Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plains War for Din of Battle 1st Edition

Been a dearth of posting lately as I try to get Muskets and Mohawks 2 out the door so thought I'd post this older material.

Below you will find the modifications I used for the gaming the Plains War using Piquet and Din of Battle first edition. Used these rules for a number of historical fights from Fetterman, to Beecher's Island, and of course the Little Big Horn with very good results.

Haven't seen the current edition of Din of Battle so cannot say how they would work with the newer version.

Let's begin:

Pardon the photo quality. It's an old camera. Well it is now but was not then!
There are notable differences between the Plains Warrior’s method of waging war and that of the soldiers. My intention is to highlight those differences while staying largely within the framework of the PK/DoB rules. There is always a temptation to create “special” rules for this or that situation, but if that were done to represent the minutia of each period the rulebooks would double in thickness and speed of play would suffer.

The usual pattern of a hostile attack was a quick attempt at rout by mounted charge, followed by dismounted skirmishing to disrupt, demoralize, and by stampeding horses, demobilize the enemy. Attempts would be made to lure the troops into spreading out while the hostiles would use their superior mobility to overwhelm any detachment that found itself isolated. A charge, usually mounted but not always, would seal the fate of any unit considerably reduced in fighting power by the skirmishing. Truly being groups of individuals, the warrior bands would be difficult to coordinate en masse, but individual bands could usually be depended upon to act appropriately, i.e. don’t sit around on your horse being shot at, don’t frontally charge a line of well ordered troops, do move around the enemy’s flank, do withdraw in the face of a charge in order to draw out the troops.

The 3/0 command rating for the Sioux is spot on for representing the difficulty in coordinating a force’s actions. Other areas of the Sioux list could stand discussion.

Based on this model I would suggest changes to reflect the following points.

Despite the Hollywood image, by the mid 1870’s, while individual warriors might “circle” the troops on horseback as a show of bravery, most warriors would dismount and skirmish with any determined opposition.

·        Add two more Deployment cards to the Sequence deck. If it is necessary to keep the basic deck at 32, remove 2 Milling Around cards.

An individual warrior, being trained for war since birth, would probably prove superior to the average trooper in melee. However a group of warriors, truly a group of equals fighting along side each other by choice and free to seek safety as individual conscience dictated, were not a match for an equal number of relatively disciplined soldiers in melee. The historical record shows instances of weakened or demoralized troops being overrun by hostiles. Also in evidence are cases of hostiles routing troops from flank or rear. But instances of hostiles defeating organized troops in frontal melee are rare (actually I can’t recall any, but hate to say “never.”)

·        Change the Sioux troop type from Native to Militia (down 1 in melee.)
·        Do not allow Indian mounted troops to melee dismounted skirmishers without a melee card. Mounted units that would otherwise have been eligible to melee dismounted skirmishers may attempt to count coup (see below) on an appropriate movement card at a cost of one pip per unit.

The Plains warrior being by nature a hunter was probably the equal (some say the superior) of the soldier in terms of marksmanship. The Native Americans’ main constraint viz. firepower was uncertain supply of ammunition. Read just about any account of a fight between federal troops and hostiles and you’ll be impressed with just how poorly the frontier regulars handled their weapons. Some historians lay the blame on Congress. Apparently the government failed to provide funds to allow for sufficient expenditure of rounds in target practice.

·        Here I’m not sure of the design intent. If rating the cavalry as elite (up 1 for fire) vs. the Sioux as Native (down 1 for fire) represents the U.S. forces’ greater supply of cartridges for use in battle than perhaps no change is warranted. However, as noted above, I advocate changing the hostiles to Militia (NC for fire.) If ammunition supply is not being modeled than change the U.S. cavalry from elite to line.

Mobility, more than combat prowess, was the main strength of the warrior bands. It seems that if the federals’ left an opening on a flank, the hostiles would find it and infiltrate it. This penchant for infiltration made any movement by small bodies of troops, particularly retreats, hazardous undertakings.

·        Add one more Maneuver card to the Sioux sequence deck.

Finally, I feel that more detail is required to show the difficulties facing dismounted cavalry. A large part of the hostiles’ attention was devoted to separating the soldiers from their horses. That’s not very surprising if you consider that the Plains warrior’s main weapon was mobility.

·        In regard to horse holders U.S. and European armies generally assigned one man in four to hold the horses when the troop dismounted. This reduction of the firing line, and consequently of the beaten zone as well, is easily represented by retaining one stand of troops mounted. The mounted stand represents the horses and holders and should be placed to the rear of the unit. The horse holders may move with the troop at the dismounted rate.  According to Upton’s 1874 manual of U.S. Army Cavalry Tactics, the horse holders were to be placed in an area behind the firing line to be used as a reserve. If a dismounted troop receives fire from the flank or rear, the horse holders may be specifically targeted. If a stand loss is required that troop is no longer able to remount as the horses have been stampeded.

·        The Plains warriors (as, if I recall correctly did the Boers) used non-combatants to tend to their horses when they dismounted. A riderless horse or perhaps one of the mounted figures can be used to represent the location of the horses. This has the advantage of allowing all four stands to take their place on the firing line. The downside is that the horses themselves may not move. Lines of sight permitting the riderless horses may be targeted by the enemy, two hits sufficing to scatter the herd.

Other changes to the sequence deck (added 3/2000):

In the late 1860’s and early 70’s the increasing availability of breech-loading weaponry began to effect the tactics of both soldier and warrior. The changes to the sequence deck outlined below reflect how the availability of modern firearms altered the art of war on the plains.

1.      For the US, reduce the number of Missile/Musket Reload cards to two. Add one Breech-Loader Reload card. This will have to be home made or substituted from one of the other cards.

2.      For the Sioux, add a Breech-Loader/Bow Reload as well as an Elite Reload card. Remove two Milling Around cards. The absence of an Elite Reload from the Sioux deck must have been an oversight as this army is allowed elite troops.

3.      Note that unlike carbine armed troops, mounted bow armed troops may reload on Musket/Missile Reload and/or Breech-Loader/Bow Reload cards without penalty.

4.      Players might also want to use the indirect bow fire rules from Archon or BoB to allow bow armed Indians to fire at soldier positions from behind intervening terrain features.

5.      Replace 2 of the three Melee Resolution cards in the Sioux deck with 2 Count Coup cards.

When this card is drawn, the player must pay one pip for each unit within 8 inches of an enemy unit as enthusiastic individuals ride/run out from the warband to perform feats of daring to prove their prowess.

The warband unit does not itself move. The majority of the unit will be waiting and watching the deeds of their dare devil brethren.

The defending unit will fire if loaded. This fire does not require an opportunity fire chit. Range is determined as in the opp fire rules with firing troop quality determining the range at which fire is taken. Consider the targets to be closing from the parent unit’s position. This fire can only effect the coup counters, not their parent unit. A loss of one or more stands will end the attempt at counting coup. The warband will suffer no adverse effect. If the firing unit was armed with muzzle-loading weapons, mark that unit as fired. They will need a reload card before they can fire again. If the unit was armed with breech-loaders or repeaters, it retains its loaded status.

If the coup counters survive the opportunity fire they will fight one round of melee (at no additional cost) with the target unit. Consider this a straight roll of the two units’ melee dice. Consider the advantages of charging to be cancelled out by the numbers of the defenders. The numerical advantage of the defenders is cancelled out by the sheer audacity of the “attacks.”

If the Coup Counters win the melee round, the defending unit is disrupted and must surrender a morale chip. If already disrupted, a morale chip is still lost but the defending unit is not routed. No stands are ever lost to coup counters but a dismounted cavalry unit will lose its mounts if it loses a coup counter melee. Consider the braves to have so spooked the mounts with eagle bone whistles and waving blankets that the horse holders are unable to control their charges and the mounts bolt.

If the coup counters lose the melee, they are considered eliminated. The Sioux player must surrender a morale chip but suffers no other adverse effect as the coup counters are deemed to be a very small portion of the warband’s number.

Note that I have opted not to charge the hostiles a morale chip if the coup counters are laid low by gunfire, only by melee. If the coup counters were driven off by gunfire, we may assume that the individuals were killed, wounded, or simply thought better of their actions and returned to their units. While this may or may not have a negative effect on that individual’s power or medicine, I deem this not to significantly undermine the unit’s or tribe’s morale as a whole. Losing the melee on the other hand, shows the unit that their bravest warriors were no match for the foe in close combat, a very disheartening revelation indeed for the surviving braves, and thus worth the loss of a morale chip.

As you can see the act of counting coup can set up opportunities for the rest of the hostiles to charge and melee the newly disrupted units, as well as drain precious morale chips. At the same time coup counting is quite dangerous and later in the period, when breech-loading weaponry is readily available, will often come to naught.

·        As one final note, consider carbines to have one half the range of their long rifle counterpart on the Weapon Adjustment Table. Thus a Trapdoor Springfield carbine would have a Point Blank range of 0-5”, Short 5”-9”, Medium 9”-12”, and Long 12”-16”.

I look forward to discussing these ideas with any interested parties. Sources can be provided but I didn’t want to add to an already long post.

Coup rules, some changes 2000

Guideons suitable for wargaming

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