Friday, August 19, 2011

The Crossroads: Nebraska, 1876

Captain Jenks (Center) leading his expedition
Welcome to this the third game in the Crossroads series. It's been a while since the first two game AAR's so to recap, "The Crossroads" is a scenario from Charles Grant's excellent "Programmed Wargames Scenarios". In this solo game I will take the part of the US Army, while the rules used, my house rules "Comancheria" will play the Cheyenne. 

Although the scenario parameters come from Grant's book, the game has been reimagined to replicate the skirmish at Warbonnet Creek in 1876. Having received news of the debacle at the Little Big Horn, frontiersman and showman extraordinaire Buffalo Bill Cody, closed his Wild West show and headed west to offer his services as a scout for the Army. Setting out with a small detachment of troops, Cody participated in the effort to dissuade Indian leaders encouraged by Sitting Bull's success from leaving the Res to join the "hostiles". In this the expedition was successful when the troops ambushed a band of Cheyenne who had just started out on their way. In a brief tussle, Cody killed the Cheyenne leader Yellow Hand (or Yellow Hair depending on who is telling the story) and scalped him claiming "The first scalp for Custer:.

For this game I have assigned my self two companies of cavalry, a small detachment of scouts, and an ammunition mule train. The game was played with a scale of 1 figure = 5 men, and 1" = 12.5 yards or so.
Rolling for my Rep first gave me a Rep of 3! I suppose the men do not much like me as for a captain to still be wet behind the ears would be a bit odd. The troops turned out as follows:

Battalion HQ
1x Rep 5 (suppose he is there to keep me out of trouble!)

F Company:
Lt. Johnson, Rep 4.
1x Sgt. Rep 5
3x Troopers Rep 4
1x Trooper Rep 3

L Company:
Captain George, Rep 5
Lt. Harrison, Rep 4
1x Sgt Rep 5
6 x Troopers Rep 4
2x Troopers Rep 3

Scouts:
1x Rep 5
1x Rep 4

2x Mules loaded with ammunition.

The Cheyenne:
The opposing force would start out as 4 Possible Enemy Forces (PEF) which would leave me facing 1 to 4 warbands each of 4 to 21 figures. Warbands have a few Rep 5 leaders, mostly Rep 4 warriors, and a sprinkling of Rep 3 youngbloods. Under the rules only figures led by a Rep 5 warrior are under direct player control, Rep 4 figures will mill about firing off their ammo then leaving unless a Rep 5 warrior gets them to do otherwise. Rep 3 warriors are very eager to make a name for themselves and will often launch headlong at the enemy. Many of them flee when fired on, some become casualties, and a very few go on to do great things like stealing horses and counting coup. 

The Table:
As before the table was laid out with a four way intersection in the middle, two roads leading off to the west and two off to the east. This time there were no buildings as this fight would take place out in the wilderness.

There was a small rise on the west table edge, and another rise on each of the north east and south east edges. There was a copse of trees just south of the crossroads and two more, one to its north an the third near the east table edge between the roads.
View of the table looking west
Lucky dice again had my forces arriving first. We rode onto the table from the north west in the following order: scouts, HQ, L, pack train, F. The enemy would be arriving along both eastern roads a full four turns later.
Deploying the troops

This gave me time to put into effect a plan similar to that used in the Napoleonic game in this series.  HQ and the scouts would conceal themselves in the center copse. L, the stronger company would remain mounted and take up position west of the rise on the south table edge.

L takes up a reserve position
 F along with the pack train would deploy a skirmish line sheltering in the northern copse.

F skirmishes with packs and mounts concealed in the brush.
The vagaries of the activation rolls and my low Rep made it a bit dicey but my forces were in position before the enemy arrived. F was to open fire as soon as the hostiles came within range. Hopefully this would draw them to the north west, when HQ and L would then hit them in the flank. Nothing sends an enemy running like a well timed charge to the flank.

The enemy arrive in numbers on the northern road.
 Soon two PEF's appeared moving along  the north eastern road while two more approached along the southern road, as yet unseen. The northern PEF's resolved into a single warband, rather large but with only one Rep 5 to lead them.
PEF's along the southern road.
 Soon enough the northern PEF's came into view resolving into one more warband, this one with two Rep 5 leaders.
The southern warband rides into view.
 F's first volley dropped the leader of the northern warband and the horse he rode in on. His warriors scattered. Most fell back in disarray.


 Four of them charged the skirmish line.
 One of those was unhorsed, and another thought better of his rashness and fled.
 One young blood rode right up to the skirmish line...
 ...only to pay the ultimate price  for his bravery.

Seeing this, the northern warband and the recovering warriors from the south rode towards the skirmish line.
 That is when I gave L the order to charge! Only they balked a bit and just advanced at the trot. This was going to be trouble because the warriors were like to turn tail and firing over their shoulders, lead my men on a merry chase. Then we would get strung out only to get cut up.
 Well these particular Cheyenne must have had their blood up cause they turned left and charged us!
 There were loses on both sides but the weight of our big American horses and firepower of our revolvers was telling. Three warriors, one Rep 5 leader, broke through our line. The rest were killed or fled. Two officers including myself, and a scout were unhorsed in the melee.
 While the scouts and HQ regrouped, L headed on across the field towards the warband harassing F.
 F was having a lively exchange with the hostiles. First one man, then another, then yet another had to drop out of the firing line to get more cartridges from the pack train.
 At his point yours truly took a bullet from a Cheyenne chief. My men were steady but one of my scouts fled.
 While my chief of scouts fought off the warriors my staff took care of me.
 L took the northern warband in the flank and they fled back to the Res.
Running away is rarely the right choice on the frontier.
Our losses were four mounts, myself, and the unfortunate scout who tried to run. First rule of Indian fighting is never try to run. Ever. You'd think a scout would have known that.

In any event that is how it played out this time.

As this makes me three for three with this scenario, I need to revisit my AI. Now it is telling that in both this and the Napoleonic game random chance allowed me to get onto the field first and that is a  big advantage. Also the Cheyenne in this game suffered from a lack of leaders, and of course that fool hardy counter charge.

Still a fun game and as in most frontier games, the end results do not convey how much on the knife's edge the outcome really was. Had L company been lured away by the southern warband while F was running out of ammo on the northern side of the battlefield...well it would not have been pretty.

I wrote Comancheria over 12 years ago now and it is in need of a little updating. However I was surprised to see how tweaking one thing led to another being off and in the end went mostly back to the original. Only the to hit system and melee system require some work. Some day these may even see publication.

A tip of the hat and as always, thanks for stopping by!