Sunday 10 September 2023

Starring Pancho Villa

 Starring Pancho Villa

The Battle of Ojinaga, 1914

The Battle of Ojinaga, also known as the Taking of Ojinaga, was a major battle during the Mexican Revolution was fought on January 11, 1914.  Villa`s Army of the North won a resounding victory and put an end to the last stronghold of the Federal Army in Northern Mexico.

After the rebel Generals Toribio Ortega Ramirez and Panfilo Natera Garcia could not finish the place off, Pancho Villa arrived in Ojinaga with a large force, and defeated the forces of Salvador Mercado and drove them from the city.

Villa has made an agreement with Mutual Film led by Harry Aitken and movie mogul D. W. Griffith with the offer of an exclusive deal to film Villa and the Revolution (at a price). Griffith sends a young junior executive Frank Thayer down to the border with a film crew to negotiate and hopefully get and agreement and film Villa.

 Thayer and his crew arrive just in time to witness Villa`s attack on Ojinaga just across the Rio Grande.

 Ojinaga sits in a bend of the river atop a rise, there is a bridge across the Rio Grande at this point. The Federals have placed their defences on the southern side of the town facing southwards, these consist of trenches and wire.

 Villa plans to use this attack as a showcase for himself, his attack plan consist of three simultaneous moves: the first directly against the trench line, the other two both rapid mounted charges from both the east and west catching the defenders in a pincer like trap against the river.

In reality this was a large battle with thousands of men on each side, I`ve reduced it down to a battalion level game for my tabletop. My Mexican Revolution armies are a huge mix of manufacturers - Raventhorpe, Jacklex, Shellhole Scenics, Early War Miniatures, Irregular Miniatures plus loads of my own conversions (head swaps, arm swaps, etc)

Federal defenders


HQ (General Salvador Mercado)

2 platoons from the Federal 29th Regiment

Trench-line south of town

HQ + 4 platoons of 29th Regiment


1 75mm field gun

Some wire & entrenchments

Villa`s forces

Group A

2 companies on foot

Supported by:

2 x 75mm field guns

1 machine gun

Cavalry flanking moves enter table on turn 10

Group B (right flank) commanded by Villa

Mounted company

Group C (left flank) Commanded by Rodolfo Fierro

Mounted company

Special rules

Federal morale is shot and they suffer -1 to all morale checks

At the first signs of Villa`s men breaking into the town the Federal HQ will break and flee across the bridge into the US. This further reduces the defenders morale by an additional -1

Both Villa and Fierro boost their men`s morale and these groups gain +1 to all checks

My table

Federal defences south of town


Mexican customs post and Federal HQ

Looking across the Rio Grande to the US side

US Border and customs post

Frank Thayer and cameraman watches on

The Game

Turn 1 the two Villaista infantry companies advanced one each side of the road; their artillery remained off table initially targeting the farm on the right, the opening salvo fell short.

The Federal infantry awaited them getting into range, their `75 scored first blood of the game on the enemy infantry!

Turn 2 the advance continues, forward federal positions exchange fire with advancing Villaistas, both sides take casualties, but the Federal shaky morale affects their accuracy. The Federal `75 misses this turn! One of the Villaista guns targets the now spotted Federal gun but misses! The other gun hits the farm causing casualties.

Turn 3 the Federal gun scores a hit among the advancing enemy, lucky for the unit it targets the company commander & standard bearer are close at hand and these remove the need for a morale check.

Unfortunately Villa`s guns are on fine form and wipe out the Federal gun

Villa`s other gun changes target to the farm wall and scores another hit taking more Federals

Both sides infantry exchange fire, again both side take casualties, once again the Federal morale issues reduce their effectiveness.

Turn 4 On the left some Villaistas have reached a rocky outcrop, they exchange fire with Federals defending it. Everywhere else The infantry slowly continue moving forward, on the right they are blocked by barbed wire so call up their dynamiters to blow a gap. The Federals are spread thin, the resist however they can.

Turn 5 The defenders on the left hand outcrop are over run, the sole survivor must make a morale check. On the right Villa`s men have reached the foot of that rocky hill.

In the centre Villa`s men can`t move forward due to barbed wire protecting the entrenched Federals. They call for artillery support via bugle (fail).    

Turn 6 The sole Federal survivor on the left surrenders and changes sides (quite normal from my reading of the Revolution).

On the right the dynamiters go to work

In the centre Villa`s guns begin to hit home along the Federal trench line

Turn 7 The right hand hill also falls to Villa`s men and the rest of that company begin an assault on the farm, both sides take casualties, but the Federals come off worse and fail their morale.

In the centre Villa`s artillery continues working on the Federal trenches killing the majority of the defenders forcing the survivors to retreat.

With defensive fire slackening dynamiters are called forward to blow gaps in the wire.

Turn 8 On the right Villa`s troops storm the farm wall, driving surviving Federals before them.

In the centre the wire is blown

And Villa`s men storm forward

The Federals retreat towards the town

Villa`s artillery limber up to move onto the tabletop

Turn 9 The farm is captured, the last Federal survivors surrender

On the outskirts of the town, a Federal officer appears to halt and rally those troops retreating along the road

Turns 10-12 see the Villaistas reorganise themselves and move toward to outskirts of the town, the artillery move forward and set up to support the attack. The Federals also do some re-organisation, placing those men retreating from the trenches into new defensive positions within outlying buildings or adding them to existing positions. During this period Villa and Fierro have been moving their cavalry into position on either flank also.

Villa`s Positions at the start of Turn 13



Villa`s cavalry (coming from the right)
Fierro`s cavalry (coming from the left)
Turn 13 started with a general advance by all units, the cavalry coming in from both flanks split the Federals defence. During this turn on a couple of infantry and the machine gun were in range and these killed a few Villaistas. Villa`s artillery replied killing some visible Federals

Turn 14 The general advance continues, with only the Federal MG resisting, Villa`s artillery spotter fails to find the gun.

Turn 15 More general advance, Federals shooting down from buildings onto Villa`s men, once again the artillery spotter fails to find the machine gun. Panic strikes the town civilians and they begin to flee across the bridge into the United States.
Turn 16 Villa`s and Fierro`s mounted troops swirl around the buildings, being fired on by Federal troops inside or on the rooves. Finally the artillery spotter finds the gun, but the first salvo misses the house.
Turn 17 The battle continues more and more Villaistas enter the town, they storm some outlying buildings putting any Federals to the sword. They do however take constant casualties from Federal snipers! Villa`s gun finally get the range and silence the federal machine gun.
The civilians continue to move across the bridge into the US
Thayer and his cameraman work to capture the scene
Among his crew he has an actress, so he poses her among the refugees
Turns 18 -20 Villa`s men are mopping up, storming buildings, shooting Federals as they try to escape across the river. General Mercado leaves his escape too late and dies when the Mexican customs house is blown up by dynamite!

Federal gun limber fleeing across the bridge 
General Mercado moments before the end
Villa & Fierro
Some final shots as the Villaista`s close in

Fun game to play, I should have started the Federal retreat across the river sooner and tried to save more men (or them trying to save themselves). Historically the US authorities captured and detained several thousand Federal soldiers who fled the battle across the Rio Bravo! 


  1. Ian (Shellhole Scenics)11 September 2023 at 11:24

    Nicely put together report & great to see a historical Mexican Revolution battle recreated in such detail."well done"

    1. Thank you Ian that is very kind :) I have three more games already written, all different aspects of the various revolutions.

  2. You have interesting Wargames. The kit and figs always sweet to see in action!

    1. Cheers, I try to choose interesting actions to then try and create a game around the history.

  3. Great stuff as alays Richard- love the history you always put into each scenario.



  4. What the glossy mags, (and out of action new Sotcw Journal) are missing we are gaining thru your blog and this exceptional history into tabletop action and game report with its beautiful details, like graveyard, market place, border point and film unit; not forget the lady in red slipping away!
    Santo get mybtoy soldiers out and copy this one! I will have to wait till weekend when I get home from my brothers in Tarragon's!
    Excellent Richard! And great generosity to give your time to sharing this on your blog!. CarlL

    1. Very kind mate, I`m just having fun and trying to prove wargaming isn`t just WW2 :)

    2. Just re-read your comment, has the Journal fallen behind schedule then?

  5. Oops some typos in my last post! Like "Want to get my toy soldiers out" and "Tarragona"; apologies, using small key board on small tablet! CarlL

    1. We were actually back in rainy Wales this last weekend, returned to Spain last night :)

  6. Looks a fantastic game. What rules/figure scale do you use?

    1. Thank you, very kind. Virtually everything I do is in 20mm, the rules are a version of Rapid fire! but scaled back so the 10 fig "companies" in our games represent platoons.

  7. You are certainly not sure of miniatures for the period! The different ranges seem to mix well. Am I correct in assuming they are a mix of Jacklex, Raventhorpe, Early War Miniatures and Shellhole?

    1. I have gone a bit crazy :) I have listed the manufacturers in the right-up - all those you mention plus some Irregular Miniatures and quite a few simple conversions (head-swaps, arm-swaps and just paint jobs). I have a batch of plastic cowboys and civilians to do next - if I ever get the time.

  8. I am thinking of doing the conflict on rather a smaller scale using the Fistful of Lead Mexican Revolution supplement or Alan Saunders' Struggle Against Everything and Everyone rules. Keep the great reports coming!

    1. I have that supplement, not bad. There is also the "Hey Gringo" supplement to "Crush the Kaiser" rules which seem fun. I use the same rules for every period and era I play 1890 to 1960, they work fine for a battalion or so per side and can even drop down to 1 to 1 skirmish for 28mm :) Mexican Revolution is my play for fun period.

  9. Your rules sound very flexible! Are they available on your blog anywhere?

    1. I`m not sure if I published anything about my modifications to the original RF rules?? Rapid Fire! is pretty flexible, I actually think it works better at this lower level, than it does as a battalion/regimental game as designed. I`ve also pinched various bits from Crossfire, Command Decision and the classic "Battle" set by Charles Grant from the 1960s. Its a very simple game, I hardly look at charts these days :)

  10. I have just been browsing through your other Mex revolution pages - you have effectively written a scenario book. Brilliant! What colour did you use for the US troops? The colours in the Ospreys look more brown/sand and I also think they should be greener.

    1. You are far too kind, I just make things up as I go along :) For this period I`ve actually tried a few makes of US Olive (Coate de Armes, Vallejo and even GW) actually GW Castellan Green is my goto colour for US WW2 uniforms :) I fully accept this maybe too green for Pershing`s forces in Mexico and along the border in general, but my thinking is make them visually striking across the tabletop rather than 100% historically accurate - and i make no appologies about this :) If you want to go green, but not too green, you could use Vallejo Russian Uniform Green for a more faded/washed out colour :) I have used this on some of mine and it looks fine.