Native Americans whooping on some U.S. butts

In Pursuit - Miami War Party 1790 by Todd Price-©Todd Price

 this photo has nothing to do with the review as it was taken almost 100 years later (that's Geronimo on the right, taken 1886.), however, think about it.

note - this review was originally posted Oct 21 2017 and was the game that lead me to make this blog - so well written? Nah, but still ok. Unfortunately, Blogger ate it, changed the colors and font sizes. I am trying to remember it as it was to put back. I apologize if you have been here before and it is now different. -ab
Game cover
"Kekionga! A Dark & Bloody Battleground 1790" (a.k.a. Harmar's Defeat") is the first of a series of games concerning the US expedition in 1790's to 1800's to the Northwest Territories (the areas around western Ohio and eastern Indiana) and to spoil the surprise, the US was soundly beaten.

"Kekionga! A Dark & Bloody Battleground 1790" is from High Flying Dice Games, LLC. Design and published by Paul Rohrbaugh, with graphics by Nils Johansson.

History of the Battle:
Since much has been written about this campaign, I will not touch on how it came about, just the principle battles. If you want to know those "why's", look it up! Just do a search for "Harmar's Defeat".

In a nutshell, Gen. Harmar's Campaign primary objective was the destruction of the large main Miami village of Kekionga with a secondary objective to punish the Native American's (NA's) for attacking US Citizens and "to allow US citizens  to rob and steal land from those no good redskins" (my words, but the truth on how most folks thought at that time, and unfortunately still to this day).

15 October 1790, General Harmar dispatched 600 men under Colonel John Hardin for a forced march to "surprise" the Indians at Kekionga. When Col Hardin's detachment reached Kekionga, they found it was abandoned. Hardin's detachment burned the town together with everything they found and camped south of the destroyed town.

17 October 1790, General Harmar reached other Miami villages near Kekionga and proceeded to do the same to the villiages as Kekionga -  destroyed everything.

19 October 1790, General Harmar sent out a scouting party under Colonel Hardin consisting of 180 militia, Major James Fontaine with his mounted Kentucky riflemen and 30 regulars under Captain John Armstrong. The scouting party's mission was to estimate the strength of the NA's and attack the village of Chief Le Gris and destroy it.

On their way to the village, the party came within a few miles of Kekionga and the scouting party spotted a lone NA on horseback, who lead the scouting party on a wild goose chase into swampy lowland near the Eel River 13 miles NW of Kekionga. Little did Col Hardin realized he was being lead into an ambush (no knowledge of an area leads to death for chasers - just ask the 7th Cav.). Ambush time! Little Turtle and his warriors (around 100) attacked from 3 sides. 22 regulars and 40 militia were killed with 12 wounded. This became known as "Battle of Heller's Corner" or "Hardin's Defeat".

20 October 1790, Gen. Harmar arrived outside of Kekionga. He sent a detachment of 300 men under Ensign Phillip Hartshorn northward to scout for Indian movements. Eight miles north of Kekionga, Ensign Hartshorn was ambushed by a large Indian force, which killed him and 19 of his men. General Harmar pull his troops back instead of attacking. He refused requests from his subordinates for a burial detail. Needless to say, morale went down. The remains of the men were finally buried by Gen "Mad" Anthony Wayne a few years later.

On the evening of 21 October 1790, Colonel Hardin advanced with 300 militia and 60 regulars commanded by Major John P. Wyllys.

Dawn on 22 October 1790, Col Hardin found about 1,000 NA's camped at Kekionga. Hardin immediately sent word to Harmar requesting reinforcements. When Harmar heard about the size of the enemy force, he became shaken and ordered his remaining men (about 800 to 900) into a defensive square and refused to come to Hardin's aid. This left Col Hardin alone to face an enemy more than twice his size.

Col Hardin, not knowing that he wasn't going to get help from Gen Harmar, still waited expecting reinforcements to arrive at any time. In the meantime, he divided his command into four groups under Major Wyllys, Major Hall, *Major Fontaine, and Major McMullen. He planned to attack the NA's on all sides. Little Turtle had other ideas and attacked first (He threw down a 6 while Col Hardin threw down a 2 in game speak).

Col Hardin lost 14 officers (including Major Wyllys and Major Fontaine) and 115 men. 94 were wounded. NA's estimate losses are from 120 to 150 warriors. It was a solid Native American victory.

This is the battle known as "Harmar's Defeat" and this is what this game is all about.  The Native Americans have their own name for this battle - "Battle of the Pumpkin Fields", because the steam raising from the scalped heads, reminded them of steaming squash in the Autumn air.

After this battle, General Harmar lost all confidence in himself, his men, and decided he couldn't continue the attack. He and what was left of his command retreated to Fort Washington, 3 Nov 1790.

*note: I asked Paul why wasn't Major Fontaine included in the leader mix. Paul explained as follows - "I did not include Fontaine in the counter sheet as he was rather ineffective here. Game design, as well as any historical portrayal regardless of format books, articles, web pages, etc,. involves interpretation and a thesis. In normal game format, these are very important. Keeping it simple and involving, as well as true to the history, are important challenges.".

And it is true, Major Fontaine was ineffective, as he was killed early in the battle on 22 Oct 1790, by charging into a group of Native Americans with his saber. Now, two ways to think about this - he was ineffective for the US side, but he was effective for Little Turtle, as his death help contribute to the declining US morale. Devils advocate, I love it.

On to the game...

The Game:
The game costs $11.99 from High Flying Dice Games. It consists of one 11"x17" heavy glossy card stock map. A rule booklet, and a sheet of unmounted counters - 56 of them to be exact. What is needed in addition to the game for play is a deck of playing cards and one 6 sided die (1D6).

I did purchased the mounted counters and Paul does an excellent job of mounting. I also purchased an extra counter sheet, for one never knows when a counter might go missing.

A card set designed for this game, called the "Battles of the Old Northwest" card set, cost is $8.00, is also available. The same card set can also be used for St Clair's Folly and the other 4 games being designed (with any luck, next year). I did buy this card set. It is well thought out and needs to be cut out like the counters.

Game play:
Once the counters are mounted and cut out, one is almost ready to play the game. You will  need a deck of cards as mentioned above. Prepare the deck for play by removing all face cards from the deck, leaving just the ace to 10 and 2 jokers. Separate into 2 piles, red and black.

The rules state to give the red set to the NA player and the black set to the US player. Or use the "Battles of the Old Northwest" card set (it is already setup correctly).

The combat table, movement table, acts table, and other special tables are interspersed thru-out the game booklet under the sections where they are used.

Game "setup" for the units is located in the middle of the rules booklet under "Setup" (wow, that was a hard one for me to find - honest, as I keep forgetting where the different tables where located!). US units setup below the Maumee River and accordingly to the setup diagram, the US can setup Hall's units (on the left side of the river as well) as per the drawing.

Game play, IMHO, is simply fantastic! First off, there are no zones of control! Thank God, someone made a game that doesn't use them. And it makes for a very fluid action game, which the campaign is very much about.

There are 8 turns in the game, but each turn has an limited amount of rounds played out by drawing a card from their card deck. The 1st time a joker shows up, the player who drew it, receives no activation (acts) but instead rolls a 1D6 on a random event table. Play continues until the 2nd Joker is drawn, ending the turn.

In general, each player shuffles their deck and turns one card over just like the old card game "war", the highest card wins that round and the number on the card gives the winning player that many activations (acts). When the last joker is drawn, that turn ends, cards are shuffled and the new turn begins.

The winning player for that round can do one of 5 different actions -
  • move - up to the movement allowance
  • fire combat - infantry (reg, militia, and warriors) - this is muskets/bows, i.e. range weapons.
  • move and assault (Cav only) A Cav unit can "move and assault" but ends it's turn.
  • assault (reg, militia, Cav and warriors) - this is hand to hand combat.
  • rally troops. Each unit (or counter) gets one act.

The counters are beautiful and well done. With the various NA tribes and American in different colors for easier setup. Combat factor is displayed as a number with the movement factor represented by dots on both sides (US leaders have stars instead of dots).  

Game Map:
The map is printed on a heavy duty card stock paper that is glossy. It has several different terrain features such as woods, open (clear), villages, cornfields and river. Movement is regulated by a very faint hex grid printed in white.  The major rivers are in white. No roads or trails are on the game map. 

For the money, this is a lot of game on a subject that I believe until this game, was not touched upon. Work is needed to get it ready (mounting and cutting out of the counters).

I'm not going to touch on all of the aspects of all of this, it's enough to let you know , "go out and get a copy!"
Morale Level and VP chart
And lets not forget about the Morale Level Chart:
Not needed, as the game track is used, but I made one anyway - The "Morale Levels" are adjusted as follows -
  • for every friendly leader eliminated, decrease the ML by 1
  • for every two friendly units eliminated, decrease the ML by 1.
  • Increase the US ML by 1 as soon as all NA camp hexes are free of NA units.
  • Increase the NA ML by 1 for each US Cav unit eliminated.
  • Increase the ML by 1 for every two other enemy units eliminated.


Complexity of the game = LOW with moderate teasing (easy to learn, medium difficult to master)
Solitaire = Medium (though the game is designed for 2 players, it is very easy to play both sides solo)
Fun Level = HIGH
Nail biting = 5 fingers worth.
Length of a typical full game = an hour or two.

Out of the games I have played, the Native Americans won every game. Paul said that the US should win 40% to 45% of the games. LOL, I better play it some more and find the answer to this puzzle.

My only complaints about the game are as follows: 
1) The map's hex grid is too faint, using white instead of black or a dark grey for the grid and the rivers left as white.
2) The rivers can be colored in, but not the hex grid.  It would be nice if a different game map was offered for purchase with black hexes. 
3) The font, imho, used for the rules is just too small. Even with my more powerful x3.5 glasses and a magnifying glass it is a little too hard to read. Maybe the rules should have been printed as a single column on an 8.5"x11" instead of as an even smaller booklet. 

Last note - this is a well thought out game. It's fun, doesn't take a long time to play and has low counter density. Can't ask for more!

Thanks for reading!< br /> -ab out

Also I need to add, this blog is considered to be a living blog. Changes will be made to it as needed to clarify, correct errors or update with new information.