Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Quetzalcoatl Rampant


Kevin Smyth has talked about adapting Daniel Mersey's Lion Rampant skirmish rules to an Aztecs v. Conquistadors setting. This is my stab at that adaptation. Similar to my take on adapting Lion Rampant to 3rd c. Rome, it's basically seeing how the historical types fit into Daniel's existing types in Lion Rampant, adding a few new types, and then concocting a few special rules to cover the unique situation.

It's been a long time since I spent any time studying the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Back in the 1970s(!), I read several books on the subject. My friend Ron Towler and I were keen to game it using Minifigs' old Aztecs range, though nothing came of the project, we did have a lot of the figures. Most of that range, by the way, is still technically available. I ordered one of each figure last year, but they never came and I gave up trying to get them to send them to me. It's nearly impossible to get Minifigs any more...

The impression one gets from reading on the subject of the conquest of Mexico is that the Spanish were supermen who could whip many times their own numbers of Mesoamericans. They certainly had some material advantages: steel weapons and armor, gunpowder, and horses. They also seem to have had a huge advantage in the intangibles like leadership and training. The Spanish also had the advantage of being a mystery to the Aztecs, who initially thought that Cortés was the god Quetzalcoatl, whose coming had been foretold.

There is also the indomitable will of Hernán Cortés to consider. A man of lesser drive or ruthlessness would have failed at any of the crisis points Cortés seemed to have taken in stride: He hijacked the expedition after he was removed from its command, ignored a recall from the governor of Cuba, burned his boats at Veracruz, fought two battles against a huge number of Tlaxcalans and won—eventually making them allies—survived a crushing defeat at Tenochtitlan, defeated and then recruited into his army a Spanish force sent to arrest him, hijacked/seduced into joining him other Spanish forces that strayed into the area, then with his reinforced forces and Tlaxcalan allies, re-took Tenochtitlan and razed it.

Setting out from Veracruz - Tenochtitlan ho!
My ideas behind the adaptation can be summed up as follows:

Comparative values - The Spanish soldiers simply outclassed their Aztec opponents. I've reflected that by pumping up the values for Spanish types that would be much less formidable in a European context. For example, the Spanish caballeros that came with Cortés were not mounted men-at-arms, but when the best the Aztecs could field against them were men dressed in feathers with obsidian-edged clubs, their effect was as much, if not more, than the best chivalry of the old world.

One advantage for the Aztecs in this lopsidedness is that their points are generally lower than typical for units in Lion Rampant and the Spanish are higher.

Holy Huitzilopochtli! What is that!? - The Aztecs had no prior knowledge of horses, steel, or gunpowder. It's as if the Spanish came from outer space, like in Mars Attacks!, but there was no Slim Whitman music to make their heads explode (and in 1520 they would have found it hard to get batteries for their boom-boxes anyway). I've added some special rules to reflect the shock and awe value of Spanish technology.

We few, we happy few - This is one of Kevin's ideas, actually (hence the Henry V reference). In consequence of pumping up Spanish troop values, I've made their unit sizes smaller. All Spanish units are 6 figures.


Los Españoles

Rodeleros
Rodeleros were the famous Spanish sword and buckler men, who made up the majority of Cortés' force. Armed with a fearsome Toledo blade and protected by an assortment of steel plate armor, mail, leather, heavy quilting, and a stout shield, rodeleros were more than a match for many Aztecs. By comparison, they are much like foot men at arms compared to even the best Aztec warriors. The Spanish forces also included men armed with halberds. These should be treated as rodeleros and units can contain a mix of both.

Unit Name: RodelerosPoints: 6
Attack5+Attack Value3+
Move5+Defence Value4+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage3+Max. Movement6"
Armor3Special RulesFerocious,
close order
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Ferocious: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Close order: Similar to the schiltron rule in LR. but is formed by placing two or more figures in side-by-side contact. Units in close order get a +1 to their armor for fighting but not against shooting. Close order can be formed even if the unit is reduced to two figures. The rule represents the advantage the Spanish had in fighting in formation versus the Aztec practice of fighting as individuals in open order.
¡Andele, rodeleros!
Caballeros
The horse was unkown in the Americas before the Spanish came. In addition to the natural advantages a horse had over opponents unequipped to face it, the Aztecs were simply frightened by stomping, snorting, charging war-horses. Even though the mounted men Cortés brought to Mexico weren't the gendarmes of the battlefields in Italy, their effect was as great, or greater, on the native warriors.

Unit Name: CaballerosPoints: 6
Attack4+Attack Value3+
Move5+Defence Value4+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage3+Max. Movement12"
Armor3Special RulesCounter-charge, Fearsome
  • Models per unit: 6; limit one unit per retinue
Special rules:
  • Counter-charge: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Fearsome: Native units charged by caballeros must test for courage at -2.
Oh crap. Horses.
Crossbowmen
Most of the Spanish missile troops with Cortés were crossbowmen. Still a potent weapon even by European warfare standards, the steel-tipped bolts shot at high velocity would have had a much greater impact against native warriors who had no protection against it.

Unit Name: CrossbowmenPoints: 4
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value4+
Shoot6+Shoot Value5+ / 18"
Courage4+Max. Movement6"
Armor2Special Rules-
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • None
Arquebusiers
There were only about 30 arquebusiers with Cortés when he landed at Vera Cruz. Narváez brought 80 more with him in 1520, which were incorporated into Cortés' force for the final attack on Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs had never seen gunpowder and were rather disconcerted by the smoke, noise, and whirring pellets of death.

Unit Name: ArquebusiersPoints: 4
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value4+
Shoot7+Shoot Value6 / 18"
Courage4+Max. Movement6"
Armor2Special RulesHoly smoke!, Bang!
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Holy smoke!: Aztec and Tlaxcalan units fired at by gunpowder weapons must take a courage test even if there are no casualties. If testing for casualties from gunpowder weapons, they incur an additional -2 modifier.
  • Bang!: Units hit by gunpowder weapons have their armor value reduced to 1 (but any protection from terrain still applies).

War dogs
Cortés brought a pack of war dogs with him to Mexico. Although dogs were already known in the new world, the Aztecs had the Xoloitzcuintle (or Mexican hairless), they weren't bread for war. The Spanish mastiffs weighed up to 150 pounds and wore spiked collars and quilted armor.

Unit Name: War dogsPoints: 4
Attack5+Attack Value4+
Move6+Defence Value4+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesFearsome
  • Models per unit: 4-6 (handlers plus three/four dogs); takes 6 hits: limit one unit per retinue
Special rules:
  • Fearsome: Native units charged by war dogs must test for courage at -2.
No es un perro de la guerra

Cannon
If the arquebus was unsettling to the Mexicans, the cannon was much more so. Cortés brought several cannon with him and Narvaez brought even more in 1520.

Unit Name: CannonPoints: 4
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move7+Defence Value6
Shoot6+Shoot Value5+ / 36"
Courage5+Max. Movement4"
Armor2Special RulesHoly smoke!, Bang!
  • Models per unit: 1 cannon plus crew (2-4 figures); takes 6 hits; limit one unit per retinue
Special rules:
  • Holy smoke!: Aztec and Tlaxcalan units fired at by gunpowder weapons must take a courage test even if there are no casualties. If testing for casualties from gunpowder weapons, they incur an additional -2 modifier.
  • Bang!: Units hit by gunpowder weapons have their armor value reduced to 1 (but any protection from terrain still applies).
Here's some BOOM for ya
Jinetes
Jinetes were the traditional light cavalry of Spain, which developed during the long wars with the Moors. Cortés had no jinetes with him when he invaded Mexico, but later Spanish conquistadors used them in the continuing conquest.

Unit Name: JinetesPoints: 4
Attack7+Attack Value5+
Move5+Defence Value5+
Shoot6+Shoot Value5+ / 12"
Courage4+Max. Movement12"
Armor2Special RulesSkirmish, Evade 
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Skirmish: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Evade: Same as in the LR rules.

Los Aztecas


Warfare was a primary responsibility for men of the upper classes. Although there was no standing army per se, most Aztec men were trained from their youth to fight. A warrior would serve in battle only after he turned 20 years old. 

Aztec warriors were classified by experience, which was measured in how many captives a warrior took in battle. Capturing enemies was preferred to killing them (see your beating heart below) and it was expected of every warrior. The rank and military attire a warrior was allowed to wear depended on how many captives they had taken. As their count increased, so did their prestige and distinctions in dress. Warriors who failed to take a captive after three or four campaigns were increasingly shamed until they did what was expected. The classifications are:

Telpochcalli - Youths training for war.  They had yet to take a captive in war.

Tlamanih - Warriors who had taken one captive.

Cuextecatl - Warriors who had taken two captives. They wore a distinctive conical cap.

Papalotl - Warriors who had taken three captives. They were entitled to wear a distinctive banner.

Quachicqueh - Warriors who had taken four or five captives.

Otomitl  - The highest rank were those who had taken more than six captives. Otomitl wore a distinctive hair style.

Fight on the Tenochtitlan causeway
It's a bit murky how warriors of varying experience were deployed in battle. My working hypothesis is that they were mixed together except for the eagle and jaguar warrior societies and the Quachicqueh and Otomitl - although, there is evidence that even these were mixed in with less experienced warriors as a kind of "stiffening."


Eagle and Jaguar warriors
This type represents the elite warrior societies like eagle and jaguar knights. They were a religious elite who lived in a society within the court of the Aztec ruler. Eagle and jaguar knights were from the nobility and dedicated to this service, but there is some evidence that commoners could rise to membership in the society.

Unit Name: Eagle/Jaguar KnightsPoints: 4
Attack4+Attack Value4+
Move5+Defence Value5+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage3+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesFerocious, Wild charge, Your beating heart
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Ferocious: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Wild charge: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Your beating heart: An important aspect of Aztec warfare was the capture of enemies for sacrifice. However satisfying it may be to dispatch one's enemy in the field, it was deemed even more satisfying to offer his still-beating heart to Huitzilopochtli. Whenever the unit scores casualties against an enemy unit by fighting, they can instead attempt to capture those casualties. For each casualty scored make a courage test. If the test is passed, the casualty becomes a captive instead. If the test is failed, the casualty is returned to its unit. Figures lost as captives count as -2 in courage tests for the losing unit. In addition, a unit that takes captives adds +1 to its courage tests for each captive it's taken.
Upgrades:
  • Atlatl @ +1 per unit: Add shoot at 7+, 6/12" range to represent the dart throwers that were common among all Aztec warriors.
Where the wild things are

Veteran Warriors
These represent the quachicqueh and otomitl, who were the most experienced and distinguished Aztec warriors. They had shown their valor by taking many captives and by other acts of bravery.

Unit Name: Veteran WarriorsPoints: 4
Attack5+Attack Value4+
Move5+Defence Value5+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesFerocious, wild charge, Your beating heart
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Ferocious: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Wild charge: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Your beating heart: An important aspect of Aztec warfare was the capture of enemies for sacrifice. However satisfying it may be to dispatch one's enemy in the field, it was deemed even more satisfying to offer his still-beating heart to Huitzilopochtli. Whenever the unit scores casualties against an enemy unit by fighting, they can instead attempt to capture those casualties. For each casualty scored make a courage test. If the test is passed, the casualty becomes a captive instead. If the test is failed, the casualty is returned to its unit. Figures lost as captives count as -2 in courage tests for the losing unit. In addition, a unit that takes captives adds +1 to its courage tests for each captive it's taken.
Upgrades:
  • Atlatl @ +1 per unit: Add shoot at 7+, 6/12" range to represent the dart throwers that were common among all Aztec warriors.

Warriors
These are the normal Aztec warriors who had not yet distinguished themselves as much as veteran warriors, though many would have served in multiple campaigns and taken captives.

Unit Name: WarriorsPoints: 3
Attack6+Attack Value5+
Move7+Defence Value6
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesYour beating heart
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Your beating heart: An important aspect of Aztec warfare was the capture of enemies for sacrifice. However satisfying it may be to dispatch one's enemy in the field, it was deemed even more satisfying to offer his still-beating heart to Huitzilopochtli. Whenever the unit scores casualties against an enemy unit by fighting, they can instead attempt to capture those casualties. For each casualty scored make a courage test. If the test is passed, the casualty becomes a captive instead. If the test is failed, the casualty is returned to its unit. Figures lost as captives count as -2 in courage tests for the losing unit. In addition, a unit that takes captives adds +1 to its courage tests for each captive it's taken.
Upgrades:
  • Atlatl @ +1 per unit: Add shoot at 7+, 6/12" range to represent the dart throwers that were common among all Aztec warriors.

Skirmishers
These warriors attacked with sling, arrow, and darts thrown from atlatls. These units are best represented like bidowers in LR. No differentiation is made between slingers, archers, and dart throwers, so a unit can contain a mix.

Unit Name: NovicesPoints: 2
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value6
Shoot7+Shoot Value5+ / 12"
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor1Special RulesHard to target, Skirmish, Evade, Fleet footed
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Hard to target: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Skirmish: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Evade: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Fleet footed: Same as in the LR rules.

Los Tlaxcaltecas


The Tlaxcalans were the main allies of the Spanish among the Aztecs' neighbors. They were never subsumed by the Aztec empire. According to the Tlaxcalans, this was because they were successful in thwarting the Aztecs' imperial ambitions. According to the Aztecs, this was because they needed an enemy state within reasonable marching distance from Tenochtitlan to supply them with captives in war as fresh victims to their gods. In either case, the coming of Cortés and company was a godsend. Although enemies at first, the Tlaxcalans saw the Spanish as the means for destroying the hated Aztecs and remained firm allies through thick and thin.

The following are mostly the same as comparable Aztec types, except for the Your beating heart rule. The Spanish encouraged their allies' conversion to Christianity, but in any case they weren't keen on human sacrifice.

Veteran Warriors
These represent the quachicqueh and otomitl, who were the most experienced and distinguished Tlaxcalan warriors.

Unit Name: Veteran WarriorsPoints: 4
Attack5+Attack Value4+
Move5+Defence Value5+
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage4+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special RulesFerocious, wild charge
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • Ferocious: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Wild charge: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Atlatl @ +1 per unit: Add shoot at 7+, 6/12" range to represent the dart throwers that were common among all Mesoamerican warriors.

Warriors
These are the run in the mill Tlaxcalan warriors who had not yet distinguished themselves as much as veteran warriors, though many would have served in multiple campaigns.

Unit Name: WarriorsPoints: 3
Attack6+Attack Value5+
Move7+Defence Value6
Shoot-Shoot Value-
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special Rules-
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • None
Upgrades:
  • Atlatl @ +1 per unit: Add shoot at 7+, 6/12" range to represent the dart throwers that were common among all Mesoamerican warriors.

Archers
The Tlaxcalans were noted for uniformly-armed units, including units that were entirely made up of archers. This unit type allows the Tlaxcalans to use massed archery as opposed to the general barrage of missiles thrown, chucked, hurled, shot, propelled or lobbed that commonly burst forth from most eclectic Mesoamerican warrior groupings.


Unit Name: ArchersPoints: 4
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move6+Defence Value6
Shoot5+Shoot Value5+ / 18"
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor2Special Rules-
  • Models per unit: 12
Special rules:
  • None

Skirmishers
These warriors attacked with sling, arrow, and darts thrown from atlatls. These units are best represented like bidowers in LR. No differentiation is made between slingers, archers, and dart throwers, so a unit can contain a mix.

Unit Name: SkirmishersPoints: 2
Attack7+Attack Value6
Move5+Defence Value6
Shoot7+Shoot Value5+ / 12"
Courage5+Max. Movement8"
Armor1Special RulesHard to target, Skirmish, Evade, Fleet footed
  • Models per unit: 6
Special rules:
  • Hard to target: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Skirmish: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Evade: Same as in the LR rules.
  • Fleet footed: Same as in the LR rules.

Figures 'n' stuff
I started out buying some of the Eureka eagle knights. There's a lot to like about the Eureka figures. The detail is very good. The feathered texture of the eagle knights' suits is very well defined. Eureka makes figures for Conquistadors that goes beyond the conquest of Mexico.

However, I also had some of The Assault Group's Spanish and had available to me a lot of their Aztecs and Tlaxcalans. (John at The Panzer Depot used to be a distributor for them and has a lot of stock that he's been clearing out at discount prices.)

I picked up as much as I could and made an order to TAG in the UK.Ordering from TAG is much easier than ordering from Eureka, plus TAG offers free shipping if you buy a certain amount (which isn't much). Eureka always charges shipping, though the figures are cheaper.

At this point, I'm committed to building my retinues with TAG figures. I'm kind of a stickler for uniformity. But there are other ranges that have promise. Gringo 40s makes a 28mm range of Aztecs, conquistadors, and Mayans. The figures look beautiful, although there is little variety in the poses; basically they have just one pose per type.

Outpost Wargame Service has figure ranges for Aztecs, conquistadors, Tlaxcalans, Mayans, and Incas. They also have Huaxtecs and Tarascans. Outpost figures look a bit chunky and there is a variety of poses for each type.

I'm starting to think about terrain for a fight into Tenochtitlan: causeways, islands, built-up areas, and big towering temples. Cortés also has several barques for the final battle at Tenochtitlan in order to control the lake. (The Spanish had suffered terrible losses in their earlier retreat from the city, La Noche Triste, due to the canoes filled with warriors who assaulted them continuously while they withdrew across the causways.)

12 comments:

  1. Really interesting and sooo tempting !

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  2. Excellent post, not a period I game but very interesting and entertaining ideas. I've posted a link to this on the Dux Rampant forum so hopefully more players can enjoy it as well.

    Regards, Matt

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  3. An excellent start! But, if I may, a few comments...

    You might want to raise the military order/veteran warrior armor rating to 3 - they have more than feathers on;

    Atlatls should be an option for all Mexica units;

    Archers - The Mexica were indifferent archers. The best were the Tarascans, followed by the Tlaxcala, with Mexicas a distant third if that good. I would limit the number of archers to no more than the amount of slingers. This is just a cosmetic change as the stats are the same.

    Priests - should use the same stats as their military counterparts, as they were ranked by captures in the same way but had different suits.


    I'm looking forward to trying this out myself - thanks again!


    Greg

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  4. Some good ideas, Greg. I wondered about the armor for the knights, quachicqueh, and otomitl. They wore quilted armor under their suits (and Prescott claims copper plate as well, but I haven't seen that in other sources). But the quilting was better against obsidian than against Toledo steel and bullets. I wanted to keep the disparity in how I factored them. I may change it if the game plays too much in favor of the Spanish.

    I also need to add Tlaxcalans, though these will be much the same as the Aztecs, without warrior societys. TAG makes some nifty Tlaxcalans in suits and zoomorphic headresses. I've got several in progress. I'll proably give the Tlaxcalans dedicated archer units, rather than just skirmishers.

    I've thought about giving the Aztecs a short-range missile to represent the atlatl/darts that many carried. I'll probably do that.

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  5. Love the amount of detail you've put into this.

    Have you also thought about negative modifiers to add to the Spaniards in order to further even them up versus the Aztecs regarding the environment?

    For example, perhaps causing the Spaniards to make some sort of test when in wooded terrain else lose a model to snake-bite, or something equally debilitating seeing as they were very much out of their element in the South/Central American jungles?

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  6. You are right about balance. This thing needs a test drive first!

    The Tlaxcala suits are just as experienced as the Mexica Jaguars, in my opinion. Archer units for the Tlaxcala is a good idea as well.

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  7. Excellent image of the war dog.

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  8. Wow! - some very well-thought out and detailed stats, David. I can see your work translated to a few other periods/genres too - not the least WHFB Empire guys and also maybe Polynesians with the native types.

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  9. This is great! I've got a literal ton of Mexica and Spanish on the display shelf. They've not been played in years. I'll give this a try and will report back. I'm a little concerned about "balance" but will probably do a 36-48 point Aztec army against a 24 point Spanish army to represent the miniscule numbers Cortes brought with him. Have to go watch my copy of "Captain from Castile" now! Well...after teaching classes today...lol

    Steve Miller
    DFW Irregulars-Southern Front

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  10. The play balance is a bit of a guess. I'll be eager to hear how your game turns out.

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  11. David,

    I'm an irregular reader of your 'I live with Cats' blog and just came across your post regarding Aztecs vs. Conquistadors today. Though I've not gamed the period for a decade or more (maybe two decades?), your post provided me with a pleasant sense of nostalgia. I Thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures of my version of the retaking of Tenochtitlan, here: https://sites.google.com/site/petiteguerre/galleries/aztecs-2-1

    Good gaming!

    --jeff

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  12. Thanks, Jeff. Nice looking game! That's the kind of set-up I can only dream about, but there's no place to store it all.

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