Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Preparing for Combat Tests

     Laid out a one-table version of the Powder River battles to test some new combat rules. Got some good insight into the terrain of the battlefield in this book (a recent Kindle dowload):

     So this layout is based on the info in this book. I'll spell it out a little more completely in another post.
     Anyway, the actual battle occurred in sub-zero temperatures, but the summer terrain I have on hand will have to do. For now...

     The 47 men of "Egan's Greys" (K Co / 2nd Cav) spot the Cheyenne village among a thick growth of cottonwoods.

     Captain Egan takes a look through the binoculars.

     Uh-oh! Some of He-Dog's boys have been alerted. And there's ol' He-Dog himself.

     The ground occupied by the village is strewn with piles of firewood, fallen trees, stumps and debris of all sorts. It's like a 19th century trailer park in there. You can see that the Indians have only primed a few of their tepees. If they had wheels, they'd be up on blocks.

     View from the other side of the river.

     And here's the "Gallant 47" now. I'll have to admit the unit frontages of mounted troops are slightly off. But I have lots of troopers and warriors of both sides already on 30mm bases. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably go with 25. Anyway, when Egan's boys get to within 200 yards, it'll be go-time. Revolvers at the ready....CHARGE!!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


     I just wanted to let you guys know one of the things I've been working on.

     Yes, I'm putting together the official ruleset of my Indian Wars battle game, Scalp Dance. The idea is to create a serious but fun set of rules for playing historic engagements on the Western Frontier with a very low entry cost. The main rules will come with a full historic battle, The Battle of Powder River, 1876. Some terrain, a few tepees and a handful of minis is all you'll need to get started. Later, I'll create other historical battle scenarios, allowing you to increase your Indian Wars collection a little at a time. Normally, there is such a long ramp-up time between starting a project and finally getting your armies onto the table that you're just as likely to lose interest in the period as you are to ever start enjoying it.
     That's the idea, anyway.
     Here's a couple of sample pages:

     I'm doing this for fun, so I only work on this when the spirit moves me. I'll be doing the same thing for WSS battles and 7YW as well. So stay tuned!
     In the meantime...HOKA HEY! (Hoka Hey: to live life in such a way that one has done all that one should upon one's last day. Therefore: "Hoka Hey! It is a good day to die!")

Thursday, March 30, 2017


     I picked up a few new books this month. When I say "new," I actually mean "used," as you might be able to tell from the photos. I really wanted to get these books -- and all books -- in Kindle format. But they're just too expensive. As I understand it, publishers are intentionally over-pricing e-book editions in order to prop up paper books (and paper bookstores). LOL! Good luck with that. It's interesting to see these buggy whip manufacturers go down kicking and screaming.
     For example, Frontiersmen in Blue sells for $24 on Kindle. I mean, c'mon man, that's not even serious. Hate to tell ya, but I'm not paying that for a trade paperback, either. I got it used for a couple of bucks. I'm glad, too, because, well, it's just not all that good.

     But let's start with a book that is all that good...mostly. If you read Andersonville by this same author, then you know what awaits you in Spirit Lake. It's a novel of the 1862 Sioux uprising and the massacre that occurred in the Spirit Lake region of Iowa. It's written in a kind of stream of consciousness. Not for everyone. You have to really love language as much as story to enjoy this. As you remember from Andersonville, Kantor can be a tad over-exuberant in his use of words, to put it lightly. To put it heavily, there are times when he just vomits words all over the page. So prepare yourself for that. I'm 300 pages into this 800+ page novel, and so far the author paints a compelling picture of mid-19th century America. 

800 pages of densely-packed verbiage. A 1/2" square chit for scale.
      This book is out of print. I've long wanted to read it, so didn't mind paying $14 for a used mass market paperback. Impressed with the book, I went to purchase Andersonville for my Kindle only to find that the publisher has set the price at $20. I guess they think they can stem the tide of progress. If so, they'll be the first! Off to the used bookstore again. Sigh...

     A couple more, both by Robert Utley: Frontiersmen in Blue and Frontier Regulars. These are something like parts 1 and 2 of a military history of the American West. The first covers the years 1848-1865, the second from '65-'91.
     I read Frontiersmen in Blue and found it informative but dry. Utley, I think, is an academic, and he definitely writes like one. Very by-the-numbers. But I found some good Indian Wars gaming scenarios in there from some little-known campaigns (at least to me) in Oregon and Washington among other places. It's a good reference book, if nothing else. I don't expect anything more from Frontier Regulars. They're both heavy, meaty books with some maps and plenty of photos.

     Forty Miles on Beans and Hay is a much better choice for enjoyable reading than the Utley books. It's pretty much everything you wanted to know about the frontier army during the Indian Wars. Rickey's a good writer and offers a complete -- and personal -- portrait of the frontier soldier of the day. Essential reading for reenactors and wargamers. You won't find any formal description of proscribed tactics used during battle, however -- because there weren't any. Tactics were pretty much improvised on the spot. The formal tactics of the day were for use against modern armies and not Indian bands, who were not considered a significant enough threat to warrant a tactical doctrine. Still, the book discusses weapons and tactics, at least as they were employed in the field. But I was a little disappointed in this aspect of the book. An entertaining read, though.

     If you want a good book on army life on the frontier, Eugene Ware's book is the one to read. He was an officer at Fort Kearney Nebraska during the Civil War. He's also a top-notch writer. The Indian War of 1864 is the somewhat mis-titled account of, well, just day-to-day life on the frontier. I love eye-witness accounts and this is one of the best out there. You learn stuff you've never heard before, such as how the Indians had a superstitious fear of telegraph wires after a group of them were hit by lightning while cutting some down and attempting to steal it. Just the parade of colorful characters that show up at the fort as they travel west (or back east) is almost unbelievable. Like characters from Mark Twain. If you have a Kindle, this book is free on Amazon. I recommend it without reservation.

     While I'm thinking about it, another good first-hand account is My 60 Years on the Plains. The author was a mountain man and Indian fighter. In those days, the Blackfeet were the main nemesis. Also, free, if I remember, on Kindle.