Tuesday 3 November 2020

Tarawera Wargaming Trip - Game Two - Pony Wars

Game Two – Pony Wars – Scenario by Julian

Tonight, my post is an AAR on our second game, played on Thursday 29 October. In fact, we played two games on this day, the first being a “trial run” to get us all used to the rules. The period this time was the Plains Wars in the 1870’s/80’s US West, using a very old 1980’s rule set called (I think) “B Company Ain’t Coming Back!”

Julian organised and ran this game and also provided almost all the figures although I supplied a small detachment of the 9th (or 10th) “Colored” cavalry. On the basis that I had played two or three games with these rules at Julian’s place about ten years ago, he nominated me as co umpire/referee.

The fundamental concept of these rules is that all players are on the same side, fighting against “the system”, which generates large numbers of “Hostiles” AKA Indians/ First Nation/ Native Americans, depending on how PC you wish to be. There are a number of different scenarios but the ultimate game is called “Total War” and involves a multitude of tasks for the players, including getting from one end of the table to the other to attack and destroy an Indian village a la Soldier Blue – not very PC I know but we didn’t write the scenarios!

Julian and I ran the Indians, settlers, Pony Express Rider, Stage Coach, Miners etc – basically, anything that was not the US Cavalry. There were a number of passes on the table and whenever the Cav entered one, a card was turned over, which may involve an ambush by hostiles. At the start of each turn, a card (or two in some situations) was turned over – and these often announced the arrival of hostile war parties. The edge of the board was numbered 1 -12 and 2 D6 were rolled to determine where the hostiles would appear. Julian and I the rolled on a reaction test sheet to determine what all the Indians on the table would do (we did the same for settlers, miners etc). The “players” were Chris, Paul, Rick, John and Barry.

I wont give a blow by blow account but will just put descriptions of the action under each image. The mechanics are somewhat complicated to start with and the QRS is not well laid out or logically headed, but by the middle of game two, we had got pretty much into the swing of things. Hundreds of Indians appeared and were killed, or more commonly, driven off by the Cav. I think we all, including the “neutral” umpires (really, we ended up just “playing” the Indians!) enjoyed the game, once we got our head around how all the charts worked etc.


The target of the US action – a peaceful native village, populated by women, old men and a few dogs….


                                        The five columns head out from Fort Genocide!


The miners, 49 ers, excavating for a mine, but no sign of Darling Clementine. The Cav had to talk them into retiring to the fort for their own protection….

Meanwhile, the dumb ass settlers had decided to go to a Clam Bake (!) and this group were ambushed by the first batch of ten Indians.


Another group of hostiles appear. Julian has a pretty large collection of these very nice Old Glory figures, most of which I painted for him, but not enough to have two or three groups of 100 hostiles on the table, so “dust clouds” are used to represent ten figures. A war party of 100 was thus usually represented by ten figures and nine dust clouds….


The settlers fight it out with the Indian war party – they ended up being over run and killed!

The miners decamp just as another war party hove into view – where the hell are the Army?!


               The Indians were driven off and rampaged through the abandoned mine camp


These idiots decided to leave their nice safe stone walled farm house to head back to the fort – two or three separate war parties made a bee line for them…..its not going to end well!


                                    I think they are probably saying their prayers…..


                      We allowed them to retire to the shelter of the homestead…


… but it did no good – they emptied a few Indian saddles but were quickly overwhelmed


Meanwhile, a wagon train of settlers had appeared and formed circle to defend themselves from the marauding Indians. This the last image from the practice game.




Move one of game two saw the one USC unit that could randomly arrive at any edge, roll point 7, immediately behind the defenceless village – I feel a war crime coming on!


After spraying the squaws and children with gatling gun and carbine fire, the US troopers charged in to finish the job with their sabres..


The villages did fight back, however, and took out two or three cavalrymen, but after a few turns, they were wiped out, however….


…..Karma is a wonderful thing. 30 Indians arrived at point 8, adjacent to where the cavalry had started a few moves earlier


Meanwhile, the other columns were making heavy work of their advance up the table, encountering ambushes and driving off parties of Indians as they slowly advanced


As in Game One, the settlers decided the best thing to do in the middle of a major Pony War was….have another bloody Clam Bake – so off they went in their wagon again. Soon, a war party was hot on their trail!


The cavalry managed to intercept one group and head them off but it was only a temporary reprieve


Karma part two – ONE HUNDRED Indians appeared at point 7, directly behind the retiring cavalry troopers who had destroyed their village and massacred their families!


The Clam Bakers face around 70 hostile Indians – they are not long for this world!

And they are overwhelmed!
One hundred Indians pursuing 15 US Cavalry. The Indians pursue at 13 inches whilst the cavalry can only flee at 11 inches plus, in many circumstances, the Indians can have two moves per turn EG if the cavalry fire at them and get a casualty, they have to spin a reaction test. It can be they quit the field, but it can also be they charge a second time!

Having wiped out the Clam Bakers, the Indians converge on Chris’s fleeing cav, whilst the pursuing war party closes in on their rear


Another random action card saw US reinforcements appear again at point 7, so half the pursuing force (50 braves) split off and turned to confront this new threat


US reinforcements have almost reached their beleaguered colleagues…


                                …. Almost, but not quite in time!


Having wiped out Chris’s command who destroyed their village, the vengeful Indians turn their attentions on Ricks command. That’s 60, plus the number of actual figures, who are charging the US line…


The cavalry split into two commands and bravely (or stupidly) advanced to confront the natives


                           The same view from the other direction


The two forces clash, the cavalry took out three times the number of Indians…but the Indians  reaction roll was “carry on”


Ricks last stand on the high ground as the relentless tide of whooping Indians charge towards his beleaguered command


Meanwhile, yet more US reinforcements had arrived at point 8 and headed towards the signal fire, which had been merrily smoking away most of the game, providing enhanced reinforcement options whenever a “hostiles” card was drawn. John and Barry had been remonstrating with Chris for half the game to knock out the signal fire and thus reduce the number of hostile reinforcements, but he failed to oblige….


                          The Red Tide from Ricks point of view


                            Ricks position from Bald Eagles viewpoint


The last move of the game, Ricks command Is overwhelmed – it was all very Little Big Horn–esque.


More astute readers may be saying “This is all very well, but what happened to John, Barry and Pauls commands?” Well, I got so engrossed in being the “neutral” umpire running my half of the table, I kind of forgot all about them and didn’t take any images! Paul managed to escort the miners and a group of settlers safely back to the fort without engaging in much fighting with the Indians, whilst Barry was wiped out and John displayed his much vaunted “military genius” (blind luck) and drove off all attacks to survive to the end of the game.

In the report to Washington, the details of Chris’s murderous attack on unarmed women and children was glossed over and the fact that he died in the action was used as a reason to recommend him for a medal – nothing too flashy though and certainly not the Congressional Medal of Honour – those writing the report knew the truth and baulked at using the word “honour” in connection with his actions that day!


As well as the scenario, Julian provided virtually all of the figures for this game - great effort mate!


  1. Hi Kieth- Yet another mammoth game- about thirty years ago I played partially in a 15mm 'Pony Wars'- not to the same scale as your scenarios - this is most enjoyable Skirmish type gaming on a grand scale. Thanks for the report and great photos- are the figures 25mm Old Glory per-chance? Regards. KEV.

    1. Thanks Kev. It's a fun game to play now and then. Yes most of the figures are OG.

  2. Very interesting game, Keith. I used to see Pony Wars type of games played at a regional convention many years ago. Indian Wars conflicts are a genre I wonder if still played? There were several such battles on the Palouse and in the region.

    Having an umpire run one side of a game against a cooperative of players can be very fun.

    Game looks good and the photos of the beleaguered troopers tell quite a story.

    1. Thanks Jonathan the mechanics of the game are fun...it's quite nice to have all the players cooperating with each other for a change! Looking back, I am surprised they did not learn the lesson of the first game ...the cavalry should really stick together so they can be mutually supportive!

  3. Not my sort of game Keith (no interest in the Wild West) but it looks fun to play and hopefully you all had a good time.

    1. Thanks Steve and fair enough too! As I said above, it's fun now and then but I would not want to play it regularly. I feel the same about naval or air combat...it holds no interest for me whatsoever!

  4. Very cool gaming, Keith. Love the look of the figures and teepees. Haven't gamed this genre yet, but I can see getting into it someday.

    1. Thank you Dean. A fun game that makes a bit of a change from the more usual one side against the other. The OG figures are one of their nicer ranges too, which also helps!

  5. There was quite a lot going on in that game, and it all seemed like great fun. That was a good idea using dust clouds as stand-in figures.

    1. Cheers Lawrence...yes, Julian has actually invested a fair bit in Indians...probably fifty or sixty mounted figures, but you would have to be very keen to have enough to field two or three groups of one hundred...I think the dust clouds are a good idea

  6. Grest looking game Keith. Love the figures.

    1. Thanks Ray...I have a soft spot for the Indians, having painted most of them fifteen plus years ago. Julian dud the cavalry and has added civilians and wagons etc to the collection. A nice change from our usual fare.

    2. Very interesting AAR, Keith, and it looks like an adventure novel with a good dose of humor and with splendid terrain and miniatures.

    3. Thank you Dmitry. It is nice to play a different type of game every now and then!

  7. Splendid stuff Keith...
    It certainly looked very entertaining...

    I remember many years ago at a show in Derby someone put on a Pony Wars game with a nice twist...
    They had Spanish Hussars... with lances and leather shields...fighting Comanches.
    Even now it is a tempting thought...

    All the best. Aly

    1. Thanks Aly - I tend to agree with Marks comment that this game (plus the Sunday Wild West effort) are not really best suited for so many players. Julian and I had our hands full running the Indians etc but the guys actually "playing" had some hanging about while other peoples actions were resolved. The ending of the second game was pretty dramatic though and provided some great photo ops as the cavalry on the hill were overwhelmed!

    2. Nonetheless Keith, I was disappointed not to have participated. Despite the lack of action at times these games provide some wonderful banter snd character assassination!

  8. Wonderful stuff Keith and perfect timing having backed the re-release of these but in 6mm to give me the sense of scale... It reads like a fun game, the lead project for 2021 :-)

    1. Cheers Stu - yes, your teeny warriors look really cool - cant wait to see how you paint them up and get them on the table!

  9. That looks like a great game to participate in.

    1. It was certainly fun playing the "neutral umpire controlled" Indians!