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Subject: The epic “Custer at the Little Bighorn” scenario: a photographic essay rss

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Pete Belli
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For the past several years I have been working on a Little Bighorn scenario using Richard Borg's superb Battle Cry system as the basic framework. After much trial and error I followed up on a helpful suggestion offered by another Geek and purchased two BattleLore: Epic BattleLore boards to create a huge 24” x 36” rectangular playing surface:






The addition of miniatures from The American Civil War by Eagle Games allowed the prototype to include different color horses for each battalion of the 7th Cavalry. Since the special event cards used in “Custer at the Little Bighorn” emphasize the battalion command structure the matching horses simplified these rules. Now both players can instantly determine the battalion status of every cavalry formation. In this image, Custer leads part of the gray horse battalion in an advance on the tribal village:






The scenario begins around 3:00 PM with the Gallant Seventh on the attack. Custer is moving forward with the gray horse battalion near Weir Point. Reno and the brown horse battalion is skirmishing with the Indians near the village. Benteen and the black horse battalion (plus the pack train, which for the purposes of this scenario is part of his command) are approaching the battlefield. Since this battalion has not actually entered the board at this time, Benteen’s formations may never move during the first turn:






New tribal formations can appear in the village during the first phase of the scenario. The number and type of available Indian formations is random and determined by a roll of the dice… Custer never knows exactly how many Native American warriors he will face during the battle. In this example the tribal player has rolled a “3” and receives one formation armed with modern weapons, one formation armed with tribal weapons, and one Indian leader:






The ammunition and supplies carried by the pack-train played a crucial role as Custer improvised his battle plan. The famous last message from Custer (Big village... Be Quick... Bring packs...) was an order for Benteen to push the reserve supply of ammunition forward. The cavalry pack-train serves an important function in the scenario, allowing the 7th Cavalry player to replenish his exhausted formations. In this image the pack-train has fallen behind as Benteen's battalion apporaches the impassable bluffs near Weir Point:






In this photograph Reno is fighting near the woods as the Indians swarm out of the village. One tribal formation with a leader is attempting to swing around Reno’s flank and cut his battalion off from the ford. The blue cubes represent wounded cavalry troopers, and leaving them behind will cost the 7th Cavalry player victory points. Any wounded soldier who survived an encounter with the Indian warriors would be brutally dispatched by the women and adolescent boys after the fighting moved to another location:







Tribal non-combatants flee as Custer approaches a lightly defended ford. The tribal player’s primary source of victory points is “counting coup” against the soldiers during close combat. The cavalry player scores big victory points for capturing Indian non-combatants and destroying village hexes. A hasty advance like this might give Custer the advantage he needs to bring the battle to a successful conclusion:






Thanks for taking a few minutes to read this lengthy article. This scenario will probably never be finished. I can’t stop tinkering with it and a lack of local playtesters has prevented me from pushing forward with the development process. However, it is great fun!
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Steven Goodknecht
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Pete,
That is really cool. I especially like how you handle the unknown number of warriors. Very innovative and adds the element of uncertainty.
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Robert Wesley
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Always *unique* 'perspective' for that yet again, while how about delving some within this? Battle of the Rosebud That particular "Encounter" really ought to have itself a couple of 'Battle' portions, since essentially there were TWO of which may have resulted into the FIRST "Disaster" befalling from there, upon some 'abattis'. It was averted at the last moment by an officer that knew how to OBEY his 'instructions' at the proper moment for the time it was issued, while 'Fetterman' couldn't 'attest' as such, "just saying..."
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Pete Belli
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No Expectations wrote:
Pete,
That is really cool. I especially like how you handle the unknown number of warriors. Very innovative and adds the element of uncertainty.


Thank you.

This is the chart used now:


Tribal Warriors
-------------------

1 = tribal weapons x1

2 = tribal weapons x1 modern weapons x1

3 = tribal weapons x1 modern weapons x1 leader x1

4 = tribal weapons x2 modern weapons x2

5 = tribal weapons x2 modern weapons x2 leader x1

6 = none



The tribal player gets one roll of the dice at the end of each of his first four turns. The new formations appear at the village, of course.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
Always *unique* 'perspective' for that yet again, while how about delving some within this?


GROGnads, thank for the kind gibberish.

A game about the Battle of the Rosebud would be interesting... but the cavalry expended about 20000 rounds of ammunition to inflict about a dozen KIA on the tribal warriors. shake
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Robert Wesley
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"and then?..." THAT is the "why not/what if" construct a "Scenario" based upon HAD the "Battle of the Abattis" then taken PLACE! Using just the forces at hand BEFORE these "turned away" is what I was considering. SOME 'unpleasant' *Surprise* then, eh?
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Steven Goodknecht
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Oh jeez, I don't ever want to hear about the Rosebud! Back in 1998 my wife arranged a guided tour of Little Big Horn for us with former park superintendant Jim Court. There was only supposed to be the two of us on the tour. When we got there, Mr. Court asked if it was okay for another couple to join us. We said it was fine.

The guy was okay, his wife was a bit of a ditzy blonde but they were nice. At the beginning of the tour, Court mentioned the Rosebud. Thereafter, for over two hours, the guy would ask about every fifteen minutes, "Now where is the Rosebud from here?" It was really annoying.

To this day, whenever my wife and I are in the car and unsure where someplace is, we ask each other, "Now where is the Rosebud from here?"
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Robert Wesley
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I would have replied: "Rosebud the SLED, is in the TOOL SHED! or it 'gets' the 'hose' again!" whistle
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Pete Belli
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The tribal warriors were caught napping at the Little Bighorn. This is not surprising because the Indians had no organized system of scouts, patrols, and vedettes.

The soldiers at the Rosebud battle were, for all practical purposes, having a picnic when the Indians attacked. Professional military officers failed to provide adequate security for the expedition and failed to conduct aggressive patrols.

Then a large group of cavalrymen galloped off looking for a Native American village which didn't exist. As GROGnads mentioned (I think... who can really be sure.) these soldiers almost got bushwhacked by the Indians.

Both engagements are interesting, but the mystique of the struggle at the Little Bighorn completely overwhelms the Battle of the Rosebud.
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René Christensen
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Wikipedia: The Cheyenne called it the Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother, because of an incident during the fight involving Buffalo Calf Road Woman (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buffalo_Calf_Road_Woman).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Rosebud
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Steven Goodknecht
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Pete,
Is the position of the Indian camps always the same or does it vary also? Just curious how much uncertainty is being injected. I believe the Indians had planned to move the camp that very day.
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Pete Belli
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No Expectations wrote:
Is the position of the Indian camps always the same or does it vary also? Just curious how much uncertainty is being injected. I believe the Indians had planned to move the camp that very day.


Good question.

The tribal village is set up in the same location, but in the Gatling gun scenario the camp was already packed and ready to move because the awkward weapons slowed Custer's march.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Have you experimented with any 'what if' alternatives? Obviously, the gatling gun is one. But what about the 2nd cavalry, have you ever included them? Or the possibility that Custer kept the 7th united and struck as a single force?

Other alternatives I've heard about for the Little Big Horn is the possibility that the 7th could have been equipped with Spencer repeating rifles. Also what if they had taken their sabers? Although I really can't see where that would have been significant.
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Pete Belli
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No Expectations wrote:
Have you experimented with any 'what if' alternatives?


Another good question! thumbsup

Quote:
...what about the 2nd Cavalry, have you ever included them?


Major Brisbin and four companies of the 2nd (a total of less than 175 troopers) rode with Terry and Gibbon in the Montana Column.

It should be remembered that according to Terry's original plan each of the three columns (including Custer and Crook) would be able to deal with any tribal formations that were encountered. The smaller Montana Column would need cavalry to accomplish that mission, and to serve as a blocking force if Custer and/or Crook pushed the Indians north.

Adding these "outsiders" to the existing 7th Cavalry leadership soap opera might have been problematic, anyway.


Quote:
Or the possibility that Custer kept the 7th united and struck as a single force?


If the cavalry player (who has a better grasp of the situation in this plastic army man scenario than Custer ever dreamed about) wants to turn his "Iron Butt" around and rejoin Benteen and Reno, let him expend his command cards to achieve that objective. By that time, the Native American warriors will be swarming out of the village like ants from an anthill.

Quote:
Other alternatives I've heard about for the Little Big Horn is the possibility that the 7th could have been equipped with Spencer repeating rifles.


The men would have simply run out of ammunition sooner. I dispute the "weapon issue" as a cause of Custer's defeat.

Quote:
Also what if they had taken their sabers?


Great for Hollywood epics! An extra canteen would have been more useful.
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Pete Belli
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Quote:
The Cheyenne called it the Battle Where the Girl Saved Her Brother, because of an incident during the fight involving Buffalo Calf Road Woman


Thanks for the links!

There was a similar incident at the Little Bighorn. A young woman named Moving Robe joined the fighting after her brother was killed. She rode into the melee near Custer Hill with her dead brother's war club brandished over her head. Rain-in-the-Face says she was "pretty as a bird" and he called on the other warriors to match her courage.
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René Christensen
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Perhaps she even killed Gen.Custer?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moving_Robe_Woman
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Pete Belli
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Interesting item.

At the time of the Little Bighorn engagement the Indians did not know they were fighting Custer. In the smoke and confusion of battle a tribal warrior who killed a cavalry officer on Battle Ridge might later claim that he (or she) killed Custer. Native American anecdotes related to seeing "Custer" on the battlefield (dead or alive) are often post-war constructions.
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Steven Goodknecht
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Pete,
You obviously have a high level of interest in the Little Big Horn. Have you ever visited the battlefield?
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Pete Belli
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No Expectations wrote:
Pete,
You obviously have a high level of interest in the Little Big Horn. Have you ever visited the battlefield?


Not yet...
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