Thursday 23 February 2023

Reinforcing Conejos

Reinforcing Conejos

May 13, 1912

As some of you may be aware my gaming of the Mexican Revolution as a period is heavily influenced by Hollywood, I make no apologies for this; fun is a large reason why I game. Trains played a huge role in the various stages of the revolutionary wars in Mexico due in the most part to the huge distances which armies needed to cover. Trains are often portrayed in Revolution era movies, these are usually small groups stealing either the train itself or it`s valuable cargo – 100 Rifles (1969), The Five Man Army (1969), The Treasure of Pancho Villa (1955), A Bullet for the General (1968) to name but a few. Now these are fine for small skirmish type games but if you want something bigger take a look at The Professionals (1967) and Villa Rides (1968) which have quite intense battle scenes including a train.

 So I decided on a train ambush game, obviously playing mostly solo these days I couldn`t surprise myself, so I took inspiration from the movies to create a one-off game.

 In an attempt to reinforce his forces at Conejos; Pascual Orozco is sending a train with supplies and men. The train is also escorted by troops of mounted cavalry on each flank in the hope of scaring off any Government forces who might be planning to stop it.

 Col. Pancho Villa has been made aware of the train and has been ordered by his commander - General Huerta to stop it at all costs. Huerta knows the task will be difficult with the limited number of men at Villa`s command and is hoping Villa will fail and can then be quietly removed (shot). Villa has no artillery (but plenty of dynamite) and only a single machine gun, but he has recently acquired the service of an American Mercenary pilot and his aeroplane.

The chosen section of rail track for the ambush is on a gradient which will slow the train at the top of this gradient the track bends around a hill out of direct sight of any train, so it is here that Villa plans to break the track and stop the train! At the same time a cash of dynamite concealed in a culvert will be detonated effectively trapping the train. Villa and his men will then attack the now isolated train supported from the air by the American dropping dynamite bombs!



Infantry company (30 men)

The train

Engine with armoured wagon in front (boiler plate bolted on) carrying half a platoon, Hotchkiss machine gun mounted on the coal wagon

Supplies and coach, the coach carries the train command and a platoon

Armoured car and break van – the armoured car has a 65mm gun and carries half a platoon; another platoon rides in the break van

4 x 10 men mounted troops

 (obviously these will be replaced by foot figures once dismounted)

Villa`s force

Command with Colt machine gun (Villa in the centre)

4 x 10 men platoons 

(note the dynamiters may be dispersed among all the groups)

Wright “pusher” aeroplane

My table

The ambush site

The train plus escort

Special scenario rules

1. As well as having chosen only his best men for the ambush, Villa and his second in command Rodolfo Fierro inspire their men and all get +1 on all roles.

 2. As well as the mine planted in the culvert under the tracks to trap the train, Villa has had three (3) charges planted alongside the track also! These will explode with the effect of a 75mm shell, but take 1 turn to activate (the fuse to burn down). These charges must be pre-positioned before the game by Villa`s player.

3. Lee Arnold the American mercenary carries six (6) dynamite bombs, these explode with the effect of a 50mm mortar round. Lee can either drop two at once or drop one them fly 12” and drop another in each turn over the table. The aircraft is slow and can only pass over the table every other turn.    

First couple of turns had the train moving slowly up the gradient flanked by the mounted troops - note I`ve added cork rocks and cacti (which I`d forgotten earlier) which makes the table a bit more Mexican in flavour. 👍

Villas troops await their arrival

At the of turn 3 the engineer spots the broken line, Fierro & Villa`s dynamiters have already lit their fuses.

Turn 4 all hell breaks loose the track behind the train explodes and two large mines explode either side of the train causing casualties among both flanking cavalry units and unhorsing others. Rifle fire erupts from all around the stranded train and the hum of an engine signals the arrival of Lee Arnold in his “pusher”

Some of the first rifle fire wipes out the Colorado MG team, other shots pick off yet more cavalry, Villa`s only machine gun also takes a few more mounted troopers!

Rodolfo Fierro (in blue) with some of his command

 Turn 5 Those Colorados on the train hurriedly dismount,

The commander orders two men to re-man the MG – they bravely clamber up onto the coal wagon despite the sniper fire! One mounted unit of Colorados decides (foolishly) to charge towards the rocks hiding the Villaistas!

The other mounted unit faced with a machine gun dismount and move to take cover and engage those attackers they can see.

The troops in the lead armour wagon engage what attackers they can see.

Lee Arnold drops two bombs (one fails to explode) among the troops getting off the train.   

Lots and lots more shooting, both Villa and Fierro`s men take a few casualties, but inflict far more in return – the charging cavalry unit is shot to pieces!! The gun mounted on the armoured rear wagon fires but misses.

Turn 6 what is left of the mounted Colorados break and flee (not surprising) they take a couple more casualties as they run.

The Colorado machine gun team sprays the nearest rocks killing a couple of riflemen, but the crew exposed on top of the coal wagon are quickly eliminated also! Fire from the front armoured wagon causes a few more casualties among Villa`s men, though the Colorados inside also take a few hits. The gun in rear armoured carriage manages to kill a couple of Villa`s men also.

On the other side of the train Fierro`s men exchange fire with their enemy, both sides taking casualties, Villa`s Colt MG pins one group of Colorados. Fierro himself leads one group down the hillside in the hope to attack the rear car, in an effort to stop this the half platoon in the car dismounts to engage.

 Turn 7 One of villa`s dynamiters throws a charge into the lead armoured wagon killing most of its occupants (the rest jump out).

Lee Arnold returns dropping two bombs onto the rear of the train, smashing the gun and setting the break van alight

More casualties are inflicted on both sides

 Turns 8 & 9 the fighting becomes very confused as both sides close within pistol range, casualties mount on both sides Fierro`s men were out-numbered and take the worst of it.

Here we see the Colorados flanking Villa`s machine gun (masked from them by the large outcrop) the gunners don`t see their enemy sneaking up on them!

Turn 10 with Arnold`s plane once again moving onto the table the Colorado commander orders his men to break and run for it – they have developed a hole in the Federal lines on Fierro`s side of the train. This turn they also manage to over-run Villa`s machine gun – the high point of their side of the battle.

A bit of Hollywood fun, played out as designed I`m happy with that, Viva Villa!!