April 01, 1876,
Federal army of 143 units opposed to Indians army of 80 units
for a battle of complexity 1.2 at Company(I) level
on a 10 Km/Hex map
for 62 turns of Half Week each.
by Mark Stevens submited on 29-03-2004
Rugged-Defense Playing Statistics
The Little Big Horn Campaign
Custer's Last Stand ?
Please note that this game can only be played using the modified TOAW XIXth Century database included in this archive
Although this can be played as either side against the PO, the poor old engine does find it hard to coordinate the initial three-pronged Federal advance, and the Indian's revision to semi-guerilla tactics in the second phase of the campaign. In the unlikely event that you've got any friends, it's worth trying to find a human opponent.
Whether playing the PO or a human opponent I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT YOU PLAY WITH 'POSSESSION' TURNED OFF: it's the only way to get the real feel of warfare in this period - tracking an enemy's advance as you might in modern times just wasn't possible.
By the spring of 1876 a large encampment of Northern Plains Indians under the overall leadership - 'influence' might be a better word - of the Sioux medicine man, Sitting Bull, had established itself around the area of the Little Big Horn - Rosebud Rivers. They were well-armed, violently determined to resist any pressure from the Federal Government, and attracting more followers all the time. The Indians had no overall strategy, although wagon trains, miners and survey teams were being raided, and the Indians and Federal Agencies still on the reservations were being intimidated. If the Federal authorities failed to get a grip on the situation it would surely get completely out of hand during the summer months.
The Federal Army had already failed to disperse the main encampment in an abortive winter campaign led by Brigadier-General Crook. Now the US Government was determined to deal with the problem in a decisive fashion: a three-pronged attack from north, south and east by mixed infantry and cavalry columns would disarm the tribes and force them back to the reservations.
The eastern column under Brigadier-General Terry, the overall force commander, included the 7th Cavalry Regiment under the charismatic Civil War veteran and Indian fighter, Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer, considered to be the most powerful individual striking force.
This scenario attempts to simulate the six month campaign that was intended to finish the Plains Indian 'problem' once and for all, and the Indian response. The campaign was a failure from the Federal Army's point of view, and operations continued into 1877. The Federal player's objective in this game is to better this performance, by dispersing the Indian lodges and defeating the warbands.
The campaign was supported by two shallow draft steamers with small complements of Federal Infantry. Swamps are placed to limit their range along the shallower rivers. They become available once the Powder River depot is established.
3.2. Plains Indians
Various colours on beige representing the different tribes. There was no formal organisation but the better known war chiefs attracted their own personal followings and are shown as strong 'HQ' units. Although the personal bravery and fieldcraft of the 2,000 or so full warriors and perhaps 700 youths was unquestioned, their total lack of discipline and individual style of fighting (should have!) put them at a disadvantage against the properly drilled and organised troops of the Federal Army.
'Akicitas' were elite, elected warrior brotherhoods, not tribally-based, with distinctive rituals and duties in combat (e.g. organising and restraining the younger braves).
Also included are units representing the Indian pony herds and civilians: it was a recognised Federal strategy to attack these in order to coerce the warriors.
Federal Army - All forts (including abandoned ones, the supposition being that they could have been partially repaired and restocked); the four Indian Agencies; the towns of Custer and Deadwood, the proposed depot at the junction of the Yellowstone and Powder Rivers and the five lodges in the friendly Indian Reservations.
Plains Indians - the main encampment; the four Indian Agencies; Deadwood and Custer City, and the smaller isolated lodges away from the main camp.
Players familiar with more modern TOAW scenarios should remember that 'supply' at this level is not factories, railheads or even a decent road: dried meat, boxes of ammunition, biscuits, blankets and leather for repairs would keep a column or war party going, provided there was grass for the horses and water. The Northern Plains were also the last area where there were significant herds of buffalo. For this reason all supply points can be captured and retaken without any penalty.
'Roads' in this scenario represent the wider and best cleared trails.
5. Victory Points
5 for each of the main tribal lodges, the Federal forts, towns and Yellowstone River Depot, and for each smaller Indian and reservation lodge. 1 for the mines in the Black Hills and the Indian Agencies. The scenario is deliberately unbalanced at the start so that the Federal Army has to take the offensive in order to have any hope of winning a victory: if the Indians can simply defend their lodges, without suffering crippling casualties, they are considered to have won. The Indians get a bonus 30 VPs if they voluntarily abandon their main encampment half-way through the campaign: if the Federal Army has taken even one of the main lodges, this is cancelled.
Regarding the map: the main mountain/hill ranges, rivers, forts, towns, some trails, and the main Indian encampment and Agencies are accurate - I've had to fill in the rest from general descriptions, a few photographs and, that faithful standby, my vivid imagination. The main Indian encampment is too large for the map scale but was mobile over the general area.
Mark Stevens, march 2004
Most of the Plains Indian tribes start inactive in the main encampment. Although some of the younger warriors had been raiding mining camps, Indian Agents, survey teams and wagon trains, there was no coordinated Indian strategy led by a senior commander to oppose the Federal Army: their main aim was to be left in peace to live as they always had. To reflect this, there are various percentage chances that the whole camp, or individual tribes, will hold a war council and decide to oppose the Federal advance, i.e. activate. They may be able to win simply by sitting tight in the encampment, but this will allow the Army to encircle the lodges with their whole force and launch a coordinated attack. On the other hand, there's no point in individual tribes riding out to be destroyed piecemeal. The immobile civilians and pony herds in the main camp must be protected, as the capture of ANY ONE of the main lodges will cause the Plains Indians a permanent 75% shock penalty prior to their voluntary decision to disperse. Sad as it may be, capturing and if necessary killing Indian civilians was a recognised frontier tactic, even if it didn't appear in the official manuals. The 75% shock penalty doesn't apply if the Indians have broken camp voluntarily, which happens about half-way through the campaign.
All warriors and youths will mobilise if Federal troops enter the 'Greasy Grass' area around the main encampment (marked by a black border for reference).
There is a 25% chance that all of the warriors (not youths) will mobilise if the abandoned Forts Reno or Phil Kearney are reoccupied by the Army.
There is a 75% chance that all of the warriors (not youths) will mobilise if the abandoned Forts Pearce or F. C. Smith are reoccupied by the Army.
There is a 25% chance that all of the warriors (not youths) will mobilise if the Army establishes their depot at the Powder River.
There is a 10% chance that all of the warriors (not youths) will mobilise as the Army moves up the Bozeman Trail within three hexes of 45,41
There is a 50% chance that the warriors from the Oglala Sioux and Cheyenne will mobilise as the Army moves up the Bozeman Trail within four hexes of hex 60,67
There is a 50% chance that the Miniconjou Sioux warriors (only) will mobilise if the Army establishes their depot at the Powder River
There is a 25% chance that the Sans Arc Sioux warriors (only) will mobilise if the Army moves west along the Bozeman Trail within two hexes of 23,26
There is a 90% chance that the Teton Sioux warriors (only) will activate once the main encampment disperses.
There is a 10% chance that the Teton Sioux warriors (only) will activate if either Deadwood or Custer City are captured.
The Army was expecting this and the Teton Sioux were rounded up, and their chief Red Cloud deposed, within a few weeks: the Federal player can deliberately position troops around 'Nebraska' - if he has any spare - to do the same.
There is a 50% chance that the Arapahoe warriors (only) will activate if the Federal Army crosses the ford over the Tongue River (54,61).
There is a 50% chance that the Two Kettle Sioux warriors (only) will activate if the Federal army crosses the ford over the Little Big Horn River (45,43).
There is a 50% chance that the Akicitas will mobilise if Sitting Bull sees a vision of a great victory.
This probably seems peversely complicated but it does produce the uncertainty that dogged both sides as to which tribes would fight and at what point. The general belief in the Federal Army (not shared by their Indian Scouts) was that the Plains Indians would simply run away: hence the three-pronged advance.
Around July the Federal Army received significant reinforcements, including artillery, and the main Indian encampment split up: the tribes were afraid of the storm bearing down on them, and even a leader like Sitting Bull could not keep them united.
The Hunkpapa Sioux went north-east; the Sans Arc Sioux north-west; the Oglala and Miniconjou south-east, and the Cheyenne south. To reflect this, the objective tracks in a PO game will change. If the lodges in the main encampment are stormed before this is due to occur, the individual tribes will split up earlier than they did and the whole Plains Indian force will suffer a shock penalty of 75%. Similarly, the initial Federal advance will be towards the main Indian encampment: at the same time as the tribes split up, the Army's objectives will change to hunt down and capture the individual lodges.
If the Indians abandon the main encampment voluntarily, i.e. not because the lodges (any of the main ones) have been taken, they get a +30 VP bonus. This puts the emphasis on the Federal Player to advance quickly and break into the encampment before the beginning of August and before the arrival of their reinforcements - OK, Custer, let's go!
If the Plains Indians are player controlled they may choose to stay and defend the main camp: more victory points, but it remains a target for the reinforced Federal Army.
Federal tactics should be be those of any colonial campaign, whether in the USA, Africa or Asia: don't let the infantry and cavalry columns become separated; watch your lines of communication; guard your supply trains; try to coordinate the advances of the different columns; try to scout ahead and avoid any unpleasant surprises, and decide on the main target and go for it, avoiding time-consuming distractions.
The Plains Indians were renowned as light cavalry - General Sheridan supposedly referred them as 'The best in the world' - and, although the main lodges have to be defended until mid-game, the Indians should exploit their superior mobility. Lightly armed horsemen could travel a very long way on the open plains in half a week: raiding and attacking isolated Federal units may be a better strategy than getting involved in a stand up fight. A semi-guerilla strategy was best suited to the braves' style of warfare, although Crook's repulse at the Rosebud River and the destruction of half of Custer's 7th Cavalry proved that the Indians could fight fiercely when required.
In the long run the Indians' courage was unavailing: the numbers and resources of the Federal Army and settlers, the spread of the railways, near-extinction of the buffalo herds, disease and chronic disunity meant that their traditional way of life was doomed. Their victory over Custer in July was a glorious last gesture from a dying culture, but that is all that it could ever be.