African Colonial War Game Rules 1880-1910

By Jack Scruby
From “The Soldier Factory news,” Volume 2, summer, 1974.

It is our intent in Soldier Factory News to set forth basic and simplified war game rules and to eliminate as much “bookkeeping” and complications as possible. Using the basic war game rules as published in Vol. 1 (“Basic War Game Rules“) of Soldier Factory News as the base, we offer you now rules for fighting war games of the AFRICAN COLONIAL PERIOD, 1880-1910.

These rules are designed for use with N-gauge troops, although of course they can be used for all scale models. The TABLE at the end of the rules is self-sufficient and is based on gluing model soldiers onto moving stands, and counting each such stand as “one” (unit, or company, or squad as you wish).

For African Colonial warfare we picture war games as Tactical, not Strategic, and most of them (except perhaps Omdurman) were small scale affairs as to numbers of men involved.

So, for our Table of Organization we mount 4 model infantry soldiers to a stand, and call this a SQUAD. Each model soldier represents 3 historic men (1:3 ratio). Thus a squad stand represents 12 men. We then come up with 8 stands equals ONE INFANTRY COMPANY (representing 96 men). And thus 6 stands could equal a Battalion amounting to 768 men.

As a result of this T/O Tactical African battles would be in a “Brigade level” action, rather than an Army Corp level such as our Basic War Game Rules for the Musket era were shown in Vol. 1 of Soldier Factory News.

With this T/O in mind then, and using the Basic War Game Rules published in Vol. 1 of Soldier Factory News, we now go into the details of rules for an African Colonial Tactical War Game. Any explanatory notes will be typed in Italics.


In African Colonial war games there are many specialized types of soldiers, and it is their variations of ability and combat power that make for interesting battles. But of equal importance is the RANGE of FIRE, which changes the complexion of battles as weapons became better and more accurate. Thus it is important to know:

  1. That in this game we have European Regular Infantry, White Mounted Infantry, European cavalry, Askari type troops, Native Spearmen, Native Riflemen, Native Cavalry, and machine guns and heavy artillery. Each of these will be dealt with in sequence.
  2. Artillery Range is set at 36 inches (for a normal 6 foot wide table top)
  3. Rifle Range is set at 18 inches.
  4. Battles are considered Tactical, we eliminate any of the STRATEGIC RULES outlined in our Basic War Game Rules published in Vol. One, Soldier Factory News.


REGULAR INFANTRY are trained infantrymen, such as White Regular Infantry, and Askari tyres (Turks, Kings African Rifles, German Askaris, Egyptians, Sudanese, etc.)

All REGULARS operate in 2 basic FIGHTING FORMATIONS. (as aside from Columns, Squares and Line)

  1. OPEN FORMATION – This is a “skirmish” formation used mainly for movement. To simulate Open Formation, each stand must be separated from another by at least one inch.
  1. Movement is doubled in Open formation.
  2. Firepower is cut in half, and normally only the front rank can fire.
  3. Enemy artillery fire is cut in half against troops in open formation.
  4. Post-combat morale is always lower than in Closed formation.
  5. Firepower against men in Open Formation is the same as against Closed Formation.
  1. CLOSED FORMATION – This is the basic Combat Formation used for fighting. To simulate Closed Formation, all stands must be touching one another.
  1. Movement is cut in half in Closed formation.
  2. Firepower is doubled, and two ranks count in fire fights and melees.
  3. This formation’s movement is: From Open to Closed formation, or Closed to Open at the 6 inch rate. Closed to Closed formation at the 3 inch rate.
  1. SQUARE – Move and fight as per Closed Formation.
  2. COLUMNS – Move at 6 inch rate; may attack 3 deep in melee as per Basic Rules.

Taking these rules above, examine the FIRE TABLES at the end of these Rules, and lets take the WHITE INFANTRY section as an example:

In Open Formation, it takes 8 stands of firepower to kill one enemy stand, while only 4 stands are required when in closed formation. At the same time, Morale power is low in Open, and good in Closed. Thus, it can easily be seen that if your Regulars happen to be caught in melee or by fire in Open order by troops in Closed Order, they are going to get slaughtered. Likewise, should Native Spearmen catch them in Open order; the Natives are going to rout them.

Thus, a good general will use Open Order to move his troops around fast- and to scout out what is over that hill- and will get into Closed Formation whenever danger threatens.

MOUNTED INFANTRY are considered elite infantry troops having special training to be good at moving and firing while mounted. They are not good in melee and will run if attacked by White cavalry (after suffering casualties as per the tables), but will fight with native cavalry without hesitation.

  1. MOVEMENT – May take a SPLIT MOVE. They may move 1/2 move, fire and move 1 /2 move. OR, may fire then move full move.
  2. FIRE – from one rank only is counted.
  3. MELEE – count 2 ranks in melee
  4. MORALE – Each stand counts as “2” in fire and as “1 after melee.

It is important at this point that we explain about the Morale Factors of this game.


Morale is always judged after every fire fight and every melee.

  1. Morale is judged by counting the surviving stands after each combat action. Check the fire tables to see exactly what VALUE each stand is worth in any situation. (Example: White infantry in Open Formation is valued at 1 point per stand … in Closed Order at 2 points per stand)
  2. Once each side has gotten their Morale Values; each man throws one die, using the dice as follows: A 1-2-3 means use “2” as a multiplier A 4-5-6 means use “3” as a multiplier
  3. Multiply your multiplier times the stand count you have.
  4. Highest total holds his ground. Low total retires 2 moves to the rear and cannot take offensive action on the next game move.

UNTRAINED NATIVE WARRIORS always have a morale problem after receiving rifle fire or artillery fire from Regulars.


The natives must dice to see if they stand under the Regulars’ fire or whether they run. Roll the die: On a 1 or 2 they will run. For each Regular stand of men who fired, one native must run. (Example: if you fired with 8 stands of Regulars, then 8 stands of natives must run off.) (-‘his is cut in half if Regulars fired on the natives from Open Formation)

  1. When artillery fires, for each gun firing four native stands will run if dice roll is 1 or 2.
  2. Natives will retire two normal moves to the rear, and cannot take any forward movement or offensive action on next game move.
  3. GATLING GUN fire is the same for morale effect as artillery.

This one rule – effect of fire on Natives – can change the complexion of the game fast. The table top general will find many uses for his Mounted Infantry and European Cavalry to keep native hordes away by firing into them and making them have to dice for their Morale! Now that we have explained the Morale Factor, let’s got back to the types of Troops in this game, and how they fight.


  1. Movement – same as Infantry it accompanies
  2. Fire – 1 Gun kills 1 enemy stand
  3. In melee it counts only as 1 stand.
  4. Morale – Count as 4 after fire fight, or 1 after melee.

EUROPEAN CAVALRY (including Indian Lancers, etc.) are considered mainly as melee troops, but do have pistol or carbine fire with a range of 12 inches for them.

  1. Movement – 12 inches
  2. Fire – Pistol range 12 inches. Count two ranks in fire fight and 8 stands of cavalry will kill 1 enemy stand.
  3. Melee – 3 Cavalry stands kill one enemy stand, and if you line your cavalry up in column and attack, you can count three ranks deep as fighting in the melee.

ASKARI SOLDIERS include all trained soldiers – Native Africans, Turks, Indian Sepoys, Egyptians, etc. They are considered excellent soldiers, acclimated to conditions in Africa, and are to be considered as Light Infantry in movement, since they can move at 6 inches in either Open or Closed formation at will; Closed formation giving them extra fire power, melee power and moral factors as with the white Regulars.

It is possible a player may want an “Askari” type cavalry force (for example, Spahi’s) and using the same idea, one can easily set up fighting tables for such troops. They would move faster than European cavalry, would kill less in melee, etc. Boer cavalry or Mounted Infantry, Colonial Scouts, etc. would be classed in this type of cavalry I believe.

ARTILLERY will play a very minor role in African Colonial games, since heavy guns were not dragged around much over the rough terrain encountered. If guns are used, we suggest a 36 inch range, very slow movement or no movement at all and use only to defend forts, headquarters and the like.



These are the melee troops armed only with spear or sword, and they have some• special rules that apply only to them:

  1. Concealment – Native spearmen may be concealed from enemy vision behind hills, off-the-table, or in ambush. We make no attempt to offer rules for these, and the players should set up such rules prior to each game. For example, a player can set up an ambush by marking on the map the exact position his natives are hiding. When enemy troops move into this position, the ambush is sprung, the natives getting the first “killing” before the enemy is allowed to do anything. After that, the melee could be fought out along regular lines. If native groups are hidden behind hills, they couldn’t be seen until “discovered” by climbing the hill and looking down upon them.
  2. Morale after receiving fire – All natives must dice to see the effect of rifle or artillery fire upon their masses. This has been explained under “Morale” in these rules
  3. Melee fighting – Native masses are important and to duplicate this, four ranks of natives may be counted in any melee. (As against 2 for other troops, unless in attack columns.)
  4. The Fire and Charge Rule
    1. Natives may move up within 8 inches of enemy lines, throw their spears, and then charge into melee.
      bullet They must take the fire from the enemy, must remove casualties caused by this fire, must dice for morale (losing those stands that are affected), and then can charge into melee.
      bullet This melee is fought out exactly as per the “Fire and Charge” move rules as in “Basic War Game Rules” Vol. I, Soldier Factory News.
    2. Natives may make a Fire and Charge move against anyone, including cavalry.

You may not suspect it, but this one rule makes Native spear men tough to contend with, and the wise general will study the rule and come up with some good ideas no doubt as to how to use them to his best advantage!


Contrary to opinion, these men were good shots, and with their movement of 10 inches, they can be dangerous to face. However, they will not fight in melee and they must always dice to see if they will stand under Regulars’ fire. They have a 50-50 chance of staying, but if they lose, all those men who fired will have to retire 2 moves and can not take any offensive action on the next game move.

  1. MORALE – After exchanging fire with Regulars or Askaris, Native Riflemen must dice 4-5-6 to stand. Otherwise, all stands involved will retire 2 moves to the rear. They can take no offensive action on the next game move.


The fastest moving men on the table, but not too effective at fire fighting or melee. They are more “skittish” than the Native Riflemen, and if fired upon by Regulars or Askari, will retire unless they dice a 4 or 5. Only those men will retire who fired, or, if they did riot fire, only the same number of cavalry retire as the number of enemy troops who fired upon them. They will exchange fire with enemy natives without any morale problems.

In order to have interesting war games in this period, we suggest an army consists roughly of 40% European regulars, Askaris and Mounted Infantry as the “hard core”. 10% of the army to be White cavalry; 15% to be Native cavalry, 15% to be Native Riflemen and 20% to be native warriors. Maxims and Cannons would be added in sparing numbers.

Game Chart (Movement, Fire and Morale)

Soldier Type





White Infantry

Open – 8 Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank) Open – 8 Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank)

Open – 6 inches

Open – 1 x 1 (1 rank)
Closed – 4 Kills 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks) Closed – 4 Kills 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks)

Closed 3 inches

Closed – 2 x 1 (2 ranks)

Mounted Infantry

4 Stands Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank) Run from White cavalry

12 inches

After fire – 2 x 1
4 Stands Kills 1 against Native Cavalry Melee – 1 x 1

Gatling Gun

1 Kills 1 Enemy Count as 1 Stand

With Troops

After fire – 2 x 1
After Melee – 1 x 1

White Cavalry

Pistol 12 inch range 3 Stands Kills 1 Enemy (2 ranks count)

12 inches

After fire – ½ x 1
8 Stands Kill 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks) After Melee – 3 x 1


Open – 8 Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank) Open – 10 Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank)

6 inches

After fire – ½ x 1
Closed – 4 Kills 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks) Closed – 6 Kills 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks) After Melee – 1 x 1

Native Spearmen

Fire and Charge: 8″ range 4 Kills 1 Enemy (count 4 ranks)

10 inches

After fire – dice 1-2 Must retire 2 moves
After Melee – 1 x 1

Native Riflemen

6 Kills 1 Enemy (count 1 rank) Always run off after taking casualties

10 inches

After fire exchange with Regulars, Askari, dice 4-5-6 to stay

Native Cavalry

10 Kills 1 Enemy Stand (count 1 rank) 8 Kills 1 Enemy (count 2 ranks)

18 inches

After fire from Regulars, Askaris, dice 5-6 to stay
After Melee – ½ x 1


36 inch range – 1 Kills 1 Enemy

With Troops

After Melee – 2 x 1
Open Formation, dice 1-3-6 to Kill