The Zulus' civilization ability is Isibongo, which causes garrisoned units to increase the Loyalty of their cities and upgrades units into Corps or Armies (and Fleets and Armadas for naval units) when they capture cities (if the necessary civics have been discovered). Their unique unit is the Impi (which replaces the Pikeman), and their unique District is the Ikanda (which replaces the Encampment).
There is strength in numbers when playing as the Zulus. A merciless conqueror, they will turn into the most "snowballing" civilization once the Impi and Mercenaries are unlocked: the more they fight, the stronger their army will grow.
All of the Zulus' unique components and abilities are geared toward a fast, aggressive playstyle. They should start producing Scouts and exploring the surrounding area as soon as the game begins while researching Pottery, Archery, Mining, and Bronze Working (and Craftsmanship, which will unlock the invaluable Agoge). They should also found at least two new cities after building a Monument in their Capital, at which point they'll most likely be ready to start building Ikanda.
With at least two cities churning out units and Trade Routes building roads to important locations, the Zulus can set out to conquer their closest neighbor. They have a good incentive not to raze the cities they capture, and instead keep them garrisoned to maintain their Loyalty (especially once they're able to form Corps). They can then fill these cities with Ikanda if they need more units for their army, or with districts that provide additional Science, Culture, Production, Amenities, and/or Trade Routes (depending on their current needs). Governors, once appointed, should be assigned to key cities far away from the Capital (such as former enemy capitals) to prevent rebellions. Once the Zulus have integrated the captured cities into their empire, it's on to their next target.
Naturally, since the Zulus are going to spend most of the game at war, they should prioritize research of technologies that unlock more advanced units. After unlocking Impi, however, they should hold off on researching Metal Casting until their unique units have earned some high-tier Promotions.
While the Zulus unlock Fleets and Armadas at the same time most other civilizations do, capturing a city with a naval unit will automatically upgrade it to a formation.
To take advantage of Shaka's leader ability, the Zulus will need to focus on early Culture development so they won't have to wait too long for Mercenaries and Nationalism. Building a Monument in every city will help with this, as will developing any Theater Squares in captured cities (and building one in any city that isn't a dedicated unit training center). After discovering these civics, they can quickly increase the number of Corps and Armies in their military by letting uncombined units capture cities.
Note that if the Zulus decide to beeline Mercenaries and/or Nationalism, they'll be stuck with a primitive form of government in the meantime. While this certainly won't cripple them, it means they won't have many policy card options until later on.
For Shaka, the name of the game is to build the world's largest and most powerful infantry force, and the Ikanda helps him immensely in achieving this goal. With it, the Zulus can train Corps and Armies as soon as they discover the requisite civics (Mercenaries and Nationalism, respectively), and without needing to build Military Academies. The ability to create Corps in the Medieval Era gives Shaka and the Zulus an early military advantage over their neighbors, which becomes even greater when they go to war and gain a new Corps each time they capture a city.
Additionally, thanks to the Ikanda being a unique District, the Zulus can construct it in half the time, meaning their first Ikanda can be completed much earlier than the full-price Encampments of other civilizations. Thanks to this, the Zulus will often be the first civilization in the game to begin earning Great General points and possibly the first to earn a Great General. Though the Zulus power spike occurs during the Medieval Era (much later than how early your Ikanda allows you to generate Great Generals), building Ikandas early still helps deny enemy civilizations of Great Generals to defend and helps tremendously toward earning the Great Generals that buff up your Impi later on.
There's not much to dislike about the Impi: it's faster to train, cheaper to maintain, and gets better flanking and XP bonuses than the Pikeman it replaces. Its low Production and Gold maintenance costs allow the Zulu player to field an army of Impi very quickly and without risking a bankruptcy.
But there's more: the Impi becomes available around the same time as Mercenaries (if civic and tech development have been keeping a similar pace, of course), which allows Shaka to form Corps! Large groups of Impi are very difficult for opponents to repel unless they have a comparable force of melee units (which have a +5 Combat Strength bonus against Impi), and if you've been keeping up with your civic development and manage to capture a few cities, you'll have Impi Corps and Armies at your disposal long before anyone else. Start training Impi en masse as soon as you unlock them, then send them forth to show the world the Zulus' might!
While other civilizations may be inclined to train their unique unit's earlier form, this does not apply to the Zulus. The only drawback of the Impi are their class: anti-cavalry. Anti-cavalry units are generally weaker than other military units and often do not hold their own in offensive combat. So while Alexander may be training Warriors in the Ancient Era to rack up XP and Promotions for his upcoming Hypaspists, the Zulus should not train the underwhelming Spearman or try to use them in early combat before they have any of their combat bonuses unlocked. Part of the reason that the Impi are so strong is because they are unlocked around the same time that the Zulus gain an influx of military strength through their brand new Corps. Without those Corps or their strong unique unit, the Zulus have no bonuses besides toward conquest besides their Ikanda, meaning you have no reason to put yourself at a disadvantage by forming an army of subpar units. Because the Zulus will have to hard-build their Impi to make the most of them, a Zulu player should spend their time in the first two eras heavily emphasizing infrastructure and finetuning your cities to prioritize Science (for researching Military Tactics and unlocking the Impi), Culture (for completing the development of Mercenaries, as mentioned in the section on Amabutho above), and Production to ensure you can produce enough Impi fast enough to conquer your neighbors and begin snowballing.
In addition to building Production-increasing improvements and Districts, the Zulus should also pay attention to the various boosts to training anti-cavalry units. These include:
- The Agoge policy card (Unlocked at Craftsmanship)
- The Feudal Contract policy card (Unlocked at Feudalism, a requirement for the all-important Mercenaries) once Agoge is made obsolete
- Militaristic city-states' Envoy bonuses
- The Statue of Zeus Wonder (Unlocked at Military Training, a requirement for Mercenaries), the bonus of which also applies when training anti-cavalry Corps or Armies
In a high Production city with an Ikanda and all of these bonuses, the Zulus will be able to quickly train a highly-capable army to trample their opponents.
The Impi's increased flanking bonus means they benefit more from flanking, but they are not better at providing such bonuses for other units. For example, an Impi and a friendly Swordsman both flank an enemy unit; the Impi will receive a +4 Combat Strength flanking bonus from the Swordsman but the Swordsman will still receive only a +2 Combat Strength flanking bonus from the Impi.
The Zulu arose to prominence from the peoples of southern Africa, achieved dominance through force of arms, and enforced a hegemony which fundamentally changed the history of Africa. In the end, although defeated by a technologically advanced colonial power, they landed telling blows on one of the world’s most formidable military forces.
In the late 18th century, the Zulu were semi-nomadic Nguni clans in the south-west of Africa, grazing cattle and raising crops. Zulu women farmed and managed the families. Men fought, hunted, and cared for the cattle. Cattle are an integral part of Zulu culture, a denomination of wealth and status, a key part of ritual, and more practically their primary source of food.
Each family group bound itself to others through a network of social obligations, family ties, and allegiances. This web accelerated the aggregation of the Zulu into a more organized state, led by chiefs whose power was growing by the start of the 19th century.
Enter Shaka, and the transformation of the ibutho system of recruitment and the impi into a formidable, standardized army (see both Shaka's entry and the Impi entry for additional details). Shaka came to power with fewer than 2,000 Zulu under his command, controlling an area smaller than Monaco. Eleven years later, the impi had over 50,000 warriors, and the Zulu had conquered and subsumed all their regional rivals. Warfare, too, changed from small-scale raiding and conquest to scorched-earth tactics. But the Zulu were the unrivaled masters of southern Africa, and at the time of his assassination, Shaka had conquered on the scale of Alexander the Great.
This conquest had profound ripple effects throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Shaka’s conquests touched off a wave of refugee migrations and ancillary wars that transformed central and eastern Africa. This event, known as the Mfecane, is still studied and debated today, as it was a catalyzing moment in African history, and would eventually result in the creation of new African nations that would later resist colonialism.
Dingane became king after assassinating Shaka, in response to Shaka’s increasing brutality as ruler, and it was during his reign that the Zulu began to come into conflict with European colonists in South Africa, namely the Boers who were beginning to move into territory vacated in the Mfecane.
Mpande, the longest-reigning Zulu king, began his reign by overthrowing Digane. Mpande stayed on better terms with the Boers (some of whom had helped his rebellion), but rising tensions due to colonial expansion and the cutthroat politics of reigning over the subjected nations (and his own succession) left his reign with a somewhat mixed historical assessment. Mpande was succeeded by his eldest son Cetshwayo in 1872, his exact date of death concealed to cement Cetshwayo’s ascent to the throne. Cetshwayo, an admirer of his great-uncle Shaka, set about rebuilding the impi and expanding its ranks.
Now, matters with the European colonial powers came to a head. Claims to land ownership by the British and Boers (made more pressing with the discovery of diamonds in the region) were hotly contested by the Zulu, who remained the most powerful African nation in the region. The British pressed ahead with a plan to confederate South Africa, and in doing so made a series of provoking demands against Cetshwayo. The proverbial final straw was that Cetshwayo disband his army. Cetshwayo refused; the British declared war in 1879.
The British Army was a modern, sophisticated, industrial-era military force, with professional officers and NCOs, Gatling guns, repeating rifles, a highly developed sense of cultural superiority, and the latest (extremely racist) cultural theories of the age, so it was a considerable shock when it lost the Battle of Islandlwana to Cetshwayo’s impis, suffering greater than 70% casualties in the process. The Zulu out-maneuvered, out-fought, and thrashed one of the best armies in the world in a straight-up fight in the field, and then repeated the process twice more at Intombe and Hlobane.
This unforgivable blow to British pride resulted in much public pearl-clutching at home, many self-justifying memoirs, and a full-throated jingoistic response. Victories had proved costly to the Zulu armies, and the British continued to supply reinforcements and refine tactics until finally, the British invaded Zululand, besieged the capital at Ulundi, and captured Cetshwayo. He was taken to London and paraded about as a captive until the public sentiment judged the whole affair unseemly gloating (Cetshwayo’s manner during this time was judged to be stoic, and his personal dignity befitting a monarch). Cetshwayo was returned to Zululand where he ruled as one of thirteen vassal chiefs of the British.
Their heartland divided, the Zulu would be subject to almost a century of harsh colonial rule and apartheid in South Africa. A diaspora due to cattle disease and lack of economic opportunities led to Zulu working in the mines and cities of South Africa, sometimes organizing their own labor unions. KwaZulu was set up as an "Bantustan" or territory set aside for ethnic groups within South Africa. In the 1970s, a Territorial Authority for KwaZulu was established, giving it some additional autonomy. In 1994, the province of KwaZulu-Natal was established with additional regional autonomy, and encompassing some of the lands of the old Zulu Kingdom. Two areas in KwaZulu-Natal are UNESCO World Heritage Sites today: uKhahlamba-Draksenberg Park, and iSimangaliso Wetland Park. Both sites have considerable natural beauty, ecological value, and cultural importance.
The Zulu retain pride in their military and cultural heritage, practicing both traditional dances and newer forms, like the gumboot dance. The Zulu king serves as a ceremonial head of state, a guardian of traditional culture, and as a living link to the diaspora and the world.
- Main article: Zulu cities (Civ6)
|Males||Females||Modern males||Modern females|
- When the Zulus were first added to the game, their colors were dark green and laurel green. They were later changed to green and light yellow and then brown and white, the latter of which now applies to all rulesets.
- The Zulu civilization's symbol is two crossed assegai behind a Nguni shield, an oval shield made from the hide of an ox or cow that was once used by Zulu warriors.
- The Zulu civilization ability is a Zulu word meaning "clan names" (or "praise poetry").
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