Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn

This battle for some reason has always been a passion of mine, ever since 1976 when I was eight and due to the 100 years anniversary of the battle, our class at school did a topic on it. The library was delivered a big box of books about the battle and my mother brought me a Ladybird book (which I have still have now) which at the time was very well written and researched for a kids book. When I was a kid I wargamed the last stand a thousand times with my 54 mm toy soldiers. Every year or two something triggers off the urge and I read and watch everything I have on the subject again. Ten years ago I swapped a load of unwanted games and figures for quite a large collection of 15mm Cavalry and Indians, but the problem was I couldn´t find a satisfactory way to play the game, now knowing alot more about the battle then when I was a kid (ignorance can really be bliss).
A chance conversation a few weeks back whilst playing Lasalle with Miguel and Kiefer lit the spark again, and so I decided for the Easter holidays I would organise a wargaming day. The Battle of the Little Bighorn in the morning and then after dinner, The Battle of Sacile 1809.

I set out the table to represent the Little Bighorn valley , this was on the biggest table I had ever built it was almost 2 metres wide by 3 and half metres long. I played a "play test" the Friday before to check the rules were okay and to fine tune them if necessary. In the play test it seemed the cavalry were not moving fast enough , so I upped the movement rates slightly, also I wasn't to happy how the random Indian dustclouds were or were not moving so I changed this back to an idea I had used before with the Zulu wars rules.

The day arrived and including myself there was 4 players, I split the 7th cavalry into 3 equal Battalions, Jose was in charge of Custers battalion of 4 companies on the right entering the table on the hilly part. Javi was in charge of Reno's Battalion entering in the middle of the table and Miguel was in charge of Benteen`s Battalion entering on the left hand side of the table. The aim of the game was each Cavalry Battalion was competing with the others to gain the most glory. This was gained by killing Indian warriors, burning villages and capturing Indian non combatants.

Cavalry Battalions, Dustclouds and Warriors were moved in random sequence when their playing card was turned over. Dustclouds were placed along the side of the river initially. When their card was turned over a D6 was thrown to see if they were activated a 5 or 6 meant they were. An activated dustcloud then threw a D8 to see which direction they moved. SW or SE meant that it was a Indian War party going to meet the cavalry. NE or NW meant that the Indian Tribe had decided to Skedaddle out of there and were running in the opposite direction. If a cavalry unit spotted an inactive dustcloud then this was a Indian village that was caught by surprise.
Benteens column arrived on the board first and immediatly spotted a dustcloud moving to their front. Miguel then had to randomly pick a card to see what the dust cloud was, the options were
Hunkpapa Sioux 80 warriors
Oglala Sioux 60 warriors
Crazy Horse 30 warriors
Black feet 10 warriors
Two kettle 10 warriors
Brule sioux 20 warriors
Minicojou Sioux 50 warriors
Sans Arc circle 40 warriors
Northen Cheyene 40 warriors
and three cards with False alarm
Miguel picked a card with Brule Sioux so he had spotted a war party of 20 figures attacking him.
Just as his troops and Benteens began to form line to meet this threat, they spotted an even larger Indian War party behind the first.

This was the 40 warriors of the San Arcs whose horses overtook the Brules and smashed into the front of Benteen's skirmish lines. The Brules changed direction and attacked Reno's column.
In the Background Custers column had split into two seperate forces, one force under the command of Yates on the bottom of the bluffs following the Little Bighorn river, and Custer on the top of the bluffs
When Custer came around the side of the bluffs he had a clear view of the great Indian camp in the valley.
Just below him was a ford with an inactive dustcloud on the west side of the river. Custer spotted it and it turned out to be the small Black feet tribe who had decided to have a lie in.

Meanwhile in the valley, Benteens troops were being pushing the Indians slowly back. If an Indian was wounded it would not stay but run back to his village to defend it to his death.

Reno's command was also gaining the upperhand although Reno was wounded in close combat.
Custer and his men charged down from the hills to cross the ford. However first he needed to dice to see if he could actually cross due to some of the fords having quicksand on the banks. Custer's luck held out, he threw a 4 (he needed a 1 - 4 on a D6) and he led the charge across the ford into the sleepy Indian village.
A dust cloud had crept through the woods and turned out to be Two kettles small tribe, because they were outnumbered, they dismounted and fired at Yate's column across the river from the cover of the woods. Reno also dismounted his right flank company and started to fire at the Indians in the woods.
Custer´s troops smashed into the village blasting away with their revolvers killing a number of dismounted Indians who were unable to get to their pony herd in time.
But all was not well for Custer, now that he was in the actual valley he could see more dust clouds
One of them that was moving North west to join the battle turned out to be Crazy Horse and his 30 warriors. The other was an inactive village of the Northern Cheyene.
Crazy Horze charged into Custer´s Battalion and now Custer knew he had a fight on his hands.

The rifle fire from two directions was too much for Two Kettles warriors and they disappeared back to their village. Reno's flank company mounted up and started to enter the woods-
The Northern Cheyene had recovered their Pony herd and got ready charge their most immediate threat, Custer.
Custer was now more on the defensive with more and more indians coming out to meet him, His horse "Victory" was killed and he had to fight on foot.

Benteen and Reno's troops now had finally cleared the path of Indians and started to advance around the woods into the valley
Another moving dustcloud was spotted this was the 50 strong Minicojou Sioux.
Before Reno could react Benteen went for glory and attempted to charge into the North Cheyene village. Another Dustcloud was spotted on the far bank of the Little Bighorn right behind Custer. There were three cards left, two cards were the largest war parties of the Oglala Sioux 60 warriors and the Hunkpapa Sioux of 80 warriors, the other card was a false alarm. Jose (Custer) picked a card at random, and again Custer's luck held out, he picked the false alarm.This meant the two remaining Dustclouds that had been activated but were running away, were the two large tribes. The Northern Cheyene having been attacked in the rear by Benteen would now turn about to save their village. Due to time constraints we had to end the game there.
Jose (Custer) won due to killing the most Indians 18
Miguel (Benteen) killed 13 Indians
Javi (Reno) killed 10 Indians
Although strategically they all lost because they were unable to capture any non combatants and the two main tribes got away untouched.
This turned out to be an enjoyable game, with the dustclouds working perfectly and with the randomness, could be played again and again. The only problem on the day was the combat rules were a little labourious, this wouldn't have been a problem playing solo or with just two players but with four players meant that there was too much waiting around time for the players not involved. This was my fault, at the playtest the combat rules were a lot quicker, but I wanted to go for realism and include horses being killed or wounded into the equation, however this made the combat resolution twice as long.
Oh well you live and learn unless your name is General Custer.