an intermediary able to divine the future and detect withcraft (which ironically was one of the British reasons for going to war with the Zulus) or an Inyanga which is the Zulu version of a doctor who would purge the amabutho before battle is joined by providing them with Intelezi (protective medicines). The sculpting on this one starts to get a little busy BUT the sculptor has held back enough to leave everything relatively well defined. Perhaps no place on an actual battlefield but it can nonetheless provide some interesting variety on the overall aesthetic of the army.

Figure 4 represents an Isikhulu, or a great man of the nation. Essentially one of the hereditary chieftains of the kingdom. Any bases that require you to have generals on, this would take pride of place, and sports enough paraphernalia to make a convincing centrepiece for an army, and when combined with Pendrakens chieftain will, I believe,look great. Unfortunately, other than looking a little flat the one other issue with the miniature is once again the representation of the bronze war axe which Izikhulu carried. It is so poorly cast that it almost looks like a half carved knobkerrie.... still; ho hum!

Finally we come to the Induna. Another choice for command of an ibutho, this miniature suffers from a somewhat flat sculpt however with a little care the arms can be bent to provide a little motion in the miniature. The miniature sports the ubiquitous Crane feather and has enough ostentation to draw attention. Not too bad... but nothing to write home about here.

Zulu uDloko Regiment (ZW5) 20 for £3.50 (17.5p per miniature in 1 variety)

This is a curious one. This is a miniature that is supposed to represent the uDloko ibutho and is sculpted in full regalia. This is a curious option because full regalia was almost unheard of on the Zulu battlefields for almost 40 years before the Anglo Zulu war in 1879 with most warriors opting to wear little other than their loincloths and protective charm necklaces. The uDloko (The Young Crested Mamba) regiment was an old married regiment formed in 1855 from people born around 1835 so would have been about 45 at the time of the Anglo Zulu War. In 1855 they sported a row of black and white Ostrich feathers with their red leather shields whilst by the time of Isandlwana they sported only a single Crane feather in an otter skin headband with their plain white or red and white blotched shields.

This figure, because of these facts is suitable for the Zulu succession conflict between Ceteswayo and his brother of 1855 but doesn't seem to have a place in 1879

It could however possibly be used as a representation of the uThulwana regiment which was the ibutho that the Zulu king Ceteswayo was indoctrinated into along with a number of other Zulu princes. In 1879 these had a ceremonial uniform that included an otterskin headband with Sakabuli feathers on either side of the head, white Ostrich feathers on top of the head surmounted with a single Crane feather... these is no anecdotal evidence or otherwise of the uThulwana wearing full regalia onto the field however. These should only be looked at as a curio piece.

However the most significant drawback is that there is only one pose of these, meaning that so far it is the only miniature pose in full regalia... this would make for an overwhelmingly boring ibutho in my opinion! That said however there is plenty about the miniature that makes it worth painting covered as it is in feathers, monkey tails and decorations! Unfortunately these plus points are robbed again by the all too flat sculpting that is symptomatic of Steve Barber Miniatures.

I placed this order on 10th November and received it on 23rd November (13 day turnaround) and it came with a personally written 'Thankyou' for the order. Gotta count for something right?

Passable sculpts (6/10) but not up to the quality of the ones above, however does provide some more variety.

Newline Designs 

Zulus in Wardress 30 for £3.00 (10p per miniature in 5 varieties)

Not much to be said about Newlines range other than the figures are deceptively well proportioned with a surprising clarity of detail. When you first open the pack the figures do not look that great, although maybe I was getting a miniature version of snow blindness. Essentially there was just nothing that really made the miniatures stand out.

However, my own optical decrepitude aside I can say that they are well proportioned, and dovetail in with almost all of the other ranges, the minimal amount of embellishment on the miniatures, being totally in line with their Indunas instructions allows them to fit in. There is a reasonable amount of movement in the figures and enough head detail to draw the eyes attention with enough variation to make them an attractive option in your buying list.

Zulus in Full Dress 30 for £3.00 (10p per miniature in 3 varieties)

These guys, and the last in the line of miniatures that we will look at, also provide a much needed option for variety in your Zulu regiments. Other than Steve Barbers uDloko Regiment miniature(s) these are the only ones that you will find touted as being in 'Full Regalia' . Because of this they can be used alongside the uDloko miniatures to contribute to a full regalia ibutho.

The downside here is that there are only three variations of the miniature, meaning that on each base there are only a maximum of 5 variations (with the induna inclusion), two of the three options are sculpted with knobkerrie instead of ikwla and perhaps the biggest issue is that the majority of the figure 2's that were supplied were all miscast with only half shields... but then when you pay peanuts...

The order was placed on 11th November. Received it on 6th December. That's a shocking 25 day turnaround for a small order of two packs and on top of that this is a total reduction in the time taken because of the first packs supposedly going missing in the post!

Order times

I have some opinions on the time it takes to receive things in the UK:

Just to put these turnaround times into some clarity, in the month of December I made four further orders, two from America, one from Poland and one from Australia. All but the Polish order were from small companies, the Polish one being a big book supplier and ALL of them arrived within 10 days!

Andy at Old Glory UK and Magister Militum were the performers here but Steve Barber and Pendraken with a 13 and 14 day turnaround I can choke down without complaint but it could be better BUT Newline Designs turnaround time was shocking. The fact that their miniature are the cheapest can only infer so much patience but in my opinion... not nearly enough!

The Big Picture

The one thing that it seems most sculptors of Zulu ranges (in 10mm) seem to be unaware of, or at the very least unappreciative of, is the fact that Zulu attire was extremely regimented with absolutely everybody in an ibutho wearing the same dress.

This isn't such a bad thing with the amabutho that sported wardress that were dressed in little more than a loincloth but when it comes to the more extravagantly attired ibutho you are either very VERY limited in your options or else you just suck it up and mix outfits... just as I will do with my uThulwana ibutho.

The main dividing line between the miniatures are the married and unmarried figures with the married amabutho taking a far numerically inferior part of a Zulu army. The married figures are limited to Old Glory UK and a smattering from Steve Barber Miniatures but the unmarried figures, or else those that are suitable for unmarried troops are prolific.

Fortunately the majority of the miniatures place well together and so can be mixed freely creating a great variety within each ibutho.

The Magister Militum miniatures are a noticeable difference from all of the others and therefore I believe only really suitable for a really young ibutho... except for the fact that all of them are sculpted with an isicoco leaving your with two options. Either you trim away the isicoco and use them for a young ibutho such as the uVe (The Flycatcher Bird) amabutho formed between 1875 and 1878. On the eve of the Anglo Zulu war they were incorporated alongside the iNgobamakhosi (The Humbler of Kings) ibutho in the Undi corp. This was such a big corp however that I would be inclined to choose another. During the war Ceteswayo had a cadet ibutho called the uFalaza (The Clouds of Heaven), only being incorporated after his return from exile. Essentially their role would have been more symbolic than practical.

Of course you could also take the line that there are a vast variety of physiques in the human race and just put them into any of your amabutho.

Where your firearm armed Zulu's are concerned you have little option but to include them wherever you can. It is important to realise that a lot of Zulu's carried firearms along with their other equipment. The Zulu Inkosi and Izikhulu had understood, from the time of Shaka that firearms were changing the face of warfare and made it policy to provide Zulu manpower for the colonial mining operations and taking firearms as payment. Zululand was flooded with firearms, the downside being that they were, until Isandlwana low quality muskets and such like with a lack of powder and shot to provide resources for intensive training.

There were Zulu's who were crack shots, Ceteswayo and Dabulamanzi amongst them, but just not enough to make a difference... which the defenders of Rorkes Drift can thank their lucky stars for.

The final word though is that there is enough variety out there to create one hell of an army!

Fix Bayonets!


  1. Very useful overview. I hope you plan to do the same comparison with the British forces. ;-)

    1. Damn right I will mate. Its one of my projects on the chalk board for next year... just as soon as I get an appreciable amount of Zulus finished and out of the gates! :D Watch this space (along with my CEFEO by the way)