The Drift 1879 – AAR – Part 1

Jeff Lapkoff recently released his latest wargaming title, The Drift 1879, and it covers a subject many of you will know is very dear to my heart, namely the Battle of Rorke’s Drift.

I’ve been feverishly trying to get the time together to play this beauty and to get an AAR out so that you can experience the thrill of this epic last stand against the Zulus. Don’t forget to look through my Zulus on the Ramparts boardgame AAR, which covers the same battle. Also check out my Age of Rifles AAR battle just prior to The Drift at Isandlwana, or the same massacre in my Day of the Spears II AAR.

So without further ado, let’s get on with it..


I chose the Historical Setup, because I wanted the game to play out as historically as it could. As you can see there are options to switch sides, play by Email (PBEM) and tweak various settings, whether beneficial or deterimental. As can be seen, theres an overwhelming force of up to 3000 Zulu warriors bearing down on The Drift.

As the game loads up, we are reminded of the song, Men of Harlech a rousing anthem which was sung defiantly by the cast of the film Zulu.

The game allows you to set the standing orders for the British troops, giving the player some tuning to the various forms of combat and also to automatically attempt a rally and re-supply at the end of a turn.

You can also check out the British Order of Battle, and the facility is there to look into each Company and see the names of the men.

The Zulu Order of Battle is very much more concise, but the numbers involved are truly terrifying!

Before the battle begins, we can see the numbers involved clearer in the battle report. 140 British servicemen against 3030 native Zulu’s!

The Zulu Prince kaMpande orders the attack on the Drift.

As we begin the battle, the Zulu’s have been sighted on the Shiyane!

Here’s our first look at the Drift, and I’ve already performed the initial placement of your men, wanting to keep clusters of men together to cover the perimeter mealie bag walls sufficiently enough, but to have the fluidity of movement to plug any gaps as they arise. I have the Lt. Bromhead on the North wall, and Chard on the South wall. With other starred characters in the middle to help out with supply etc., when they are needed. I place two men over on the west wall of the cattle Kraal, and a single man next to the Storehouse perimeter.

The action begins, with Sniper fire from Zulu snipers in place on the rocky cliffs to the North of the encampment.


The first offensive wave begins with the Zulu Warriors of the Chest formation advancing across the open ground to the Northern Wall. Sniper rounds cracking above their heads and harassing my men.

On Turn 1, you can see we lost one man to fairly inaccurate (but lucky) Zulu Rifle fire! I hope the kill/death ratio doesn’t stay at that level or we won’t last very long.

There are two main defensive structures in The Drift, the Hospital and the Storehouse. Currently, the hospital holds four groups of patients with various injuries. You can check the residents inside of the Hospital, and attempt to exit the building or evacuate it totally.

Similarly, you can look into the Storehouse – at the beginning of the game, the Storehouse is usually empty, but I’ve garrisoned a six man Company in there to provide defensive fire outside the compound, from the troops blind side Northwards. Interesting to note that these structures provide a modicum of protection from incoming fire, but also the Storehouse is an ammo store, and any troops in there will no run out of ammo. Topping themselves up when necessary.

By Turn 2, I’ve set off a number of volley’s at the incoming Zulu Chest, and the shots have hit home and disrupted one or two of them as well as routing others. Lt. Bromhead frantically shouting orders to get his men used to the chaos of battle under these extreme circumstances.

We have dispatched a further 3 Zulu warriors and caused 4 more wounded.

The lads continue to gain their stride and fire away steadily at the incoming remnants for the next turn.

Turn 3 sees plenty more Zulu warriors downed (another 12) along with 5 more wounded, and 2 that have disbanded and fled.


The killing is maintained for the next turn, and the Chest continues it’s push to our wall.

By Turn 5, we have 20 Zulu’s dead, a further 5 more wounded on the field, and another 12 who have fled in terror! However we have lost another redcoat, to Zulu rifle fire.


On Turn 6, the remaining Zulu Chest are forced to rout due to our withering volley fire.

Chard cries out that he has spotted the Right Horn advancing from the South!

The Right Horn, line up along a tall grassy field preparing themselves for the charge.

Looking at the Drift from a bird’s eye view, you get a sense of the scale and approaches to the Drift. Also you can see the Zulu Prince and his (lucky) snipers on the crags far North.

A rally is in order.

By Turn 8, some of the savage exchanges of fire have bitten hard into our numbers we now have 5 men down. With only 33 Zulus down.

My worst fear has been realised so early in the battle. Lt. Bromhead has been sniped and taken out.

Our morale drops by a point or two! Especially mine! How could I have been so stupid to put him in the front lines?

The Right Horn has broken its cover and charged towards the Southern Wall. My lads line up, readying their Martini-Henry rifles to hit them with a volley of fire. However the plateau’s to the South Eastern corner seems to shield some of the Zulu’s from direct fire.

The heavy volley we put down, routs most of the Right Horn’s left flank. Only those protected by the plateau’s escape the redcoats wrath!

By Turn 10, our total losses creep up to 6 whilst the toll for the Zulu’s is 138.

I move my men forward and form along the Northern wall to meet the incoming Zulu Chest. The resulting fire shakes the Zulus and forces many to rout. Intermittent pot-shots are also coming out of the Hospital.

The remaining Right Horn is now peppered by fire and more routing ensues.  Close up, even the plateau doesn’t afford much protection.

Chard spots Zulus incoming from the West, beyond the Kraal. The Zulu Left Horn makes its push!

The pastor passes round the much needed Ammunition.

 By Turn 11, the Left Horn are firing their rifles into the compound.

By Turn 11, our casualties are mounting up, 9 dead, for 161 Zulus (although only 55 of them are dead).

I pull the soldiers protecting the Storehouse round to form up a firing line on the inner Kraal wall. Unless they sweep round to the North (and become open to fire from the Storehouse itself), the Zulu Left Horn has to come over the stone Kraal wall. An excellent opportunity for my men to open up, when the enemy is in this prone position.

By Turn 12, the Right Horn have more or less broken up. They’ll be back.

We’ve managed to halt the casualties for the moment, whilst pushing the Zulu total up to 184. Sadly my lads haven’t got the luxury of being wounded or disbanding. If you’re wounded, you still keep firing, or you help with the ammo distribution. If you want to disband, there’s nowhere to flee to!


As expected by Turn 13, the fire thrown down from the Kraal wall has disrupted, routed and broken the Left Horn on their way in.

On Turn 14, a renewed Right Horn forms up, lingering on the edge of the grass field. Our fire into these fields is quite ineffective, just a waste of ammo. I think they’re waiting for the right moment to press their charge.

By Turn 16, the moment is deemed right, and the Right Horn make their play. Luckily for us, the majority of the horn is concentrated in the open stretch and the fire laid down cuts them to ribbons, routing and breaking the formation. A straggler flanks right, using the plateau to cover their push.


Again, by turn 16, we’re still holding without further casualty. Morale raising slightly. Zulu losses up to 241, with 74 dead.

Unfortunately, Chard spots that the Zulu Reserve is mobilising alongside another Right Horn attack. There seems to be no end to the bodies the Zulus can throw at us!

By Turn 17, both the Reserve (light brown shields) and the Right Horn (dark brown shields) begin advancing towards the Drift.

On Turn 18 another Left Horn formation charges the Kraal. I bring up an extra company and the pastor to help secure our western flank, whilst we’re being assaulted from the South.

By Turn 20, our fire has put to rout both the Zulu Reserve and the Left Horn. I’m really pleased with just how good a defensive position the stone walled Kraal is. The Reserve are charging through open territory, whilst my men are on a raised platform firing down upon them. Devastating in volleys.

Here you can see our position as we are being attacked from three sides at once. The Southern wall has to hold!

By Turn 20, we’ve lost two more men to Zulu rifle and musket fire, taking us to 11 dead, but we have inflicted 300 losses to the Zulus – with nearly 100 of those dead.

Unfortunately, a determined push by the Right Horn has made it to the Southern wall! With a company disrupted they are now facing Zulu Assegai with rifle butts and bayonets.

The disrupted company are cut down in their pride, and the Zulu Right Horn wash their spears in our blood!

Turn 20 has turned sour for us, we’ve lost 7 more men in the melee that ensued. The Zulus are breaching the Southern Wall, the situation has gone from an organised shoot, to one of cold steel, stabbing, grisel and bone! With 315 losses, 98 dead, the Zulus look stronger than ever. Our superior rifles and our disciplined firing formations start to look very much overwhelmed simply by numbers.


Join me in the next part to see how we coped with the wall breach from these viscious warriors of the Zulu Right Horn!


[On to Part 2]


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Ian Bowes / spelk