Eastern South African Armies in the Balance

In response to Mr. Holidays article on the Zulu army that appeared in RSA Gamer last issue, I feel that it is necessary to correct some inaccuracies.

First, the Eastern South African area had experienced a good deal of activity prior to the arrival of the White Colonial Powers. The incidence of Warfare, large scale battles and Kingdom-scale organization did not miraculously "appear" as soon as the European powers arrived.

In the Eastern Coastal Regions of the African coast, there have been many records of organized, civilized Kingdoms dating from as early as the 8th Century from Arabic and Chinese records. The legendary Kingdoms of Pelemumba (Tanzania and Mozambique) have left many ruins in the area which are, at best, excavated in the sporadic and poorly-funded way so typical of Africa. At worst, many of these treasure troves of African History have been blasted to rubble in the civil Wars and other post-colonial unrest typical of this region.

While Zimbabwe Ruins have been detailed quite well, there are still many contemporary Kingdoms have only recently been discovered in The Transvaal Lowland and parts of Swaziland. Evidence is also quite strong that there are more Early Iron Age sites waiting to yield some surprises in the Region, especially as regards the military relationships of the early Iron Age migrants (c 200BC - 200AD) and the settled Middle Iron Age civilizations (c 100AD - 500AD). The disruption and re-settlement patterns are intriguing,

and although unsubstantiated, could allow for conjection based on reasonably accurate expectations.

The preconception of the Eastern Area of the Southern African subcontinent being a wild woody backwards area is quite unfounded. The Zulu were not as disorganized as Mr. Holliday may represent them, and the area was not lacking the the ideas and practices of civilization or political concentration. The Swazi, Tsonga, and Shona people all had thriving, centralized Kingdoms from at least the end of the 13th Century. These Kingdoms, although stable in the long run, underwent little actual expansion in any particular century of any note prior to Colonial History.

From the beginning of the 18th Century, things started to change. Increased European encroachment polarized this region, and some of these Kingdoms started to aggressively consolidate their borders, primarily to offset displacement by fleeing or migrating tribes, which had begun as early as the 16th Century in the Portuguese areas, but only much later became an "flood" of migrations as the European "scramble for Africa" stakes became higher.

The Tsonga had been aggressively pursuing "Empire" tactics from the end of the 18th Century, and were perhaps the most successful and certainly the largest Kingdom in this area until Shaka's time. Many of his tactics and political ideas were loaned from the Tsonga, and the time he spent in that Kingdom in his youth. From my own research into the areas and my fascination with the military

practices of the various Kingdoms I feel I should offer an alternative set of DBM lists which I feel to be more to the point. The lack of written material is only compounded by cross-referencing in foreign languages, but I feel these lists to be more accurate than the ones Mr. Holliday has forwarded.


Warm, Ag 0. H(S), H(G), Wd, Rgo, Rd, BUA.

C-in-C as Irr Ax (O) @ 23AP 1

Sub-General as Irr Ax (O) @ 23AP 1-2

Ally-General as Irr Ax (O) @ 13AP 0-3

Warriors as Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP 10-60

Warriors as Irr Wb (F) @ 3AP 0-30

Levy as Irr Ax (I) @ 2AP 12-100

Scouts as Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 10-30

Cadets as Irr Hd (F) @ 1AP 0-2


Cannibal Queen as Irr LH (F) @ 9AP 0-1*

Cannibal Raiders as Irr LH (F) @ 4AP 0-3*

Cannibals as Irr Hd (S) @2AP 0-4*

Cannibals as Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 0-8*

These tribes have been a constant military threat to the settled Nguni Kingdoms in the area since the Early Iron Age. I have listed the Pondo as the mightiest of these tribes, and even today there is bad blood between the Pondo and the surrounding Nguni tribes. Troops marked * may only be used if any of them are taken. The Cannibals proved to be frustrating opponents for both Shaka and Mosheshoe, and were known to be both treacherous allies and elusive quarry. Their last Queen was both exceptionally clever, and extremely long-lived, but I have only included the faction in the time they would be actively pursued both either the Basutho or the Zulu. There is no further mention of them after the Mfecane. For the sake of playability I have included the Cannibal Queen as a more-or-less reliable Ally of the Pondo, rather than attempting to trace the Cannibals actual relationships with the greater tribes.

TSONGA 1200AD - 1800AD

Before 1700AD: Warm, Ag 1. WW, Rv, H(G), Wd, RGo, Rd, BUA.

After 1700AD: Warm, Ag 3. WW, Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, RGo, Rd, BUA.

C-in-C as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1

Sub-General as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1-2

Ally-General as Irr Ax (O) @ 13AP 0-2

Warriors as Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP 20-80

Levy as Irr Ax (I) @ 2AP 10-80

Scouts as Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 10-20

Cadets as Irr Hd (F) @ 1AP 0-4


Extra to Upgrade Warriors to Irr Ax (S) @ 4AP 0-40

Extra to Upgrade Levy to Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP any

The Tsonga have been divided between the time of the establishment of their Kingdom, until the time of "Empire" for the peoples. At the time of Shaka and his father, The Tsonga were the richest, most powerful and most organized of all of the Southern African Tribes, and certainly (until Shaka) the largest.


Xhosa Warm, Ag 2. Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, RGo, E, Rd, BUA.

Generic Warm, Ag 0. H(S), H(G), Wd, Rgo, Rd, BUA.

C-in-C as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1

Sub-General as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1-2

Ally-General as Irr Ax (O) @ 13AP 0-3

Warriors as Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP 10-30

Warriors as Irr Wb (F) @ 3AP 20-60

Levy as Irr Ax (I) @ 2AP 0-50

Scouts as Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 10-30

Cadets as Irr Hd (O) @ 2AP 0-8

This list represents the Southern Nguni tribes of Eastern Southern Africa. The Xhosa were the most centralized of the Tribes, and while their Kingdom thrived in relative peace from the Mfecane of the Northern Nguni, they had problems of their own with raiding Sotho tribes and the Khoi-san of the Southern parts of their area. Smaller tribes than the Xhosa were not necessarily as peaceful as all that, but apart from small scale raiding never managed to amass any sort of military might.


Kingdom: Warm, Ag 1. Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, RGo, E, Rd, BUA.

Empire: Warm, Ag 3. WW, Rv, H(S), H(G), Wd, Rgo, Rd, BUA.

C-in-C as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1

Sub-General as Irr Bd (F) @ 27AP 1-2

Ally-General as Irr Ax (O) @ 13AP 0-3

Warriors as Irr Ax (O) @ 3AP 6-30

Warriors as Irr Wb (F) @ 3AP 6-30

Levy as Irr Ax (I) @ 2AP 6-100

Scouts as Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 10-30

Cadets as Irr Hd (F) @ 1AP 0-8


Tsonga Allies see TSONGA list

White Shields as Irr Bd (O) @ 7AP 0-20

Black Shields as Irr Bd (F) @ 7AP 0-20

Belebele as Reg Ax (S) @ 4AP 0-15

After all that has been written on the Zulu Empire, I feel there has been a geat deal of romanticism injected into the common preconception of the army's performance. Certainly the Iklwa use could be more described as "blade" combat, but the individual combat of the warriors still leave to to recommend their Irregular status. The Belebele or Veteran unit I have made regular, and have no problems with that, save their history against the Matabele would still qualify them as Ax, not blade. The proportion of Shaka's personal guard and the direct control he exercised over the Induni would leave me little choice to qualify the numbers (based on the infrastructure of his Empire) of his Black and White shield troops, and the impetuous nature of some of his troops still qualify the Wb category. Interestingly enough it was Shaka's concept of "total war", rather than his quality of troops which made him the General he is reputed to be, and all of his greatest earlier victories were with the aid of the Tsonga rather than in complete isolation.

(Errata noticed with this e-mail: Please note that the recommended Compulsory terrain has not come out in underline with the simple MIME address format this message has been sent with. If any interest in these lists is expressed, I will be able to forward them as an Word '97 Document attachment with a complete, more accurate listing.)

Thank you,

Donald Mullany,

BLUDGEON! Research Group.