Plains Indian Wars Review

06 February 2023
Imperial settlers

Plains Indian Wars, despite its wargame looking appearance (read: mostly different kinds of brown and green) is a jolly and asymmetric game that is entirely accessible. As the name suggests it simplifies the wars and conflicts created by the invading settlers of the latter half of the 19th Century into Native American land.

There are four factions in every game – the Northern and Southern Plains Indians who take up their respective top and bottom borders, The cavalry, and the settlers. The goal of the native players is simply to stop the invaders and scupper the creation of the railroad and various settler routes across the country, holding as much land as possible. The Cavalry is a protective kind of police force for the settler faction, who, while weaker and slower, are the main way of progressing the railway – a major win condition for the invading factions.

The game uses randomised turns using a bag-draw system – draw your faction colour and it’s your turn – and the combat is wonderfully simple. Roll up to two dice against your opponent (with some minor advantages to the Native players who sometimes get night attacks) and tot up the casualties, repeat until a truce is made (there’s parlay symbols for that, which you’ll want to match) or you've murdered each other. Each turn players may also play cards from their hand, and replace them with as many – these are the classic event and mustering cards you’d expect, with a little historical flourish. Wagons, when the white disc is drawn, spawn on the eastern side of the board and then every wagon on the board moves forward one area.

What history lends wargames is often asymmetry and a natural narrative. Here it’s the building of the railway. A section can only be added to if there are settlers on either side of a section – equally, once built, settlers can be deployed in these areas – offering a kind of permanent advance. The layout of the board means there’s a natural war sandwich going on – or maybe one of those burgers that tries to slip out of the bun. The invading player (burger) pushes along the central line, or protects their trade routes, and the Native players attempt to whittle them down (applying too much pressure to the bun), or cut off their main access points (using a knife and fork? Maybe this metaphor doesn’t work). There is also a simplified solo mode that’s got a very natural flow to it, with straightforward ‘roll a dice to place enemies’ logic (although, you’ll have to supply your own D12). This is as satisfying as the multiplayer game in its straightforwardness.

A surprisingly light game for what is a serious subject, with all the hallmarks of something that is best enjoyed with old friends, a few refreshments and probably an interesting new snack. Delightful.

Christopher John Eggett


A wonderfully smooth playing game of area control, conflict and dice rolling. Great for those who just like a good ruckus, as well as those who will enjoy the history presented here.

Buy your own copy here

TRY THIS IF YOU LIKED 300: Earth & Water…

If you enjoyed the natural push and pull of this tiny little wargame, then the expanded scope of Plains Indian Wars will be right up your track.


Read the full review here

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Designer: John Poniske

Publisher: GMT Games

Time: 60-80 minutes

Players: 1-4

Ages: 14+

Price: £65

What’s in the box?

  • Game board
  • 60 Tarot-size faction cards
  • 10 Custom faction dice
  • 7 Draw discs
  • Draw bag
  • 190 Wooden faction cubes


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