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Variant Armies

Southern African (1000 BC - 1908 AD)
DBA 181

By Mike Stelzer

The Southern African warfare covered in most of the history texts seem to show a style very much like that of some of the South American Natives, Island groups of the Pacific, and North American Plains tribes; that style being one of a show of force and an exchange of insults in many cases or exchange of missiles, sometimes followed by an exchange of blows by the older warriors. The group taking the most punishment would then leave the field to the stronger side. This style of warfare is very practical if there is more than enough room for the tribes or groups to move into new areas. More organized warfare seems historically world wide to appear when room runs out or resources need to be protected. So here are some lists that can be used in DBA to represent most of the African groups not in the Sahel or Sudan regions.

181a: Proto-Zulu (or Zulu) (500 AD to 1908 AD)

8 x 4Wb (main army), 2 x 3Bw or 4Wb*, 2 x 4Aux or 2Ps or 4Wb (allied tribes)

* Missile armed (if Zulu would be rifles), some made or had good enough bows to be used in this way.

This army represents those groups that became organized or were warlike enough to be well organized. They seem to have been able to overwhelm their opponents with tactics, fighting skill and numbers brought to the field of battle. The Zulu seem to have been the last major group but not the first. They were unique with the change in shield and spear, but not in ability to organize or field an army. They were also unique in doing away with missile troops until they started getting guns in trade or as loot, which they were quick to adopt for themselves.

181b: Southern Migratory or Nomadic Bantu (200 BC to 1540 AD)

7 x 4Ax (adult men), 4 x 2Ps (boys and young men), 1 x 4Ax or SC

This seems to have been the composition of most of the semi-nomadic groups in southern Africa. These armies would rush each other shouting insults, throwing spears/javilins or shooting bows, exchange a few blows then retreat to see who was winning. Donald Morris mentions in his book "The Washing of the Spears" that the Bantu would at times use stampeded cattle.

181c: Northern Migratory or Nomadic Bantu (750 BC to 1540 AD

6x 3Aux (adult men), 4 x 3Bw or 3Aux (bowmen or older men), 2x 2Ps (boys)

Both northern and southern groups seem to have been very similar in style but for the heavier use of the bow in the north.

181d: Settled Bantu (500 BC to 1540 AD)

4 x 4Sp (King's household troops), 6 x 4Aux (levy troops), 2x 4Bw or 4Aux

In the areas of more permanent settlement there is an appearance of household troops loyal to the king. Among the Zulu and a few others these troops could be warbands or blades in some of the West Coast tribes.

181e: East Coast Trade Centers (750 AD to 1500 AD)

2 x 4Sp or 3Cv (Arab-African infantry or Arab cavalry), 6 x 3Aux (local native levy), 2 x 3Bw (local native bowmen or later Arab hand gunners), 2 x 2Ps or 4Sp (levy or Arab mercenaries)

These city-states on the East coast of African had a very mixed population and depended on their cavalry to break non-allied tribes. The armies were mixed in composition but not in units types, Arab and Black Africans tended to be grouped separately.

181f: Bushmen, Khoisan and other primitive tribes (1000 BC to 1900 AD)

12 x 2Ps

These groups never seem to have had the numbers to field more than skirmishing armies that raided or retaliated against their invaders. They were slowly pushed into the most inhospitable areas of Africa.


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Last Updated: Dec. 24, 1999

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