Saturday, 26 June 2021

Battle of the Little Big Horn

Anyone who was a schoolboy in the 1960's will remember the Waddingtons board game of the Battle of the Little Big Horn, it came with some rather nice 40mm figures of General Custer, his 7th Cavalry and the opposing Sioux and Cheyenne Indians.  Well sometime last year Anthony had the original board copied onto a 6'x4' mat for use with 54mm toy soldiers but the ensuing pandemic has prevented us playing it, until today, which by the purest of coincidence happens to be the 145th anniversary of the actual battle.

The Indian camp beyond the Little Big Horn river, the red triangles show the starting places for the Braves on foot, the blue triangles are the starting positions for Custer and the 7th Cavalry.  Model trees and tepees give a bit of definition to the flat board.

At the other end of the board the red triangles show the starting places for the mounted Indians and their Chiefs, rock formations give a 3D effect to the board.

The figures we used were from the Britains Deetail range, the beauty of these is that they have metal bases which prevent them falling over all the time.

Victory conditions for the 7th Cavalry is either to escape across the river and exit the board with their flag or kill all of the three Indian Chiefs.  Victory conditions for the Indians is to kill Custer, his two officers and capture the flag.
 
We played a trial game with the original rules and number of figures, we were surprised at how subtle and tactical the rules were, mistakes were inevitably made on both sides but in the spirit of good gamesmanship we helped each other to avoid the most disastrous outcomes.  The game took about two hours to play and as you can see above it reflected the historical outcome.  It was great fun, surprisingly challenging and we felt the game system could easily be adopted to other low intensity irregular conflicts, I already have a late 1940's French Indochina project in mind.

For those who like a bit of toy soldier trivia with their wargame reports this is the first version Zang/Herald tepee from the Indian encampment set.  I don't know if you should call this rare or just hard to find but it differs from the ubiquitously common second version by having a short entrance flap with four diamonds above while the later one has a larger flap with just two diamonds above.  Not many people know that.  You really do have to be a boring old fart to be interested in this sort of minutiae! 

And yes, it really was a complete coincidence that we played this game on the anniversary of the actual battle. We got so drawn in we could almost have been there on that fateful day in 1876, imagination can take you to these places, good job they don't let children get a taste of it.

16 comments:

  1. Brilliant ideas to enlarge the game board and to use Deetail figures! I've always liked the Waddington's figures, but Deetails stay up and that is part of the reason why we have loved them for fifty years! I saw that Britains is releasing some newly painted ACW Deetail, but I feel that there should be more of celebration for their 50th anniversary! It was simply kismet Brian, that you were meant to play The Little Big Horn on its anniversary!

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    1. The date for our game had to be postponed several times due to various other commitments and we settled on the 26th a couple of weeks ago, we remained blissfully ignorant that it was the anniversary until I noticed facebook was suddenly awash with references to the Battle!

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  2. What a great idea, and very well done! I never owned the Waddingtons game but I have played it a COW some years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. The game actually originated in Spain as part of a series called "Grandes Batallas del Mundo" by the firm Rojas y Malaret, there is another similar game set during the Punic Wars based on the Battle of Metauro. Anthony has had a matt made for the Metauro game but sourcing the figure in 54mm is a bit more challenging, so watch this space, as they say in the movies!

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  3. It was great to game at chez Carrick again after so long. It was Brian's idea to add 3D terrain to my mat and the effect was well worth it. We got much more out of the game than I expected and there were a lot of decision points considering the simplicity of the rules. And of course the Carrick Commissariat was up to its (or rather her) usual standard-thanks Jane!

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    1. It's hard to beat a sausage sandwich and a beer after a hard morning's gaming!

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  4. Awesome looking game mat!

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    1. As gridded games go it really is quite novel

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  5. I remember seeing the game from my childhood , always wanted it but never got it : (

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    1. Same here really, I did get it eventually but not until I was in my forties

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  6. Have the game still. Great to see pictures of the mat and game. Sounds terrific fun.

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    1. This was our first outing with the game, we plan to try it again with much larger forces on each side and also some alternative scenarios.

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  7. Interesting! (and attractive!) It was only a few years ago that I first heard of Waddington games! Pity!

    Marx did a Miniature Masterpiece Big Horn playset with painted 40mm hard plastic figures but I didn't have that one and they didn't come with rules anyway.

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    1. It is a nice looking board, could do without those great big triangles though!

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  8. Brian, interesting post, for several reasons.
    Michael

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    1. Thanks Michael, the idea came from an article in Wargames Illustrated, Anthony contacted the author who supplied some additional rules and scenarios which we have yet to try out.

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