BY JINGO - Colonial History & Wargames Page


Optional Rules

I have received a few excellent suggestions for optional rules or reinterpretations of existing rules. I will include most of these in the list that follows. Players should note that I encourage house-rule amendments. A rules set is never "complete" nor are the decisions that made it into print always the best ones. Since I hate competitive/tournament style of wargaming, I encourage you all to use and abuse the rules as much as you like - just make sure that everyone agrees and is having fun. If changes to rules cause problems in your group, it might be better to play the game in the orthodox manner. My group has done so for years and have enjoyed the game tremendously!

Note that by their very nature these rules are somewhat experimental. Since most of them come from other players I cannot vouch for their impact on the game over time. They are OPTIONAL and will only become official CHANGES to the existing rules once I have had a chance to play-test them with my immediate groups. That said, their inclusion here means that I deem them reasonable and welcome further feedback on the ideas.

1. Mounted units firing:
I struggled with this option while writing/play-testing the rules. Although I decided not to allow it in the basic rules, it is not unreasonable to allow mounted shooting for certain troop types in certain campaigns if it better reflects their tactical doctrine. Nevertheless, the effectiveness of their fire should be limited.

The rule:
Mounted units armed with rifles, and historically capable of significant firepower while mounted, may fire using all existing fire rules (e.g. no moving and firing, arcs of fire, etc.) Plus the following rules and restrictions:

  • - mounted units may fire only out to "effective" range
  • - mounted units firing are all considered 3rd Rate
  • - an additional -1 is applied to each of the fire dice of units that are 3rd Rate when dismounted. (E.g. Boer units, normally 1st Rate, would be rated 3rd Rate while mounted but would not suffer an additional -1)
  • -mounted units in formed line or column formation may fire eligible stands to the front OR rear using the standard arc of fire. Mounted units in Massed Formation (Native or Boer) may fire to front OR rear OR either flank; such units will fire with two stands ( e.g. two dice). Units may never fire in more than one direction in a single turn/fire phase.
    Again, note that this optional rule should be used sparingly to reflect the capabilities of units that habitually fired from the mount. Units such as Boers (particularly during the later guerilla war), many of the irregular mounted units raised during the Zulu war, a certain proportion of Arabs, US cavalry and plains Indians, and similar units may fire while mounted.

    2. Native "Deep" Massed Formation:
    "Deep" Massed Formation is not a voluntary formation option. It is used only in circumstances where a normal Massed Formation finds it impossible to pass-through a narrow gap between impassable terrain features. Generally this can be avoided through careful terrain placement or by accepting abstractions as noted in the rules for fortress gates. Nevertheless, the deep Massed Formation can be used if the narrow gap is a continuous feature as opposed to a brief obstruction like a gate.

    Note that this rule should not be used to pass through narrow gaps between units. Although this may sometimes seem frustrating - especially to Native players who perceive their units as malleable mobs - the spatial rules are intended to reflect the obstructiveness of a confused and congested battlefield where friendly units might be inconveniently halted or recoiling from combat.

  • a. How and when to form a Deep Massed Formation:
    A Deep Massed Formation is one stand wide by four stands deep (exactly like an Imperial column). It adopts the formation without penalty; simply move one stand into the gap in the terrain and place the remaining stands behind it. The reverse is true when the unit exits the restrictive terrain; the unit automatically adopts the normal Massed Formation on the lead stand when space permits. If the gap is less than one stand wide the gap is considered impassable to a body of soldiers.

    b. Combat consequences:
    - Only the front stand may fire regardless of special rules such as for Pathans and Boers.
    - In melee, the Native column suffers the exact same negative effects as Imperial columns as noted in the rules.

    3. Low percentage rifle armed Native units
    In the standard rules, a unit is deemed to either have enough firearms to justify its status as a rifle unit or it does not and must fight with melee weapons only despite the presence of some rifles in the unit. I prefer this approach, but it is not unreasonable to allow some units - particularly Native units - a limited fire capability if it is historically supportable.

    The rule:
    Nominate a certain number of units as "mixed rifle and melee weapon" units. These units may use small arms fire but do so with half the number of stands (rounded down) eligible to fire. All other rifle firing rules apply. For example, a stationary Dervish unit in the normal Massed formation will normally have two stands eligible to fire. If it is a "mixed" unit, it may roll only one fire die for these two eligible firing stands.

    4. Imperial Skirmish Order (Infantry or Dismounted Cavalry) Column Formation
    The existing rules for skirmish order appropriately emphasize the difficulties of controlling units deliberately dispersed in skirmish order. Consequently, the company skirmish line is the only combat option allowed. However, players have noted that they want to be able to move skirmishing units in column, for example, to pass through a narrow gap between terrain or units. This has been particularly noted for dismounted cavalry who must adopt skirmish order.

    The rule: All Imperial units in skirmish order may adopt column formation. All rules pertaining to changes of formation, skirmishing and columns (e.g. wheeling and additional vulnerability in melee) apply to the unit. Note that Formed Imperial columns may immediately change into a skirmisher column ; mounted columns may dismount into a skirmisher column.

    5. Dismounted European/trained colonial Regular Cavalry/Camelry adopting close-order formations
    Regular Imperial cavalry/camelry are usually restricted to skirmish order when they dismount. This was "typical" of their doctrine. However, Nigel Casson of Australia correctly points out that several examples exist of such troops adopting close order formations alongside their infantry comrades (indeed, the front cover of the rules shows dismounted camel corps in a tight disposition). The following rule allows for this option.

    The rule:
    Imperial regular dismounted cavalry/camelry may change from skirmish formation to formed line or column. Use the normal change of formation rules. Once formed, they behave in every way like formed infantry. Note that for a mounted unit to ultimately form a close order formation requires two turns: one turn to dismount into skirmish order; a second turn to form a formed line or column. When remounting from a formed formation the unit may do so in one turn (e.g. they do not need to first go into skirmish order).

    Note that volunteer and irregular units serving in Imperial armies may not use formed formations. Mounted infantry may, of course, do so.

    6. Imperial Firepower degradation in the North West Frontier (by Nigel Casson)
    On the North West Frontier the British faced the well known problem of Pathan firing having an effect on the firepower of the target Imperial unit out of all proportion to the actual casualties. For example, the British were forced to carry their wounded with them as they could not leave them to the tender mercies of the enemy. This necessity significantly reduced the number of men in the firing line. The following optional rule reflects this problem:

    The rule:
    A -1 modifier on the firing chart is applied for each Kill carried by Imperial unit from previous turns when fighting in the North West Frontier and Afghanistan.

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