There is a need for introductory wargames in our hobby that can be used to teach the concepts of wargames to new players. Very few designers focus on this area but Bill Molyneaux is one of those as he has designed several introductory wargames over the years including Bloody Mohawk and Savage Wilderness. In the past year or so, he has struck up a new partnership to design games for Fast Play Wargames and released a new game called Battle of Brandywine on Kickstarter last spring. He now has another similar design in the works and it is getting ready to go on Kickstarter soon called Horns of the Buffalo and it deals with multiple small scenarios of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu War. We reached out to Bill and he was more than willing to share with us.

If you are interested in Horns of the Buffalo, you can order a copy on the Kickstarter game page at the following link (this page is just a preview until the game officially launches on February 11th):

The Kickstarter Campaign goes live as of Saturday, February 11th.

Grant: What historical event does Horns of the Buffalo cover?  

Bill: Horns of the Buffalo covers the Anglo Zulu War of 1879. The combat system is a version of other games I have designed such as Bloody Mohawk and Savage Wilderness. The game box will include 12 different scenarios Sihayo’s Kraal, Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, Inyezane River, Intombi Drift, Ulundi, Ulundi Ambush, Hlobane, Kambula, Buller’s Pursuit, Gingindlovu and Prince Imperial.

Grant: Why did you want to design a game on the Zulu Wars?

Bill: I have been interested in the history of the Anglo-Zulu Wars since my high school days and continued that interest through college. I had the chance to work with famous game designer Dennis L. Bishop who is also a professor, and we had talked about the subject for years. We finally connected with Peter Schutz and we worked out the details of the game including mechanics and what battles would be included to properly tell the story. Sadly, Dennis has passed away and I shelved the game for nearly two years. But, recently had an opportunity to dust it off and make it with Fast Play Wargames.

I had worked with Dennis as his play tester for years and we grew quite close. He had been on tours of historical forts all thru New York and he called me up and said you are now taking over for me as your games are everywhere in these fort’s gift shops.  I visited him several times before he died. If no one buys the game that is fine I will at least have finally completed it and am dedicating the effort to him and his memory. I miss him more than you would believe!

Grant: What sources did you consult for the design and what must read source would you recommend? 

Bill: The list of books on the Zulu Wars are endless but The Washing of the Spears by Donald R. Morris is considered by many as the Bible on the subject. Like Lions They Fought by Robert B Edgerton is also quite good.

Grant: What is important to model in a game covering the Anglo-Zulu Wars?

Bill: The horns of the bull or buffalo is an actual Zulu battle formation that resembled a crescent shape with two flanks moving to encircle the enemy. The formation was  known by Europeans as the “horns of the bull”, and had been developed over hundreds of years when hunting large herds of game. It was important to make sure that this tactic was possible in the game and what I produced is a game with twelve scenarios of the Zulu War with a similar system as my other games that allows for players to explore the different battle and learn history while doing so.

Grant: What is the scale of the game and the force structure and makeup of units?  

Bill: The units are abstract in a way as one unit represents a scale of say 100 men in one scenario and yet maybe 30 in another scenario. As long as both sides are equal, then the scale works. This has worked well in my other games of the French and Indian War, War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War games like Battle of Brandywine.

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters?

Bill: The counters are completed and there are roughly 88 counters and they are double sided. There are two sides in the game, the British and the Zulu. Each side has various units, such as infantry, artillery, Gatling guns, cavalry, rockets, and Leaders. These are two-step units that start on their full-strength side unless otherwise noted by scenario rules.  Some units have no reduced flip side.

The 3 numbers along the bottom coincide with Melee Combat Value, Ranged Fire Combat Value and finally Movement. The small numbers beside the Ranged Fire Combat Value are the number of dice that can be rolled.

Grant: How did you go about the process of assigning the various combat values on these units?

Bill: It is always a process of first identifying the most powerful units in the game and the weakest and then modeling the other units off of those. I used the same approach in French and Indian model and added in ranged combat so if you have played my other games., including the French and Indian War Vol-1 and Vol-2, Bloody Mohawk, Savage Wilderness you can play this game. This part of design for me is a lot about feel. Feel for how the units should work and how they compare to other units. Some designers use spreadsheets and odds calculations, which is not my style. I like to design from the historical feel.

Grant: What role do Leaders play? How do they effect other units?

Bill: Leaders are handled differently than other units. They are normally stacked with a unit and move at that unit’s movement factor. During combat, the Leader subtracts 1 to all rolls by the unit it is stacked with (rolling low is good in this game). Only one Leader is allowed to stack with a unit.

A Leader that is alone, who has not been killed or captured, has a Movement Factor of 4.

When a unit that is stacked with a Leader and must pass a Retreat roll, the Leader subtracts 1 for the units retreat roll. If a Leader is stacked with a unit that receives a step loss during combat, roll 1d10 for Leader survival. On a 1-2 the leader is killed, otherwise the Leader survives. If at any time a Leader is alone, adjacent to an enemy unit, or an enemy unit moves adjacent to an enemy lone Leader, that Leader is killed-captured, unless otherwise specified by special scenario rules. If a Leader is alone in a hex after combat, and is not killed-captured, they may move using their movement factor of 4 as described to link up with other units.

Grant: What are some examples of specific Leaders?

Bill: The Leaders are all abstracted and not identified specifically on the counters. But, in one scenario you will have Leaders that represent Lt. Chard and Bromhead and in another scenario they may represent Buller for example. In effect, for simplicities sake, all Leaders operate the same.

Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?

Bill: As the game is intended as an introductory wargame, and designed more for patrons at forts and museums, the Sequence of Play is fairly simple. Player A moves, Player B fires defensively or initiates melee, Player A fires or initiates melee then Player B moves and Player A fires defensively or initiates melee and then player B fires or melee. This is the same system as my other games all based on a D10 with no CRT needed.  

Grant: How does combat work? 

Bill: A simple D10 roll and is then compared to the Combat Value of the firing unit and it that rolled number is lower on the D10 after being modified by range, terrain, and Leaders a hit is scored.

The Gatling gun units represent an early machine gun and function a bit differently in combat. It has a little number 3 next to its fire power rating. This unit may roll up to three dice and may roll all three dice at one hex or three separate hexes as long as they are all adjacent. You are not required to roll all three dice, the drawback of using three dice per combat phase if you roll three 10’s the unit is broken or out of ammunition and is removed from the game. Rolling two dice or one dice has no negative results. Play it safe and only fire two dice bursts until it looks serious. 

The Rocket battery is an odd unit that needs some description. It has a range of 2-6 hexes but may not fire at an adjacent unit. It also may not move and it fights to the last stand! It always hits on a 1-3 with no Range modifiers or terrain modifiers. It cannot retreat.

Grant: Did you consider ratcheting up the complexity by using a CRT? How do new players react to your chosen combat system?

Bill: The combat system is the same other as my other games except that I added Gatling Guns, Rockets, and of course the power of the Martini Henry Rifle that has a range of four hexes. CRT’s are not used as this is a level of complexity not found in the design. I have found that new players struggle with the concept of odds based attacks but understand quickly a to hit number based on Combat Value.

Grant: How does Advance After Combat work?

Bill: Similar to other wargames, as the attacker if you win the combat you get to advance into the hex or if the defender that suffered a loss, then rolls it’s morale and fails it retreats and you may then advance into the hex. This is a very important aspect for the Zulu warriors who have poor range and excel at melee combat. They need to keep advancing and moving into melee range.

Grant: How is retreat triggered?  

Bill: Anytime that a unit is hit and takes a loss in combat, you flip the counter over and roll the current Melee Value as it doubles for the Morale number. If you fail the roll, the unit must retreat to an adjacent hex.

Grant: Why was a D10 chosen for combat? What advantage does this give the design? 

Bill: It works as it gives you a range of number to hit in a percentage compared to 100 percentage;. In my opinion, new players can visualize a D10 easier than a D6 in there terms. It also works well with the concept of ranged attack for the British Martini Henry Rifle as it can hit a target at four ranges but at each further hex out it loses 10 percent chance to hit or the to hit value increase by 1.

Grant: How is victory achieved?

Bill: The Scenarios all have different victory conditions but most of time it is simply defeating the enemy with a set number of killed units. Another example of a victory condition in a scenario that isn’t units related is in Sihayo’s Krall where there are 7 hexes identified as the Kraal where cattle were held. If the British can move a unit into or through all 7 hexes, placing a fire counter once completed, they will win the game.

Grant: What different scenarios are included?

Bill: The scenarios included total 12 and include Sihayos Kraal, Isandlwana, Rorkes Drift, iNyezane River, Intombi Drift, Ulundi, Ulundi Ambush, Hlobane, Kambula, Bullers Prusuit, Ginginlovo, Prince Imperial. Many of these battles have never been covered in a board war game before.

Grant: What do you feel the game models well?

Bill: I think that the game does a good job of keeping rules simple and understandable so that it can be learned quickly and get to playing. It also plays very quickly. There is a lot to be learned from the differences in each sides counters and their relative advantages. The British have better ranged fire but the Zulu’s have great advantage in close melee combat. Each player must learn these advantages quickly and use them in order to win.

Grant: What has been the experience of your playtesters?

Bill: We had several play testers and Peter Schutz down in Australia had some college kids playing it and we had some things to work out like the Cavalry would get over ran so we came up with a way the cavalry can forfeit their defense fire and retreat away from  a melee.

Grant: What are you most pleased about with the design?

Bill: The design is a fun basic game that can be played in under an hour per scenario and heck you get TWELVE games in one box all with different maps that are easy to set up.  Also you can use the scenarios and OOB for miniature war games too.

Grant; What other designs are you contemplating or already working on?

Bill: I have a game I am making for a fort nearby Albany, New York called the Old Stone Fort. It was featured in a movie by John Ford in 1938 called “Drums Along the Mohawk”. Their gift shop manager asked me to make them a game about the battle there. I also have a video of the fort on my YouTube Channel “Bill’s History and War Game World” at the following link:

Grant: When do you feel the game will be fulfilled and delivered?

Bill: My printer is in Vestal, New York and all the counters have already been produced, I need a little help from KS fans to have the maps made by an artist. My early games we did not use an artist and looking back I wish we had. I have three War of 1812 games where each box contains 10-12 scenarios but the maps are not up to todays standards back in 1980 they were cutting edge.  I think we would have the game published in 3-4 months after it is fulfilled but Jeff Alent my printer would know better. Battle of Brandywine was fulfilled faster than I thought as we were shipping out in 10 weeks or so. 

Thanks for this opportunity to discuss the game. I would like to say this game has been the most difficult to work on when I shelved it as Dennis Bishop passed away and we had been working on games together for over 20-30 years and for awhile I could not get it back on the table and it was almost done. His wife Pam has given me permission to dedicate the game to him and also use his pictures in the rule book or box cover.

Thanks for your time in answering our questions Bill. I appreciate the story of the development of the game and can appreciate your feelings about your friend. I am sure that the game will make him proud!

If you are interested in Horns of the Buffalo, you can order a copy on the Kickstarter game page at the following link (remember this is just a preview until the campaign goes live on February 11th):