Saturday, August 12, 2017

She wore a yellow ribbon

All of my gaming seems to be driven by things I enjoyed in my childhood. We are talking late 1950s and early '60s. One of the many subjects that captured my imagination back then was U.S. Cavalry versus the American Indians. Inspired by great movies like the John Wayne cavalry trilogy, it was just a matter of time before this period showed up on the wargame table.
Cheyenne war party hovers just out of reach of F Troop
So it was that Pete Complaining Bear, war leader of the Northern Cheyenne lured two troops of the 4th Cavalry into a running fight on the Great Plains of my basement. The rules we used were Yellow Ribbon, a set I picked up at a convention many years ago, knowing that someday they would get used.  
 Rough terrain slows my progress
As the Captain in charge of two troops of U.S. Cavalry, my plan was to close with the hostiles as quickly as possible to play on their sensitivity to casualties. This caused me to send one of my troops over a rough hill, which slowed their progress and turned them into a punching bag for the warriors firing on them from the plain. 
Amateurs talk tactics, professionals talk logistics
'A' Troop, 4th Cavalry deploys into line
As the Cavalry pressed forward in an attempt to close, the Indian war parties kept fading back before them, inflicting casualties as they went.
Cheyenne Dog Soldiers ford the river
Things were starting to look grim for the Cavalry. Both Troops had lost their officer and a third of their men, but their morale was holding up, at least for the time being. At last one of the two Cheyenne bands took a casualty, a badly wounded warrior. The Cavalry troop pressed in on them and they retired from the field in good order. The other Indian band also chose to withdraw, having achieved its objective of giving the Long Knives a bloody nose.
Gratuitous war party
The rules we used for the game were interesting in that they really brought out the different approach the two sides took to war. The cavalry could be given orders in pursuit of an overall plan, and they took a lickin' and kept on tickin'. The rules had the Indians approaching battle in a less coordinated way. If a band experiences an unexpected degree of success they might retire from the field to bask in their success. If they started to take casualties or lose a leader they might decide this just ain't their day and go home leaving other bands still fighting.  

Gotta have a stage coach
While the Yellow Ribbon rules did bring out the cultural differences in how the opposing sides saw battle, we found the level of detail slowed the game up. There is a copy of Pony Wars, another old but interesting set of rules. This set may be a better fit for our local gaming preferences. In a pinch, we might just make our own. If we do, the Cavalry will operate in the 'European' fashion of disciplined units following orders to carry out an overall plan. The opposing Indian bands will be much more independent, hitting hard or disappearing for reasons not understood by their opponents.  

 Forty miles a day on beans and hay