Custer’s Final Campaign
7th Cavalry at Little Bighorn
Review by David Lent
Custer’s Final Campaign is a 2-player mini game about the 7th Cavalry’s campaign in 1876. It’s a strategic game that uses a point-to-point map and cards that dictate what reinforcements arrive and what columns or units can move. The base ruleset it uses is Hand of Destiny, while Custer’s Final Campaign is the scenario.
This game’s victory conditions are relatively straightforward. The U.S. Army player wins if at the end of the game there are 6 or more Indian units in the dead pile. The Indian player can win in one of two ways. First, he wins if at the end of the game there are 4 or more U.S. Army units in the dead pile. Alternatively, he can have an instant win if he controls three of the following points: Helena, Fort Fetterman, Oregon Trail or the Black Hills.
The U.S. Army has three columns: Crook’s, Gibbon’s and Terry’s columns. There is no Custer counter in this game. Some of the Army units are garrisons, irregulars, river fleet, Gatling guns, cavalry, supply units and infantry. Garrisons and supply units do not “die” when eliminated, but go back to the recruit box where they may come back as reinforcements later.
Indian units consist of Indian camps, warbands, agency and Akacitas, Akacitas are always in supply, while warbands must be within two spaces of an Indian camp to be in supply. Agency and Akacita units do not “die” when eliminated, but go back to the recruit box. Indian camps are where all Indian reinforcements except Akacitas are placed on the map. If all three Indian camps are eliminated, the Indians are essentially hosed. This game needed a way for Indians to build camps. The U.S. Army can build a fort, so why can’t the Indians build a camp?
The sequence of play is:
First Player Turn:
1) Draw a card and implement it
2) Recruit any units called for by the card
3) Move any forces allowed by the card
Second Player Turn:
5) Draw a card and implement it
6) Recruit any units called for by the card
7) Move any forces allowed by the card
9) If this is the last turn the game ends. Otherwise, start a new turn.
Though Custer’s Final Campaign is a 2-player game, it feels more like a solitaire game that happens to allow 2 players. The U.S. Army player cannot activate a column unless the card he drew allows him to do so. Similarly, the cards dictate how many units an Indian player can move. In addition to that, the cards say how far each unit can move per turn. I would have rather the game had movement rates printed on the counters and then the terrain effects charts stated how the terrain type being travelled through affected movement rate. It does state whether a unit must stop when it first enters certain terrain types though.
Combat in Custer’s Final Campaign is similar to many of Decision Games’ minigames. The players first roll for tactical edge (adding +1 if their card says to or if they have more elite units than the other side). Tactical edge determines the side that shoots first. Next, each player alternates firing a unit. The number of dice thrown is written on each unit’s counter. Units that are hit either panic or are eliminated. Gatling guns have a special combat results table that makes them more effective. Combat continues until one side is completely eliminated or panicked. Please note though, that some unit types can choose to break off (leave the battle) instead of firing.
I found that this game is really simple to play, but does not feel like Custer’s Final Campaign. It’s better solo than with two players since the cards dictate what units can activate. Only one game I played ended in a victory. The U.S. Army managed to put 6 Indian units in the deadpile by the end of the game, not due to tactics but due to the fact that the Indian player rolled atrociously all game. Most games were a draw. In fact, it was obvious by the second turn in those games that it was going to be a draw since the US Army lost 4 or more units in the first combat and the Indian player lost at least that many also. Only the Alkacita Indian units are always in supply and there are not enough of them. This makes it really difficult for the Indian player to take 3 objectives and win early. I feel more Indian units should have been able to live off the land and ignore the supply rules.
This game is ok and is certainly worth its low retail price. It’s suitable for new wargamers or wargamers who are looking for a quick play beer and pretzels game.
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