Strategy with a cast of thousands

Rorke's Drift logo

THERE is a lot to be said for being in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time. It comes down to luck, which is a funny twisty turny thing. It can make you miss your bus, win at Spot the Ball or guarantee you a place in history as commanding officer of a hopelessly outnumbered garrison in the Zulu Wars.

The defence of Rorke's Drift is so famous that Michael Caine was in a film about it. However a little bit of scene setting would not be amiss.

During the Zulu Wars a bunch of guys got left behind to guard a supplies depot while another bunch fo guys went on ahead to kill all the Zulus. Unfortunately, the second of guys got wiped out, which was, like, a major setback to their overall strategy. Now the remaining Zulus advanced on the supply depot (obviously becaue they had heard how good army biscuits were) and the first bunch of guys were in the custard.

With only 136 men, some of them too ill to move never mind hold a gun or bayonet a fuzzie-wuzzie, the prospect of holding the camp against at least a couple of thousand warriors seemed more than a little remote. But they did, no doubt due to skill, strategy and heroism. But again, perhaps a little bit of luck was involved.

In this simulation you take control of the garrison just one hour before the first attack. The biscuit boxes and mealie bags have all been placed in position as they were on the day, all that remains for you to do is wait and place your men.

There are a whole range of actions each man can perform - different firing positions, moving at different rates, different attacks. All are chosen for each man from an animated menu - you do not really need to look up the manual incessantly to find out what is going on.

Each individual man has his own characteristics which will effect how accurately he can shoot and his chances in hand to hand with the native hordes. Each man must be given his orders separately, although a repeat function will allow you to move large groups easily. This individual attention makes it a bit more personal, which is a good thing in my opinion - war is personal, at least to the ones who are face to face with long pointy things.

It can take a long time to finish a game, so there is an accelerator option to speed the action a bit. Unfortunately, you cannot see the battlefield in this mode, only the number of wounded and dead on both sides.

It is wise not to over use this option as the first you will know of a new Zulu offensive is when the casuality figures start going up - at a time when you have already lost the advantage of your ranged weapons.

It is a little difficult to develop elegant strategy in such a small space, but there is skill in reacting to situations at the right time and to make efficient use of your meagre forces. It is possible to win - you are never going to kill all the Zulu, but you can hold out for long enough to make them understand what a Pyrrhic victory is.

Presentation of the game is very good and makes it easy to get into, yet at the same time it is a detailed strategy simulation which really brings home the feel and philosophy of table-top gaming.

Now it is your turn. Can you defend the garrison? Well, I doubt it, but perhaps you may have a bit of luck, too. As for me, if it was not for bad luck, I would not have any luck at all.

Rorke's Drift logo

IMPRESSIONS £19.99 * Mouse

Most computer wargames are based on the board wargame principle, with the computer handling all the mundane tasks and getting rid of the need for al those precariously-balanced cardboard counters.

There is another school of wargamers, though: the miniature wargamers. No, they're not really terrible small people; they're so called because they fight wargames on large table-tops using miniature soldiers to represent the forces of the battle
Rorke's Drift is Impression's attempt at recreating a table-top wargame on a computer.

If you're unfamiliar with the scenario (surely you must have seen the Stanley Baker movie Zulu?) it's the battle between 137 British soldiers and about 4,000 Zulu warriors during the period January 22-23 1879. The British are camped at a small group of buildings and have secured the area with biscuit boxes and mealie bags. As the commander of the British forces it's up to you to hold out against massive odds.

The game is played in two phases: orders and combat. Both are time based (in game time, that is). In the attempt to keep the game feeling as much like a table-top game as possible, the ordering system means you have complete control of each and every man. That includes deciding the facing position of the man, whether he should walk, run or charge to a certain place, when to load and aim his rifle and when to rest.

orders are issued to each man (there is a repeat order option which comes in handy when ordering a large number of men to do the same thing) and then by selecting exit your enter the battle mode and each man follows his orders until they either fulfil them or you interrupt and re-issue orders again.

Controlling the play is the game clock. During the orders phase, the game clock stops and as soon as you enter battle mode the clock starts again. The victory conditions are simple enough - the British commander just has to survive through to the next day.

As the game progresses, survival involves re-issuing ammunition to your men, using the medics to tend to the wounded and various other, ancillary operations.

With the odds stacked against you the simple fact that you have rifles and the Zulu's don't is not going to save your skin. The abilityto use your limited forces to their greatest advantage is of paramount importance.


Forget the sound; there's only a short burst of Men of Harlech at the start and that's your lot. The graphics are much better using a good, if forced, 3D perspective. All the characters are well-drawn and though the animation isn't the smoothest it doesn't impede the gameplay.


The game takes ages to play, so prepare yourself for some long games - there is a save option. Unfortunately the ability to play only one side and one scenario limits the game's lasting interest because once you've achieved the victory conditions (which shouldn't take a dedicated and competent player too long). It's doubtful you'll want to go through the whole thing all over again.


Impressions have really stuck to the rules in order to get this as much like a table-top game as possible. This doesn't always work to its advantage. The ordering system is unwieldy and awkward and can be very frustrating - it's so annoying to watch two soldiers walk into each other to reach different objectives and then both just keep colliding with each other until you interrupt and send them different ways.

Simple problems like this mean you often have to adopt unrealistic ordering sequences which just makes things unnecessarily tedious. It's tedious enough when you have to fire every man's rifle for him (especially when you have a line of 100 men and have to pick the target and fire for each one, every single time). It's the sum total of all these niggles that break the game and turn it into more of a chore than a pleasure for the average player.

Miniature fans and wargamers with a particular liking for the scenario only need to apply for this one.

Strategische Magerkost

Rorke's Drift logo

Die Jungs von Impressions scheinen der Ansicht zu sein, daß es bei den Fans von Konfliktsimulationen um eine besonders anspruchslose Spezies handelt - anders läßt sich ihr neuestes "Meisterwerk" eigentlich nicht erklären...

Rorke's Drift simuliert die 13 1/2 Stunden währende Schlacht vom 22. Januar 1879, bei der 4000 Zulus einen britischen Außenposten in Südafrika stürmten, der von nur 137 Soldaten verteidigt wurde.

Angesichts der erdrückten Übermacht geht's hier um's nackte Überleben, an einen Sieg ist kaum zu denken.
Jeder enzelne der königlichen Soldaten erscheint auf dem Screen und erwartet die Anweisungen des Spielers, eine Stunde hat man Zeit, um seine Leute (per mausgesteuertem Menü) in die strategisch günstigste Position zu bringen. Die möglichen Befehle sind: Grundstellung, Nahkampf, Schießen und Ausruhen. Nachladen darf nicht vergessen werden, damals wurde schließlich noch gestopft.

Die Grafik ist farblich hübsch, aber nicht gerade umfangreich; der Sound besteht aus strammer (und herzlich eintöniger) Marsch-musik. Das Spiel läuft in schier unglaublichem Zeitlupentempo ab, vor allem nachdem die feindlichen Horden den Bildschirm gestürmt haben, bewegt sich fast gar nichts mehr.

Dazu kommt das fürchterlichste Ruckelscrolling der jüngsten Software>wbr>geschichte und ein nur schwer ansprechbarer Mauszeiger, der die Steuerung zur harten Geduldsprobe werden läßt. Die (britische?) Krone wird dem Ganzen noch durch gelegentliche Systemabstürze aufgesetzt.

Sehr realistisch: Wer sich dieses Game zulegt, steht wahrlich auf verlorenem Posten! (wh)

Rorke's Drift logo

PRICE: £24.99

Based on historical facts, Rorke's Drift lets you reenact the infamous defence of a small hospital outfit against thousands of rampaging Zulus. These are two games to play. The first follows the true sequence of events while the other game is entirely unpredictable.

The game is played man for man, and that means a lot of planning. Each unit is capable of several different actions, including running, shooting and fighting hand to hand. How well they perform depends on how tired they are, their injuries and their own natural injuries. Thankfully, you don't have to 'program' each man individually. If you want a group of twenty men to run to the north wall, you can click on one, issue the orders, and then use the 'same orders' command on any other character as necessary.

The graphics in RD are fine. They're large, colourful, and well-animated. However, I could not help thinking how cute they all are. This did not inspire me to go out and shoot up a few thousand Zulus. Indeed, the whole idea of wiping out an under-equipped army fighting for their homeland is a bit suspect. After all, the British were the initial aggressors.

Rorke's Drift is incredibly playable. If they game had been historically accurate and the gamesplayer was aware of just why the hospital was being attacked, I would have been happier.

Sequence Of Events
Like any good wargame, Rorke's Drift plays in cycles. The first order each day is to check the field for attacking Zulus or wounded soldiers. Depending on the situation, either tend the wounded or repel an attack. While issuing commands the game time is 'frozen'. You can do this at any stage of the game and then click back into the action. The battle runs in real time, but it you find you do no have fourteen hours to spare, you can put the game into fast mode, where the screen is replaced by a large picture of a clock, and you are informed of events as they happen.