The Templo Mayor was located on the southern edge of Tenochtitlan. This is where the most booty was to be found. It was, however, easily defensible. Not only would the conquistadores have a difficult time fighting their way up the steps to the teocalli on top, but the entire complex was surrounded by a wall containing a single gate.
The Gaming Table: The table is set up to represent Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, the twin island cities of the Mexica capital. The two cities are connected by a narrow causeway. Between the islands are the chinampas, the floating fields inhabited by peasant farmers. The six sites where the Spaniards can expect to find booty are evenly split, three on the smaller northern island, Tlatelolco and three on the southern island, Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards have three optional entry points: one at the north end of Tlatelolco, or the east or west side of Tenochtitlan.
These picture shows almost the entire 24 feet of the game table. Notice the two smaller pyramids and the walled market on the other side of the causeway. A slightly different view of the table taken from atop of the Templo Mayor. Notice the canal running up the middle of the table, yet another defensible location for the Aztecs.
The Scenario: The premise for this game was that the Spaniards, after being driven out of Tenochtitlan, return, looking for all the gold they had collected in their previous 8 months of occupation. The Aztecs, of course, do not wish them to return. In essence, the Spaniards are looking for booty, The Mexica want to capture as many of the strangers as possible. There are 6 special places where the Spaniards believe "their" gold will be found: the three teocalli atop the pyramids, the 2 lower ceremonial platforms and in the walled market. Control of these locations at the end of the game will determine victory. The Spaniard have gathered up their native allies the Tlaxcalans, however, they are still outnumber 2 to 1. The Mexica are not really prepared for the assault. They are widely scattered throughout the city and will need to gather their forces if they wish to stop the invaders.
One of the two flat ceremonial platforms. The first skirmish in the game was when a large party of Aztecs was unceremoniously chased off one of these platforms by Spanish artillery fire. The Indians did not repeat that mistake!
After ignobly fleeing from the Spaniards almost the entire game, the
vaunted "Arrow Knights" leave their hiding place in the chinampas. They
were eventually cornered and butchered by the Spaniards.
The Jaguar Knights emerge from their barracks next to the Templo Mayor. They bravely defended the gateway until outnumbered by the Tlaxcalans. But it was a Pyrric victory for the allies.
The Spaniards, spurred on by religious fervor, slowly ground down the
Mexica defending the causeway. The carnage (and the game) was finally
called off (it was, after all, way past supper time!).
Game Summary: The Spaniards decided to take advantage of surprise and concentration of force. All of their forces came on the table at the closest point to the ceremonial platform in Tenochtitlan where a good sized force of Aztec Arrow Knights and a few peasants were performing a religious dance. At first the knights put up a show of defense. However, the conquistadores brought up their artillery and quickly squashed it. At the first shot the peasants fled (to later show up as reinforcements), and most of the Knights fled across the canal. Their captain courageously defended the bridge for several turns, against all odds. He was eventually cut down but the knights took no notice of his bravery and spent the rest of the game fleeing the invaders. The first objective had been taken by the Spaniards with ease.
The invaders then split their force. Half of the Spaniards, led by "Black" Pedro Alvarado, took the artillery and went north to secure the causeway to Tlatelolco, Cortes and the rest of the Spaniards crossed the canal to assault the nearest pyramid. The allied Tlaxcalans were sent south to attack the Templo Mayor. After subduing the Arrow Knight Captain with difficulty, and gaining the bridge, Cortes' party rushed the steps of the nearest pyramid. It was defended by a few peasants and a very outraged priest. They all fought with vigor but could not stem the tide. Those natives who lived through the assault joined the Arrow Knights in their flight towards the chinampas.
Meanwhile, the Tlaxcalans charged headlong towards the center of the Aztec world, the Templo Mayor. The Aztec Eagle and Jaguar Knights defending the complex counter charged their traditional enemies. Unfortunately, the Aztecs were still widely dispersed and, once they were engaged with the enemy there was little chance for their captains to rouse them. Many of the Mexica remained in their homes throughout the game. The Tlaxcalans slightly outnumbered the defenders of the temple. However, about half of the invading indians were peasants armed with slings. The Aztecs were at a real disadvantage in not being able to rally their own peasant slingers to their aid. Eventually the Tlaxcalans fought their way into the complex, taking heavy losses. A victory but a costly one. Unknown to the Spaniards, the Tlaxcalans really had no interest in collecting gold. Their dearly held goal was to burn the teocalli, the Aztecs' main temple. Sending the Tlaxcalans off on their own inflicted a loss on the Mexica, but it did not satisfy any of the Spaniards' objectives!
The defenders of Tlatelolco had time to organize their defense. By the time Black Pedro and his party gained a foothold on the causeway, they faced a sizable force of warriors. The Spaniards inflicted heavy casualties with their artillery but once they closed to hand-to-hand combat the contest became a battle of attrition. The Spanish cavalry initially performed well, but they too were eventually drawn into the static melee. The conquistadores slowly made progress by cutting down more and more of the Aztecs. The deciding factor was probably the crusading zeal of the Spaniards, spurred on by the presence of a friar from the Inquisition.
Eventually, there was a sizable force of Aztecs congregating in the chinampas. If they had been brave enough and fast enough, they might have been able to attack Alvarado's force from behind and turn the tide of the game. But by the time they had worked up the courage to make the attempt, Cortes was positioned to intercept them. Another close victory for the Spaniards ensued bringing the game to an end.
Game Analysis: The rules used were a simple 2 page set of skirmish rules that I developed after playing a tank game using the old "Angriff" rules. When I developed this scenario, I had planned on having as many as 10 or 11 players. As it turned out, we only had 6. This turned into an advantage for the Spaniards and allowed them to concentrate their forces much more than I had originally intended. In addition, the Spanish players just plain played well. They knew their objectives and went after them without dilly-dallying around. The only flaw in their plans was sending their Indian allies off without Spanish supervision. But they had no idea that the Tlaxcalans might have their own objectives. If we had had a greater number of Spanish players, several of them also would have had personal goals thus making the invaders much less unified in their objectives.
Even so, the Aztecs outnumbered the Spaniards and their allies by 2 to 1. But the players were engaged so quickly that they never really concentrated their forces. Only 1 of the players had ever played the game before ( the initially victorious Spaniard) and the beginning skirmishes in this game definitely favored the Spaniards. Thus, at least one of the Aztec players lost his nerve and spent most of the game avoiding combat, hence, the flight to the chinampas.
The game was eventually called after 5 hours of play (including a lunch break). Although the Aztecs had been pretty well beaten up, the Spaniards had actually only gained 2 of their objectives (the Aztecs had lost 3, however). And, even though in the beginning the Spaniards were wildly successful, by the end of the game the total kill ratio favored the Aztecs. In summary, I would give a narrow victory to the Spaniards. If the game had continued it would not have surprised me, however, to see the Mexica pull this one off.