Here comes the guide to the for sure toughest nation to beat the Scramble for Africa Scenario: The Zulu. The following paragraphs detail the important first steps, mistakes to avoid and strategies to apply to succeed against the invading Europeans with their overwhelming and technologically advanced military forces. Fortunately we’ve got some great unique traits awaiting. Using the Scramble for Africa Zulu strategy we will not let the Zulu be defeated like their historic ancestors. After several unsuccessful attempts (as described in the “Don’ts” below) I’ve found this reddit post roughly outlining the essentials and most of all: Showing that it’s possible to win with the Zulu.
Cetshwayo successfully repelled the British army invading Southern Africa and later Zululand in particular. Several battles against the technologically and tactically much advanced British were won, despite a high blood price. As the Anglo-Zulu War raged, especially after the First British Invasion had been extinguished, the Zulu had a chance to roam into British (claimed) territories. Cetshwayo refused to do so, aiming at merely repulsing the British bot not provoke further retaliations. However the British returned, with overwhelming force, ending the history of a free Zulu kingdom with the Battle of Ulundi in 1879. The Zulu army dispersed and Cetshwayo became a fugitive. After being captured he was exiled to Cape Town and London for a few years. He returned to Zululand in 1882. The last king of an independent Zulu kingdom died in 1884.
We’re not gonna repeat history this time: The Scramble for Africa Zulu strategy will layout in detail how to first resist both England and Portugal, train and upskill a huge army, in order to not only win the Scramble for Africa, but actually conquer the Portuguese colonies in Southeast Africa!
Scramble for Africa Zulu Strategy – In a nutshell
Here’s the Dos and Don’ts for playing Scramble for Africa as the Zulu:
- don’t impede the Boers in settling down – they are your meat shield to the West
- build units early, mainly Crossbowmen, focus on culture buildings later
- use citadels for offense and defense
What also helps is a nice defensible position, meaning central South African land that is ideally shielded from the coast by a long stretch of mountains. For example my Initial Zulu save game.
Mistakes to avoid playing the Scramble for Africa as Zulu
The first mistake is to grab too much land. It’s a tempting one, since in some maps the land seems quite fortunate: Mountain range, easily defensible etc. It’s wrong for several reasons: It keeps the Boers from settling, so we have to deal with all of the Europeans. At the same time we spread our initial army too thin and lose units. So we can’t get them promoted to veterans and weaken our long game.
Another mistake is to prefer Great Generals over Citadels. Yes, of course, the +15% combat bonus is nice. But a unit with +200% on defense in a strategically well placed Citadel, covering 6 tiles with Zone of Control is worth much more. So: Use Generals for Citadels first!
Yes, I’ve learned the hard way that land grab is wrong. I’ve repeated that mistake. Even well placed Citadels need your initial army for defense. In the third attempt I spaced out my cities much more, leaving space to the West for the Boers, but they still didn’t settle. So again it was only me dealing with Europeans coming from two fronts:
Zulu Unique Traits and Combat Tactics
Even though the Zulu score Victory Points (VP) in this scenario by Culture per turn, all their unique traits are military based. That’s great for two reasons: One being the fact that you need a strong military to defend against a never ending onslaught of English and Portuguese technologically advanced units. The second being that you actually earn culture for defeated enemies and it counts towards your VP!
- Unique unit: Impi (same as the base game).
- Bonus vs Mounted (50)
- Spear Throw: Before engaging in melee, this unit has an extra attack.
- 25% Strength bonus against Gunpowder units
- Unique building: Ikanda (same as the base game). Grants a free promotion for Impi and Swordsmen and will unlock 2 more follow up promotions:
- Buffalo Horns: +1 movement, +25% flank attack bonus, +10% defense against ranged attacks (Granted automatically)
- Buffalo Chest: +10% open terrain bonus, +25% flank attack bonus, +10% defense against ranged attacks (Requires Buffalo Horns)
- Buffalo Loins: +10% combat strength, +25% flank attack bonus, +10% defense against ranged attacks (Requires Buffalo Chest)
- Unique power: Solar Eclipse — +25% Combat bonus for units fighting technologically advanced units.
All these bonuses combined, an Impi with a base strength of 16 gets pretty powerful when attacking with at least 1 flanking unit:
- 17.5% flank attack bonus
- 15% when fighting in own territory (from Nationalism Social Policy, see below)
- 15% from another unit in an adjacent tile (from Discipline Social Policy)
- 10% combat strength from Buffalo Loins
- 15% from a nearby Great General
- 25% from Solar Eclipse
Scramble for Africa Zulu First steps
Then settle Umgungundlovu (your 2nd city) in a decent spot not too far from Beira and Lourenco Marques. Too far east though and it’s too little room for maneuver against Portugal. Too far west and you’ll block the Boers. Beware: The Boers are either stupid or bugged. If you settle to far West or to close to Pretoria, chances are they won’t build another city for 10+ turns until they fiiinally realize that there’s fertile land North of both of you. To check distances and find good attack locations (hills you want to cover) for a later attack on Portugal, check out the Scramble for Africa Map.
This is why I settled Nobamba (the Zulu’s third city) in a location that denies Portugal and Germany more cities in the West and blocked the mountain range as well. Then I gifted it (!) to the Boers. For 50 turns no enemy unit attacked me from the West.
The Boers, strong enough, with 3 good first cities, were at constant peace with the Europeans throughout the entire game. I guess their initial strength, the fact that I was at war with the Europeans and their enclosed location made it undesirable for the AI to start war with them.
Zulu Build Order
|Crossbowman 3||Crossbowman 5||15|
|Heroic Epic||Writers Guild||20|
|Units for defense, more Caravans to ramp up the economy and finish the remaining buildings in Ulundi from then on.||30|
By turn 15 the Zulu army comprises of 12 Impi and 3 Crossbowmen, fairly capable to fend of the few European, mainly British and Portuguese, units until then. By turn 30 we’ll have 6 Crossbowman, ideally haven’t lost an Impi and are mostly building units with the “Morale” promotion from Heroic Epic.
Those early Crossbowmen will form the basis for your late game offense against the Portuguese or English: When the game ended, I’ve had 17 Crossbowmen, 9 of them with Logistics (fire twice per turn) and 4 of them with Range (+1 range) promotions.
Scramble for Africa Zulu strategy for Social Policies
There probably is some room for maneuver, but in all the attempts I took, only the following order and use of Social policies was successful:
|1. Warrior Code: +15% Production training melee units, a free Great General and +50% faster generation of Great Generals||2. Fine Arts: 50% of excess Happiness contribute to Culture per turn|
|3. Nationalism: +15% combat bonus in your territory|
|3. Genius: A free Great Person of your choice appears next to the capital|
|5. Discipline: +15% combat strength for units with another unit in an adjacent tile||6. Cultural Centers: +5 Culture from each Great Work|
As the free Great Person choose another Great General. Use it for the next Citadel in defense of Ulundi.
Scramble for Africa Zulu strategy to defend Ulundi
Ulundi can not be defended merely with units at the start. The number of incoming European, mainly English and Portuguese units makes this impossible. You’ll need defensible terrain AND Citadels. In my successful game here’s the order of Citadels I built:
- First I built a Citadel towards England, not too close to Port Elizabeth, but well capturing their resources and in a good defensible spot. Ideally your map features 2 lines of hills North of Port Elizabeth: One line to fortify and the Southern hills to slow down Cavalry and block line of sight for Rifled Cannons.
- The second Citadel goes on the hills towards Lourenco Marques. Again: To fortify the hills, but out firing range of the enemy Navy. This Citadel needs to be defended at all costs, because unlike the English, who come in waves, Portugal sends a steady stream of units. Once pillaged, rebuilding will be hard.
- Citadels number 3 and 4 go to the coast, covering 4 tiles of coastline which can otherwise bomb Ulundi unchallenged. These and your ever growing number of Crossbowmen will defeat the European Navies at your shores and contribute greatly to your overall score.
Bulawayo, the 3rd Zulu city, after gifting away Nobamba to the Boers, was only founded in turn 59 (!) when the pressure of incoming settlers from the North (Belgian Kongo) and East (Portuguese) was becoming unbearable. Production there is almost negligible: Some units to support offense and defense.
With that solid defense around Ulundi, I made sure almost each Crossbowman could fire every turn, gaining massive experience, leveling them up, but also scoring lots of Victory Points through culture earned. However the game stayed quite thrilling since Ethiopia was pumping out culture en masse, keeping on par with my score for very long. I ranked #1 for the first time in turn 56, but during their turn, Ethiopia always overtook me again for another 7 turns:
|57||Taking the lead for the first time…||…but Ethiopia always overtakes each turn|
Scramble for Africa Zulu strategy for conquering European colonies
Once your defense is solid and veteran Crossbowmen have not much to fire on each turn, why not turn our crosshairs to another optional, but extremely rewarding goal: Bombing and sooner or later capturing European colonies. In this game it would be possible to aim at the British as well, since from hills North of Port Elizabeth it could well be bombed. I still picked Portugal, because I wanted to connect my land East of Bloemfontein and also Lourenco Marques can only be attacked by one privateer per turn and was easier to defend.
Both England and Portugal were willing to make peace by that time. Because I was well fortified and could fend them off time and time again, I refused to make peace, but kept scoring culture-VP from killing their ships.
With a 6th Citadel supporting the advance and overall 3 Great Generals supporting my troops I was able to also capture a 2nd Portuguese city. All that done on Deity difficulty:
The Zulus are most certainly among the top 3 most difficult nations to beat the Scramble for Africa Scenario. With 7h 48min playtime it was a good duration to be engaging. The constant score race vs. Ethiopia made it quite thrilling at times. The excitement of seeing your capital bombed to shreds, defending against enemy units capturing it only by covering zones of control, is even more exciting. All the more rewarding: A final score of 7074 VP, thus the 2nd highest in all my Scramble for Africa games.
Some surprising observations of the Europeans and the way, my fellow African nations fared: As usually the Ottomans were gone in less than 10 turns. Italy however proved either unable or unwilling to capture more of Egypt than Alexandria and Suez, so Egypt stayed a land-based nation throughout the entire game. France, unconstrained by the action of a human player in North Africa (regardless of the civilization played by said human) made short work of Morocco who fell incredibly early. The Boers survived alongside me, while of course Ethiopia didn’t lose a single city. Quite the contrary actually: A rare occasion, Ethiopia founded 7 cities. The map was so fortunate for them that they had the usual three Natural Wonders inside their borders and stayed well isolated from European intruders. Still beating them in score was quite a remarkable accomplishment.