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.